When a journalist gets their first job, or switches role to a new area or specialism, they need to quickly work out where to find useful leads. This often involves the use of feeds, email alerts, and social networks. In this post I’m going to explain a range of search techniques for finding useful sources across a range of platforms. Continue reading
Curation is a relatively new term in journalism, but the practice is as old as journalism itself. Every act of journalism is an act of curation: think of how a news report or feature selects and combines elements from a range of sources (first hand sources, background facts, first or second hand colour). Not only that: every act of publishing is, too: selecting and combining different types of content to ensure a news or content ‘mix’.
Amazon’s Jeff Bezos’ in his talk to employees at the Washington Post said: “People will buy a package … they will not pay for a story.” Previously that package was limited to what your staff produced, and wire copy. But as more content becomes digitised, it is possible to combine more content from a wider variety of sources in a range of media – and on any one of a number of platforms.
Curation is nothing new – but it is becoming harder.
Choosing the tools
I’ve identified at least three distinct types of curation (you may think of more):
- Curation as distribution or relay: this is curation at the platform level: think of Twitter accounts that relay the most useful links and tweets from elsewhere. Or Tumblr blogs that pass on the best images, video and quotes. Or UsVsTh3m.
- Curation as aggregation or combination: seen in linkblogging and news roundups, or galleries, or news aggregators (even creating an algorithm or filter is a journalistic act of selection).
- Curation as filter or distillation: this often comes in the form of the list: Buzzfeed is a master of these, distilling conversations from Reddit and complementing them with images.
There are also a number of ways in which the journalist adds value (again, you may think of more):
- Through illustrating (as Buzzfeed, above, does with images to liven up highlights from a text discussion)
- Through contextualising
- Through verification
- Through following up
As a journalist operating online, you are both reporter and publisher, able to curate content both at the article level and that of ‘publication’ – whether that’s a Twitter stream, a Tumblr blog, or a Flipboard magazine. Here are some suggestions for tools and techniques:
Both the Daily Mail and the Daily Mirror today – among with several others in the US (including the New York Post, which credits the image to AP) and other countries – published an image purporting to be that of the dead Osama Bin Laden.
It clearly wasn’t.
Any journalist with a drop of cynicism would have questioned the source of the images – even if they did appear on Pakistan television.
It certainly passed the ‘Too good to be true’ test.
But instead of owning up that their image was a fake, both The Daily Mail and Mirror appear to have simply removed the image from their site, leaving that image to circulate amongst their users. Ego, pure and simple.
It’s barely 24 hours since the Cooks Source/Judith Griggs saga blew up, but so much has happened in that time that I thought it worth reflecting on how other publishers might handle a similar situation.
Although it’s an extreme example, the story has particular relevance to those publications that rely on Facebook or another web presence to publish material online and communicate with readers, and might at some point face a backlash on that platform.
In the case of Cooks Source, their Facebook page went from 100 ‘likes’ to over 3,000, as people ‘liked’ the page in order to post a critical comment (given the huge numbers of comments it’s fair to say there were many more people who un-‘liked’ the page as soon as their comment was posted). The first question that many publishers looking at this might ask is defensive:
Should you have a Facebook page at all?
It would be easy to take the Cooks Source case as an indication that you shouldn’t have a Facebook page at all – on the basis that it might become hijacked by your critics or enemies. Or that if you do create a page you should do so in a way that does not allow postings to the wall.
The problem with this approach is that it misunderstands the fundamental shift in power between publisher and reader. Just as Monica Gaudio was able to tell the world about Judith’s cavalier attitude to copyright, not having a Facebook page (or blog, etc.) for your publication doesn’t prevent one existing at all.
In fact, if you don’t set up a space where your readers can communicate with you and each other, it’s likely that they’ll set one up themselves – and that introduces further problems.
If you don’t have a presence online, someone else will create a fake one to attack you with
After people heard about the Cooks Source story, it wasn’t long before some took the opportunity to set up fake Twitter accounts and a Facebook user account in Judith’s name. (UPDATE: Someone has registered JudithGriggs.com and pointed it at the Wikipedia entry for ‘public domain’, while a further Cooks Source Facebook page has been set up claiming that the original was “hacked”)
These were used in various ways: to make information available (the Twitter account biography featured Judith’s phone number and email); to satirise Judith’s actions through mock-updates; and to tease easily-annoyed Facebook posters into angry responses.
Some people’s responses on Facebook to the ‘fake’ Judith suggested they did not realise that she was not the real thing, which leads to the next point.
A passive presence isn’t enough – be active
Judith obviously did have a Facebook account, but it was her slowness to respond to the critics that allowed others to impersonate her.
Indeed, it was several hours before Judith Griggs made any response on the Facebook page, and when she did (assuming it is genuine – see comments below) it was through the page’s welcoming message – in other words, it was a broadcast.
This might be understandable given the unmanageable volume of comments that had been posted by this time – but her message was also therefore easily missed in the depths of the conversation, and it meant that the ‘fake’ Judith was able to continue to impersonate her in responses to those messages.
One way to focus her actions in a meaningful way might have been to do a ‘Find’ on “Griggs” and respond there to clarify that this person was an imposter.
Instead, by being passive Judith created a vacuum. The activity that filled that vacuum led in all directions, including investigating the magazine more broadly and contacting advertisers and stockists.
Climb down quickly and unreservedly
While being passive can create a vacuum, being active can – if not done in a considered way – also simply add fuel to the fire.
The message that Judith eventually posted did just that. “I did apologise to Monica via email, but aparently [sic] it wasnt enough for her,” she wrote, before saying “You did find a way to get your “pound of flesh…””.
This “blaming the victim”, as one wall poster described it, compounded the situation and merely confirmed Judith’s misunderstanding of the anger directed at her.
An apology clearly wasn’t what people wanted – or at least, not this sort of reserved apology.
A quicker, fuller response that demonstrated an understanding of her community would have made an enormous difference in channeling the energy that people poured into what became an increasingly aggressive campaign.
UPDATE (Nov 9): As of a few hours ago Cooks Source appear to have published an official statement which includes a more fullsome apology. The statement doesn’t help, however, partly because it doesn’t address the key issues raised by critics about where it gets content and images from, partly because its sense of priorities doesn’t match those of its audience (the apology comes quite late in the statement), and partly because it is internally inconsistent. Commenters on the Facebook page and blogs have already picked these apart.
There’s also a wonderful ‘corrected’ version of the statement which does an impeccable job of illustrating how they should have phrased it.
Engage with criticism elsewhere
The Cooks Source Facebook page wasn’t the only place where people were gathering to criticise and investigate the magazine. On Reddit hundreds of users collaborated to find other breaches of copyright, put up contact details for the copyright holders, and list advertisers that people could contact. Someone also created a Wikipedia entry to document Griggs’ instant notoriety.
Even if Judith had shut down the Facebook page (not a good idea – it would have merely added further fuel to the fire), the discussion – which had now become a campaign and investigation – was taking place elsewhere. Engaging in that in a positive way might have helped.
A magazine is not just content
One of the key principles demonstrated by the whole affair is that magazines are about much more than just the content inside, but about the community around it, and their values. This is what advertisers are buying into. When I asked one of Cooks Source’s advertisers why they decided to withdraw their support, this is what they said:
“I would estimate that between the emails, [Facebook] messages, calls, and people following us on Twitter, we’ve been contacted by more than 100 people since I first heard of this about 5 hours ago. That doesn’t include many many people who commented on fb to our posts stating that we had requested to pull our ads from the publication. We are just simply trying to run our small business, which by most standards is still in its infancy, and being associated with publications like this that don’t respect its readers (who are all our potential customers) is unacceptable to us in light of their practices. What angers me even more is the fact that it is being made light if by the Editor herself. It is disrupting our business and linking us to something we do not support.”
Postscript: How it unfolded, piece by piece
Kathy E Gill has a wonderfully detailed timeline of how the story broke and developed which offers further lessons in how a situation like this develops.
UPDATE 7: The official Cooks Source webpage now features a rather confusing statement on the saga, apologising to Monica Gaudio and saying they have made the donation asked for. The page claims that their Facebook page was “cancelled” and “since hacked”. It’s not clear what they mean by these terms as the original Facebook page is still up and, clearly, could not be hacked if it had been “cancelled”. They may be referring to the duplicate Facebook page which also claims (falsely) the original was “hacked”. In addition the statement says they have “cancelled” their website – but as the statement is published on their website it may be that by “cancelled” they mean all previous content has been removed. This discussion thread picks out further inconsistencies and omissions.
UPDATE 5: The magazine’s Facebook page has now been updated with a message from editor Judith saying she “did apologise” but “apparently it wasn’t enough for her”, shown below:
UPDATE 2: Reddit users have been digging further into the magazine’s use of copyrighted content. They’ve also identified a planned sister magazine, whose Facebook page has also been the recipient of a few comments.
UPDATE 6: Edward Champion has chased down the copyright holders of both text and images found in Cooks Source which appear to have been used without permission.
UPDATE 4: A list of mainstream media reports on the story is also being maintained on the magazine’s Facebook page.
***ORIGINAL BLOG POST STARTS HERE***
To the writer whose material they used without permission she apparently responded that “the web is considered “public domain” and you should be happy we just didn’t “lift” your whole article and put someone else’s name on it!”
What makes this of particular interest is how the affair has blown up not just across Twitter and Reddit but on the magazine’s own Facebook page, demonstrating how this sort of mistake can impact very directly on your own readers – and stockists and advertisers:
Meanwhile, others were suggesting investigating the magazine further:
It all adds up to a perfect lesson for magazine editors – not just in copyright, but in PR and community management.
UPDATE 1: It seems that users are going through the latest issue and suggesting where the content may have been taken from.
UPDATE 3 On a separate topics page on the Facebook page the details are being collated.
The figure explains how the Telegraph is now the most popular UK newspaper site.
75,000 visitors a day
The Telegraph had about 28 million unique visitors in March, which means social sites are sending it almost 75,000 unique visitors a day.
Search engines are responsible for about a third of the Telegraph’s traffic Julian also revealed – or about 300,000 unique visitors a day.
This means the Telegraph gets 1 social visitor for every 4 search ones – an astonishingly high ratio.
In the first part of my model for the 21st century newsroom I looked at how a story might move through a number of stages from initial alert through to customisation. In part two I want to look at sourcing stories, and the role of journalism in a new media world.
The last century has seen three important changes for the news industry. It has moved… Continue reading