Tag Archives: Journalist

Ivory tower dispatch: Social networks are personal

Get off my land

Over the last semester I’ve been spending a lot of time talking about the use of social networks; how and why they might be useful/important/problematic to journalists. But over the months I’ve been hearing an increasingly common complaint from students. The gist of the complaints is something like this:

Stop telling us to use social networks. What we do with social networks is up to us.

The implication is that social networks are personal and not up for grabs as part of the syllabus. Us telling them what to do with their social network would be like us telling them who they could be friends with or what to where. Butt out of our personal lives!

I had to think a little about whether I actually was telling people to use social networks and, reflecting on it, I have to say that yes I was. A bit.

I was telling people that they should sign-up and explore things like Facebook and Twitter because I felt that they were important things to experience and understand as journalists and not just as users. But what I’ve never done is say that people must use their own social networks for that.

In fact I’ve made a lot this year of how you might separate the two things; How important it is that when you do use social networks as a journalist, you do think about how much of you (as your personal social networks represent you at least) you want to see. That might mean, for example, creating a new Gmail account and using that to build new accounts that are ‘work’ related.

The response to that is often, I don’t want another account to manage. Which I find quite an odd thing as it kind of suggest that because you use Facebook to manage your social life you’ll never be able to use it as a journalist  What a missed opportunity!

Person or professional? 

For me, understanding the line between personal and professional is really important when it comes to social media and journalism. There have been numerous examples of people falling foul of social media searching at job interview. And things don’t get easier once you have the job. Stories of journalists coming in to conflict with their masters over social media use are increasingly common. But, thinking about it, maybe there is a case for intruding a little on students personal social media habits.

It’s not just the old standard of employment if you saw you on Facebook, would you give you a job? I sense an increase in the numbers of people finding the content of their personal accounts putting them in a legal (and often moral) line of fire. So in this post-Leveson world where, journalists are having to aspire to higher moral and ethical standards than the audience, isn’t it fair to say that the personal is also up for scrutiny?

OK, in reality, that’s a line I wouldn’t cross. I’m not going to demand to see (and grade) students social media output to assess professionalism. What students do in the privacy of their own social media world is up to them – at least I hope they have thought about the distinction between private and public!  But the idea that this means I can’t talk to them about and yes, maybe make them, temporarily at least, sign-up for Twitter or Facebook is not something I can buy in to. But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the developing norm is that social media isn’t where journalism should be. Maybe we should all just be people. Maybe social media is now ‘another country’ where different rules apply.

What do you think? Am I getting old? Just not getting it?

Picture: Nic Walker on Flickr

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Skillwalls not paywalls

Fern Growing from Brick Wall
Image by pigpogm via Flickr

Tomorrow I’m off to Skillset to talk about their new standards framework for journalism. I’m looking forward to the chat around what skills journalists need and not just because I’m involved in delivering this stuff to our future journalists. What I’m equally interested in is what skills the industry think they need (the framework has been created in consultation with industry and accreditation bodies) as it says a lot about what they think a journalist actually is – what defines the job.

It’s been something on my mind since the newsrewired conference a few weeks ago when the vexed debate of identity reared its head. That debate is best paraphrased as “grumblings on why people can’t be called a journalist” and left at that.

But the skillset visit and a chat with Francois Nel about onions and data, pushed it to the front of my thinking again.

The best way I can sum-up where that thinking has got me is Skillwalls.

A skillwall is the best way I have found to balance the argument (in my head) of what sets journalists apart with the issue of what will people pay for.

In terms of the ‘definition’ debate a journalist would be defined by which skills your average punter/blogger/anyone-you-don’t-want-to-call-a-journo does not have or is unwilling to develop. The skillwall is too high or too much effort to climb.

Skillwalls help define the paywall debate for me in terms that are more tangiable. People will pay for stuff that they can’t do themselves. If you have the skills to do that ,they may pay you. Thinking about it as a skill issue works better for me than trying to assess a value proposition.

The web has become a place where people can do things – it enables. The successful sites are those that enable them to do things it would be hard to do otherwise. Things that would take new skills.

Skills Vs. experience or Skills and Experience

This is where it gets difficult for the industry and why I think recent discussions have been so interesting for me. Yes, the knowledge and experience is valuable but is it a skill? Is going to lots of council meetings a skill? Is knowing the PM’s press secretary a skill? Valuable, yes, but a skill? No. Being able to get that stuff online in an interesting way is.

Unless you can do one people won’t see the value of the other.

It’s easy to be dismissive of skills. They can be seen as functional, low level things. But skills enable. Get over the skillwall of data gathering on the web and you can add the value of your knowledge and experience.

Of course a skillwall is not an exclusive or all encompassing barrier. It’s a peculiar new obstacle/challenge that digital has thrown our way. But it’s also a powerful opportunity for journalists to exploit.

So where is your skillwall and what are you going to do to get over it?

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Any journalist who hasn’t tried Twitter should re-think their career: New Year convictions

The last of my new year convictions I said Any journalist who hasn’t tried Twitter should re-think their career

A bit of link bait really. I don’t thing that any journalist who doesn’t use Twitter should not be a journalist.

But I do think is that if you have heard of Twitter but haven’t tried it then you should be thinking about what kind of journalist you want to be. Even if you try it and think it’s a complete waste of time.

You could substitute twitter with anything from trying RSS feeds,  Plurk, Qik or starting a blog. Whatever it is you have to engage and you have to engage for yourself.  If you don’t engage, you aren’t punishing your employer, you are limiting yourself.

I’m convinced that if you are journalist who isn’t curious about the web then you you may find yourself seriously limited  as the industry shifts or worse still, not being a journalist for very long.

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Interesting stuff for Tuesday

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I thought I would start with a “guess the object” comp. Answer at the end.

Wendy Parker has some good advice about getting started with blogging -Beginning blogging for journalists: Get started, already!

On the geek side of things JVC Pro debuts solid state camcorders for Final Cut Pro editors which could solve the problem of intermediate timelines ( a common affliction of FCP users)

Less geeky but still video related is a post by Chrys Wu outlining 10 golden rules for video journalists. These come from Washington Post video journalist Travis Fox at a recent “Creating Video Narratives” workshop at Beyond Bootcamp. Solid stuff.

From the sublime to the ridiculous.  Joe the plumber is going to ‘report’ from Gaza. Old news I know but, honestly, you couldn’t make stuff like that up could you. Next Obama will send Hillary Clinton over and they will do battle like Mothra and Godzilla over Jerusalem. What makes me more mad about that, and in a more serious tone is that journalists are being hacked to death. Much as I hate to question Joe’s motives. Man, journalism has to be taken a bit more seriously than ‘joe the plumber’.

Maybe that re-inforces Bob Steele’s point as he worries about Ethics Crashes on the Digital Media Highway over at Poynter. It’s a thoughtful piece but the tone doesn’t recover from “Too often we give unjustified credibility to bloggers who are, at best, practicing amateur journalism or simplistic punditry.” Recent events in Mumbai and now Nepal, plus the countless other incidences of violence against journalists and bloggers reporting the world around them should be making this kind of them and us redundant.

On a lighter, but no less interesting, note though is Mark Hamilton who explains how he could get behind some of Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s recent rambles about journalism

The ever brilliant Martin Belam continues to pick apart media sites and their web presences by looking at  how the sites appear when people search for them in Google

And more UK goodness from Lindsay Bruce giving more valuable lessons in community in part 9 of an invaluable series on Paul Bradshaws Online journalism blog

Meanwhile Pat Thornton calls for more innovation in the user interface of news sites. I think he is right but it may be a difficult balance between convention – already established – more depth which you could deliver as effectivly with a better relationship with the print product. But that takes us multi-platform and away from Pat’s point. Worth a read

Read/Write web’s How to: Build a Social Media Cheat Sheet for Any Topic has been popping up across the place with glowing recomendations. Well worth a look. As is their article on Mobile TV.

Aspiring web journos can get a glimpse of life as it could be as the NYtimes profiles the renegade cybergeeks who may just save the paper. (wasn’t that the plotline of the last Die Hard?)  It feels a bit 90210 to me. By which I mean, this is how the beutiful people do journalism. But read it with a less cynical eye and there is some nice insight.

And the picture? It’s one of several arty shots of Fabian Mohr’s new FlipHD. He has more nice pics and some test movies on his site. Go and have a look.

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Interesting and motivating stuff

I’m involved in two days of an exciting Meld project and as part of that I am showing ( or may mention) a number of bits of technology and services. I needed a place to put the links to access them and thought I would share them here.

It’s all stuff that has made me go ‘wow’ and/or made me think ‘that would be great for journalists if…’. Of course there are lots of other things – the blog really helps collect and remember them – so if you have things that fall in to the ‘must see’ inspiration. I’d love to see them.

Photosynth

I love this stuff as it offers an interesting way for ugc to be contextualized and then inhabited. Nodes of content – photos – that each has their own story used to build up a bigger picture. The very definition of the way CJ should work .

A couple of links here to the original Photo tourism applet and then the Photosynth version in a similar vein. Also a neat demo of the Seadragon technology

and the TED presentation by Blaise Aguera y Arcas around Photosynth.

360 video

I love the Google street view stuff and this builds on the concept. Immersive media have a very impressive looking bit of hardware (although low-fi versions are around) and a few examples that, perhaps, hint at the uses a journalist may find in interacting with this stuff if not generating it themselves. (look about 2mins in)

News/editorial games

The Political machineOkay, breakout with news headlines may make MSNBC’s claim to have invented a whole “newly invented genre of ‘news gaming’” a bit hard to swallow. But it is good fun.

Games have started to seep in to journalism consciousness. A version of the Neverwinter nights has been used to train journalists and the games ideas that sprang from that project

But it isn’t all just retro-gaming or journalism training. Editorial/issue games are more and more visible.

Whether it’s highly polished stuff like The Political Machine or influenced by single issues that resonate like Police brutality, September 12th or the raft of issue games from Persuasive Games.

There are loads of serious games out there covering the kind of stories and issues that journalists are. This is where I really think we need to be exploring much more.

Wii news channel

Speaking of games. I know there are other consoles out there but I just got a Nintendo wii. The news channel is pretty straightforward in what it does (streams AP content) but the way it does it is pretty cool. Putting journalism in an environment (like throwing the digital newspaper on the gaming lawn) seems to me an area that is being neglected in the msm’s attempts to ‘own the platforms’.

And the old wii, like the iphone and PSP, is getting platform friendly content.

Digital narratives

The Work of Jonathan Harris

Interactivity and multimedia are part of the reason why the web has become so popular as a journalism platform. Seminal work like OnBeing and The Final Salute show just how good journalists are at telling stories and giving stories a voice. Of course other storytellers have embraced the platform. The work of Jonathan Harris is a particular favorite of mine. Lots to learn and learn from in all areas.

Visulisation

Time Tube

Journalism is getting in on the act with visulaisation whether its infographics with an extra edge or projects using Google maps, tag clouds or something fancy like the Spectra Visual Newsreader app (Kudos to MSNBC for getting another mention).

General shots of stuff.