All of the bases will be covered, it seems: Multimedia, social media, hyperlocal, crowdsourcing, datamashups, and news business models.
Yesterday I hosted a session on law for my MA Online Journalism students, which I thought I would embed below.
Some background: I teach all my sessions in a coffee shop in central Birmingham – anyone can drop in. This week I specifically invited local bloggers, and so the shape of the presentation was very much flavoured by contributions from The Lichfield Blog‘s Philip John; Nick Booth from Podnosh and BeVocal; Talk About Local‘s Nicky Getgood; Hannah Waldram of the Bournville Village Blog; Gavin Wray, Matthew Mark, and Mike Rawlins of Stoke’s Pits N Pots. The editor of the Birmingham Post Marc Reeves also came for an hour to share his own experiences in the regional press.
Two things occurred to me during the process of preparation and delivery of the session. The first is that law in this context is much broader: as well as the classic areas for journalists such as defamation, you have to take into account online publishing issues such as terms and conditions, data protection and user generated content.
Secondly, I’ve long been an advocate of conversational teaching styles (one of the reasons I teach in a coffee lounge) and this was a great example of that in practice. The presentation below is just a series of signposts – the actual session lasted 4 hours and included various tangents (some of which I’ve incorporated into this published version). Experiences in the group of students and guests ranged across broadcasting, print, photography, online publishing, academic study, and international law, and I came out of the session having learned a lot too.
I hope you can add some more points, examples, or anything I’ve missed. Here it is:
3 weeks ago my class of online journalism students were introduced to the website they were going to be working on: BirminghamRecycled.co.uk – environmental news for Birmingham and the West Midlands.
In building and running the service Kasper has done a number of clever, networked things I thought I should highlight. They include:
- Creating a Delicious network for the site – every journalist in the team has a Delicious account; this gathers together all of the useful webpages that journalists are bookmarking
- Tweetgrid of all journalists’ tweets - again, every journalist has a Twitter account. This pulls them all together.
- Twitter account @bhamrecycled
- Kasper sent the whole team an OPML file of subscriptions to RSS feeds of searches for every Midlands area and environmentally related keywords. In other words, journalists could import this into their Google Reader and at a stroke be monitoring any mention of certain key words (e.g. ‘pollution’, ‘recycling’) in Birmingham areas.
- He also shared a Google calendar of relevant events
The site itself is clever too.
- The About page has a list of all contributing journalists with individual RSS feeds.
- In addition, each author has a link to their own profile page which not only displays their articles but pulls Twitter tweets, Delicious bookmarks and blog posts.
Kasper wanted to explicitly follow a Mashable-style model rather than a traditional news service: he felt an overly formal appearance would undermine his attempts to build a community around the site.
And community is key. When unveiling the site to the journalists Kasper made the following presentation – a wonderful distillation of how journalists need to approach news in a networked world:
If you have a few minutes to spare this afternoon, log in to Twitter and look for the hashtag #twask. What is #twask? Well, anyone wanting to ask a question about Twitter can use the tag – and anyone answering those questions can do the same.
Questions find answers.
The whole thing is the idea of final year journalism degree student Kasper Sorensen, who wanted to help online journalism students find their feet on Twitter. I think it’s pretty great. Read more at his site.
I’ve just been casting my eye over the Magazine Production work of two groups of second year students on the journalism degree I teach on. In addition to design and subbing, they were assessed on ‘web strategy’ – in other words, how they approached distribution online.
To give this a little context: early in the module ideas for magazines had to be pitched to the student union for financial backing in a Dragons’ Den-style competition (where among other things they had to address web strategy and business model). One idea per class ‘won’, which the whole class then had to work together to produce.
The winning ideas were: Nu Life – a magazine aimed at international students; and Skint - a money-saving guide with a particular focus on food. This is what they did…
The social network as web hub
Both groups created a Ning social network as the hub of their activity. Nu Life‘s pulled RSS feeds from the magazine blog and from local news services, in addition to having blog posts on the Ning itself, hosting images, originally produced video, an event, and forums. Continue reading
Azeem built the site from scratch using open source content management system Joomla, a raft of plugins, and even survived a hacker attack. But more importantly, he has probably grasped the workings of a networked environment better than any other student, using Twitter particularly effectively, building RSS mashups, learning about search engine optimisation, and exploring the vagaries of online communities. With Rachael he managed a team of second year journalism students as they learned online journalism on the job – the first time I’d tried such a model, which seemed to work very well.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Azeem’s blog entries and seeing the problems he faced in building and maintaining the site both technically and editorially. But, unsurprisingly in the current environment, Azeem has not yet landed a permanent journalism job and so is not blogging as often these days. I’m hoping that changes in ’09. Good luck, Azeem.
As a new semester begins it seems a good time to finally post about how my second year journalism degree students approached the ‘interactive’ element of their portfolio way back in May (yes, everything they do is interactive, but bear with me).
For the first time I gave them an open brief in terms of what they did interactively (in previous years I asked them to produce Flash interactives). Having been taught how to create everything from audio slideshows and image maps to multimedia interactives, Google Maps and Yahoo! Pipes mashups, I was curious to see what they would pick. Would they all plump for the same option? Continue reading
She recently popped in for an ad hoc tutorial and I asked her about her web strategy.
“I don’t have a website,” she replied.
“But you have a blog?”
“Yes. And a MySpace page. With 800 friends.”
“So you do have a web strategy.” Continue reading
As you have probably worked out, this year’s Online Journalism students have been building up towards launching an environmental news website. This week the site went public, and I thought I’d take the opportunity to reflect on the lessons learned so far…
The site is the final year project of two final year journalism degree students – Azeem Ahmad and Rachael Wilson. The decision was made to launch an environmental site because of the increase of investment in this area from a number of news organisations, and also because of a local connection – more of which later.
Azeem is responsible for the more technical side of the site, which he has built from scratch using the open source content management software Joomla.
Azeem has been blogging his progress with the software, including the frightening experience of having the site hacked into by the creator of a theme Azeem installed.
Rachael has the responsibility for editorial, which means writing for the site herself, but more importantly managing 14 second year students on the Online Journalism module as they try to build a news site on a subject most have never written about. She’s also been blogging her experiences.
Week One: Choosing a name, assigning beats, making connections
After some cheesy brainstorming, the very literal name ‘Environmental News Online‘ was chosen for the site for the simple reasons of search engine optimisation and domain name availability. The abbreviation ‘ENO’ lent it more character. Continue reading
Kudos to two of my student journalists who had the nous to report on last night’s earthquake as soon as it happened, using Twitter, blogs and the website, and sourcing from forums, Twitter, blogs, and Flickr.
Quickest off the draw was Stephen Nunes, who posted a tweet complete with link to the U.S. Geological Survey (journalistic quandary: to twitter immediately without verification, or to get the facts?)
Once he’d gathered some facts, he blogged it. In addition to the official sources and other news outlets, Mitch had also gathered some original material from blogs and blog comments.
(And the Flickr-sourced image of a bleary-eyed housemate in dressing gown watching the news was an unusual one, but in the absence of the old lump-of-debris snap it kinda works for me as a representation of what was happening across the country – and he gets credit for thinking visually).
Cleverly, he’s obviously set up Twitterfeed to post blog updates to his Twitter account too.
Within two hours the story had gone live on the Environmental News Online website, complete with tags.
Congratulations, Mitchell, on a job well done.