On its own the first habit of a successful journalist — curiosity — can only take us so far as a journalist: as we ask questions of our sources, we cannot merely report what people tell us — especially if two different sources say contrasting things.
Scepticism is important in journalism because it moves us from merely repeating what people have said, to establishing the factual basis that puts that information into context — whether those facts support or contradict those statements, or do not exist at all.
This has become particularly important in a modern information age when most public bodies can communicate with the public directly, without that accountability.
Scepticism as the voice of the audience
If curiosity represents the journalist acting as the eyes and ears of the audience, scepticism is where we act as the mouth of the audience.
More specifically, it is the way in which we give a voice to an audience which isn’t able to ask questions itself. Continue reading →
The latest frequently asked questions post comes in response to a PhD student looking at data journalism and gatekeeping. Here are the questions and my answers:
How do you think the role of journalists has changed during the 21st century, especially with the data explosion and the rise of misinformation and disinformation?
Journalists and news organisations have both been forced to adapt by the increased competition, and the changing nature of the world that we report on (i.e. the fact that it is more data-driven).
Many publishers tell me they want to give their journalists data skills because they feel that they need to ‘up their game’ in order to compete with new entrants to the sector, and to create distinctive content in an environment where celebrities, politicians, sportspeople etc. all publish direct to audiences rather than via media. Continue reading →
The book tackles various aspects of the new wave of mobile-centred publishing, from “mojo” techniques and creating mobile apps to native content and visual storytelling.
Along the way we also looked at the new critical issues raised by the shift, from strategic decisions involved in platform publishing, to fake news, trolling and verification.
It’s been a timely book — building on my experiences of designing the new MA in Multiplatform and Mobile Journalism at Birmingham City University (with some of the first students’ work inspiring parts of the book) — and fun to write.
I’ll be posting extracts from the book in the coming months…
The latest in my series of FAQ posts comes from a current MA Online Journalism student, who is writing an article for a German publication.
How has the use of user-generated content from social media changed over the last years in the UK?
The use of UGC from social media has changed enormously in the UK in the last decade. Obviously many of the platforms didn’t even exist a decade ago, so we’ve moved from quoting emails to taking screenshots, to a situation now where it’s common to embed live social media content which users can interact with from the article itself – whether that’s to share, like, follow, or respond. Continue reading →
Blogging: “If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine”
In the first edition of the Online Journalism Handbook a whole chapter was devoted to blogging. In the new edition the chapter is gone. Does that mean that blogging is dead? No. It means that ‘blogging’ is now so ubiquitous it has become almost invisible. Continue reading →
Tonight many journalists will have Tweetdeck or similar social media dashboards ‘tuned in’ to coverage of the US election, typically by creating columns to monitor activity on key hashtags like #Election2016. But on a big occasion like this, the volume of tweets becomes unmanageable. Here then are a few quick techniques to surface tweets that are likely to be most useful to reporters:
Picking the right hashtags: Hashtagify
Hashtagify is a tool for finding out the popularity of certain hashtags. Type a tag into the search box and you’ll get a network diagram like the one shown above — but you can also switch to ‘Table mode’ to get a list of tags that you can sort by popularity, correlation, weekly or monthly trend. Continue reading →
A couple weeks ago Tony Hirst published a rather wonderful post about what he calls ‘tech anatomy’: in other words the workings “of the computing related stuff that populates our daily lives”. These include:
The Anatomy of a URL
The Anatomy of a Web Page
The Anatomy of a Tweet
The Anatomy of an Email Message
The Anatomy of a Powerpoint File
The Anatomy of an Image File
In admirably succinct fashion, and with illustrations, he picks apart those six things. It’s a masterclass in the sort of system knowledge that every journalism student should have, because this knowledge is crucial to newsgathering and verification. Continue reading →
We are in the golden age of verification: a generation of journalists trained to process content rather than check it; the culling of the subs who used to; and a generation raised on bullshit with the means to check it and the networks to exchange notes. Continue reading →