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Ten examples of games used to tell news stories

December 16th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Multimedia, Online Journalism

One of the sessions at news:rewired – media in motion will look at how newsgames and gaming mechanics are being used in journalism.

Shannon Perkins, editor of interactive technologies at Wired.com and who created Cutthroat Capitalism, a game where the player puts themselves in the position of a Somali pirate, will be coming over from the US to speak at news:rewired. In a Journalism.co.uk podcast he said a reader should “develop a deeper sense of the underlying themes of a story” by playing a game.

Another speaker presenting in the newsgames session at news:rewired is Bobby Schweizer, a doctoral student at the Georgia Institute of Technology and co-author of Newsgames: Journalism at Play. He will also be joining us from the US.

Here is a list of 10 newsgames to give an idea of how games can be used in storytelling.

1. The world at seven billion (BBC)

This BBC interactive, which uses gaming mechanics, is proof that newsgames go viral. The world at seven billion was the most shared and “liked” news story on Facebook of 2011 with 339,149 shares, comments and likes. It was also the most clicked story on Facebook this year and was the fourth most popular news story on Twitter in 2011 with 73,783 tweets.

2. Charlie Sheen v Muammar Gaddafi: whose line is it anyway? (Guardian)

A newsgame was also the second most popular news story on Facebook in 2011, with 219,023 shares, likes and comments. It is the Guardian quotes quiz where readers are asked to guess whether a line is a quote from former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi or actor Charlie Sheen.

This one was “produced very quickly”, according to the Guardian, and is an idea that could inspire small news organisations without a budget for big game development.

3. Cutthroat Capitalism (Wired.com)

This newsgame was created by news:rewired speaker Shannon Perkins after reading an article in Wired Magazine. The player becomes a Somali pirate. The game states:

You are a pirate commander staked with $50,000 from local tribal leaders and other investors. Your job is to guide your pirate crew through raids in and around the Gulf of Aden, attack and capture a ship, and successfully negotiate a ransom.

4. Los 33 (Chilean miners) (Chilean design firm Root33)

This newsgame is based on the rescue of the Chilean miners trapped underground in 2010. According to Bobby Schweizer, who will be speaking at news:rewired, the game, which asks the player to rescue the miner, provides an insight into the slow process involved in rescuing each miner.

You perform the rescue 33 times if you want to finish the game – which is impossible really to complete. It’s trying to get across that concept that maybe you can’t explain in a written article.

When you see video clips edited together of each of the miners returning to the surface you have three to five seconds of each of their faces, you don’t get that real sense of how long it actually took. The game was able to express that in the way that other stories couldn’t.

5. How should I vote in the General Election? (Telegraph)

This is a game produced by the Telegraph. It asks users to answer a series of questions to find their values and concerns. The game then cross-checks responses with party pledges and the player is then told how they should be voting. This game received much attention as voters were often surprised by the results the game returned.

6. The budget calculator (most major news sites)

Perhaps the most widely used form of gaming mechanics used in news is the budget calculator. The viewer enters a salary, the fuel-type of their car, amount of alcohol units consumed per week and other details and then gets told how much better or worse off they will be based on the new budget.

This budget calculator from the BBC shows gaming mechanics in online news is nothing new – going back at least 10 years. Here are BBC examples from 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011.

7. Christmas on the high street: retail winners and losers (Guardian)

At the beginning of this year the Guardian produced an interactive based on the Monopoly board. By clicking on each retailer the player finds out how business faired last Christmas.

8. Obameter (PolitiFact)

PolitiFact also uses gaming mechanics, such as with its Obameter, which tracks the US President’s campaign promises, the Truth-O-Meter (which also comes in app form) to test politicians’ and the GOP Pledge-O-Meter to rank political promises.

Speaking at the World Editors Forum in October founder and editor of the site Bill Adair said he felt there was “a tremendous lack of imagination” in the news industry in how to take advantage of new publishing platforms.

It’s like we’ve been given a brand new canvas with this whole palette of colours and we’re only painting in grey. We need to bring all the other colours to this new canvas.

9. Dollars for Docs (ProPublica)

US investigative news site ProPublica regularly uses gaming mechanics in news stories, such as with Dollars for Docs which enables people to find out whether their health professional has received money from drugs companies. Speaking at the World Editors Forum Scott Klein, editor of news applications, told the conference that as well as adding context, a news app has the ability to personalise and place the user at the centre of the story and offer them the ability to see the impact on them. “It doesn’t just tell a story, it tells your story,” he said.

10.  Fix the deficit (New York Times)

Here’s a budget puzzle from the New York Times. The reader is asked to work out where to make spending cuts to balance the books and hopefully get a sense of the financial challenges, tough decisions and the size of the shortfall.

Want to find out more about newsgames? Book a ticket for news:rewired here.

Recommended reading, viewing and listening:

This is a cross-post from news:rewired.

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Twitter’s new ‘follow’ button encourages readers to follow reporters

The Telegraph is is among the first websites to add Twitter’s new ‘follow’ button, which allows users to click and follow reporters or the newspaper’s Twitter account in a single click.

In an announcement on the Twitter blog, the social media giant says:

More than 50 sites have added the follow button today, making it easy for you to discover the Twitter accounts of your favourite reporters, athletes, celebrities, and other personalities. Using the follow button is as simple as a single click. You can also see the profile and latest tweets of the account you want to follow by clicking the username next to the button.

An article on Telegraph.co.uk says:

The Telegraph, the only UK newspaper to partner with Twitter for the launch, has added the new buttons to journalists’ pages, blogs and section pages such as news, sport and technology.

The button is simple to add to news sites and blogs. Click here and copy and paste the embed code.

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virtualeconomics: Why a Telegraph paywall might just work

December 1st, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Business, Editors' pick

News from the Financial Times yesterday that Telegraph.co.uk could start charging for content prompts this post from Seamus McCauley on why a Telegraph paywall might just work at this time:

The paywall strategy makes sense for the Telegraph if its management believes two things.

First, that the online news landscape is changing so that professional news – especially, perhaps, professional conservative newspaper journalism – becomes markedly scarcer online … Second, that the Telegraph’s current monetisation strategy – which is to attract a mass audience and show them display and search ads – is coming to an end.

There’s much more detail behind this arguments, so its worth reading the full post on virtualeconomics at this link…

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Telegraph writer attacks ‘spooky’ Lib Dem ‘posse’ for critical comments

Cristina Odone, writing on Telegraph.co.uk, faced a commenter backlash when she wrote an article labelling Lib Dem MP Dr Evan Harris, “Dr Death”.

Along with many perturbed commenters, Evan Harris challenged Odone’s factual evidence.

Odone’s next step? To write a comment piece claiming she was “spooked” by the reaction, arguing “there’s no room in the Lib-Labs’ intolerant culture for discussion”.

Many commenters, however, give a disclaimer that they are not Liberal Democrat.

We recommend reading both pieces and sets of comments in full to judge the affair for yourself.

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PDA: Telegraph.co.uk will chase channels not web traffic, says digital editor

February 4th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Online Journalism, Traffic

Telegraph.co.uk will move away from chasing high reader numbers online to focusing on “content, commerce and clubs”, says Edward Roussel, digital editor at the Telegraph, in this interview with PDA.

With the realisation that high web traffic figures does not guarantee a sustainable business model, Roussel says the focus will now be on developing channels. Part of this will be the work of Project Euston, the Telegraph’s new digital entrepreneurial unit led by Will Lewis, which has now been up and running for three weeks.

Euston is not a private club where only certain people can operate. It is designed openly. We have done it so that any one of our over 500 journalists who has a brilliant idea can apply for funding and other resource, and try to make it a reality.

The channel strategy will focus on creating content and commercial opportunities, such as shops and clubs, around niche areas and PDA picks up on the site’s existing gardening section, which carries a shop and drives readers to buy.

While there are opportunities to charge for access to certain areas, such as crosswords, by setting up clubs, Roussel adds that there are no immediate plans in place to go behind a universal paywall.

Full post at this link…

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#FollowJourn: @MarcusWa/online editor

September 23rd, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Recommended journalists

#FollowJourn: Marcus Warren

Who? Editor, Telegraph.co.uk

What? Former foreign correspondent for the Daily Telegraph newspaper, now editor of Telegraph.co.uk, in charge of the day-to-day running of the site.

Where? @MarcusWa or Telegraph.co.uk

Contact? marcus.warren [at] telegraph.co.uk

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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Nieman Reports: Latest edition focuses on journalism and social media

This quarter’s Nieman Reports, from the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard, has too many good articles in one place to select just one as an Editor’s Pick – so here’s a link to the whole index of pieces on journalism and social media.

Some highlights include:

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Possibility of more redundancies at the Guardian; GNM losing £100,000 a day

September 16th, 2009 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Editors' pick, Job losses, Jobs, Newspapers

Fifty editorial jobs needed to be cut at Guardian News&Media as part of an attempt to reduce costs by £10 million, it was announced in May this year. Now it looks like there could be more jobs at risk, as the managing director of Guardian News & Media, Tim Brooks, told staff in a memo posted on the Guardian’s intranet.

“We are looking at everything – literally everything – that we do, to see how we can economise, and we will do whatever we can to keep the impact on staff to a minimum. However, because the biggest portion of our costs is people’s salaries, we have to review staffing levels,” he said.

GNM was losing £100,000 a day – a rate that cannot be afforded by its parent company, Guardian Media Group, Brooks said.

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You must not embed the Telegraph’s embeddable video

It might look like you can embed this Telegraph video on your blog:

telegraphembed

But no: please take note of the last part.

As both Journalism.co.uk and Fred Hatman, a journalist in South Africa found out, embed codes are only for ‘personal use’. That didn’t include Hatman (@fredhatman) even though he is a lone blogger.

Instead, we had to feature the story of the Telegraph journalist who was attacked by a lion after willingly entering its enclosure (mauling received surprisingly cheerfully) without the accompanying video. We got permission to link though!

Syndication@telegraph.co.uk informs us:

“I’m afraid at this time we can’t grant permission for you to host the video, but you are welcome to link to it.”

So we asked them why they supplied the code? And how could we fulfil the requirements for a licence? They replied:

“My understanding is that this function is for personal use only, not for commercial use, as per our terms and conditions.  Often we are able to issue a licence for the content, but on this occasion Telegraph.co.uk are not offering this video for web syndication.”

Journalism.co.uk wonders how Telegraph.co.uk will monitor and police misuse of the videos – if abuse was extensive. Or how they decide who is commercial and who is not? If, as the Syndication people tell us, ‘on this occasion Telegraph.co.uk are not offering this video for web syndication’ why bother supplying it at all? Isn’t that just asking for trouble?

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Stephen Farrell’s kidnap raises the ‘media blackout’ question: it’s time for a debate in the UK

September 10th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Comment, Newspapers, Press freedom and ethics

This week’s operation in Afghanistan to rescue New York Times journalist Stephen Farrell, during which a British soldier, Farrell’s Afghan translator (Sultan Munadi) and two civilians were killed, has provoked national debate in the UK:

“One senior Army source told the Daily Telegraph “When you look at the number of warnings this person had it makes you really wonder whether he was worth rescuing, whether it was worth the cost of a soldier’s life.” (Telegraph.co.uk)

Many of the commenters on news stories feel very strongly that it was wrong for a journalist’s actions to lead to such tragic consequences, as Jon Slattery noted on his blog yesterday. Further still: “Members of the Armed Forces have expressed anger that he [Farrell] ignored warnings not to visit the site of an air strike on two hijacked fuel tankers that killed scores of Taliban and innocent villagers,” the Telegraph reported. Others defend the role of journalists in Afghanistan: for example, the Committee to Protect Journalists and the International Federation of Journalists.

This tragic incident also raised another issue, that of media silence. Today a special report by Joe Strupp on Editor&Publisher questions whether media blackouts are appropriate when reporters are kidnapped in war zones. It’s an excellent overview of recent events, that looks back at the case of another New York Times journalist, David Rohde – the paper managed to keep news of his kidnap off Wikipedia until his escape seven months later.

The question of media blackout is one Journalism.co.uk has raised in the past. In January, we reported on the silence surrounding the kidnap of the Telegraph’s Colin Freeman and José Cendon in Somalia. We had been asked not to report on the case by the Telegraph and the UK Foreign Office when the pair went missing at the end of 2008. The ban was lifted when they were released.

However, as we reported, some information was published before the blackout request was made clear: the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) released information relating to the journalists’ kidnap on November 26 2008 and Roy Greenslade subsequently blogged about it at Guardian.co.uk – the post was removed but it was still captured in the RSS feed.

It’s a complex issue that Strupp raises in his E&P article:

“With Rohde’s escape, a major debate ignited in and out of the journalism community about how responsible the coordinated secret had been. Was this a breach of journalistic ethics, sitting on a story for so long mainly because a colleague was involved?”

Strupp quotes Edward Wasserman, a journalism professor at Washington & Lee University in Virginia, who echoed claims of other critics, that the Times and similar news outlets would not do the same for a non-journalist: “Some people are in a position to implore the press for restraint better than others”.

It is a debate we need to have in the UK too: the London-based Frontline Club would be an ideal venue in which to hold a discussion with representatives from the UK foreign office, press freedom and safety organisations and news organisations raising the reasons for and against media blackouts. The practicalities of enforcement also need to be discussed. We understand that such an idea is in the pipeline, so we’ll keep you posted.

Please do share links to existing debate online.

In the meantime, here is a link to an item on this morning’s BBC Radio 4 Today programme, featuring Frontline Club founder and cameraman (and former soldier) Vaughan Smith and the BBC’s Jeremy Bowen discussing the Stephen Farrell case.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_8247000/8247681.stm

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