Monthly Archives: December 2014

A review of online journalism in 2014 – and predictions for 2015

Every December Nic Newman asks me and a bunch of other people for their thoughts on the year just passed, and the year to come. This year, it seems to me, has been particularly seminal, so I’m reproducing my responses here.

1. What surprised you in 2014?

How many news organisations finally began to write web-native copy: linking and embedding multimedia (often from YouTube, Flickr, Twitter or Vine).

The rise of visual journalism has been the most notable trend of 2014 for me, driven by the algorithms of Facebook and changes to Twitter, and the integration of SMO staff and best practice into news organisations.  Continue reading

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This Christmas, encrypt your emails and make the haystack bigger

Why should journalists be interested in web security? You may not fear your social media accounts being hacked by propagandists, your email hacked by companies you write about, or your phone records being seen by police, but there is another good reason for adopting security measures.

“Anonymity loves company,” security researcher Ross Anderson reminded attendees at this month’s Logan Symposium on secrecy, surveillance and censorship. “You can only hide in a crowd.”

In other words, the more people who use encryption in their email, or other security measures, the less unusual it becomes.

And the more widespread these practices are, the harder it is for the contents of messages to be used to identify whistleblowers – whether that is with journalists, charities, or even whistleblowing services (remember that only the message is encrypted, not the identity of the sender or recipient).

So if you have some spare time over the festive period, why not get yourself set up with an email client like Thunderbird with a plugin like Enigmail, and get started.

3 reasons why 2014 was the year news organisations finally ‘got’ web-native production

obama multimedia story

This Independent story includes two embedded YouTube videos and a Flickr photo gallery

Something remarkable happened this year. Something I’ve been waiting for for a long time.

News reports on the web finally started to look more and more like… well, web-native articles.

Not print articles online, not broadcast journalism online, but online journalism, online. I’m talking about journalism which isn’t just text: whether that means linking and embedding or mixing text with images, video or audio.

So what changed in 2014? Here are three factors I’ve noticed growing in influence over the last 12 months. Continue reading

Serial: all good journalism is voyeurism – and bad journalism too (but it’s still journalism)

serial podcast people map

After reporting on online journalism for some time you tire quickly of people saying “this is not journalism“. On Tuesday Brian C. Jones leveled this accusation at the podcast sensation Serial:

Sarah Koenig, the lead producer and narrator … used the tools of legitimate reporting — the right to public records, access to experts, the goodwill of interviewees, compelling soundbites, stylish storytelling … — to intrude into and disrupt real lives for the fun of it. It’s voyeurism, not journalism.”

Serial follows Koenig as she attempts to get to the bottom of a murder conviction she suspects may be a miscarriage of justice. The fact that she does not know whether it is or not is the basis of Jones’s misgivings:

“Real-life stories hurt the peopled involved … When the reporting phase is exhausted, it’s crucial to understand what kind of a story it is, and maybe whether it is a story at all.”

I think Jones makes a mistake common to those used to traditional journalistic production practices: firstly to mistake the subject for the purpose; and secondly to misunderstand modern journalism techniques. Continue reading

How The Cambodia Daily went HTTPS to protect its readers – guest post

Last month The Cambodia Daily announced it was going HTTPS. In a guest post for OJB Joshua Wilwohl explains why they decided to go secure, and how they did it. (Disclosure: Joshua is a student of mine on the MA in Online Journalism by distance learning at Birmingham City University).

During the past year, The Cambodia Daily has witnessed an increase in government interest in monitoring the Internet.

This week, the newspaper revealed a government plan to inspect the network equipment, billing and data files of mobile phone operators and internet service providers.

Government officials argued this was to help with investigations into crime committed over Voice Over Internet Protocol, or VoIP.

But computer crime experts said the Government’s planned tactics could also be used to monitor people’s phone calls and Internet data. As one expert said: Continue reading

Podcast: Journalism outside the website, from WhatsApp to Email

I recently hosted a podcast discussion at Birmingham City University for my MA Online Journalism students on ‘platform publishing‘: in other words, journalism on platforms other than traditional websites.

My guests discussed their experiences of publishing for email, SnapChat, Tumblr, WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. They were: Continue reading

Protecting whistleblowers, anonymity – and Daniel Ellsberg. Day 2 of the Logan Symposium

In a guest post for the Online Journalism Blog, Natalie Leal reports on Day 2 of the Logan Symposium on secrecy, surveillance and censorship. You can find a post about Day 1 here.

The surprise of the Logan Symposium‘s second day was the appearance of Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked those documents in 1971. “Secrets are not kept so much by technical means but by people,” he said. Continue reading