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May 27 2011


#newsrw: ‘It’s almost as if the liveblog is the new home page’

Far from being the death of journalism, it is almost as if the liveblog is the new home page if it central to the coverage signposts to the rest of the coverage, according to Matt Wells, blogs editor of the Guardian.

Liveblogs are Twitter for people not on Twitter, panelists agreed in the fourth and final session at news:rewired – noise to signal, who demonstrated that liveblogging has not been killed by Twitter, as has been claimed.

Matt Wells, blogs editors, the Guardian responded to criticism that suggested journalism should only follow the the tried and tested format of a news story.

The inverted triangle is the single reason why journalism is so mistrusted and the search for the top line encourages sensationalism, Wells said

Liveblogs are good for stories that don’t have a beginning and an end, Wells explained, and cited the example of Hosni Mubarak’s resignation from the Egyptian presidency.

“Liveblogs can’t be printed, you can’t broadcast them on television or on a radio station. They only work on a digital screen.

“It’s the only format that has developed specifically for the digital media,” Wells said.

He responded to Tim Montgomery’s claim that “Twitter has killed live blogging,” giving this as a reason for not live blogging the AV vote.

So what is next for the Guardian’s live blogs? Wells said the team is working on ways to better signpost liveblogs, better navigation and to make it “easier to get out of if you don’t want to be there”.

Users want to read a live blog in different ways.

“Show me it from the start, show me it form the latest post, show me the best posts,” is what Wells is hearing from readers.

Alan Marshall, head of digital production at the Press Association, said liveblogging is bridging the gap between the PA wire service and other products

“It’s a natural extension of what PA has been doing for a long time,” he said.

PA uses ScribbleLive and reporters can file via Twitter, email, smartphone, which interact with the CMS.

Marshall used a liveblog of the Royal Wedding as an example and one he described as “a real watershed for PA”.

PA’s Royal Wedding liveblog was used by its customers, including Yahoo and Newsquest, both companies were able to integrate their own users content and comments onto their sites.

Reporters sent reports, including observations filed by Twitter, and the “the bits that don’t make the wire”.

Paul Gallagher, Manchester Evening News, explained how the MEN started liveblogging with an English Defence League rally in 2009. It received 3,000 comments and gratitude from readers for the information.

MEN has produced 30 liveblogs during the past 18 months, including reporting from all council meetings, and some liveblogs have resulted in a spike in web traffic, including the Manchester City parade celebrating its recent FA cup win.

“Every single person in our newsroom live blogs,” Gallagher explained.

As well as being popular, liveblogs result in people spending longer on the site which has led to people requesting for email alerts giving “the potential for a better profile of our audience”, he said.

Anna Doble, social media producer, Channel 4 News, gave the example of liveblogging the budget including a video comment of Faisal Islam from his desk, surrounded by piles of paper and not in a suit, who gave analysis while chancellor George Osborne was still on his feet.

The liveblog also included the “real person on the street” by inviting a carer, a mother and a student to post.

Doble also discussed liveblog following the death Osama bin Laden, and how it made use of the huge video resource of Channel 4 News.

She demonstrated increased audience engagement explaining that a farmer living near Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan contacted Jon Snow via Twitter and is now a regular contributor providing updates now the journalists have left the scene of the news story.


LIVE: Final session – Is liveblogging rewriting journalism? #newsrw

We have Matt Caines and Ben Whitelaw from Wannabe Hacks liveblogging for us at news:rewired all day. You can follow final session ‘Is live-blogging rewriting journalism?’, below.

Final session features:Matt Wells, blogs editor, the Guardian; Paul Gallagher, head of online content, the Manchester Evening News; Anna Doble, social media producer, Channel4 News; Alan Marshall, head of digital production, Press Association. Moderated by Marcus Warren, editor, Telegraph.co.uk.

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October 22 2010


Manchester Police tweets and the MEN – local data journalism part 2

Manchester Evening News visualisation of Police incident tweets

A week ago I blogged about how the Manchester Evening News were using data visualisation to provide a deeper analysis of the local police force’s experiment in tweeting incidents for 24 hours. In that post Head of Online Content Paul Gallagher said he thought the real benefit would “come afterwards when we can also plot the data over time”.

Now that data has been plotted, and you can see the results here.

In addition, you can filter the results by area, type (crime or ‘social work’) and category (specific sort of crime or social issue).

It’s a good follow up, although at the current time somewhat short of illuminating findings. The page introducing the interactive chart links to just one time-based story from the data: that between 9pm and 10pm at night a quarter of all calls relate to anti-social behaviour. There’s no indication that journalists will be digging for others.

The text also fails to invite users to contribute their own insights, instead presenting the tools as a way to find a personalised ‘story’ rather than the start of any collaborative process.

The visualisation tool could also be improved. While allowing you to look at any particular category and area in isolation, it doesn’t allow you to visually compare them to see, for example, whether Bolton or Bury is quieter at night, or whether burglary peaks in the morning in one area, but in the evening in another.

And of course, they’ve not linked to the original data to allow a helpful developer to do that for them (going into greater depth: the URL for each set of results is ‘hackable’ – i.e. easy to construct if you know what you’re looking for – and so easier to scrape the resulting tweets. However, the chart itself with the numbers in it is Flash-based which creates a problem)

On the positive side, it’s good to see a clear basic visualisation with a base starting at 0.

If you do want the raw data, it’s been put together by The Guardian’s Michael Brunton-Spall and is available here.

This formed the basis for a day of activity at a Hacks & Hackers Day last week, which the Manchester Evening News took part in. The results of that can be read on the Scraperwiki blog and on Andy Dickinson’s blog. These included:

“David Kendal produced his own project mapping 999 calls in the area. He took the tweet data and put it through the Yahoo placemaker tool, plotting information on a Google map, to see which areas got calls over certain periods of time.

“Yuwei Lin and Enrico Zini [produced] a GMP tweet database, and showed a very neat search tool that allowed analysis of certain aspects of the police data (3257 items).”

And unrelated to the police tweets but of enormous use to journalists was the creation of judgmental.org.uk, a website of United Kingdom case judgment data.

“At the moment this is only available via Bailli and the team wanted to make something more usable and searchable (Bailli’s data cannot be scraped or indexed by Google).

“It is still a work in progress, but could eventually provide a very useful tool for journalists. Although the data is not updated past a certain point, journalists would be able to analyse the information for different factors: which judges made which judgments? What is the level of activity in different courts? Which times of year are busier? It could be scrutinised to determine different aspects of the cases.”

I’m immensely pleased to see this come about as a result in part (I’m told) of an investigation on Help Me Investigate last year.

October 14 2010


Manchester police tweets – live data visualisation by the MEN

Manchester police tweets - live data visualisation

Greater Manchester Police (GMP) have been experimenting today with tweeting every incident they deal with. The novelty value of the initiative has been widely reported – but local newspaper the Manchester Evening News has taken the opportunity to ask some deeper questions of the data generated by experimenting with data visualisation.

A series of bar charts – generated from Google spreadsheets and updated throughout the day – provide a valuable – and instant – insight into the sort of work that police are having to deal with.

In particular, the newspaper is testing the police’s claim that they spend a great deal of time dealing with “social work” as well as crime. At the time of writing, it certainly does take up a significant proportion – although not the “two-thirds” mentioned by GMP chief Peter Fahy. (Statistical disclaimer: the data does not yet even represent 24 hours, so is not yet going to be a useful guide. Fahy’s statistics may be more reliable).

Also visualised are the areas responsible for the most calls, the social-crime breakdown of incidents by area, and breakdowns of social incidents and serious crime incidents by type.

I’m not sure how much time they had to prepare for this, but it’s a good quick hack.

That said, I’m going to offer some advice on how the visualisation could be improved: 3D bars are never a good idea, for instance, and the divisional breakdown showing serious crime versus “social work” is difficult to visually interpret (percentages of the whole would be more easy to directly compare). The breakdowns of serious crimes and “social work”, meanwhile, should be ranked from most popular down with labelling used rather than colour.

Head of Online Content Paul Gallagher says that it’s currently a manual exercise that requires a page refresh to see updated visuals. But he thinks “the real benefit of this will come afterwards when we can also plot the data over time”. Impressively, the newspaper plans to publish the raw data and will be bringing it to tomorrow’s Hacks and Hackers Hackday in Manchester.

More broadly, the MEN is to be commended for spotting this more substantial angle to what could easily be dismissed as a gimmick by the GMP. Although that doesn’t stop me enjoying the headlines in coverage elsewhere (shown below).

Manchester police twitter headlines

July 02 2010


Manchester Evening News lets football fans take over its masthead

Much has been written about the positives and negatives of personalised features on news websites, from user profiles to personalised homepages.

For me the Manchester Evening News has got its personalisation priorities right: registered readers can now choose between a blue masthead, designed for Manchester City fans; or keep the site’s traditional red colour theme if you a Manchester United fan.

(NB – for those of you that know my football allegiances please note that logging in as a blue was purely for work purposes)

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December 24 2009


Press Gazette: MEN shifts part-paid, part-free strategy

The Manchester Evening News is cutting down the number of days on which the paper will be freely available.

The MEN will now be available only as a paid-for edition on Monday to Wednesday and Saturdays. A mixture of free and paid-for copies will still be distributed on Thursdays and Fridays.

The paper began its experiment with distributing free copies in the city centre and paid-for editions in outer areas in April 2006. But uptake of the freebies has recently leapfrogged paid-for sales.

Full story at this link…

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December 17 2009


How-Do: Could GMG sell Manchester Evening News to Trinity Mirror?

How-Do.co.uk exclusively reported this morning that Guardian Media Group (GMG)  is “believed to be in talks” to sell the Manchester Evening News to Trinity Mirror.

How-Do, the north-west based media site, has few details to date but promises more soon. It had not managed to obtain comment from either group. It reported:

It is being suggested that GMG Regional Media is to be sold off in a bid to save jobs and continue with the Scott Trust’s overarching objective of protecting the interests of national paper the Guardian.

A figure of £40m has been mooted for the sale, but, again, at the time of writing this could not be confirmed.

Full story at this link…

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