I’ve written two guest posts – for The Guardian’s Data Blog and The Telegraph’s new Olympics infographics and data blog – talking about some of the processes involved in that investigation. Here are the key points: Continue reading
Today sees the UK’s biggest strike in decades as public sector workers protest against pension reforms. Most news organisations are covering the day’s events through liveblogs: that web-native format which has so quickly become the automatic choice for covering rolling news.
To illustrate just how dominant the liveblog has become take a look at the BBC, Channel 4 News, The Guardian’s ‘Strikesblog‘ or The Telegraph. The Independent’s coverage is hosted on their own live.independent.co.uk subdomain while Sky have embedded their liveblog in other articles. There’s even a separate Storify liveblog for The Guardian’s Local Government section, and on Radio 5 Live you can find an example of radio reporters liveblogging.
Regional newspapers such as the Chronicle in the north east and the Essex County Standard are liveblogging the local angle; while the Huffington Post liveblog the political face-off at Prime Minister’s Question Time and the PoliticsHome blog liveblogs both. Leeds Student are liveblogging too. And it’s not just news organisations: campaigning organisation UK Uncut have their own liveblog, as do the public sector workers union UNISON and Pensions Justice (on Tumblr).
So dominant so quickly
The format has become so dominant so quickly because it satisfies both editorial and commercial demands: liveblogs are sticky – people stick around on them much longer than on traditional articles, in the same way that they tend to leave the streams of information from Twitter or Facebook on in the background of their phone, tablet or PC – or indeed, the way that they leave on 24 hour television when there are big events.
It also allows print outlets to compete in the 24-hour environment of rolling news. The updates of the liveblog are equivalent to the ‘time-filling’ of 24-hour television, with this key difference: that updates no longer come from a handful of strategically-placed reporters, but rather (when done well) hundreds of eyewitnesses, stakeholders, experts, campaigners, reporters from other news outlets, and other participants.
The results (when done badly) can be more noise than signal – incoherent, disconnected, fragmented. When done well, however, a good liveblog can draw clarity out of confusion, chase rumours down to facts, and draw multiple threads into something resembling a canvas.
At this early stage liveblogging is still a form finding its feet. More static than broadcast, it does not require the same cycle of repetition; more dynamic than print, it does, however, demand regular summarising.
Most importantly, it takes place within a network. The audience are not sat on their couches watching a single piece of coverage; they may be clicking between a dozen different sources; they may be present at the event itself; they may have friends or family there, sending them updates from their phone. If they are hearing about something important that you’re not addressing, you have a problem.
The list of liveblogs above demonstrates this particularly well, and it doesn’t include the biggest liveblog of all: the #n30 thread on Twitter (and as Facebook users we might also be consuming a liveblog of sorts of our friends’ updates).
More than documenting
In this situation the journalist is needed less to document what is taking place, and more to build on the documentation that is already being done: by witnesses, and by other journalists. That might mean aggregating the most important updates, or providing analysis of what they mean. It might mean enriching content by adding audio, video, maps or photography. Most importantly, it may mean verifying accounts that hold particular significance.
These were the lessons that I sought to teach my class last week when I reconstructed an event in the class and asked them to liveblog it (more in a future blog post). Without any briefing, they made predictable (and planned) mistakes: they thought they were there purely to document the event.
But now, more than ever, journalists are not there solely to document.
On a day like today you do not need to be journalist to take part in the ‘liveblog’ of #n20. If you are passionate about current events, if you are curious about news, you can be out there getting experience in dealing with those events – not just reporting them, but speaking to the people involved, recording images and audio to enrich what is in front of you, creating maps and galleries and Storify threads to aggregate the most illuminating accounts. Seeking reaction and verification to the most challenging ones.
The story is already being told by hundreds of people, some better than others. It’s a chance to create good journalism, and be better at it. I hope every aspiring journalist takes it, and the next chance, and the next one.
What good examples of mobile reporting have you seen?
It’s hard to say because the fact that it’s mobile is not always very visible – but @documentally’s work is always interesting. The Telegraph’s use of Twitter and Audioboo during its coverage of the royal wedding was well planned, and Paul Lewis at the Guardian uses mobile technology well during his coverage of protests and other events. Generally the reporting of these events – in the UK and in the Arab Spring stories – includes lots of good examples.
Could it become a genuine niche in journalism or just offer an alternative?
Neither really – I just think it’s a tool of the job that’s particularly useful when you’re covering a moving event where you don’t have time or resources to drive a big truck there.
Do you think more newspapers and print outlets will embrace the possibilities to use mobile technology to “broadcast”?
Very much so – especially as 3G and wifi coverage expands, mobile phones become more powerful, the distribution infrastructure improves (Twitter etc.) and more journalists see how it can be done.
But broadcast is the wrong word when you’re publishing from a situation where a thousand others are doing the same. It needs to be plugged into that.
Do you think the competition that mobile reporting could offer could ever seriously rival traditional broadcast technology?
It already is. The story almost always takes priority over production considerations. We’ve seen that time and again from the July 7 bombing images to the Arab Spring footage. We’ll settle for poor production values as long as we get the story – but we won’t settle for a poor story, however beautifully produced.
Have you seen any good examples of how media orgs are encouraging their staff to adopt mobile reporting techniques?
Trinity Mirror bought a truckload of N97s and N98s and laptops for its reporters a couple years back, and encouraged them to go out, and various news organisations are giving reporters iPhones and similar kit – but that’s just kit. Trinity Mirror also invested in training, which is also useful, and you can see journalists are able to use the kit well when they need to – but as long as the time and staffing pressures remain few journalists will have the time to get out of the office.
What are the main limitations that are holding back this sector – are they technological, training related or all in the mind?
Time and staff, and the cultural habits of working to print and broadcast deadlines rather than reporting live from the scene.
What advice would you give to individual journalists thinking of embracing the opportunities mobile reporting offers?
Start simple – Twitter is a good way to get started, from simple text alerts to tweeting images, audio and video. Once you’re comfortable with tweeting from a phone, find easy ways to share images, then find a video app like Twitcaster and an audio app like Audioboo. Then it all comes down to being able to spot opportunities on the move.
The following is the first part of my inaugural lecture at City University London, ‘Is Ice Cream Strawberry?’. The total runs to 3,000 words so I’ve split it and adapted it for online reading.
The myth of journalism and the telegraph
Samuel Morse was a portrait painter. And he invented the telegraph. The telegraph is probably one of the most mythologised technologies in journalism. The story goes that the telegraph changed journalism during the US Civil War – because telegraph operators had to get the key facts of the story in at the top in case the telegraph line failed or were cut. This in turn led to the objective, inverted pyramid style of journalism that relied on facts rather than opinion.
This story, however, is a myth. Continue reading
As part of an ongoing series on recent graduates who have gone into online journalism, The Telegraph’s new Data Mapping Reporter Conrad Quilty-Harper talks about what got him the job, what it involves, and what skills he feels online journalists need today.
I got my job thanks to Twitter. Chris Brauer, head of online journalism at City University, was impressed by my tweets and my experience, and referred me to the Telegraph when they said they were looking for people to help build the UK Political database.
I spent six weeks working on the database, at first manually creating candidate entries, and later mocking up design elements and cleaning the data using Freebase Gridworks, Excel and Dabble DB. At the time the Telegraph was advertising for a “data juggler” role, and I interviewed for the job and was offered it. Continue reading
Has online journalism become ordinary? Are the approaches starting to standardise? Little has stood out in the online journalism coverage of this election – the innovation of previous years has been replaced by consolidation.
Here are a few observations on how the media approached their online coverage: Continue reading
Tony Hirst takes a look at how different news websites are using interactivity to present different possibilities in the UK election. This post is cross-posted from the OUseful.Info blog:
So it seems like the General Election has been a Good Thing for the news media’s interactive developer teams… Here’s a quick round up of some of the interactives I’ve found… Continue reading
Starting with the obvious part (skip to the next section for the really interesting bit): the database allows you to search by postcode, candidate or constituency, or to navigate by zooming, moving and clicking on a political map of the UK.
Searches take you to a page on an individual candidate or a constituency. For the former you get a biography, details on their profession and education (for instance, private or state, oxbridge, redbrick or neither), as well as email, website and Twitter page. Not only is there a link to their place in the Telegraph’s ‘Expenses Files’ – but also a link to their allowances page on Parliament.uk. Continue reading
It began with some confusion, but an interested crowd filled the Telegraph’s presentation room for a pre-launch spiel on its new election application, Debate2010, last night.
Headed up by communities editor Kate Day, and in commercial partnership with Salesforce, the media group is touting the application as the first of its kind.
Telegraph deputy editor Ben Brogan said the application is an original idea with great potential.
“It will allow people to comment on issues of importance to the country in real time,” he said.
“You could call it an attempt to represent what those issues of importance are; you could call it crowd sourcing policies… or you could call it a real-time opinion poll.”
The application will allow live comments and debates on topics set editorially, but users can also suggest their own topics. The ‘hotness’ of converstaions will be monitored and will likely influence the Telegraph’s election coverage. Continue reading
The superinjunction obtained by England Captain John Terry was overturned on Friday – and the case raises some interesting issues (cross posted from John Terry: another nail in the superinjunction coffin):
- Ecen when the superinjunction was in force, you could find out about the story on Twitter and Google – both even promoted the fact of Terry’s affair – via the Twitter trends list and the real-time Google search box.
- No one got the difference between an injunction and a superinjunction - the former banned reporting of Terry’s alleged affair, the latter banned revealing there was an injunction. They weren’t necessarily both overturned, but there was a widespread assumption you could say what you liked about Terry once the superinjunction was overturned. This wasn’t necessarily the case …
- The Mail and Telegraph seemed to flout the superinjunction – as did the Press Gazette which decided if wasn’t bound as it hadn’t seen a copy. This seemed risky behaviour legally – which makes me wonder if the papers were looking for a weak case to try to discredit superinjunctions.
- This superinjunction should never have been granted. What was the original judge thinking?