Monthly Archives: February 2010

Telegraph invents comparative degrees of atheism. Dawkins = "athiest"

A wonderful headline malfunction at the Telegraph, in their story about the Dawkins Forum dustup, where the discussion forums at have been summarily suspended and made “read only” (*):


So, what are you?



or athiest?

(*) My take is that the Telegraph is rushing to catch up with a “religion” story that the Times got hold of first when blogger Chris Wilkins tipped them off (and updated later). Ruth Gledhill already had an interview with Richard Dawkins done before it even appeared on the Telegraph website. The Telegraph piece reads slighty like a digested and regurgitated version of the previous one in the Times.

They all seem to have got the wrong end of the stick in several respects, including Richard Dawkins himself, and are playing the “nasty rotten horrible anonymous internet culture” tune. Further, newspapers seem to have invented an intra-atheist culture war where one doesn’t exist, albeit based partially on Richard Dawkins’ own misapprehensions.

The actual history is well summarised by blogposts by former moderators Pete Harrison, Jerome23 and Darkchilde. The problem is not that the forum has closed; it is of the way the process has been (mis)managed – particularly because RD has taken a very hands-off approach and backed his employed staff over his volunteer moderators, when it is the former who may well be in he wrong.

The vitriol is being generated because volunteer moderators who have invested hundreds of hours building an online community, and the members of that community, have had their community summarily yanked from beneath them, and had their means of communicating with each other turned off. RD’s “Outrage” response is a restatement of a line from his employed staff which does not match the facts.

Interview with a multimedia photojournalist

David Berman is a multimedia photojournalist who works as a photographer at Northcliffe’s Surrey Mirror. I asked him some questions about his role which I thought I would post here. But first, a showreel of his work…

“I started making Soundslides at the Croydon Advertiser at the back end of ’06, and kept presenting both on- and off-diary assignments as Soundslides and, later, video. There is still some interest locally at the paper for me to do multimedia stuff but only if it doesn’t ‘get in the way of proper work’.

“What is a multimedia photojournalist? A photographer who is unafraid of learning new skills and technologies. A photographer who is passionate about telling stories, shooting compelling images be it still or video. I look at it as an opportunity to get back to being a story teller not just a space filler for the print edition. I shoot, I edit and I publish. Continue reading

Experiments in online journalism

Last month the first submissions by students on the MA in Online Journalism landed on my desk. I had set two assignments. The first was a standard portfolio of online journalism work as part of an ongoing, live news project. But the second was explicitly branded ‘Experimental Portfolio‘ – you can see the brief here. I wanted students to have a space to fail. I had no idea how brave they would be, or how successful. The results, thankfully, surpassed any expectations I had. They included:

There are a range of things that I found positive about the results. Firstly, the sheer variety – students seemed to either instinctively or explicitly choose areas distinct from each other. The resulting reservoir of knowledge and experience, then, has huge promise for moving into the second and final parts of the MA, providing a foundation to learn from each other. Continue reading

Why was Simon Perry ejected from Newport coroner's court?

Very odd scenes at the coroner’s court at Newport in the Isle of Wight, where VentnorBlog’s Simon Perry was ejected by the coroner’s officer – at first, according to Perry, on the grounds that he had suddenly ceased to be a journalist (VentnorBlog have a fine record of attending meetings and hearings), then as a member of the public on the grounds that the court was full; and finally, “Telling him that someone had offered to step out of the court to make a space for us, he said that would make no difference. Continue reading

Extortion racket? Now that's a business model we haven't tried…

Curious goings on at Yelp, which is being sued for alleged extortion.

TechCrunch reports that

The plaintiff in the suit, a veterinary hospital in Long Beach, CA, is said to have requested that Yelp remove a negative review from the website, which was allegedly refused by the San Francisco startup, after which its sales representatives repeatedly contacted the hospital demanding payments of roughly $300 per month in exchange for hiding or deleting the review.

The lawsuit calls it an “extortion racket”. Desperate times and all that…

The paradox of the BBC, objectivity, and UGC

Last week I took a group of MA Online Journalism students to visit the BBC’s User Generated Content Hub. It was a hugely informative conversation about how the biggest team of its kind in the world manages an enormous flow of texts, comments, images and other media (If you want to see more, Caroline Beavon has video of the whole thing, while I recorded a couple of Audioboos answering questions posed via Twitter).

As we were discussing the changing nature of the hub – it is increasingly looking to engage with users beyond the core BBC audience – it became apparent that there is a paradox at the heart of what the BBC does here – and by extension, any UGC effort. And it’s a paradox around objectivity and neutrality. Continue reading

Are newspapers selling linkspam? (Again?)

Interesting post over at Vertical Leap on the apparent plan of local newspapers to sell links, revealed at an SEO conference in Brighton:

“Apparently a very large network of hundreds, if not thousands of local and national newspaper websites across the US and UK have apparently signed up to begin selling of links. The plan is for them to identify pages that have little to no traffic, and sell links in context on these pages in large quantities to manipulate Google’s search engine rankings in the favour of those sites that are linked to as a result.”

Clever as this idea may sound, the newspapers may want to research what happened when other publications tried the same approach. The Irish Independent, the Economist and The Times are among publications whose PageRank has been penalised by Google.

It’s called “linkspam” and it works like this: Continue reading