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Student summer blog: How students can get involved on citizen journalism platforms

September 12th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Citizen journalism, Training

Images by lirneasia on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

Danny Roberts is a sports journalism student at Leeds Trinity University College and tweets from @DannyRoberts74.

We live in a very fast paced, evolving world. Technology becomes more advanced by the second and is ours to use to our advantage, especially as journalists. Gone are the days were you must spend years working to get a break that would see your work published. In today’s world you can have your story seen by thousands of people in just a few minutes.

Citizen journalism has fast become a huge player in the media world. As a student journalist, you should have a Twitter account, a Facebook account and a blog already, and if you are looking for somewhere to publish your work even further, there are many sites that carry citizen journalism reporting as well as applications that allow you to share pictures and stream video live.

One of the most famous events which demonstrated the importance of citizen journalism was the plane crash in the Hudson River in 2009. Only four minutes after this happened, a picture and the tweet “I just watched a plane crash into the hudson riv [sic] in manhattan” were published online. It would take news crews a lot longer to get to the scene, set-up and report on.

Entrepreneur, Adam Baker, came up with the idea for citizen journalism website Blottr.com, after seeing the 9/11 attacks unfold on TV. He believes that people should have a place to publish their work and show it off to thousands of people.

Ravin Sampat, editor of Blottr.com, said citizen journalists fall into many categories.

There are those that are at the scene (not journalists) of an event who can be labelled citizen reporters because they captured a photo or video, and can help journalists collaborate on a story. Then there are those individuals who like being part of the newsgathering process, i.e. amateur reporters, who play an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analysing, and collaborating on news. They play a vital role in the ongoing drama that is a breaking news situation.

Ravin then added that which he feels it is not fair to look for something specific in a citizen journalist, there are three important factors:

1. Facts and sticking to what you observe

2. Never altering multimedia content like photos and video to depict a different version of events

3. Avoiding hearsay

Blottr still likes to see traditional writing skills being put to use in its pieces but knows that not everybody on the site enjoys writing:

Quality of writing is very important especially if you want people to read your work. This rule applies to those working in the mainstream media as well and is no different for citizen journalists. Some citizen journalists don’t like writing but have a lot to contribute to a story using things like video and pictures captured.

Being part of a citizen journalism site gives students a platform to show off their talents to potential employers as well as gaining news writing experience. With sites like Blottr.com you can also collaborate with others to make the perfect, verified, story. It also allows people to share news without having to write and describe the scene and what happened:

Being a citizen journalism news site, you can understand we get different types of content on a daily basis, from protests in Chicago, to the growing conflict in Syria, to something as simple as people snapping photos of Olympic moments. Over the last year we’ve found that the content that picks up the most traction is the content that’s new, fresh, and photo and video heavy. When there is a breaking news story that we have first, we get lots of traction, and as the story develops, and the mainstream media outlets start getting more information, we get even more traction for having broken that story first.

The most views are usually on pictures and videos, however that doesn’t mean that writing or opinion is rejected as they all have their place. Sampat said that “amateur footage is unique in that it’s raw, unedited”, and in some cases can be more powerful on its own than as part of a news package. But he added that “depending on the topic, each type of content is unique it its own way”.

One platform that allows citizens to stream video live from a webcam or smartphone is Bambuser. This would allow student journalists to have another outlet for their work if they wanted to go into broadcast media in the future and are looking for experience. Then there is Flickr, that allows the sharing of photos, along with other platforms such as Instagram. They are examples of other useful outlets for students that want to get their multimedia work out there, and is ideal for people that want to primarily work as a photographer or broadcaster.

To conclude, citizen journalism is fast becoming an integral part of the media and reporting world. People use social networks every day without possibly realising that what they are posting can be seen and interpreted by millions of people. So if you have the news and just need a platform to share it there are clearly many ways to do so in today’s world.

Useful sites and apps for citizen journalists:

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Ten things every journalism student should know

If you are about to start a journalism course, here are 10 things you should know to give you the best chance of succeeding and getting a job in journalism.

Yes, you may only have had A-level results in your hand for a matter of hours, but you’re not going to make it as a journalist if you simply rely on attending classes and getting good grades.

Some of the tips we’ve come up with, most are from other journalists after we asked those who follow @journalismnews on Twitter for advice.

The suggestions are in no particular order and all are of equal importance.

1. You need to do much more than just attend classes. Start a blog, podcast and tweet get yourself known by building up a presence online (more on each of these below).

  2. Get as much work experience as you can. Sometimes this will turn into paid work, often it won’t. Checkout internship opportunities listed on Journalism.co.uk and other sites.

And if you’re reading this and wondering whether or not to take a course, here’s a thought.

3. Contacts, contacts, contacts. And that doesn’t mean just having a contact book. Connect with people via Twitter, engage online and get your name known within the subject area you’re interested in. It’s never been easier to do this so take advantage of social networking.

  4. Question everything. Develop an analytical brain. Learn how to spot a hoax press release, question figures and consider all the angles.

5. Be versatile. Learn to shoot video, be able to turn your hand to editing audio, get to grips with data journalism, make sure you get 100wpm shorthand, know your way round Photoshop. Journalism is not just about a notebook and pen but tools such as apps and your smartphone, Dipity, Storify and Audioboo, to name but a few.

 

6. Write, write, blog. If you’re an aspiring broadcast journalist learn how to podcast but anyone starting out should create a blog. If you don’t have a particular area of journalism you want to go into, pick a subject you are interested in and write about that. Follow others writing about that subject (see next point).

7. Hone your research skills and build up sources. Work on creating a network of contacts in Delicious, set up RSS feeds to follow subject areas that interest you, keep an eye on LinkedIn company pages. For example, if you are interested in fashion journalism, keep an eye on who is leaving and joining fashion houses listed on LinkedIn. Set up alerts to receive the accounts of these firms from Companies House. Publish the stories on your blog and pitch them to newsdesks.

  8. Get published. When you find a really strong, original story pitch it to a newsdesk ask get a byline and negotiate a fee.

 

  9. Build your brand. Your name is your brand so consider a Facebook page and create an online portfolio. If you’re thinking “I’m not the kind of person who says look at me”, get over that. You have to get your name out there.

10. Don’t give up at the first hurdle. You’re not going to have a great voice for broadcast or get your first pitch accepted by a magazine or national newspaper. When someone knocks you down, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep trying.

 

Here are five tips for aspiring journalists from Rob Mansfield.

Find out how some journalists got their big break in Journalism.co.uk’s Industy Insight video series.

Key blogs

Apart from Journalism.co.uk which has useful ‘how to‘ guides, info on handy tools and technology, daily tips for journalists and industry news here are some useful blogs to follow:

  • Wannabe Hacks, a blogging collective of aspiring journalists which is essential reading for any student journalist. Last years wannabes are now fully fledged journalists with great jobs and they’re about to hand over the reins to this year’s cohort;
  • Paul Bradshaw, head of online journalism at Birmingham City University, has a must-read Online Journalism Blog.
    • Got other tips for aspiring hacks? Leave a comment below.
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‘It’s gone viral’: How a student’s riot liveblog brought a million views in a day

When the riots broke out in London and beyond last weekend, the press worked hard to keep up with the latest accounts and rumours circulating. And it was not just the national press and local papers bidding to bring audiences the latest from the heart of the action, the riots also proved an extraordinary experience for student journalists keen to flex their online reporting muscles.

On the fourth night of riots in the city and beyond, Journalism.co.uk caught up with MA journalism student at Brunel University Gaz Corfield, editor of hyperlocal site the West Londoner. Corfield and his team of contributors produced a live-blog of the events on the WordPress blog which, according to Corfield, enjoyed a tremendous 1 million views in just 24 hours (see graph below).


Below Corfield explains how the team approached coverage of the events, why he thinks the live blogging formula worked so well, and how him and his team of contributors helped verify and check reports.

Why a live-blog?

From the feedback we’ve had it seems that speed and accuracy of coverage is what makes the liveblog format popular. Full length news stories are great for catching up on events when you’re having a leisurely read about them the day afterwards. However, when the situation is fluid and still developing, readers want immediate updates. It takes time even to write up a NIB and you may not have enough information to pad out a story. Devoting a separate page on your website to four and a half lines with a break in the middle isn’t very informative. Some of our readers were interested in the earlier reports and with the liveblog format those are easily accessible just by scrolling down the page.

What challenges did you face while covering the riots, both in terms of safety and technological?

Our people on the ground have mainly been friends and volunteers who got in touch and offered their services. The vast majority of what we’re doing is curating reports from Twitter but having our own people on location has helped. One of our contributors, Sarah Henry, was in Hackey on Tuesday and was briefly caught up the violence there but got away unscathed – she tells me that the BBC reporter next to her was hit by a bottle.

Twitter, Twitpic and Yfrog have all been essential to our services and I really cannot recommend TweetDeck enough; the ability to set up live-updating searches was a true godsend. The biggest challenge, though, has been keeping the updates going out onto the site. You can have all the people and apps in the world bringing you information but at the end of the day, someone’s got to type them up!

What made your coverage stand out from others?

Speed, accuracy and collation of information from the ground, sifting between rumours and facts. Debunking false rumours, where we felt confident enough to do so, also built up our readers’ trust quickly. We weren’t afraid to categorise our reports – if we had sketchy information about something, we’d tell our readers “this report is unconfirmed” and work as quickly as we could to either confirm or deny it.
We also made a conscious choice not to label the people we were reporting on, even though our sources mentioned vigilantes, ethnic groups and political groups. Given the already heightened situation I felt it would be irresponsible to put out sensitive information we couldn’t directly check ourselves, so we stuck to just reporting movements of people. I think our readers appreciated that; our coverage was seen as being purely factual without any speculation, and therefore more valuable than other sources. I refused to report rumours about intended targets, which I think reassured a lot of people.

Rapid and relevant updates are what seems to be driving the traffic – at the end of Tuesday night/Wednesday morning the traffic was dropping off as there simply wasn’t anything new to report on. We also had the huge advantage of being the first liveblog to have up-to-the-minute reports. At the beginning of the riots there were repeated rumours that there was a news blackout, and many people were expressing frustration at their usual go-to news outlets being behind the curve.

How were you verifying breaking news/images/video etc?

We put a lot of trust in images. Provided they were tweeted alongside a location-specific hashtag we took them seriously – although this did go slightly awry when someone produced fake pictures of the London Eye on fire! Videos more or less spoke for themselves – either you can recognise local landmarks, or you can’t. Google Street View was useful for verifying images and videos in less frantic moments.
Sorting through tweets was harder – although we had our trusted sources out on the ground at the beginning, as the night progressed we had to read through public Tweets and decide what was real and what was just rumour. If we had a lot of similar (but not identical) reports of activity in a given area, we tended to treat that as reliable. However, that did get confusing towards the small hours of Wednesday morning because our own information was immediately being picked up and distributed by Twitter users in the areas we were trying to learn more about. Our biggest challenge was filtering out retweets because they clogged our information flow.

How did you use social media to further your reporting?

We used Twitter and Facebook. One person dedicated to running each, plus myself on the liveblog. It did get quite tricky deconflicting information going out from both sources. When I first built the site I set our Facebook page’s updates to autopost on Twitter, which later made us wonder where some of our own tweets were coming from! Close co-ordination kept the feeds unique and interesting, though.
We established a conversation with our readers on Facebook, using our page there to respond to queries about riots in peoples’ local areas. Our Twitter feed was pushing out shortened versions of the liveblog updates, with regular links to the liveblog page. In quieter periods we also published our Twitter username and asked for tip-offs to be directed at that, which worked well. Surprisingly, we also received a large volume of tip-offs through the email contact form on our website; you don’t really think of email as being a form of social media but clearly it has its place.

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Wannabe Hacks blog looking for new recruits to take the reins

July 25th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Jobs, Social media and blogging

Wannabe Hacks, a blog started less than a year ago by five young hopefuls starting out in careers in journalism, is looking for new quintet of aspiring journalists.

Applications open for the second generation on Wannabe Hacks on Monday 1 August when the current Hacks – the Intern, the Student, the Freelancer, the Maverick and the Chancer – will hand over the reins and take a more hands off approach to the site.

Last autumn, when five journalist hopefuls were starting out on their different paths but all with their eyes on one career, the group began to blog about their experiences. After an early mention in the Media Guardian and a savvy use of social media, the blog became a source of information and inspiration for other trainee journalists.

Where are they now?

  • Ben Whitelaw is the Student. Whitelaw spent the past year studying for an MA in newspaper journalism at City University London and now has a job at the Guardian. He is content co-ordinator at the Guardian Professional Networks, a selection of B2B websites about public services.
  • Matthew Caines is the Freelancer. He is a freelance journalist with the Guardian (housing and society) but also writes for various lifestyle and fashion e-mags.
  • Nick Petrie is the Intern. He is now working for the Telegraph as a community manager.
  • Tom Clarke is the Chancer. He also spent the last year studying for an MA in newspaper journalism at City University.
  • Alice Vincent is the Maverick. She spent three months in New York, as an intern at NYLON magazine and is now working at Wired magazine in London.

Writing on Wannabe Hacks today, the five say the application process will be open for two weeks from Monday (1 August).

There are full details of who should think about applying on the site.

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Tune in next week for the return of TNTJ

January 28th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Hyperlocal, Online Journalism, Training

After a short spell in the wilderness, Journalism.co.uk’s Tomorrow’s News, Tomorrow’s Journalists blog (TNTJ) will be active again from next week.

TNTJ is a great place for young journalists to make their voice heard, either by responding to the blog’s monthly debate topics, cross-posting content from their own blogs or flagging up content elsewhere that adds to the conversation.

Next week is also Hyperlocal Week over on the Wannabe Hacks site. To coincide with that we’ll be running a hyperlocal-focused debate this month on TNTJ, so start thinking small.

If you are under 30 and want to register for TNTJ, simply follow this link. If you are already a TNTJ member, simply carry on as normal.

If you are interested in helping with organising or promoting TNTJ please get in contact via joel [at] journalism.co.uk or @joelmgunter.

Follow TNTJ on Twitter: @TNTJ

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Press+ paid content system targets US college media

December 3rd, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Business, Editors' pick

Press+, the paywall and micropayment system launched by US venture Journalism Online, has added new features to its technology aimed at signing up student media partners in the US and attracting payments from off-campus users, such as parents and alumni.

In 2011 the Daily O’Collegian at Oklahoma State University will launch the system on its website, ocolly.com, a release states.

The paper will collect a small fee from online readers who are outside the school’s immediate geographic area and who do not use an email address with an .edu affiliation and who read the paper online more than three times a month. This is achieved by deploying two aspects of the Press+ platform in tandem: the “meter” technology combined with “geo-targeting” technology.

Full release via Smudged Newsprint at this link…

Journalism Online was launched in April 2009, and won investment from News Corp in June 2010. Its first client was LancasterOnline.com, which began using the Press+ system in July to charge for its access to its obituary pages. Last month non-profit investigative journalism organisation ProPublica signed up to the system.

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US student journalism awards open for entries

November 8th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Awards

Entries can now be submitted to the Society of Professional Journalists’ annual Mark of Excellence Awards for 2011 which recognise the best student journalism in the US.

The awards – which include 39 categories across print, radio, television and online journalism – will first be judged by region, with the winners then put forward for the national competition.

The contest is open to anyone enrolled in a college or university in the US studying for an academic degree in 2010. Students who have had full-time, professional journalism experience, outside of internships, are not eligible. Entries must have been published or broadcast during the 2010 calendar year.

The deadline for entries is 26 January. There are more details on the competition website.

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Journalism MA student: why I deferred after a month into my course

November 4th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Training

A frank post on the Wannabe Hacks site from blogger ‘the detective’ on why he has deferred his place on a postgraduate journalism course:

After just a month living in Bethnal Green and at the start of my fourth week of my MA at City University London I made the very difficult decision to defer my place at City. Having spent the past weeks debating my choice I know now that I made the right decision.

Money was becoming to be a problem and despite my best efforts to make savings, I knew that by the end of the course in June I would be completely broke having lived in London for a year without an income on top of the debt from my undergraduate degree. I am not for a minute suggesting that I am the only postgrad with money worries, nor am I looking for any sympathy, I am just outlining the factors in my decision.

Full post on Wannabe Hacks at this link…

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Can journalism students blog their way into a job?

October 27th, 2010 | 12 Comments | Posted by in Events, Jobs

Having a job in mainstream media before the age of 25 is fanciful thinking for many aspiring journalists, but having a blog could help turn those dreams into a reality.

Just ask young journalists Josh Halliday of the Guardian, Dave Lee of the BBC and Conrad Quilty-Harper of the Telegraph, all of whom credit their blogs as being fundamental to their success.

Speaking at an event at City University London last night, Halliday, a technology and media reporter and Sunderland University graduate, said: “The most important thing I did at university, including my degree, was to blog and get online. That’s what got me the job.”

Lee, who also started blogging while doing his undergraduate degree at Lincoln University, echoed Halliday saying: “I credit everything I’ve got to my blog at university.

“There is no possible way that I would have been able to go into the BBC newsroom on the basis of my degree, or the basis of my freelance cuttings or the basis of my student newspaper. ”

While Quilty-Harper, a data mapping journalist, said having a good blog and presence on Twitter, which he could readily show to potential employers, was what got him his job after he finished his postgraduate degree at City University London.

The three online trailblazers yesterday revealed their experiences of how to “blog your way into a job”:

Build a brand

Using your blog to promote yourself correctly is essential. Halliday stressed the importance of “being yourself” and marketing yourself in a way that is “likable”. While Lee highlighted that you never know what part of your branding will be the most fruitful, so you must do it all.

Conversing, linking and networking
Linked to the above is the idea that you must be in active dialogue with as many people as possible to build a dedicated following. Part of this involves linking to people who are blogging about similar topics to you, to create a mutually beneficial relationship. However, do not forget that, as Halliday highlighted, it’s a “two-way street”. So don’t just push yourself, relationships – especially ones with journalists already in the industry – should develop organically. Use the net’s networks  appropriately.

Be patient

You won’t go from 20 to 5,000 twitter followers overnight. Cultivating a twitter following and developing a community takes time, so don’t get too caught up on this. Make content the driving force behind your website or blog and the community will come.

Find a niche
With an increasing amount of people entering the blogosphere standing out is harder than ever before, but what could really help is finding a topic that nobody else or very few people are writing about. Lee blogged about his experiences of being a student in the developing online media using himself as a “case study”; Halliday created a hyperlocal blog about Sunderland; and Quilty-Harper had a blog about gadgets and technology. All three were unanimously behind blogs having a niche, as Halliday highlighted “journalists are paid to cover a single beat, so just do that”.

Advertising
Increasing traffic to your site is one of the most difficult elements of blogging, but all three panellists deplored the idea of buying advertising space to this end declaring it a waste of money. Instead they advocated networking and conversing with the right people as the means by which to increase your popularity.

Rajvir Rai is a postgraduate journalism student at City University London. He can found on Twitter @R_Rai.

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NCTJ Awards shortlist announced

October 19th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Awards, Editors' pick, Training

The National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) has announced the shortlist for its Awards for Excellence 2010, which can now be viewed on its website.

The awards recognise the work of students completing NCTJ-accredited courses and trainee journalists/photographers with less than two years experience. They are split into five categories:

  • news journalism
  • sports journalism
  • top scoop/exclusive
  • features of the year
  • images of the year

A total of 14 students and 15 trainees have been selected for the shortlist from more than 100 entrants.

There are also three performance awards based on exam results; NCTJ Student Journalist of the Year, NCTJ Photographer of the Year and NCTJ Reporter of the Year. The awards will be presented at the Society of Editors Conference in Glasgow on 15 November.

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