Tag Archives: kevin anderson

7 ideas for things to do over the summer while preparing to start a journalism course

rolls of yarn

Knitting yarn optional. image by Rachel

As the summer begins, I’ve been recommending some things that my incoming students might do in preparation for their MA in Multiplatform and Mobile Journalism or MA in Data Journalism. I thought I’d share my advice here for anyone else starting a journalism course this Autumn… (oh, and these are just ideas — you don’t have to do all of these!)

1. Consume a *wide* range of journalism

When teaching journalism you notice quickly that the students who produce the most polished pieces of journalism are the ones who consume the most journalism. The more journalism that you read, watch, listen and use, the more journalistic conventions, techniques and tricks you absorb, and more instinctively reproduce. Continue reading

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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?

The BBC and linking part 2: a call to become curators of context

A highlight of my recent visit with MA Online Journalism students to the BBC’s user generated content hub was the opportunity to ask this question posed by Andy Mabbett via Twitter: ‘Why don’t you link back to people if they send a picture in?’ (audio embedded above and here).

The UGC Hub’s head, Matthew Eltringham, gave this response:

“We credit their picture … we absolutely embrace the principle of linking on and through. I think the question would be – if Andy sends in a picture because he happened to witness a particular event, how relevant is the rest of his content to the audience. I think we’d have to take a view on that.”

It was a highlight because something clicked in my head at this point. You see, we’d spent some of the previous conversation talking about how the UGC hub verifies the reliability of user generated content, and it struck me that this view of the link as content could risk missing a key aspect of linking: context.

In an online environment one of the biggest signals in how we build a picture of the trustworthiness of someone or something is the links surrounding it. Who is that person friends with? What does this website link to? Who gathers here? What do they say? What else does this person do? What is their background, their interests, their beliefs?

All of this is invaluable context to us as users, not just the BBC.

While we increasingly talk about the role of publishers as curators of content [caveat], we should perhaps start thinking about how publishers are also curators of context.

Curators of context

And on this front, the corporation appears to have an enormous culture shift on its hands – a shift that it has been pushing in public for years, with varying degrees of success in different parts of the organisation.

BBC Radio, and many BBC TV programmes, for example, use users’ pictures and tweets and link and credit as a matter of course, while some parts of BBC News do link directly to research papers.

Yesterday I blogged about the frustration of Ben Goldacre at the refusal of parts of the BBC News website to deep link to scientific journal articles. In the comments to Ben’s post, ‘Gimpy’ says that the journalist quoted by Goldacre told him in “early 2008” that linking was “something which must be reviewed”.

In May 2008 the BBC Trust said linking needed major improvements, and in October 2008 the Head of Multimedia said linking to external websites was a vital part of its future.

And this month, the corporation’s latest strategic review pledges:

“to “turn the site into a window on the web” by providing at least one external link on every page and doubling monthly ‘click-throughs’ to external sites: “making the best of what is available elsewhere online an integral part of the BBC’s offer to audiences”.”

Most recently, this week the BBC’s announcement of 25% cuts to its online spend motivated Erik Huggers to make this statement at a DTG conference:

“Why can’t we find a way to take all that traffic and help share it with other public service broadcasters and with other public bodies so that if our boat rises on the tide, everyone’s boat rises on the tide?

“Rather than trying to keep all that traffic inside the BBC’s domain we’re going to link out very aggressively and help other organisations pull their way up on the back of the investments that the BBC has made in this area.”

To be fair, unlike other media organisations, at least the BBC is talking about doing something about linking (and if you want to nag them, here’s their latest consultation).

But please, enough talk already. Auntie, give us the context.

UPDATE: More on the content vs context debate from Kevin Anderson.

UPDATE 2The BBC have started a debate on the issue on their Editors’ Blog

Should journalism degrees still prepare students for a news industry that doesn’t want them?

UPDATE (Aug 7 ’08): The Annual Survey of Journalism & Mass Communication Graduates suggests employment opportunities and salaries are not affected.

J-schools are generally set up to prepare students for the mainstream news industry: print and broadcasting, with a growing focus on those industries’ online arms. There’s just one small problem. That industry isn’t exactly splashing out on job ads at the moment…

The LA Times is cutting 150 editorial jobs and reducing pages by 15%; The Atlanta Journal-Constitution cutting nearly 200 jobs; the Wall Street Journal cutting 50 jobs; Thomson Reuters axing 140 jobs; in the UK Newsquest is outsourcing prepress work to India, while also cutting jobs in York and Brighton; Reed Business Information, Trinity Mirror and IPC are all putting a freeze on recruitment, with Trinity Mirror also cancelling its graduate training scheme and cutting subbing jobs. In the past two months almost 4,000 jobs have vanished at US newspapers (Mark Potts has this breakdown of June’s 1000 US redundancies). In the past ten years the number of journalists in the US is said to have gone down by 25%.

Given these depressing stats I’ve been conducting a form of open ‘panel discussion’ format via Seesmic with a number of journalists and academics, asking whether journalism schools ought to revisit their assumptions about graduate destinations – and therefore what they teach. The main thread is below.

The responses are worth browsing through. Here’s my attempt at a digest: Continue reading