Category: Media

Interactive journalism: Learning by doing – on air

Cross-posted from the Online Journalism Blog.

Around this time last year I wrote on this blog about ‘Generation Audioboo’ and the opportunities for anyone entering the field of digital journalism.  A year on, there are more free tools, and more editorial choice. Google Hangouts are now ‘On Air’ for all, for example.

Students on the Interactive Journalism MA course at City University London have been setting up their own live events. Yesterday’s group ran a Google Hangout, themed around social media use for journalists. It was live on air; you can view it – and the class discussion below the video – here.

Rob Grant, a student on the course, led the discussion with to Sarah Marshall, technology editor at Tinworth, journalist and consultant (and a visiting lecturer at City) and Nick Petrie, social media and campaigns editor at The Times about journalism and social media in a Google+ Hangout.

Rob asked the panelists how to manage social media use as a student journalist: is your presence on social media platforms your CV?

“It’s not their CV but it’s part of their personal profile”, according to Sarah Marshall, who said that if she was involved in recruiting, she’d be looking closely at social media presence of potential candidates.

Adam Tinworth said he is “suspicious of people in this day and age who say they want to be journalists but show no inclination to publish on the web without an official organised channel to do it…”

It’s like a musician who says ‘I’ll play my guitar but only when I’ve got a recording contract’. I don’t buy that you’ve got a passion for this job if you don’t show an inclination to do it when the tools are available freely.

Nick Petrie, who founded the Wannabe Hacks site, and worked at the Guardian and Telegraph before moving to the Times said:

If we hadn’t started [Wannabe Hacks] I wouldn’t have [had] a job offer from the Guardian because they were looking to build niche communities around certain verticals like education and volunteering and social enterprise. If we hadn’t just spent three or four months building a niche community around wannabe journalists I wouldn’t have had any experience of that nature … and to demonstrate my skillbase.

You can watch the full hangout here, and below:

The other group have set up a community journalism themed meetup, ‘Meet the Managers’, in Islington on Wednesday 13 March 2013, also featuring Nick Petrie, along with Hannah Waldram, community coordinator at the Guardian, Sarah Drinkwater, who runs a team of community managers at Google and  Tom Phillips, international editor at MSN. Places are free but are already being booked up fast, so if you’re interested, sign up here.

Judith Townend is a journalist, researcher and visiting lecturer at City University London (@jtownend on Twitter). 

Generation AudioBoo: how journalism students are interacting online

Cross-posted on the Online Journalism blog.

The journalism class of 2012 has a pretty enviable opportunity to get their stuff out there; the development of online platforms like Twitter, Google+, Storify, Tumblr, Posterous, AudioBoo, Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, CoverItLive and Vimeo allows piecemeal dissemination of content to relevant and engaged audiences, without necessarily needing to set up a specific site.

Free technology allows them to find and do journalism outside journalism, in productive and creative ways. To adapt David Carr’s description of Brian Stelter, his browser tab-flicking colleague at the New York Times, we’re seeing the rise of the ‘robots in the basement‘.

While it’s sensible for students to craft and co-ordinate their individual – or group – blog projects, bits and pieces of journalism can be let loose into the world with technological ease – and without waiting for an email from an elusive commissioning editor. You can respond in comments, offer guest posts to relevant online publications, join live webchats – it’s all part of “interactive journalism”. (Although, like the journalists who say all journalism should be investigative, I can’t see how anyone can do journalism without being “interactive”). These tools and platforms aren’t the journalism itself but they enable journalistic research, conversation and content.

Catching the eye of a potential employer is an obvious incentive to engage online (there are the digital stars who shine their way into jobs straight from journalism school – Josh Halliday (Sunderland), Conrad Quilty-Harper (City) and Dave Lee (Lincoln) are among the best-known examples) but experimentation online also helps improve your journalism, as you get live feedback and use the tools to source new information (that doesn’t have to stop once you’ve got the certificate).

City University London launched its Interactive Journalism MA last year and the first intake can be found on Twitter here and are publishing online, across the course curriculum – on their own sites as well as professional platforms. Their newspaper and broadcast colleagues can also be found online (see, for example, this list). I have been working once a week with the Interactive group, better known as the “Interhacktives” – agreeing on the hashtag and site name was one of their first tasks. It caught the attention of OU lecturer Tony Hirst, who depicted their network here.

They have been devising community-oriented journalism, coming up and analysing existing projects, developing content and building up a portfolio of interactive work. As Rosie Niven has noted on her blog, there are potential pitfalls students need to look out for when attempting to interact in the local community and existing online forums. “As well as learning, students and their tutors need to consider legacy,” she points out.

This term, the Interactive students have divided into teams to manage the output of four projects: the Interhacktives site, which tracks social media and community management for journalists; the Data Journalism Blog, a site taken over from a previous student; Islington Now and Hackney Post. The two latter projects will be brought to life during three intensive production weeks, in collaboration with their colleagues on the newspaper course.

The Interhacktives site was particularly lively as they liveblogged, Audioboo’d, and filmed activities at Social Media Week London (#smwldn). Next a couple of them will be blogging and tweeting from the Media Briefing’s conference on paywalls. Obviously, their projects are works in progress (or in beta) – that’s the point – and I’m sure they’d like to hear feedback and suggestions. Likewise, thoughts welcomed on this.

Judith Townend is a journalist, researcher and visiting lecturer at City (@jtownend on Twitter).

A very short history of female national newspaper editors in the UK

Yesterday saw the announcement of Jill Abramson as the New York Times’ first female editor. You might say so what?

But more to the point, why not till now? Former editor Emily Bell could list previous UK national newspaper editors in a tweet, also noting that there used to be a lot of female online editors in the early days.

Actually, there are two in the editor’s chair right now: Tina Weaver at the Sunday Mirror and Dawn Neesom at the Daily Star. And men head the 19 other national daily and Sunday newspaper titles.

I was always amazed when attending media conferences how many male-dominated panels there were – in the top digital, as well as print, jobs.

But let us not forget the first lady of Fleet Street (HT: Adrian Monck), Rachel Beer, who edited the Observer and the Sunday Times in the 1890s.

Anyway, if like me, you’re curious about just how many there have been, see above for a list of UK national newspaper female editors – feel free to edit and add more if I’ve missed any.

My source for the table was Wikipedia and this rather good – and later updated – article in the Guardian by Hadley Freeman.

PS. I don’t blog very regularly on this site anymore – check out Meeja Law for media law and ethics related news and commentary.

Beyond the future of journalism

Predictably, the panel at last week’s Future of Journalism discussion at the Frontline Club didn’t reach any firm conclusion as to the industry’s path ahead. Mary Hamilton has a good commentary here and BBC College of Journalism has a write-up here. Raymond Snoddy discusses Twitter’s role in the profession here.

My own view is that there are many exciting futures ahead, with the development and increased recognition of digital tools. The economic question is more troubling of course, and while the big media companies may still have pots of money it isn’t always used to support quality journalism. Regional newspaper journalists are feeling that particularly keenly.

When addressing the question of building better quality content, it’s more interesting, I think, to categorise news and commentary by publishers’ aim and style, rather than their chosen media form. Good journalism may be found in things not called journalism. That is to say, a more positive vision for journalism may be seen through mySociety’s range of sites and a multiplicity of open data projects (eg openlyLocal), rather than (some) inward looking newspapers, frequently limited by traditional news formats (eg. finding the case study for the story, rather than the other way around). At a conference I attended later in the week, participants talked about ‘small media’ which helped avoid slipping into that boring and pointless blogger v journalist debate.

In my own field, media law research, I’ve heard people raises concerns with the state of newspaper court reporting and the demise of the legal correspondent. But at the same time, lawyers and legal commentators are reporting and discussing more information online than ever. Sure, legal blogs are funded differently from traditional media organisations, but they’re also part of the future of journalism. (I think all of this links to something a recent POLIS research report calls Networked Journalism).

Anyway, there’s a book out on the whole topic and I’ve written a chapter about Twitter. The book is called ‘Face the Future; Tools for the Modern Media Age’ edited by John Mair and Richard Lance Keeble (Abramis £17.95). This is an opening extract from my bit.

Battle of (t)wits? Using Twitter as a journalistic tool

Judith Townend

Newspapers love to talk about Twitter. A search for the word Twitter in national newspapers returns over 3,000 articles for the past year, too many for the Nexis® UK database to count – 1,696 in one month alone. Twitter has appeared in 900 national newspaper headlines in the last year, while 24 articles in the same period refer to “Twitter twits” (see, for example, the Sun 2010). “Twit” may be a milder term than the one David Cameron chose to describe users of the service (Siddique and Agencies 2009), but it is an unfair label. Generalising about Twitter users is as pointless an exercise as uniformly describing all people who pick up the telephone, or appear on television. Twitter is a communication tool; it is the way it is used that defines whether it is a productive or daft activity. This chapter attempts to show the different ways Twitter is being used by journalists, both effectively and ineffectively, and argues that while Twitter does host a lot of trivial activity by “twits”, it also gives opportunity to create good journalism and enables better communication with the world outside the newsroom.

Part of the process

As Jeff Jarvis has outlined, journalism’s product is not perfect, despite the popular myth, and blogging facilitates “beta journalism” in which writers admit what they don’t know, as well as what they do, and invite collaborations that will help improve their work (Jarvis 2009a). “Online, the story, the reporting, the knowledge are never done and never perfect,” he writes. In his view, that does not mean that bloggers “revel in imperfection” or have no standards:

It just means that we do journalism differently, because we can. We have our standards, too, and they include collaboration, transparency, letting readers into the process, and trying to say what we don’t know when we publish – as caveats – rather than afterward – as corrections (ibid).

Twitter is an ideal tool to use in this “beta journalism” process: it can be used to let readers and followers know what you are looking for, to receive tip-offs and ideas and to publicise your work once it is finished. Some journalists have also experimented with conducting interviews by Twitter (Townend 2009a) although this method has its limitations. Not only is it difficult to express an idea in 140 characters, it can be difficult to co-ordinate the timing of answers and questions and involve onlooker contributions. Newspaper columnists have frequently mocked the limits and triviality of Twitter updates – sometimes before reversing their opinion of the service (cf. Knight 2008 and Johncock 2010). However, the word limit is longer than many news headlines and subheadlines and photo captions. Furthermore, the information contained within one tweet can be far more extensive because hyperlinks to additional content can be included in the message.

An extract from Face the Future; Tools for the Modern Media Age’ edited by John Mair and Richard Lance Keeble (Abramis £17.95).

#sms2011: Small Media Initiative conference – the tweets

I’m at SOAS, London at the Small Media Symposium 2011. You can find the programme and more information here. Academics and media practitioners are presenting papers about “small media”, also known as – as the event’s site says – “alternative media”, “participatory media”, and “social movement media”. This Cover It Live should pick up some of the tweets…

Live blog at this link

When does a workie become a worker?

Since I covered this issue on my blog at the weekend and I’ve noticed debate springing up elsewhere (Press Gazette / FSB: 1 & 2) I thought I’d post the work placement guidelines that have  just arrived in my inbox from the NUJ. Here’s one part that jumped out:

Placements can be unpaid provided the individual is not a ‘worker,’ as defined by the National Minimum Wage legislation as outlined below. However, work experience placements should be time limited and should not exceed 160 hours, carried out either full-time over a four week period or part-time over a three month period. If the terms of the placement are such that the individual is performing as a ‘worker’, and the placement is not being carried out as part of a further or higher education course, then the National Minimum Wage should be adopted throughout the duration of the placement. In both cases, reasonable and pre-agreed expenses should be reimbursed.

Unpaid interns seek money back? Good luck with that…

I’ve half followed the debate about unpaid internships and Girish Gupta’s fight against the Indy.

Initially, I couldn’t see how such cases would be successful, given that there’s no contract for payment, and the internships are advertised or offered as such. But the NUJ is bullish. Claim back your cash, it advises me in the latest issue of the mag:

Have you worked as an unpaid intern within the past six years? You could be entitled to claim back the National Minimum Wage, regardless of the terms of your internship agreement.

The National Union of Journalists wants to hear from any former journalism intern who would like legal support from the union to claim unpaid wages.  It could be possible to recover up to £232 per 40-hour week of the internship.

Wow. A quick sum. Before getting paid part and full time jobs in journalism, I did about six or seven weeks on regional newspapers; four weeks at a national; six weeks at a newspaper overseas (air fare and accommodation were paid); and two or three weeks at a broadcaster. 18-20 weeks in all*.

I wouldn’t mind getting £4,176 back now! I probably would have felt more exploited if I’d done longer stretches in one place. While I filed lots of copy in those places, I also benefited from many journalists’ time and help while I was learning/training.

Obviously, I was lucky to be able to do those stints (numerous kind friends/family putting me up in various cities) but I don’t regret the experiences and have been very grateful for the support of some of the journalists/friends I met along the way.

While I can see it’s tempting for ex-interns to go for the Murdochs of this world, these payouts could be devastating for small media companies. So I’m sitting on the fence on this one. The unpaid culture needs to change, but I’m not convinced this is the best way to do it.

It did cheer me slightly (at the same time as boiling my blood) that Tories had paid thousands of pounds for their children to do unpaid internships, as a party fundraiser… Or how about £8,000 to work for free at City AM for a fortnight?**

No thanks!

*{update} looks like any work experience conducted as part of a journalism course would be excluded. Not sure how much of mine falls into that category. Some of the time on the newspapers was obligatory as part of the course, although we arranged it ourselves, and we were also expected to have completed a certain amount of experience before starting the course.

**That last one was for charity Help for Heroes.