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June 14 2010

08:46

Martin Cloake/Freelance Unbound: What’s the value of journalism? An online debate

And so last week’s Value of Journalism conference continues, with blogger/journalists Martin Cloake and Freelance Unbound asking whether it’s still relevant to talking about ‘a thing called journalism’.

During this week, we’ll be debating the issues on our respective blogs and we’d like to invite you to follow and, better still, comment. You can follow the debate through the magic of web interlinkage or by subscribing to our feeds.

Martin Cloake kicks off by asking ‘does journalism matter?’…

Full post at this link….

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June 11 2010

14:12

#VOJ10: Local news at the grassroots

The final stream 2 session of the BBC CoJo / Polis Value of Journalism conference; Journalism.co.uk’s session on local media at the grassroots. We’ve got a rather fine panel, if we do say so ourselves: Will Perrin, founder of Talk About Local; David Higgerson, head of multimedia for Trinity Mirror Regionals; Mike Rawlins from Pits ‘n’ Pots; Martin Moore, director of the Media Standards Trust; and Robin Hamman, founder of the St Albans blog and digital director for Edelman.

Will Perrin kicks off, with a whizz through the best of local websites: VentnorBlog, the Sheffieldforum.co.uk, SE1 and SR2 blogs, Perrin’s own King Cross Envonrment and Harringay online. You can find links to these and others on Perrin’s blog roll at this link. Then a look at some new hyperlocal players on the scene, all of which I’ll be investigating later.

Now for a more in-depth look at one in particular; Mike Rawlins’ Pits’n'Pots site based in Stoke-in-Trent.

Why ‘pit’? Because your career was down one, or making ‘pots’… Thus, pits’n'pots was born – with a little red wine and time to help things get going.

In 2008 the founders started to tidy it up and moved platforms: by December 2009, it was up to 1,900 unique users a day. Now it’s getting 2,500 unique users a day.

Why do they do PnP? An interest in local politics; freedom of discussion; a desire to see the city improve; local media were/are not interested in local politics.

The parliamentary maiden speech by new MP Tristam Hunt got a few lines on the local news site, The Sentinel.  PnP meanwhile published it in full, with a link to Hansard.

Rawlins talks about a story they published: the BNP had been using images of a Polish spitfire on one of its anti-immigration posters. Shortly after it was picked up by the Mail and the Telegraph – but not attributed or linked to.

Robin Hamman keeps his introduction to his blog in St Albans pretty short. He does however show us how two hyperlocal blogs have bumped the local newspaper down the Google rankings and another rival off page one entirely. Take a look at what he does here: http://stalbansblog.co.uk.

Now the Media Standards Trust’s Martin Moore talks about two areas which need development. Research into local news and how its democratic role has changed over time. He talks about other developments – he is surprised by Jeremy Hunt’s call for local TV, for example.

Secondly, there’s a need for local open data platforms. He say it doesn’t matter who is doing journalism – blogger or mainstream – but they should have the same access to the public data, rather than spending time, money and effort coaxing money out of local authorities.

David Higgerson from Trinity Mirror is talking about how his titles could work more closely with hyperlocal sites. Journalists often see a hyperlocal site as competition, or as a devaluing of journalism – because it they are often run by volunteers. But, he says,the two sides can work together and get over the divide.

There are “some signs” of that working now, he adds. In the north-east there’s a hyperlocal platform with hundreds of bloggers contributing to it, for example. Higgerson outlines some of the opportunities he sees: a greater degree of collaboration: eg. through content swapping.

Local newspapers could give something back to bloggers, perhaps. Could ‘professional’ hyperlocals (e.g ones that are trying to run for profit) sell or syndicate copy to mainstream media? Support-in-kind is another area for development, he says. Can we as journalists offer help and support to bloggers?

But, he says, there’s a basic need for supporting each other: linking to each other. If material has come from a hyperlocal site, there’s no point in masking it as the newspaper’s own content, he adds.

Now onto questions. Will Perrin says media should engage better with local communities and he says the initiatives such as David Higgerson described are very welcomed.

So, are these hyperlocal bloggers journalists? Mike Rawlins and Will Perrin answer with a definite ‘no’. Perrin says journalists are often ranked as the least “trusted” profession, so why on earth would he classify himself as one…?

Higgerson says that journalists are now able to go more out on the patch, enabled by technology. There’s a lot more equipment to allow non-desk based work now.

We talk a bit about the nastier side of blogging, but the panel agrees the successful hyperlocal sites tend to have high standards, and good commenter accountability.

Perrin says Hackney Citizen is a great example of what you can do with print. Their distribution method was to take a pile of magazines to a coffee shop.  It’s now due to go monthly, from three monthly editions. “That’s grassroots, bottom-up,” says Perrin.

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12:56

#VOJ10 – Twitter is just another outlet, says BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg

One careless tweet could sink the fleet.

Advice from BBC journalist Laura Kuenssberg, who warned of the power of a single tweet to bring down politicians and political correspondents alike. Kuenssberg, who did her fair share of tweeting during the general election last month, is specific about what she tweets:

I still use it broadly for the same things [pre and post-election] and I’m quite strict about why I would tweet. I use it for simple breaking news and information (…) it’s the fastest way of getting it out there even with 24-hour television.

I also use it for the kind of colour you see as a journalist – not gossip, not rumour. These are often the things that get retweeted the most; things that as a journalist you see with your own eyes but might not get to broadcast.

As a lobby journalist you’ve got a ticket to a very small world. You are witness to a very closed world. Its part of my job to reach out to people and give them moments of colour that they otherwise wouldn’t see.

Having trialled using twitter during the party political conferences in 2009, Kuenssberg’s following on the social network grew from around 5,000 pre-election to 23,000 post-election. But it hasn’t changed how she works, she says – just added to it:

Twitter has just become another outlet. It’s highly compatible with my job because I’m normally out and about. It has given journalists more material – not a massive amount, because so far we haven’t had massive breaking stories from citizen journalists.

Social media as a “paper trail” – tracking down the backgrounds of PPCs and following what they’ve said pre-election on Twitter – was particularly useful however, said Kuennsberg.

Although it’s still a small group of people using Twitter, it has shown me that there’s a big interest in what we do. There’s a huge appetite for politics and I think we’re reaching some people who weren’t consuming political news in any way before.

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12:14

#VOJ10: How to report polls – from IPSOS MORI founder

Speaking at today’s Value of Journalism conference (#VOJ10), Sir Robert Worcester, founder of polling organisation IPSOS MORI shared some valuable tips for journalists reporting on political polls:

  1. Watch the share, not the lead
  2. Watch the fieldwork dates
  3. Watch what’s happening: “Watch how the media expresses scepticism of the polls and how they act as if they are gospel.”

And finally: when a politican tells you that they don’t pay any attention to the polls – they’re lying.

Follow the Value of Journalism conference live via our liveblog.

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12:01

#VOJ10: What is ‘networked’ journalism – and what’s its value?

I’m in session 2 of the second track of the BBC CoJo / POLIS Value of Journalism conference. This one is chaired by Charlie Beckett with his colleague Dr Damian Tambini, Times web development editor (business) Joanna Geary, and Mark Oliver of Oliver and Ohlbaum.

Oliver has done research into news consumption. Audience behaviour doesn’t necessarily reflect news silos of old, he says. For example, if they paid for all the sites they consume in one month, it would start adding up. On public value he says: if you don’t have professional intermediation of content it could undermine public value. He’s written a paper for Polis on public service broadcasting, but I can’t find it – I’ll link to it when I can.

Now Damian Tambini: there seems to be a crisis in good journalism. But, some – like Charlie Beckett – are saying it’s an opportunity for a golden age. So, there seems to a crisis but also an opportunity. Crucial to that, is understanding that journalism is not simply an individual activity or a commodity on the market. It’s also a set of institutions, rules and rights. The lobby system for example, has won a “privileged access” in society.

We see that journalism serves a social purpose. Journalism is not just a set of individual practices, Tambini says. It’s an “institutionalised profession”. “This idea of journalism as a profession recognised in law is familiar”. In part this debate is about how new forms of journalism can access funding and other privileges journalists have.

In regards to ’saving journalism’ Tambini explores a few ideas – and whether/how ‘new media insurgents’ can access those privileges of old. “We need to think more innovatively about how to support [journalism],” he says. “We need to think about creating new kinds of privileges and support…” He refers to his paper with some suggestions for how to do this (again, I’ll try to update with a link when I find it).

Joanna Geary says she is a ‘networked journalist’. She asks: why is she trusted? And why does she trust sources of information? She has formed a relatively good idea of how to trust people, as a result of observation. She talks about why she started in journalism. She went into it because she wanted to be “useful”. She felt strange to give her opinion on something she didn’t feel that qualified to talk about. So blogging, where the answer is not definitive, suited her. But when she was wrong, her audience didn’t leave her. She realised that  that was how she would like to consume journalism herself. She thinks that by being at the Times, which is about to introduce a paywall around its content, she has the opportunity to create a “space” online where journalists can contribute as they haven’t before. Geary says it will create “a much closer relationship” between the Times and its readers.

Now we’re onto questions… some highlights…

Oliver talks about “self-correcting” and says he’s worried about viral marketing, in which people are under-estimating the way companies have worked out to use the web to sell products.

Will Perrin, in the audience, suggests Ben Goldacre as an example of ‘networked’ journalism and community. He says Goldacre has shown how you can use the web effectively to show up articles as “bunk”.

Kevin Anderson (who is a pioneer in social journalism) says that even for people have all the multimedia skills there aren’t enough jobs. Geary meanwhile says she’s seeing a skills gap between technology and journalism.

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10:55

#VOJ10: The realities of multimedia journalism

I’m in track 2 of the POLIS/BBC College of Journalism Value of Journalism conference and we’re discussing innovation in journalism, the importance of content and the practicalities of being a multimedia journalist. It features multimedia journalist and notonthewires co-founder Alex Wood (chair), freelance multimedia journalist Adam Westbrook, CNN journalist and notonthewires co-founder Dominique van Heerden, freelance and former BBC video journalist Angela Saini, and multimedia lecturer and VSC Creative director (and also notonthewires co-founder) Marcus Gilroy-Ware.

Once they introduced themselves, we’re onto the practicalities of the jobs.

Saini, who said she got fed up of the daily pressure of being a VJ, says she’s come full circle and is now spending time on separate radio or print projects – which are of better quality. She also notes that we haven’t yet got an editorial layer of people who have actually been VJs on the ground, who understand the realities of the job. The most successful multimedia journalists are the ones who know their subject inside out, she says. It’s key to be niche. As for the freedom now she’s not a fulltime VJ: “I do much meatier stories… than I did before…”

Someone asks whether there can be too much focus on technology. “What does it enable us to do?” is the question, says Gilroy-Ware, answering with a question. There’s too much emphasis on products, he says. Saini adds that she doesn’t see herself as an innovator per se (she’s only just got on Facebook and doesn’t use Twitter) but she’s in the multimedia field. The younger generation don’t feel a pressure to do tech; they do it because they enjoy it.

Adam Westbrook, who has written an e-book on making money online, says he sees enormous potential in self-publishing. But Saini points out the obvious: that her money is still made from the big organisations.

Some very interesting experiences and contributions from the audience: are we misleading students by encouraging them to get in…? Do traditional news orgs understand how multimedia can/should be used…

And someone asks just what is notonthewires; business model etc…

Giroy-Ware says it’s about multimedia journalism being taken seriously: “really embracing the bottom-up cultural change that needs to happen in the news industry.” Van Heerden says it’s about partnership with big partners. Gilroy-Ware talks about Steve Jobs’ ‘Beatles’ business model and says they’re also looking to the ‘band’ element as a possible commercial opportunity.

Meanwhile a ‘Is Content King?’ poll is running behind the panel, up on the screen, powered by UltraKnowledge. Participants can “#ukn5yes” for YES or “#ukn5no” for … NO. The yeses are leading… (I personally find this one a bit tricky to answer, and don’t know what it really means, but that’s probably for another blog post)

Gilory-Ware says ‘make the journalism you want to make’ – chances are others will like it too. It’s a nice positive note to end on, but I have a feeling not everyone would agree with that.

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07:30

#VOJ10: Follow the Value of Journalism conference

The BBC College of Journalism and media thinktank Polis are hosting a one-day conference today to discuss the value of networked journalism, free newspapers, political and government reporting and ‘grassroots’ journalism. Keynote speakers include Channel 4 News presenter Jon Snow and BBC Global News director Peter Horrocks, interviewed by Journalism.co.uk at this link.

Journalism.co.uk is hosting the session on ‘grassroots journalism’ and we will be discussing what new ‘hyperlocal’ start-ups are up to, how sustainable these ventures and opportunities this trend could in turn create for ‘big’ media groups in the local space. In keeping with the title of the conference we’re hoping to move the discussion away from what is hyperlocal or definitions of ‘citizen journalism’ and talk about the value of ‘grassroots journalism’ to the public and the media in the UK as a whole.

For our updates you can follow @journalism_live on Twitter – there’s also a hashtag of #VOJ10 and tweets from the conference in the liveblog below:

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June 08 2010

09:22

#VOJ10: Polis director to publish report on value of ‘networked journalism’

As part of Friday’s Value of Journalism conference to be held in London by the BBC College of Journalism and media thinktank Polis, former broadcast journalist and now Polis director Charlie Beckett will release a new report looking at ‘networked journalism’.

In the report Beckett describes ‘networked journalism’ as a “synthesis of traditional news journalism and the emerging forms of participatory media enabled by web 2.0 technologies such as mobile phones, email, websites, blogs, microblogging and social networks”. It looks at:

The current running order for the event is available at this link. Tickets can be reserved online for the conference, which will be held at the London School of Economics. Journalism.co.uk will be reporting on the day’s events – to follow on Twitter follow @journalism_live and the hashtag #VOJ10.

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