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Jon Bernstein: Five innovations in news journalism, thanks to the web

What has the web ever done for journalism, except skewer its business model and return freelance rates to levels not seen since the early 90s?

Well, not much, apart from reinvent the form.

Amidst the doom of gloom in our industry it is easy to lose sight of how the web has transformed the way we tell stories, provide context and analysis, and cover live events.

This is arguably the most creative period in news journalism since movable type – new forms, new applications and new execution. Newspapers are embracing video and audio, radio stations do pictures, and TV has gone blogging.

You’re likely to have your own suggestions, and favourites. But here are five of the best:

1. Interactive infographics

Broadcast news was quick to adopt the graphic as a means of explaining complex issues or, more prosaically, make the most of a picture-challenged story. The web has taken the best examples from newspapers, magazines and TV and given them a twist – interactivity. Now you can interrogate the data, slice and dice it at will. Two of the best practitioners of the art can be found in the US – the New York Times and South Florida’s Sun Sentinel.

2. Crowdsourcing

From crime mapping to a pictorial memorial to the victims of post-election Iran to joint investigations, the crowd is proving a potent force in journalism. It took the web to provide the environment for a real-time collaboration and ad hoc groups are brought together by dint of interest, expertise, geography or some combination of all three. Not all crowdsourcing projects run smooth but the power of the crowd will continue to surprise.

3. The podcast

Just as cheap video cameras and YouTube democratised the moving image, so the podcast has made audio publishers of us all. Some podcasts mirror radio almost exactly in format, down to the commercial breaks at the top, middle and end of the show. Others break the rules. As Erik Qualman notes in his new book Socialnomics, today’s podcasters are taking liberties with advertising models (building in sponsorship) and with length of transmission (“If a podcast only has 16 minutes of news-worthy items, then why waste … time trying to fill the slot with sub-par content?”).

4. Over-by-over

A completely original approach to sports reporting, only possible on a real-time platform. Like Sky’s Soccer Saturday – where a bunch of ex-pros watch matches you can’t see and offer semi-coherent banter – over-by-over and ball-by-ball cricket and football commentaries shouldn’t work, but they do. And it’s not just the application, it’s the execution. The commentaries are knowing, not fawning, conversational and participatory. Over-by-over is CoveritLive and Twitter‘s (child-like) elder sibling.

5. The blog

The blog and the conventional news article are entirely separate forms, as any publisher who has tried to fob the user off by sticking the word ‘blog’ at the top of a standard story template will tell you. The blog allows you to tell stories in a different way, deconstructing the inverted pyramid and addressing the who, what, why, when, where and how as appropriate. Breaking news has become a narrative – early lines followed by more detail, reaction, photos, analysis, video, comment and fact checking in no defined order. It’s a collaborative work in progress. News is becoming atomised on the web and the blog is the platform on which it is happening.

I’ve named five but there are bound to be others. What have I missed?

Jon Bernstein is former multimedia editor of Channel 4 News. This is part of a series of regular columns for Journalism.co.uk. You can read his personal blog at jonbernstein.wordpress.com.

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‘Access Denied': Frontline Club discussion on global media coverage (video)

September 11th, 2009 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Events, Journalism

On Tuesday a panel at the Frontline Club (in association with the BBC College of Journalism) discussed the issue of international media access.

“Fighting in Gaza and Sri Lanka and the recent unrest in Iran all raised questions about how journalists can do their job when governments deny access (…) With the Israeli government relying more and more on public relations management and an increasingly sophisticated use of new media to get its message across, what is the role of the journalist in 21st century conflicts?”

The panel included Richard Sambrook, director of the BBC’s Global News division: Adrian Wells, head of foreign news, Sky News; and Jean Seaton Professor of Media History at the University of Westminster’s Communication and Media Research Institute

If you missed it, catch up with the video here. And it was live-blogged by Brian Condon here.

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Journalism Daily: Press freedom, the Guardian’s Joseph Harker and MyReporter.com

July 31st, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Journalism Daily

Journalism.co.uk is trialling a new service via the Editors’ Blog: a daily round-up of all the content published on the Journalism.co.uk site.

We hope you’ll find it useful as a quick digest of what’s gone on during the day (similar to our e-newsletter) and to check that you haven’t missed a posting.

We’ll be testing it out for a couple of weeks, so you can subscribe to the feed for the Journalism Daily here.

Let us know what you think – all feedback much appreciated.

News and features

Ed’s picks

Tip of the day

#FollowJourn

On the Editors’ Blog

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The @press_freedom timeline – tracking threats to journalism around the globe

In December, Journalism.co.uk launched a page, and subsequently a Twitter service (@press_freedom), to track violations of freedom of expression around the world.

This week we’ve added a few more sources to the Dipity timeline. Headlines from the Index on Censorship, Global Voices Online and Global Voices Advocacy and the International Journalists’ Network will now be included, along with those from the original organisations – Reporters Without Borders, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the International Federation of Journalists, the Frontline Blog, and ourselves.

Visit the page here: http://www.journalism.co.uk/5/articles/533032.php and please re-tweet it to raise awareness for the ill-treatment of fellow journalists and bloggers around the world, prevented from doing their job. Finally please do get in touch with suggestions for the page, or potential stories for Journalism.co.uk: judith at journalism.co.uk or laura at journalism.co.uk.

Recent press freedom updates:

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CPJ: Journalist trials to begin in Iran; charges of ‘sending pictures to enemy media’

From the Committtee to Protect Journalists: “After more than a month of detention, several journalists may face trial beginning on Saturday on charges of ‘sending pictures to enemy media’.”

In addition, three documentary filmmakers were arrested on Thursday; the total of journalists currently held in Iranian jails is currently 42, the highest  count in the world.

Full story at this link…

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IFJ: 39 journalists and media workers forced to leave Iranian news agency

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) this week issued a statement voicing ‘deep concern over continuing harassment of media in Iran amid signs of growing opposition from independent journalists to censorship and manipulation in the country’s mainstream media.’

The organisation reports that, according to its affiliate, the Association of Iranian Journalists (AoIJ),  the ‘conservative’ Iranian news agency, Fars News, has sacked or forced resignations of 39 journalists and media workers: ‘a number of them in recent weeks following clashes with management over the agency’s editorial line.’

“There is evidence of strong pressure on independent journalism from outside and inside the newsroom. Even some media owners inside the profession are bullying their journalists who refuse to toe the official line. Journalists are arrested, sacked or forced to resign for standing up for ethical journalism,” said Aidan White, IFJ general secretary, in the IFJ statement.

Full statement at this link…

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Newsnight: Paxman interviews Huffington on ‘curation’ and editing of reports from Iran

Jeremy Paxman interviews Huffington Post founder Ariana Huffington and the Evening Standard’s Anne McElvoy on the use of non-traditional media/amateur reports from Iran and the concept of ‘curating’ this information as opposed to traditional editing.

McElvoy usefully describes the intersection of as a complex mosaic with each piece contributing subjective information – but information that requires an overview/comparison that can be added by an editor or professional journalist.


BBC NEWS | Programmes | Newsnight | Has internet journalism come of age?.

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Gawker: CNN names tweet as source in Iranian coverage

Multiple sources of information feeding in to CNN’s coverage of Iran led to two specific quotes in a report being lifted from individual tweets and attributed to ‘a source’ rather than Twitter.

CNN has admitted it was a mistake, but are there dangers in news stories such as the recent Iranian elections of ‘noise’ drowning out the ‘signal’ of verification/corroboration of sources?

Full post at this link…

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NYTimes: ‘Bent’ rules for journalism in Iran coverage

The NY Times’ Brian Stelter looks at global coverage of election protests in Iran:

“‘Check the source’ may be the first rule of journalism. But in the coverage of the protests in Iran this month, some news organizations have adopted a different stance: publish first, ask questions later. If you still don’t know the answer, ask your readers.”

Full story at this link…

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Demotix photographer arrested in Iran will not face further inquiries

Last week we included news that a Demotix contributor had been arrested in Iran in a blog post about the cit-j agency’s content from Iran.

Now an update from Demotix commissioning editor, Andy Heath:

“In these difficult days, it’s good to have some positive news to report from Iran.

“We’ve just heard that the Demotix contributor who was arrested last week by the Iranian police will not face further inquiries and has had his camera returned to him by officials. You may that he was told he could be charged as a spy and potentially executed during his arrest, so this news comes as a great relief to him and – I’m sure – everyone involved with Demotix.

“It’s too early to tell if this is an example of a relaxation of press restrictions in Iran or if, as seems more likely, this particular photographer was fortunate.”

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