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August 17 2012

14:00

6 Questions for Arion McNicoll of The Journalism Foundation

It has been a difficult time for the British press, caught up in the phone-hacking scandal that has meant the death of the News of the World paper, along with arrests of News Corp. personnel, suspensions at Scotland Yard, and never-ending investigations. But from those ashes has risen one idealistic effort to promote free press issues around the world: The Journalism Foundation.

Unlike in the U.S. with our non-profit funders such as the Knight Foundation, the U.K. and Europe have been looking for a white knight that could help support struggling legacy media in their transition to digital. The Journalism Foundation was started last October by former editor of the Independent, Simon Felner, with money from the Independent's owners, the Lebedev family.

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The Foundation's first two projects include a training program for journalists in Tunisia (in conjunction with the City University of London's journalism school) and financial support for a hyper-local site in Stoke-on-Trent called pitsnpots. But the Foundation has also hired its own editorial staff, who are posting stories online relating to digital media, freedom of speech, and the Leveson Inquiry. The site recently ran a first-person account from the Independent's Guy Adams about Twitter suspending (and then un-suspending) his account.

I recently struck a content-sharing deal with The Journalism Foundation, so that they could run our various stories from MediaShift on free speech issues, while we could run their stories that touch on the digital and global angle of freedom of expression. The hope is to spread our content and ideas across the pond in both directions.

I asked the site's editor, Arion McNicoll, six questions via email to learn more about the Foundation and how it plans to spend its grants. McNicoll comes to the Foundation after being the assistant editor of The Sunday Times online, helping the Times build its iPad app. The following is an edited version of our exchange. (McNicoll also posted his interview with me here.)

Q&A

1. How did you get involved in The Journalism Foundation, and what are its goals?


Arion McNicoll: I joined The Journalism Foundation just prior to its launch in October last year. At the time, British press was under intense scrutiny in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal -- a public event that shocked the nation and led to the closure of the News of the World newspaper. Senior figures at Rupert Murdoch's newspaper publishing company, News International, were summoned to explain themselves to the government; the Leveson Inquiry was initiated to look into press standards and regulation not only within Murdoch press, but across the entire U.K. media landscape.

Against this backdrop, and at a time when the media seemed to be running out of friends, The Journalism Foundation was established to promote free and fair journalism around the world. We try to do this in two ways: by running media-based projects that have a positive impact, and by promoting intelligent debate around the big questions in journalism today on our website. My role as editor is to nurture that debate.


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2. Who has more awareness of press freedom issues, people in the U.S. or U.K., and why?


McNicoll: Whether the average American is aware of it day-to-day or not, freedom of the press is a right guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. The First Amendment upholds a raft of important freedoms -- of press, religion and expression -- which simply do not have an equivalent in the U.K. That said, media in the U.K. is deep and varied, with numerous newspapers, magazines, TV and radio stations, and I think the U.K. public is rightly proud of this plurality. The high rate of literacy is mirrored by a history of high newspaper consumption.

The national broadcaster, the BBC, is a much-loved public institution, in which many people feel they have a stake. When the BBC spends money frivolously or in the wrong place, the public actively complains. Many regard the BBC's service in a similar way to how they think about the free medical care -- as a right and an integral part of what it means to be British.


3. Explain the grant process for people who'd like to get a grant from The Journalism Foundation.



McNicoll: The Journalism Foundation looks to support a broad range of projects. From community-based enterprises to broad initiatives, our grant scheme is intended to support people or organizations with specific projects that further the cause of journalistic freedom. Once an application is lodged (go here), staff from the Foundation will review it and get in contact for more information if the project seems promising. If we can offer support (either practical or financial) we then work out how best to make that happen.

We don't have an upper limit on what we can grant (notionally) but in truth our projects have tended to be to the tune of about £10,000 to £20,000 so far. Our initial funding comes from the Lebedev family who own the Evening Standard and the Independent newspapers here in the U.K. This is one of their benevolent programs. We also do our own fundraising though, and all the money we raise from donations goes straight to projects.

4. Do you believe new online media outlets can help cover news lost at legacy organizations as they cut back? How?

McNicoll: I think media is currently in a transitional state. News organizations were quick to get their content online in the early days of the Internet, hoping that they could convert vast numbers of readers into advertising gold. Gradually it became apparent that simply having a lot of readers was no guarantor of financial success. Consequently, many news organizations have begun putting up pay walls and returning to subscription-based revenue models.

In the meantime, a raft of new media news organizations have sprung up offering alternatives to the traditional providers. Initially, the point of difference was journalistic veracity (i.e., people felt old media could be trusted, whereas new media was more suspect), but even that has eroded over time. Various sites such as Huffington Post and TMZ have put considerable effort into ensuring that their news is not just fast, but also accurate. Can such outlets fill the gap left by the decline in newspaper sales? Certainly, but the transition is not necessarily going to be swift or smooth. Plus, the future of news is unlikely simply to be digital newspapers, but something that fuses the best bits of print, TV, radio and social networking.


5. In the realm of press and Internet freedom, which organizations (including for-profit media and NGOs) do you respect in Europe and why?



McNicoll: Reporters Without Borders does a fantastic and admirable job, fighting for the rights of journalists who work in places where simply doing their job can cost them their lives. The Chartered Institute of Journalists does good work here in the U.K., and has been doing it for longer than almost anyone else in the world, founded, as it was, in 1884. The Centre for Investigative Journalism champions the kind of critical, in-depth reporting that makes the rich and powerful nervous.

At a more community level, Talk About Local is an excellent organization that trains people in starting up their own digital publications. And there are countless blogs and citizen journalism projects around the country which are doing their small bit for the spread of free information, many with deeply journalistic sensibilities.


6. How important is collaboration now in journalism, among non-profits, for-profits, public media and readers/community members?

McNicoll: Very important. In recent years the traditional division between people who are journalists and people who are not journalists has been almost completely eroded. Now anyone with a mobile phone can report on the news. While people remain rightly suspicious of the more sinister aspects of journalism, overwhelmingly I think there is still a great deal of public support for the free spread of information -- support which people are expressing through engaging actively with the process of news gathering and commentary. Just last month the United Nations unanimously backed a resolution that Internet access and online freedom of expression should be considered a human right.

While the spread of journalistic practice is an important development, I think the next stage is working out a fair way to recompense those people who work in the more costly or dangerous sides of news reporting: writers and photographers who report from the front line, investigative journalists who spend months on end trying to uncover a hidden truth. But I think there is broad understanding that some kinds of journalism cost money and people are prepared to pay for it.

The interaction between non-profits, for-profits, public media and readers underpins the evolution of journalism, and that evolution is essential to the continuing spread of information.

*****

What do you think of The Journalism Foundation and its work? Can it succeed in spreading freedom of expression ideas around the world and in the U.K.? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He also writes the bi-weekly OPA Intelligence Report email newsletter for the Online Publishers Association. He lives in San Francisco with his son Julian and fiancee Renee. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit. and Circle him on Google+

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August 14 2012

14:00

Channel 4 Gives Blanket Coverage to Paralympics, While NBC Falls Short

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Later this month, the Paralympics will open at the same London venues as the Olympic Games, and for the first time, will get full-day and prime-time coverage in the U.K.

In 2008, Great Britain and Northern Ireland came in second in the Paralympics medals table with 102, including 42 gold, compared to 47 medals in the Olympics. But the success in the Paralympics was not matched by media coverage.

While the BBC, which held the rights to both games in 2008, aired several hours daily of Olympic action on the main networks, BBC1 or BBC2, their Paralympic broadcasting was limited to highlight shows during the week on BBC2, and live coverage on the weekend.

That imbalance between the major sporting events is about to change in the U.K.

When the Paralympics open on August 29 in London, Channel 4 will carry the broadcasting torch, marking the first time the contract has been split for the two linked Games.

Channel 4 is stripping back its entire schedule, leaving just its evening news and half-hour evening soap opera. The rest will offer 400 hours of estimated broadcasting of the Paralympics.

They have been building up profiles of British Paralympic athletes, challenging disability transport issues in London ahead of the games, offering free phone and tablet apps for following the event and plugging into various social media platforms.

Other networks around the world have signed up to broadcast the games, including China's largest national broadcaster, CCTV, Brazil's Globo TV, and ABC in Australia.

In April, the London Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) said the 2012 Paralympics would be the most watched ever.

By contrast, NBC is not broadcasting any Paralympic events to U.S. audiences except for a highlights show on September 16 from 2 p.m. to 3.30 p.m. ET. NBC Sports Network is showing the Paralympics for the first time. But the coverage is limited to four, hour-long programs on September 4, 5, 6 and 11, according to Adam Freifeld, vice president of communications for NBC Sports Group, in an email to me.

He added: "This is the first time Paralympic coverage has been available on NBC Sports Network, the cable network that was rebranded earlier this year from VERSUS."

Channel 4's approach to coverage

Rachael Latham competed at the Beijing Paralympics and holds the European record for the 200m butterfly, the world record for 50m butterfly and British record for the 200m backstroke. But, because of injury, she has moved into broadcasting. Channel 4 conducted a talent search for new presenters, recruiting a number of fresh faces from different disability backgrounds, including Latham.

The 22-year-old from Wigan, Lancashire, was born with Erbs Palsy -- paralysis of the arm -- and said the increased coverage will make a difference.

"It is not that prior to Channel 4 winning the broadcasting rights there was bad coverage," she said via email, "It's just that BBC did not show enough. Maybe the BBC thought they knew what the public wanted and served them accordingly, seeing the Paralympics as having minority appeal rather than something in which the public could have a big interest in.

"In 2008 the BBC approached the Paralympics with respect, with most events available to the viewer; however, there was no substantial background or build-up to any of this.

"Channel 4's belief in the Paralympics is reflected in the amount of transmission hours given to the game and it is their biggest focus for the whole summer. The BBC can thrive on the Olympics and Channel 4 can thrive on the Paralympics."

Despite the criticism of NBC's delayed broadcasts of the Olympics, the Games so far have been a hit on both sides of the Atlantic for both NBC and the BBC, and Channel 4 will be hoping that interest will extend to the Paralympic games.

Regular features on "Meet the Superheroes" as well as other documentaries have introduced the athletes to TV audiences like never before, as well as explaining the sometimes complex classification system.

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The network is introducing the Lexi Decoder (LEXI) to help explain the different categories according to levels of impairments, developed in cooperation with Paralympic gold medalist Giles Lorig.

Latham said the media is a vital way to spread the word about sport and inspire people to participate, not just watch the Paralympics.

"Paralympic athletes train alongside the Olympic athletes in Britain and train just as hard," she said. "So for the public to build up their respect for Paralympic sport alongside Olympic sport would mean everything to the athletes. It is not Channel 4's job to 'turn round the attitudes' just more 'create an attitude'. I don't think the public has ever been given the chance to care about the Paralympics. At the end of the day, if you aren't given the chance to see something and understand it, you probably won't care, and that relates to all aspects of life.

"Channel 4 is giving the Paralympics the air time it deserves and hopefully by doing so people will watch the athletes and understand the sport so they want to watch it. C4 doesn't need to do anything in particular to change people's attitudes, just by the network broadcasting it for the public to watch will be enough for people to make up their own minds and then potentially positive attitudes will be formed."

Social media coverage

Twitter and social media in general, has formed a massive part of the Olympics so far this year, and Latham said social media will also be a huge part of the Paralympic coverage. Channel 4 has always been keen in getting Twitter and Facebook followings for presenters and reporters, but this is increasing with the Games and promotion of the athletes as well. The free tablet and smartphone apps will also allow live-streamed action.

During the Games, Latham will be the main "mix zone reporter" at the pool, interviewing athletes after their races, as well other presenting duties. She had always set the goal of being in London for the Games, but the injury forced her to turn to presenting from competing. On a personal level, she said she is loving the opportunity.

"C4's goal is to bring Paralympic sport into full public focus before, during and beyond the 2012 Games and to deliver a lasting legacy, including developing public attitudes to disability and disability sport," she said. "If four years down the line, people are excited about the Paralympics as well as the Olympics, that will show C4 has been successful."

Channel 4 set a goal of 50 percent disabled on-screen talent during the Games and searched for new presenters to help towards the target. For the network itself, this is the biggest event in its 30 years, but they could not confirm at the time of writing whether they would bid to broadcast the Rio Paralympics in 2016.

A spokeswoman for the British Paralympic Association said in a statement: "We welcome the increased media interest in the Paralympic Games and we hope that, with the support of the British media in raising the profile of British Paralympic athletes and their phenomenal sporting achievements, the BPA can achieve its vision of positively affecting the way that British society thinks, feels and behaves towards disabled people."

Tristan Stewart-Robertson is a Canadian freelance reporter based in Glasgow, Scotland, operating as the W5 Press Agency.

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July 27 2012

17:34

Best Online Resources for Following the 2012 London Summer #Olympics

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The 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London have largely been anticipated as the first social media Olympics. Athletes, fans, and the media shared their voices online during the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, but this time in London, even the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided to adopt a full-fledged social media strategy. Starting with the Athletes' Hub - fully integrated with Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram -- fans can keep track of all their favorite Olympians. The IOC has also created official accounts on Tumblr and Instagram. Meanwhile, NBC continues to announce partnerships with social platforms, which now include Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Storify. All of these social media channels provide countless ways for viewers to fully immerse in the Olympic experience.

We also saw the ugly side of social media this week, as Greek athlete Voula Papachristou was promptly removed from the Games for posting a tweet that was deemed as racist. But hopefully, the vast array of social media options will carry out their intended function in the next two weeks - that is, to allow everyone involved in the London Olympic Games to share more of their stories and thoughts in more engaging ways. And to help you navigate the Games' endless flow of exciting content, the following list compiles the best resources across the Web.

SPECIAL SITES AND PAGES

BBC's London 2012 page

ESPN's Olympics page

Huffington Post's Olympics page

IOC's Olympics site

IOC's Olympic Athletes' Hub

NBCOlympics.com

NY Times' Olympics page

Official London 2012 site

SB NATION's Olympics page

Sports Illustrated's Olympics page

The Guardian's Olympics page

Yahoo! Sports' Olympics page

TWITTER LISTS

AP Olympics Staff list

Automated Results from the Games

International Paralympians

NBCOlympics' Summer Olympics List

NY Times' 2012 Olympians list

NY Times Olympic journalists list

Twitter Verified Olympians

2012 US Olympic Athletes

2012 Great Britain Olympic Athletes

TWITTER FEEDS

BBC News' coverage

Canadian Olympic Team

Great Britain Olympic Team

NBC Olympics

NY Times' coverage

London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics

Swiss Olympic Team

The Telegraph's coverage

UK's Press Association

US Olympic Team

FACEBOOK PAGES

IOC's Olympics page

Official London 2012 page

NBC Olympics

NBC Olympics app

OTHER SOCIAL MEDIA COMMUNITIES

Instagram: @Olympics

@facesofolympians

Google+: IOC's Olympics page

Pinterest: NBC Olympics

TODAY Olympics

2012 Olympic Games

Quora: 2012 Summer Olympic Games

Storify: 2012 Summer Olympic Games by NBCNews

Olympics topic index

Tumblr: IOC's Olympic Moments Tumblr

London 2012's Explore the Ceremonies Tumblr

Youtube: London 2012

NBC Olympics

PHOTOS

The London Olympics 2012. Get yours at bighugelabs.com

Flickr's 2012 London Olympic Games pool (in a slide-show below)

Guardian's live blog

Huffington Post

IOC's photo page

NBCOlympics

Yahoo! Sports

VIDEO

IOC's video page

London 2012's video page

NBCOlympics videos

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NBCOlympics streaming video

Yahoo! Sports video

MOBILE

London 2012 mobile apps

NBCOlympics mobile apps

BLOGS AND ARTICLES

10 Bold Predictions for the 2012 Summer Olympics

30 must-follow Olympians on Twitter

London itself is something of an Olympic Village

London Olympics: This time, Summer Games are about the athletes

Marketers to spend big in social media during Olympics

Missteps at the 2012 Olympics

Twitter Crashes Day Before Olympics

Twitter Embraces Olympics to Train for the Big Time

US Olympic Committee wants Olympics footage out of campaign ads

If you know an Olympics resource that should be on this list but isn't, please share in the comments, and we'll add them!

Jenny Xie is the PBS MediaShift editorial intern. Jenny is a rising senior at Massachusetts Institute of Technology studying architecture and management. She is a digital-media junkie fascinated by the intersection of media, design, and technology. Jenny can be found blogging for MIT Admissions, tweeting @canonind, and sharing her latest work and interests here.

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14:00

Student Journalists Go Global, Think Locally in #Olympics Coverage from London

Amid the thousands of professional journalists gathered in London for the start of the Summer Olympics will be a handful of journalism students with the unusual opportunity to work in school-sponsored teams to cover the high-profile games.

Several U.S. universities have launched new programs to bring journalists-in-training directly to the scene of the giant international sporting event, where they have set up working newsrooms to create content for news media partners, school outlets, and in one case, for the U.S. Olympics Committee itself.

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Boston University's College of Communication, for example, has created a six-week study abroad program that brings 14 journalism majors and grad students to London. They'll primarily be producing sidebar coverage of New England athletes for half-a-dozen media partners.

News outlets the BU team will be reporting for include Boston's CBS network affiliate WBZ TV and Radio. Boston.com, MetroWest Daily News, WBUR's Only a Game, and other outlets in Providence and Worcester, Mass. The BU students will also tweet to their own Twitter account, and post to their own website, which launched July 25.

"We're trying to teach real reporting...It's a great exercise for the students," said Susan Walker, an Emmy Award-winning TV journalist who teaches at BU and is supervising its London newsroom. "The idea is to give them a great education in how to cover an international event, cross-platform."

[DISCLOSURE: I'm a graduate of Boston University's journalism program, but have had no formal and little informal contact with the program since graduating 30 years ago].

Putting games in context; covering 'backyard heroes'

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The student team -- made up mostly of broadcast journalism majors, with a few print journalism majors and one or two photojournalists -- will operate as a multimedia newsroom for the partner sites and its own outlets, Walker said. That means tweeting, blogging, and filing video reports, still photos and audio slideshows, as well as written articles.

Walker also added that the first three weeks of the program were organized as a for-credit summer course into the history, politics and issues surrounding the Olympic Games, with the final three weeks of coverage structured as working internships.

"Student[s] need to learn the context before they go out to cover [the Games]," she said. For example, students learned about the history of women in the Olympics prior to covering one of the first female members of the Saudi Arabian team. They also did classroom work on the Munich massacre, Olympic judges, doping, and presidential politics around the Games, to create long-form reporting projects prior to the start of the games.

But Walker said her team is focused on carving out coverage of Boston's "backyard heroes" at the games. One example is a video report on a Rhode Island boxer who barely missed making the U.S. team and must now decide whether or not to go pro. Another is a report on a local high school choral group that is raising money to go perform at the Olympics.

Walker is under no illusions her student journalists will get big stories that other journalists can't, if only because her reporters could not be credentialed by the International Olympic Committee.

But the challenge of sidestepping Olympics security has already been the source of much resourcefulness in the team's coverage, she added. For instance, students are getting information directly from Olympic athletes who are using social media to share their views on their housing, the Olympic Village, and more. They've also pigeonholed athletes crowding a nearby shopping mall in the days before the Opening Ceremonies. And numerous stateside interviews were also arranged, some with athletes even before they made the U.S. team.

Scripps program an 'opportunity to take risks'

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A similar team of 16 students from the Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University has also formed an Olympics summer abroad newsroom in London, where they will be reporting for a school-sponsored news site and Twitter feed.

Hans Meyer, a one-time community newspaper reporter who now teaches online and multimedia journalism at Scripps, called the school's Olympics initiative "the perfect opportunity for students to take risks. They'll be in an environment where there are a wealth of stories and reporters. I'm urging them to tell different stories than all their counterparts."

His students will report a range of spot news, long-form features, and sidebars on local athletes, and he said he's encouraging students to use as many multimedia tools as possible to experiment with backpack journalism. The stockpile brought on the road include digital SLRs with boom mic attachments, digital audio recorders, and video editing laptops.

Meyer said, "I'm pushing them as much as I can to think differently about their work... I really want them to try something they haven't, such as video if they are primarily a writer, or social media tools, such as Storify."

Like their BU counterparts, Meyer said the Scripps students dedicated themselves ahead of time to researching athletes of local interest, along with issues affecting the games. As part of the preparation, they took a spring semester course covering Olympic history, issues and media coverage, and Meyer worked with them on web-first reporting approaches.

Also like BU, Scripps reporters lack credentials, something Meyers said almost derailed the program before he got offers of help to submit one-off media requests for individual events and was reassured by sports journalist alumni that there were many stories beyond officially sanctioned events; students just needed to keep their eyes and ears open.

For instance, Meyer said he and student Melissa Wells were on a tour bus that was diverted off a bridge, so the two of them jumped down to start reporting, and then put together a soon-to-be-published story on a London cabbie protest.

Meyer added in an email from London shortly after arriving and getting online: "The most important measure of success for me, and I hope for the students, is the experience. As a reporter, I attended only a handful of events where there was more than one media outlet present, but I always remember those events as good gauges of my reporting ability. I could compare my coverage against those of more seasoned professionals and identify what I did correctly, and on what I could improve. For students, I think this opportunity is invaluable. I'll consider the program a success if students come away knowing how they stand in their preparation for a journalism career."

Testing the waters at Olympics trials

Among other Olympics-related programs is one at Penn State, where the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism has a sent a team of five undergrad and grad students to London to produce feature material for the U.S. Olympics Committee's press service, as well as for a school outlet and as freelancers for news organizations (More here, plus a video).

Another initiative involved the University of Oregon. Prior to the games, the school's Daily Emerald had a small team covering the Olympic trials in Eugene, an experiment publisher Ryan Frank wrote about earlier in a PBS Mediashift column.

Frank explained that for the project, "Our big focus was local athletes, especially ones with UO ties. Most of the fans were from within our region." But he added that the team also tried to cover major news and tried to compete with the local professionals and the nationals for the big stories.

The project also aimed for a 50-50 digital-print mix, said Frank. One or two longer daily print stories were matched by a series of what he called short web-based "stub" pieces for each significant event as it concluded. He added that the team live-tweeted almost every development, that by the end it was live-streaming every press conference, and that it developed a stream of user-generated Instagram pictures of the action.

A. Adam Glenn is associate professor, interactive, at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, and a longtime digital journalist and media consultant. Connect with him on Facebook or LinkedIn, and follow his Twitter feed. This monthly column draws liberally from conversations about digital journalism teaching practices on the online educators Facebook group of the Online News Association. The ONA Facebook group is currently a closed group but you can view ongoing conversations (see our group Q&A tracker), or join in via ONA membership.

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April 20 2012

16:17

April 17 2012

13:32

Spain's iPad Mag, Vis à Vis, Shows Growth, Points to New Path

In a small office in Alcala Street, in the center of Madrid, a team of seven young entrepreneurial journalists are working overtime to produce the next issue of digital magazine Vis à Vis.

Conceived exclusively for the iPad and launched in January, Vis à Vis is an interactive, visual and modern publication that wants to reinvent journalism.

The first edition of the magazine recorded up to 42,000 downloads. The third edition was released on April 1, and the team's expectations are very high.

"Journalism is going through a phase in which either you undertake your own idea or you have to conform to the reality of market," said Laura Blanco, the magazine's editor in chief.

Together with Ángel Anaya, she holds the reins of this initiative that forged its roots during their first year at college. The seven editorial staff members are between 23 and 25 years old and studied together in the Spanish city of Valencia. After working on a project involving the editing of a print magazine, they decided to launch their own publication online.

"With the emergence of digital platforms, the entire printed press industry started wobbling," Blanco said.

When the iPad appeared on the market, she and her colleagues realized that it would be a suitable platform for a lifestyle magazine, because it could combine quality content with interactive features.

"In August [2011] we reached Madrid with much uncertainty, but with a lot of hope and enthusiasm," Anaya said. He confessed that the magazine is "his creation" and passionately narrated the gestation process of the idea. In the beginning, the group of friends had to rely on family support to fund their project. When they asked for a small bank loan, they were told that they were "too young to take that risk."

"Free Forever"

Vis à Vis is exclusively edited for the iPad, with all the possibilities that it offers, and a distinctive feature is that it's free of charge. "Free forever," reads its motto.

"Nowadays, it is very difficult to ask people to pay for something they know they can have for free," Anaya said. That is why he bet fully on the digital environment from the start. "In addition, we had observed over the years that tablet readers' profiles were moving from executives with high purchasing power to young readers."

The magazine's content consists of interviews with prominent figures in the areas of sports, television, fashion or gastronomy, presented in a personal "vis à vis" (face to face) setting. "We try to create a special atmosphere with each character. Interviews are always done in a kind of 'petit comité'," Blanco said.



Who's behind Vis à Vis? A meeting with the editorial team. Video: Gina Gulberti


Vis à Vis runs on a basic concept: All content types must be able to be consumed at different times of the day. "From extensive articles that you can read calmly at home during the weekend, up to short and more visual articles that you can rapidly go through on the bus or on the underground, that's what Vis à Vis is all about: a magazine that escapes the ephemeral concept of the paper," Blanco said.

The editorial team relies fundamentally on the power of social networks for its advertising strategy. "Word of mouth worked very fast," Anaya said. The first issue of the magazine launched on January 4 and recorded about 42,000 downloads. In February, the second issue had already reached approximately 38,000 readers within two weeks.

For the third edition, the team has already secured the first advertisements that will finance the project. "Brands are seeing a great advertising potential in the interactivity offered by the iPad," Anaya said. "They are contacting us directly."

Reinventing journalism

Thanks to their enthusiasm, Anaya and his colleagues have gradually overcome, step by step, the challenges posed by a society very anchored in the printed press. Some people have praised the magazine as a great initiative promoting journalism, while others have shown more skepticism with regards to long-term development of the project. Other times, though, some people have become so excited with the project that they have offered to help.

"It is a risky venture to undertake a business in times of crisis. But if you don't do it, you will never be able to aspire to anything better," Blanco said.


image
Laura Blanco and Ángel Anaya hold the reins of the initiative.


While Blanco and her colleagues don't see their magazine's only-for-iPad design as a restriction, they don't reject the possibility of producing future versions of the magazine for other platforms. "We are covering a market in full expansion," Anaya said.

The figures seem to prove it: Last February, Apple registered 25 billion downloads from its App Store, and the recent launch of the iPad 3, or New iPad, has beaten records worldwide, with more than 3 million sales in the first four days.

In a media world that's evolving, Vis à Vis relies on two crucial elements for its success: the enthusiasm in reinventing a distribution model and the obstinate belief in the possibility of a new way of doing journalism.

Gina Gulberti holds a Master's degree in Multimedia Journalism. In 2011, she obtained a Robert Shumann scholarship for journalists and worked for the audiovisual unit of the European Parliament in Brussels. She has worked for different Spanish media outlets such as RNE (public Spanish radio), Onda Cero radio and ADN journal. Her interests include Web 2.0., audiovisual production, European policies and independent journalism. Now based in Madrid, she is collaborating with digital newspapers while working for the press office of La Fourchette in Spain.

ejc-logo small.jpgThis piece was originally published by the European Journalism Centre, an independent non-profit institute dedicated to the highest standards in journalism, primarily through the further training of journalists and media professionals. Follow @ejcnet for Twitter updates, here on Facebook and on the EJC Online Journalism Community.

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January 11 2012

15:20

3 Laws for Journalists in a Data-Saturated World

At the Cyberspace Conference in London in November, Igor Shchegolev, the Russian minister of communications and mass media, referred to sci-fi writer Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics:

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1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

2. A robot must obey any orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Earlier in 2011, after the phone-hacking scandal erupted in the U.K. and the level of criticism of the journalism profession soared, I started thinking about these three laws. Meanwhile, there is a daily deluge of excitement about data journalism - from Owni.eu to the Guardian, Telegraph and New York Times - and about hacking (enthusiasm for the white hat variety and frequent warnings about the black hat flavor).

Some sections of the media want, at least it may seem to some of us, a witch hunt against the rest for practices that have been long present in journalism, and British journalism in particular. Just this week, former editor of the Sun newspaper in Britain Kelvin McKenzie was giving evidence to the Leveson Inquiry about events 20 years ago. Others want to drive so far toward data and ceaseless online information that some of us wonder what happened to the people we used to interview. And if you question either of those, you will be denounced as being part of the problem.

Obsess too much about the technology and you risk forgetting the human beings we report on, and the fact they can easily be trampled under the feet of hoards of reporters surging in their lust for immediate "information" without pause for second thought.

In an age in which "hacks and hackers" are merged into a confused space focused more on data than the people behind it, I want to see Asimov's laws rewritten.

Let me propose Three Laws for Journalists in the Digital World:

1. Digital systems must be designed to protect and ensure, to the fullest extent possible, personal data and its exchange and communication.

2. Journalists must pursue all stories deemed to be in the public interest, even where that may require challenging the security of digital systems.

3. Journalists must protect their sources as well as the innocent public to the same extent as the digital systems of the First Law, where it would otherwise render the impossibility of the Second Law.

The First Law

So-called "black hat" hackers, such as criminal gangs who attack companies for data on customers, obviously fall afoul of the First Law above. But the First Law also accommodates those hackers who deliberately challenge a system to ultimately make it safer.

The Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario published in 2009 "The 7 Foundational Principles" of Privacy by Design, which included as No. 2: "Privacy as the Default Setting ... by ensuring that personal data are automatically protected in any given IT system or business practice. If an individual does nothing, their privacy still remains intact."

While it might be relatively straightforward for companies to protect private information, it is less so for society at large.

Michelle Govan, a lecturer in ethical hacking at Glasgow Caledonian University, teaches a course focusing on attacking systems to find the holes and then patching them. She explained that the key element of legal hacking is having the permission of the system owner or operator. For the rest of us, any information online is not private.

"Everybody has a responsibility for their own privacy," she said. "Where does privacy start? You create your own digital footprint online -- anything you put online is open to people using it maliciously.

"I always provide students with the understanding and experience of the application of legal aspects so they know they have to use these skills for good. It's all about the permission and knowledge of what limits the law sets," she added. "We have legal laws [and some] ethical laws -- it's down to a person's own values. You have to make people respect what they're doing."

There have been plenty of examples of going further with once private information as companies battle for control of as much data as possible.

Such was the recent case of Klout, which was accused of automatically creating profiles and assigning scores to minors. Klout argued that much of a user's information, such as name, sex and profile photo, is already public.

Newspaper or other media companies and their systems would also be governed by this First Law, either in protecting their own systems from criminal hacking, or their users who might be exposed to viruses or other online threats via news stories, etc.

The First Law does not exclude examples such as hackers diverting Internet connections when states crack down on civil liberties, such as in Syria. Because those hackers are ultimately aiming to protect individuals and not expose them to harm as they fight for greater democratic freedoms, they meet the requirements of the First Law.

The Second Law

One of the many flaws in the hacking of telephone voice-mail in the U.K. was that the actions were not in the public interest. There are legal precedents in the U.K. for how public interest is defined, but the behavior of celebrities would rarely fall within those categories, and certainly not when the press goes on a "fishing expedition" for scandal on any high-profile figure imaginable.

Hacking into the voice-mail of a murdered schoolgirl was not legal or ethical. But you could imagine a hypothetical case where if the police were not making adequate efforts to find the killer, or where Milly Dowler had been alive and police were not acting to help trace her; AND at the invitation of her parents, the press got involved and accessed her phone. But that is highly theoretical and was not the case.

If journalists must do investigations -- and there's a recognition we must, even if nobody knows how to pay for it -- then there will be instances where they do breach the security of digital systems.

They might need to prove, as an ethical hacker might, that a government or corporate system did not have sufficient protections of citizens' data.

The Second Law is relatively straightforward if you need to meet the standard of public interest first. There might still be legal challenges after publication, broadcast or posting online, but if you have to justify it internally first, that's a good start. Most reporters know and follow the Second Law intuitively.

The Third Law

The point of merger for these laws, and for the worlds of "hacks and hackers" is the Third Law.

Even if the hacking of telephone voice-mail wasn't illegal already in the U.K., a handful of reporters at the News of the World and potentially elsewhere were clearly not ethically protecting their sources. In that world, everyone is potentially fair game for worldwide exposure, on anything, however trivial.

Clare Harris, former editor of the Big Issue in Scotland magazine and now media and communications officer with the Scottish Refugee Council, said journalists and editors don't always think about the potential consequences to interviewees of their stories going online. While a refugee might be safe in the U.K., their family could still be at risk in the country of origin, where stories about human rights abuses could be easily accessed by government forces.

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"We have to be really clear if we are putting someone forward for interview that it is likely to go on the web and go worldwide, because we are dealing with people who are very vulnerable," she explained.

"In some cases, people would be more happy to speak to newspapers about their situation if they knew their stories won't be online. No journalist has ever asked us if it is safe to put the story online," she said.

But for Harris, bigger questions still have to be asked: about the nature of sources and the boundaries for "private" and "public."

"What is a source now? Is it someone who has tweeted something? Is everything online fair game?" she asked.

Harris' comments are echoed in the Wall Street Journal coverage last year of a Supreme Court case involving questions of how GPS technology is used by police.

During oral arguments, Justice Samuel Alito said: "Maybe 10 years from now, 90% of the population will be using social networking sites, and they will have on average 500 friends, and they will have allowed their friends to monitor their location 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, through the use of their cell phones. What would the expectation of privacy be then?"

How technically difficult is it to protect sources in the digital age? Very.

Govan in Glasgow said information is so easy to extract now, that it can be eyebrow-raising for her students initially.

"If a reporter is trying to protect their sources online, it's limited when you can get Google to locate information for you," she said. "Google caches anything online so once online, it's essentially public. It becomes public data."

The need to look beyond data

Stephen Janis is an investigative reporter for Fox 45 in Baltimore and co-author of the book, "Why Do We Kill?" While data has become more important in journalism, Janis said he always tries to find the people at the heart of stories.

But the people you find also sometimes need protection. He said it is relatively easy to find people on Facebook, and the connections they have, which can expose who you're speaking to as a reporter.

"I've dealt with a lot of sources inside agencies who could get fired for speaking to me. We are all secretive about who our sources are. But my online social relationships could be used to ferret out some sources," he said.

So if it is so easy to get information about sources, what should reporters do?

Was WikiLeaks better at protecting its sources through military grade encryption on its "drop box"? Did they fail in protecting information of individuals contained within released documents when they published everything sans redaction?

Attempts by the Wall Street Journal and Al Jazeera to entice whistleblowers to traditional media instead of WikiLeaks have been criticized for failing to ensure anonymity or guarantee information would not be handed to law enforcement agencies.

If Twitter has been compelled to release information by the courts on its accounts, how should media organizations encourage the flow of information via social media? Does it require, at the very least, warnings in advance so individuals make an informed choice to contact media companies that can't protect them?

Or would the media be better to advise their readers and users to apply Tor software to protect their systems from tracking before sending information?

In the pursuit of faster information and more readers/consumers, we may have forgotten the need to protect our sources, and how easily we leave trails exposing them to risk.

Does retweeting a comment from the "Arab Spring" expose the originator, however anonymous, to risk? Do the images we take from Twitter accounts include GPS tags?

Quite apart from the immorality and illegality of hacking the voice-mail of a murdered schoolgirl in the U.K., how are we using technology as reporters?

If we can't protect our sources, how can our work possibly be in the public interest? If you fail to do the Third Law, you make the Second Law impossible.

Why Three Laws and Why Now?

These questions matter. In obsessing about all the journalism practices used in the U.K. for the past 20 or 30 years, and in the rush for immediacy and intimacy with the digital world, there needs to be an underpinning of something for journalism. Every reporter knows they must protect their sources, even if we have not articulated that well to our citizen counterparts.

T. S. Eliot wrote in "The Rock," Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information? Data is fine. It can be beautiful and elegant and informative. But some data must be protected, and other data must be investigated. The drive to inform must have an ethical underpinning of some kind.

These three laws could be part of better guiding the professionals and those sources -- human or numeric -- with whom we interact.

Robot photo by Flickr user ra1000 and used here with Creative Commons license.

Tristan Stewart-Robertson is a Canadian freelance reporter based in Glasgow, Scotland, operating as the W5 Press Agency.

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September 16 2011

08:36

The Art of Social Change – Why You Should Care

The European Congress of Culture that just ended in Wroclaw, Poland, has been one of the most important European events during this year’s Polish presidency in the EU. Run with impetus, packed with intellectual and artistic personalities, the congress made an attempt to highlight Europe's most important art initiatives. What about this cultural project could be interesting in the context of the NetSquared Community?

Technology Meets Art for the Social Good

I can think about at least two things. First of all, the congress’ motto: “art for social change.” When social change is the goal, the means leading to it are secondary. Many community arts projects already have their roots in new technologies, and the projects presented at the congress were no exception. During the event, I participated in the “Idea Generator” — an experiment inspired by the Social Innovation Camp model. For more than 24 hours, I found myself locked in a designed creative space with 50 other people. I had no Internet connection; they also took away our mobiles. We had nothing else to do than to form groups, think, plan, and work — be creative within this carefully defined setup. Our projects were all art-driven, all supported by technology. The idea was to address a real social need with an art project with a strong online component. A prime example was “e-motion,” the project I worked on myself. “E-motion” is about creating a map layer (in a form of an application). This emotional map would be the result of a joined effort: a week of the tech and art teamwork with young and elderly representatives of a certain local community. After the 24-hour sprint, we presented the results of our hard work in front of the Soul for Europe — a parliamentarian working group of the European Parliament.

 


When Wanting to Make a Change, a Focus on People is a Plus

What I really liked about the project was how in its core, unlike the “real” Social Innovation Camp, it focused on the participants rather than projects. The atmosphere of an experiment, of a performance even, made us feel like we were the artists and the stars of it all. The projects that we were inspired to create were as much about us as they were about the social challenge that we were trying to meet. However, I do not believe that truly meaningful projects can be designed within 24 hours. Great ideas can be born, but not implemented in that timeframe. It seems more honest to focus on things that we can actually achieve in this short period of time. And we can carefully examine our skills, work style, the role we happen to take when working in a group, re-think issues that we find most important. We can also meet people, make connections — all because of and for social change, but the impact cannot be - and never is - immediate.

Europe: The Challenge of Encouraging Diversity and Becoming "One"

The other thing that might be appealing to the international community was a discussion devoted to the topic first highlighted by Zygmunt Bauman during the congress opening speech: "What is Europe?" The European Union, and Europe itself, stands for a social, cultural, and political concept. The idea of Europe, although it is possible to differentiate it from the images that other continents bring to our minds, remains vague, undefined, and complex. We want to feel European because we know that, unless we form a union, we will eventually become unimportant, and overshadowed by the world’s big economies. However, we still have not figured out what this attempt of becoming “one” really means. We all speak different languages, we cultivate small local differences, and — interestingly enough — we want to make this diversity our strength.

Fussiness And Euro-Centrism

I couldn’t help noticing the euro-centrism of the event when I found this little note in the daily newspaper that depicted ECC discussions so carefully: The film awarded with the Silver Lion at this year’s Film Festival in Venice is “People Mountain People See”. It tells the story of Chongqing, the world’s biggest city — located in China — with 35 million inhabitants. Chongquing's population almost exceeds that of Poland. And it is bigger than many European nations — groups of people that were privileged enough to form their own complex cultural identity. The old continent is fascinating, but the history of a long cultural dominance over the world spoiled it. Whoever wants to go international by going European has to keep this in mind. Europe is many things, and all of them deserve your full attention.

All the materials linked are available in English language.

August 28 2011

17:10

New York Times' DealBook: an investor perspective but for whom else?

New York Times :: When the world economic system shuddered and stock markets dropped, Arthur S. Brisbane, New York Times, was left wondering whether The Times should have spent its money not on expanding DealBook but on enlarging its stable of journalists aimed at the wider subjects of international banks and sovereign debt.

New signs of systemic disease emerged last week, particularly in Europe, where the European Central Bank rushed to shore up Italian sovereign debt. Although DealBook ran a couple of columns calling attention to this threat, the developments made clearer that this subject requires in-depth investigating of a complex ecosystem whose inner workings may be just as opaque as the derivatives-larded American banking network that imploded in 2008.

DealBook might help The Times build a niche audience online, but it isn’t designed to address broader issues like this. 

Continue to read Arthur S. Brisbane, www.nytimes.com

July 26 2011

19:25

Your Guide to the U.K. Phone-Hacking Scandal (or 'Hackgate')

From time to time, we provide an overview of one broad MediaShift topic, annotated with online resources and plenty of tips. The idea is to help you understand the topic, learn the jargon, and take action. We've previously covered Twitter, local watchdog news sites, and Net neutrality, among other topics. This week MediaShift U.K. correspondent Tristan Stewart-Robertson looks at the phone-hacking scandal.

Background

To still use the terms "phone hacking" or "News of the World" to describe the scandal engulfing the British media is now somewhat insufficient.

"Hackgate," as it's often called on Twitter, has really been going on since 2002, but didn't explode until July 4, 2011 and has since dominated the news in the U.K. and increasingly abroad.

Without question, The Guardian has been the leader on the phone-hacking story from day one, and reporter Nick Davies will most certainly be the runaway candidate for "reporter of the year" at next year's British Press Awards. The paper's multimedia coverage and interactive features on a continually moving and expanding story are second to none.

The New York Times has also been a leader on the story, particularly with its September 2010 investigation into the subject.

Glossary of Terms

"Blagging": It might sound like a quaint English term, but it, too, is illegal. As the BBC summarizes, the Data Protection Act 1998 prevents someone from pretending to be another person for the purposes of gaining access to private data, such as medical records.

Phone hacking: The technical term for what private investigators, and some reporters, were doing for the News of the World is actually "illicit voice message interception." It's illegal to access someone else's cell phone messages, usually by having one person call the phone, and while it is engaged, a second person calls and gets access to the messages. Most people wouldn't think to change the standard manufacturer's code, such as 9999 or 0000, to protect voicemail, and so it's usually quite easy to access.

"Pinging" or phone tracking: Police can track a suspect's cell phone by triangulation from nearby cell phone towers. But as the Guardian exposed, the News of the World allegedly paid police to access such tracking. If proven, both the bribery and obtaining of private data would be punishable.

Public Interest: When the British media talks about what is in "the public interest," this is quite broad but has a specific legal backing which is referred to as The Reynolds Defense. The full case is here, but Wikipedia has a summary of it.

Regulation: Many commentators, when talking about possible statutory regulation of the press, cite the flaws of self-regulation, which currently takes the form of the Press Complaints Council and its code of practice. But regulation could mimic the Broadcasting Act 1996 which dictates fairness and balance in television news, and can invoke large fines for breaches.

Main Cast of characters

Andy Coulson: Editor of the News of the World. He resigned in 2007 when phone hacking was first exposed with the criminal convictions of former royal correspondent Clive Goodman and private detective Glenn Mulcaire. Coulson later was appointed as chief of communications for Prime Minister David Cameron before resigning again this year.

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James Murdoch: Chairman and chief executive of News Corp., Europe, and son of Rupert, he authorized out-of-court settlements for phone hacking, which he later said he regretted because he did not have all the information about the extent of the criminality. His evidence in front of a House of Commons select committee has now been questioned.

Rupert Murdoch: Chairman and CEO of News Corp. Political leaders considered he was essential to have on their side to be able to win British elections.

Rebekah Wade: Editor of the News of the World, then its sister paper The Sun, and then chief executive of News International until her resignation during the hacking scandal. She was editor at the time of the alleged hacking of the phone of murdered 13-year-old school girl Milly Dowler, which turned the public against News International.

Timeline

In 2005, a story about medical treatment of Prince William led Buckingham Palace to suspect interference with his voicemail.

Goodman, the News of the World royal reporter, was jailed in 2007 as was private investigator Mulcaire. Coulson resigned as editor, and everyone claimed it was just a few bad apples.

In 2009, the Guardian returned to the story and exposed out-of-court settlements to public figures, suggesting there were thousands more potential victims, including celebrities and politicians.

On July 4, 2011, the Guardian revealed the hacking of Milly Dowler's phone, which turned public attention dramatically to the story.

After an outcry from the public and a campaign on Twitter and Facebook to get advertisers
to drop the News of the World, News International announced that the July 10 issue of the News of the World would be the last after 168 years.

The next week, News Corp. announced it would stop its attempt to take over all of BSkyB.
And in the ultimate climax, the following week, James and Rupert Murdoch and Wade gave evidence to a House of Commons select committee.

The dominant digital coverage

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The phone-hacking story traditionally would have started in print on July 5. Instead, the Guardian released it online first on July 4, giving other media a chance to pick up the story for the next day and hitting the social media sphere much earlier than Tuesday morning.

That very much fits into the strategy announced by the Guardian last month of digital first. Most, if not all, of the revelations from the phone-hacking scandal were broken online before print editions hit the streets in a battle for the public attention -- and frequently mid-afternoon so ideally placed to catch the 6 p.m. TV newscasts and an American audience five or more hours behind.

Online coverage has also allowed for detailed timelines and data visualizations in the Guardian, as well as crowdsourcing from the Guardian and Telegraph (see below).

Digital reaction

When news of the hacking of Milly Dowler's phone first broke, outrage ensued on social media such as Facebook and Twitter. Although the public did not initially have papers in front of them to target particular advertisers with the News of the World, a campaign soon started.

Parenting forum Mumsnet helped drive the online campaign and pulled its own campaign from Sky television, which at the time News Corp. was trying to acquire.

Again, the Guardian was at the forefront of providing information, publishing the Twitter addresses of the top 50 News of the World advertisers.

Twitters users became perhaps the most active during the James and Rupert Murdoch testimony in front of Britain's Select Committee on July 19, showing the speed of social media reaction. Within minutes of a protestor throwing a shaving-cream pie at Murdoch senior and the right-hook reaction from wife Wendi Deng, #piegate shot onto the Twitter trending list, only to be overtaken minutes later with #wendi.

Crowdsourcing and Data Visualization

The Guardian and Telegraph have both invited readers and users to get involved in sorting through data. The Telegraph released articles from the past decade in the News of the World that mention phone calls, voicemails and emails. The Guardian's crowdsourced list of potential victims is currently offline to check accuracy. The Atlantic has also praised such efforts to tackle the volume of potential phone-hacking victims and associated data.

Investigations

  • The Leveson Inquiry will be the formal and broad investigation into the media's practices and ethics, as well as publishers' involvement with politics and the police.
  • Operation Weeting is the formal inquiry by the Metropolitan Police into phone hacking and more, and is a follow-up to the previous failed police inquiries. A total of 60 officers are now on the case.
  • The Serious Fraud Office in the U.K. is said to be considering an investigation.

In Numbers

Deaths: 1 [Sean Hoare]

Arrests: 9 [Neville Thurlbeck, Ian Edmondson, James Weatherup, Terenia Taras, Coulson, Goodman, an unidentified 63-year-old man, Neil Wallis and Brooks]

Charges: 0

Allegations dropped: 1 [Press Association reporter Laura Elston]

Convictions: 2 [Goodman, Mulcaire]

Resignations: 4 [Brooks (News Int), Coulson (technically well before the scandal blew up, and twice, from News Int and Conservative Party), Sir Paul Stephenson (police), John Yates (police), Les Hinton (Dow Jones)]

Fired: 1 [Matt Nixson, features editor at The Sun and former NOTW employee]

Laid Off: 200 [News of the World staff, according to its former political editor]

Tristan Stewart-Robertson is a Canadian freelance reporter based in Glasgow, Scotland, operating as the W5 Press Agency.

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July 15 2011

16:46

Mediatwits #13: Smartphone Ownership Booms; This Week in Rupert

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Welcome to the 13th episode of "The Mediatwits," the weekly audio podcast from MediaShift. The co-hosts are MediaShift's Mark Glaser and Rafat Ali, the founder of PaidContent. This week's show looks at a recent survey by Pew Internet that found that 35 percent of Americans now have smartphones, and that ownership is even higher among people of color. Guest Aaron Smith from Pew explained one surprise from the survey: 25 percent of smartphone users were using their phone as their main source of accessing the Net.

Then talk once again turned to the United Kingdom, and what is becoming a regular feature on the podcast: "This Week in Rupert." The phone-hacking scandal continues to widen, with News Corp. dropping its bid to take over BSkyB, and a new FBI investigation into possible hacking of the phones of 9/11 victims in the U.S. Special guest Jack Shafer, Pressbox columnist for Slate, says not to jump to conclusions and that the New York Post and Fox News are innocent until proven guilty.

Check it out!

mediatwits13.mp3

Subscribe to the podcast here

Subscribe to Mediatwits via iTunes

Follow @TheMediatwits on Twitter here

Intro and outro music by 3 Feet Up; mid-podcast music by Autumn Eyes via Mevio's Music Alley.

Here are some highlighted topics from the show:

Google+ addictions

0:40: Mark convincing friends to join Google+

3:10: Rafat waiting until it grows out of early adopter phase

3:30: Rundown of topics for the podcast

Pew Internet survey on smartphone use

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05:00: Background on Pew Internet's Aaron Smith

07:15: Smartphones becoming part of daily life

11:15: Theories on popularity of smartphones by blacks, Latinos

This Week in Rupert

14:50: Slate's Jack Shafer now supporting Murdoch (joking!)

16:10: Update on the phone-hacking scandal, spreading to 9/11 victims?

18:20: Everyone's guilty before anything is proven

20:20: Guardian, Nick Davies deserve praise for staying on story

22:30: Fox News impacted? Mark and Jack argue it out

25:45: Twitter keeps Jack updated on story

More Reading

Smartphone Adoption and Usage at Pew Internet

As smartphones proliferate, some users are cutting the computer cord at Washington Post

Smartphones and Mobile Internet Use Grow, Report Says at NY Times' Bits blog

Jack Shafer's Pressbox column on Slate

Rupert Murdoch, Paper Tiger at Slate

Murdoch Pulls the Ultimate Reverse Ferret at Slate

FBI to investigate Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.: Did it hack 9/11 victims? at Christian Science Monitor

Google Plus Users Top 10 Million; 1 Billion Items Shared Each Day at ReadWriteWeb

Weekly Poll

Don't forget to vote in our weekly poll, this time about how you access the Internet:




How do you access the Internet?

Check out the results of a previous poll: What do you think about Google+?

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Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He also writes the bi-weekly OPA Intelligence Report email newsletter for the Online Publishers Association. He lives in San Francisco with his son Julian. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit.

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July 08 2011

20:04

Who Is Ultimately Responsible for the U.K. Phone-Hacking Scandal?

The revelations coming out by the hour in the U.K. phone-hacking scandal are breathtaking. What began as supposedly a rogue operation by a gossip reporter and a private investigator have now allegedly widened to include many more editors, reporters, investigators, bribes to police and the shutdown of the best-selling newspaper in the English language -- the News of the World. (You can get more details from our MediaShift report as well as on today's podcast.)

The question is: Who is ultimately responsible for this scandal? The people who did the hacking, which was illegal, or their bosses who had knowledge of their actions? Should top executives at News International be axed? And what about the police and Parliamentary inquiries that may have ignored evidence of wrongdoing? Just how far does this escalate? Share your thoughts in the comments below and vote in our poll.




Who is ultimately responsible for the U.K. phone-hacking scandal?online survey

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July 07 2011

21:59

UK Phone-Hacking Scandal Shows Clash of Privacy with Need to Know

British journalism has undergone one of the most radical weeks in several decades this week.

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"Rocked," "chaos," "shocking" -- use whatever adjectives you like, but news this week that the News of the World (NOTW) tabloid hacked into the phones of child murder victims, families of July 7, 2005 terror attacks and parents of soldiers killed in action has turned the stomachs of much of Britain.

Now Rupert Murdoch's News International has shut down the NOTW after 168 years. This weekend will be the last edition of Britain's biggest selling newspaper.

The public appetite for information, particularly about celebrities and major news stories is insatiable -- until it becomes an intrusion into your own individual life. Is the duty to provide information more important to society as a whole than individual privacy? Does the civil "public interest" test outweigh the private protection of an individual?

'Hackgate'

The phone hacking scandal, or "hackgate" as some have dubbed it on Twitter, is a long-running saga and the New York Times Magazine investigation last year remains the best and most detailed single explanation. The Guardian has steadfastly kept attention on the matter.

As a basic summary, a reporter or private investigator would dial into the cell phone of a celebrity, politician or other public figure and then use a four-digit PIN number to access the voicemail. Many people never even change the PIN on their mobile voicemail or know how to do that. Investigators might pose as the celebrity in question and call the cell carrier saying they lost their PIN and need to reset it.

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The technique first began to unravel in 2005 when messages to Royal family aides were appearing read and saved, even though they hadn't heard them.

That eventually led to the conviction of NOTW Royal reporter Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire. Police said Mulcaire's notebook had thousands of names and corresponding details of cell phone numbers and PIN numbers.

Since then, attention has always been on which celebrities, MPs or other public figures had their phones hacked -- a practice which is illegal, except by the security services with a court order.

A Widening Scandal

That was until this week. When it emerged on Monday that Mulcaire had accessed the voicemail of 13-year-old Milly Dowler who went missing, and deleted messages in some cases giving the impression she was still alive to worried family members, the public reacted. Only on this past June 23 a man was convicted of murdering the schoolgirl so it was still fresh in the public's mind.

The revelations have continued, with more alleged hacking vicitms: the parents of murdered children Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman in 2002, the family members of victims of the London terror attacks on July 7, 2005, and the parents of fallen soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan.

It has also been revealed that up to five Metropolitan Police may have been paid bribes of £100,000 for information, from the same force that was supposed to be investigating the allegations of phone hacking, throwing the entire voracity of the inquiry into question.

So, how widespread is the practice of phone hacking? There have been reports -- by the New York Times feature last year in particular -- that other newspapers may have bought information obtained through phone hacking, or phone hacked directly, or that the technique was common at the NOTW. Although there have been a handful of arrests from within the NOTW, nobody has ever been charged beyond the original Royal reporter and private investigator. No other newspapers have yet been identified by police.

Pushing the Boundaries

I know a fair number of reporters and not one of them would engage in illegal activity for a story. Have we sometimes pushed boundaries? Of course. Do we sometimes feel a bit questionable afterwards? Yes. We're human.

When a newspaper told me they wanted a picture of school pupils but with "no fatties, uglies or ethnics," they apologized but that was the style of the paper. That's not illegal, but it's not the journalism I believe in.

Stories are regularly "spiked" because of the biases or agenda of a paper. Thankfully the UK has enough publications that almost any story can end up in print eventually, despite those barriers.

This story is still moving rapidly. Advertisers were pulling out of the paper. Ford was the first, very early on after the revelations and before any social media campaign really got going.

Social Media Pushes Advertisers Out

Mitsubishi said they were second on Tuesday as "morally right" to suspend advertising with a paper. Based on a suggestion from one of their Facebook followers, they are diverting the money to a children's charity instead.

As the week went on and the public identified which advertisers were in the weekly paper -- particularly thanks to data from the Guardian -- many other firms have pulled the plug, including the Royal British Legion on Thursday morning.

tesco campaign.jpg

Tesco, the UK's largest food retailer, said they wanted the police investigation to take its course, even while people on Twitter and Facebook bombarded them demanding they pull their advertising.

The Co-operative Group confirmed they heard from members by email, phone and via Facebook and Twitter while they were already reviewing their advertising, which they have now suspended.

Airlines, phone companies, the Post Office, and others have all pulled their advertising. One parody story even joked that Fish Refusing to Be Wrapped in the News of the World.

Other social media suggestions have included canceling subscriptions to Sky TV (i.e. BSkyB) which News International is trying to buy, or avoiding shops that sell the paper.

Closing NOTW

And then late on Thursday afternoon, News International chairman and Rupert's son James Murdoch told staff that the good work of the paper had "been sullied by behaviour that was wrong -- indeed, if recent allegations are true, it was inhuman and has no place in our company."

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"The News of the World is in the business of holding others to account. But it failed when it came to itself," he said.

Ultimately, the paper was in decline already. Circulation of the NOTW fell from 4,104,227 in October 2001 to 2,606,397 in April 2011, a drop of 36.5 percent. That is a significant pressure on any paper.

Total sales for 10 Sunday papers in October 2001 was 14,044,396. That has plummeted to 9,082,065 as of April, a drop of 35.3 percent. But the UK remains one of the most read newspaper markets in the world.

One non-press colleague said yesterday: "Everyone talks about freedom of the press. They've had their chance. Take it away."

Hundreds of people have worked for the NOTW as staff, hundreds more as contributors, and thousands more have been willingly quoted in the paper.

The actions of a handful of reporters or those they hire does not in any way dissuade me from the importance of journalism, a free press or a "smart, fearless journalism," as Mother Jones magazine aptly puts it.

Feeding the News Appetite

I personally don't know any reporters who lack souls. We don't exist in such realms of black or white, good or evil. But I know all of us are under pressure to feed the ever increasing news appetite, often within ever shrinking offices of demanding firms with expectant shareholders.

In one case, a colleague was required to supply one story each week on Harry Potter author JK Rowling, no matter what. "No" isn't an answer to the boss. They achieved those results perfectly ethically.

To interpret pressure as justifying unethical and illegal practices is a choice of individuals. They are culpable, as are any bosses who knew of them.

However wrong the hacking activities were and are, many of those leaping to condemn them are not without bias themselves.

Broadsheet newspapers are almost gloating at the peril of the tabloid press which disgusts, but outsells, them.

MPs have repeatedly been caught in adulterous or worse behavior by the tabloid press over the years, but would never dare speak out against News International prior to the current public furor.

And government opponents see this as a chance to extract blood from Prime Minister David Cameron for making the mistake of hiring former NOTW editor Andy Coulson as his communications chief (who might be arrested tomorrow).

Final Consequences

Ultimately we have a clash of what my retired philosophy professor father refers to as the "social duty to provide as much information as possible", and the duty of "non injury to others." So which trumps which?

The question now is what will happen in this Sunday's last ever NOTW. What will the NOTW put on its front page (one tweet suggested the word "Sowwy" and a picture of a kitten)? Will it come back in another form in a few months?

When the Sun published lies about the Hillsborough disaster in 1989, it has arguably never recovered sales in Liverpool and is still reviled. That may well have happened to the NOTW, but would have requited more than 2.6 million customers to switch off to the celeb gossip and "real life" coverage they are in the habit of devouring. Has the Murdoch empire now successfully drawn a line under this sordid tale by closing the paper?

It is only one product -- the conflicting appetites for information and privacy are not going anywhere any time soon.

Disclaimer: I have, a few years ago now, been paid for freelance stories and tips by the Scottish editions of the News of the World and the daily sister paper, The Sun, and more recently by the Sunday Times. I stand by those individual stories.

Photo of Rupert Murdoch by David Shankbone via Wikipedia.

Tristan Stewart-Robertson is a Canadian freelance reporter based in Glasgow, Scotland, operating as the W5 Press Agency.

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June 30 2011

04:46

Japan - "Kikkomania" in Europe: novel ways to use long-cherished Kikkoman?

Wall Street Journal :: A new marketing campaign from the European arm of venerable soy sauce maker Kikkoman, “Kikkomaniaencourages people to come up with novel ways for using the cherished condiment with a trip to Amsterdam, not noted for its connection to soy sauce, on offer for the most creative submission. Early suggestions include adding a few drops to cocktails, or even painting with it.

A spokesman at Kikkoman in Japan said its overseas offices have freedom to decide how to market the company’s products. What would be your idea?

Continue to read Andrew Joyce, blogs.wsj.com

June 11 2011

20:50

YouTube EDU - Google's plan to build "Global Classroom"

Beet.TV :: Having launched just over two years ago as a hub for college and universitie YouTube channels, YouTube EDU has become a destination for education, providing an index for a broad range of topics and campus activities, says Angela Lin who manages the education program at YouTube. The YouTube EDU site integrates content from 400 colleges and universities in the United States, Canada, Europe, Israel and Australia.

Watch the video interview Andy Plesser, www.beet.tv

June 02 2011

15:54

Business Insider launches Europe site

Talking Biz News :: Business Insider, the New York-based business news site, has launched a European version that will be edited by Gregory White. White writes, “Here we’ll be taking the best of what we already do covering Europe, such as breaking news on economic data, analysis of Nokia’s relationship with Microsoft, and coverage of the world’s biggest sport, soccer, and adding even more."

Continue to read www.talkingbiznews.com

May 19 2011

18:45

In Lithuania, an Overdue Crackdown on Online Hate Speech

Online hate speech is becoming more and more widespread in Lithuania and until recently, comments like, "The world needs Hitler again to do the cleansing job," which was posted on a website called Delfi, or "Expel dirty Roma people out of Lithuania" would have gone unheeded by criminal justice.

"Although the Lithuanian Criminal Codex includes sufficient law provisions to prosecute instigators of hate and enmity, these provisions have been largely ignored by criminal judges," Vitoldas Maslauskas, former Vilnius County prosecutor, said last month.

Most law enforcement officials, Maslauskas said, ranging from high-level prosecutors to ordinary investigators, turn a blind eye to the practice of web hate speech for one simple reason: Criminal judges are swamped under real-life infringements and don't have time to chase down Internet bashers who, as a result, go untouched online.

Combatting Hate Speech

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One non-governmental organization though, the Tolerant Youth Association (TJA), is slowly but surely helping to harness the hate speech, with and without help from criminal justice.

"Although we have been actively carrying out various tolerance-inducing projects since the establishment of our association in 2005, it is only in recent years that we have been fighting against the practice of online hate speech," said Arturas Rudomanskis, chairman of TJA.

The association has initiated 58 pre-trial investigations this year into cases instigating hate and enmity: "It represents a rise of nearly double compared to last year's figure of 30-plus-something cases," Rudomanskis said.

"Until last year, we would pinpoint online hate-mongers to prosecutors. This year, however, we changed our tactics by creating an autonomous system allowing people to file complaints against online bashers directly to the prosecutor's office. This has undoubtedly worked out well, as conscious people extensively report hate cases to prosecutors," Rudomanskis said.

Thanks to the efforts of the Tolerant Youth Association, the online slanderers mentioned at the beginning of this article have been traced, prosecuted and punished.

Only a few years ago, it is likely that they would have escaped the law.

Bringing online slanderers to justice

The man instigating hate against Roma people turned out to be a 28-year-old manager of a company in the city of Utena in northeast Lithuania.

The District Court of Utena ruled that the man incited hate against Roma people and instigated to discriminate against them on the basis of their ethnicity. In his affidavit, the manager admitted the wrongdoing and justified his act by arguing that he had only voiced his opinion. He received a fine of LTL 1,300, which is roughly the equivalent of $535.

In such cases, local courts often seize the offenders' computers as the tools of crime. However, the Utena District Court decided not to confiscate the manager's computer.

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A 36-year-old inhabitant of the town of Anyksciai, who had urged to have "all gays" slain in an online response to an article about the first-ever Lithuanian gay pride parade, whimpered at the District Court of Anyksciai, explaining that he had merely intended to express his discontent against the gay march.

The judge was not impressed and punished him with a fine of nearly 400 euros ($570). District prosecutor Vigandas Jurevicius admitted the case was the first of its kind in his career.

"I launched the investigation following a complaint by the Tolerant Youth Association. To be honest, had it not been for the complaint, I would have not sought prosecution, as it is simply impossible to keep track of the post flow on the Internet," the prosecutor acknowledged.

Just starting the fight

In the meantime, TJA chairman Arturas Rudomanskis notes that the number of Internet surfers who report online slanderers is increasing and calls for a "more substantial" involvement of Lithuanian criminal justices against online hate speech.

"Actually, we have just started the fight," he said. "We are far away from seeing any major breakthrough just yet. However, I see much more support in Lithuanian society and in the media for online perpetrators of hate to be addressed in full force by the law."

According to Rudomanskis, online hate speech cases that reach court break down as follows: 70 percent of the cases are related to hate against homosexuals, and the rest is equally split between anti-Semitic and xenophobic abuse.

"Obviously, Lithuania remains one of the most homophobic countries in the European Union. This is directly reflected in Internet posts," Rudomanskis said.

TJA has succeeded in shutting down a gay hate-laden website set up by a member of an ultranationalist Lithuanian organization, as well as its Facebook page filled with anti-gay slurs.

The role of journalists in tackling online hate

"We have to admit that there are many angry people in Lithuania," said Zita Zamzickiene, the Lithuanian ombudsman for Journalism Ethics. "This is partly due to our recent heritage that goes back to the Soviet era. Homosexuals and ethnic minorities, unfortunately, fall in the category of people who most often become a punching bag. We can tackle the intolerance by educating our people and carrying out prevention programs."

Obviously, Lithuanian journalists can play a key role in curbing Internet slanderers by educating the population and promoting universal human values such as tolerance. For a small country like Lithuania that is still suffering from the post-Soviet syndrome, it may be an issue of utmost priority.

Linas Jegelevicius, 40, Lithuanian, obtained his master's degree in journalism at the Vilnius University Institute of Journalism. Between 1994 and 2004, he lived in New York and Miami, where he contributed to the Miami newspaper Wire. From 2001 until 2003, he edited and published his own newspaper, South Beach AXIS. Jegelevicius currently works as an editor for the regional newspaper Palangos tiltas, in the resort town of Palanga in the west of Lithuania. He also contributes as a freelance journalist to several English language publications, including The Baltic Times and Ooskanews.com. He has published two books, and his interests include politics, economics, journalism, literature, the English language (particularly urban English), psychology, traveling and human rights.

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This story was originally published by the European Journalism Centre, an independent non-profit institute dedicated to the highest standards in journalism, primarily through the further training of journalists and media professionals. Follow @ejcnet for Twitter updates, join us on Facebook and on the EJC Online Journalism Community.

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May 18 2011

18:40

BBC Social Media Summit: Crowdsourcing a Research Agenda

The BBC College of Journalism is staging a Social Media Summit (hashtag #BBCSMS) in London this week, which will bring together industry leaders, practitioners and academics from around the world, with a view to collaboratively mapping the future of social journalism.

Social media is having a transformative impact on professional journalism. And the speed of the real-time revolution raises significant challenges and opportunities for journalists and their publishers. But it also necessitates a rigorous, industry-relevant academic research agenda.

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The issues confronting journalism in the social media space include fundamental shifts in the practice of verification, the merger of private lives and professional practice, and the new journalistic role of community engagement.

These themes will be central to the summit, which will culminate in an open forum on Friday, featuring contributions from senior editors at The Guardian, Al Jazeera, NPR and The Washington Post.

Peter Horrocks, BBC head of Global News, said in February 2010 that social media practice for journalists was no longer discretionary. He was right. But this means that the professional training of journalists in social media theory and practice is also essential.

And, fundamental to teaching and training journalists in this new form of "social journalism," should be cutting-edge and industry-relevant academic research in the field of journalism studies.

A collaborative social media research agenda

One of the objectives of the BBC Social Media Summit, which has attracted industry leaders and academics from around the world, will be identifying key areas for research in the field which can assist journalists and media organizations as they adapt to the challenges and opportunities of the social media age.

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The process of charting a course for research into journalism and social media at the summit will be collaborative, with researchers in the field (me included) seeking to coordinate an approach that draws on industry expertise and responds to needs identified by the journalists and editors in attendance. We believe journalism research should be informed by journalistic practice and have a professionally relevant purpose. We're also committed to feeding back our research findings -- in an accessible and easily digestible way -- to the broader community for input, in keeping with social media ethos and our belief in practically applicable research.

The Twitterization of Journalism

I'm writing a Ph.D. on the Twitterization of journalism, or the transformative impact of social media on the field. My research has so far highlighted the effect of engagement with sources and Jay Rosen's "people formerly known as the audience," the ways in which professional practice is being reshaped through real-time reporting, increased transparency, and the conflation of private and professional lives in the space.

As I've identified in the course of this research project (some elements of which I've previously explored at MediaShift) there are many rich and important research questions emerging in the field -- almost at the speed of tweets!

Key Research Themes and Questions

Here are some of my contributions to framing a social media research agenda for journalism grouped under key themes I've identified in the process of academic and journalistic research in the field -- a process which has included social media crowdsourcing of responses.

VERIFICATION

• How is social media changing the practices and processes of verification?
• What new methods of verification are emerging? How effective are they?

• What is the impact of changing verification practices -- including crowdsourcing verification -- on accuracy in reporting and journalistic credibility?

CLASH OF THE PROFESSIONAL AND PRIVATE

• What is the impact (personally and professionally) of the merger of journalists' personal and private lives and their professional and public lives on social media sites?
• How do so-called audiences react to the blurring of personal and professional lives by journalists through their social media practice? What impact does it have on their views of journalists who use social media "socially?" Are they more or less likely to collaborate with such journalists?

ENGAGEMENT

• How do journalists' interactions with the "people formerly known as audience" impact their research, reporting, and commentary of issues (including framing, source selection, objectivity and verification)?
• What rules of engagement do journalists bring to social media interaction? With what success/effect?

CONFLICT AND COMPLAINTS

• What are journalists' experiences with being confronted with criticism about their work from colleagues, competitors and audiences on social media sites?
• What views have media organizations formed about the role of individual journalists in complaints handling via social media? What processes and guidelines are being, or need to be, developed?

INDUSTRIAL/LOGISTICAL ISSUES

• What are the impacts on journalists' workload, productivity and well-being of 24/7 real-time social media practice and engagement?
• What systems and procedures are media employers putting in place to address the issues of workload, time management and risks associated with social media?

NETWORKING, PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT & GLOBALIZATION

• Explore the role and impact of cross-cultural and transnational communication via social media on journalists and their subjects
• Explore mentoring, networking, and employment patterns among professional journalists through social media

ROUNDS & BEATS

• Develop case studies of best-practice approaches to social media strategies in reporting rounds such as health, education, courts, emergencies, politics
• Explore the role of social media in public journalism projects

JOURNALISM EDUCATION

• How should social media be incorporated into university and professional training courses?
• Measure outcomes/impacts of training

TECHNOLOGY

• Explore cross-disciplinary approaches to problem-solving, involving computer scientists, journalists/journalism researchers (et al.) in development of industry-applicable resources and programs applicable to aiding reporting via social media, measuring social media impacts, verification, etc.
• Platform-specific research, e.g., How is Facebook changing journalism?

LEGAL/REGULATORY ISSUES

• How are courts and governments around the world responding to the challenges posed to publishing laws presented by real-time "masses media?"
• What are the implications for media freedom/freedom of expression of attempts to regulate the social web?

Share your ideas, help frame the research agenda

So, that's my contribution to framing the research discussion at the summit. But what ideas would you like to throw into the mix? And what research approaches would you suggest, with what estimated value? We are particularly interested in hearing from journalism professors and researchers in the field.

There are three ways you can get involved. 1) You can contribute your ideas directly by participating in the summit in London this week; or 2) you can contribute your ideas and express interest by commenting on this post; or 3) you can participate remotely in the open conference session on Friday, May 20, by contributing to the Twitter discussion curated under the #BBCSMS hashtag.

We look forward to hearing your ideas and working together to chart the future of journalism research in the field of social media.

Julie Posetti is an award-winning journalist and journalism academic who lectures in radio and television reporting at the University of Canberra, Australia. She's been a national political correspondent, a regional news editor, a TV documentary reporter and presenter on radio and television with the Australian national broadcaster, the ABC. Her academic research centers on journalism and social media, on talk radio, public broadcasting, political reporting and broadcast coverage of Muslims post-9/11. She blogs at J-Scribe and you can follow her on Twitter.

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March 30 2011

17:56

How Social Media is Being Used in the Scottish Elections

Since Barack Obama successfully tapped into social media during his run to the White House in 2008, every political group has tried to use the digital world to bring in revenue and votes.

This year's Scottish Parliament elections, which take place on May 5, will be the first in that country since Facebook and Twitter came to dominate the social web.

On an institutional level, the Scottish Parliament is the only devolved administration in the United Kingdom to not have a Twitter feed (UKParliament, AssemblyWales, niassembly are the others, along with UKYP and OfficialSYP among youth parliaments).

While Scottish businesses has caught on to the benefits of social media, local media and political parties have been more cautious and uncertain. In a country dominated by newspapers -- 13 paid national daily titles daily for a population of 5.1 million -- old media, and old political strategies, remain king.

Followers Don't Equal Voters

At the political level, there were five elected parties in the Scottish chamber at the time the upcoming election was called: The Scottish National Party (who currently run the minority government), Scottish Labour, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Scottish Conservatives and the Scottish Green Party. Only the Conservatives are really right of centre, with the SNP occasionally drifting there. The major split is between nationalists (SNP and Green) and "unionists" (everyone else).

In terms of Twitter followers, as of Tuesday night the SNP is out in front with 2,815 followers, or 36.5 percent of the total of those following a major Scottish political party. Labour is a close second on 32.7 percent (2,521 followers); the LibDems have 12.9 percent (994); the Tories have 9.2 percent (710); and the Greens have 8.7 percent (668).

But followers aren't necessarily voters. And being a digital disciple doesn't make voting easier, especially with so many parties to choose from. Dozens of candidates will be on the proportional representation part of the ballots, as well as six or more in each first-past-the-post constituency.

The bigger problem is connecting to those who are not interested in politics. As an 18-year-old friend explained to me: "The Internet's given us a powerful means of voicing our concerns and opinions, and social media has the added bonus of getting the word out to people you'll likely never meet. But really, nowadays, the only people who vote are those who follow politics, or feel a duty to vote. A lot of people these days frankly don't care because they don't see how it affects them."

Social media allows interaction from a distance, as well as direct contact. It is also immediate and unforgiving, so tracking politicians and parties through the medium is increasing vital.

Compare The Parties

compare.jpgWith that in mind, I recently launched CompareTheParties.co.uk to use social media and policy comparisons to engage voters and, ideally, boost turnout, which dropped in some areas to 33 percent in 2007.

Voter apathy is a major problem across the Western world. In the same way that newspapers have frequently struggled to enthuse readers in the fragmented digital age, politicians have been caught in a cynical era that allows each individual view to trump that of an organized center.

Though it is politically diverse, Scotland is still lagging behind its American cousins in using new media, both in news and in politics. In fact, the SNP is the only party investing a notable amount of effort into social media and online engagement.

The SNP Plan

The SNP has adopted a strategy of trying to elicit contributions from citizens to their political tent through video and pictures.

Kirk Torrance, new media strategist for the SNP, started working for the party in January Screen shot 2011-03-29 at 10.31.47 PM.png2010 after helping incorporate social media into the film industry in London and Los Angeles.

"Perhaps social media has not been as successful in Scotland as in the U.S., but we are miles ahead of what other parties are doing," he said. "We are on par with the Obama campaign and maybe a bit ahead of them now. We really have a five- to ten-year view of this stuff."

Torrance said the party's goal is to enthuse one voter at a time, and let those people engage with their own social networks. By reaching one, you reach many.

"You have a chain reaction possible online," he said. "It's a more efficient way of engaging with people. If you enthuse one person, they can enthuse others."

The SNP strategy is to build towards a vision of Scotland, and ultimately an independent Scotland, by letting each voter define their individual version of the country. It's a hyper-personal strategy that suits new media, but that is also plugged into a central strategic aim of getting votes.

"A lot of people think of social media as some sort of magic bullet, but it comes down to the story you're telling," Torrance said. "Find the emotion in what goes on and enthuse people about how great Scotland could be. The approach we're taking is to build relationships with people on a one-to-one basis."

The digital world has helped entrench the individual as the most important voice in society; hyper-individualism has divided much of the West, and helped unite citizens of the Middle East in town squares. The Scottish elections may, through social media activism, re-coalesce individual Scots around a town square. The square just happens to be an entire nation. And who runs it is up to the voters.

Tristan Stewart-Robertson has written for more than three dozen publications in the U.K., Canada and the U.S. in almost a decade as a reporter. Originally from New Brunswick, Canada, he completed a post-graduate degree in journalism at Cardiff University in 2002 before moving to Scotland. He worked at weekly paper the Barrhead News before moving to the Greenock Telegraph. Now working as a freelance reporter and photojournalist, operating as the W5 Press Agency, he has been published by papers including the Scotsman, Sunday Times-Herald, Toronto Star and the Chronicle-Herald.

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March 11 2011

17:30

How French Site OWNI Profits by Giving Away Its Content

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Business content on MediaShift is sponsored by the weekend MA in Public Communication at American University. Designed for working professionals, the program is suited to career changers and public relations or social marketing professionals seeking career advancement. Learn more here.

Most content sites in the U.S. have two ways of making money: charging for subscriptions or running advertising (or both). But a French site, OWNI.fr, has found an unusual business model for a site with no ads and no subscriptions -- that's also profitable. How do they do it? Their main business is doing web development and apps for media companies and institutions.

One big advantage for OWNI is its origins as a pure online business, with an entrepreneurial CEO Nicolas Voisin and a staff of web developers. The site was initially an aggregation of bloggers, with the parent company called 22Mars (March 22nd), set up to fight a controversial French copyright law known as HADOPI. While 22Mars was made up of web developers at launch in April 2009, they eventually revamped the site with more editorial direction and hired journalists in 2010 to work alongside the developers.

The result is a striking website, with an eye-catching design and various examples of data journalism and data visualization. In fact, when they set up an English-language site, OWNI.eu, its motto was "Digital Journalism." The site won an Online Journalism Award at the ONA conference last year, and is a finalist in next week's SXSW Accelerator competition for "news-related technologies." Here's a screen shot from one data visualization showing how many people have died immigrating to Europe from Africa:



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All the American interest in the French site will grow exponentially when the site opens a U.S. subsidiary next month, somewhere in the San Francisco Bay Area. I spoke to the future CEO of that U.S. subsidiary, Adriano Farano, an Italian who had helped run Cafe Babel, a pan-European website. Here, he explains what the name OWNI means in French (largely a play on "UFO"):

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Farano told me that the parent company, 22Mars, is about a third of the way to closing a Series C round of funding for about 1.5 million Euros, and that they will seek a first round of funding for OWNI.us. In France, the company grew from just 8 people a year ago to 37 today, with 15 full-time journalists. At the same time, Farano says the site traffic also boomed, going from 200,000 monthly unique visitors to 1.5 million uniques today.

I also spoke by phone to OWNI's director of data journalism, Nicolas Kayser-Bril. The following is an edited transcript of our international phone conversation.

Q&A

Why did you start OWNI and what were your aims?

Nicolas Kayser-Bril: It wasn't planned to be a media company at all. It was started in April 2009, where there was a law called HADOPI being passed in the French parliament, that was dangerous for online freedom [and later was the basis for Loppsi 2]. Several bloggers got together to set up a platform [to fight the law]. And the company that was set up to run OWNI is called 22Mars, and we decided to host the platform so we had a blog network hosted on a WordPress platform. Step by step, the platform grew, and Nicolas Voisin, the CEO of 22Mars decided to take the experiment further and put one person full-time on maintaining and engaging the community.

We saw that this worked well so we put more resources and people into OWNI. So we decided to become a real media [outlet], a real website, still with this strong community of bloggers behind it. In the summer of 2010, we realized that OWNI had become a real media [outlet], ran stories, and really had a big impact in the traditional media sphere. We hadn't really planned to become one. This changed the way the company was organized. At first we had been more of a showroom for what we're doing, and today it's more of a lab where journalists are free to innovate and do what they want.

With that experience, we continue to run our service company, selling website development and applications. We specialize in providing apps and social media platforms. Half of our sales today have to do with social media, and the other half has to do with data visualization, crowdsourcing apps, and running innovative journalistic products. We serve all kinds of institutions and NGOs that have a story to tell but don't know how to to do it online. We build the tools for them to do so.

When you say half of your sales is social media does that mean helping them with social media strategy?

Kayser-Bril: We do some social media consulting, but most of the work is building social media websites tailor made [for clients]. For instance, with universities, they have unique problems as to how to communicate between teachers and students and the wider public. So we built the interface using WordPress to solve this problem. So we always build custom solutions with added value.

What was your background and that of the OWNI CEO Nicolas Voisin?

Kayser-Bril: Nicolas, our CEO, was an entrepreneur and got into the media in 2006 before the presidential election in France. He started doing a political show; he realized there was a big gap on how the public was informed about candidates' platforms. So what he decided to do was interview them without time limits and spent hours with them, and then posted them on YouTube. It worked really well, so he thought there was a need to reinvent storytelling online. That's what drove him.

The other core people at the company are mostly developers. I myself have a background in economics. I never studied journalism. Before OWNI, I was living in Berlin and working at a startup. Before that I was doing freelance work. I was doing online work for a presidential campaign in 2009, mostly web-related things. We didn't hire a traditional journalist until February 2010. Now we have many seasoned journalists working for us.

So you are set up as a non-profit or for-profit company?

Kayser-Bril: 22Mars is for-profit, and we did not spin off OWNI as a non-profit organization from an accounting perspective. The website does not have to make a profit in the sense that we don't make money from the website. No subscriptions and no hidden advertisements. The value the website provides is in gaining expertise online that we can then share and sell to clients.

So your model is basically making money by developing websites and custom social media solutions? The site is more of a testing lab?

Kayser-Bril: Exactly. You could compare it to businesses in other industries. We might start selling online objects or other products in the coming months to have more high-margin products.

We will start selling e-books, which is a big driving force of 22Mars -- we don't sell content but we sell products, because everyone knows content is abundant. What's missing is a way to properly browse through it and consume it. So we'll be selling apps. Not apps for the iPhone or in the App Store. We always remain on the HTML side and JavaScript and stay compatible with all platforms. So they would run on the open web as well as on the iPhone and iPad.

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We're convinced that the apps you see on the iPhone and iPad and Android in the future will be merged into web apps because it makes more sense economically to develop something once instead of three or four times. We develop for all devices. We recently published what we call an augmented cartoon where you have more depth in text, and can follow links. We made it for the iPad; it was more of an iPad app than it worked on a computer. With HTML 5 you can really design an app and optimize it for the device you want.

Kayser-Bril explains how developers will work for OWNI for less money than at other companies because they have a chance to work on projects about society and politics:

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Does OWNI have a specific political viewpoint?

Kayser-Bril: Not really, we're not really involved in politics. What we do fight for is freedom online and offline, supporting the declaration of human rights. We could lead fights in defense of Internet freedoms (for example, against censorship, for Net neutrality, etc.). We'll fight against all laws that restrict freedom of speech online. We don't have any more political views beyond that. When you see the political views of people at OWNI, it ranges from leftist to libertarian so it would be impossible to have a single political line.

Tell me about the work you've done for WikiLeaks.

Kayser-Bril: WikiLeaks called us to do similar work that we are doing on a daily basis, which is building interfaces and web apps. Their problem is that they had masses of web documents but they were not comprehensible for a normal human being. So we came up with this app to browse through the Afghan War Logs. It illustrates how OWNI works, because when the Afghan War Logs came out, we realized we could build that just like for the Iraq War Logs.

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It was a non-commercial relationship with WikiLeaks, and it made perfect sense because we learned a lot so we could sell crowdsourcing applications. From a business perspective it made a lot of sense.

Kayser-Bril explains how OWNI helps clients with unique open solutions, and that everyone's become a media outlet now:

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Have you done work for media companies?

Kayser-Bril: Yes, many French ones. Our client list include France24, Radio France Internationale, Groupe Moniteur (professional magazines), Le Monde Diplomatique, Slate.fr, Le Soir (Brussels) and Zeit Online (Berlin). We're in talks with many more, and we've worked as well for NGOs and public institutions (the municipality of Paris and the French presidency).

I noticed that you re-post or license content from other sites on OWNI. How much of your content is original vs. reposted?

Kayser-Bril: About half and half. We are trying to reach the 60% mark of original content. If someone is more of an expert than we are, we just republish his or her article. Not just re-posting it, but fact-checking it, adding images -- we really want to add value to cross-posted articles.

You have a Creative Commons license on your stories. So does that mean anyone can run your stories on their site?

Kayser-Bril: Of course. Our whole business model is built on the Creative Commons license. On the content side, the more our articles are republished, the happier we are. We don't have advertising, but we want our articles to be read. Please repost them. On the business side as well, we only use open technologies -- HTML and JavaScript and no Flash. And that makes sense because our added value isn't in the code or software that we build, but how we can answer our clients' needs and provide them open solutions.

Kayser-Bril explains how OWNI's new U.S. site won't consider other media sites as competition but as partners:

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Can you point to any successes you've had in some of your journalism experiments?

Kayser-Bril: The WikiLeaks project didn't turn out as well as it could have. One thing we did was rethink the way surveys are made. We worked with a pollster and realized that when a media [outlet] orders a survey, what you get in the paper is a page with two infographics and a pie chart. That's not enough. We built an app that lets you browse through all the data the pollster gathered to really see in your area what men over 45 thought. What was really successful was we added the possibilitiy for you to take the survey while you were browsing the app.

That's extremely interesting in terms of journalism, because you can see what your audience is like compared to the people who took the survey. It's also interesting in terms of business because one big asset today is having a big database with qualified voters and such an app would be very valuable for many clients.

*****

What do you think about OWNI's site and business model? Do you think they can replicate their success in the U.S.? Why or why not? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He also writes the bi-weekly OPA Intelligence Report email newsletter for the Online Publishers Association. He lives in San Francisco with his son Julian. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit.

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