Author Archives: Danny Roberts

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

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, 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, 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 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:

Student summer blog: A beginner’s guide to blogs and blogging

Danny Roberts is a sports journalism student at Leeds Trinity University College and tweets from @DannyRoberts74. In the post below and others to follow he hopes to help people, through his own experiences and those of professionals, to further their study and get that little bit closer to becoming a successful journalist.

One of the many tools available to aspiring and professional journalists alike is a blog.  A blog could help you on your way to gaining a lot of writing experience, help to build an audience, make yourself known to potential employers and even possibly make some money in the process.

A blog can be defined in many ways, but is usually described as a log that is available on the web. ‘Web log’ is where the term ‘blog’ is said to originate.

So, what can a blog be about?

A blog can be about anything that the author is interested in. With the ability to add text, images, video and links, a blog can be a place where you can share your feelings, views and favourite things with the internet population. There have been previously reported cases of journalists who have credited a significant part of their job hunting success to their blogging activities. So it is a good starting point for a journalist’s portfolio to say that you have a blog that you are passionate about, update regularly and that has a big returning audience.

Who can blog and how do I go about setting one up?

Anyone can blog. That’s the beauty of the internet! As long as you have a view and are passionate about something you can blog to your heart’s content.

Many sites allow you to set up blogs but two of the main ones are WordPress and Google’s Blogger. It’s easy to set up and edit, simply enter the name of your blog and your details and you’re away.

Blogs can make money in a few ways, there is the chance that a company may pay you to maintain a high-quality blog that tells potential customers or clients about the company and its latest news. It is likely that this will be on a paid-per-post or paid-per-word basis. The other main way is through advertisements, with money made through people clicking on links at the side of the page. Google has it’s own Adsense that can be added to help you with this process.

I was lucky enough to meet Christian Payne (@documentally) who attended Leeds Trinity journalism week, as a guest speaker, a few months ago. Besides running a very popular blog, he is a freelance “mobile media maker” who also specialises in social technology and connected platforms. He jokes on his site: ‘If you don’t know what that means then it is a good reason for hiring me.’ In his work Christian helps to create multimedia and offers photojournalism, PR, imagery, video and podcasting among other things.

I emailed Christian to ask if he could help out with this blog post and he was more than happy to oblige, even though he had just had surgery. (Which of course, he blogged about!). Blogging behind the alias Documentally at, Christian is able to blog about his everyday life to his many followers.

For me, my blog is an interactive calling card that not only introduces people to what it is I do, it’s a place where I can nurture a community of like minded people. A social network is often built of people who share a common interest.

Describing bloggers, he added: “The content creators are the storymakers, the communicators. They can be Jack and Jills of all trades or they can specialise.”

This year, Documentally has become sponsored. His views are respected enough that Scottevest sponsors his clothing and his international mobile data is sponsored by Vodafone. This means that he receives products from companies to test out in exchange for an honest review or to test how much data a blogger uses abroad. This comes with a wide audience that companies wish their products to be advertised to in review.

To add to this, he gets paid to document, talk and run workshops. He now has a great Twitter following of almost 21,000 at the time of writing. This has helped Christian connect with many people who share his interests.

Therefore, blogging can lead to a career within itself as well as offering a platform to advertise your writing and documenting skills. Get your work out there circulating and who knows who will see it or what will happen because of it. Good luck!

There are a number of blogs, including this one, which may be of particular interest to other student journalists and offer helpful tips, examples include the BBC College of Journalism or WannabeHacks.

Feel free to recommend any other blogs which could be of use to journalists-in-training in the comments below.

Student summer blog: Initial pointers for other journalists-in-training

Image by Wiertz Sébastien on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

This is the first of a number of features over the summer break looking at the challenges that trainee journalists face and the opportunities that may present themselves.

Danny Roberts is a sports journalism student at Leeds Trinity University College and tweets from @DannyRoberts74. In the post below and others to follow in the coming weeks he hopes to help people, through his own experiences and those of professionals, to further their study and get that little bit closer to becoming a successful journalist.

What is the most daunting thing for a student journalist? Being told that ‘it is a tough business’, ‘you may not make it’ and ‘you aren’t going to make much money’.

What I think you must do first is reject the notion that you are destined to fail. No matter what anyone tells you, if you are driven then you can get the opportunities you want and deserve. In a field that requires experience more than a degree level qualification you need to put yourself out there and experience the world. The next thing you should do is realise that you can work as a journalist now.

People train as journalists for many different reasons, many people are born into the trade with a full book of contacts, some have always wanted to write for the public, whereas others just want to follow celebrities around all day. It doesn’t matter what aspect of journalism you wish to work in, the knowledge you must have rarely differs.

The first thing I was taught about journalism was ‘read the news’. Whether you read the news online or buy a daily newspaper, it is important to know what is going on in the world around you. If you go into a job or placement interview in the future and they mention the news and you go silent, it isn’t a good first impression. It doesn’t matter if you don’t intend to go into news writing or not, being an avid reader of all things news helps you to further progress as a journalist.

Having a contact book is the next step on your way to success. It is never too early to start building relationships with people and companies from all walks of life, as you never know when you will need a quote or story from these contacts. This could be a ‘little black book’ or a huge pad, either way get them written down. You could use your phone to add these contacts to, but it is always a good idea to have a paper copy because phones can be so easily damaged or lost.

If you haven’t already, pick a specific aspect of journalism. Of course it may be good to be flexible and know a bit about each, but having a niche topic to write about will help your chances of becoming accepted and excelling as a journalist in your chosen field. To add to this idea, if you don’t have a specific field you should always remain open to different experiences and challenges as you never know what might take your fancy.

What else can you do? Start to hone your communication skills, learn to use the phone as well as email (they have to reply if you are speaking to them live), be open to rejections, read pieces by your favourite writers, don’t be afraid to ask questions, pitch ideas to editors, the list is endless.

Over the next few months, this blog will help to share experiences and offer advice and support to other trainee journalists.