Monthly Archives: February 2011

Hyperlocal Voices: Phyllis Stephen, Edinburgh Reporter

Edinburgh Reporter

Yessi Bello continues the Hyperlocal Voices series of interviews, talking to the Edinburgh Reporter‘s Phyllis Stephen.

Who were the people behind the blog, and what where their backgrounds?

I am the person behind it. I had just graduated with a Masters in Journalism and needed to find an outlet for my work based here in Edinburgh. It seemed to me – particularly after attending the News Re:Wired conference in January 2010 – that hyperlocal is the new buzzword and that I could do it right here on my own doorstep.

I had loads of new multimedia skills desperately needing to be used and practiced. Prior to that I had been a solicitor for a number of years but took a career swerve in 2008 when I decided to go back to university. Same skills – different result! Continue reading

Panorama’s Wikileaks programme – according to Twitter

A word cloud of 500 tweets mentioning 'Panorama' and 'Wikileaks', using Wordle

A word cloud of 500 tweets mentioning ‘Panorama’ and ‘Wikileaks’, using Wordle

Or, using Tagxedo and removing ‘Panorama’ and ‘Wikileaks’:

Tagxedo-Creator

500 tweets about Panorama’s Wikileaks episode, visualised using Tagxedo

Serene Branson: The Sun changes its story – but not the URL

Serene Branson Grammys Stroke story 3am

It appears last week’s guidance from the PCC on correcting URLs as well as the contents of stories has not reached The Sun. Serene Branson’s on-air slurring was initially mocked by the tabloid with the headline “Grammy’s reporter goes gaga”. When it emerged that the presenter may have* suffered from a stroke the article was rewritten – but not the URL:

sun_SereneBranson_URL

The Daily Record, meanwhile, have changed their URL as well as the headline (or their content management system has done it for them). 3am haven’t changed anything (see image at top).

A further issue occurs here too: comments posted on the original Sun story remain, but now – under a now more sober report – these appear insensitive.

More recent commenters can be seen criticising these older comments, and without any notice on the article that it has been updated, those commenting under their real names could argue that their reputations are being damaged as a result.

Certainly there’s an ethical issue here: if you change a story so substantially that original comments now no longer apply, should you remove them?

Via Dave Lee, whose post ‘Serene Branson: The disturbing viral that shames us all‘ should also be read.

*UPDATE: The station website says she was examined by paramedics but not hospitalized. “Her vital signs were normal” and “she says that she is feeling fine this morning”.

3 things that BBC Online has given to online journalism

It’s now 3 weeks since the BBC announced 360 online staff were to lose their jobs as part of a 25% cut to the online budget. It’s a sad but unsurprising part of a number of cuts which John Naughton summarises as: “It’s not television”, a sign that “The past has won” in the internal battle between those who saw consumers as passive vessels for TV content, and those who credited them with some creativity.

Dee Harvey likewise poses the question: “In the same way that openness is written into the design of the Internet, could it be that closedness is written into the very concept of the BBC?”

If it is, I don’t think it can remain that way for ever. Those who have been part of the BBC’s work online will feel rightly proud of what has been achieved since the corporation went online in 1997. Here are just 3 ways that the corporation has helped to define online journalism as we know it – please add others that spring to mind:

1. Web writing style

The BBC’s way of writing for the web has always been a template for good web writing, not least because of the BBC’s experience with having to meet similar challenges with Ceefax – the two shared a content management system and journalists writing for the website would see the first few pars of their content cross-published on Ceefax too.

Even now it is difficult to find an online publisher who writes better for the web.

2. Editors blogs

Thanks to the likes of Robin Hamman, Martin Belam, Jem Stone and Tom Coates – to name just a few – when the BBC did begin to adopt blogs (it was not an early adopter) it did so with a spirit that other news organisations lacked.

In particular, the Editors’ Blogs demonstrated a desire for transparency that many other news organisations have yet to repeat, while the likes of Robert Peston, Kevin Anderson and Rory Cellan-Jones have played a key role in showing skeptical journalists how engaging with the former audience on blogs can form a key part of the newsgathering process.

Unfortunately, many of those innovators later left the BBC, and the earlier experimentation was replaced with due process.

3. Backstage

While so many sing and dance about the APIs of The Guardian and The New York Times, Ian Forrester’s BBC Backstage project was well ahead of the game when it opened up the corporation’s API and started hosting hack days and meetups way back in 2005.

Backstage closed at the end of last year, just as the rest of the UK’s media were starting to catch up. You can read an e-book on its history here.

What else?

I’m sure you can add others – the iPlayer and their on-demand team; Special Reports; the UGC hub (the biggest in the world as far as I know); and even their continually evolving approach to linking (still not ideal, but at least they think about it) are just some that spring to mind. What parts of BBC Online have influenced or inspired you?

PCC gets SEO in new ruling on online corrections


Mirror URL which could land them in court

More from the PCC following yesterday’s Twitter ruling: new guidance on online corrections shows a surprising awareness of search engine optimisation techniques.

Among other points of the guidance are that:

  • “Care must be taken that the URL of an article does not contain information that has been the subject of successful complaint. If an article is amended, then steps should be taken to amend the URL, as necessary.
  • “Online corrections and apologies should be tagged when published to ensure that they are searchable.”

The guidance addresses a recurring problem with news reports which are corrected after subs see sense – but whose HTML and URL continue to display information which could land the publisher in court – for example that shown in the image above (from here) and below, from this post.(Thanks to Martin Belam for finding the main image) – if you can recall the others, let me know.

UPDATE: Thanks to Malcolm Coles for pointing me to some prime candidates at the end of this Robots.txt file

UPDATE 2: Here’s another one from Malcolm: even newspapers who change their URL can still be found out.

Daily Mail article - corrected text, but original HTML

Twitter promoted tweets – the AdWords for live news?

Al Jazeera sponsored Twitter tweet on Egypt
Remember all that fuss about newspapers bidding on Google Adwords to drive traffic to their site? Well here’s a Web 2.0 twist on the idea: Al Jazeera using sponsored tweets to raise awareness of their Egypt coverage.

Twitter itself has the background. Some notable differences to Adwords are that the promoted tweets can be replied to and retweeted just like any other Tweet.

Also, interestingly, “according to Riyaad Minty, head of social media at Al Jazeera English, the @AJEnglish team is operating their Promoted Tweets campaign just like a news desk.” That’s because the content is the advertising, rather than the advertising driving users to the content.

Some metrics to come out of this, according to Twitter (they’re linking to evidence here):

H/t Laura Oliver

How private is a tweet?

The PCC has made its first rulings on a complaint over newspapers republishing a person’s tweets. The background to this is the publication in The Daily Mail and the Independent on Sunday of tweets by civil servant Sarah Baskerville. Adrian Short sums up the stories pretty nicely: “We could be forgiven for thinking you’re trying to make the news rather than report it.”

The complaint came under the headings of privacy and accuracy. In a nutshell, the PCC have not upheld the complaints and, in the process, decided that a public Twitter account is not private. That seems fair enough. However, it is noted that “her Twitter account and her blog [which the Independent quoted from, along with her Flickr account] both included clear disclaimers that the views expressed were personal opinions and were not representative of her employer.”

The wider issue is of course about privacy as a whole, and about the relationship between our professional and private lives. The stories – as Adrian Short outlines so well – are strangely self-contained. ‘It is terrible that this civil servant has opinions and drinks occasionally, because someone like me might say that is it terrible…’

Next they’ll be saying that journalists have opinions and drink too…

3 new resources for data journalists

There have been a raft of new sites for data launched in the past couple of months which I haven’t had time to blog about, so here’s a quick round-up:

  • Tim DaviesOpen Data Cookbook aims to collect “step by step recipes for practical ways to use open data” – a useful complement to GetTheData. The recipes are currently aimed at the more technically minded but you know what to do to address that…
  • Is It Open Data? aims to “make it easy for people to make enquires of data holders, about the openness of the data they hold — and to record publicly the results of those efforts.”
  • And for those wishing to publish open data, The Open Data Manual provides information on what open data is, why you should publish open data, and how to do it. If you come up against an organisation that does not know how to publish their data in an open format, or needs convincing of why they should do so, this is a good place to point them to (or learn the arguments from).

If you’ve seen any other useful resources of late, please post a link in the comments.

Bed, knee and breakfast: designing for the iPad

Bed, knee and breakfast: the Bibliotype template

Craig Mod has written a lengthy and well-informed piece on A List Apart about the problems of designing for the iPad and other “browser”-based interfaces. He makes some particularly important points about the differences between products which have a spine as the “axis of symmetry” (e.g. books, magazines), and digital products where the axis is hard to place:

“If the axis of symmetry for a book is the spine, where is it on an iPad? On one hand, designers can approach tablets as if they were a single sheet of “paper,” letting the physicality of the object define the central axis of symmetry—straight down the middle.

“On the other hand, the physicality of these devices doesn’t represent the full potential of content space. The screen becomes a small portal to an infinite content plane, or “infinite canvas,” as so well illustrated by Scott McCloud.”

The core of his article is a design template for long form tablet reading, for which Mod breaks tablet reading distances into three main categories: Bed, Knee, and Breakfast

  • “Bed (Close to face): Reading a novel on your stomach, lying in bed with the iPad propped up on a pillow.
  • “Knee (Medium distance from face): Sitting on the couch or perhaps the Eurostar on your way to Paris, the iPad on your knee, catching up on Instapaper.
  • “Breakfast (Far from face): The iPad, propped up by the Apple case at a comfortable angle, behind your breakfast coffee and bagel, allowing for handsfree news reading as you wipe cream cheese from the corner of your mouth.”

An image of the template in action is shown above. It’s released under the MIT licence.

Although the article is written with ebooks in mind, the principles can obviously also be applied to magazine and news apps. Worth a read.