In the history chapter of the Online Journalism Handbook you will find a timeline of key events in web journalism. While working on the forthcoming second edition I recently revisited and updated the timeline. Below are the 41 key events I have settled on — but have I missed any? Let me know what you think. Continue reading
Every year Nic Newman asks a bunch of people for their reflections on the last 12 months and their anticipations for the year ahead. Here’s what I’ve said this year — as always, to be taken with significant doses of salt.
What surprised you most in 2016?
Perhaps the sheer number of significant developments (compare the posts for 2015 and 2014). It was the year when bots went mainstream very quickly, and platforms took further significant steps towards becoming regulated as publishers.
It was a year of renewed innovation in audio. 2016 saw the launch of a number of new audio apps, including Anchor, Pundit, Clyp and Bumpers.fm, as various companies attempted to be the ‘Facebook of audio’. The only problem: Facebook wants to be the Facebook of audio too: at the end of the year they introduced live audio. Continue reading
What a pleasant surprise to visit a profile page on The Guardian website and see a big, prominent link to the member of staff’s public key. Is this routine? It seems it is: an advanced search for profile pages mentioning “public key” brings up over 1000 results. Continue reading
Last night saw the leaders of 7 political parties in the UK debate live on TV. But part and parcel of such a debate these days is the ‘second screen’ journalism of liveblogging. In this post I look at how different news organisations approached their own liveblogs, and what you can take from that if you plan to liveblog a debate in the future (for example this one). Continue reading
Two pieces of information that came to my attention today:
“Students from the least privileged social sectors are more socially committed and more aware of their civic responsibility: These students want “to reveal cases of corruption, show realities that are unknown to the general public, and to do investigative journalism”.
“The students belonging to disadvantaged social classes value the profession of journalism the most, and have a culture of effort and selflessness, which has been inherited from their families. The force lifting the social elevator to access an intellectual profession like journalism is their constant effort. They consider journalism to be a “useful and noble” profession. They have a more romantic and social view of the profession: they want to be a real communication channel for the village people, the forgotten, and the voiceless … However, these students practice self-censorship by not working in recognised and prestigious media, unlike the students from more privileged social classes who do so because they have greater social capital and contacts in the profession of journalism thanks to their families.”
Secondly, from a number of sources on Twitter:
“Independent.co.uk is offering a rare opportunity to an aspiring young journalist. We’re looking for an exceptionally motivated, intelligent and organised undergraduate with a passion for our brand, the world of news, and student life, to come and gain work experience within our Digital team for three months this summer 2013.
“You must be able to work from Monday 17 June through to 30 August 2013. This is work experience, so it is not a paid opportunity, but your travel and lunch expenses will be covered. You will need to provide a letter from your university, confirming that this work experience placement is beneficial and supports your course.”
Over to you.
Today sees the UK’s biggest strike in decades as public sector workers protest against pension reforms. Most news organisations are covering the day’s events through liveblogs: that web-native format which has so quickly become the automatic choice for covering rolling news.
To illustrate just how dominant the liveblog has become take a look at the BBC, Channel 4 News, The Guardian’s ‘Strikesblog‘ or The Telegraph. The Independent’s coverage is hosted on their own live.independent.co.uk subdomain while Sky have embedded their liveblog in other articles. There’s even a separate Storify liveblog for The Guardian’s Local Government section, and on Radio 5 Live you can find an example of radio reporters liveblogging.
Regional newspapers such as the Chronicle in the north east and the Essex County Standard are liveblogging the local angle; while the Huffington Post liveblog the political face-off at Prime Minister’s Question Time and the PoliticsHome blog liveblogs both. Leeds Student are liveblogging too. And it’s not just news organisations: campaigning organisation UK Uncut have their own liveblog, as do the public sector workers union UNISON and Pensions Justice (on Tumblr).
So dominant so quickly
The format has become so dominant so quickly because it satisfies both editorial and commercial demands: liveblogs are sticky – people stick around on them much longer than on traditional articles, in the same way that they tend to leave the streams of information from Twitter or Facebook on in the background of their phone, tablet or PC – or indeed, the way that they leave on 24 hour television when there are big events.
It also allows print outlets to compete in the 24-hour environment of rolling news. The updates of the liveblog are equivalent to the ‘time-filling’ of 24-hour television, with this key difference: that updates no longer come from a handful of strategically-placed reporters, but rather (when done well) hundreds of eyewitnesses, stakeholders, experts, campaigners, reporters from other news outlets, and other participants.
The results (when done badly) can be more noise than signal – incoherent, disconnected, fragmented. When done well, however, a good liveblog can draw clarity out of confusion, chase rumours down to facts, and draw multiple threads into something resembling a canvas.
At this early stage liveblogging is still a form finding its feet. More static than broadcast, it does not require the same cycle of repetition; more dynamic than print, it does, however, demand regular summarising.
Most importantly, it takes place within a network. The audience are not sat on their couches watching a single piece of coverage; they may be clicking between a dozen different sources; they may be present at the event itself; they may have friends or family there, sending them updates from their phone. If they are hearing about something important that you’re not addressing, you have a problem.
The list of liveblogs above demonstrates this particularly well, and it doesn’t include the biggest liveblog of all: the #n30 thread on Twitter (and as Facebook users we might also be consuming a liveblog of sorts of our friends’ updates).
More than documenting
In this situation the journalist is needed less to document what is taking place, and more to build on the documentation that is already being done: by witnesses, and by other journalists. That might mean aggregating the most important updates, or providing analysis of what they mean. It might mean enriching content by adding audio, video, maps or photography. Most importantly, it may mean verifying accounts that hold particular significance.
These were the lessons that I sought to teach my class last week when I reconstructed an event in the class and asked them to liveblog it (more in a future blog post). Without any briefing, they made predictable (and planned) mistakes: they thought they were there purely to document the event.
But now, more than ever, journalists are not there solely to document.
On a day like today you do not need to be journalist to take part in the ‘liveblog’ of #n20. If you are passionate about current events, if you are curious about news, you can be out there getting experience in dealing with those events – not just reporting them, but speaking to the people involved, recording images and audio to enrich what is in front of you, creating maps and galleries and Storify threads to aggregate the most illuminating accounts. Seeking reaction and verification to the most challenging ones.
The story is already being told by hundreds of people, some better than others. It’s a chance to create good journalism, and be better at it. I hope every aspiring journalist takes it, and the next chance, and the next one.
There’s a salient quote in Journalism.co.uk’s report on Facebook’s “new class of news apps” launched today:
“As we worked with different news organisations there were two camps: people that wanted to bring the social experience onto their sites, like Yahoo [News] and the Independent; and those that wanted the social news experience on Facebook, like Guardian, the Washington Post and the Daily,” director of Facebook’s platform partnerships Christian Hernandez told Journalism.co.uk.
So which is better? An initial play with the apps of The Independent and The Guardian appears to demonstrate the difference well. Here, for example, is the Facebook app widget as it appears on The Independent – or rather, as it almost appears: various other editorial and commercial choices push it onto the fold:
The Guardian app, meanwhile, hands over editorial control to the users in a customarily clean design:
But hold on, what’s this in my news/activity/information overload stream next to The Guardian’s article?
It appears that The Independent app takes the news to the users as well. Continue reading
The Independent newspaper has introduced a fascinating new feature on the site that allows users to follow articles by individual writers and news about specific football teams via Facebook.
It’s one of those ideas so simple you wonder why no one else appears to have done it before*: instead of just ‘liking’ individual articles, or having to trudge off to Facebook to see if there’s a relevant page you can become a fan of, the Indie have applied the technology behind the ‘Like’ button to make the process of following specific news feeds more intuitive.
To that end, you can pick your favourite football team from this page or click on the ‘Like’ button at the head of any commentator’s homepage. The Independent’s Jack Riley says that the feature will be rolled out to columnists next, followed by public figures, places, political parties, and countries.
The move is likely to pour extra fuel on the overblown ‘RSS is dying‘ discussion that has been taking place recently. The Guardian’s hugely impressive hackable RSS feeds (with full content) are somewhat put in the shade by this move – but then the Guardian have generated enormous goodwill in the development community for that, and continue to innovate. Both strategies have benefits.
At the moment the Independent’s new Facebook feature is plugged at the end of each article by the relevant commentator or about a particular club. It’s not the best place to put given how many people read articles through to the end, nor the best designed to catch the eye, and it will be interesting to see whether the placement and design changes as the feature is rolled out.
It will also be interesting to see how quickly other news organisations copy the innovation.
*If I told you I said this deliberately in the hope someone would point me to a previous example – would you believe me? Martin Stabe in the comments points to The Sporting News as one organisation that got here first. And David Moynihan points out that NME have ‘Like’ buttons for each artist on their site.
Has online journalism become ordinary? Are the approaches starting to standardise? Little has stood out in the online journalism coverage of this election – the innovation of previous years has been replaced by consolidation.
Here are a few observations on how the media approached their online coverage: Continue reading
Articles in newspapers complaining about bloggers and twitter users seem to come along like bills from the taxman – at a rate of about 5 a week.
We have had the remarkable exhibit of Janet Street-Porter (or “Janet Self-Publicist”) complaining about “publicity seeking bloggers“, and more recently Rachel Sylvester starting a pop-psychology consultancy practice for sad and lonely individuals possessed by the Twitter demon.
Last Monday, Nicholas Lezard, the usually literate writer for the Guardian and the Independent, had what I would call a “Twit-Fit”, wibbling furiously for an entire 700 words against Twitter – here.
This is my commentary cum translation. A little light relief for a Sunday, and I hope that Paul Bradshaw doesn’t give me an ASBO.
So you’re eating lunch? Fascinating
(I only read boring Twitter accounts)
Stephen Fry … Twitter …
(faux introductory wibble … let’s set up the target)
I have nothing against Stephen Fry
(lots of my friends use Twitter, so I am not prejudiced … I have the right to quibble wibble)
but I CERTAINLY have something against Twitter
The name tells us straightaway
it’s inconsequential, background noise, a waste of time and space
(unintentionally self-revelatory wibble)
Actually, the name does a disservice to the sounds birds make, which are, for the birds, significant, and, for the humans, soothing and, if you’re Messiaen, inspirational
But Twitter? Inspirational?
(well, it isn’t when you can’t hear for your own ranting)
The online phenonemon is about humanity disappearing up it’s own fundament, or the air leaking out of the whole Enlightenment project
(I just managed to look over Nigel Molesworth‘s shoulder, and I cribbed a bit from his 2nd year philosophy test, Hem-Hem)
It makes blogging look like literature
(I have a whole quiverful of cookie-cutter stereotypes, and boy am I going to use them)
It’s anti-literature, the new opium of the masses
(Clickety-click! I taught Blue Peter how to prepare things earlier, and this one is from 1843)
It’s unreflective instantaneousness encourages neurotic behaviour in both the Tweeter and the Twatters
(Dear Damien Hirst, can I be your Press Officer ? )
Seriously, the Americans have proposed that “twatted” should be the past participle of “tweet”
(Obviously there are 300 million identical cardboard-cut-out idiots across the pond. Perhaps “stereotroped” should be the past participle of “stereotype”)
It encourages us in the delusion that our random thoughts, our banal experiences, are significant
(I want to be Alain de Botton when I grow up, Blankety-Blank)
It is masturbatory and infantile, and the amazing thing is that people can’t get enough of it – possibly because it IS masturbatory and infantile
(or ############, Yankety-Yank)
(redacted to avoid being sued by a certain award-winning journalist)
Oh God, that it should have come to this. Centuries of human thought and experience drowned out in a maelstrom of inconsequential rubbish.
(Does Andrew Keen or David Aaronovitch need a ghost-writer for when they are on holiday? )
Don’t tell me about Trafigura – one good deed is not enough
( don’t tell me about the hundreds of other achievements either; the last thing I need is facts – or reality – interfering with my opinions)
(My Rachel Sylvester piece includes a list of about 10 examples of how Twitter can be used positively that I compiled last March).
and an ordinary online campaign would have done the trick just as well
(bollocks …. no other online forum has anything like the permeability or reaction speed of Twitter)
It is like some horrible science-fiction prediction come to pass: it is not just that Twitter signals the end of nuanced, reflective, authoritative thought – it’s that no one seems to mind
(pleeeeeeeease … SOMEBODY … I’ll even write leaders for the Daily Mail)
And I suspect that it’s psychologically dangerous
( Was it Twitter that did for Gordon Brown?)
We have evolved over millions of years to learn not to bore other people with constant updates about what we’re doing,
(I didn’t consult my partner before writing this column)
and we’re throwing it all away
(which is what would have happened if I had consulted my partner)
Twitter encourages monstrous egomania, and the very fact that Fry used Twitter to announce that he was leaving Twitter shows his dependence on it.
(Unlike being an opinionated columnist, of course, Hem Hem)
He was never going to give it up. He’s addicted to it.
(And – finally – did I tell you that I am a self-qualified Doctor able to diagnose from afar)
I really have trouble understanding why some people just do not seem to appreciate the positive side of Twitter, although many of them seem to be general commentators inside the London media bubble.
I suspect that it could be that the main benefits of Twitter (and blogging) have made to make politics and media more permeable, and have made it possible for a far wider group of people to engage in the political debate without going through the media filter.
The point is that if you are inside the bubble and already get politicians reply to your emails in person because you work for an organisation they have heard of, then all of these seem to be unwelcome threats, rather than benefits or opportunities.
Bye-bye media bubble, I hope.