Monthly Archives: April 2007

Video: how to be an online journalist

A great way to start the week: my students are back from their Easter break, and one has not only posted a story about police being unable to keep up with 999 calls, but also created a witty video of ‘how to be an online journalist’, with royalty-free music to boot (note: Corbis is mentioned in the video – students are allowed to use image banks as long as they cost it up for a professional operation).

New contender for worst newspaper video

And I thought the Bolton News was bad. The bar has just been lowered by Reading Evening Post’s Sports Editor David Wright’s video bulletin, a painful lesson in how not to do online video:

Rule #1: if you’re aiming to imitate broadcast television, make sure you’ve watched it since the ’80s.

Rule #2: if you use a cloth for a background, make sure you iron it.

Rule #3: tempted to use those fancy transition effects on your video editing software? Sleep on it. Please.

Rule #4: if you’re going to do ‘green screen’ make sure the green covers the whole background.

Rule #5: don’t start talking to your mate while the camera is still filming.

Rule #6: speak clearly, slow down.

Rule #7: film at a time or place when people are not coming in and out of a door and mumbling to each other out-of-shot

Rule #8: do more than one take.

It’s not David Wright’s fault that he has to learn his trade in public. I doubt Surrey and Berkshire Newspapers have invested in any training for him, and it’s clear they’ve not invested in facilities. Perhaps material like this may persuade them otherwise.

UPDATE: I hope David’s hits have shot up – they’re watching him in Australia and Hungary.

Virginia Tech: more on that ethics question

I’m still not entirely comfortable with the way blogs/MySpace have been raided by journalists, despite Tony Harcup’s ‘public domain’ defence in my earlier post. The BBC Manchester blog puts it well:

“I’m told by people with years of experience in news journalism that there is nothing at all unique about dozens, perhaps hundreds, of journalists working the phones, sending emails and doing whatever they can to secure stories from the victims of tragic incidents such as this. Nothing unique, that is, other than the fact that because many of those approaches, including a particularly unfortunate one asking the blogger to “shoot” the journalist an email, are, like the blog itself, published there in public for everyone to see. And guess what, just as some LiveJournal users were upset at the use of the post by the mainstream media, some journalists weren’t too happy when they saw that lots of blogs were now quoting them.

“Onemanandhisdog makes an interesting point about the public yet private nature of LiveJournal posts that, I think, is quite worthy of discussion here. He writes:

“”I can’t help wondering if the nature of Livejournal is partly behind the outrage….the characteristic of Livejournal that triggered the creation of this blog was its community nature. Its system of “friends” and the “friends page” means that most Livejournals are read through Livejournal – it’s for talking to a circle of friends, not to the world at large. Barging into that community and asking for comment feels not unlike barging into a pub and asking somebody for comments.”

Now sure, journalism has a long and dishonourable tradition of doorstopping the victims of tragedies. But in the digital age, the communities around the victims have voices to express their outrage at the media’s behaviour – and that’s what we’re seeing here.”

“I think it’s a valid point. People can and do use LiveJournal, Myspace, MSN spaces and the dozens of other social networking sites to publish content online. But, for many of them, it’s likely they do so only with the intention of reaching an audience consisting of their friends.”

MySpace News is here – what a disappointment

Well, it’s not the RSS killer app I was hoping for, but more more a Digg clone, according to

MySpace News apes Google News by using a search algorithm to automatically aggregate stories from sources around the world, placing them in a plethora of niche categories and 25 overarching topics.

“Like social news bookmarking websites Digg and MySpace [sic], the news service allows users to vote stories up and down the news agenda. But unlike the one-million strong technology-focused site Digg, MySpace’s debutante does not yet enable users to add their own stories to the system – a feature that was expected, according to previous early reports.”

This lack of control could be the death of MySpace News. Sounds like they’re relying heavily on the fact they have such a massive user base, but that user base can easily go elsewhere for news…

Sky News website crashes on relaunch day

Sky website April 19 2007 1.05pmIt had to happen. Relaunching on the day news organisations around the world reported on the Virginia Tech gunman’s video statements, Sky News’ video-heavy website couldn’t cope when workers hit their site in huge numbers at lunchtime.

The site was inaccessible for at least an hour before a stripped-down version of the homepage went live around 1pm. Even then, response times were snail-like.

Of course, crashes like this are not new: on September 11 news websites around the world crashed under the demand, and a number of blogs sprang up to distribute the information around the net, but Sky seems to be the only site to have struggled today.

Virginia Tech: the speed of news online

If ever proof were needed of the increased speed which the internet and blogs bring to news, yesterday Wired was already looking at the implications of the Virginia Tech shooting after a blog post:

“After Columbine, there was a nationwide backlash against geeks and goths — kids were being suspended, and worse, for wearing Marilyn Manson tee shirts. What will the Virginia Tech backlash look like, if it comes?

“Given all the emphasis on Cho’s creative writing, I’d guess student fiction-writers will be feeling the heat. Turning in dark, tortured, soul-searching fiction will be a good way to get sent to a counselor, or wind up interviewed by the local police.

“Kimberly Lacey, a graduate teaching instructor at Wayne State University, has a thoughtful blog post on the position creative writing teachers are in now.”

The article even links to two of Cho’s plays: “Richard McBeef and Mr. Brownstone are here, along with an account of one his former classmates.”

Sky News’ serendipitous website relaunch

Sky News has relaunched its website on what may prove the biggest day for online video this year.

It’s no surprise to see the Virginia Tech gunman’s self-filmed video dominating the homepage, which has a strong focus on video generally, as well as adopting what are becoming conventional features in news websites: the ‘most read’ stories list; podcasts; and blogs.

The most interesting feature – and it’s not clear whether this will be repeated for other major stories – is that ‘Campus Shooting’ is actually one of the main navigation options, alongside more conventional categories ‘world news’, ‘UK news’, ‘business’ etc. has more on the relaunch, including some notable organisational changes:

“”In the past few months alone, a number of senior journalists have joined Sky News Online from Sky News,” a statement read. “Phil Wardman, Sky News’ head of home news, has been seconded for nine months to to head up online intake, and executive producer Julian March and news editor John Gripton are also bringing their experience to Sky News Online.

“Simon Bucks has been appointed associated editor to put Sky News Online at the forefront of audience participation, encouraging online users to collaborate further in areas such as voting, commenting charing views and contributing to stories. He will continue to solidify the integration of Sky News’ TV and online news services.

“BSkyB is currently trialling a user-generated content portal, SkyCast, with the aim of taking videos from viewers of Sky News and other channels for use on air.”

You can see what Sky News’ website looked like in 2005 at the Web Archive.

UPDATE: as of 12.35 the Sky News website is down, presumably from too many visitors during the UK lunchtime surge. If your glass is half empty, perhaps it wasn’t the best day to relaunch; if it’s half full, well, they got the best day to test the site they could have asked for.

Haymarket to spend millions recruiting digital experts

Good news for graduates with new media journalism skills. reports on Haymarket’s digital recruitment drive:

“Haymarket Media Group is to invest £1.3 million over the next year to recruit and hire additional experts in the field of digital media.

“The publisher, which has already invested £7 million this year to expand and strengthen its online portfolio, is seeking skilled online project managers, designers, web editors and developers to join its Teddington and Hammersmith-based teams to work on existing and new multimedia projects.”

Virginia Tech shooting: another citizen journalism milestone?

Poynter Online has a mind-boggling roundup of how students at Virginia Tech have told their story through mobile video, blogs, and forums. Unlike previous user generated content milestones like 9/11 and the Asian tsunami, this story took place in the heart of the new media generation, and the resulting coverage is more comprehensive, more accessible, and takes in more new media forms, including social networking. “Look at this collection from CNN’s I-Report.,” urges Poynter:

“Students text messaged one another while hiding under desks. Read some of those messages here.

Some students are gathering on Facebook. has a collection of cell pictures taken by students. More than 150 tribute groups have formed on Facebook.

“Other students went right to their blogs and wrote about what they saw.”

As this generation ages it’s reasonable to expect such coverage to become the norm, and this presents two challenges for journalists: 1) the need to develop the awareness of, and skills to find, this material; 2) in the face of such comprehensive and accessible first-person reporting, the need to develop new roles, perhaps as gatewatchers, facilitators and filters rather than reporters.

Then there’s a third issue: ethics. When reporting on the MySpace and Facebook content of murdered students, how far can journalists go? Is it OK to quote dead students’ ‘About Me’ sections? Channel 5 did so last night, including one who was summed up by her favourite flavour of ice cream and the fact that her “favourite colour is blue”.

Tony Harcup, a writer on journalism ethics, told me “my gut reaction is that it is perfectly acceptable to quote from the About Me sections that people have placed in the public domain. It’s not as if a journalist has broken into a dead person’s house and stolen their private diary.” But when we live our lives in the public domain, do our virtual selves have different rights? I have no answers, I’m just posing the question.

UPDATE: Shane Richmond includes these points in his blog. He slightly misunderstands my second point above, and I’ve posted a comment clarifying this.

UPDATE 2 (Apr 21 07): I’ve posted a further post on the ethics issue.

NUJ establish Convergence Commission

Delegates at the NUJ ADM on Sunday voted for the following members to make up a commission to look at convergence in the industry. The panel will consist of:

  • Jemima Kiss, Guardian
  • Helene Mulholland, Guardian
  • Paula Dear, BBC Online
  • Gary Herman, NUJ Training/freelance

More details when I have them, but a good indication of some of the panel’s ideas can be gained from my earlier post on the Digital Convergence fringe meeting, which involved three of the four.