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#ijf11: ‘Innovation is about about throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks’

April 18th, 2011 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Business, Events, Hyperlocal, Local media

Journalism conferences, as with all conferences I suspect, are always vulnerable to least a bit of tiresome industry navel-gazing, if not a lot. Even when they’re good, which the International Journalism Festival was, there is inevitably a lot of talking.

But on the last day of #ijf11 there was a welcome antidote in amongst the talk to round things off, a coherent message from several of the panelists: go out and do things, try things, find out what works. This particular session looked innovation in news, specifically at what it takes to go from having a good idea for a news site, to getting off the ground, to staying solvent.

Nigel Barlow trained as an accountant. He worked in small businesses for 20 years before he decided it was enough, and packed it in for a journalism course at UCLan.

Shortly after graduating Barlow co-founded Inside the M60, a local news site for the Manchester area. He told the #ijf11 panel that people need to start worrying less about the traditional journalism routes and start trying new things.

It’s a difficult time for journalism, but difficult times tends to bring out the best innovation. Don’t just look at the traditional routes, if you’ve got an idea just get on and do it. It’s abut throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks.

A model example of getting on with it, Nigel was covering news for Inside the M60 before it even had a website.

Before the site was even there, we started to report on news in the area using Twitter, and created momentum for the site a few months before it launched.

We actively made connections with what I would call the local movers and shakers, MPs and businessmen for example.

We got a couple of big interviews with local MPs as well, which helped a lot at the beginning, and we were the first on the scene to cover a large gas explosion in Newham and were covering it live from the scene, after which we put about 1,500 followers in a couple of days.

We didn’t have a lot of money and we still don’t, so we have to make the most of free tools. But we got started by using social media and basically making a big noise on Twitter.

Using Barlow’s site as one example, Google News executive Madhav Chinnappa said the important thing was “the barriers to starting a news organisation have fallen”.

Fifteen years ago, starting a news organisation from scratch would have been impossible, but we have three people on this panel who have done exactly that.

And Chinnappa echoed Barlow’s sentiments on just getting on with it.

Google’s take on this is experimentation and interaction. Go out, try it, try it again, see what works.

He acknowledged it was difficult for smaller sites like Inside the M60 to get a decent ranking on Google news, and they would inevitably be dwarfed by the big global stories.

We know that if you’ve got a local news story that no one else has that it can be difficult to get out there. If you go to Google News and you don’t see an Inside the M60 story, that’s because they are getting outweighed by the likes of Fukushima and Libya.

And he acknowledged Google News was not giving proper due to certain types of content.

We’re not as good as we should be around video, or image galleries. And we’re almost playing catch up with the news organisations as they innovate, whether that’s graphics or slideshows.

But he also said there isn’t a magic formula to cracking Google, and argued that original, creative content was still important.

I think there is this myth about getting the technical aspect just right, and hitting on a formula and then you will suddenly be great on Google.

I don’t want to sound cheesy, but having good original content is still very important.

I spoke to Nigel Barlow after the session about making money as a local news startup:

Listen!

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#FollowJourn: @NigelBarlow/media blogger

#FollowJourn: Nigel Barlow

Who? Recently completed a journalism degree at UCLAN; works for Innovation Manchester; seeking journalistic opportunities.

What? Relevant, speedy and succinct comment on his personal blog that focuses on media and digital developments.

Where? @nigelbarlow/http://thoughtsofnigel.blogspot.com/

Contact? On Twitter or nigelbarlow22 [at] gmail.com

Just as we like to supply you with fresh and innovative tips every day, we’re recommending journalists to follow online too. They might be from any sector of the industry: please send suggestions (you can nominate yourself) to judith or laura at journalism.co.uk; or to @journalismnews.

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Will Lewis’ defence of Telegraph expenses coverage

A special programme from BBC Radio 4 aired yesterday: ‘Moats, Mortgages and Mayhem’ which looked at media coverage of the whole scandal.

The editor of the Daily Telegraph, Will Lewis defended coverage of MPs’ expenses, rubbishing suggestions that his paper had irreparably damaged Parliament.

“Will Lewis told the BBC his paper’s reports about MPs’ claims would make Parliament more ‘open’ and allow a ‘new generation’ of people to be elected,” reported the BBC.

(….) “former Tory leader Michael Howard said some of the paper’s coverage had been “inaccurate and unfair.”

You can listen to Lewis’s comments here:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8123362.stm

Or the programme, presented by Nick Robinson and produced by Martin Rosenbaum,  in full here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00lh47j

Nick Robinson’s own comments are also very insightful: his frustrations about the lack of time to ‘ponder’ on the revelations, and the questions raised about presenting accusations fairly.

Hat tip: Journalism student and blogger, Nigel Barlow. On his blog he says: that he has a couple of problems with the Telegraph’s reportage: “Firstly that there was no differentiation between claims that were accepted or rejected. Secondly that the paper has been selective in the MPs that it has targeted.”

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SocialButterfly: 40 reasons to ‘still’ study journalism

June 9th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Training

Now 47 reasons actually from Alexandra Rampy last week on why it’s still a good time to be a journalism student and the benefits of studying journalism.

Including: “We need the next generation’s talent” and “There are plenty of stories still needing to be told”.

Add your own suggestions below. The full post is at this link.

Recent graduate Nigel Barlow gave us his thoughts last week too on why, for him, it’s the right time to become a journalist.

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