Ebola Zombie image hoax: A useful reminder of the value of reverse image search

Update: This is an insanely popular post on my blog in terms of people searching for ebola zombie. Even if the picture wasn’t the thing that made you search for Ebola Zombie, I think I can say with some certainty that any report you’ve read of ebola zombies is false.  

I was casting an eye over my twitter feed today when I saw this from @TheMichaelMoran:

It links to an article with the headline “Ebola Victim Rises From The Dead In Africa, Fear Of Zombie Apocalypse”. It’s all kinds of wrong and, trust me, you don’t need to click through.  In fact if you happen to know the person who wrote it, for all kinds of reasons, they really should get (at the very least) a shouting at.

It’s staggering how powerful these linkbait engines are with shit like this. The social amplification alone on this means that I’m pretty sure that, want to or not, you’ll get a sense of this in your feeds at some point.

Of course, it’s been spotted by a number of people including, I discovered after a quick search,  Gawker who featured it in their Anrtiviral feature last week.

But…and I really must stop thinking about it because it’s very, very depressing…it serves as a useful exercise in image checking. which I’m sticking-up here as reference for students for two reasons.

The first, and it’s a bit of side issue, is to note the filename. In this case it’s third-ebola-victim-africa.jpg .  Yes.You can SEO your images!

The second is, as much as anything else of the usefulness of reverse image searching:

So the image:



Is actually a mashup of this, from (world war z)

and this mask, from make artist Jordu Schell at http://www.schellstudio.com/

And the easy way to find out…


  • Go to https://images.google.com/
  • Click the little camera icon
  • Use the URL: http://www.celebtricity.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/third-ebola-victim-africa.jpg

You have to work a little harder with Google’s reverse image search. But it gets you there and it often has a little tidbit of something to start a trail when TinEye has no results.

Elite Media trolls, banter and journalism

The Guardian’s James Ball has an interesting , and suitably search-bait-headlined, comment on internet trolls that’s worth a read.  The last par is the kicker:

The transformative promise of the internet was that it would shift control of the media agenda away from an elite group of editors to the public as a whole. At the moment, we risk merely shifting from the agenda of elite editors to that of elite trolls. Surely we can do better than that.

If you want a definition of trolls then James has that covered too –

tiny groups of – let’s just say it – arseholes are swarming our cultural coverage

I agree that the idea that internet would move power from the media elite is being challenged. But I’m not sure that power is being shifted. I worry more that the media is shifting itself into the same space as the troll elite (in some cases taking on its behavior or, as James suggests, at the very least feeding it).

Social media is now the ‘audience’ as far as journalists day-to-day experiences are concerned. I think that’s why some struggle with trolls, especially the idea of ignoring them. They confuse trolls with the audience because in terms of a journalists perspective through social media, they are there audience.  It’s a vicious circle. Attention is attention.

I also look at my social media feeds and I see a lot of media, trolling media. I see journalists on some media sites taking swipes at other journos. I see articles that reference or can be traced back to ‘banter’ (I believe this is what we have to call it these days) on social media. Of course, the swipes are more often than not good natured and this is nothing new.   Hell, the Daily Mail is the biggest troll the BBC has ever had!  But the insular nature of the debate – fleet street/media gossip –  isn’t confined to the columnists  or the editorial section anymore. The elites/cliques and communities are more visible and vocal. In the same way that journalists might see social media as the audience do social media see that as journalism?

So as I look through my feed and follow stories like gamergate etc. I  finding myself asking, How much of that elite trolling is being done by elite media?

Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not saying that journalists create/welcome/deserve trolls. I know there is a difference between trolling and ‘banter’ and that ‘banter’ is a broad church that covers some pretty shitty behavior. Trolling is something that needs some serious and fundamental thought in newsrooms – its about feeling safe when you work.  But I think it might be a little too easy to see trolling/banter as an aberration or something necessarily separate.

I’m thinking about this a fair bit at the moment as I start the year’s teaching thinking about where social media fits into their journalism. James’ piece made me wonder that faced with a bunch of students who are active and established users of social media (where, take it from me,  the public ‘banter’ is pretty robust)  I should really be thinking about getting it the other way round: Where does journalism  fit into their social media? For many of them, that’s their experience of journalism as a consumer, it’s perhaps the first experience of many of the next generation of news consumers.

How we behave online as journalists just gets more complicated  the more we do it.  Interesting times.





Come and work with me teaching digital journalism

Yes it’s Jobs news. No not that Jobs! (oh and there’s no laptop included, Sorry!)

I’ve got some interesting projects on the go this year (more on that in coming months)  so I’ve got a bit of breathing space in my teaching.  The result is that there’s a job going at my place to teach digital journalism.

It’s a fixed term contract and 0.5 but it’s a great chance to get some teaching under your belt (and work with some good people).

You can check out the job at the uni website. Follow the link for vacancies, check Academic and it should be in that list.

I would give you a direct link, but our job website is doing odd security things (apparently to stop unscrupulous jobs site scrapers) so details below if you want to know right now:

Job title: Lecturer in Digital Journalism

Job reference: REQ001252

Date posted:05/09/2014

Application closing date:14/09/2014

SalaryGrade H £34,233 – £39,685 (Starting salary unlikely to exceed £34,233)

Job category/typeAcademic

Job description

The School of Journalism and Media is seeking to appoint a Lecturer to teach digital skills across its programmes.  Experience of working in industry as a journalist or content creator at a senior level is essential, as is experience of teaching in higher education. Experience of managing content across digital and online platforms is desirable.

Applicants should have a first degree or equivalent professional qualification and a higher degree in a relevant subject or the willingness to work towards a higher degree.

Applicants need to meet all essential criteria on the person specification to be considered for interview. This is based in Preston.

School/Service: School of Journalism and Media

Hours: Part Time (0.5 FTE)

Basis:  Fixed Term Contract (8 months)

Interview Date: To be Confirmed

Job Description / Person Specification

Helpful Hints For Applicants


Picture by  Matthew Yohe from Wikicommons

An updated timeline of journalism in a digital age.

Early last year I updated my timeline of journalism events in a digital age and I thought it was time to take a look and see what needed to be added.

So I’ve updated it including the following:

  • I’ve added the appearance of Buzzfeed in 2006: Who knew that this viral startup would be thought of the ‘preeminent media company in the future’.  I’ve also added the $50 million dollar investment from earlier this year.
  • The NSA leaks story:  The reach of this story makes it a defining moment for me.  It’s a story that brought security and net neutrality into the newsroom with some excellent (and innovative) storytelling along the way.
  • Jeff Bezos buying the Washington post – media buyouts don’t often break the mould but Bezos putting up $250million of his own money is an interesting one for me.  The fact that it’s the man behind Amazon – considered by many a successful online company  with experience in many of the areas where the media is playing ‘catch-up’.
  • Leaked NYT innovation Report – media orgs will fall on any intel on the industry and their competitors but this leak to Buzzfeed (there they are again) of an internal review of the NYTimes’ digital efforts was as notable for it’s view of who the competition was as it was it’s candid material.
  • The murder of James Foley: Many journalists have died in the process bringing us news from warzones. But the way the video of Foley’s death surfaced and the ensuing debate around how we shared the news (and the video) speaks to the changing way we view news and conflict.

I’m sure there are more and I’m sure that there are some that aren’t so US centric so I’d love to hear your views on what should be included.


Steve Matthewson Head of Business Professional Networks at The Guardian suggested including the closure of the News of the world. I’d considered it but it didn’t feel ‘digital’ enough. However, Steve makes a good point.

So I’ve included it!

Twitter user @sms2sms suggested a number of inclusions, including Flash!

I thought that was a great idea. Even if it was there as a motivation for people to create an alternative, I think Flash has shaped the way we tell multimedia stories online. So it’s in.@sms2sms also suggested Rocketboom, another good idea that’s now in.

American Univ Journo prof Andrew Lih offered:

I’d never heard of it but remember the later ‘clicks and morter’ attempts later on. This is a gem of an example and well worth an inclusion. Also worth a read is John C. Speer’s disseration on the subject.

Am I responsible for a shitty freelance market?

Yesterday I posted about using Medium as a platform for my second year students. In passing I mentioned that Contributoria also looked like a good bet. That led to a brief exchange with Sarah Hartley (editor at Contributoria) which also included Leeds Met uni lecturer Karl Hodge, about how the process of pitching to contributoria could be included in teaching.  That lead to this from freelancer @digitaldjeli (whose website on news from Africa and more  I can recommend btw.)

A fairly lengthy exchange followed which I found a bit frustrating and ill-tempered (I actually said ‘rude’ at the time). I’m sure digitaldjeli thought much the same of me.  But it was food for thought and I wanted to get down a couple of points down. (Yes, it’s my blog and I can ruminate if I want to)

Looking back, the conversation seemed to touch upon a few broad, interrelated points:

Journalism courses (encouraging students to pitch) skew the market  

I wasn’t sure who or what that original tweet was aimed at, so I asked digitaldjeli if it was the fact that it was students pitching:  

I’m not really sure that I like the distinction between students and journalists here.  I expect that mine are both. Or for that matter that all students are carefree with no responsibilities.  As to whether it’s courses like mine that are adding to the weight of the hammer I don’t know.

A brief look through of the figures suggests that there would be around 14-16,000 people studying journalism and information related degrees in the UK( a guesstimate based on figures from the OECD).  That’s not taking into consideration NCTJ type courses etc.  But let’s also factor into that the industry redundancies. Estimates put job losses in papers alone at the 8,000 mark (that was a few years ago). I’d say there were more journalists entering the market than students. But, being fair, across the industry as a whole,  that’s a lot of people that could be fighting to be heard in the freelance market.

All of which suggests a broader point I heard echoed in digitaldjeli’s tweets:

The freelance industry is a in a shitty state, please don’t make it worse

It’s easy to see how that point connects with the first – it can’t support the people already in the market so why flood it with more. In that respect I think it’s appropriate to question if offering the courses we do is unfair on everyone, including those students on a course who might expect to make a living; asking who is taking the risk. But taking the industry as a whole we aren’t great at being fair.

I can be generous and say it’s competitive. But the truth is that people will take whatever edge they can to get ahead; everything from dropping a name, leveraging a contact, citing past employers on bios or paying for a course.  Healthy competition is OK and the great thing about the web is that it means players like contributoria can explore ways to help broaden (and maybe flatten) the playing field. But plenty of people will exploit that. It’s as likely to be a dodgy internship as much as a training course that exploits or closes a door on broader opportunity.

I recognize that the compulsion to analyse the industry and its models to understand sustainability isn’t one that stops with the mainstream parts of the industry. Journalism education and training, in all its forms, is just as much part of that process and  it’s right that we should feel that pressure and be held to account.  The vast majority of people I know in the edu/training sphere care and worry very deeply about that.

I’m certainly not comfortable with the idea of us essentially ring fencing certain aspects of what is essentially an economy; barring one element to protect another. If we do that we have to get into the idea of what makes one lot a journalist and another not. (good luck with that but I really don’t care for the distinction). But maybe a shift in perspective doesn’t hurt.

Expectation or responsibility

It seems that the last 10-15 years of the journalism industry are defined by the concept of expectation. An expectation by some that life will continue, untroubled as it always has. An expectation that the web will make things better. An expectation that there should be special treatment or exceptions made.  I’ve always seen a big part of my job as managing and informing expectation so that people can make informed choices.  But one result of the conversation has been to get me thinking about responsibility. Where does my responsibility for this begin and end?

There doesn’t seem like there is going to be much settling down in the media landscape any time soon and it’s certainly not going to get flatter (or fairer). Asking how we can be more responsible in cultivating that landscape seems a more positive one than finding ways to deal with a set of increasingly conflicting expectations.

The right Medium for student work

I’m in the process of finalizing my course/module  descriptions for this year. In one of my second year modules – the digital landscape –  we are asking the students to produce a piece of multimedia reporting (the other assignment is to work in groups to pitch a media related start-up idea).

I’m pondering the way I get them to ‘submit’ that work.  My gut feeling at the moment is to get them to submit to Medium.

What about a blog?

Across all the digital stuff we do, students are encouraged (or compelled depending on your point of view) to start a blog.  All do and some keep it up. So their own blog is one option. Put work on the blog and then give me the links.

But experience has shown me that often the students will only engage with their blog at the point at which they begin to work an an assignment. That raises two issues:

  1. They don’t really engage with blogging: Some might say that in a social media world blogging is less valuable. I disagree. But I’m also nervous of making it a requirement to blog as it, well takes us back to the main problem of why they are ‘using’ a blog.
  2. Some students will take the position that, because I have asked them to submit on the blog, I’m responsible for telling them how to use a blog.  I become defacto tech support. In principle that’s something I don’t mind but, in general Google faster than me for basic ‘how do I add a link questions’.

We also have a content management system within the department based on Escenic. It’s great and robust but, for a number of reasons, not public facing.  That makes it hard for them to promote their work on Social media. They can link out but not in. I know, I know but there are reasons OK!

In and off the media landscape.

For this module in particular I want the students to engage with working in the broader media landscape. So I’m trying  to balance giving free reign to publish on any platform against the demands for public interaction against practical demands.  Hmmm.

My current thinking is based around the following

  • Restricting choice: It sounds bad I think it would be useful to make a decision that will practically and technically  suit 99% and negotiate with the 1% that want to push the envelope.
  • Visibility of content: Picking a platform for their content which already has a strong(ish) content base will give them something to compare/aspire/compete with.

Bearing all of that in mind, Medium feels like the right choice. I’d very much like students to be doing more with their work.  I’d love them to pitch to sites like Contributoria – and if Contributoria had an open submission (not a criticism at all) then it would be a great alternative.

But as it stands medium seems to have a workable input system. Not too shy of multimedia and there is a ‘content network’ element which I think would be interesting for the students to explore. This is not an either/or situation. Students will still be expected to have blogs and there are other places in the course where design or ‘code’ are more suited. But I’d be interested in what others think.

 After-matter and notes: I should note that when I say submit we do have a process here by which I get students to submit the text of their articles so that we can run them through plagiarism detection software.

After tweeting a link to this post a few people added their thoughts:

Tom Rouse from  echoed my thinking:

Nick Petrie from the Deputy Head of News Development &  also liked the idea

adding that medium simplifies things for them. Daniel Bently from @circa did note the limitations of some of the embedding option, but liked the challenge

Siraj Datoo, Political reporter at BuzzFeed UK, was a bit uncomfortable with having student work online:

 I think there’s a valid point there. Often, for very good reasons, a piece of work may not reflect what a student is capable off. I think we could manage that and there is always the option to remove the work when it has been marked. Siraj also made a good point about the way medium uses social media (twitter in particular) to promote your work. I don’t mind that challenge. I think its good for students to consider the social media impact of their work. Alex Howard, columnist  , made a good point about taking a more fundamental approach:

I have some real sympathy for this approach but in the context of this module it’s outside the learning outcomes. But not for other parts of the course.  One reservation I do have is asking students to pay. That’s not a general issue – it’s what pays my mortgage. But this would be paying specifically to submit an assignment.  Still, Alex makes a good point when he notes…

The difference between pro and amatuer? 90 degrees

A tweet from the @themediabrief caught my eye today:

Made me smile.

‘Holding the camera the right way’ is a bit of an issue for me. In one of my modules I set shooting video as a little test and it was enough to get you a fail.  But as @davidwrightdop pointed out, in the days of Vine and Instagram, does it make one bit of difference? 

In my defence, the end result of the test was meant to be uploaded to YouTube; a shame not to use all the space available. So it’s not a ‘blanket ban’

I’m sure academics could have a field day with a ‘chicken and egg’ type discussion about the impact of one medium and another, remediation etc. etc.  Clearly the impact of social media has more of an impact than TV.  So perhaps this is a tipping point:

In some respects it’s already happening. With more consumption on mobile, especially of video, the shape of TV has already changed. Of course, TV was just as influenced by film aspect ratio when it was designed for mass use, so what goes around.

You’re holding it wrong for a journalist.

What interests me more is the definitional nature of the debate:  Of course anyone who knows anything about video would shoot the right way.  Wouldn’t they?  The difference in this case between amateur and pro is literally a 90 degree turn. (hasn’t that always been the way of it!)

Even more telling is that it’s a definition that lives and breathes in the way we hold kit.  Imagine that debate being levelled at the way you hold a pencil to take notes. That says more about the way we define ourselves than anything else.

After thought: An easy solution to this is to put the camera lens in the bottom corner of the phone rather than the top. That way if you were ‘holding it wrong’ you’d always have your hand over the lens!

A quick way to test web content on your mac

If you’re getting into this whole coding journalist and tinkering with HTML and javascript you’ll eventually get to the point where you need a webserver to play with.

Webservers, amongst other things contain the software that enables you to play with more complex scripting, handling ‘requests’ for content rather than simply displaying a file (which is what opening a page in your browser would do without a webserver).   It’s not essential, often your browser will do most of the heavy lifting.  But having a webserver on your own machine that you can use as your own private development environment can be really useful.

If you’re using a mac  then you can turn any folder into a webserver for basic javascript and html stuff,  by navigating to the folder in terminal app and typing the following line of code :

python -m SimpleHTTPServer 8000

It uses webserver (the simpleHTTP bit) in the mac’s built-in version of the  Python programming language.   It’s nothing fancy but it does the job.

To stop the server, return to the terminal app  just press CTRL+C in the terminal. That will stop the service.

How that might work in practice

Here’s a quick example of how that might work:

  • Create a new folder called website in your documents folder
  • open TextEdit (in the applications folder)
  • Click New Document
  • Before you type anything else select Format > Make Plain Text
  • Cut and paste the following  code into the editor
<!doctype html>
<html lang="en">
<title>A basic html Holding page</title>
<h1>Your webserver is working</h1>
  • Save this file into the webserver folder with the filename index.html (webservers are setup to look for that filename by default)
  • Open the Terminal application (applications/utilities)
  • In the terminal window  navigate to your folder:
cd documents/website

then type:

python -m SimpleHTTPServer 8000

the 8000 is the port number. If you run into problems then you could try changing this as it usually means you’re already running something using that port.  If you’re trying this for the first time you’re unlikely to need to do this.

  • Open your browser and go to – http://localhost:8000. You should see a very dull page with the text ‘Your webserver is working’
  • When you’re done, go back to the terminal app window and press CTRL+C to stop the webserver

When you’re running code it’s worth checking back on the terminal app window. The webserver tracks output and will stream a log of what’s going on. Useful to track down mistakes like missing files and incorrect links (tip: look for code 404, message File not found)

No Mac?

If you want something a bit more complex/flexible or if you don’t have a mac, you can download ‘stand-alone’ webservers that will install and run on your machine. One of the more popular ones is MAMP although the move to a more pro model has lead some to look at alternative like ampps.  They are all pretty much the same and solid next step if you get fired up by this journo coder stuff.

I know many people will know this already but its one of those little things that can often slip off the radar. I hope it’s useful.


Who takes the risk in changing journalism?

I’m spending the next few days in a research symposium about journalism. Lots of great people with interesting things to say about the changing face and challenges for journalism.  I’m not going to go into too much detail about what’s being discussed -that’s partly because a lot of it is related to ongoing research and the usual form, and often contractual obligation, is stuff doesn’t make it out until its been in a journal (I know, don’t get me started on that one).  But regardless of the topic one of consistent questions has been how we and students respond to this.

One example of this was a conversation around entrepreneurial journalism.

The idea that we as j-schools, should be encouraging more innovative and entrepreneurial thinking is not new.  A number of schools now have modules and courses exploring just that.  But how we ‘sell’ that has been and remains a tricky proposition when the demands of the industry we serve are set against an education market ‘disrupted’ by the same things.

Like most universities in the UK we are coming to the end of our ‘open days’. They are a chance for prospective students to see the campus, meet the staff. Well, I say students; a big part of open days is for parents.

I find that it’s often quite hard to talk to the prospective students as you’re answering questions from parents. How many modules? What’s your contact time? What are your employment statistics? I’m not being critical of this at all – who wouldn’t want to be  sure that they are getting the best. The best experience and the best value.  But I does feel like the questions that editors and accrediting bodies ask me – how many hours do they go to court? Can they do shorthand? Can they do facebook?

Under the idea of a service economy (serving students and industry) J-Education is not just being asked make a lot of commitments. We are being asked for guarantees!

I was pondering that during the presentations when we talked about entrepreneurship and innovation in journalism and it struck me how much I feel we are at (or very, very close to) an inflection point when it comes to the value proposition for developing journalism education.

The truth is entrepreneurship is about risk.  I have enough crappy motivational tweets appearing in my timeline about ‘daring to fail’ to know that.  But I’m across two industries  – education and journalism –  that don’t do risk well.

It’s clear that most of the journalism industry isn’t prepared to take that risk (with notable but not consistent exceptions) The model for the industry is for buy-innovation not nurturing it. Yes, there are some exceptions but lets not kid ourselves that they are the norm  (yet). That’s a culture that reaches across all aspects of an organisations work including training.

That’s why, in the same way media has shifted the responsibility (and risk) for training and skills to education, we now see the demands for a more innovative and entrepreneurial journalist are placed at educations door.

At the same time education is coming to terms with a market driven model – compare-the-market parents looking at our stats.  That culture doesn’t really suit risk.  I couldn’t sell a journalism course on the kind of failure stats we see in startups these days.

Theres the decision driving me to feeling close to the inflection point. Which of those ‘markets’ is the ball and chain?  Which one of those is going to drag me down past viable? As a J-school educator, how do I balance the demands of industry to deliver what they tell me they want with the demands of consumers for guarantees of a return on investment?

My gut reaction is that the response to industry is pretty simple – we are not going to take risks on your behalf unless you invest.   But that’s the easy bit. It leave us with more to  do in educating students to the idea of risk and the broader landscape of opportunity that digital offers.  Risk and opportunity – not easy terms.

I happen to think there is no better place to take a risk than university – independent thinking and challenge are what we are supposed to do.  I also believe that there is no better industry in which risk can pay off – innovation is really valued, even if (or perhaps because) it doesn’t really know what to do with it – everyone wants a pet unicorn even if they don’t know how to look after it!

But it does feel like we are getting to a point where, to really enable us to make good on that opportunity,  J-schools are going to have to make a  choice.  Journalism education is  already at a point where we are thinking about how we unhitch ourselves from many of the structure that some believe  makes them the de-facto suppliers of skilled workers for industry.  A position that I’ve always thought of as moving from  giving them what they want to what they need.

But that feels like the easy part.  When it comes to selling the alternative it’s easy marketing speak to say opportunities but it’s risk – plain and simple.

That feels like unchartered territory for all of us and I wonder if it should and why.

Image from Ben Sutherland  on Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/bensutherland/6764509451/ 

What do journalists use instagram for?

Tell me, I’ll forget
Show me, I’ll remember 
Involve me, I’ll understand

I’m not one for sharing proverbs or pithy statements; ones  that would look great on a poster with some Kittens or shared in a cursive font on Facebook. But the lines above popped into my head as I was reading about Instagram’s  latest update. Instagram is getting new ‘creative’ editing tools.

These aren’t earth shattering; exposure, saturation etc.  But the general consensus (among my social media circle anyway) was that these tools were a great addition not least because it would limit the number of apps journos needed to use to get a good picture.

At a similar time to the chat around Instagram’s new tools, Sarah Marshall, Social media editor at the Wall street journal, posted about some in-house Instagram training. The post is a really valuable round-up of the use Instagram can get in a newsroom.

The conversation around those two stories, got me pondering the broader question of why journalists use these platforms and it boils down, in general, to these two broad areas:

1. It’s a nifty platform to gather and distribute images with the added advantage of having an audience there watching

Why spend money on a media sharing infrastructure when the likes of Instagram and youtube do that for you? In a mobile world, it’s a robust mobile tool that you don’t have to pay for!

This is a growing trend in newsrooms, echoed in the use of things like DropBox and Google Drive. Using free, easily accessible resources to plug the tech and process gaps in newsrooms.

2. It offers access to user generated content

That’s not a groundbreaking observation.  Of course, like any social media network, where the public are so there maybe useful content news orgs can lift create a wider audience for.

These different uses make demands of social media platforms we use. The tension that creates makes for a heady mix of issues.  Professional identity and standards are tested, questioned and sometimes reinforced. Just that idea of using a mobile phone as a tool does that!  At the same time the pressure of sifting through all this material to get that clip that beats the competition to the punch is one that newsrooms feel more each day…how can something so useful be so frustrating?

The conversation around Instagram brought those tensions to the fore in a specific way.   Not only would the new tools make the platform more usable as a tool, it may also help make the content more usable as UGC -As BBC editorial trainer Marc Blank-Settle pointed out (responding to me sharing Sarah’s post)

The general gist of Marc’s point was that the, often indiscriminate, use of the ubiquitous filters and other editing tools on Instagram rendered the content editorially unusable. Marc’s broader point is that a viewer might question the veracity of an image that’s been so obviously edited – if the colours have been changed then what else have they tinkered with? Marc sums it up in a later response to the issue

It’s a fair point. The idea of how much editing should you do on an image is one that has vexed news/doco photographers for ever and a day. Just try talking to a US press photographer about the ethics of posing a shot!

As a ‘trainer’ I have a deal of sympathy with Marc’s view. Training Journo’s to keep to their standards is hard when there are nice toys to play with – especially when the norm is to go ‘express yourself’

Frustration with this kind of thing is something the industry is great at voicing but it’s not so great at articulating the tensions behind the scenes.  We tend to fall back on one of the core uses as a reason – the square aspect ratio or resolution isn’t great or Instagram’s poor search or lack of desktop version means I can’t use it to find pictures easily at work.  But that’s a bit too filtered through a set of local demands. I think that if we want to get the best use of platforms like Instagram then I  think it  really demands that we think critically, and be more open within newsrooms,  about that question of why and how we use it.

That debate is one that’s increasingly important given a growing fixation with ‘native content’. We are being asked to consider ways in which we can bring the production process closer to the consumption process – like creating sites for mobile, on mobiles.  We see some great experiments with creating content specifically for new platforms – stuff that looks like the platform not our website squashed into the space.  But whilst our desire to understand the users and seed the platforms with our content grows is there a risk that we simply open up a wider gap between the two uses?  Are we going to end up contributing the the pool of unusable content? Or is there is an opportunity to take a different approach that unites the two demands?

Educate or emulate?

One observation from those analysisng tweets from the UK riots was how the pictures that were most shared, ones that made it to the top of the retweet  pile, were pictures that resembled news images. In other words, pictures that even though they weren’t created by news orgs, would have happily got the nod from an (picture) editor.

It’s one example, along with the amount of social media traffic that’s driven by news orgs content, that suggests a certain level of ‘news-media literacy’ makes it through into the collective subconscious when it comes to creating and distributing content on social media.  Could journalists do more to ‘educate’ people on Instagram and other platforms as to what constitutes a good picture?

That’s were the pithy proverb came to mind:

Tell me, I’ll forget
Show me, I’ll remember 
Involve me, I’ll understand

We know that asking social media for UGC is a frustrating task. Asking for something specific will, more often than not result in a huge amount of unrelated content.; “I asked for flooding pictures not pictures of your wet dog! “ That will never go away. But if one of our motivations for using these platforms, for encouraging journalists to get their content on there, is to help inform and develop new-media literacy, is that such a bad thing.