Monthly Archives: July 2007

ITV News falls into the citizen journalism trap

ITV News are to “air citizen reporters’ videos”, according to The Guardian. ‘Uploaded’ (oh dear.) will “allow members of the public to post video clips on the Uploaded website via mobile phone or webcam, responding to a daily “debate of the day” set by ITV News.”

Yep, it’s the old ‘charitable gesture’ approach to citizen journalism. ITV choose the topic, choose the responses, and, by the sounds of things, even choose the correspondents (“a national network of citizen correspondents,” says the article, which also mentions 100 people who have “signed up”).

ITV news editor, Deborah Turness is quoted as saying: “news has remained a one-way street in a two-way world.” But the two-way system of ‘Uploaded’ has one very large lane for ITV, and one very narrow one for its audience.

“Sometimes the media is guilty of underestimating the audience,” she continues. “People do have really interesting and relevant things to say and Uploaded will give us real diversity of opinion and experience.”

How diverse? 

“The Uploaded segment within the news bulletins is likely to be about 60 seconds.”

Ah, that diverse. Great. Another citizen journalism ghetto.

So here’s my suggestion: Stop recycling old formats for new media. Stop treating the audience’s contribution like an ‘And Finally’ section. Start understanding how interactivity works: it’s about giving control to the user. Giving control over subject matter. Giving control over time. Giving control over ranking. I’m not suggesting getting rid of editorial roles entirely, but if you’re going to do something like this, for God’s sake do it properly.

I’m inclined to agree with Jeff Jarvis, who said of the CNN-YouTube election debate experiment:

TV doesn’t know how to have a conversation. TV knows how to perform. The event’s moderator, CNN’s Anderson Cooper, behaved almost apologetically about the intrusion of these real people, who speak without benefit of make-up.

‘Uploaded’ is not citizen journalism. It’s a vox pops without having to pay professional camerapeople.

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Advice for journalism graduates

If you’re one of the many journalism graduates wandering the jobs pages this summer, here’s my Five-Step Plan® to getting a job in journalism

  1. Get a job, it doesn’t matter what. Nothing makes a person employable like being already employed. Plus you now have an employer’s reference. You’ll be making new contacts and learning new things, giving you more to talk about on the CV/interview. If you can get a job in the area you want to write about, even better: even if it’s something as prosaic as working in Next because you want to be a fashion journo. You’ll be surprised how much knowledge you pick up. Once you have the job, try to shape it so you can gain as much useful experience as possible: suggest an internal newsletter you could write, or contribute to the company website.
  2. Get a blog – no, don’t stop reading. This is not about online journalism. A blog helps you achieve a number of things regardless of whether you ever want to publish online professionally:
    • Practice makes perfect: writing regularly for a blog helps you hone and improve your journalistic style (note: that’s journalistic style, not diary style. Your journalist’s blog should be a series of articles, interviews etc. in your area of interest, not what you did on your summer holidays)
    • Ready-made portfolio: writing regularly for a blog gives you a wealth of material to show to potential employers. You should of course also include any material you have had published elsewhere. Include it on your CV so they can browse through it in deciding to give you an interview.
    • Proof of commitment: if you’re committed enough to write a blog regularly, to get out there and find out what’s happening in your specialist area, that proves you’re more committed than most job applicants.
    • Exposure: at this point, whether or not anyone reads your blog is not the primary goal, but if you do it well, you can build a reputation, and two things can happen: a) when you’re at the interview, the editor says “I’m a reader of your blog”; and b) freelance jobs will come to you. Note: this often takes years, and is often connected with the next step.
  3. Get involved in the area you want to report on: firstly, know where to get grassroots news in your area, so build up a first class favourites folder/Bloglines account of the best bloggers and news sources. Secondly, comment on those blogs and sites, and engage in the debates. Thirdly, conduct your own interviews for your own blog, online and offline. And finally, get away from your computer and do things: attend events, do courses, arrange a day in a relevant company. All of this proves your commitment, builds your reputation, and gives you a contacts book to die for.
  4. Get a good mobile phone – that is, one that takes pictures, video and audio. Download some free editing software like Windows Movie Maker and Audacity, and play around with it. Upload some video or audio to to your blog, YouTube or Switchpod. Quality will come with time, but the primary point here is to prove that you have some multimedia experience. Journalists are increasingly expected to know how to produce audio and video as well as text, and this is another way of putting you ahead of the competition. You will also need it for step 5:
  5. Get an eye for news: don’t wait to join a news organisation to become a journalist. As you do your job, as you walk the streets, as you read the newspapers and browse the messageboards, keep your news sense about you: is something happening that is newsworthy? Record it with your phone and send it to a relevant news organisation. Has someone said something that is newsworthy? Highlight it on your blog. Is there a national story that you could put a specialist or local angle to? Write it up.
    This is the most fundamental of skills for a journalist, whether in news or features. It is the one thing employers will be looking for. If you can tell them you filmed the floods on your phone or spotted a good lead on a forum, it proves you’re always ‘on’.

How to develop your business through online social networks

Not the usual post title you get on this blog, but if you want to hear me waffling talking expertly about social networks, feel free to pop along to tonight’s Moseley Creative Forum from 7.00 –9.00pm at Moseley Community Development Trust (more details below). Here’s the blurb:

‘How to develop your business through on-line social networks’

Join us for a panel-led discussion on how ‘creatives’ can make effective use of the provision already out there… MySpace, YouTube, Second Life and Facebook

We will explore how best you can promote yourself through on-line networks, how to get sales and contacts and develop links to your own website.

There will also be some “future gazing” as to where this technology is going and the opportunities it provides for you and your business.

We will talk about plans to re-launch the website for the “made in moseley” brand. (see www.madeinmoseley.com

Chair
Steve Harding, Moseley Community Development Trust, we will hear from

Panel:

  • Paul Bradshaw, UCE Birmingham
  • Antonio Gould, developer of digital media for creativity, education and social enterprise
  • Chris Thompson, Director of D A Recordings Ltd.

Come along and join in the session for what promises to be a lively evening!

Looking forward to seeing you,

Steve Harding / Marion Taggart

Reply to: marion@taggart56.fsnet.co.uk or call Marion on: 07999861876

Location: The Post Office Building, 149-153, Alcester Road, Moseley, Birmingham

Tel 0121 449 6060 www.MoseleyCDT.com

Online journalism’s must-read blog posts

Shane Richmond is asking for contributions to a list of classic blog posts on online journalism. For some reason my comments don’t seem to have gone through, so here’s my list of the essential reads for online journalists:

  1. For an overview of the forms and possibilities of online journalism: Jonathon Dube’s Online Storytelling Forms
  2. For a mind-blowing insight into the journalistic potential of computer technology: Adrian Holovaty: A fundamental way newspaper sites need to change
  3. For reflection on how the online news environment changes the nature of journalism: Dan Gillmor’s The End of Objectivity (Version 0.91)
  4. For reflection on journalism ethics in the MySpace/Facebook/UGC/digital doorstepping era: Robin Hamman’s posts virginia tech bloggers: approach and confirm or link and disclaim? and his coverage of a debate on virginia tech coverage
  5. For a sliding scale of ideas on how to involve the audience: Steve Outing’s The 11 Layers of Citizen Journalism
  6. For a succinct and clear explanation of moving from the TV mindset to an understanding of online video: Andy Dickinson: Moving from TV to Online
  7. For a quick list of tips when moving into video: Newslab’s Tips for Photographers
  8. For an outline of the possibilities of Flash for interactive storytelling, and experiences of its use: Mindy McAdams’ Flash journalism: Professional practice today 
  9. For a step-by-step overview of how to treat a story in a multimedia way: Mindy McAdams’ Journalism stories: A multimedia approach Parts 1, 2 and 3.
  10. For a conceptual exploration of interactive storytelling: The Elements of Digital Storytelling
  11. I’ll agree with Richmond’s inclusion of Ross Mayfield’s post on his own blog: What makes wikis work
  12. And it pre-dates blogs, but answers very effectively that recurring question of “Is blogging/wikis/databases/broccoli etc. etc. journalism?”: G. Stuart Adam’s Notes Towards a Definition of Journalism

Contribute to my wiki on wiki journalism

Do you know anything about the use of wikis in journalism? 

In September I will be presenting a paper on Wiki Journalism at the Future of Newspapers conference in Cardiff (it looks set to be a very good two days). And of course the best way to write a paper on wiki journalism is to publish it as a wiki…

So, I’ve quickly scrabbled together a first draft in order to get things going. Please contribute what you can at http://wikijournalism.pbwiki.com/ – the password to contribute is ‘wikiwiki’, or go straight to http://wikijournalism.pbwiki.com/?full_access=pjxmsse6ur&l=S if that’s too much hassle. All contributions will be acknowledged, and of course you’ll have that warm glow inside as well.

I’ve also created a Wikipedia entry for Wiki Journalism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiki_journalism) which is a much chopped-down, dryer, more factual version appropriate to an encyclopedia.

Many thanks,

Paul Bradshaw

News organisations see potential of wiki journalism

A survey by Matt King for the Online Journalism Blog indicates it may only be a matter of time before we see the first UK experiment with ‘wiki journalism’, with news organisations ranging from the BBC to Sky excited about the potential of wiki technology.

Robin Hamman, Senior Broadcast Journalist and Producer for the BBC told Online Journalism Blog: “The BBC has been using wikis internally for quite some time, particularly for product development and distributed team working within BBC Future Media & Technology. We haven’t, as far as I’m aware, done any external wikis although I’m sure that someone somewhere within the corporation has at least considered doing this.” Adam Gee, New Media Commissioner for Channel 4 believes that there are some hints of Wiki’s coming through online: “In effect, Big Art Mob uses the wiki mentality as the information about the art and the tags can be posted by either the contributor (ie photographer) or the viewer or both.”

Although some haven’t used them as yet, many news organisations see the potential of Wikis in providing a new form of user-generated news. Simon Bucks, Associate Editor for BSKYB is very enthusiastic about the potential of Wiki news features: “I’d love to use it but I don’t have especially imminent plans, sadly…it’s just a matter of prioritising what we can do. I think it’s clearly a tricky area and if we used it in any meaningful way we’d probably need to premoderate stuff. But I like the idea of wiki news stories – especially breaking news where users can add eyewitness accounts. There’s a lot of work to do educating folk but I am pretty bullish about it.”

James Montgomery, editor of FT.com does not have any plans currently to use Wiki’s on FT.com, but does agree that Wiki’s are something to keep an eye on: “In a slightly different sense, wikis are emerging as a form of newsgathering and story-telling: entries began in response to events that become a primary source of news. It’s a form of collaborative news writing; another form of user generated content. It’s fascinating to follow, but we have no current plans to adopt this approach on FT.com

The main concerns raised are the issues of moderation, and the Wiki’s becoming ‘out of hand’. James Montgomery expressed concerns over issues becoming disputed too heavily: “Wikis online are still a tricky issue. From what I have seen, there is an emerging view that some topics or entries have to be “locked down” by an editor if they become disputed too heavily. That seems sensible.” Simon Bucks, agreed saying that: “The problem I find is that users tend not to understand the difference between information and opinion and too often user generated content-news becomes a vehicle for a rant!”

Robin Hamman believes that the use of hosts/editors is a way around any violations of the rules: A better approach is to use hosts/editors who are a welcoming presence, keep the discussions or other content on topic, and generally stop bad behaviour before it starts through setting the tone and reinforcing positive, editorially relevant behaviour.”