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July 22 2010


How the BBC developed its UK election coverage online

Einar Thorsen of Bournemouth University, UK, was one of the final presenters at the IAMCR 2010 in Braga.

He looked at how the relationship between BBC online journalism and ctizenship during the 2005 and 2010 UK General Elections.

In a quick presentation, Thorsen explained how civic engagement as a key of the BBC mandate reflected in its election coverage online.

For the 2010 election, the BBC viewed election news as a product. He described how the 2010 election website was a pan-BBC project, compared to a more fragmented approach in 2005.

One of the aims was to distinguish web coverage from broadcast output as user research had shown that audiences were unaware of original features online.

Another issue was a strategic discussion of how the BBC covered politics online in an attempt to attract more people to politics.

Thorsen showed a BBC live updates page, incorporating reports from BBC journalists, user emails and tweets. But it was based on a manual process, with an individual cutting and pasting bits of HTML content into a static page.

Everything was verified and checked by a second pair of eyes, said Thorsen, usually a person looking over a journalist’s shoulder.

For the 2010 election, the BBC outsourced the moderation of comments, with the BBC monitoring the debate online to select and highlight some comments.

Thorsen highlighted the tensions at the BBC over user contributions.

He found in some BBC journalists that some described UGC and comments as an example of civic engagement online, while other described it as “utter shit” and “a complete waste of time”.

Similarly, the team behind video contributions If I was Prime Minister saw this as the pinnacle of an opportunity for citizen to express their political views. But others were more sceptical.

This was a brief but fascinating insight into Thorsen’s research.

July 21 2010


IAMCR 2010 talk on journalism education at UBC

On Wednesday 21 July, I’ll be talking at the IAMCR conference in Braga about our integrated journalism programme at the Graduate School of Journalism, University of British Columbia.

Here are my slides:

July 20 2010


Journalists value writing but not multimedia skills

Henrik Ornebring of University of Oxford gave a quick overview of his six-nation comparative study of the skills of journalists at the IAMCR 2010 in Braga.

This is a three-year project, running from 2007 to 2010 and covering six countries: UK, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Poland and Estonia.

Ornebring conducted a non-representative online survey with 2,200 respondents and a response rate of 4.3%.

He also conducted qualitative research with 62 interviews of journalists.

Among the top skills rated by journalists were writing and working independently. In Italy, Poland and Estonia, networking was also considered a top skill.

As for the lowest skills, all journalists agreed that they did not need management skills.

But the biggest surprise was that multimedia production skills were not valued by journalists.

Journalists tended to see multimedia production as a manual skill rather than something that helps them tell a story.


The challenges journalists face covering innovation

I am at the IAMCR conference in Braga this week and plan to blog about the latest in journalism research.

In a session on journalism and innovation, David Nordfors of Stanford University raised questions about journalism’s ability to cover innovation and its relationship to society and democracy.

Nordfors framed innovation journalism as a field of journalism in which we study to cover innovation

He argued that innovation was about technology, business and politics, rather than fitting within traditional news beats such as politics and entertainment.

Nordfors argued that journalism plays a key role in connecting the innovation economy and democratic society. In the innovation economy, citizens power lies with money, in a democratic system, it lies with votes.

In his view, innovation is a significant area to cover, pointing out that economic growth now comes from doing new things. He cited OECD figures that 70% of economic growth is connected to innovation.

Nordfors went on to connect innovation and journalism. He described the innovation economy as an attention economy, But attention is a scarce commodity which is usually mediated by attention workers.

Attention workers are journalists, who have a mandate from audience. On the other side PR, marketing, lobbying workers, who have a mandate from sources.

Nordfors outlined how journalism fits in an innovation communication system. Innovation requires communication. Something new needs a new language and narratives in order to be discussed by the public.

Journalism plays key part in this process, he argued, as there is a vital link between innovation itself and language innovation. Nordfors stressed that we need a new shared language to discuss and critically assess innovation and its impact on society.

He ended with a plea for journalism that is horizontal that can tell stories across silos of established beats, rather than fit within established vertical silos of beat journalism.

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