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Investigative vocalists: the musical talents of world-renowned journalists

September 22nd, 2008 | No Comments | Posted by in Online Journalism

Our woman on the ground at GIJC Lillehammer (well, she was on duty for Journalisten.no, but we managed to nab a little bit of her spare time) has sent these rather insightful pictures back. It turns out that there might be a correlation between investigative skills and musical talent.

Introducing…on harmonica, David Kaplan, the director of the International Consortium for Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). Playing with him is Mark Hunter on guitar, founding member of the Global Investigative Journalism Network.

Kaplan/Hunter GIJC

And, Ana Simonovska, a Macedonian journalist with an exceptional voice, accompanied by David Kaplan.

Musical talents aside, here’s Sonali Samarasinghe, being caught on a mobile phone camera as she’s awarded the Global Shining Light Award, for her articles covering corruption and abuse of power in Sri Lanka.

It seems that the musical talent wasn’t shared by the British journalists – where was Robert Fisk while these pictures were taken?

All photos courtesy of Kristine Lowe, for Journalisten. The full set can be seen over at Flickr. Kristine Lowe completes her reportage over on her blog.

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Online Journalism Scandinavia: Waiting for the CAR to arrive

September 17th, 2008 | No Comments | Posted by in Events, Online Journalism

Earlier in the week we blogged that the Global Investigative Journalism Conference in Lillehammer (GIJC) had received a little criticism for being a bit 1.0 in its coverage.  But if its partcipants made limited use of the social web to report live from the event, the Computer Assisted Reporting (CAR) contingent was out in force and here’s what they had to say.

Paul Myers, a BBC specialist in internet research, and web trainer, told Journalism.co.uk how slow CAR is in the UK.  “People pick up on the flashy stuff like Google maps, but not CAR,” Myers said.

“This is quite typical in my experience – lots of resistance when I started training journalists in using the internet at BBC in the early 90s. It has been uphill struggle to convince people to use the web,” he told us.

In an opening session, the director of computer-assisted reporting at ProPublica, Jennifer LaFleur, urged people not to be deterred by how complicated it sounds.  “Computer assisted reporting (CAR) is doing stories based on data analysis, but it’s really just working with public records,” she said.

“Don’t get intimidated by the statistics, maths or excel and access focus: these are just the tools we use to report with.”

Along with database editor Helena Bengtsson, from Sweden’s public broadcaster SVT, LaFleur highlighted several recent successful news stories that had been unearthed by using CAR.

One, an investigation into the voting patterns of Swedish EU-parliamentarians, showed that several of the most high-profile parlimentarians abstained in 50 per cent or more of cases, causing political outcry.

But, maybe journalists should leave the more high powered CAR to the IT people? No, was the blunt answer to that audience question. CAR should be par for the course, said LaFleur. “90 per cent of stories we presented here were done with Access and Excel. I am a journalist doing journalism,” she said.

“You have to interview the data as you interview a person,’ added Helena Bengtsson. “When I do a query on data… I’m asking the data as a journalist.

“There is a lot of information in the data that IT-people wouldn’t have discovered. We’re journos first, data-specialists second,” Bengtsson said.

GCIJ Lillehammer also ran classes on RSS, scraping the web, being an online ‘bloodhound’ and effective web searching.

“There are two reasons for that: we have the training expertise and see major need for training in web research and computer assisted reporting”,  Haakon Hagsbö, from SKUP (a Norwegian foundation for investigative journalism) and one of the organisers of GIJC  Lillehammer, told Journalism.co.uk.

“It has certainly been very popular at earlier conferences. People don’t know what they don’t know until they attend the training. It’s a real eyeopener, but they soon find that it’s not rocket science, as these are simple yet powerful tools. We see more and more examples of colleagues from all over the world who meet online and use the web for research.

In reponse to Isaac Mao’s comment that there had been a low take-up of live social media reporting from the conference, Haugsbö said: “We have streamed everything live online, but other than that I don’t have a good answer to this.”

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Online Journalism Scandinavia: Investigative journalism conference was conference 1.0, says high-profile blogger

September 16th, 2008 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Events, Online Journalism

Some 500 investigative journalists from 86 different countries descended on Lillehammer, Norway, for the Global Investigative Journalism conference (GIJC) last week, but hardly any used social media to report live from the event.

Isaac Mao, who is often referred to as China’s first blogger (pictured right) and has watched bloggers slowly changing China’s media landscape for the better, found the absence of livebloggers and users of microblogging sites such as Twitter surprising.

‘Social media should redefine journalism’
“I wish 20 per cent here would twitter rather than just one, as it makes twittering from a conference more interesting. I think the group here is really big, but I have seen three guys open Skype, and no-one, other than you, have the Twitter-screen open,” Mao told me.

The high-profile blogger and social entrepreneur thinks blogs should redefine the landscape of journalism and how broad it really is, by enabling readers to participate more in traditional media.

He is firmly of the opinion that media should not be the exclusive domain of a few prestigious journalists.

“It is like The Global Shining Light Award which was awarded here: we need everyone to be enlightened. This has been conference 1.0.  I did not want to challenge it as people need time to adjust to the new reality.”

The power of Chinese bloggers
In this new reality Mao talks about, China has some 50 million bloggers (47 million at the end of 2007). Of those, only about 20 million can be described as active, but that is more than enough to make it difficult for the Chinese government to monitor all of them effectively, said Mao, who was invited to the Lillehammer conference to talk about the power of Chinese bloggers.

Mao is the founder of CNBlog.org and Social Brain Foundation, which support numerous grassroots initiatives in China, and is an associate of the Berkman Centre for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School in the US.

He is also working closely with Global Voices in China, the blog network founded by Rebecca MacKinnon and Ethan Zuckerman, and his work is particularly focused on training people in using safe ways to communicate online and empowering bloggers to do their own investigations by providing training in journalistic methods.

He thinks there has already been a great change:

“Three years ago bloggers copied traditional media, now traditional media copies bloggers. In particular, journalists do their best to steal content from lifestyle bloggers,” said Mao.

“But bloggers and journalists are not enemies to each other. In the beginning, journalists thought bloggers would steal their eyeballs, then they laughed at them; bloggers were not serious enough, not in-depth enough, now they have to cooperate with them,” said Mao.

Crossroads
China is now at an important crossroads, he says:

“We have millions of bloggers now; millions doing the same makes it tough for the government to monitor it. I am waiting for the tipping point: we are now at a crossroads. Many journalists have started their own blogs now, some even blog more than they write for the traditional media outlets they work for.

“Amateur writings occupy more and more space to try to cooperate with traditional media. The latter are unable to publish a lot of things, but they can give it to bloggers to publish,” said Mao, who hopes to see the two groups, bloggers and journalists, working together more and more.

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Conference tweets: live from two international journalism events

September 12th, 2008 | 3 Comments | Posted by in Online Journalism

We’re a little bit sad here at Journalism.co.uk towers that we didn’t get to go to either of this week’s major journalism conferences, the Global International Journalism Conference (GIJC) in Lillehammer, Norway and the Online News Association (ONA) in Washington DC.

But we got our web feelers out and collated these Twitters for your perusal.

Over at the ONA Twitter Search you can follow the Poynter Group, who are all twittering madly (you’ll need to create yourself an account to log in) and you can see the tweets from the first session of the morning here. The ONA has put together information about the Twitterers, discussion groups and podcasts here.

Or follow blogger supremo Pat Thornton, who was a little bit bored this afternoon…

Meanwhile over GIJC Twitterland we picked up this Tweet about Al Jazeera’s Sami al-Hajj –  imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay for six years.

We’ll be back with a better summary of the conferences’ outcomes next week, when we’ve spoken to a few more participants.

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