I went to News Rewired on Thursday, along with dozens of other journalists and folk concerned in various ways with news production. Some threads that ran through the day for me were discussions of how we publish our data (and allow others to do the same), how we link our stories together with each other and the rest of the web, and how we can help our readers to explore context around our stories.
The question is no longer just a hypothetical one. With increasing convergence between social media and traditional content, what is known as a traditional news website might not exist in the coming years.
Perhaps a revealing example is the creation of Facebook applications by a Seattle-based aggregator, NewsCloud, which received a grant from the Knight Foundation to study how young people receive their news through social networks.
With developer Jeff Reifman leading the way, NewsCloud has developed three applications (Hot Dish, Minnesota Daily and Seattle In:Site) that engage users in news content through linking to stories by providing a headline, photo and blurb. The applications also allow them to blog, post links themselves and much more – all while getting points for completing “challenges” that can be redeemed for prizes, which works as an incentive to stay engaged. Prizes include everything from t-shirts to tickets to a baseball game to a MacBook. Some of these challenges are online ones (sharing a story, commenting on content, blogging, etc.) and others are offline challenges (attend a marketing event, write a letter to the editor). Continue reading
The following is the last part of a series of responses to the government inquiry into the future of local and regional media. We will be submitting the whole – along with blog comments – to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee. This post, by Alex Lockwood, looks at:
“How to fund quality local journalism”
The bottom has fallen out of the traditional publishing business model–and with it goes the hefty dividends expected by shareholders (e.g. £48.4m in 2008 for the Trinity Mirror Group). The future of local quality journalism can only remain with the current crop of regional newspaper publishers if they radically change their expectations, and innovate.
That might not happen. If it doesn’t, they will die off, and the future of quality local journalism will take a huge – but not definitive – blow. Then the future lies with new initiatives and the local communities themselves – passionate and entrepreneurial people, only some of whom will be journalists. What about local council initiatives to publish newspapers and local information? That’s not the way to go – covered in Part 3.
But how to fund it? Here are eight suggestions for the future of local journalism funding: Continue reading
The government has launched a new inquiry into the future of local and regional media – and there’s just six weeks to have your say on the subject.
None of us (yet) have the answers to the question of new journalism business models, and the local and regional press is suffering some of the hardest hits. But ideas and initiatives are presenting themselves everyday. And now the Culture, Media and Sport Committee is looking for views on a range of tough issues, including:
- The impact of newspaper closures on independent local journalism and access to local information;
- How to fund quality local journalism;
- The appropriateness and effectiveness of print and electronic publishing initiatives undertaken directly by public sector bodies at the local level;
- The opportunities and implications of BBC partnerships with local media;
- Incentives for investment in local content;
- Opportunities for “ultra-local” media services.
We’re thinking about a collective response from journalism educators and OJB readers to the key questions, coordinated from here. So to begin with, what are your ideas, links to the best think pieces you’ve read or examples you’ve seen? Do you agree with the call to relax competition laws to allow local newspaper publishers to merge? Or what about Andy Burnham’s statement that there will be no bailout for local papers.
Let’s use this as a starting point to develop a collective, crowdsourced response to the inquiry.
From September I will be running an MA in Online Journalism at Birmingham City University. I hope it’s going to be different from any other journalism MA.
That’s because in putting it together I’ve had the luxury of a largely blank canvas, which means I’ve not had to work within the strictures and structures of linear production based courses.
The first words I put down on that blank piece of paper were: Enterprise; experimentation; community; creativity.
And then I fleshed it out:
In the Online Journalism MA’s first stage (Certificate) students will study Journalism Enterprise. This will look at business models for online journalism, from freemium to mobile, public funding to ad networks, alongside legal and ethical considerations. I’m thinking at the moment that each student will have to research a different area and present a business case for a startup.
They will also study Newsgathering, Production and Distribution. I’m not teaching them separately because, online, they are often one and the same thing. And as students should already have basic skills in these areas, I will be focusing on building and reinventing those as they run a live news website (I’ll also be involved in an MA in Social Media, so there should be some interesting overlap).
This is an explicit space for students to try new things, fail well, and learn what works. They will do this in partnership with a news organisation based on a problem they both identify (e.g. not making enough revenue; poor community; etc.) – I’ve already lined up partnerships with national and regional newspapers, broadcasters and startups in the UK and internationally: effectively the student acts as a consultant, with the class as a whole sharing knowledge and experience.
Alongside that they will continue to explore more newsgathering, production and distribution, exploring areas such as computer assisted reporting, user generated content, multimedia and interactivity. They may, for example, conduct an investigation that produces particularly deep, engaging and distributed content and conversation.
The final stage is MA by Project – either individually or as a group, students make a business case for a startup or offshoot, research it, build it, run it and bid for funding.
By the time they leave the course, graduates should not be going into the industry at entry level (after all, who is recruiting these days?), but at a more senior, strategic level – or, equally likely, to establish startups themselves. I’m hoping these are the people who are going to save journalism.
At the moment all these plans are in draft form. I am hoping this will be a course without walls, responding to ideas from industry and evolving as a result. Which is why I’m asking for your input now: what would you like to see included in an MA Online Journalism? The BJTC’s Steve Harris has mentioned voice training, media law and ethics. The BBC’s Peter Horrocks has suggested programming and design skills. You may agree or disagree.
Let’s get a conversation going.
Financial crisis, digital revolution, crumbling media companies – these are shaky days for media and everyone involved in the field. How can journalism students make sense of it all?
I asked several of the speakers and participants at the Digital News Affairs conference in Brussels one question: What is the best piece of advice you will give to journalism students in the middle of this upheaval? Here is what they want you to focus on:
Ben Hammersley, editor, Wired Magazine: Everything comes down to being able to write well. Before you write well, forget Facebook, Twitter, etc. And you learn to write well by reading lots of good stuff and write a lot yourself. And find a good editor! Continue reading
While everybody in journalism is wondering how the future of media looks like, entrepreneurs try to shape it. They develop new products and services that maybe could be the next big thing in journalism. OJB asks those entrepreneurs three simple questions in a series of interviews. First up: Shafqat Islam from NewsCred.
For everyone who has never heard of NewsCred: it’s an online platform that aggregates articles from lots of media – newspapers, magazines, blogs. NewsCred users can build a personalised online newspaper by selecting media and topics they want to read from and about. Continue reading
Try new stuff! If it doesn’t work, just stop doing it. Then move on and try something else.
That’s what Mackenzie Warren, director of content at Gannett Digital (that’s the digital division of what’s currently the USA’s largest media company), advised a group of Norwegian media executives at the Norwegian Institute of Journalism this week.
Now, let me first point out that Mackenzie Warren has been a journalist since the age of 14. He’s been a photographer, reporter, online editor, managing editor… just about anything you can be in a newsroom. Except that at Gannett, and at Fort Myers News-Press, where he worked before heading up the digital content section at Gannett, they no longer call it a newsroom.
“We’ve done away with the word “newsroom”. There’s no news in a newsroom (desk reporters are often the last to hear of a story). Plus, it’s not news we do – it’s aquiring, processing and distributing information”, he said.
Now, the Gannett publications have more of a control centre where section editors (sports, news etc., not print, online or TV) monitor the competition and also what the readers and viewers are responding to at any time. Continue reading
There’s a great article over at Miller-McCune on investigative journalism and what you might variously call computer assisted reporting and database journalism. Worth reading in full, the really interesting stuff comes further in, which I’ve quoted below in full:
“Bill Allison, a senior fellow at the Sunlight Foundation and a veteran investigative reporter and editor, summarizes the nonprofit’s aim as “one-click” government transparency, to be achieved by funding online technology that does some of what investigative reporters always have done: gather records and cross-check them against one another, in hopes of finding signs or patterns of problems
“… Before he came to the Sunlight Foundation, Allison says, the notion that computer algorithms could do a significant part of what investigative reporters have always done seemed “far-fetched.” But there’s nothing far-fetched about the use of data-mining techniques in the pursuit of patterns. Law firms already use data “chewers” to parse the thousands of pages of information they get in the discovery phase of legal actions, Allison notes, looking for key phrases and terms and sorting the probative wheat from the chaff and, in the process, “learning” to be smarter in their further searches.
“Now, in the post-Google Age, Allison sees the possibility that computer algorithms can sort through the huge amounts of databased information available on the Internet, providing public interest reporters with sets of potential story leads they otherwise might never have found. The programs could only enhance, not replace, the reporter, who would still have to cultivate the human sources and provide the context and verification needed for quality journalism. But the data-mining programs could make the reporters more efficient — and, perhaps, a less appealing target for media company bean counters looking for someone to lay off. “I think that this is much more a tool to inform reporters,” Allison says, “so they can do their jobs better.”
“… After he fills the endowed chair for the Knight Professor of the Practice of Journalism and Public Policy Studies, [James] Hamilton hopes the new professor can help him grow an academic field that provides generations of new tools for the investigative journalist and public interest-minded citizen. The investigative algorithms could be based in part on a sort of reverse engineering, taking advantage of experience with previous investigative stories and corruption cases and looking for combinations of data that have, in the past, been connected to politicians or institutions that were incompetent or venal. “The whole idea is that we would be doing research and development in a scalable, open-source way,” he says. “We would try to promote tools that journalists and others could use.”
Hat tip to Nick Booth
Information is changing. The news industry was born in a time of information scarcity – and any understanding of the laws of supply and demand will tell you that that made information valuable.
But the past 30 years have seen that the erosion of that scarcity. Not only have the barriers to publishing, broadcast and distribution been lowered by desktop publishing, satellite and digital technologies, and the web – but a booming PR industry has grown up to provide these news organisations with ‘cheap’ news.
Information is changing. Increasingly, we are not seeking information out – instead, it finds us. The scarcity is not in information, but in our time to wade through it, make meaning of it, and act on it.
Information is changing, and so journalists must too. In the previous parts of this series I’ve looked at how the news process could change in a multiplatform environment; how to involve the former audience; what can now happen after a story is published; journalists and readers as distributors; and new media business models. In this part I want to look at personnel – and how we might move from a generic, hierarchy of ‘reporters’, ‘subs’ and ‘editors’ to a more horizontal structure of roles based on information types. Continue reading