A screenshot of the Slack group for MA journalism students at Birmingham City University
For a number of years I’ve been using Slack with students on both the MA in Multiplatform and Mobile Journalism, and the MA in Data Journalism at Birmingham City University. As a new academic year begins, here are some tips I’ve picked up over the years – whether you are a lecturer considering integrating Slack into your teaching, or a student considering using it in a journalism project.
First things first: why Slack?
Slack is a professional chat app used widely in the media industry to organise projects. It has a number of advantages over other options for communicating between colleagues, whether that’s chat apps such as WhatsApp, or traditional email. These include:
The ability to take control over opting in or out of communications (rather than being endlessly ccd in on unimportant messages)
The ability to have ‘office hours’ and customise notifications based on your priorities and availability (rather than getting notifications for all communications)
A particularly powerful search functionality for finding documents or messages from previous communications
The ability to set yourself reminders
Automation of aspects of work, such as alerts
When it comes to teaching and learning there are two obvious selling points: firstly it empowers students to manage their own communication (with attendant benefits for mental health).
Long-form journalism enjoyed a resurgence when editors tried to retain readers in the early 2000s — but the rise of mobile-first publishing has presented a challenge. In a special guest post for OJB, Michael Bugeja outlines how it can draw on narrative techniques from literary essays to keep readers reading — and coming back for more.
“While 123 seconds – or just over two minutes – may not seem long, and afar cry from the idealized vision of citizens settling in with the morning newspaper, two minutes is far longer than most local television news stories today.”
But buried in the report were some problems: only 3 percent of long-form and 4 percent of short-form news returned to the content once they left it — and both types of articles had brief lifespans after content was posted, with interaction after three days dropping by 89 percent for short-form and 83 percent for long-form. Continue reading →
Bárbara Maseda has dedicated the last four years to publishing data where none exists. “In Cuba we use investigative journalism tools to search for information that elsewhere in the world would be in a press release,” she says. Other journalists’ data problems, such as receiving data in formats that are difficult to analyse, “are my highest aspirations”.
Somewhere between the heated accusations and counter-accusations, however, there was an important lesson to be learned — and a reasonable discussion to be had.
It is a lesson about understanding very different online cultures, about new journalistic practices, and an emerging dimension of journalistic ethics that few reporters have truly gotten to grips with. Continue reading →
This is what you’ll look like after reading all of these books… (“Study of a Man Reading” by Alphonse Legros)
This latest in the frequently asked questions series is an answer to an aspiring data journalism student who asks “Would you be able to direct me to any resources or text books that might help [prepare]?” Here are some recommendations I give to students on my MA in Data Journalism…
Books on data journalism as a profession
Data journalism isn’t just the application of a practical skill, but a profession with a culture, a history, and non-technical practices.
Middles and endings of long features are no less tricky than the beginnings you can spend so much time writing and rewriting. Often people fall back on particular habits which may not quite ‘work’ for the story being told.
Telling a story in chronological order, for example, is not always the most effective approach. Stories where the action is not equally dispersed chronologically can ‘sag’ in these cases and the momentum of a strong beginning get lost.
In those situations a storyteller with a varied toolbox might use places, or themes, or scenes, to keep that momentum going instead. Continue reading →
Beginnings are notoriously tricky for any writer. For news reporters the advice is simple: start with the ‘new’ thing in your story, and make sure there is a verb in there: a person has said something; a report has revealed something; authorities are looking for someone, warning about something, planning to do something; and so on.
But in longform and feature writing the approach is more subtle. Although we can choose to report that something has been ‘revealed’ right at the start, this risks removing tension from the story and leading the reader to abandon it before they have the full picture.
Instead, then, journalists use a number of techniques to keep the reader engaged across a longer format — with the important implied promise that the story is going to be worth it.
So, for anyone struggling to think of a way to start a longer story — or feel that you can improve the approach you’ve chosen — I’ve pulled together seven types of beginning that are used in longform reporting and feature writing, with some considerations to bear in mind — and plenty of examples. Continue reading →