As part of an ongoing series on recent graduates who have gone into online journalism, Midlands News Association online journalist Todd Nash talks about what got him the job, what it involves, and where it might go next. (Disclosure: I taught Todd)
I started as a Community Moderator for guardian.co.uk shortly after graduating with First Class Honours from a Media and Communications (Journalism) degree at Birmingham City University. My new media experience, which was largely inspired by an Online Journalism module, appealed to my employers as did the fact that I had an interest in comments on newspaper websites and had written my dissertation on the subject.
Since then, I’ve moved on to an Online Journalism role with MNA Digital and the role involves taking responsibility for the social media output of the Express & Star and Shropshire Star, as well as looking after the editorial content for the jobs, property and motors sections of both newspaper websites.
I’d say that the biggest part that my education had to play in getting this job and the work that I’ve done here so far, was the inspiration that I had from my education to attempt things on my own. I used my blog to try out new ways of reporting, used social media and had put place my knowledge of the medium at guardian.co.uk and had knowledge of building sites, purely from my blogs.
I see my role developing hugely in the future. Social media does not stand still; just a couple of years ago MySpace was the place to be and Twitter was practically unheard of. Part of my role is ensuring that my websites don’t get left behind where this is concerned.
The fake Jan Moir lays some too-good-to-be-true bait on Twitter
If you were following the Jan Moir-Stephen Gateley story that was all over Twitter today you may have come across a Twitter account claiming to be Jan Moir herself – @janmoir_uk. It wasn’t her – but it was a convincing attempt, and I thought it might be worth picking out how I and other Twitter users tried to work out the account’s legitimacy.
The too-good-to-be-true test
The first test in these cases is the too-good-to-be-true test, and this works on a number of levels. Jan Moir tweeting in itself was a great story – but not completely unbelievable. Her second tweet said “I have been advised by my editor to create a twitter account and offer my sincere apologies for any upset and distress i have caus” [sic] – a superficially plausible story. Would you buy it?
But there were some other too-good-to-be-true claims in her tweets. One said “My son is gay. I am not homophobic. Please read my article properly.” Does Jan Moir have a son? Is he gay? Would she announce it on Twitter? Continue reading →
“there is potential for news stories to come out of user activity on newspaper websites. Yet, as far as I know, it is not a particularly well-utlised area. Time is clearly an issue here. How many journalists have time to scroll through all of their comments to search for something that could well resemble a needle in a haystack? It was commented that, ironically, freelancers may make better use of this resource as their need for that next story is greater than their staff member counterparts.
“The moderation team at guardian.co.uk now has a Twitter feed @GuardianVoices which highlights good individual comments and interesting debate. Could they be used as a tool to collect potential leads? After all, moderators will already be reading the majority of content of the publication they work for. However, it would require a rather different mindset to look out for story leads compared to the more usual role of finding and removing offensive content.”
It’s an idea worth considering – although, as Todd himself concludes:
“Increased interactivity with users builds trust, which in turn produces a higher class of debate and, with it, more opportunities for follow-up articles. Perhaps it is now time for the journalists to take inspiration from their communities as well.”
That aside, could this work? Could moderators work to identify leads?
“The best pranks are the ones where the victim has absolutely no idea what is happening and this is true here. Some photoshop happy forummers on the Football365 Forum began adapting marathon photos from Flickr, Google Images and anywhere else they could get their hands on them.
“They then sent them in to the unsuspecting Sky News team with spectacular results:
A great way to start the week: my students are back from their Easter break, and one has not only posted a story about police being unable to keep up with 999 calls, but also created a witty video of ‘how to be an online journalist’, with royalty-free music to boot (note: Corbis is mentioned in the video – students are allowed to use image banks as long as they cost it up for a professional operation).