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Are you on the j-list? The leading innovators in journalism and media in 2010

July 22nd, 2010 | 14 Comments | Posted by in Journalism, Online Journalism

Updated 05/08/2010

Recent industry lists ranking the great and good in journalism and the media fell a bit short of the mark for Journalism.co.uk. Where were the online innovators? Where were the journalists on the ground outside of the executives’ offices?

So we’ve compiled our own rundown listing those people we think are helping to build the future of journalism and the news media.

Some important points to note:

  • There are no rankings to this list – those included are from such varied areas of work it seemed pointless;
  • We will have missed some people out – let us know in the comments below or with the hashtag #jlist who you are working with that should be included;
  • We’ve listed groups as well as individuals – with individuals we hope you’ll see them as representing a wider team of people, who have worked together on something great;
  • And it’s not limited to 50 or 100 – we’ll see where it takes us…

So here’s the first batch. There’s a Twitter list of those included so far at this link and more will be added in the coming weeks.

Click on the ‘more’ link after these five to to see the full list.

Tomáš Bella

Tomáš Bella was editor-in-chief and deputy director of Sme.sk, the Slovak republic’s most popular news site. He was author of the first European newspaper-owned blogportal (blog.sme.sk, 2004) and the first digg-like service (vybrali.sme.sk, 2006). In April 2010 he co-founded Prague-based new media consultancy NextBig.cz and is working on a payment system to allow the access to all the premium content of major newspapers and TV stations with one payment.

Paul Steiger

While ProPublica’s not-for-profit, foundation-funded model may be something commercial news organisations can never share, its investment in and triumphing of investigative and data journalism cannot be overlooked. The way in which it involves a network of readers in its research and actively encourages other sites to “steal” its stories shows a new way of thinking about journalism’s watchdog role. Image courtesy of the Knight Foundation on Flickr.

Chris Taggart

Paul Bradshaw’s description of his fellow j-lister: “Chris has been working so hard on open data in 2010 I expect steam to pour from the soles of his shoes every time I see him. His ambition to free up local government data is laudable and, until recently, unfashionable. And he deserves all the support and recognition he gets.”

Ian Hislop/Private Eye

Not much to look at on the web perhaps, but the Eye’s successful mixture of satire, humour and heavyweight investigations has seen its circulation rise. It blaized a trail during the Carter-Ruck and Trafigura gagging ordeal and has even lent it’s support to j-list fellow the Hackney Citizen to protect press freedom from international to hyperlocal levels. Image courtesy of Nikki Montefiore on Flickr.

Brian Boyer

Amidst the talk of what journalists can learn from programmers and what coding skills, if any, journalists need, Brian Boyer was making the move the other way from programming to a programmer-journalist. His university and personal projects in this field have been innovative and have got him noticed by many a news organisation – not least the Chicago Tribune, where he now works as a news applications editor. He blogs at Hacker Journalist.

Ushahidi

Originally built to map reports from citizens of post-election violence in Kenya, Ushahidi’s development of interactive, collaborative and open source mapping technology has been adopted by aid agencies and news organisations alike. It’s a new means of storytelling and a project that’s likely to develop more tools for journalists in the future.

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Democracy site MySociety to receive $575,000 from US investment firm

Democracy website MySociety has announced it will receive a $575,000 donation from US-based Omidyar Network, an investment firm who aim to support organisations of provide opportunities for people to improve their lives.

The money will be used to help develop MySociety and its online community.

Founder and director Tom Steinberg says the grants will benefit both the business and its users:

We’re really delighted because these grants help us do two things we really need to – share our knowledge and skills more widely, and improve our ability to run ourselves as a mature organization, better able than before to look after our legal and financial affairs on the one hand, and our community and users on the other.

Read the full post here…

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The growth of online watchdogs: are they ‘journalism’ and does it matter?

July 24th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Comment, Events, Online Journalism

The influence of UK-based democracy organisation, mySociety, often gets forgotten, perhaps deliberately downplayed, in the British press. Let’s go back to the MP expenses row, for example. Well before the Telegraph played its central role in exposing the various scandals, mySociety saw a significant campaign victory when Gordon Brown U-turned on an attempt to keep certain MP expenses details private, back in January.

At the time, mySociety’s founder, Tom Steinberg said: “This is a huge victory not just for transparency, it’s a bellweather for a change in the way politics works. There’s no such thing as a good day to bury bad news any more, the internet has seen to that.” But did mySociety’s, in my view, undeniably influential part get reported in the UK press? Not really.

So it was good to see that in Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger’s speech at the Media Standards Trust event earlier this week, all of which will be available to watch here, he opened with examples of online projects (two mentions for mySociety) – that do exactly what newspapers do – or used to – do. Is it journalism, but does it matter, he wondered.

Rusbridger gave three examples that showed, he said, ‘changes in how information is organised, personalised, ordered, stored, searched for, published and shared.’ These sites, he said, have many things in common with conventional journalism, ‘dealing with facts, with statistics, with information about public life, politics and services.’

  • FixMyStreet (mySociety). Just as the Cotswold Journal draws public attention to potholes, FixMyStreet allows users to identify problems in their local area, and get them noticed. “That to me is essentially what a local newspaper is or was,” Rusbridger said. It’s ‘much more responsive’ and allows a ‘direct transaction between the citizen and the council’ he said. And it’s ‘crucially cheaper than sending out a reporter and a photographer,’ he added. “I don’t know whether that’s journalism or not, I don’t know if that matters.”
  • TheyWorkForYou (mySociety). This, Rusbridger said, was ‘essentially what has replaced, or will replace’ parliamentary reporting, as he flashed up on the screen an example of the old-style reports from the Times in 1976. It’s ‘better than what went before’ he said. “I don’t know if that’s journalism or whether it matters.”
  • EveryBlock. It provides information on local areas, just as a local paper does or did. Adrian Holovaty’s US-based project allows one to ‘drill down into every neighbourhood’ in a personalised way, he said.  Crimes on your route to work can be plotted. “I don’t know if that’s journalism or whether that matters but I think it’s fantastically interesting.”

This is the relevant part of Rusbridger’s speech:

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Sea change: did online campaign group force political transparency?

January 21st, 2009 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Citizen journalism, Online Journalism

It’s an interesting landmark: a quickly put-together online campaign in the UK may have influenced a political reversal. Gordon Brown has cancelled proposals for MPs to protect the details of their expenses.

The House of Commons leader, Harriet Harman, cited lack of cross-party support as the reason behind the change, according to the BBC report.

Meanwhile, the Guardian reported:

“The decision is a major victory for freedom of information campaigners and follows growing opposition led by the Liberal Democrats to the proposal, and website campaigns urging the public to email their MP objecting to the move.”

Does this show something of a sea change in political influence? Note that the campaigners directly mobilised their supporters, without reliance on mainstream media.

Tom Steinberg, founder of My Society, the organisation behind the campaign, thinks traditional media manipulation tools had little effect.

He comments on the MySociety blog:

“This is a huge victory not just for transparency, it’s a bellweather for a change in the way politics works. There’s no such thing as a good day to bury bad news any more, the internet has seen to that.”

Matthew Cain, over on his BacAtU blog, gives five reasons why he believes the campaign had clout, and points out that Stephen Fry helped the cause too… with a humble re-tweet on Twitter:

But, also today, a reminder of the way media connections have traditionally worked, with the appointment of a new head of political lobby, the Financial Times’ Jean Eaglesham. But how much influence and inside knowledge does the lobby have anymore?

Press Gazette reported:

“Eaglesham dismissed any suggestion that the need for constant ‘rolling’ news has diminished the quality of parliamentary reporting.

“She said: ‘Clearly it’s a risk we’re all aware of, however, now we also have the added value of more analysis and breaking news through blogging and other online content. Things change so fast now, it’s fascinating.'”

The role of the lobby was discussed at the end of last year in the House of Lords. Hazel Blears talked about the influence of the political bloggers in November, in an address to the Hansard Society.

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MySociety ‘retreat’ places up for auction on eBay

MySociety, the democracy website, which turned five in October, has put two places for its annual retreat up for auction on eBay.

MySociety says on its blog:

“This is only the third such retreat in five years, and it is a super-rare occasion when all the various people who make mySociety tick get together. On these retreats we meet to set our agenda for the next year and try to reassess what we’ve done and what we’re about. It’s a fantastic opportunity to meet many of the most talented developers and thinkers in the field of the internet and democracy, people you’d otherwise rarely be able to catch. And it’s a great moment to catch them, pausing for a moment to discuss what we’re about and where we could go next.”

Tom Steinberg, the director and founder of mySociety, told Journalism.co.uk that the retreat will be held January 9-11 2009, and that the location is still to be decided (somewhere in the north-west).

“The purpose of the retreat is to get together and do all those things that it’s impossible for a fully virtual organisation to do just
online,” he said.

This includes:

  • Reassessing  priorities
  • Coming up with new ideas for services and tools
  • Discussing financial position and how to improve it
  • Coding side-by-side
  • People getting to know each other
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