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September 13 2011

13:37

The New Online Journalists #11: Jack Dearlove

Jack Dearlove

Reviving an ongoing series of profiles of young journalists, I interviewed Leeds university journalism student Jack Dearlove about his work in data journalism. Jack works as a BA on BBC Radio York’s Breakfast show and is also a third year Broadcast Journalism student at the University of Leeds, where he is News Editor for Leeds Student Radio.

How did you get into data journalism?

I started exploring data journalism when I saw how the Guardian was publishing stories attached to the raw spreadsheets on their guardian.co.uk/data blog. I liked the way they could bring a little extra to a story by digging up a big old spreadsheet and letting people play around with it.

I’m really a spreadsheet guy, doing the classic autofilter and then ordering things by the biggest and smallest values and slowly going down each line in the spreadsheet. This can take a while but it’s the only way you can be sure you’ve seen the whole picture.

I’d like to get into ‘scraping’ but haven’t really had the time to play around with it. But any technique that means data that I might not have naturally come across is something I’d love to get the hang of.

How do you use it in your work for the BBC?

I’ve worked for the BBC for nearly 4 years and it’s something i’ve built into my role as my job has changed. It will certainly be something that I use when it comes to future job interviews though, because hopefully it sets me apart from your standard journalist.

I think my colleagues were quite sceptical at first, but I have a very supportive and data savvy Assistant Editor who’s just as keen to use the techniques as I am. So there’s an air of curiosity, as there is in many newsrooms.

How does it fit into your studies?

It doesn’t really, my course hasn’t featured much about Data Journalism over the past two years and is unlikely to in its final year. It will be something I use when it comes to ‘news days’ though, to cook up a couple of stories before we start chasing others.

The truth of the matter is that I’m quite glad it’s not taught: you can’t really force it on someone because it takes quite a lot of time and effort to get anything from, so it’s not for everyone.

Where do you hope to go from here?

I’m not really sure. I graduate in a year’s time and I’m sure I’ll just be happy for employment. Longer term though I want to be the guy that makes radio people talk about. Not just on the days when something major is happening, but day to day, I want to make radio that I’m consistently proud of and that the audience love.

What tips would you give to other journalism students wanting to get into this side of journalism?

Don’t expect it to deal you an exclusive story every time you look and remember that the data is really raw, it’s missing a lot of context. Especially with ‘expenditure over £500′ data. It’s worth remembering that a sudden drop in series of payments to a particular company after a couple of months of relatively solid expenditure could be because it’s simply dropped below the £500 mark.

Treat it just like any other skill, like going through council minutes. You’re the journalist, don’t expect anyone else to be going through that data.

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August 24 2010

13:06

The New Online Journalists #10: Deborah Bonello

As part of an ongoing series, Deborah Bonello talks about a career that has taken her from business journalism in London to video journalism in South America, and a current role producing video at the FT.

What education and professional experience led to your current job?

After I graduated from Bristol University in 1998 (I wrote for my student newspaper Epigram for most of my time there), I moved up to London and started working for Newsline, an online news service run as part of the media database product Mediatel.

A year later I was taken on by New Media Age as a reporter, where I got to watch the dot com boom become the dot com crash and work with the then-editor, Mike Butcher, now the editor of TechCrunch Europe.

From there I moved to Campaign to edit their Campaign-i section, and when that got cut because of budgets after a year I spent the next few years freelancing on media business magazines (Campaign, Media Week, NMA, FT Creative Business) and watching how the traditional publishing industry took on the internet.

By then, I was fed up of London and business journalism, so I headed off to Latin America. After a year in Argentina as a print only journo, I moved to Mexico to launch NewCorrespondent.com, an experiment in digital journalism, with help from Mike Butcher.

The idea was to use free online tools – YouTube, WordPress, Twitter, Facebook, BlipTv and more – to publish multimedia journalistic content. NewCorrespondent.com became MexicoReporter.com and three months became three years. After my first six months of running the site in Mexico, I got taken on by the Mexico bureau of the Los Angeles Times, started shooting video and got trained in it by some of the best in the business (Scott Anger and Tim French). I contributed daily written and video dispatches to their Latin America blog, La Plaza, as well as latimes.com and the newspaper.

MexicoReporter.com became a go-to for English-speakers living in Mexico, as well as people around the world, and it was through the site that I also got commissioned to produce video pieces for the Guardian and Al Jazeera, amongst others, as well as for radio comment on breaking news such as the swine flu epidemic, violence against journalists and escalating drug-related violence in the country. The video caught the attention of the FT, and as the Los Angeles Times took their foot of the video pedal, it seemed like a good moment to move. I am currently working as a video producer and journalist in the FT’s London office.

What does your job involve?

I film, produce and edit video news, features and interviews for the Financial Times website, sometimes working as a one-man-band shooting operation, sometimes working with in-house camera operators and our correspondents around the UK and abroad.

Where do you see your career/job developing in future?

That all depends on how video journalism develops, but I am very excited about the potential of online journalism and video. TV and video are converging, which means new program formats and genres are emerging all the time, and everyone is experimenting with different styles of telling stories in video and multimedia.

I am especially interested in how the costs of technology have come down so dramatically that we should see a new generation of visual and text storytellers base themselves abroad at a fraction of the cost, tapping into the need for reduced costs in foreign reporting that the traditional media so desperately needs to survive to keep that content strand going.

Right now, if you’re a journalist that isn’t using new technologies to tell stories, you’re edging yourself out of the job market. Rather than the end of journalism as we know it, I think multimedia signifies a brave new world where our old disciplines still count but can manifest themselves across so many different platforms and media that your work is as creative and innovative as you want it to be. We just have to make sure we keep our eyes on the journalistic disciplines, and use technology as a means to an end rather than just for the sake of it.

In the long-term, I see myself based out in the Spanish-speaking world as a multimedia foreign correspondent.

August 03 2010

07:00

The New Online Journalists #9: Amy McLeod

As part of an ongoing series on recent graduates who have gone into online journalism, Amy McLeod talks about her path from the BBC to setting up a website offering graduate advice.

I had no idea that I wanted to be a journalist when I left university; I graduated with a degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from St Edmund Hall, Oxford University in 2008.  I had, however, made a number of short films which served as a useful starting point and got me work experience for the BBC.

Once in the building I talked my way into the current affairs development department and found myself working as a journalist.  I heard about the intriguing future plans for BBC content management and worked alongside Phillip Trippenbach, who was responsible for multimedia development – he made me realise the enormous potential that digital technology provides.  

In my spare time I learnt HTML and started work on a few fledgling coblogeration projects.  Thankfully I built up a relationship with a good web developer which meant I could be more ambitious with regard to the functionality of sites I was working on.

Training

I needed training to progress and so I opted for a fast track NCTJ which was far more affordable than a Masters (but probably not as good value for money).

Digital journalism was not covered at all; I set up a hyperlocal site for the college locality and encouraged my fellow students to use the platform to build up their portfolios.

I had several work experience placements on newspapers but the employment prospects were bleak. I wanted to work online but concentrate on producing written content so I moved from London to my home town Birmingham and set up www.rightfield.co.uk - a website that offers advice to recent graduates on how to use online platforms when starting out.

Doing it yourself

I interviewed innovative people and discovered Birmingham’s lively social media scene.  Thanks to Twitter, that network and my online portfolio I was approached by the University of Warwick to write for a new pilot website project that was being developed to provide better access to their online and research resources.

I currently write articles, record podcasts and research stories for the site.  I mainly produce 800-1000 word feature pieces based on a particular academic’s research, but I also contribute to developing the longer-term strategy that will see academics publish content to the site themselves.  I really enjoy that part of the job – figuring out ways to help people make the most of new media – the more the merrier!

My plan is to continue investing time in learning digital technology skills, finding ways to make use of these new capabilities while all the time improving on the basics – interviewing, research and telling a good story.
I think it is vital to remain open-minded about your career progression so you can respond positively to opportunities that present themselves. At the moment I am experimenting with translating datasets into infographics.

August 02 2010

08:00

The New Online Journalists #8: Ed Walker

As part of an ongoing series on recent graduates who have gone into online journalism, online communities editor Ed Walker talks about what got him the job, what it involves, and what skills he feels online journalists need today.

I graduated from the University of Central Lancashire School of Journalism in 2007 with a BA (Hons) first-class in Journalism. I specialised in online journalism in my final year and was taught by the digital yoda that is Andy Dickinson.

As part of my degree I was taught how to do HTML/CSS, built websites from scratch, shot video, chopped up audio, used RSS feeds for newsgathering, wrote stories, blogged using Wordpress, used content management systems and all that lovely stuff.

During the course it was obvious that you needed real experience – not just Microsoft Word-submitted stories to a lecturer – to get on in the industry. I started writing for my student paper, Pluto, as soon as I arrived – it was then in a monthly magazine format – and was part of the team that turned it into a fortnightly newspaper.

In 2005 we took the paper online for the first time with Pluto Online and I moved up to Assistant Editor before winning the election to become editor for a year.

We had some good splashes, with two stories going national, and we picked up two awards at the Press Gazette Student Journalism Awards 2008: the Scoop of the Year for an undercover investigation into an essay writing company run by a UCLan student; and one of our reporters picked up Student Reporter of the Year.

Experience

While studying I also did shifts for the Lancashire Evening Post as a reporter and got involved in the Johnston Press “Newsroom of the Future” project – shooting lots of video and audio for the website. I also had a really enjoyable placement and shifts with The Scotsman when Stewart Kirkpatrick, now of the Caledonian Mercury, was editor. This taught me a lot about how a national and regional operated in the same newsroom (standing me in good stead for my current role at Media Wales).

I also went to India for two and a half months to work for a publishing company, Explocity, on their range of magazines as a reporter and sub editor. Based in Bangalore, this was an eye-opening experience.

Finding a tough job market in the summer of 2008 I sold out and took a comms job at the university, but this involved managing the Students’ Union website and taught me a lot about content management, managing social media and databases/content management systems.

In January 2009 I started up a local news and community site for Preston, Blog Preston. This was partly to keep up some journalism experience and also to fill a void that was left by the Preston Citizen shutting down.

I used Wordpress, built up contacts and stories started coming in. Local people found it a useful resource and we had great feedback and traffic figures. It’s still going now, I oversee some very talented student journalists at UCLan: Andy Halls, Joseph Stashko, Daniel Bentley and David Stubbings – who produce content and manage the site.

The Online Communities Editor role

As Online Communities Editor with Media Wales I took on the project of starting a community website for Cardiff (http://yourcardiff.walesonline.co.uk) under the main WalesOnline (http://www.walesonline.co.uk) site.

The Cardiff section on the WalesOnline site just saw content pumped through from the papers, so my role was to get under the skin of Cardiff, focus on community and council stories and attract guest bloggers to the site. I also manage the social media presences for yourCardiff and WalesOnline.

In the multimedia age I also write regularly for the South Wales Echo, and work on increasing reader interaction with stories in the paper and working on collaborative journalism projects like getting readers to submit their parking hotspots around the city. I can go from editing a Google map, to shooting video, to writing the splash, to editing a guest blog post all in the space of a few hours during any given day.

I like regional journalism. I like getting out into the community and reporting on stories that matter to them, so I’d definitely like to stay in regional journalism and move upwards.

Ideally I’d like to get involved in improving the quality of local newspaper websites, helping them connect with online communities and also getting better integration with the papers. There’s so much more that could be done and it’s an exciting time to be a journalist.

July 29 2010

10:47

The New Online Journalists #7: Dave Lee

As part of an ongoing series on recent graduates who have gone into online journalism, Dave Lee talks about how he won a BBC job straight from university, what it involves, and what skills he feels online journalists need today.

I got my job as a result – delightfully! – of having a well-known blog. Well, that is, well-known in the sense it was read by the right people. My path to the BBC began with a work placement at Press Gazette – an opportunity I wouldn’t have got had it not been for the blog. In fact, I recall Patrick Smith literally putting it in those terms – saying that they’d never normally take an undergrad without NUJ qualifications – but they’d seen my blog and liked what I was doing.

I met Martin Stabe there, and worked closely with him on a couple of projects – including the Student Journalism Blog on their site.

Martin knew Nick Reynolds – social media executive at the BBC – and when he heard a blogger was needed for the BBC Internet Blog, my name was passed on. That door into the BBC then made it much easier to progress upwards to the newsroom.

My job is to write news and features for BBC News Online, based on output from the BBC World Service.

There wasn’t much in my course [at Lincoln University] which directly relates to the skills I use now – much has been learnt on the job – but there is a certain level of law knowledge, ethics and general good practice that has proved to be invaluable – and that came from my studies.

Of course, it’s always worth stressing that my blog was able to succeed because of my flexibility to write about my studies and people met via work at my university. So while studying didn’t perhaps give me the practical skills for my day-to-day job, it certainly has helped me be a good journalist in other, less measurable ways.

It’s hard to predict how my job will develop in the future. Within the BBC, it’s pretty crucial when making sure we share our best stuff – it’s not good having two sets of BBC journos (or more…) running after the same stories and sources. Jobs like mine help solve that situation.

10:05

The New Online Journalists #7: Dave Lee

As part of an ongoing series on recent graduates who have gone into online journalism, Dave Lee talks about how he won a BBC job straight from university, what it involves, and what skills he feels online journalists need today.

I got my job as a result – delightfully! – of having a well-known blog. Well, that is, well-known in the sense it was read by the right people. My path to the BBC began with a work placement at Press Gazette – an opportunity I wouldn’t have got had it not been for the blog. In fact, I recall Patrick Smith literally putting it in those terms – saying that they’d never normally take an undergrad without NUJ qualifications – but they’d seen my blog and liked what I was doing.

I met Martin Stabe there, and worked closely with him on a couple of projects – including the Student Journalism Blog on their site.

Martin knew Nick Reynolds – social media executive at the BBC – and when he heard a blogger was needed for the BBC Internet Blog, my name was passed on. That door into the BBC then made it much easier to progress upwards to the newsroom.

My job is to write news and features for BBC News Online, based on output from the BBC World Service.

There wasn’t much in my course [at Lincoln University] which directly relates to the skills I use now – much has been learnt on the job – but there is a certain level of law knowledge, ethics and general good practice that has proved to be invaluable – and that came from my studies.

Of course, it’s always worth stressing that my blog was able to succeed because of my flexibility to write about my studies and people met via work at my university. So while studying didn’t perhaps give me the practical skills for my day-to-day job, it certainly has helped me be a good journalist in other, less measurable ways.

It’s hard to predict how my job will develop in the future. Within the BBC, it’s pretty crucial when making sure we share our best stuff – it’s not good having two sets of BBC journos (or more…) running after the same stories and sources. Jobs like mine help solve that situation.

July 22 2010

07:00

The New Online Journalists #6: Conrad Quilty-Harper

As part of an ongoing series on recent graduates who have gone into online journalism, The Telegraph’s new Data Mapping Reporter Conrad Quilty-Harper talks about what got him the job, what it involves, and what skills he feels online journalists need today.

I got my job thanks to Twitter. Chris Brauer, head of online journalism at City University, was impressed by my tweets and my experience, and referred me to the Telegraph when they said they were looking for people to help build the UK Political database.

I spent six weeks working on the database, at first manually creating candidate entries, and later mocking up design elements and cleaning the data using Freebase Gridworks, Excel and Dabble DB. At the time the Telegraph was advertising for a “data juggler” role, and I interviewed for the job and was offered it.

My job involves three elements:

  • Working with reporters to add visualisations to stories based on numbers,
  • Covering the “open data” beat as a reporter, and
  • Creating original stories with visualisations based on data from FOI and other sources.

For my job I need to know how to select and scrape good data, clean it, pick out the stories and visualise it. (P.S. you may have noticed that I’m a “data is singular” kinda guy).

The “data” niche is greatly exciting to me. Feeding into this is the #opendata movement, the new Government’s plan to release more data and the understanding that data driven journalism as practised in the United States has to come here. There’s clearly a hunger for more data driven stories, a point well illustrated by a recent letter to the FT.

The mindset you need to have as an online journalist today is to become familiar with and proficient at using tools that make you better at your job. You have to be an early adopter. Get on the latest online service, get the latest gadget and get it before your colleagues and competitors. Find the value in those tools, integrate it into your work and go and find another tool.

When I blogged for Engadget our team had built an automated picture watermarker for liveblogging. I played with it for a few hours and made a new script that downloaded the pictures from a card, applied the watermark, uploaded the pictures and ejected the SD card. Engadget continues to try out new tools that enable them to do their job faster and better. There are endless innovations being churned out every day from the world of technology. Make time to play with them and make them work for you.

If you know of anyone else who should be featured in this series, let me know in the comments.

July 21 2010

06:20

The New Online Journalists #5: Nigel Barlow

As part of an ongoing series on recent graduates who have gone into online journalism, founder of Inside The M60 Nigel Barlow talks about what led him to launch his own news site, and where it might go next.

At the age of 43 I took the momentous decision to come out of finance and business and train to become a journalist starting a 3 year course at UCLAN.

I think I quickly realised that journalism was undergoing a massive change both in technology and in business and I quickly got into the conversation in my first year using blogging and then Twitter as well as attending as many journalism conferences in the flesh as possible.

For me the tools of new media, blogs, easy to use video, Twitter, RSS feeds etc. were a necessary tool for anyone wanting to break into journalism.

But more than that, it was changing the fundamentals of the economics of publishing and making me think that the route for me would be to go down the low cost route of setting up a niche site.

I have to say that apart from a few individuals on the UCLAN course (Andy [Dickinson] obviously) there was little encouragement to go down the route I have taken. The traditional paths into journalism were the ones that were being paraded and the use of new media, I have to say, was bolted on to courses rather than being the norm.

Very few of my fellow students blogged except when they had to for course work and Twitter was not used to any great extent.

When I graduated, the idea probably hadn’t still formed for Inside the M60 but my six months working at Innovation Manchester setting up their social media network opened my eyes to a lot of what was going on in Manchester which simply was not being reported (besides making loads of contacts).

I’d met Louise [Bolotin] through Twitter and then Social Media Cafe and coming back together from a journalism conference we decided that there was too much talking about journalism’s future and not enough action. We found that we had both been thinking about a news site for Manchester, maybe in slightly different ways.

I started to talk to a number of people in Manchester and in the industry about it and here we are today: still with a lot to do but excitingly building up a great brand in the city and ruffling the traditionalists’ feathers.

As to how it develops in the future: the project is already changing direction. I want to move away from the “hyperlocal” tag which seems to have so many connotations and instead, with the right amount of resource, I want to make Inside The M60 the news site for Manchester which will be sustainable as a low cost provider.

This may be pie in the sky at the moment but I’m ambitious

July 20 2010

06:40

The New Online Journalists #4: Kasper Sorensen

As part of an ongoing series on recent graduates who have gone into online journalism, Sonderborg portal web editor Kasper Sorensen talks about what got him the job, what it involves, and where it might go next. (Disclosure: I taught Kasper)

As with most jobs, experience is always a problem for new graduates. Everyone has a degree, but what sets you apart is your experience. I was lucky enough to study in an environment where engagement with the professionals in my area was a priority. We were encouraged to share our work outside the walls of the university and make it available for everyone to see/use.

Doing that in my first year with web design, meant that I got web design jobs all the way through university to support my studies, and most importantly, honour my skills in the area.

Birmingham City University was actively engaging in the local web scene. This helped in two ways: students always knew what was going on, and in most cases, teachers and lecturers would attend the same events, so students didn’t feel like the odd one out in a room full of professionals.

Attending these meetups, conferences etc. and sharing my experiences online on blogs, Twitter, Facebook etc. led to having two jobs lined up after I finished my studies: one in Birmingham working as an editor at BeVocal.org.uk and the other one in Denmark writing a book for the Danish School of Journalism.

Following that, I worked freelance speaking and doing web design until I got the job as Web Editor for a new citywide online portal.

The portal is a big investment in the council’s plans for branding the city of Sonderborg. The portal is just a part of a bigger re-branding masterplan for the city: it has been under development for nearly two years.

My job is to oversee the development of the portal which will launch in September and of course write/record content. The portal covers four big areas: Education, Tourism, Business, Events/Sport – all of which need topical articles and features published regularly. That would be my job.

It’s hard to say how I see it developing. I have fairly free hands when it comes to development of the portal, features etc., so hopefully I will get a chance to develop the portal in the way I see best. There are many challenges, especially when it comes to user engagement, social media practices etc. All stuff which haven’t been given much thought in the first two years of the process.

July 19 2010

08:00

The New Online Journalists #3: Josh Halliday

As part of an ongoing series on recent graduates who have gone into online journalism, The Guardian’s media reporter Josh Halliday talks about what got him the job, what it involves, and where it might go next.

I did an NCTJ-accredited BA (Hons) Journalism degree at University of Sunderland, but it is what I did around my degree that landed me a dream job at the Guardian.

That’s not to say my degree was unnecessary – it gave me an invaluable broad-brush knowledge of the theory and practice of journalism, yet it’s just not enough nowadays. Learning outside the curriculum – playing in the digital world, doing journalism – is what ultimately scored me a highly sought after job. I think myself really lucky, but I also know I worked my arse off and you make your own luck.

So I set up a personal blog, tried to keep it focussed – usually on journalism education, ever so slightly wavering into local news – got my CV on there, a portfolio, contact details, an explanation of who I am. I tried to keep it personable but professional. I realised personal branding was a big thing when seeing US j-students really paving the way – of course I was a little daunted by that initially, it was a bit of a brave new world – and I’m not the big I am anyway – but I realised it had to be done.

The hardest part is being likeable, interesting and honest at the same time. As personal blogging boomed I decided to turn more attention to my Twitter profile and microblogging, following relevant people, sharing pretty much everything I read, retweeting.

Then the chance came along to set up a hyperlocal news site for a four-miles square patch of Sunderland where I lived – I grabbed it with both hands as a chance to experiment and hone my news-gathering skills. Best decision I ever made.

In and around this I edited the Students’ Union magazine – frankly, it was only useful because of the weekly paypacket. I didn’t throw myself into the job solely for that reason though – I did it to improve a diabolical product, turn it into something to be proud of. Turns out you can only do that with the support of the University and the Students’ Union, so I just did my best.

I’d advise journalism students to think about getting their mates together and building their own online news/magazine – all the traditional ways of standing out are shrinking in importance, there are plenty more new, inventive and exciting opportunities to be had.

The role and the future

My role is quite wide-ranging, but everything I do sits inside media and technology. One minute I could be reporting on telephone masts, the next on the Sunday Times. This brings a brilliant freedom to explore areas of personal interest and it’s pretty much what I’ve been tweeting/blogging about for the past couple of years.

As well as this I’ve been given a bit of leeway to work in new, improved ways of delivering content to users. I’m convinced there’s a better (for producers as well as users) way of doing manual tasks like the morning media briefing, or the morning linkbuckets. I’m interested in freeing up time for reporters to report.

Impossible to predict where I’ll be in two, five, 10 years time but I’ll still be doing journalism �" that’s all I’m bothered about. By the end of my career, my dream is to have been a foreign correspondent in Africa or the Middle East (expendable cash going towards educating myself in these areas!) and to have improved the UK local news offering somehow.

July 16 2010

08:00

The New Online Journalists #2: Todd Nash

As part of an ongoing series on recent graduates who have gone into online journalism, Midlands News Association online journalist Todd Nash talks about what got him the job, what it involves, and where it might go next. (Disclosure: I taught Todd)

I started as a Community Moderator for guardian.co.uk shortly after graduating with First Class Honours from a Media and Communications (Journalism) degree at Birmingham City University. My new media experience, which was largely inspired by an Online Journalism module, appealed to my employers as did the fact that I had an interest in comments on newspaper websites and had written my dissertation on the subject.

Since then, I’ve moved on to an Online Journalism role with MNA Digital and the role involves taking responsibility for the social media output of the Express & Star and Shropshire Star, as well as looking after the editorial content for the jobs, property and motors sections of both newspaper websites.

I’d say that the biggest part that my education had to play in getting this job and the work that I’ve done here so far, was the inspiration that I had from my education to attempt things on my own. I used my blog to try out new ways of reporting, used social media and had put place my knowledge of the medium at guardian.co.uk and had knowledge of building sites, purely from my blogs.

I see my role developing hugely in the future. Social media does not stand still; just a couple of years ago MySpace was the place to be and Twitter was practically unheard of. Part of my role is ensuring that my websites don’t get left behind where this is concerned.

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