Tag Archives: Media

AllSides’s John Gable: from the Dark Ages of the internet to bursting bubbles


AllSides uses a bias rating system

As part of a series of articles on the innovators tackling the filter bubble phenomenon, Andrew Brightwell interviews John Gable, founder and CEO of AllSides, a website that has devised its own way to present alternative perspectives on American news.

When a man who helped build the first successful web browser says there’s something wrong with the Internet, it probably pays to listen.

“The internet is broken.”

John Gable’s diagnosis has authority: he has more than 30 years in the tech business, including stints at Microsoft, AOL and as a product manager for Netscape Navigator.

Now he is founder and CEO of AllSides Inc, a news website with a distinct mission. Visit AllSides.com and it offers the news you’d expect on any US politics site, except that its lead stories include a choice of articles: one from the left, centre and right.

 “The headlines are so radically different that even reading [them together] tells you more about that topic than reading one story all the way through.”

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20 free ebooks on journalism (for your Xmas Kindle) {updated to 65}

Journalism 2.0 cover

As many readers of this blog will have received a Kindle for Christmas I thought I should share my list of the free ebooks that I recommend stocking up on.

Online journalism and multimedia ebooks

Starting with more general books, Mark Briggs‘s book Journalism 2.0 (PDF*) is a few years old but still provides a good overview of online journalism to have by your side. Mindy McAdams‘s 42-page Reporter’s Guide to Multimedia Proficiency (PDF) adds some more on that front, and Adam Westbrook‘s Ideas on Digital Storytelling and Publishing (PDF) provides a larger focus on narrative, editing and other elements.

After the first version of this post, MA Online Journalism student Franzi Baehrle suggested this free book on DSLR Cinematography, as well as Adam Westbrook on multimedia production (PDF). And Guy Degen recommends the free ebook on news and documentary filmmaking from ImageJunkies.com.

The Participatory Documentary Cookbook [PDF] is another free resource on using social media in documentaries.

A free ebook on blogging can be downloaded from Guardian Students when you register with the site, and Swedish Radio have produced this guide to Social Media for Journalists (in English).

The Traffic Factories is an ebook that explores how a number of prominent US news organisations use metrics, and Chartbeat’s role in that. You can download it in mobi, PDF or epub format here.

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The full LibDem-Conservative coalition agreement

The coalition has published the full document defining their Programme for Government today. It covers policy areas not included in the initial document, but there are also many policies from the initial document not mentioned which will just be “read through”.

These are the sections which mention the media:

Section 7: Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport

  1. We will maintain the independence of the BBC, and give the National Audit Office full access to the BBC’s accounts to ensure transparency.
  2. We will enable partnerships between local newspapers, radio and television stations to promote a strong and diverse local media industry.
  3. We will cut red tape to encourage the performance of more live music.
  4. We will introduce measures to ensure the rapid roll-out of superfast broadband across the country.We will ensure that BT and other infrastructure providers allow the use of their assets to deliver such broadband, and we will seek to introduce superfast broadband in remote areas at the same time as in more populated areas. If necessary, we will consider using the part of the TV licence fee that is supporting the digital switchover to fund broadband in areas that the market alone will not reach.

And the media overseas (Section 18: International Development):

  1. We will use the aid budget to support the development of local democratic institutions, civil society groups, the media and enterprise; and support efforts to tackle corruption.

Here is the full document as a PDF.

Lib Con Coalition Programme for Government

Twit-Fit of the Week: It’s Monday, so let’s Wibble about Twitter…

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

(pop-polemical wibble)

The name tells us straightaway

(pop-etymological wibble)

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

(arty-farty-Primrose-Hill-party wibble)

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)


Wrapping Up

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.

Opportunities for local news blogs: Trends in Blogging

In the last year or so there have been a number of new blog / news sites developing which provide commentary for a geographically identified area, covering politics but also giving a more rounded view of life in the area.

The site which has drawn my attention recently is The Lichfield Blog, which I mention on the Wardman Wire or on Twitter (follow me to keep up to date) from time to time. There are examples of sites with a similar ethos established for some time, including some personal blogs, and I’d mention Londonist and Dave Hill’s Clapton Pond Blog (Hackney), but also sites such as Created in Birmingham (Birmingham Arts, mainly) and Curley’s Corner Shop (South Tyneside).

Some areas have a range of local blogs. The tiny Isle of Thanet, for example, has Bignews Margate, Thanet Life and Thanet Online, in addition to the more idiosyncratic Thanet Coast Life, Eastcliff Richard and even Naked in Thanet. It’s worth noting that – once again – this set of blogs are all edited by men.

And if you think that Thanet is small to have all those local blogs, try the Plight of Pleasley Hill, an ultra-local blog specifically created to foster community in an area of 3 or 4 streets in the Nottinghamshire village of Pleasley Hill, near Mansfield. I did a podcast interview with Mark Jones, who has triggered the project, for the Politalks podcast. One interesting point is how the creation of a website has helped “institutionalise” a small group internally, but also how it can help externally in the process of persuading large bureaucracies (e.g., the local council) to engage with the group.

Some of those sites have political stances, and some don’t. The common factor is that they provide coverage of local life and grounded politics, and don’t pay unnecessary attention to the Westminster Punch and Judy show.

Occasionally “ultra-local” has been used to refer to areas the size of a London Borough, or a provincial city. I’d suggest that we need to think in *much* smaller areas. I wonder if the one-horse-town newspaper of settlers’ America, but written by local people for themselves, is where we are going to end up, and then with sites covering larger communities, areas and specialist themes which are able to draw an audience.

I’d suggest that there is also a new opportunity opening up for these independent commentary and reporting sites due to a pair of current trends:

  • The drive by national media sites to find new ways of persuading their readers to pay for parts of their web content – pay-walls, charges for special services and anything else they can dream up. As the editor of an independent “politics and life” commentary site with a number of excellent contributors, I can’t wait for the age of “Pay 4 Polly” to arrive.
  • The continuing liquidation of our local newspapers and regional media.

Locally focused blogs with a more rounded coverage may provide an answer to consistent criticisms made of “the political blogosphere”:

  • Political bloggers only do partisan politics (which is wrong, but it can sometimes look as if it is true).
  • There is too much coverage of the Westminster Village (which is right, but someone has to do it, and it is the place where many decisions are made).

I think group blogs with varied teams of contributors may be best placed to provide a decent level of coverage and draw a good readership, while competing effectively with other media outlets. That is a trend we have seen in the political blog niche over several years – the sites which have established themselves and maintain a position as key sites have developed progressively larger teams of editors, and provided a wider range of commentary and services.

A team of contributors allows a site to benefit from the presence of real enthusiasts in each area of reporting, from the minutiae of the Council Meetings to Arts Events at the local galleries.

I’m developing a list of sites aiming to rounded provide coverage of a defined local area, town, or community. If you run a good one, or know of one, please could you drop me a line via the Contact Form on the Wardman Wire. Alternatively, use the form below:


(Note: if you want to know more about local news blogs in general rather than what I think can be done with them, the go-to place is Talk About Local.)

Social bookmarking for journalists

This was originally published in Press Gazette as Del.icio.us social bookmarking explained and Need some background info? Just follow the electronic trail.

How journalists can use web bookmarking services to manage, find and publish documents.

Every newspaper has a library, and most journalists have kept some sort of cuttings file for reference. But what if you could search that cuttings file like you search Google? What if you could find similar articles and documents? What if you could let your readers see your raw material?

That’s what online bookmarking – or ‘social bookmarking‘ – tools allow you to do. And they have enormous potential for journalists.

There are a number of social bookmarking services. Del.icio.us is best known and most widely used and supported. For this reason this article will focus mostly on Del.icio.us. Continue reading

Some questions about blogging, from a student

Another day, another set of questions from a journalism degree student – this time, one of my own, Azeem Ahmad. If you want to help him by answering the questions, post your comments below.

How important is blogging to you, and your business?

If my ‘business’ is education and freelance journalism, then: enormously important on every level: generating ideas, gathering information, publishing stories and ideas, and marketing and distributing those and, I suppose, myself as a journalist and (*cough*) academic. I find conversation extremely helpful in working through ideas and finding new information, and blogging is a wonderful way of having that conversation with some very well informed and intelligent people. I hope it makes me more intelligent and well informed in turn. Continue reading

Five questions from another journalism student

A third year BA Honours Journalism student studying at Middlesex University and based at the Journalism Centre Harlow College has emailed me the following questions. As always, I make the responses public.

1. What effect do you think the increase in Internet news sites will have on newspapers?

It’s already had an effect – increased competition, increased immediacy and reduced costs. But it’s not just news sites – the internet enables people and organisations to communicate with each other without needing news media to do it for them. That’s a real challenge. Continue reading