The media’s reaction to David Bowie‘s death from cancer early this morning demonstrates just how widely curation has become in journalism practice – and specifically, how it has become the web native version of the obituary. Below I’ve done a bit of curation of my own: 8 13 16 ways that different publications used curation to mark the death of a legend. If you have seen others, please let me know.
This has been the election when the geeks came in from the cold. There may be no Nate Silver-style poster boy for the genre this side of the pond – but instead, I believe we’ve finally seen the culmination of a decade of civic hacking outside the newsroom. And if anyone deserves credit for that, it is not the Guardian or the Telegraph, but MySociety, Tweetminster, and Democracy Club.
In the time between that election and this one, however, two things have changed within the news industry: firstly, a more code-literate workforce, including dedicated data project teams; and secondly, the rise of mobile, social media-driven consumption and, as part of that, visual journalism. Continue reading →
Newspaper front pages the morning after the leaders debate. Most newspapers also liveblogged the debate on their websites.
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 →
As part of an ongoing series on recent graduates who have gone into online journalism, Michael Greenfield talks about how he won a job as a Sky News Graduate Trainee, the different roles he’s experiencing across the organisation, and how he sees his career developing as the industry changes.
I’m on a 2-year rotational contract, meaning that every 10 weeks or soI move onto a different position and am trained up in that role. By the end of the scheme I should have a thorough overview of what Sky News does across all platforms, in both input and output.
Much of what I do is ‘on the job’ training, so I am fully immersed in that particular role and quickly pick up the skills along the way. For me it’s by far the best way of learning and getting the job done.
So far I’ve worked as a Researcher on the Planning Desk, a role which takes instructions and ideas from editorial meetings and sets about practically making them happen in advance so that we effectively cover a story.
This involves finding the right experts, case studies and locations to film, arranging interviews and logistically making sure that we will have reporters and crews in the right places.
Currently I’m training as a Field Producer, so I am out on the road either getting pre-recorded material or at live news events making sure, above all, that we get the shot. I am in constant communication with the reporter, crew and news desk so that all sides know what is needed and what is happening on the ground. Tweeting is now a big part of the role, for instance I have been providing live updates from the Leveson Inquiry.
What factors helped you land the job?
I was offered an interview after I was recommended to Sky News by someone I was doing freelance work for.
The main factors that helped me get to that point were:
having a Broadcast Journalism MA from City University London;
having a substantial amount of work experience in the industry;
going straight into work wherever I could get it straight off the back of my MA;
and applying myself as best I could when given the chance of bits of freelance work.
The whole process proved to me that you really don’t know how things will fall so you just have to get yourself out there.
Where do you see your career developing?
Well the scheme finishes at the end of August 2013 and I’m hoping that I will continue to work at Sky News. They are the pioneers in news coverage – they were the first UK news broadcaster to go HD, their iPad app has been awarded for it’s innovation and they are constantly looking to embrace new ideas and different approaches to how we see news.
I see my career and its relative success revolving around my ability to be a multi-platform journalist. The notion of TV, radio and online journalism being mutually exclusive is becoming increasingly outdated, and so I must strive to be a good journalist across all multi-media platforms.
Audiences expect news in many different formats now, so the more skilled I am at delivering the story through pictures, audio, online copy and social media outlets, the better I will be able to serve a public hungry for information.
I am keen to stress, however, that despite all the technological change, I will stick to the core principles of journalism that I have been taught and now exercise every day.
At first glance, Sky’s decision that its journalists should not retweet information that has “not been through the Sky News editorial process” and the BBC’s policy to prioritise filing “written copy into our newsroom as quickly as possible” seem logical.
For Sky it is about maintaining editorial control over all content produced by its staff. For the BBC, it seems to be about making sure that the newsroom, and by extension the wider organisation, takes priority over the individual.
But there are also blind spots in these strategies that they may come to regret.
The Sky policy articulates an assumption about ‘content’ that’s worth picking apart.
We accept as journalists that what we produce is our responsibility. When it comes to retweeting, however, it’s not entirely clear what we are doing. Is that news production, in the same way that quoting a source is? Is it newsgathering, in the same way that you might repeat a lead to someone to find out their reaction? Or is it merely distribution?
Writing about a similar policy at the Oregonian late last year, Steve Buttry made the point that retweets are not endorsements. Jeff Jarvis argued that they were “quotes”.
I don’t think it’s as simple as that (as I explain below), but I do think it’s illustrative: if Sky News were to prevent journalists from using any quote on air or online where they could not verify its factual basis, then nothing would get broadcast. Live interviews would be impossible.
The Sky policy, then, seems to treat retweets as pure distribution, and – crucially – to treat the tweet in isolation. Not as a quote, but as a story, consisting entirely of someone else’s content, which has not been through Sky editorial processes but which is branded or endorsed as Sky journalism.
There’s a lot to admire in the pride in their journalism that this shows – indeed, I would like to see the same rigour applied to the countless quotes that are printed and broadcast by all media without being compared with any evidence.
But do users really see retweets in the same way? And if they do, will they always do so?
Curation vs creation
There’s a second issue here which is more about hard commercial success. Research suggests that successful users of Twitter tend to combine curation with creation. Preventing journalists from retweeting leaves them – and their employers – without a vital tool in their storytelling and distribution.
The tension surrounding retweeting can be illustrated in the difference between two broadcast journalists who use Twitter particularly effectively: Sky’s own Neal Mann, and NPR’s Andy Carvin. Andy retweets habitually as a way of seeking further information. Neal, as he explained in this Q&A with one of my classes, feels that he has a responsibility not to retweet information he cannot verify (from 2 mins in).
Both approaches have their advantages and disadvantages. But both combine curation with creation.
A third issue that strikes me is how these policies fit uncomfortably alongside the networked ways that news is experienced now.
The BBC policy, for example, appears at first glance to prevent journalists from diving right into the story as it develops online. Social media editor Chris Hamilton does note, importantly, that they have “a technology that allows our journalists to transmit text simultaneously to our newsroom systems and to their own Twitter accounts”. However, this is coupled with the position that:
“Our first priority remains ensuring that important information reaches BBC colleagues, and thus all our audiences, as quickly as possible – and certainly not after it reaches Twitter.”
This is an interesting line of argument, and there are a number of competing priorities underlying it that I want to understand more clearly.
Firstly, it implies a separation of newsroom systems and Twitter. If newsroom staff are not following their own journalists on Twitter as part of their systems, why not? Sky pioneered the use of Twitter as an internal newswire, and the man responsible, Julian March, is now doing something similar at ITV. The connection between internal systems and Twitter is notable.
Then there’s that focus on “all our audiences” in opposition to those early adopter Twitter types. If news is “breaking news, an exclusive or any kind of urgent update”, being first on Twitter can give you strategic advantages that waiting for the six o’clock – or even typing a report that’s over 140 characters – won’t. For example:
Building a buzz (driving people to watch, listen to or search for the fuller story)
Establishing authority on Google (which ranks first reports over later ones)
Establishing the traditional authority in being known as the first to break the story
Making it easier for people on the scene to get in touch (if someone’s just experienced a newsworthy event or heard about it from someone who was, how likely is it that they search Twitter to see who else was there? You want to be the journalist they find and contact)
“When the technology [to inform the newsroom and generate a tweet at the same time] isn’t available, for whatever reason, we’re asking them to prioritise telling the newsroom before sending a tweet.
“We’re talking a difference of a few seconds. In some situations.
“And we’re talking current guidance, not tablets of stone. This is a landscape that’s moving incredibly quickly, inside and outside newsrooms, and the guidance will evolve as quickly.”
Everything at the same time
There’s another side to this, which is evidence of news organisations taking a strategic decision that, in a world of information overload, they should stop trying to be the first (an increasingly hard task), and instead seek to be more authoritative. To be able to say, confidently, “Every atom we distribute is confirmed”, or “We held back to do this spectacularly as a team”.
There’s value in that, and a lot to be admired. I’m not saying that these policies are inherently wrong. I don’t know the full thinking that went into them, or the subtleties of their implementation (as Rory Cellan-Jones illustrates in his example, which contrasts with what can actually happen). I don’t think there is a right and a wrong way to ‘do Twitter’. Every decision is a trade off, because so many factors are in play. I just wanted to explore some of those factors here.
As soon as you digitise information you remove the physical limitations that necessitated the traditional distinctions between the editorial processes of newsgathering, production, editing and distribution.
A single tweet can be doing all at the same time. Social media policies need to recognise this, and journalists need to be trained to understand the subtleties too.
Terence Eden filmed the above video demonstrating O2’s phone security flaw. He put it on YouTube with the standard copyright licence. And someone at Sky News ignored that when they used it without permission. But what’s interesting about Terence’s blog post about the experience is the legal position that Sky then negotiated from – an experience that journalism students, journalists and hyperlocal bloggers can learn from.
Here is what Sky came back with after negotiations stalled when Eden invoked copyright law in asking for £1500 for using his video (“£300 for the broadcast of the video [based on NUJ rates …] £400 for them failing to ask permission, another £400 for them infringing my copyright, and then £400 for them violating my moral rights.”):
“After consulting with our Sky lawyers our position is that we believe a £300 settlement is a fair and appropriate sum.
“Our position is:
The £300 is in respect of what you describes as “infringement of copyright” rather than any “union rate”;
Contrary to what you claim, we did not act as if you had assigned us all rights. Specifically, we did not claim ownership nor seek to profit from it by licensing to others;
Criminal liability will not attach in relation to an inadvertent use of footage;
English law does not recognise violation of moral rights;
There is no authority that an infringement in these circumstances attracts four times the usual licence fee. To the contrary, the usual measure is what the reasonable cost of licensing would have been.”
This sounds largely believable – particularly as Sky were “very quick” to take the infringing content down. That would be a factor in any subsequent legal case.
Notably, the Daily Mail example he quotes – where the newspaper reportedly paid £2000 for 2 images – included an email exchange where the photographer explicitly refuses the website permission to reproduce his photographs, and a period of time when the images remained online after he had complained.
These are all factors to consider whichever side of the situation you end up in.
PS: Part of Eden’s reason for pursuing Sky over their use of his video was the company’s position in pursuing “a copyright maximalist agenda” which Eden believes is damaging to the creative industries. He points out that:
“The Digital Economy Act doesn’t allow me to sue Sky News for distributing my content for free without my permission. An individual can lose their Internet access for sharing a movie, however there don’t seem to be any sanctions against a large company for sharing my copyrighted work without permission.”
In this guest post Ofcom’s Damian Radcliffe cross-publishes his latest presentation on developments in hyperlocal publishing for September-October, and highlights how partnerships are increasingly important for hyper-local, regional and national media in terms of “making it pay”.
When producing my latest bi-monthly update on hyper-local media, I was struck by the fact that media sales partnerships suddenly seem to be all the rage.
In a challenging economic climate, a number of media providers – both big and small – have recently come together to announce initiatives aimed at maximising economies of scale and potentially reducing overheads.
These moves – bringing together a range of small scale location based websites – can help address concerns that hyper-local sites are not big enough (on their own) to unlock funding from large advertisers.
In early November Microsoft, Yahoo! and AOLagreed to sell each other’s unsold display ads. The move is a response to Google and Facebook’s increasing clout in this space.
Reuters reported that both Facebook and Google are expected to increase their share of online display advertising in the United States in 2011 by 9.3% and 16.3%.
In contrast, AOL, Microsoft and Yahoo are forecast to lose share, with Facebook expected to surpass Yahoo for the first time.
Similarly in the UK, DMGT’s Northcliffe Media, home to 113 regional newspapers, recently announced it was forging a joint partnership with Trinity Mirror’s regional sales house, AMRA.
This will create a commercial proposition encompassing over 260 titles, including nine of the UK’s 10 biggest regional paid-for titles. Like The Microsoft, Yahoo! and AOLarrangement, this new partnership comes into effect in 2012.
These examples all offer opportunities for economies of scale for media outlets and potentially larger potential reach and impact for advertisers. Given these benefits, I wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t see more of these types of partnership in the coming months and years.
Damian Radcliffe is writing in a personal capacity.
Other topics in his current hyperlocal slides include Sky’s local pilot in NE England and research into the links between tablet useand local news consumption. As ever, feedback and suggestions for future editions are welcome.
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.
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.
Liveblogging: adding value to the network
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.
Some say that journalism students should simply be taught how to ‘do’ journalism rather than spending time analysing or reflecting on it. On Saturday Sky’s Kay Burley showed why it’s not that simple – when she berated someone demonstrating in favour of electoral reform (skip to around 2 mins in):
It helps students to look at their own journalistic practice and ask: in trying to please my bosses or meet an idea of what makes ‘good television’, am I crossing a line? How do the likes of Jeremy Paxman manage to dig behind a story without losing impartiality, or becoming the story themselves (do they manage it?) What, indeed, is the purpose of journalism, and how does that carry through into my practice?
Journalism is easy. You don’t need to study it for 3 years to do it. You don’t need a piece of paper to practise it.
But professional journalism is also the exercise of power – “Power without responsibility,” as the quote has it (which continues: “the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages”). We expect to scrutinise politicians and hold them to certain ethical standards yet cry foul when the same scrutiny is applied to us. Studying journalism – while doing it – should be about accepting that responsibility and thinking about what it entails. And then doing it better.
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 →