Tag Archives: london weekly

A case study in crowdsourcing investigative journalism (part 4): The London Weekly

Continuing the serialisation of the research underpinning a new Help Me Investigate project, in this fourth part I describe how one particular investigation took shape. Previous parts are linked below:

Case study: the London Weekly investigation

In early 2010 Andy Brightwell and I conducted some research into one particular successful investigation on the site. The objective was to identify what had made the investigation successful – and how (or if) those conditions might be replicated for other investigations both on the site and elsewhere online.

The investigation chosen for the case study was ‘What do you know about The London Weekly?’ – an investigation into a free newspaper that was, the owners claimed (part of the investigation was to establish if the claim was a hoax), about to launch in London.

The people behind The London Weekly had made a number of claims about planned circulation, staffing and investment which went unchallenged in specialist media. Journalists Martin Stabe, James Ball and Judith Townend, however, wanted to dig deeper. So, after an exchange on Twitter, Judith logged onto Help Me Investigate and started an investigation.

A month later members of the investigation (most of whom were non-journalists) had unearthed a wealth of detail about the people behind The London Weekly and the facts behind their claims. Some of the information was reported in MediaWeek and The Guardian podcast Media Talk; some formed the basis for posts on James Ball’s blog, Journalism.co.uk and the Online Journalism Blog. Some has, for legal reasons, remained unpublished.

Methodology

Andrew Brightwell conducted a number of semi-structured interviews with contributors to the investigation. The sample was randomly selected but representative of the mix of contributors, who were categorised as either ‘alpha’ contributors (over 6 contributions), ‘active’ (2-6 contributions) and ‘lurkers’ (whose only contribution was to join the investigation). These interviews formed the qualitative basis for the research.

Complementing this data was quantitative information about users of the site as a whole. This was taken from two user surveys – one conducted when the site was three months’ old and another at 12 months – and analysis of analytics taken from the investigation (such as numbers and types of actions, frequency, etc.)

In the next part I explore some of the characteristics of a crowdsourced investigation and how these relate to the wider literature around crowdsourcing in general.

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The London Weekly and Invincible investigated – I wouldn't touch them with a bargepole

The investigation into The London Weekly and Invincible gathers pace – now James Ball is setting out his stall: he doesn’t like what he sees, and neither do I. As a result, I want to ask you to do something at the end of this article*.

The group of people looking into this at Help Me Investigate, including James, have uncovered a wealth of information about The London Weekly and the people behind it. These can be summed up in the following:

  • Repeated connections with the Invincible Group, a project headed by Jordan Kensington that has a similar history of overhyped launches.
  • Unsupported claims of investment, staffing, distribution and company structure.
  • People who have been asked to work for nothing – for example, commission-only ad sales and internships with no support.
  • Reproduction of content from elsewhere, not just in the newspaper but on the websites of The London Weekly and Invincible Group themselves – the distribution figure of 250,000, for example, appears to be a simple copy and paste from the Metro-in-Scotland. We’re trying to find out if this copying includes advertising.
image of London Weekly spread

Click through to a set of annotated images of the second edition showing where copy was taken from

It’s still not clear whether the project is actually breaking the law, but if I was a student or freelance journalist considering being involved in this project, or anything related to the Invincible Group, I would steer well clear. That’s just my opinion. As James says:

“The people who’ve really been jerked about are prospective employees, and perhaps even those who got hired. In the wake of the widespread coverage of the new freesheet when it was first announced last year, laid-off sales staff from the London Lite, Metro, London Paper and other publications sent CVs.

“After signing NDAs (which as they refer to non-registered entities would likely be unenforceable), some were offered sales jobs: based entirely on commission.

“One such individual was offered the role of “advertising director” having never so much as spoken to anyone on the title. He was expected to work with no basic pay, but instead would receive 35% commission on advertising sold. Unsurprisingly, he decided to decline the offer.”

James’ post is worth reading in full for more detail on what’s been dug up on Invincible/The London Weekly. Likewise, his post listing the questions that Invincible/The London Weekly need to answer.

*Meanwhile, here’s what I’m suggesting. Please blog about this issue and link to this post with the phrases ‘London Weekly‘ and ‘Invincible Group‘. Given the strong PageRank of the Online Journalism Blog, a search on either should then bring this near the top of results – hence the headline – allowing potential employees to make an informed decision (and former employees to add their own experiences).

And if you can add anything more, please post a comment or email me on paul (at) helpmeinvestigate (dot) com.