Category Archives: newspapers

How journalism has changed – Guardian ’3 pigs’ video says it better than anything

There’s something almost seminal about this video promoting The Guardian’s ‘open journalism’. I’m not sure whether it’s the unusually honest acknowledgement that news is more complicated than it is often presented; the way that the video itself plays with our preconceptions, drawing attention to them in the process; or the portrayal of a production process in which non-journalists are a vital part.

I lie, of course: it’s all of those things. It’s an image of journalism utterly different from how it presented itself in the 20th century, different – if we’re honest – from the image in most journalists’, and most journalism students’, minds.

I expect I’ll be showing this a lot. Watch it.

[flv:http://cdn.theguardian.tv/brightcove/2012/2/29/120229ThreeLittlePigs-16x9.mp4 autoplay='false']

PS: If you have another 3 minutes, here’s Alan Rusbridger giving a slightly less dramatised angle on the same topic:

[flv:http://cdn.theguardian.tv/brightcove/2012/2/29/120229OpenAlanRusbridger-16x9.mp4%5D

…And then move on to these videos linked from this page on how to get involved: from head of news Ian Katz:

[flv:http://cdn.theguardian.tv/brightcove/2012/2/29/120229OpenIanKatzEdit-16x9.mp4%5D

…and on sports journalism:

[flv:http://cdn.theguardian.tv/brightcove/2012/2/29/120229OpenSeanIngleEdit-16x9.mp4%5D

…and culture reporting:

[flv:http://cdn.theguardian.tv/brightcove/2012/2/29/120229OpenCatherineSEdit-16x9.mp4%5D

…and comment:

[flv:http://cdn.theguardian.tv/brightcove/2012/2/29/120229OpenBeckyGardinerEdit-16x9.mp4%5D

“All that is required is an issue about which others are passionate and feel unheard”

Here’s a must-read for anyone interested in sports journalism that goes beyond the weekend’s player ratings. As one of the biggest names in European football goes into administration, The Guardian carries a piece by the author of Rangerstaxcase.com, a blogger who “pulled down the facade at Rangers”, including a scathing commentary on the Scottish press’s complicity in the club’s downfall:

“The Triangle of Trade to which I have referred is essentially an arrangement where Rangers FC and their owner provide each journalist who is “inside the tent” with a sufficient supply of transfer “exclusives” and player trivia to ensure that the hack does not have to work hard. Any Scottish journalist wishing to have a long career learns quickly not to bite the hands that feed. The rule that “demographics dictate editorial” applied regardless of original footballing sympathies.

“[...] Super-casino developments worth £700m complete with hover-pitches were still being touted to Rangers fans even after the first news of the tax case broke. Along with “Ronaldo To Sign For Rangers” nonsense, it is little wonder that the majority of the club’s fans were in a state of stupefaction in recent years. They were misled by those who ran their club. They were deceived by a media pack that had to know that the stories it peddled were false.”

Over at Rangerstaxcase.com, the site expands on this in its criticism of STV for uncritical reporting: Continue reading

The New Journalists #13: Rosie Taylor

Rosie Taylor

As part of an ongoing series of profiles of young journalists, I interviewed Rosie Taylor about her work as founding editor of student media showcase site Ones To Watch which she balances with a role as trainee reporter at the Daily Mail.

What led you to your current roles?

I got the bug for journalism writing for my student newspaper at the University of Sheffield and was news editor in my final year. My involvement in student media gave me the idea for Ones to Watch.

I did work experience everywhere I could find a sofa to sleep on for a week, got a minimum wage job covering reporters on leave at my local paper and managed to get a Scott Trust Bursary to do a postgraduate course in Print Journalism at Sheffield.

This ultimately led to a job at the Mail, where I spent five months on secondment at the Manchester Evening News before moving to the Mail offices in London this year.

What do your jobs involve?

I run Ones to Watch in my spare time, which mainly involves looking through hundreds of articles produced by students around the UK every day and putting a selection of the best ones on the site. I’m also constantly on the look out for new start-ups, student media news and ways to expand the site.

In my day job I’m a general news reporter, covering anything that gets thrown at me!

How do you see things developing in the future?

I’m still clinging to the hope that journalism, in one form or another, will survive throughout my lifetime. I want to keep writing stories and breaking news and I’m fascinated by how the platform for doing so is changing all the time.

I hope that Ones To Watch will continue to expand and that my mission to raise the profile of student media as a vital part of our press will continue to gain momentum.

Leveson: the Internet Pops In

The following post was originally published by Gary Herman on the NUJ New Media blog. It’s reproduced here with permission.

Here at Newmedia Towers we are being swamped by events which at long last are demonstrating that the internet is really rather relevant to the whole debate about media ethics and privacy. So this is by way of a short and somewhat belated survey of the news tsunami – Google, Leveson, Twitter, ACTA, the EU and more.

When Camilla Wright, founder of celebrity gossip site Popbitch (which some years ago broke the news of Victoria Beckham’s pregnancy possibly before she even knew about it), testified before Leveson last week (26 January 2012) [Guardian liveblog; Wright's official written statement (PDF)] the world found out (if it could be bothered) how Popbitch is used by newspaper hacks to plant stories so that they can then be said to have appeared on the internet. Anyone remember the Drudge report, over a decade ago?

Wright, of course, made a somewhat lame excuse that Popbitch is a counterweight to gossip magazines which are full of stories placed by the PR industry.

But most interesting is the fact that Wright claimed that Popbitch is self-regulated and that it works.

Leveson pronounced that he is not sure there is ‘so much of a difference’ between what Popbitch does and what newspapers do – which is somehow off the point. Popbitch – like other websites – has a global reach by definition and Wright told the Inquiry that Popbitch tries to comply with local laws wherever it was available – claims also made more publicly by Google and Yahoo! when they have in the past given in to Chinese pressure to release data that actually or potentially incriminated users and, more recently, by Twitter when it announced its intention to regulate tweets on a country-by-country basis.

Trivia – like the stuff Popbitch trades – aside, the problem is real. A global medium will cross many jurisdictions and be accessible within many different cultures. What one country welcomes, another may ban. And who should judge the merits of each?

Confusing the internet with its applications

The Arab Spring showed us that social media – like mobile phones, CB radios, fly-posted silkscreen prints, cheap offset litho leaflets and political ballads before them – have the power to mobilise and focus dissent. Twitter’s announcement should have been expected – after all, tweeting was never intended to be part of the revolutionaries’ tool-kit.

There are already alternatives to Twitter – Vibe, Futubra, Plurk, Easy Chirp and Blackberry Messenger, of course – and the technology itself will not be restrained by the need to expand into new markets. People confuse the internet with its applications – a mistake often made by those authorities who seek to impose a duty to police content on those who convey it.

Missing the point again, Leveson asked whether it would be useful to have an external ombudsman to advise Popbitch on stories and observed that a common set of standards across newspapers and websites might also help.

While not dismissing the idea, Wright made the point that the internet made it easy for publications to bypass UK regulators.

This takes us right into the territory of Google, Facebook and the various attempts by US and international authorities to introduce regulation and impose duties on websites themselves to police them.

ACTA, SOPA and PIPA

The latest example is the Anti-Counterfeit Trade Agreement (ACTA) – a shadowy international treaty which, according to Google’s legal director, Daphne Keller, speaking over a year ago, has ‘metastasized’ from a proposal on border security and counterfeit goods to an international legal framework covering copyright and the internet.

According to a draft of ACTA, released for public scrutiny after pressure from the European Union, internet providers who disable access to pirated material and adopt a policy to counter unauthorized ‘transmission of materials protected by copyright’ will be protected against legal action.

Fair use rights would not be guaranteed under the terms of the agreement.

Many civil liberty groups have protested the process by which ACTA has been drafted as anti-democratic and ACTA’s provisions as draconian.

Google’s Keller described ACTA as looking ‘a lot like cultural imperialism’.

Google later became active in the successful fight against the US Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the related Protect Intellectual Proerty Act (PIPA), which contained similar provisions to ACTA.

Google has been remarkably quite on the Megaupload case, however. This saw the US take extraterritorial action against a Hong Kong-based company operating a number of websites accused of copyright infringement.

The arrest of all Megaupload’s executives and the closure of its sites may have the effect of erasing perfectly legitimate and legal data held on the company’s servers – something which would on the face of it be an infringement of the rights of Megaupload users who own the data.

Privacy

Meanwhile, Google – in its growing battle with Facebook – has announced its intention to introduce a single privacy regime for 60 or so of its websites and services which will allow the company to aggregate all the data on individual users the better to serve ads.

Facebook already does something similar, although the scope of its services is much, much narrower than Google’s.

Privacy is at the heart of the current action against Google by Max Mosley, who wants the company to take down all links to external websites from its search results if those sites cover the events at the heart of his successful libel suit against News International.

Mosley is suing Google in the UK, France and Germany, and Daphne Keller popped up at the Leveson Inquiry, together with David-John Collins, head of corporate communications and public affairs for Google UK, to answer questions about the company’s policies on regulation and privacy.

Once again, the argument regarding different jurisdictions and the difficulty of implementing a global policy was raised by Keller and Collins.

Asked about an on-the-record comment by former Google chief executive, Eric Schmidt, that ‘only miscreants worry about net privacy’, Collins responded that the comment was not representative of Google’s policy on privacy, which it takes ‘extremely seriously’.

There is, of course, an interesting disjuncture between Google’s theoretical view of privacy and its treatment of its users. When it comes to examples like Max Mosley, Google pointed out – quite properly – that it can’t police the internet, that it does operate across jurisdictions and that it does ensure that there are comprehensive if somewhat esoteric mechanisms for removing private data and links from the Google listings and caches.

Yet it argues that, if individuals choose to use Google, whatever data they volunteer to the company is fair game for Google – even where that data involves third persons who may not have assented to their details being known or when, as happened during the process of building Google’s StreetView application, the company collected private data from domestic wi-fi routers without the consent or knowledge of the householders.

Keller and Collins brought their double-act to the UK parliament a few days later when they appeared before the joint committee on privacy and injunctions, chaired by John Whittingdale MP.

When asked why Google did not simply ‘find and destroy’ all instances of the images and video that Max Mosley objected to, they repeated their common mantras – Google is not the internet, and neither can nor should control the websites its search results list.

Accused by committee member Lord MacWhinney of ‘ducking and diving’ and of former culture minister, Ben Bradshaw of being ‘totally unconvincing’, Keller noted that Google could in theory police the sites it indexed, but that ‘doing so is a bad idea’.

No apparatus disinterested and qualified enough

That seems indisputable – regulating the internet should not be the job of providers like Google, Facebook or Twitter. On the contrary, the providers are the ones to be regulated, and this should be the job of legislatures equipped (unlike the Whittingdale committee) with the appropriate level of understanding and coordinated at a global level.

The internet requires global oversight – but we have no apparatus that is disinterested and qualified enough to do the job.

A new front has been opened in this battle by the latest draft rules on data protection issued by Viviane Reding’s Justice Directorate at the European Commission on 25 January.

Reding is no friend of Google or the big social networks and is keen to draw them into a framework of legislation that will – should the rules pass into national legislation – be coordinated at EU level.

Reding’s big ideas include a ‘right to be forgotten’ which will apply to online data only and an extension of the scope of personal data to cover a user’s IP address. Confidentiality should be built-in to online systems according to the new rules – an idea called ‘privacy by design’.

These ideas are already drawing flak from corporates like Google who point out that the ‘right to be forgotten’ is something that the company already upholds as far as the data it holds is concerned.

Reding’s draft rules includes an obligation by so-called ‘data controllers’ such as Google to notify third parties when someone wishes their data to be removed, so that links and copies can also be removed.

Not surprisingly, Google objects to this requirement which, if not exactly a demand to police the internet, is at least a demand to ‘help the police with their enquiries’.

The problem will not go away: how do you make sure that a global medium protects privacy, removes defamation and respects copyright while preserving its potential to empower the oppressed and support freedom of speech everywhere?

Answers on a postcard, please.

Location, Location, Location

In this guest post, Damian Radcliffe highlights some recent developments in the intersection between hyper-local SoLoMo (social, location, mobile). His more detailed slides looking at 20 developments across the sector during the last two months of 2011 are cross-posted at the bottom of this article.

Facebook’s recent purchase of location-based service Gowalla (Slide 19 below,) suggests that the social network still thinks there is a future for this type of “check in” service. Touted as “the next big thing” ever since Foursquare launched at SXSW in 2009, to date Location Based Services (LBS) haven’t quite lived up to the hype.

Certainly there’s plenty of data to suggest that the public don’t quite share the enthusiasm of many Silicon Valley investors. Yet.

Part of their challenge is that not only is awareness of services relatively low – just 30% of respondents in a survey of 37,000 people by Forrester (Slide 27) – but their benefits are also not necessarily clearly understood.

In 2011, a study by youth marketing agency Dubit found about half of UK teenagers are not aware of location-based social networking services such as Foursquare and Facebook Places, with 58% of those who had heard of them saying they “do not see the point” of sharing geographic information.

Safety concerns may not be the primary concern of Dubit’s respondents, but as the “Please Rob Me” website says: “….on one end we’re leaving lights on when we’re going on a holiday, and on the other we’re telling everybody on the internet we’re not home… The danger is publicly telling people where you are. This is because it leaves one place you’re definitely not… home.”

Reinforcing this concern are several stories from both the UK and the US of insurers refusing to pay out after a domestic burglary, where victims have announced via social networks that they were away on holiday – or having a beer downtown.

For LBS to go truly mass market – and Forrester (see Slide 27) found that only 5% of mobile users were monthly LBS users – smartphone growth will be a key part of the puzzle. Recent Ofcom data reported that:

  • Ownership nearly doubled in the UK between February 2010 and August 2011 (from 24% to 46%).
  • 46% of UK internet users also used their phones to go online in October 2011.

For now at least, most of our location based activity would seem to be based on previous online behaviours. So, search continues to dominate.

Google in a recent blog post described local search ads as “so hot right now” (Slide 22, Sept-Oct 2011 update). The search giant launched hyper-local search ads a year ago, along with a “News Near You” feature in May 2011. (See: April-May 2011 update, Slide 27.)

Meanwhile, BIA/Kelsey forecast that local search advertising revenues in the US will increase from $5.1 billion in 2010 to $8.2 billion in 2015. Their figures suggest by 2015, 30% of search will be local.

The other notable growth area, location based mobile advertising, also offers a different slant on the typical “check in” service which Gowalla et al tend to specialise in. Borrell forerecasts this space will increase 66% in the US during 2012 (Slide 22).

The most high profile example of this service in the UK is O2 More, which triggers advertising or deals when a user passes through certain locations – offering a clear financial incentive for sharing your location.

Perhaps this – along with tailored news and information manifest in services such as News Near You, Postcode Gazette and India’s Taazza – is the way forward.

Jiepang, China’s leading Location-Based Social Mobile App, offered a recent example of how to do this. Late last year they partnered with Starbucks, offering users a virtual Starbucks badge if they “checked-in” at a Starbucks store in the Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces. When the number of badges issued hit 20,000, all badge holders got a free festive upgrade to a larger cup size. When coupled with the ease of NFC technology deployed to allow users to “check in” then it’s easy to understand the consumer benefit of such a service.

Mine’s a venti gingerbread latte. No cream. Xièxiè.

A new Scottish datablog (and a treemap in Liverpool)

The Scotsman has a newish data blog, set up (I’m rather proud to say) by one of my former PA/Telegraph trainees: Jennifer O’Mahony. This is particularly important as so much data covered in the ‘national’ press tends to be English-only due to devolution.

The Department of Education, for example, only publishes English education data. If you want Scottish education data you need to go to the Scottish Government website or Education ScotlandOfsted inspects schools in England; for Scottish schools reports you need to visit HM Inspectorate of Education. (Meanwhile, the National Statistics site, publishes data from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland).

So if there’s any Scottish data – or that of Wales or Northern Ireland – that you want me to help with, let me or Jennifer know. By way of illustrating the process, here’s a post over on Help Me Investigate: Education on how I helped Jennifer collect data on free school meals in Scotland.

A treemap in Liverpool

On the same note of non-national data journalism, here’s a particularly nice bit of data visualisation at the Liverpool Post. It’s not often you see treemaps on a local newspaper website – this one was designed by Ilan Sheady based on data gathered by City Editor David Bartlett after a day’s data journalism training.

Infographic showing the huge scale of the £5.5bn Liverpool Waters scheme

 

Word cloud or bar chart?

Bar charts preferred over word clouds

One of the easiest ways to get someone started on data visualisation is to introduce them to word clouds (it also demonstrates neatly how not all data is numerical).

Using tools like Wordle and Tagxedo, you can paste in a major speech and see it visualised within a minute or so.

But is a word cloud the best way of visualising speeches? The New York Times appear to think otherwise. Their visualisation (above) comparing President Obama’s State of the Union address and speeches by Republican presidential candidates chooses to use something far less fashionable: the bar chart.

Why did they choose a bar chart? The key is the purpose of the chart: comparison. If your objective is to capture the spirit of a speech, or its key themes, then a word cloud can still work well, if you clean the data (see this interactive example that appeared on the New York Times in 2009).

But if you want to compare it to speeches of others – and particularly if you want to compare on specific issues such as employment or tax – then bar charts are a better choice. Compare, for example, ReadWriteWeb’s comparison of inaugural speeches, and how effective that is compared to the bar charts.

In short, don’t always reach for the obvious chart type – and be clear what you’re trying to communicate.

UPDATE: More criticism of word clouds by New York Times software architect here (via Harriet Bailey)

Obama inaugural speech word cloud by ReadWriteWeb

Obama inaugural speech word cloud by ReadWriteWeb

via Flowing Data

2011: the UK hyper-local year in review

In this guest post, Damian Radcliffe highlights some topline developments in the hyper-local space during 2011. He also asks for your suggestions of great hyper-local content from 2011. His more detailed slides looking at the previous year are cross-posted at the bottom of this article.

2011 was a busy year across the hyper-local sphere, with a flurry of activity online as well as more traditional platforms such as TV, Radio and newspapers.

The Government’s plans for Local TV have been considerably developed, following the Shott Review just over a year ago. We now have a clearer indication of the areas which will be first on the list for these new services and how Ofcom might award these licences. What we don’t know is who will apply for these licences, or what their business models will be. But, this should become clear in the second half of the year.

Whilst the Leveson Inquiry hasn’t directly been looking at local media, it has been a part of the debate. Claire Enders outlined some of the challenges facing the regional and local press in a presentation showing declining revenue, jobs and advertising over the past five years. Her research suggests that the impact of “the move to digital” has been greater at a local level than at the nationals.

Across the board, funding remains a challenge for many. But new models are emerging, with Daily Deals starting to form part of the revenue mix alongside money from foundations and franchising.

And on the content front, we saw Jeremy Hunt cite a number of hyper-local examples at the Oxford Media Convention, as well as record coverage for regional press and many hyper-local outlets as a result of the summer riots.

I’ve included more on all of these stories in my personal retrospective for the past year.

One area where I’d really welcome feedback is examples of hyper-local content you produced – or read – in 2011. I’m conscious that a lot of great material may not necessarily reach a wider audience, so do post your suggestions below and hopefully we can begin to redress that.

The rise of local media sales partnerships and 19 other recent hyper-local developments you may have missed

In this guest post Ofcom’s Damian Radcliffe cross-publishes his latest presentation on developments in hyperlocal publishing for September-October, and highlights how partnerships are increasingly important for hyper-local, regional and national media in terms of “making it pay”.

When producing my latest bi-monthly update on hyper-local media, I was struck by the fact that media sales partnerships suddenly seem to be all the rage.

In a challenging economic climate, a number of media providers – both big and small – have recently come together to announce initiatives aimed at maximising economies of scale and potentially reducing overheads.

At a hyperlocal level, the launch on 1st November of the Chicago Independent Advertising Network (CIAN), saw 15 Chicago community news sites coming together to offer a single point of contact for advertisers. These sites “collectively serve more than 1 million page views each month.”

This initiative follows in the footsteps of other small scale advertising alliances including the Seattle Indie Ad Network and Boston Blogs.

These moves – bringing together a range of small scale location based websites – can help address concerns that hyper-local sites are not big enough (on their own) to unlock funding from large advertisers.

CIAN also aims to address a further hyper-local concern: that of sales skills. Rather than having a hyperlocal practitioner add media sales to an ever expanding list of duties, funding from the Chicago Community Trust and the Knight Community Information Challenge allows for a full-time salesperson.

Big Media is also getting in on this act.

In early November Microsoft, Yahoo! and AOL agreed to sell each other’s unsold display ads. The move is a response to Google and Facebook’s increasing clout in this space.

Reuters reported that both Facebook and Google are expected to increase their share of online display advertising in the United States in 2011 by 9.3% and 16.3%.

In contrast, AOL, Microsoft and Yahoo are forecast to lose share, with Facebook expected to surpass Yahoo for the first time.

Similarly in the UK, DMGT’s Northcliffe Media, home to 113 regional newspapers, recently announced it was forging a joint partnership with Trinity Mirror’s regional sales house, AMRA.

This will create a commercial proposition encompassing over 260 titles, including nine of the UK’s 10 biggest regional paid-for titles. Like The Microsoft, Yahoo! and AOL arrangement, this new partnership comes into effect in 2012.

These examples all offer opportunities for economies of scale for media outlets and potentially larger potential reach and impact for advertisers.  Given these benefits, I wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t see more of these types of partnership in the coming months and years.

Damian Radcliffe is writing in a personal capacity.

Other topics in his current hyperlocal slides  include Sky’s local pilot in NE England and research into the links between tablet useand local news consumption. As ever, feedback and suggestions for future editions are welcome.

 

Sentencing data update: Manchester Evening News make another splash

Since I wrote about the need for more data journalism around sentencing in August, the Manchester Evening News have been beavering away keeping track of riot sentencing data on their own patch with stories on the first 60 looters to be sentenced and the role of poverty. Last week the newspaper finally made a splash on the figures.

The collected data led to this front page story: Looters jailed straight after Manchester riots given terms 30 per cent longer than those punished later.

While another article builds up a detailed profile of the rioters with plenty of visualisation, and links to the raw data.

The MEN’s Paul Gallagher had previously told me in an email correspondence that they were expecting at least 250-300 cases to be going through the courts in total, making “enough to make a very interesting and useful dataset but not so many as to make it too big a job.

“This spreadsheet is being completed using information provided by our journalists in court. The MEN is committed to staffing every court hearing so we should be able to fill this over time. This is a trial project limited only to the riots, and I don’t know if we will do anything with other court data in future.”

At the time Paul was trying to set up a system that would see court reporters add information when they covered a case, a system that could be used to publish court data in future.

“One of the biggest problems I have found is that we can produce graphics quite easily for online using Google Fusion Tables and other tools but it is difficult to turn these into graphics that will work in print without getting a graphic designer to recreate the image.”

A couple months on Paul remarks that the project has required significant editorial resources:

“Around ten MEN journalists have either sat in court to take down details of one or more riot cases in the last three months, or have been involved in the data analysis.”

He also says the exercise has raised some questions about the use, and sharing, of court data.

“Although the names and home addresses of adult defendants are published in court reports in the media, it does not seem appropriate to include them in shared spreadsheets, or to plot them on street level maps.

“For that reason, I decided to remove the names and personal details when we plotted home addresses of defendants on a map of Greater Manchester to visualise the correlation between rioters and high levels of poverty and deprivation.

The Manchester Evening News have not decided if they will continue their data work on other non-riot-related court data, which Paul feels “begs the question why court data is not publicly available from official sources.”
“At the moment there is no other way of getting this information than to have a person sat in court at every hearing, jotting down the details in their notebook and then copying them into a spreadsheet.”

The data and visualisation was also used in last night’s Panorama: Inside The Riots. Disappointingly, the Panorama website and solitary blog post include no links to the MEN coverage or data, and the official Twitter account not only failed to link – it has failed to tweet at all in almost two weeks.