Tag Archives: journalism

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5 steps to turn you into a journalism coder (maybe)

I’ve been thinking alot about coding.  Staring at some code for an hour and then realising that it’s not working because you spelt slider wrong will do that!  So it was nice to see a piece on the Guardian website, Head of Cardiff J-school Richard Sambrook has been pondering the whole issue of journalism and coding.  It made me think about how I learnt to code and I wanted to share that with you.

But before that, a brief detour to Richard. He starts with a question:

Do journalists need to learn computer code? It’s a question which has raised passionate debate in the US – with typically polarised responses. As yet in the UK it elicits little more than bemused curiosity. But it’s an increasingly important question as media adapts to the volatile requirements of digital technology and changing consumer expectations

The comments on the piece are also worth a read. They have the usual range of view from “whatever they do it won’t be proper coding” through “it’s cheaper to get someone else to do it” and out the other side of “don’t journalists have enough to do”.

I’m not sure whether the bemused curiosity is aimed at the question or the US debate. I’m very much in the camp that raises an eyebrow at the debate.  There is no doubt the industry want it, as much as the industry want anything these days. As with data and social there are always going to be unicorns. But for me  talking about journalists and coding  is a moot point. It happens. Debating if it’s important seems to take time away from actually trying it.

Language

It strikes me (and I know I’m not alone in this) that this is a problem of language rather than utility or necessity.  Think about the debate that the phrase Citizen Journalism creates. (It’s OK I’ll wait while some of you stop shouting at the screen). Now imagine you call yourself a coder and then some journalist comes along and starts saying what they do is coding! That’s the debate.

The industry has co-opted coding as a shorthand for many, differing practices and we use it inconsistently (there is no ‘correct’ here) . Everything from a bit of HTML, using R to do data journalism and even doing a bit of hardware programming with your Raspberry Pi.   Like many other things (data journalism etc.) its a reason to talk about other, more fundamental issues facing the industry. Coding isn’t a thing anymore. It’s a trope.

Sambrook’s article is a great example of that.  Dig below the surface and he’s really aiming stuff towards a balance of the technical skills that are needed to get a more  ‘scientific’ type of perspective. That’s a nod to the ‘precision journalism’ school of thought, one echoed in a comment by Liz Hannaford (whose blog is worth a look b.t.w).

My 5 steps to becoming a coder (for what it’s worth)

What about these 5 steps then?

In an earlier post I shared the process I went through to create some archive picture mashups.  The last part was a little bit of code that made it possible to mix between the two.

<script src="//code.jquery.com/jquery-1.10.2.js"></script>
<script src="//code.jquery.com/ui/1.10.4/jquery-ui.js"></script>


 <div id="timemachine"> 
<h1> Andy's time machine </h1>
<p>Mix the old and new with Andy's time machine </p>

<div id="holder">
     <div id="new">
       <!-- don't worry about the weird img src here-->
       <!-- I'm using google drive to host the images-->
       <!-- Replace these with the images you want to use-->
       <!-- The modern image here -->
       <img src="http://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=0B1Gp8j4WdzDgc0duVnpzZU5sS28" />
     </div>
      <!-- The old image here. -->
     <div id ="old" class="overlay">
      <img src="http://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=0B1Gp8j4WdzDgX0RNX3E0a3JzazQ" />
     </div>
  
</div>

 <p>Move the slider to go back in time</p>

 <div id="slider"></div>

</div>
 

See the Pen An image before and after slider by Andy (@digitaldickinson) on CodePen.

Here’s how I learnt to do that in five easy steps.

  1. Load up Google
  2. Load up Codepen.io (a place to experiment with html and scripting).
  3. Load up Stackoverflow ( a place where people ask questions about coding,  html and scripting)
  4. Search and  cut-and-paste the fork out of stuff until it works.
  5. Share and let others see, learn from and critique what you’ve done.

Yes, I’ve been doing this a while so some of it has stuck and that helped speed up what I was searching for.  But along the way I learned how to do loads of things that I’ve now forgotten. It did the job and I moved on.

Getting a job done.

Ok. It’s semi-serious advice and I’m definitely not saying that coding is easy.  And in saying that I hope I’ve tempered any criticism that coders might imply from this post or any apparent perception that ‘I don’t get’ how busy journalists are. But the point for me is not that coding is any more or less useful than co-opting any process into your journalism process

The key is that you need to know what your journalism practice is.  After that you can see what fits and what doesn’t.  If the coding is too much then it’s about co-opting people in to the process.

Don’t learn ‘coding’ and look for a problem to solve.  Find a problem and then ask if a bit of code might help. If the problem is too big find someone who can help. 

That last part – engaging with people who could help is another good reason to dive-in, have a go and pick up a bit of the language. It’s like trying to learn a little bit of a foreign language for a holiday.  People who speak it often appreciate the effort.  Those who’ve invested some time learning this stuff like it when you make an effort to understand what they do – you know, a bit of journalistic empathy!

Whatever the motivation, on a very basic level I’d recommend giving coding a go. If you find yourself doing ( or really enjoying) lots of this stuff than actually learning a structured approach (like learning the piano rather than busking) will only enhance the process. But for me there is a really basic reason, if the right opportunity comes along. to have a go.  When you press run or refresh or whatever you’re doing to make it go it’s actually quite a buzz when it works.  There aren’t many things we make and do these days as part of our jobs that get such instant feedback.

Diagnosing the noble disease – how we treat journalism in the 21st century.

peri

This is the original script to a short presentation I gave University of Northampton’s ‘Imagine Journalism in Ten Years’ Time‘ mini-conference chaired by Kevin Marsh,  and organised by John Mair. Other speakers included: Professor Jay RosenMatt Andrews who has his talk here ;Teodora Beleaga, who has her slides here, and Judith Townend who has put her slides and talk online. The talk is a development of one I gave last year at last years Nordic media festival and an ethics lecture I gave a few weeks ago. (which I may put up here soon)

Journalism education is at an inflection point. The mix of disruption in the journalism industry and in the education market has created a growing movement demanding a radical rethink of the what, how and who of journalism education. This paper takes the position that this also calls for a rethink of the way we frame journalism when considering how we might react to this changing environment. It rejects the idea of journalism as a profession in favour of the idea of journalism as a diagnosis.

In thinking about where journalism is going to be in ten years or so, I’ve been thinking a lot about big toes. I want to take the next 10 minutes or so to tell you why.

A few years ago now we actually got some people from industry in a room and asked them what the journalist of 2015 would look like. The first thing they said was quarter-past-eight was a more realistic goal. Twenty-five past eight is still not quick enough.

Here are some of the things the identified:

  • Technology and practice
  • Design principles.
  • Content management and online publishing
  • Storytelling and the impact of new mediums
  • Multimedia – video, audio, photography and image manipulation
  • Web technologies
  • Social networking and Web 2.0/3.0
  • Semantic web and what that means for journalists – Tagging, Geotagging
  • Search engines and their impact on content creation
  • Budgeting, business practice and legislation
  • Developing entrepreneurial skills
  • Building a personal brand
  • Interpersonal Skills
  • Identifying, developing and pitching an idea for a multi platform project
  • Building Networks and Managing Relationships
  • The editorial, legal and ethical challenges of developing and managing UGC
  • Managing a complex multi-platform production

Thinking about what I teach, this is pretty much how things break down:

  • Social media
  • Curation (real time curation) -
  • Data Journalism – big data. Transparency vs accountability.
  • Community
  • Multi-platform – the impact of community and persistence
  • Innovation
  • Entrepreneurship

Much of that could be dissmissed as overly practical – lots of digital toys. But I just want to point out how much conversation they generate around law, ethics and personal and professionalism identity. This is not just playing on the web!

To try and some that up in to the kind of person we want to produce – the journalists of that future we are talking about today will be 

an innovative, social media savvy, data aware, community-connected, curator, working across multiple platforms…

Given where I am and who is the room I think it’s valid to take a little detour from what we teach to How we teach.

Like the journalism industry, education has been disrupted by new technology (and no small amount of political and social disruption too).

Howard Finberg one of the directors at the  American Poynter institute told an audience at the European Journalism Centre that Journalism education is at its own inflection point. He sees one possible response to this as 

 the unbundling of a journalism education from a journalism degree. Think about the unbundling of news and information from the traditional mass media delivery methods, such as a newspaper or television broadcast.

He questions who we care about the most in journalism education claiming that making about the faculty the center of the decision making process is a recipe for what Eric Newton at the Knight Foundation refers to this as a “symphony of slowness.

There is an element of the Utopian in a lot of the rhetoric around this idea; the idea that the internet will solve the problem; it will make information accessible to everyone. But there is also more than a good deal of commercial concern, often unspoken; can we make money?

One of the unbundling projects at Poynter’s News U (one that Finberg cites) charges $65 for their introduction to journalism module but (as of yesterday) it’s only available to registered students at Florida state.

In one sense might not seem so revolutionary when it’s not quite as unbundled as the ideal would have it – it’s more an extra to the Florida degree bundle. But the level of student engagement tells a story about the way that people want to learn as much as the state of the industry in general tells us about the way people want to consume news.

So, like the journalism industry, the education industry looks to change the way we do things.

Clearly that’s as much about the way we teach as what we teach.

For the progressives, looking to the Internet enabled mass teaching movement, that’s as much about understanding that we need to engage with more than our students. We need to open up and engage with the community around us. Now I bet that does sound familiar to the industry people in the room…

A popular peg for this is the teaching hospital analogy. The idea of learning by doing is not new in journalism – education or industry. But the importance of community engagement comes idea comes from a heavy commitment to the Civic and participatory Journalism movements: It can’t just be an issue of practicing on the community it has to be practicing with them.

Digital as well as media literacy often go hand in hand in civic journalism.  Alberto Ibargüen, Knight Foundation’s president and CEO commented on the importance of this (as he said thanks for a whopping great grant to help facilitate it):

“In the 21st century, successful communities will be those who can best connect with each other and the world using digital media. ”

The connection between what often gets called Media literacy and democracy is one that journalism has never been afraid to co-opt in to the formulation of its own identity the fourth estate. In that sense I suppose we could also say media literacy has never been too far removed from discussions of media ethics  – You need to understand what and how journalism works to be properly critical of it. A challenge for journalism at the best of times let alone, at least in the UK, in this post-Leveson world. 

So the idea is that we (journalism education) should educate people to the way we do things (essentially the practical stuff) in journalism as well as equip them to understand the way what we do affects their world is not just a key part of us surviving the disruption but a key part of sustaining democracy.

Enabling a plurality of voices is something that is meant to be part of what we do in journalism. But what is being suggested here is that we are also about aiming people to do it without us – to fill the gaps. It should be part of journalism educations job to enable the bottom-up corrective for the mostly top-down perspectives of the news media.’ Gans (2003:103).

This perspective inevitably gives rise to the idea of citizen journalism – trust me, it does!
And in that conversation about the way we teach this new cohort of semi-journalists to be media literate (how gloriously pompous is that!), draws our attention to the elephant in the room : Who we should be teaching?

So, as much as the journalist of the future may well be:

an innovative, social media savvy, data aware, community-connected, curator, working across multiple platforms…

 they may also be someone:

…who doesn’t work for a media organisation.

Perhaps we could call it unbundling journalism from the media.

At the very least its about finding a different way to talk about it that isn’t bundled so heavily with the institutions of journalism and journalism education. That’s why I like to think about the idea that journalism is a diagnosis not a profession

To finish, let me make sense of the big toe reference. I want to talk about gout.

Gout is a disease that’s typified by an inflamed, red, very painful big toe. It’s been referred to as a noble disease. One respect a noble disease is one that comes with no stigma – like cancer but unlike mental illness say. But in the case of gout, noble means: distinguished by rank or title.

It’s been called the patrician malady – “Historically seen as a disease afflicting upper-class males of superior wit, genius, and creativity” The The Oxford Illustrated Companion To Medicine notes that the Roman poets suffered a lot from Gout and notes that there was an effort to frame it as a noble disease whose sufferers could trace their family line back to Ulysses (Odysseus) the legendary Greek king of Ithaca. You know, the big poem.

The truth is it’s called that because you often get it from a rich and privileged diet – over eating and too much rich wine.  It’s confusing noble with privileged and trying to spin the negatives.

In some ways I think we have come to think of Journalism as a noble disease. You’re special if you have it. Second only to “kings and poets”.

Of course anyone can catch gout just as, in my view, anyone can catch journalism. Maybe we are guilty of building up a structure that simply sustains a romantic view of  what has essentially become an industrial disease.

When we talk about the future of journalism it’s clear we need to think about journalism differently. The core concepts of democracy and social responsibility are coming to the fore and in a practical and collaborative way that goes beyond simply claiming them as defining parts of a professional ethic – they are symptoms.

Clearly many people think that it’s the job of education to break out of the sanatorium business and help those who have caught it to manage the condition in a way that is beneficial to them and society. In that sense  trying to understand the future of journalism is an exercise in epidemiology rather than forensic pathology.

Notes:

As seductive as the teaching hospital model may be I don’t think it quite holds up in respect to its community service remit beyond filling a media hole.

When questioned about an apparent contradiction in the idea of caring about the people you work with in a community – something I talked about in developing the broad themes I teach, I made the point about the difference between the care and commitment an individual journalist makes to a person or audience vs a media organisation, both different in their own way, For me the model of the individual, socially responsible journalist is the more robust in the future. The institutional social responsibility of the media organisations (you get what we think is best for you) is, for me, one of the key factors in msm’s engagement problems.

You have no idea how long I have been searching for diseases to use as an analogy. I think gout works well but maybe the fact that I looked so long says that the whole endevour may not be worth the effort.Sorry for those who have had to sit through me trying it out and  I’d love to know your thoughts on the whole thing.

Image from Wikicommons and officialpsds

Interesting stuff I’ve seen in January

Stuff and such from the netwebs that caught my eye.

And a few links on the whole National Newspapers, links are copyright stuff

  • http://bit.ly/RwjeLu – Statement from National Newspapers of Ireland on copyright, online news articles and linking
  • http://shar.es/4opLO – Irish newspapers issue statement clarifying that they really are being a bit silly

Ivory tower dispatch: Fast and slow journalism and innovation must die

Al Jazeera English newsroom
The Al Jazeera English newsroom – Not available as a google app  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A diverse range of things in the ivory tower this week.

Balancing personal and professional social media identities was still on the agenda – the mantra was you might not use it but your boss might want you to. Thinking ‘how would I do this if I was doing it for someone else’ when you use social media as a journalist is, in my view, a good discipline.

But it also got me thinking about the perverse way that social media allows a newsroom, even with limited resources, to spread themselves far and wide and then begins to squeeze those resources all the harder in managing that reach.

From a personnel perspective sites like IFTTT and other social media aggregation tools and apis help. But often they strike me a bit like consolidating a debt. You get so many social media outputs that you have to pull them in to one place. The you start to ‘spend’ until you need to consolidate again.  Put that in a newsroom setting and the problem can get worse. Imagine the social media debt you could get in to if one person holds all the details of your social media account then leaves!

So I spent some time looking at using things like Google apps to help create shared resources to manage this kind of thing. Simple things like having a spreadsheet that has all of the social media accounts of reporters and journalists in one place and delegation of gmails to share accounts. But on the whole managing a newsroom might not be as easy as it sounds with Google apps as the sharing of resources and the capacity for accessing multiple accounts is not as straightforward as you’d think.

If you’re thinking about using Google apps (like Drive not the enterprise stuff) to manage the newsroom, my advice is to look hard at your newsroom structure first.

Quick, slow ,quick, quick slow

Paul Bradshaw’s 21st Century newsroom redux was a timely and useful addition to my lectures around the idea of digital narratives. That was the rather broad title I set myself as I thought about the two (opposing) views of digital storytelling;  The fast and furious, stream driven, exploded pyramid of news Vs more considered long-form journalism.

In principle its easy to contrast the pressures of diving in to the stream with all it’s risks with the apparently more considered and (to some) more journalistic long form. I took a little step back in to the idea of slow journalism. It’s a thoroughly pompous concept in my view, but it’s interesting (and frustrating) to see some of the same discourse applied to support long-form.  It was an interesting coincidence that one of ‘slow’ journalism’s early suporters was none other than David “£2 pound tax” Leigh.

Ultimately though it’s a contrived contrast. In practice you can (and often have to) approach the process of journalism wary of both sides of the coin. Paul’s update to the model helps reinforce that – amazing what more arrows can do! – and was required reading this week.

The whole exercise reinforced for me the idea that in a broad context, thinking multimedia is the way to go when approaching digital narratives. Note the word digital there, not online. Yes, online is a unique medium. For journalists, who are mostly dealing with the stock website page, it comes with some very specific requirements for writing and story construction. But if we are looking to embrace the full opportunity of rebuilding our content across platforms then we still need to address the issue of how we create and curate our multimedia not just our interactions with the audience and their interactions with our content.

All of that echoed several lectures/conversations I had around more general concepts that I thought where touchstones in digital thinking at the moment:

  • Social media
  • Curation and real-time curation
  • Community
  • Data journalism
  • Multiplatform
  • Innovation
  • Entrepreneurship

Nothing ground breaking there, but I think there is an increasingly clear narrative to connect them. Think about how long-form relies on curation and an understanding of community to create content that takes advantage of tablets (where much of the time-shifted reading people engage in happens). It’s a narrative I’ve been trying to get straight for a little while. You can ask the students if they think I’m getting there. But if you want to see a first go, this is me at this years Nordic media festival giving it a go (it’s also the first time the Journalism is a diagnosis not a profession idea get’s an airing)

And finally, in discussing this, and perhaps trawling through endless kickstarters brandishing their slow journalism credentials like a battered copy of fear and loathing, made me realise just how much I hate the word innovation and how hollow it is.

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The commercial blindspot:Funding news

The idea of the weekend – a £2 levy on broadband that can be used to pay for journalism.

There are almost 20m UK households that are paying upwards of £15 a month for a good broadband connection, plus another 5m mobile internet subscriptions. People willingly pay this money to a handful of telecommunications companies, but pay nothing for the news content they receive as a result, whose continued survival is generally agreed to be a fundamental plank of democracy.

A £2 levy on top – collected easily from the small number of UK service providers (BT, Virgin, Sky, TalkTalk etc) who would add it on to consumers’ bills – would raise more than £500m annually. It could be collected by a freestanding agency, on the lines of the BBC licence fee, and redistributed automatically to “news providers” according to their share of UK online readership.

The logic being, I suppose, that all these big broadband companies make all this money from our hard-earned content, isn’t it about time they paid. Oh, and you consumers need to get that idea of free out of your mind as well.

Roy Greenslade thinks it’s a great idea but there are problems.

Of course there are problems to overcome, such as persuading the various service providers – BT, Virgin, Sky, TalkTalk et al – to become “tax collectors” for news outfits. But a case can be made that they benefit from news production.

The other concern is about big media getting benefits unavailable to start-ups. But I imagine there could be a mechanism to distribute a portion to them as well.

I’m not surprised by the prevailing argument – the web is stripping journalism of it’s inherrent value so they should pay. As much as people would love to think we are beyond it, the anti-digital curmudgeon class still exists in journalism.

I’m more surprised. No staggered by the willful act of ignorance required to simply dismiss the issue of what would essentially be a bail out .

It’s a chilling thought that some of the best, most respected and senior journalists around can still flick a switch in their heads that separates the ‘journalism’ that they do from the organisations that they work for. That somehow journalism transcends the reality of money.

I’m not sure if it’s a blindspot (so steeped in journalism they fail to see the building and infrastructure around them) or blinkers (that many still have a hard-on for making evil digital pay). Whatever it is the idea is as sad for the attitudes it highlights as it is misguided.

Update: Dominic Ponsford has decided that David Leigh’s broadband tax plan is bonkers . But his article is just as bad. Instead of taxing broadband he wants to tax Google.

How well would Google do without all the free editorial content which it is indexing I wonder?

I think (and I might be wrong) they’d be ok, but I digress. Yes, the media benefits from Google…

But with Google UK ad revenues set to top £3bn this year the newspaper industry owners are increasingly looking like householders who, having been woken in the night by burglars, rush downstairs to make them a cup of tea before helping them into their van with the flatscreen TV and the silverware.

The logic might appeal if you are frustrated at the lack of solutions to the complex issue of sustaining journalism. But replacing broadband with google is just as simple and transparent.

More: This response to the original idea is brilliant.

 

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News sites should be Islands in the stream

Islands in the stream
That is what we are
No one in-between
How can we be wrong

Dolly Parton! Well, actually the BeeGees (well if we are being really pedantic Hemingway). What the hell is that about Andy!

Well, Mary Hammilton (a must follow @newsmary on twitter) highlighted a post by entrepreneur, writer and geek living imploring us to stop publishing webpages and start publishing streams:

Start moving your content management system towards a future where it outputs content to simple APIs, which are consumed by stream-based apps that are either HTML5 in the browser and/or native clients on mobile devices. Insert your advertising into those streams using the same formats and considerations that you use for your own content. Trust your readers to know how to scroll down and skim across a simple stream, since that’s what they’re already doing all day on the web. Give them the chance to customize those streams to include (or exclude!) just the content they want.

I found it a little bit of a mish-mash really. In principle, lots to agree with but the practice was less clear. It makes sense if you’re in to developing the ‘native clients’ but harder to quantify if your’e a content creator.

More interesting was the twitter discussion it generated between Mary and her Guardian colleague Jonathan Haynes (the equally essential @jonathanhaynes) which I hitched my wagon to.  Haynes didn’t agree with the premise of the post and that generated an intersting discussion.

I’ve created a storyfy below but it got me thinking about some general points which are a little ‘devils advocate':

  • What is this stream anyway – is it the capacity to filter  or is the depth and breadth of content you have to filter. I would say it’s the latter. Facebook and Twitter are streams because of the sheer weight of numbers and diversity of users.
  • Why be the stream when you can be part of it – Part of what Anil posted about was making stuff available to use in streams. I can’t disagree with that but it strays in to the idea of feeding the content ecosystem that, in blunt terms, is often played as parasitic. For all the advocacy of allowing user control, the one thing news orgs are still loathed to do is move people outside the site. Is looking at new ways to recreate the stream experience within a site simply a way of admitting that you aren’t really part of the stream?
  • Are you confusing your consumption habits with your users – whilst the stream might be useful for information pros like journos is it really what consumers want for their news. The stream suits the rolling nature of journalism. Not in the broadcast sense, just in the sense of ‘whats new’. Do your audience consume like you do?
  • Are you removing the value proposition of a journalist? – by putting the control of the stream in the hands of the user are you doing yourself out of a job. I know what the reply to that will be: “No, because the content of the stream will be done by us and  we will curate the stream”. Well in that sense it’s not a stream is it. It’s a list of what you already do. Where’s that serendipity or the compulsion to give people what they need (to live,thrive and survive) rather than what they want?
  • Confusing presentation with creation - That last point suggests a broader one. You can’t simply repackage content to simply ride the wave when your core business different. It’s like calling a column a blog – we hate that don’t we. So why call a slightly different way of presenting the chronology of content a stream?

That’s before we have even got to the resource issue. News orgs can’t handle the social media flow as it is.

So, Islands in the stream?  Well, thinking about the points above, especially the first one, what’s wrong with being something different. What’s wrong with being a page is world of updates.  What’s wrong with being a place where people can step out of the stream and stay a while to dry off and get a bit of orientation.

What should news sites be – pages or streams

Entrepreneur, writer and geek Anil Dash has posted a request that people stop publishing pages and start creating streams.

Storified by Andy Dickinson · Wed, Aug 15 2012 04:17:12

Stop Publishing Web PagesMost users on the web spend most of their time in apps. The most popular of those apps, like Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, Tumblr and others,…
Start moving your content management system towards a future where it outputs content to simple APIs, which are consumed by stream-based apps that are either HTML5 in the browser and/or native clients on mobile devices. Insert your advertising into those streams using the same formats and considerations that you use for your own content. Trust your readers to know how to scroll down and skim across a simple stream, since that’s what they’re already doing all day on the web. Give them the chance to customize those streams to include (or exclude!) just the content they want.
An interesting post which generated some interesting discussion when Guardian Journo Mary Hamilton posted it to twitter. 
@newsmary I *hate* that piece. Am I the only person left who likes the web, and webpages, and tolerates apps whilst sincerely hating them?Greg Callus
@Greg_Callus No, I don’t think you are. But I do think there’s room for other presentations as well as single static URL.Mary Hamilton
@newsmary There is, I just hate the Appify movement & ‘streams’. And there’s a reason Guardian Network Front isn’t RSS feed of our content.Greg Callus
@newsmary Where’s the evidence readers ‘like’ streams & apps? Rather than utility sacrificed for convenience b/c that’s what mobile could doGreg Callus
@Greg_Callus Where’s the evidence they don’t? Don’t think people are using Facebook/Tumblr etc while disliking the approach that much.Mary Hamilton
@newsmary Drop/plateau in Facebook numbers since move from Profile to Timeline? Not universal but thnk his claim they ‘like streams’ not metGreg Callus
@Greg_Callus But significant rise since the introduction of the news feed, which is a stream.Mary Hamilton
@newsmary Touche! Thing is I love Twitter as a stream. Where chronological key, it works (like comments). Where content needs hierarchy, notGreg Callus
@Greg_Callus Yeah, there are def some big issues with streams wrt hierarchy – but also with pages too. It’s not a solved problem.Mary Hamilton
It wasn’t the only chat. Mary’s tweet had already attracted the attention of her Guardian colleague Jonathan Haynes who took issue with the basic premise.
@newsmary no! Much more important is: Stop thinking you’re the medium when you’re the content provider!Jonathan Haynes
@JonathanHaynes Different issues, surely? You can be a content provider with a stream.Mary Hamilton
@newsmary what’s a stream Mary, what’s a stream? it’s a load of contentJonathan Haynes
@JonathanHaynes Compared to a flat page, it’s a different way of organising that content. That’s not a difficult distinction…Mary Hamilton
@newsmary it’s the same content! *head desk*Jonathan Haynes
@JonathanHaynes And the point of the piece I linked is that news orgs should present it differently. Struggling to see your point.Mary Hamilton
@JonathanHaynes Compared to a flat page, it’s a different way of organising that content. That’s not a difficult distinction…Mary Hamilton
@newsmary present it how? it’s presented in every way alreadyJonathan Haynes
@alexhern @newsmary *head desk*Jonathan Haynes
I wondered whether, given the content hungry nature of the stream if media orgs had the resource or know-how to take Dash’s advice.
@newsmary @jonathanhaynes also the issue here that stream implies a constant flow. A mechanism of displaying constantly changing content.Andy Dickinson
@newsmary @jonathanhaynes not sure that most orgs can promise that without USB and sm. something most have no talent or resource for.Andy Dickinson
@digidickinson @newsmary indeedJonathan Haynes
Mary didn’t think that was the issue. It was more about what you did with what you had and how people used it.
@digidickinson @JonathanHaynes Not certain that’s true – using a single blog as the example. More talking about customisation & user flow?Mary Hamilton
@newsmary @digidickinson how does a blog show importance? it’s just a stream.Jonathan Haynes
@JonathanHaynes Sticky posts, design highlights. Not a new problem.Mary Hamilton
But that still didn’t answer the core question for me – where does the content needed to create a stream come from?
@JonathanHaynes @newsmary that’s about relevance- is timeliness relevance or curation. Can see a case for chronology but still needs ‘stuff’Andy Dickinson
@JonathanHaynes @newsmary stuff that is new to appear ‘chronologically’Andy Dickinson
Jonathan was still struggling with the idea of the stream
@newsmary @digidickinson then how is that a stream?Jonathan Haynes
@JonathanHaynes @digidickinson How is a blog a stream if it has sticky posts? *headdesk*Mary Hamilton
I could kind of see Jonathan’s point.
@newsmary @jonathanhaynes slightly different issue there. One to watch as you are talking about subverting (damming it with sticky posts)Andy Dickinson
@newsmary @jonathanhaynes that changes the consistency of presentation for publishers sake, without the users permission. Breaks the premiseAndy Dickinson
@newsmary @jonathanhaynes like twitter being able to keep one tweet at top of your feed when it suitedAndy Dickinson
But Dan Bentley pointed out that there are a number of sites that seem to do ‘the stream’ well. 
@digidickinson @newsmary @jonathanhaynes you can stream content and still tell people what’s important http://itv.co/NDpTxdDaniel Bentley
Latest News – ITV NewsTia accused faces Old Bailey No application for Hazell bail by Jon Clements – Crime Correspondent Lord Carlile QC (representing Stuart Ha…
@DJBentley @digidickinson @JonathanHaynes Good example, that. Cheers.Mary Hamilton
But sites like ITV rely heavily on UGC and that’s a big issue. It still comes down to where you get the content from and if the org is resourced to do that.
@DJBentley @newsmary @jonathanhaynes true but the itv example better illustrates the point I made about where the content comes fromAndy Dickinson
@DJBentley @newsmary @jonathanhaynes it’s curating content but it’s still content and it has to come from somewhere at regular intervals.Andy Dickinson
@DJBentley @newsmary @jonathanhaynes that’s not an impossibility but it is a core challenge for orgs – always has been online esp. with smAndy Dickinson
@JonathanHaynes @djbentley @newsmary think that highlights core issue here-presentation separate to mechanism to create content to presentAndy Dickinson
Another example 
@DJBentley @digidickinson @newsmary @jonathanhaynes Breaking News does similar with their verticals (sorry to butt in) http://breakingnews.com/TomMcArthur
Breaking news, latest news, and current events – breakingnews.comThe latest breaking news around the world from hundreds of sources, all in one place.
@TomMcArthur I like @breakingnews style for streams a lot – suits it perfectly.Mary Hamilton
But Jonathan is not a fan of the ITV approach.
@digidickinson @DJBentley @newsmary ITV site is a car crash though. and how a minority want news presented isn’t necessarily representativeJonathan Haynes
And has an example of his own to highlight that the page is not quite dead…
@digidickinson @TomMcArthur @newsmary @DJBentley most successful UK newspaper website is Mail Online. sticks rigidly to articles.Jonathan Haynes
Home | Mail OnlineMailOnline – all the latest news, sport, showbiz, science and health stories from around the world from the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday…
@JonathanHaynes @digidickinson @TomMcArthur @newsmary is the Mail Online a good news source?Daniel Bentley
Another example pops up later on as an aside to the conversations
The Reddit Editundefined
@newsmary @TomMcArthur The news site of the future looks a lot more like that or http://bit.ly/NDsuHw than 240 hyperlinks and 60 picturesDaniel Bentley
@DJBentley @TomMcArthur Yes, I agree.Mary Hamilton
and Mary takes the chance to voice her view of the term newspaper site.
@JonathanHaynes @digidickinson @DJBentley “Newspaper website” is an oxymoron that cannot die quickly enough for my liking.Mary Hamilton
@newsmary @jonathanhaynes @djbentley agree with sentiment but sadly it is still a very apt description of the general process and mentalityAndy Dickinson
@newsmary @digidickinson @DJBentley touché. sorry, news site.Jonathan Haynes
In the continuing conversations Jonathan is concerned that this might be a bit of the thrill of the new…
@DJBentley @digidickinson @TomMcArthur @newsmary consumption and creation are different. and early adopters are not the norm.Jonathan Haynes
@JonathanHaynes @DJBentley @digidickinson Thing is, stream consumption isn’t a minority or early adopter thing any more.Mary Hamilton
@newsmary @jonathanhaynes @djbentley true but danger is going for mode of presentation without considering the mechanics.Andy Dickinson
@newsmary @jonathanhaynes @djbentley number of individuals needed to make a stream vs number needed to present it.Andy Dickinson
So Jonathan asks about a concrete example.
@newsmary @digidickinson @DJBentley so how would that look for "the Guardian" streams works as multiple source and crows editingJonathan Haynes
@newsmary @digidickinson @DJBentley crowd, not crows. what I get from Twitter I want, but I also want websites to show me hierarchy.Jonathan Haynes
@newsmary @digidickinson @DJBentley and content is discrete elements. should be available in all forms but need to be ‘page’ to do soJonathan Haynes
@JonathanHaynes @digidickinson @DJBentley Let me subscribe to tags; filter my stream on my own interest & curated importance?Mary Hamilton
@newsmary @DJBentley @digidickinson you want to subscribe to tags?! might as well have an RSS feed! ;)Jonathan Haynes
Dan highlighted a problem which, I guess, he would see the stream as helping to solve.
@JonathanHaynes @newsmary @digidickinson I don’t feel current news site frontpages do a particularly good job at hierarchy. Too much stuff.Daniel Bentley
@JonathanHaynes @newsmary @digidickinson Google News or the new digg http://bit.ly/NDuNuc do a better job and that’s mostly algorithm.Daniel Bentley
Google News- As the courtroom emptied after Barry Bonds’ obstruction-of-justice conviction Wednesday afternoon, the slugger stood off to one side, h…
DiggThe best news, videos and pictures on the web as voted on by the Digg community. Breaking news on Technology, Politics, Entertainment, an…
@DJBentley @newsmary @digidickinson too much stuff? and yet you want an endless stream??Jonathan Haynes
But for Dan the stream has a purpose 
@JonathanHaynes @newsmary @digidickinson the stream tells me what’s new, the traditional frontpage doesn’t know what it’s doing.Daniel Bentley
@JonathanHaynes @newsmary @digidickinson Am I what’s new? Am I what’s important? Am I everything that has been written in the last 24hrs?Daniel Bentley
@DJBentley @newsmary @digidickinson no, you’re the carefully edited combination of all of the below!Jonathan Haynes
@JonathanHaynes @newsmary @digidickinson carefully edited? How is 240 links on Guardian and 797 (!) on Mail Online carefully edited?Daniel Bentley
@DJBentley @newsmary @digidickinson *sigh*Jonathan Haynes
Frustrating as it may be it’s a real problem and which Mary sums up with
@DJBentley @JonathanHaynes @digidickinson Part of problem with hierarchy on fronts is trying to be all things to all visitors.Mary Hamilton
But, to be honest, I can’t see how the stream would be any better other than to put the responsibility back on to the user. But I’ve more to add in a blog post….
News sites should be Islands in the stream | andydickinson.netIslands in the stream That is what we are No one in-between How can we be wrong Dolly Parton! Well, actually the BeeGees (well if we are …

 

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Journalism is not shorthand for defunct thinking.

I spent the last two days in a room with lots of arts and humanities academics at the Creative Exchange, talking about the digital public space(DSP). There was a great talk from BBC archive boss and DSP guru @tonyageh which set up a pretty passionate (if a little utopian) position for ‘releasing’ archive and how that can build a space where everyone can benefit from access to ‘stuff’

What I found interesting and frustrating in equal measure was the way some of the debate around the idea took on a negative frame because it came from a broadcaster.

It wasn’t that there was a problem with it being the BBC. Quit the opposite. The fact that it wasn’t a commercial thing was seen as good.  It seemed that, a large number in the room didn’t like broadcast as a term. It was mass media, mass consumption, untargeted and uncritical. Not what we do at all. Almost the antithesis of the creative and arts ethos in the room.

That mutually agreed dismissal of the term and the generally accepted anti-cultural interpretation seemed unnecessarily self-serving to me; relegated to the position of ‘mainstream’ simply to be something to kick against and give an idea momentum.

I think the level of frustration was not really because of the debate. Put a room full of academics in a room with the promise of funding and everyone is going to start pushing their own view. No, I think it built on a residual frustration that I have been feeling about the arbitrary way terms are taken up as shorthand for everything that is wrong or creatively moribund.

Journalism is one of those words. 

Journalism is not broken and it isn’t a word that sums up everything that is wrong with the way we make stuff relevant and meaningful to people. But people are using it as if to say, “well, that didn’t work did it. Let’s find another way to do this”

So when I hear people talking about needing to find new ways to engage people (as I have over the last few days in really positive and seductive ways) particularly those who see digital not only as part of the solution but as a diagnostic device, I grit my teeth and wait to see who gets it in the chops to show how fresh and new the thinking is.

Thankfully many (in fact most)people I heard today didn’t. But it happens.

As someone who is involved in journalism I’m happy to admit that there is a lot wrong but let’s not write it off as some outmoded practice to be replaced by robots or simply a failed experiment to be cited by new thinkers.

Much as I like to be iconoclastic, it’s actually quite tiring and, in a world made more pragmatic by a broader cultural and media landscape, a bit like tipping at windmills.

Maybe we should be investing in changing peoples understanding of the phrase. Perhaps linguists will disagree but it strikes me there is more to be had from changing peoples understanding of something than there is in trying to educate them in to new ways of thinking using new, made up terms.

So I think I’ll be hanging on to journalism. I’ll be trying to think of new ways to explain it and make it relevant and you don’t get to co-opt it or dismiss it without joining the debate.

Journalism doesn’t get off the hook that easily. I don’t think we’re quite done with it yet.

 

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Journalism is not a profession, it’s a diagnosis.

 

Conditions for the subs had improved considerably

Thinking about Journalism as a profession just doesn’t work any more for me. That’s why I’ve been thinking that Journalism is not a profession, it’s a diagnosis. 

Stick with me…

Large media organisations are traditionally where those ‘with’ journalism have been kept – a bit like the TB wards of old – in a strict regimen that helped control it. The problem is that over time, journalism has become an industrial disease; spreading through the large media organisations replacing the more benign, older strain.

Now, new technologies and the changing media landscape that have broken down the walls to let the community in, have let journalism out. Now we can see the symptoms everywhere and the diversity might mean that the damaged, industrial strain could be wiped out.

The symptoms will vary – a commitment to telling a story about and for a community not just for yourself might be a common symptom. Some might get the more objective strain. Some the subjective, activist stream. But there will always be a desire to show sources – to be transparent.

Those who are still responsible for running the large media hospitals companies are worried. If lots of people get it, they might say, how are they going to look after these long-term sufferers; the ones who have it really bad? After all, we all know how expensive healthcare is. Lots of people running around with it would overwhelm the system.

But letting journalism loose has had some surprising results.

Although journalism is quite difficult to manage, handled with care, journalism can exist in a community. In fact, injecting it in to a community actually seems to improve its health.

So it isn’t important that a person is working for a large media organisation or not. We should think of the future of journalism as a support group. People who have recently caught journalism (no matter how mild) can come to longer term carriers for support. Everyone is welcome to share their experiences and ways of managing the symptoms.

Those who know me know how much I love to mangle a metaphor, so I’ll stop. The metaphor may not work for you (in fact it may not work at all) but I’m convinced that, until we can release some of the baggage around the term, we need to find new ways of explaining what we do to make it more inclusive. Something that allows for what it is and who does it to both be important rather than at odds.

Afterthought - Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that by letting journalism free that the mainstream media is going to die etc. There will always be a place for those who support and protect the really serious cases of journalism – getting a serious case can be dangerous. But it shouldn’t be an asylum :)

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Daily mail student media awards?

Yeah, wouldn’t happen. But should it?

The always interesting Wannabehacks posted yesterday stating that The industry isn’t doing enough to support student journalists. The post really should have been titled The Guardian isn’t doing enough to support student journalists as it takes a pop at the frankly risible prize the Guardian is offering for its Guardian student media award:

[T]he quality of prizes has diminished year on year: “Seven weeks of placement with expenses paid (offered 2003-2006) is a good way to spend the summer. Two weeks of self-funded work experience is an insult to supposedly the best student journalists in Britain.”

It’s a fair point. Just how good you have to be to actually be paid to work at the Guardian?

Maybe we are being unfair to the Guardian though. Why do they need to carry this stuff? I know plenty of students who don’t want to work for the Guardian. So why don’t more papers step up? If it’s about spotting talent then shouldn’t every media org have a media award?

Truth is there is a bit of black hole out there when it comes to awards. Aspiring journos could be forgiven for thinking that there is very little on offer between that letter writing competition the local paper runs for schoolkids and the Guardian awards. There are actually quite a few – the NUS student awards for example. But none with the direct association of the Guardian awards.

But maybe it’s not about the award. The wannabe hacks post (and the letter it references) suggests that there is more a problem of expectation here.

The Guardian is a very attractive proposition to many aspiring journos. In a lot of respects it plays on that strength; it presents itself as a like the paper where things are happening. But there is a danger that things like competitions exploit that aspiration and begin to suggest a slightly dysfunctional relationship – aspiring journos trying their best to please the indifferent and aloof object of their affection.

Show them the money.

This isn’t just a print problem. The truth is the industry has a bit of problem of putting its money where it’s mouth is when it comes to student journos.

As an academic I see more offers of valuable experience than paid opportunities in my inbox. They tend to coincide with large events where industry doesn’t have the manpower to match their plans for coverage. In that sense there is no secret here, the industry is living beyond its means and it’s increasingly relying on low and no paid input to keep newsrooms running. But student journo’s bear the brunt of that. Yes, they get experience, but not much else.

No return on investment

Of course the flip-side to that argument is that many of those who enter the competitions would happily benefit from the association but don’t put back in. I wonder how many people who enter the Guardian student media awards have regularly bought the paper rather than accessing the (free) website?  You could argue the same when talking about work experience. How many students actually buy the product they aspire to work on?

But the reality is that, regardless of how much is put in, if you court an audience, you have to live up to their expectations – unreasonable or otherwise.

This is happening at a time when those same newsrooms are reporting on the commercial realities of education and how students need to demand value from their investment. As someone trying to respond to those expectations, perhaps I can offer some advice.  Perhaps the industry need to reflect on their advice to prospective students the next time they reach out or connect with student journalists.  Just how much are you expecting them to invest in your newsroom and what’s the return?

 

Twitter: the emergency broadcast system and the journalist

As you may imagine after yesterdays post, I’ve given a lot of thought to how journalists use twitter. Id been thinking about blogging a couple of key points to consider but Mary Hamilton beat me to it in a good (unless you’re Deborah Meadon) post on the Guardian website.

She illuminated a few things to consider when tweeting in times of riot:

  • Unless you can see it happening, don’t tweet about it.
  • Bear in mind that some people are making jokes.
  • Bear in mind that being scared of something happening isn’t the same thing as knowing that it’s going to happen.
  • If you see rumours, question them directly.
  • Get verification.
  • If you see something you know isn’t true, try to correct it.
  • If you’re tweeting about things you can see, be specific.
  • Follow people you trust to be accurate.
  • If you’ve been out looting and rioting, please tweet about it.

Developing the ‘be accurate about tweeting what you see’ point Mary makes an interesting statement:

Remember: if you can see it and you’ve got the means to publish information about it, that makes you a de facto journalist. So be responsible with your power. Be specific about where you are and what you can see.

As a journalist you should know that with great power comes great responsibility.

One way to read that list is ‘if you are going to be on twitter during the riots then be journalistic otherwise leave it to the “journalists”‘ – and by journalist we are saying those who behave journalistically. Defacto or professional.

But could we take that a stage further? Could we say that essentially in times of crisis, twitter is now such an important communication channel that all none-essential users should keep traffic to a minimum. Should Twitter be left to allow the essential users (fire, police and media!) to do their job more effectively? Twitter becomes part of the Emergency Broadcast System.

I know the answer to that is no. Trying to restrict the use of twitter at any time would be like shouting at a hurricane to stop – pointless. The intrinsic value of the network at times like the riots is built on the diversity of the users. It’s also were the value of the ‘journalist’ rests – filtering that content.

But it does highlight one of the challenges we have as journalists using twitter:  not everyone uses it the same way we do.

Twitter without the rubbish

Twitter is a massively valuable journalistic tool. For many it’s a vital part of the process of ‘doing journalism’. So its going to be frustrating when people come along and mess it up. When people get in the way of the process. Wouldnt it be so much easier to find that lead if people would stop tweeting about their lunch? In short, it would be great if people could behave in a way that made our job more straightforward.

But that chaos reflects the dynamic nature of the network – the thing that makes it valuable. It is what it is. So we need to see this and any challenges it brings as an issue with our process.  When things like the riots kick-off, we the media need a different approach to twitter.

That’s not just because (I believe) twitter behaves differently during things like the riot but because journalists do.

Much as I believe that sticking to a basic journalistic process has massive value in social networks for people (journos and none-journos alike), there is an argument to say that just as the media takes on a different role (and a need to be responsible) during events like the riots, so, people who take the role of journalist in particular those who claim the title through employment by the MSM, need change their approach. How?

Well, on top of the good points Mary makes, the best way I can think to develop that is with a couple of questions:

  • Should individual journos only tweet about the event through official twitter feeds for their org, linking to that from their ‘personal accounts’?

Journalists personal motivations for being involved in tweeting clearly came through during the riots and often feeds became a mixture of personal messages and professional information. Normally this mix is fine but when the situation is so serious and the information is so important (and their job as a journalist demands a response) shouldn’t that response be removed from the personal?

Would that better reflect the temporal nature of the event and the powers and responsibilities that bestows on the journalist?

  • Should tweeting of live, ‘crisis’ events always be backed up with a presence on the main publication website?

I thought the Guardians use of a live blog in the riots was an excellent. Actually, in this instance, I thought it was vital. Not only did it give a valuable archive on which to build coverage, it also presented a single place where punters could go and get filtered, authoritative coverage.

Instead of users having to piece together the chronology and facts sifted from the truth and lies in the flow of tweets. It also gave reporters and others something to tweet to direct people away from the steady stream of rumours.

Power and responsibility

I know that some of the changes to process will always be dynamic and responsive; Who knows what the next event will be?

But I know that some of my thinking here (especially in my first question) is being driven by questions about where authority comes from and what that allows you to do. Where does the right to take responsibility for something come from?*

On social networks much of that is down to the quality of the relationship, the quality of your interactions and the value they add to the community.

But at times of crisis it’s not unusual to see the weight of the organisation a journalist works for being bought to bear in terms of authority – one day I am Andy the next day I am the Daily News.  – and that is the journalist changing the terms of the relationship.

You can claim it’s for the greater good but the relationship is still changed.

That shift is a little more fundamental and at the heart of the challenge of working online.

 

* For me that’s something that is distinct from taking responsibility – I can do this because of what I am compared to I do because of what I am. It seems common for people to see it as the act rather than the motivation