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May 03 2011

11:23

It’s all a matter of trust

According to the latest Ipsos MORI poll on trust in people, only 1 in 5 people think journalists tell the truth. They’re still more trustworthy than politicians generally and government ministers! Phew.

But telling the truth and being trustworthy are not the same thing. There’s not believing what they say and then there’s knowing that what they say is wrong and doing something about it. Which is why we have the Press Complaints Commission.

Here at ScraperWiki we also have a group of developers that don’t just complain when sites don’t work, they do something about it. That’s what Ben Campbell did for the Press Complaints Commission. He scraped the PCC to produce this site (pictured above) for the Media Standards Trust.

‘Trying to work out basic stuff, like which newspapers are the most complained about, is virtually impossible on the existing PCC site. So we scraped the data to make it easier (oh, and it’s the Daily Mail)’
- Martin Moore (Media Standards Trust)

Just as a news story can be presented in myriad of ways so too can data. Some representations are more useful than others. Many have different purposes,  a different audience. Others are so buried behind web forms and coding, they can’t reveal a story unless liberated.

Scraping creates a data wire service. And our developers are showing how even creating a simple league table (with realtime updates) can tell a completely different story.

Press Complaints Commission – you’ve been ScraperWikied!


March 15 2011

16:12

Cardiff Hacks and Hackers Hacks Day

What’s occurin’? Loads in fact, at our first Welsh Hacks and Hackers Hack Day! From schools from space to catering college’s with a Food Safety Standard of 2, we had an amazing day.

We got five teams:

Co-Ordnance – This project aimed to be a local business tracker. They wanted to make the London Stock Exchange code into meaningful data, but alas, the stock exchange prevents scraping. So they decided to use company data from registers like the LSE and Companies House to extract business information and structure it for small businesses who need to know best place to set up and for local business activists.

The team consisted of 3 hacks (Steve Fossey, Eva Tallaksen from Intrafish and Gareth Morlais from BBC Cymru) and 3 hackers (Carey HilesCraig Marvelley and Warren Seymour, all from Box UK).

It’s a good thing they had some serious hackers as they had a serious hack on their hands. Here’s a scraper they did for the London Stock Exchange ticker. And here’s what they were able to get done in just one day!

This was just a locally hosted site but the map did allow users to search for types of businesses by region, see whether they’d been dissolved and by what date.

Open Senedd – This project aimed to be a Welsh version of TheyWorkforYou. A way for people in Wales to find out how assembly members voted in plenary meetings. It tackles the worthy task of making assembly members voting records accessible and transparent.

The team consisted of 2 hacks (Daniel Grosvenor from CLIConline and Hannah Waldram from Guardian Cardiff) and 2 hackers (Nathan Collins and Matt Dove).

They spent the day hacking away and drew up an outline for www.opensenedd.org.uk. We look forward to the birth of their project! Which may or may not look something like this (left). Minus Coke can and laptop hopefully!

They took on a lot for a one day project but devolution will not stop the ScraperWiki digger!

There’s no such thing as a free school meal – This project aimed to extract information on Welsh schools from inspection reports. This involved getting unstructure Estyn reports on all 2698 Welsh schools into ScraperWiki.

The team consisted of 1 hack (Izzy Kaminski) and 2 astronomer hackers (Edward Gomez and Stuart Lowe from LCOGT).

This small team managed to scrape Welsh schools data (which the next team stole!) and had time to make a heat map of schools in Wales. This was done using some sort of astronomical tool. Their longer term aim is to overlay the map with information on child poverty and school meals. A worthy venture and we wish them well.

Ysgoloscope – This project aimed to be a Welsh version of Schooloscope. It’s aim was to make accessible and interactive information about schools for parents to explore. It used Edward’s scraper of horrible PDF Estyn inspection reports. These had different rating methodology to Ofsted (devolution is not good for data journalism!).

The team consisted of 6 hacks (Joni Ayn Alexander, Chris Bolton, Bethan James from the Stroke Association, Paul Byers, Geraldine Nichols and Rachel Howells), 1 hacker (Ben Campbell from Media Standards Trust) and 1 troublemaker (Esko Reinikainen).

Maybe it was a case to too many hacks or just trying to narrow down what area of local government to tackle but the result was a plan. Here is their presentation and I’m sure parents all over wales are hoping to see Ysgoloscope up and running.

Blasus – This project aimed to map food hygiene rating over Wales. They wanted to correlate this information with deprivation indices. They noticed that the Food Standards Agency site does not work. Not for this purpose which is most useful.

The team consisted of 4 hacks (Joe Goodden from the BBC, Alyson Fielding, Charlie Duff from HRZone and Sophie Paterson from the ATRiuM) and 1 hacker (Dafydd Vaughan from CF Labs).

As you can see below they created something which they presented on the day. They used this scraper and made an interactive map with food hygiene ratings, symbols and local information. Amazing for just a day’s work!

And the winners are… (drum roll please)

  • 1st Prize: Blasus
  • 2nd Prize: Open Senedd
  • 3rd Prize: Co-Ordnance
  • Best Scoop: Blasus for finding  a catering college in Merthyr with a Food Hygiene Standard rating of just 2
  • Best Scraper: Co-Ordnance

A big shout out

To our judges Glyn Mottershead from Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies, Gwawr Hughes from Skillset and Sean Clarke from The Guardian.

And our sponsors Skillset, Guardian Platform, Guardian Local and Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies.

Schools, businesses and eating place of Wales – you’ve been ScraperWikied!


March 09 2011

18:08

Churnalism.com Reveals Press Release Copy in News Stories

Editors' Note: Martin Moore is the director of the Media Standards Trust, which recently launched Churnalism.com -- a website that helps the public distinguish journalism from "churnalism," a news article that is published as journalism, but is essentially a press release without much added.

Two weeks in, and the public response to Churnalism.com has been fantastic.

churnalism logo.jpg

Since we launched the site on February 23, we have had 50,000 unique visitors, over 330,000 page impressions, and hundreds of press releases pasted in and saved. According to Google Analytics the site has been visited by people in 134 countries.

People have tracked down churnalism about eye-catching new products (such as "Baby Gaga," ice cream made with breast milk), about new research findings from universities (for example, on the "protective properties of green tea"), about new police initiatives (e.g., the recruitment of teenagers by police to prevent cyber-bullying), about the "happiest time of the week" (7:26 pm on a Saturday, says a poll sponsored by a multivitamin company), and about the prose of Jane Austen (which might not be all hers after all, according to an Oxford study). People have pointed us to stores of press releases like www.eurekalert.org and www.alphagalileo.org so we can build up a bigger bank of comparisons. And there have been discussions about what might constitute "signals of churnalism."

As importantly for us, the site has sparked lots of debate about churnalism. Here are some of the top questions that have come up:

Do the public care if journalists are churning out press releases?

Some felt the site's exposure of churnalism would not much bother the public.

Mark Stringer of Pretty Green told PR week he was "not sure why anyone would want to go to the time and effort of producing a website to prove something that no one really cares about."

Others thought the opposite was true.

"If you tell someone who is a punter rather than a journo that it's pretty standard practice to ctrl+C and ctrl+V huge chunks of a press release into a story," Steven Baxter wrote in his New Statesman blog, you'll get a revealing reaction. "I call it the 'Really?' face. People look at you as if to say 'Really? Is that what you do?'"

Our own experience to date appears to support Baxter's view rather than Stringer's.

Does the re-use of wire copy count as 'churnalism'?

There has been a fascinating discussion about the re-use of wire copy, especially when it is re-used almost verbatim, often with a byline from the news outlet added.

People have pointed out that news outlets subscribe to wire services to broaden their access to news, so why shouldn't they publish it?

Others have countered that using wire copy is not the problem, but passing it off as your own is.

"If you have to churn,"Minority Thought blogged, "at least be honest about it."

How can news organizations make their use of press releases more transparent?

On Memeburn, Tom Foremski wrote about a suggestion he made a few years back to color-code text that came from a press release. For example, distinguishing text "copied from a release or outside source (red)" from original text in black -- and potentially other colors to represent separate conflicts of interest. Others suggested just noting or linking to the release.

Professor George Brock, head of journalism at City University London, worried that rather than push journalists towards footnoting sources, Churnalism.com might discourage them.

Will Churnalism.com help reduce the production line approach to press releases?

A prominent communications professional, Mark Borkowski, welcomed the site, hoping it might help kill off the mass production of poor press releases.

So many are now produced, Borkowski wrote, that "the level of noise makes it hard for the true craft of the publicist to flourish."

Is all churnalism bad?

Alan Twigg of Seventy Seven PR told PR Week that "this site is making it sound like [public relations officers] getting coverage is a doddle and that PROs are taking over the media. If only it was that easy." Sounding a similar note, Stuart Skinner of PHA Media took to PR's defense on the same website, saying that "news is not a product of collusion between shady PROs and lazy journalists."

It is worth noting that the site does not say churnalism is easy, nor indeed that the reproduction of parts of press releases is necessarily unsavory.

"Of course not all churnalism is bad," the site's FAQ section says. "Some press releases are clearly in the public interest (medical breakthroughs, government announcements, school closures and so on). But even in these cases, it is better that people should know what press release the article is based on than for the source of the article to remain hidden."

Richard Sambrook also made an important point in his blog, that "there is of course Good PR and Bad PR just as there is Good Journalism and Bad Journalism."

Does Churnalism.com illustrate the self-correcting power of the web?

In the Guardian's online comment section Jimmy Wales, co-founder of Wikipedia, suggested that plagipedia and Churnalism.com "show us that the Internet is perfectly capable of correcting its own follies."

What's an equivalent word for "churnalism" in Spanish?

Great question. 1001Medios began a Twitter-hunt for a word in Spanish that captured the idea of "churnalism." Sadly, my Spanish is not good enough to work out if they've found one yet.

Building Buzz Without Legacy Media

The tremendous public response and debate almost certainly would not have happened without social media, blogs, and Chris Atkins. Chris' news stunts -- particularly about the chastity garter, the penazzle and Larry (or Jo) the cat -- captured public attention at the same time as making a serious point about how churn makes it into the mainstream media. (You can see Chris' film describing the stunts on the Guardian website, and his blog about it here.)

They also helped kick-start discussion about churnalism on social media, notably Twitter and Facebook. Thousands of people have tweeted about the "churnalism" problem, about Churnalism.com as a way to address the problem, about evidence of churn they have found, and yes, about Larry the Cat and the penazzle. It has been humbling and somewhat overwhelming to observe the level of public response and engagement.

Indeed, without social media and blogs there is every chance the site might have gone virtually unnoticed. The Guardian, which published the original "reveal" article about the news stunts, is still the only UK national newspaper site to have mentioned Churnalism.com.

Major news outlets that were fooled by Chris' PR stunts have yet to acknowledge their mistakes -- much less the website the hoaxes were intended to publicize. The BBC's Radio 5 Live is -- as far as we know -- yet to tell its listeners that the "Jo the Cat" story, which they discussed at length on their lunchtime program, was a fabrication. The Daily Mail does not appear to have informed its readers that Margaret Sutcliffe is not pursuing her custody claim about the Prime Minister's cat.

Contrast this with BBC Norfolk which immediately put its hands up and then used the hoax as a good way to start a discussion about churnalism.

Industry and International Attention

The public relations industry in the U.K. has been more direct in its response than the mainstream press. "PR Industry hits out at churnalism site" said an article on PRWeek.co.uk.

Various figures from the industry voiced their concern about the impact the site might have on the reputation of PR. Though in a measured and sensible leader, the editor Danny Rogers suggested churnalism was a genuine threat to both journalism and PR: "If organizations are churning out rubbish, and so-called journalists are mere accomplices in this process, we will all be taking part in a depressing downward spiral."

One of the really encouraging things about the response to the site in its first two weeks has been the international reaction. In addition to many kind words of encouragement, we have had expressions of interest from people to extend the site to the U.S., Germany, Finland, Spain, and Australia. We've spoken to NPR radio in New York, to CBC radio in Canada, BBC Radio Norfolk, BBC Wales and to community radio in Essex. We've been contacted by news organizations in Germany, Belgium, Australia, the U.S. and Russia.

What's Next for Churnalism.com?

Some of this interest is not in the site itself but in the technology that underlies it. The methodology we developed can be applied to many other uses beyond churnalism. It could be used, for example, to trace changes in the progress of legislation. It could be used to measure the re-use of Wikipedia. It could be applied to plagiarism in other parts of the web.

We're still pedaling furiously to respond to many of the questions people have raised and issues identified. We are, for example, about to introduce a page that allows people to explore the use of press releases by news outlet or sector (i.e. government, science). We are now highlighting, on the home page, what comparisons people are sharing (since people seem to prefer to share than to rate). We are adding a report button so people can tell us when something definitely is not churn.

Finally, we will start to link the site more directly with the other Media Standards Trust transparency projects -- notably journalisted.com and hNews. This should help us to create a whole toolbox of transparency and accountability mechanisms for online news and create an ecology that will foster and advantage original journalism.

March 02 2011

13:24

Signals of churnalism?

Journalism warning labels

Journalism warning labels by Tom Scott

On Friday I had quite a bit of fun with Churnalism.com, a new site from the Media Standards Trust which allows you to test how much of a particular press release has been reproduced verbatim by media outlets.

The site has an API, which got me thinking whether you might be able to ‘mash’ it with an RSS feed from Google News to check particular types of articles – and what ‘signals’ you might use to choose those articles.

I started with that classic PR trick: the survey. A search on Google News for “a survey * found” (the * is a wildcard, meaning it can be anything) brings some interesting results to start investigating.

Jon Bounds added a favourite of his: “hailed a success”.

And then it continued:

  • “Research commissioned by”
  • “A spokesperson said”
  • “Can increase your risk of” and “Can reduce your risk of”

On Twitter, Andy Williams added the use of taxonomies of consumers – although it was difficult to pin that down to a phrase. He also added “independent researchers

Contributors to the MySociety mailing list added:

  • “Proud to announce”
  • “Today launches”
  • “Revolutionary new”
  • “It was revealed today” (Andy Mabbett)
  • “According to research”, “research published today” and “according to a new report”

And of course there is “A press release said”.

Signal – or sign?

The idea kicked off a discussion on Twitter on whether certain phrases were signals of churnalism, or just journalistic cliches. The answer, of course, is both.

By brainstorming for ‘signals’ I wasn’t arguing that any material using these phrases would be guilty of churnalism – or even the majority – just that they might be represent one way of narrowing your sample. Once you have a feed of stories containing “Revolutionary new” you can then use the API to test what proportion of those articles are identical to the text in a press release – or another news outlet.

The signal determines the sample, the API calculates the results.

Indeed, there’s an interesting research project to be done – perhaps using the Churnalism API – on whether the phrases above are more likely to contain passages copied wholesale from press releases, than a general feed of stories from Google News.

(Another research project might involve looking at press releases to identify common phrases used by press officers that might be used by the API)

You may have another opinion of course – or other phrases you might suggest?

November 18 2010

18:06

Google News Meta Tags Fail to Give Credit Where Credit Is Due

Far be it for me to question the brilliance of Google, but in the case of its new news meta tagging scheme, I'm struggling to work out why it is brilliant or how it will be successful.

First, we should applaud the sentiment. Most of us would agree that it is a Good Thing that we should be able to distinguish between syndicated and non-syndicated content, and that we should be able to link back to original sources. So it is important to recognize that both of these are -- in theory -- important steps forward both from the perspective of news and the public.

But there are a number of problems with the meta tag scheme that Google proposes.

Problems With Google's Approach

Meta tags are clunky and likely to be gamed. They are clunky because they cover the whole page, not just the article. As such, if the page contains more than one article or, more likely, contains lots of other content besides the article (e.g. links, promos, ads), the meta tag will not distinguish between them. More important is that meta tags are, traditionally, what many people have used to game the web. Put in lots of meta tags about your content, the theory goes, and you will get bumped up the search engine results. Rather than address this problem, the new Google system is likely to make it worse, since there will be assumed to be a material value to adding the "original source" meta tag.

Though there is a clear value in being able to identify sources, distinguishing between an "original source" as opposed to a source is fraught with complications. This is something that those of us working on hNews, a microformat for news, have found when talking with news organizations. For example, if a journalist attends a press conference then writes up that press conference, is that the original source? Or is it the press release from the conference with a transcript of what was said? Or is it the report written by another journalist in the room published the following day? Google appears to suggest they could all be "original sources"; if this extends too far then it is hard to see what use it is.

Even when there is an obvious original source, like a scientific paper, news organizations rarely link back to it (even though it's easy to use a hyperlink). The BBC -- which is generally more willing to source than most -- has historically tended to link to the front page of a scientific publication or website rather than to the scientific paper itself (something the Corporation has sought to address in its more recent editorial guidelines). It is not even clear, in the Google meta-tagging scheme, whether a scientific paper is an original source, or the news article based on it is an original source.

And what about original additions to existing news stories? As Tom Krazit wrote on CNET:

The notion of 'original source' doesn't take into account incremental advances in news reporting, such as when one publication advances a story originally broken by another publication with new important details. In other words, if one publication broke the news of Prince William's engagement while another (hypothetically) later revealed exactly how he proposed, who is the "original source" for stories related to "Prince William engagement," a hot search term on Google today?

Differences with hNews

Something else Google's scheme does not acknowledge is that there are already methodologies out there that do much of what it is proposing, and are in widespread use (ironic given Google's blog post title "Credit where credit is due"). For example, our News Challenge-funded project, hNews already addresses the question of syndicated/non-syndicated, and in a much simpler and more effective way. Google's meta tags do not clash with hNews (both conventions can be used together), but neither do they build on its elements or work in concert with them.

One of the key elements of hNews is "source-org" or the source organization from which the article came. Not only does this go part-way toward the "original source" second tag Google suggests, it also cleverly avoids the difficult question of how to credit a news article that may be based on wire copy but has been adapted since -- a frequent occurence in journalism. The Google syndication method does not capture this important difference. hNews is also already the standard used by the largest American syndicator of content, the Associated Press, and is also used by more than 500 professional U.S. news organizations.

It's also not clear if Google has thought about how this will fit into the workflow of journalists. Every journalist we spoke to when developing hNews said they did not want to have to do things that would add time and effort to what they already do to gather, write up, edit and publish a story. It was partly for this reason that hNews was made easy to integrate into publishing systems; it's also why hNews marks information up automatically.

Finally, the new Google tags only give certain aspects of credit. They give credit to the news agency and the original source but not to the author, or to when the piece was first published, or how it was changed and updated. As such, they are a poor cousin to methodologies like hNews and linked data/RDFa.

Ways to Improve

In theory Google's initiative could be, as this post started by saying, a good thing. But there are a number of things Google should do if it is serious about encouraging better sourcing and wants to create a system that works and is sustainable. It should:

  • Work out how to link its scheme to existing methodologies -- not just hNews but linked data and other meta tagging methods.
  • Start a dialogue with news organizations about sourcing information in a more consistent and helpful way.
  • Clarify what it means by original source and how it will deal with different types of sources.
  • Explain how it will prevent its meta-tagging system from being misused such that the term "original source" becomes useless.
  • Use its enormous power to encourage news organizations to include sources, authors, etc. by ranking properly marked-up news items over plain-text ones.

It is not clear whether the Google scheme -- as currently designed -- is more focused on helping Google with some of its own problems sorting news or with nurturing a broader ecology of good practice.

One cheer for intention, none yet for collaboration or execution.

October 13 2010

15:00

September 07 2010

10:05

August 18 2010

21:42

May 07 2010

14:00

An involuntary Facebook for reporters and their work: Martin Moore on the U.K.’s Journalisted

In the era of big media, our conceptions of trust were tied up in news organizations. If a story was on page 1 of The New York Times, that fact alone conjured up different associations of quality, truthfulness, and trustworthiness than if it were on page 1 of The National Enquirer. Those associations weren’t consistent — many Fox News viewers would have different views on the trustworthiness of the Times than I do — but they still largely lived at the level of the news organization.

But in an era of big-media regression and splintered news — when news can be delivered online by someone you hadn’t even heard of 10 seconds ago — how does trust evolve? Does it trickle down to the individual journalist: Do we decide who to trust not based on the news organization they work for but on the reporter? Are there ways to build metadata around those long-faceless bylines that can help us through the trust thicket?

It’s a question that’s getting poked at by Journalisted, the project of the U.K.’s Media Standards Trust. You can think of Journalisted as an involuntary Facebook for British reporters — at the moment, those who work for the national newspapers and the BBC, but with hopes to expand. It tracks their work across news organizations, cataloging it and drawing what data-based conclusions it can.

So if you run across an article by Richard Norton-Taylor and have pangs of doubt about his work, you can go see what else he’s written about the subject or anything else. There’s also a bit of metadata around his journalism: A tag cloud tells you he writes more about the MI5 than anything else, although lately he’s been more focused on NATO. You can see what U.K. bloggers wrote about each of his stories, and you can find other journalists who write about similar topics. And for journalists who choose to provide it, you can learn biographical information, like the fact that Simon Rothstein is an award-winning writer about professional wrestling, so maybe his WWE stories are more worth your time.

It is very much a first step — Journalisted is not yet the vaunted distributed trust network that will help us decide who to pay attention to and who we can safely ignore. The journalist-matching metadata is really interesting, but it still doesn’t go very far in determining merit: No one’s built those tools yet. But it’s a significant initiative toward placing journalists in the context of their work and their peers, and in the new splintered world, that context is going to be important.

Our friend Martin Moore of the Media Standards Trust dropped by our spare-shelved office not long ago and I asked him to talk about Journalisted. Video above, transcript below.

Journalisted is essentially a directory of all the journalists who are published in the UK national press and on the BBC, and in the future other sites as well. Each journalist has their own profile page, a little bit like Facebook or LinkedIn, but the difference being that that page is automatically updated with links to their most recent articles. It has some basic analysis of the content of those articles, so what they write an awful lot about, and what they don’t. And, it has links to other information to give context to the journalist, so if they have a profile in the paper, or if they have a Wikipedia page, or if they have their own personal blog or website. And as of a couple of weeks ago, they can add further information themselves if they’d like to.

[...]

If you’re interested in a particular journalist and you want to know more about what they write about, again to give you context, then obviously that’s a very good way of doing it. It tells you if they come from a particular perspective, it tells you if they’ve written an awful lot about a subject. If you, for example, read a piece strongly recommending against multiple vaccinations, you might want to know if this person has a history of being anti-multiple vaccinations, or if they have particular qualifications in science that make them very good reporting on this issue, etc. So, it gives you that context.

It also, on a simpler level, can give you contact details. So, where a journalist has published their email address, we automatically serve it up. But equally they can themselves put in further contact information, if you want to follow up on a story. And we also have some interesting analytics which lead you on to journalists who write about similar topics, or if you read an article, similar articles on the same topic. So again, it’s to contextualize the news and to help you to navigate and have more reason to trust a piece.

[...]

Initially, there was a bit of shock, I think. An awful lot of journalists don’t expect the spotlight to be turned around and put on them, so we had some very interesting exchanges. Since then, it’s now been around long enough that a lot of journalists have actually started to almost use it as their online CV. They’re adding their own stuff, they’re asking us to add stuff on their behalf, and they’re seeing that it can be of benefit to them, either with sources, so that they can allow sources to contact them, and to engage with them, or, equally, with employers. Quite a number of journalists have told us that editors have looked at their Journalisted profile and made a decision as to whether to offer them some work.

[...]

There are a number of goals. The initial one that we’re working on now is to flesh out the profiles much more. So to give people much more depth around the person so that they can have a much better impression as to who this journalist is, what they write about, their qualifications, the awards that they’ve won, and the books that they’ve written, etc. So, really flesh out the individual profile.

Following on from that, we’d love to expand it. We’d love to bring in more journalists, more publications — if possible, even go international. Our hope is that in the future, it will start to become a central resource, if you like, a junction point, a linked data resource, so that it will be the place you’ll come to from either the news site, from a blog, from wherever, in order to find out more about a journalist.

April 14 2010

13:51

Cartoon journalist recognised on Journalisted.com


Journalisted.com, sporting a new and refreshed look, has added a pseudonymous 18th century journalist to its byline directory.

As Media Standards Trust director Martin Moore describes on his blog, Journalisted is to support Matt Buck and Michael Cross’ cartoon creation ‘Tobias Grubbe’, an 18th century journalist. Grubbe’s work is also to be published on the Guardian website during the general election.

“Grubbe will be expressing his opinions about the election on the Guardian website from Monday 12 April to the election (and a bit after). He has also become an honorary member of journalisted.com, joining over 18,000 of his colleagues,” says Moore.

Grubbe can also be found on Twitter: @tobiasgrubbe.

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March 17 2010

09:32

MediaShift: Why news organisations should use ‘linked data’

Director of the Media Standards Trust Martin Moore gives 10 reasons why news organisations should use “linked data” – “a way of publishing information so that it can easily – and automatically -be linked to other, similar data on the web”.

[Moore's recommendations follow the News Linked Data Summit and you can read more about the event at this link.]

It’s worth reading the list in full, but some of the top reasons include:

  • Linked data can boost search engine optimisation;
  • It helps you and other people build services around your content;
  • It helps journalists with their work:

As a news organisation publishes more of its news content in linked data, it can start providing its journalists with more helpful information to inform the articles they’re writing. Existing linked data can also provide suggestions as to what else to link to.

Full post at this link…

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February 03 2010

10:58

Martin Moore: ‘What are the universal principles that guide journalism?’

The UK’s Media Standards Trust is trying to define the principles of journalism, as part of its Value Added News transparency project.

The hNews microformatting system, recently adopted by 200 new sites, requires its users to sign up to journalism principles. “One of the key elements of hNews (…) is rel-principles,” explains MST director Martin Moore. “This is a line of code that embeds a link within each article to the news principles to which it adheres. It doesn’t specify what those principles should be, just that the article should link to some.”

In a blog post for the MediaShift Idea Lab, Moore outlines some of the problems associated with drawing up such a code. He describes the themes identified so far. “These themes are by no means comprehensive – nor are they intended to be,” he says. “They are a starting point for those, be they news organizations or bloggers, who are drawing up their own principles and need a place to start. We’d really like some feedback on whether these are right, if ten is too many, if there are any big themes missing, and which ones have most relevance to the web.”

  1. Public interest Example: “… to serve the general welfare by informing the people and enabling them to make judgments on the issues of the time” (American Society of Newspaper Editors)
  2. Truth and accuracy Example: “[The journalist] strives to ensure that information disseminated is honestly conveyed, accurate and fair” (National Union of Journalists, UK)
  3. Verification Example: “Seeking out multiple witnesses, disclosing as much as possible about sources, or asking various sides for comment… [The] discipline of verification is what separates journalism from other modes of communication, such as propaganda, fiction or entertainment” (Principles of Journalism, from Project for Excellence in Journalism)
  4. Fairness Example: “… our goal is to cover the news impartially and to treat readers, news sources, advertisers and all parts of our society fairly and openly, and to be seen as doing so” (New York Times Company Policy on Ethics in Journalism)
  5. Distinguishing fact and comment Example: “… whilst free to be partisan, [the press] must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact” (Editors Code of Practice, PCC, U.K.)
  6. Accountability Example: “The journalist shall do the utmost to rectify any published information which is found to be harmfully inaccurate” (International Federation of Journalists, Principles on the Conduct of Journalists)
  7. Independence Example: “Journalists should be free of obligation to any interest other than the public’s right to know… [and] Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived” (Society of Professional Journalists)
  8. Transparency (regarding sources) Example: “Aim to attribute all information to its source. Where a source seeks anonymity, do not agree without first considering the source’s motives and any alternative, attributable source. Where confidences are accepted, respect them in all circumstances” (Australian Journalists Code)
  9. Restraint (around harassment and intrusion) Example: “The public has a right to know about its institutions and the people who are elected or hired to serve its interests. People also have a right to privacy and those accused of crimes have a right to a fair trial. There are inevitable conflicts between the right to privacy, the public good and the public’s right to be informed. Each situation should be judged in the light of common sense, humanity and the public’s rights to know” (Canadian Association of Journalists)
  10. Originality (i.e. not plagiarising) Example: “An AP staffer who reports and writes a story must use original content, language and phrasing. We do not plagiarise, meaning that we do not take the work of others and pass it off as our own” (Associated Press Statement of news values and principles)

Full post (and themes) at this link…

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February 02 2010

16:27

What Are the Universal Principles that Guide Journalism?

Defining principles of journalism is difficult. Rewarding, but difficult.

Back in 2005 it took the Los Angeles Times a year of internal discussions to settle on its ethical guidelines for journalists. The Committee for Concerned Journalists took four years, did oodles of research and held 20 public forums, in order to come up with a Statement of Shared Purpose with nine principles (which was subsequently fleshed out in the excellent "The Elements of Journalism" by Kovach and Rosenstiel).

Time spent thinking can then translate into a lot of principles. The BBC's editorial guidelines -- which include guidance about more than just journalism -- run to 228 pages. The New York Times' policy on ethics in journalism has more than 10,000 words. Principles needn't be so wordy. The National Union of Journalists (U.K.) code of conduct, first drafted in 1936, has 12 principles adding up to barely more than 200 words.

But, once defined, these principles serve multiple functions. They act as a spur to good journalism, as well as a constraint on bad. They provide protection for freedom of speech and of the press -- particularly from threats or intimidation by the government or commercial organizations. And they protect the public by preventing undue intrusion and providing a means of response or redress.

Principles in the Online World

In an online world, principles can serve another function. They can help to differentiate journalism from other content published on the web, whether that be government information, advertising, promotion, or institutional or personal information.

One of the key elements of hNews -- the draft microformat the Media Standards Trust developed with the AP to make news more transparent -- is rel-principles. This is a line of code that embeds a link within each article to the news principles to which it adheres. It doesn't specify what those principles should be, just that the article should link to some.

Now that lots of news sites are implementing hNews (over 200 sites implemented the microformat in January), we're getting some pushback on this. News sites, and bloggers, generally recognize that transparent principles are a good idea but, having not previously made them explicit online, many of them aren't entirely sure what they should be.

When we started working with OpenDemocracy, for example, they realized they had not made their principles explicit. As a result of integrating hNews, they now have. Similarly, the information architect and blogger Martin Belam, who blogs at currybet.net and integrated hNews in January 2010, wrote: "it turned out that what I thought would be a technical implementation task actually generated a lot of questions addressing the fundamentals of what the site is about... It meant that for the first time I had to articulate my blogging principles."

So, in an effort to help those who haven't yet defined their principles, we're in the process of gathering together as many as we can find, and pulling out the key themes.

This is where you can help.

Asking for Feedback

We've identified 10 themes that we think characterize many journalism statements of principle. This is a result of reviewing dozens of different (English language) principles statements available on the web. The statements were accessed via the very useful journalism ethics page on Wikipedia; via links provided by the Project for Excellence in Journalism; and from the Media Accountability Systems listed on the website of Donald W. Reynolds Institute of Journalism.

These themes are by no means comprehensive -- nor are they intended to be. They are a starting point for those, be they news organizations or bloggers, who are drawing up their own principles and need a place to start.

We'd really like some feedback on whether these are right, if ten is too many, if there are any big themes missing, and which ones have most relevance to the web.

Ten Themes

Our 10 themes are:

  1. Public interest Example: "... to serve the general welfare by informing the people and enabling them to make judgments on the issues of the time" (American Society of Newspaper Editors)
  2. Truth and accuracy Example: "[The journalist] strives to ensure that information disseminated is honestly conveyed, accurate and fair" (National Union of Journalists, UK)
  3. Verification Example: "Seeking out multiple witnesses, disclosing as much as possible about sources, or asking various sides for comment... [The] discipline of verification is what separates journalism from other modes of communication, such as propaganda, fiction or entertainment" (Principles of Journalism, from Project for Excellence in Journalism)
  4. Fairness Example: "... our goal is to cover the news impartially and to treat readers, news sources, advertisers and all parts of our society fairly and openly, and to be seen as doing so" (New York Times Company Policy on Ethics in Journalism)
  5. Distinguishing fact and comment Example: "... whilst free to be partisan, [the press] must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact" (Editors Code of Practice, PCC, U.K.)
  6. Accountability Example: "The journalist shall do the utmost to rectify any published information which is found to be harmfully inaccurate" (International Federation of Journalists, Principles on the Conduct of Journalists)
  7. Independence Example: "Journalists should be free of obligation to any interest other than the public's right to know... [and] Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived" (Society of Professional Journalists)
  8. Transparency (regarding sources) Example: "Aim to attribute all information to its source. Where a source seeks anonymity, do not agree without first considering the source's motives and any alternative, attributable source. Where confidences are accepted, respect them in all circumstances" (Australian Journalists Code)
  9. Restraint (around harassment and intrusion) Example: "The public has a right to know about its institutions and the people who are elected or hired to serve its interests. People also have a right to privacy and those accused of crimes have a right to a fair trial. There are inevitable conflicts between the right to privacy, the public good and the public's right to be informed. Each situation should be judged in the light of common sense, humanity and the public's rights to know" (Canadian Association of Journalists)
  10. Originality (i.e. not plagiarizing) Example: "An AP staffer who reports and writes a story must use original content, language and phrasing. We do not plagiarise, meaning that we do not take the work of others and pass it off as our own" (Associated Press Statement of news values and principles)

There are, of course, many excluded from here. We could, for example, have gone into much more depth in the area of "limitation from harm," which is only briefly referred to in number nine. Principles to inform newsgathering could form another whole section in itself.

There is also the growing area of commercial influence. In the U.S., the FCC has become pretty animated about bloggers taking money to promote goods while appearing to be impartial. In the world, the line between editorial and commercial content can get pretty blurred. Right now this is just covered by number five, independence. Should there be a separate principle around independence from commercial influence?

Any and all responses are much appreciated, so please leave them in the comments. Also feel free to get in touch directly if you'd like to continue the discussion (I'm at martin DOT moore AT mediastandardstrust DOT org).

December 14 2009

09:30

#FollowJourn: @martinjmoore / MST director

#FollowJourn: Martin Moore

Who? Director of the Media Standards Trust.

What? Moore, a regular blogger and media commentator, heads the Media Standards Trust, a UK-based media research organisation.

Where? Find out more on his blog: http://mediastandardstrust.blogspot.com/

Contact? @martinjmoore.

Just as we like to supply you with fresh and innovative tips every day, we’re recommending journalists to follow online too. They might be from any sector of the industry: please send suggestions (you can nominate yourself) to judith or laura at journalism.co.uk; or to @journalismnews.

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