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Journalism students’ Skype election coverage project available online

July 22nd, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Broadcasting, Training

A live election webcast created by a cross-university team of journalism students is now available to view online.

Using Skype and Livestream, students from University of Buckingham, Kingston University and University of Westminster collaborated on the project to run live outside broadcasts and live output as well as interviews and packages from the studio, remaining on air continuously from 10:00pm to 6:00am.

The output has been edited into a series of segments which can be watched at this link.

Twenty students also covered the counts at a range of constituencies in Winchester, Eastleigh (Chris Huhne’s seat); Southampton (two constituencies); Isle of Wight; Devizes; Bethnal Green; Twickenham (Vince Cable’s seat); Battersea; Whitney (David Cameron’s seat); and Aylesbury.

The webcast attracted an audience of 1,500 users.

Additional coverage of the project by Journalism.co.uk can be found at this link.

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Currybet.net: Will social media’s influence on political engagement continue post-election?

The Guardian’s Martin Belam has produced a great summary of the panel debate at the launch of Nic Newman’s Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (RISJ) paper on social media and the election, on his site currybet.net.

The research document, titled ‘UK Election 2010, mainstream media and the role of the internet’, outlines the significant role social media, in particular Twitter, played in informing the public during the election process.

One of the big questions which emerged from the panel debate was whether this social media engagement would continue now the election is over:

People need something to be engaged with. It remains to be seen whether the major parties will continue with digital campaigning, or whether, rather like leaflets, we will see a lot of them at election time and not much in between.

Outlining the main findings, Newman reportedly told the audience that Twitter became a “political newswire” as well as having a direct impact on the behaviour of politicians.

Reports Belam:

The best of the social media – jokes, spoof posters, reaction on Twitter – was reflected and amplified by the mainstream media. This ultimately influenced the behaviour of the politicians. David Cameron, for example, toned down his habit of citing anecdotal stories of people he met after it was spoofed online.

(…) William Hague announcing he was about to go back into negotiations with the Liberal Democrats via Twitter suggesting the service was beginning to be used as ‘a political newswire’.

See Martin Belam’s full post here…

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‘The day Gordon Brown resigned': behind-the-scenes at Sky News

June 30th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Broadcasting, Editors' pick, Journalism

Video from Sky News showing how it put together its coverage of Gordon Brown’s resignation and the post-election coalition talks between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.



Video also available at this link…

Related reading: Sky News’ Niall Paterson on “bigotgate” and the parliamentary press pack.

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Broadcast election editors go head-to-head at Media Society event

June 11th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Broadcasting, Events

It is the 100 metres of the TV Factual Olympics. General election night. The three main news broadcasters – BBC, ITN and Sky News – vie to get results to the nation first. A month on, the election editors of Sky News and the BBC appeared at last night’s Media Society event in London entitled ‘Who won the TV election?

The BBC won the greater share of the audience on 6 May. They always do. But John McAndrew, editor of the Sky News offering was there to claim journalistic credit for being not just first but clearest on screen. His was deliberately not a heavily studio anchored show: “We knew what the BBC would do and we aimed off for that,” McAndrew said. He had surprising support from one member of the audience – the BBC’s former political correspondent Nicholas Jones. Jones had switched over early. Sky News, McAndrew said, went with plenty of straight news and little comment.

The David Dimbleby programme on the BBC was at the other end of the spectrum. There were virtual reality graphics aplenty from Jeremy Vine and scores of outside broadcasts. Craig Oliver, their editor, was at last night’s event to defend their coverage, or at least try to. He had a near impossible job when it came to the now notorious ‘ship of fools‘, a BBC barge moored in the Thames full of celebrities giving their take on the election. Not many of those at the event felt that Joan Collins or Bruce Forsyth ‘added to the sum total of human knowledge’, as one audience member succinctly put it. Another pointed out that the £70,000 allegedly spent on the boat (the only cost figure mentioned on a night when all were coy about what they spent) was money wasted.

Oliver was on surer ground defending the BBC position of not calling any result until the Returning Officer had. ITN seems to jump the gun almost as a matter of principle. Oliver, who edited the ITN election programme in 2005 before defecting, was dismissive of presenter Alastair Stewart’s recent tirade in the Press Gazette claiming that the BBC ‘had missed the story’. His absence from the discussion said it all according to Oliver.

Channel 4’s ‘Alternative Election Night’ – featuring comedians like Jimmy Carr and David Mitchell – was a deliberately offpiste offering but it worked, beating ITN in the ratings. Deputy head of news and current affairs Kevin Sutcliffe was there to explain the thinking behind the format and reveal that it would be used again. Their satirical approach attracted a young demographic and twice the audience he expected, Sutcliffe said, adding that he was impressed with the (unintentionally) satirical quality of the BBC coverage.

Attracting the most audience comment last night was the stunningly accurate exit poll shared by the broadcasters and put out on the stroke of ten. It got the result right to within one seat. Some felt it destroyed the drama and made the remainder of the coverage predictable, suggesting a return to separate polls. Sue Inglish, the BBC’s head of political programmes and a moving force behind the poll, was on hand to explain and defend. The sheer size and cost of the 125,000 sample poll made it impossible to do more than once. But Oliver, in a mild mea culpa, said the BBC studio gurus had been wrong to downplay the surprising exit poll results for the first hour after they were broadcast.

The event had the air of an inquest, but not a particularly rancourous one – and the majority of criticism was reserved for the absent ITN. There was mostly praise for the British broadcasters for whom a 100-metre dash became a five day marathon. If the reaction in the BBC Council Chamber last night is anything to go, they had an audience satisfied with the results.

John Mair is events director of the Media Society.This event was jointly organised by the Media Society and the BBC College of Journalism

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#VOJ10 – Twitter is just another outlet, says BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg

One careless tweet could sink the fleet.

Advice from BBC journalist Laura Kuenssberg, who warned of the power of a single tweet to bring down politicians and political correspondents alike. Kuenssberg, who did her fair share of tweeting during the general election last month, is specific about what she tweets:

I still use it broadly for the same things [pre and post-election] and I’m quite strict about why I would tweet. I use it for simple breaking news and information (…) it’s the fastest way of getting it out there even with 24-hour television.

I also use it for the kind of colour you see as a journalist – not gossip, not rumour. These are often the things that get retweeted the most; things that as a journalist you see with your own eyes but might not get to broadcast.

As a lobby journalist you’ve got a ticket to a very small world. You are witness to a very closed world. Its part of my job to reach out to people and give them moments of colour that they otherwise wouldn’t see.

Having trialled using twitter during the party political conferences in 2009, Kuenssberg’s following on the social network grew from around 5,000 pre-election to 23,000 post-election. But it hasn’t changed how she works, she says – just added to it:

Twitter has just become another outlet. It’s highly compatible with my job because I’m normally out and about. It has given journalists more material – not a massive amount, because so far we haven’t had massive breaking stories from citizen journalists.

Social media as a “paper trail” – tracking down the backgrounds of PPCs and following what they’ve said pre-election on Twitter – was particularly useful however, said Kuennsberg.

Although it’s still a small group of people using Twitter, it has shown me that there’s a big interest in what we do. There’s a huge appetite for politics and I think we’re reaching some people who weren’t consuming political news in any way before.

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BBC College of Journalism blog: The problems with reporting a coalition government

May 28th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick

The BBC College of Journalism’s Jon Jacob raises some interesting points about journalists’ coverage of the UK’s new coalition government:

  • “The coalition is still in its early days. It’s easy to forget how the business of reporting the coalition agreement has overshadowed the true schedule of government business;”
  • “[S]hould journalists actually continue referencing the government ministers they talk about in their reports – including in vision graphics and on-air announcements – to illustrate how ideologies differ within a coalition government?”

When can the media stop referring to it as a coalition government or is there a danger in doing so?

Full post at this link…

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#ge2010: Who was first-past-the-post in this year’s election coverage?

May 13th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Broadcasting

It is an event producer’s nightmare. You book three big speakers, and they pull out with two hours to go. Reader, that was my nightmare on Tuesday.

Five day after polls had closed and Britain was still without a government. I had the general election editors of the BBC, Sky News and the editor in chief of ITN all set to go head-to-head on ‘Who won on TV?’ at Westminster University for a Media Society debate. The debate looked promising until Gordon Brown decided he had to go and would be replaced by David Cameron that very night. The broadcast editors decided they had better, well, broadcast.

Fortunately, the audience was nearly as distinguished as the panel, and veteran media commentator Raymond Snoddy and Professor Ivor Gaber were recruited to join Dorothxy Byrne, head of news and current affairs at Channel Four. They were joined by the doyen of political documentary makers, Michael Cockerell, and were under the watchful eye of ex-Sky News editor Nick Pollard, who chaired the debate.

The televised leaders’ debates came to dominate the election campaign and they very nearly dominated discussion on Tuesday night. Given the tight rules laid down by the politicians in advance, many claimed ‘debate’ was something of a misnomer. David Hill, Tony Blair’s ex-spin doctor, felt anything was better than the bear pit Question Time had become in the 2005 election. The audience at Westminster felt that broadcasters ITN, Sky and the BBC had too easily rolled over and accepted the preconditions laid down for them. The BBC was largely felt to have produced the best of the three debates thanks to the magisterial presence of David Dimbleby.

There was a different opinion of Dimbleby on the BBC Election night programme though. Some felt he looked tired and over-rehearsed, and a little lost in the behemoth of a set. While admiring his stamina, at least one person remarked on his miscall of a couple of swings. Jeremy Vine and his virtual reality graphics show divided the audience as did, inevitably, the Jeremy Paxman experience.

It seems that the BBC got it mostly right, but very wrong in one case in particular, namely the ‘Ship of Fools’, a barge on the Thames full of celebrities being quizzed about the results. The political opinions of Bruce Forsyth and Joan Collins were both predictable and irrelevant on a night of high drama. Nobody defended the ship. Clearly a wrong move.

As to network alternatives on the night, both ITN and Sky were seen as sharper and quicker than the BBC, partly because they got to the locked-out voters story earlier. In terms of set design and presentation though, there was no match for the BBC.

Where all the networks scored was in putting the newspapers in their place. The printed press was following the agenda in this election not leading it. Nowhere was this seen better than the live interruption of our debate to show the Gordon Brown resignation statement live from Downing Street. That moment really summed up this year’s election coverage – fast, exciting, and on television.

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#ge2010: Digital timeline charts campaigning and media innovation online

It was always obvious that at the end of the election campaign there would be a slew of articles declaring that it had or hadn’t been “the internet election”. I decided back in March to start collecting examples of campaigning and media innovation around the election and putting them into a digital election timeline, so that when we got to polling day I’d have a timeline of events.

I chose to use Dipity as my tool. The free version allows you to create up to three timelines. Within a topic you give each event a title and a timestamp. Optionally you can add a description, image and link URL to each event. Dipity then builds a timeline using Flash, and the events can also be viewed as a plain chronological list, or in a ‘flip-book’ format. If you link to a video on YouTube, Dipity automatically embeds the video in the timeline.

To get the data to go into the timeline I relied quite heavily on Twitter. I made sure that I subscribed to the Twitter streams of the major parties, and to election Twitter streams from broadcasters like Channel 4 and the BBC.

During the day, every time I saw a link on Twitter that I thought might lead to an interesting bit of the digital campaign I marked it as a favourite. At night, I would then spend 20 minutes looking back through the day’s favourites, taking screengrabs, and entering the details into Dipity. I also had help from various people within news organisation who began sending me messages about content and services they had launched.

The timeline has around 150 events in it now, and I’ve been continuing to update it in the aftermath of the indecisive result.

A few things stood out. From the political parties, the Conservatives #cashgordon Twitter fiasco was amusing, but worrying. It seemed that the people who look likely to be commissioning the nation’s digital infrastructure in the next couple of years couldn’t commission a website which got basic security right. Worse, instead of holding their hands up to a “Web security 101″ SNAFU, they tried to shift the blame to “left-wing” hackers, an example of tribal politics at it’s worst.



For their part, the Labour decision to turn their homepage over to a Twitterstream during the Leader’s Debates was a brave, but I believe, misguided one. First time visitors would have been perplexed by it, just at a moment when the nation was focused on politics and they had a chance to introduce floating voters to key elements of the Labour manifesto.



The Liberal Democrats Labservative campaign was a favourite of mine for sheer attention to detail. Fictional leader Gorvid Camerown even had a profile on Last.fm, where he enjoyed nothing but the status quo. The campaign was clever, but whether it increased the Liberal Democrat vote is impossible to judge.



It seemed to me that as the campaign progressed, the cycle of social media reaction got faster and faster. There were plenty of spoof political posters early in the campaign, but on the eve of the poll it seemed like it took less than ten minutes for the first spoofs of The Sun’s Cameron-as-Obama front page to appear. Likewise, within minutes of the Landless Peasant party candidate appearing behind Gordon Brown giving a clenched fist salute in Kirkcaldy, a Facebook fan page for Deek Jackson had been set up and attracted over 500 joiners. It has now reached 4,000.

It has been a really interesting exercise. I definitely feel that compiling the digital election timeline personally kept me much more engaged in the campaign.

Would I do the timeline differently in the future? In retrospect I may have been better off putting the events into a mini-blog service like Tumblr, and powering the Dipity version from that. As it is, the data is locked into Dipity, and can’t be indexed by search or exported. I have though uploaded around 100 of the screengrabs and images I used to a Flickr set so that people can re-use them.

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Charlie Beckett: ‘How do you report a hung parliament?’

May 10th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick

POLIS director Charlie Beckett looks at the challenges a hung parliament poses for journalists:

The likelihood of a hung parliament raises all sorts of interesting procedural issues for journalists – especially the BBC and other Public Service Broadcasters. How do you report impartially and proportionately and how do you avoid getting bogged down in procedural detail? And how will our partisan press respond?

Generally, governments are given the dominant position in news coverage and allowed to dictate terms and set agendas because they have the popular mandate. New governments also tend to get a honeymoon period where the media allow them to set out their stall and give them the benefit of the doubt.

Full post at this link…

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PDA: Andrew Sparrow on liveblogging the general election

May 10th, 2010 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Editors' pick, Online Journalism

For the 2010 general election, the Guardian’s senior political correspondent Andrew Sparrow has been tasked with liveblogging the event on an almost daily basis. In this post for PDA he explains his approach, the practical considerations and the benefits for journalists and readers:

I live blog a lot and I believe the format – minute-by-minute updates, combining news, analysis and links – allows journalists to report events with more thoroughness and immediacy than if they are just writing stories (…) If journalism is the first draft of history, live blogging is the first draft of journalism. It’s not perfect, but it’s deeply rewarding – on any day, I was able to publish almost every snippet that I thought worth sharing, which is not the case for anyone who has to squeeze material into a newspaper – and it beats sitting on a battlebus.

On a typical day the site’s liveblog generated between 100,000 and 150,000 page views, rising to 2 million on election night, adds Sparrow.

Full post at this link…

See the results of our poll on the best journalists, tweeters and bloggers of #ge2010…

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