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
OK, so YouTube may not support vertical video as a format on desktop (it does on the mobile app) but you can embed a vertical video hosted on YouTube so that it is presented as a vertical format on your own webpage.
This is particularly useful if you’ve created a video using the Snapchat app, or merely filmed on your phone without remembering to rotate it, and want to use it on a normal site. Continue reading
Every year one of the questions most frequently asked by journalism students is “How do I embed a map/chart/infographic/liveblog/video/audio/gallery/tweet/document in a WordPress site?”
Here is a comprehensive overview of what is and is not possible in terms of embedding, and what you should do if you cannot embed. Continue reading
If you’re writing blog posts there are a number of formatting options you should be using regularly to make your article easier to read for users, and easier to understand for search engines (and therefore search engine optimisation). Here’ s a rundown of the 7 most important ones. Continue reading
Although I cover blogging in some depth in my online journalism book, I thought I should write a supplementary section on what happens when you decide to start customising your blog.
Specifically, I want to address 3 key languages which you are likely to encounter, what they do, and how they work.
What’s the difference? HTML, CSS, and PHP
Most blog platforms use a combination of HTML, CSS and PHP (or similar scripting language). These perform very different functions, so it saves you a lot of time and effort if you know which one you might need to customise. Here’s what those functions are:
- HTML is concerned with content.
- CSS is concerned with style.
- And PHP is concerned with functionality.
If you want to change how your blog looks, then, you will need to customise the CSS.
If you want to change what it does, you will need to customise the PHP.
And if you want to change how content is organised or classified, then you need to change the HTML.
All 3 are interrelated: PHP will generate much of the HTML, and the CSS will style the HTML. I’ll explain more about this below.
But before I do so, it’ll help if you have 3 windows open on your computer to see how this works on your own blog. They are:
- On your blog, right-click and select ‘View source‘ (or a similar option) so you can see the HTML for that page.
- Open another window, log in to your blog, and find the customisation option (you may have to Google around to find out where this option is). You should be able to see a page of code.
- If you have a blog hosted on WordPress.com, there is no customisation option beyond choosing themes and widgets, although you can pay for the ability to customise CSS.
- If you’ve paid for that, or are hosting a WordPress blog yourself, this page has more on customising.
- You can find details on customising Tumblr here,
- and customising Posterous here.
- And Google provides a range of help pages for customising a Blogger blog.
- Open a third window which you will use to search for useful resources to help you as you customise your blog. Continue reading
When people start out blogging they often ask what blogging platform they should use – WordPress or Blogger? Tumblr or Posterous? It’s impossible to give an answer, because the first questions should be: who is going to use it, how, and what and who for?
To illustrate how the answers to those questions can help in choosing the best platform, I decided to go through the 35 or so blogs I have created, and why I chose the platforms that they use. As more and more publishing platforms have launched, and new features added, some blogs have changed platforms, while new ones have made different choices to older ones. Continue reading
As part of the Hyperlocal Voices series, Yessi Bello speaks to Jason Cobb, publisher of Wivenhoe’s Onionbagblog, which has moved with its author from town to town, and from covering local sport to an increasingly civic focus, including coverage of council meetings. Cobb describes attending his first Full Council meeting as “almost on par with this despair of watching sub-standard non-league football.” He now also publishes The Wivenhoe Forum.
Who are the people behind the blog?
My blog is essentially my own personal online home, where I can create and dump any digital content that comes my way.
My day job involves managing online communities, as well as producing online content for local schools. Sitting somewhere in-between is my blog, hopefully as a platform for local co-operation and engagement.
When did you set up the blog and how did you go about it?
I started blogging in 2003 using Blogger. It was the online equivalent of the old punk rallying call of here’s a chord, here’s another one – now go and start a band. Starting a blog was as simple as setting up an account with Blogger.
I’ve since moved platforms to a WordPress self-hosted site, which offers more flexibility and control over the design. But ultimately it really is still all about the content.
I’ve changed direction, if not focus, in the eight years that I have been blogging. This shift more or less reflects my own offline lifestyle changes from sport, to local community issues, and then my current lifestyle change having moved out of South London to the North Essex estuary wilds. Essentially I blog about what I see around me.
In Lambeth I witnessed an incredibly poor level of local accountability when it came to local council matters. The press gallery for Full Council meetings was often empty, with local journos guilty of being caught asleep on the job.
Through blogging and tweeting about some of the political twaddle that was taking place, I was able to engage the local community in how petty local politics can often appear from the outside.
It is great to now see many similar local blogs carrying on this level of political accountability, as well as the traditional media taking to tweeting from within the Town Hall.
What other blogs, bloggers or websites influenced you?
The mighty Urban 75 has always been an inspiration in terms of community passion, and what is possible to achieve collectively online.
The South East 853 blog often overlaps with similar local authority themes that I addressed in Lambeth.
Lurking About SE11 was an online neighbourhood friend, although we only ever met once by accident, despite constant accusations that we were in league together.
memespring is doing some very interesting work with data journalism in South London.
There is a tangible sense that Colchester is going through a period of positive creative growth. It is no coincidence that this move coincides with the emergence of the Cultural Quarter in the town.
By continuing to blog about hyperlocal matters in my new home of Wivenhoe, I have been able to connect with others members in the community and share ideas as to what direction our estuary town is hopefully taking.
How do you see yourself in relation to a traditional news operation?
The distinction is often one that is made by the traditional news media, and not by bloggers who are simply going about their business. We are all observers and reporters of events that happen around us. Traditional media may make money out of this process, but that is the only difference.
I personally operate best in a news patch that I know inside out. Size is all-important here – I have little interest in what is happening in a one mile radius outside of where I live and work: that is for others to look into.
Traditional media spreads itself thin by the very nature of being tied down to a financial model of covering a greater footprint.
Having moved into a new town, I am slowly, slowly finding my feet, and finding out more about the social history. Being active online in the area is a great opportunity to go about learning more about the sense of history in the place I now call home.
What have been the key moments in the blog’s development editorially?
Covering local sport was a large part of my old blog. I then began to ask more questions about how local decisions were made, and why this supposedly democratic process was often leading towards a shambles of democracy in the local town hall.
Attending my first Full Council meeting was something of a key moment, and one that was almost on par with this despair of watching sub-standard non-league football.
This has led to breaking new stories such as the Lambeth Councillor who attended only 50% of meetings yet still claimed his full allowance ; the local journo who received a police caution for the common assault of a cabinet member and the allegation that the Leader of Lambeth Council ordered an apolitical officer to hack into the email account of a fellow Councillor.
Sadly the downside to this local level of journalism is that you don’t exactly make yourself popular with the local politicians that you are holding to account. I felt some sense of justice when a Lambeth Councillor who left a completely random comment with racist connotations on my blog, was then ordered by the Council to participate in social media training.
Moving forward and I have recently set up a hyperlocal forum for the community where I now live. The Wivenhoe Forum is growing organically, and it has been great to see how locals are joining the online community and starting conversations about how we can make out town an even greater place to live and work.
What sort of traffic do you get and how has that changed over time?
To my great surprise my traffic levels have doubled since my blog took a more rural direction along with my house move.
I prefer the more qualitative approach to measurement than quantitative. Many new opportunities come my way via my blog. I am able to make offline connections in the local community, something that a daily data report of unique users is unable to compare with.
Having worked for the BBC News Entertainment website for a decade, Darryl Chamberlain took voluntary redundancy and set up the widely successful 853 Blog. As part of the Hyperlocal Voices series he shares some of the secrets of his success.
1) Who where the people behind the blog, and what where their backgrounds?
853’s all mine. My background’s actually in showbiz news. I worked for the BBC News website’s entertainment desk for a decade in a variety of roles – mainly sub-editing and being the daily editor, but also reporting and feature writing.
I took voluntary redundancy and a career break in 2009 – standing in a council election in May 2010, and doing odd bits of freelance work. While standing in an election will probably leave me hopelessly biased in many eyes, it helped introduce me to local issues which simply weren’t being touched, and potential contacts of all political hues. After my glorious defeat, I realised I could do a bit more for my local area by sticking to what I was good at – finding things out and writing about them. Continue reading
Yessi Bello continues the Hyperlocal Voices series with an interview with JesmondLocal‘s Ian Wylie, who decided to dabble in local journalism after taking voluntary redundancy from a national newspaper. Still viewed as a “pro-bono”, ” good thing to do” Jesmond Local has now become an integral part of the Jesmond Community.
1)Who were the people behind the blog, and what where their backgrounds?
After 15 years working for The Guardian as a reporter, features writer and finally section editor, I took voluntary redundancy in 2009, and began thinking about what I would do with the next chapter of my career. I’d been involved mostly in national newspaper and magazine journalism, so local journalism was something I hadn’t dabbled in before.
The concept of “hyperlocal” fascinated me as an area for me to explore and an opportunity for me also to “give something back”. I discovered that Newcastle University lecturer David Baines had a research interest in the subject. We met to discuss and he suggested I offer some of his students the chance to launch a hyperlocal website, which we did almost exactly a year ago. Continue reading
Here’s a useful plugin for bloggers working with data: Datapress allows you to quickly visualise a dataset as a table, timeline, scatter plot, bar chart, ‘intelligent list’ (allowing you to sort by more than one value at once – see this example) or map.
Once installed, the plugin adds a new button to the ‘Upload/Insert’ row in the post edit view which you can click to link to a dataset in the same way as you would embed an image or video.
The plugin is in beta at the moment and takes a bit of getting used to. There’s a convention you have to follow in naming Google spreadsheet columns, for example – this Glasgow Vegan Guide spreadsheet has quite a few of them – but this could add some new visualisation possibilities. It seems particularly nice for lists and maps (if you have lat-long values), although Google spreadsheet’s built-in charts options will obviously be quicker for simple graphs and charts.
UPDATE: I’ve also just learned that the large empty space below the table can be fixed under the ‘Configure Display’ tab in the editing view.