Category Archives: Journalism

#GEN2012: Inside an analytics-driven French newsroom

The online editor-in-chief of French financial daily Les Echos has described how a steady stream of analytics data is helping journalists do their job – and even having an impact on what appears in the print edition.

LesEchos.fr editor-in-chief François Bourboulon said the site had taken analytics seriously in the past three years. Before this time:

There was little data given to the news staff about the most read stories on the website. We have tried to change that.

We have introduced analytics and data almost everywhere and at every moment of the day. We use it as a tool for site management and also as a tool for staff management – trying to help them appropriate the website.

Bourboulon said the access to reader data had not necessarily changed the site’s editorial strategy, but “it has had an impact from time to time”.

As a specialised media we mostly know what our audience is interested in – business and finance. We use analytics to confirm our choices and see if what we have decided was a big issue – to confirm that we made a good choice.

It has changed a bit the journalistic formats we use. We know that based on what analytics tell us, we know which ones will be better as a very short piece, or an interview, or a slideshow. Analytics can show us what’s the best way to explore an issue.

What’s most surprising is analytics have helped us sometimes change our editors’ strategy in the print newspaper. Sometimes in the afternoon when we have our news meeting about what we’re going to put on the front page of the paper, all the editors are having a look at what’s hot on the site.

Dennis Mortensen, the founder and chief executive of real time newsroom analytics provider Visual Revenue said: “I think you can predict demand” – and said analytics was being used by some news organisations to make very subtle changes to story placement on a site that journalists would never have considered doing beforehand. He said they were being “empowered by data”.

#GEN2012 Ethical lessons learnt from covering the Norwegian massacre

Last summer’s Oslo bombing and massacre brought up a “wide array of ethical dilemmas” for Norwegian broadcaster TV2 – whose news editor admits that they did not get everything right.

Nicklas Lysvag told the News World Summit in Paris that the channel had carried out a major review of how it handled the story, making an internal documentary based on interviews with the journalists most involved on the day.

He said he believed that the Norwegian media as a whole had gained trust from the public as a result of its responsible handling of the story.

TV2 deliberately withheld information in the early stages of the unfolding story to avoid worsening the situation for anxious parents awaiting news of their children.

It was a challenge. There was a huge demand for information. We knew a lot of stuff that was never reported on the day. The ethical choices came at us at a furious pace.

We knew more than we could broadcast and more than we could tell these parents that were looking for their kids. In a normal situation, we had good enough sources to tell our viewers that there are at least 50 dead but we waited. We could have gone out and said at least 50 – but we waited for the authorities. Most of Norway didn’t know the extent of this until four o’clock in the morning.

We have a lot of footage that we have not published. The same kind of pictures which Paris Match published last week which led to an outcry in Norway. Every parent knows exactly where their child was killed – even I know the names of these people. Would we have published it if it had happened in Asia or Africa? Yes we would – that’s double standards.

We had not had one complaint from anyone who’s had interviews aired on TV2 so we must have done something right. We have never done this on this scale before and we still meet these people in the courthouse in Oslo every day because the trial is ongoing.

TV2 made mistakes. Firstly, it quoted foreign media who appeared to have a new development in the story.

We quoted the New York Times and the BBC – both were totally wrong. Why would they know?

The broadcaster also spent too long speculating that the origin of the attacks was Muslim extremists. A freelance reporter said in a piece to camera at 7pm that the killer was a white Caucasian man, but TV2 did not respond to this new piece of information fast enough.

Everybody thought this had to be a Muslim extremist group. I’m not sure what went wrong – maybe we didn’t believe it – but we did continue to speculate towards Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

After the attack, the channel avoided asking political questions about the attacks until after the victims had been buried.

The day after, when everybody knew about this extreme situation – the numbers of the dead – we went out of character and we said: “We’re going to go with the people now”. We reported on the marches, 77 funerals. We left the criticism of the government out for several days.

It was a heart thing, not a brain thing, for several days there and I think most other Norwegian news media did the same.

TV2 has also reflected on the safety of its journalists as a result of this story.

We sent them out to a bomb site. Often there’s a bomb number two. We didn’t think of that. We just sent people out.

Lysvag said that there is still a significant untold element to the story: the background of how Anders Behring Breivik – the man who admitted to the killings – turned into a mass murderer. He said the Norwegian media could not dig into the story too much and look at his family background because of privacy laws.

I think it’s a very important story and it’s going to be told in some way because I think Norwegians are still struggling to come to terms with this.

Society of Editors executive director Bob Satchwell said the Oslo coverage showed that one of the biggest ethical problems facing journalists was not the media’s dealings with politicians or celebrities, but with ordinary members of the public.

Journalists and particularly photographers and cameramen are unlike ordinary sensible people who normally run away from danger. The biggest problem being a boss is trying to tell your staff not to run into danger.

While a lot of the time we spend talking about ethics has been about how we deal with politicians or the relationship between the media and celebrities, there is a much bigger problem about how we deal with ordinary people who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances and that’s what this was.

I don’t believe that journalists should be over-regulated. I’m basically an American first amendment fundamentalist. But that’s not to say that we shouldn’t at times restrict ourselves. Journalists have got to do one very simple thing – however much pressure is on them, they’ve got to think twice. Am I invading someone’s privacy? Yes. Am I entitled to because there’s a bigger public interest? Am I about to break the law? It’s that thinking twice that ethics is about.

#GEN2012: After free newspapers, Metro International predicts free tablets

The president of European free newspaper giant Metro International predicts that, within five years, the cost of tablet computers will be so low that publishers will hand them out to readers free of charge.

Per Mikael Jensen told the News World Summit in Paris that he believed basic tablets could eventually be produced for about $1 and used to push out news – not providing full internet access but a locked-down experience. He said:

If I was able to push information to a very low-cost tablet – and hand out a tablet to my readers, that may be an opportunity. I do believe that within five years we will see the cost come down and you can hand out tablets for free.

Jensen also said he believed that paywalls were only suitable for about one per cent of media outlets – possibly five per cent at a push. “The rest of us will have to find other revenue models than paywalls,” he said.

He predicted that online advertising costs would continue to tumble and head towards zero.

It is now cheaper for big brands to advertise than it was 20 years ago and I’m afraid to say that journey will continue. It’s basic capitalism. You have endless amounts of supply and more or less the same demand.

#GEN2012: Three ideas for getting more women in journalism management

Newsrooms should make substantial changes to their workplace culture and workers’ rights to attract more women to journalism and encourage them to take up management jobs, senior editors at the News World Summit in Paris have suggested.

The discussion, on how to get more women into senior journalism jobs, came after the International Women’s Media Foundation surveyed 500 media organisations in 59 countries and found 27 per cent of top management positions are held by women.

Sylvie Kauffmann, editorial director at French daily Le Monde, told the conference:

When I joined this business 30 years ago, I never thought 30 years later I still had to answer this question. I do think that women, generally speaking, do bring a different style of management, as they have brought a lot of different things to journalism.

The massive numbers of women joining this profession has I think made a difference in the kind of journalism we are publishing or broadcasting. I think basically more female leaders attract more female readers or viewers – it’s as simple as this.

A campaign was recently set up in Germany to get 30 per cent of journalism management positions occupied by women by 2017. Zeit Online editor-in-chief Wolfgang Blau said:

One of the ambiguities of this campaign was it didn’t define what was a leadership position. We are already at 30 per cent but we are surprised because we think it’s not enough.

Nadia Salah, editor-in-chief of L’Economiste, a daily finance newspaper in Morocco, said:

I counted how many editor in chief women there were in Morocco. I found seven out of 47 people in that job title – that’s two less than last year. They left because they got married.

So what can be done? Here are three of the ideas that came out of the panel debate.

1) Get more women experts quoted in stories

A recent survey of Le Monde newspaper found women were quoted seven times less often than men as expert sources. Alison Smale, executive director of the International Herald Tribune suggests:

I think it’s very important to consider how we depict women in the media. If you look at a front page, I think you should see at least one woman depicted there or talked about and it shouldn’t always Angela Merkel.

I really do believe that having sources quoted as women – people on television in positions of power being women – it sends its own message.

2) Change the workplace culture

Arne Jensen, assistant secretary general at the Association of Editors in Norway said “macho culture still rules in many newsrooms”. He said:

There has to be a possibility to combine working life with family life. They (colleagues at the last paper he worked at) thought that to be editor of a newspaper you had to work long hours every day. They did this because their wives picked up the children.

I said to these guys: this is not working because the signal we are sending out to journalists is that if you are going to have kids and you have a man who has a job, then you can’t be an editorial leader.

3) Equal (or at least, similar) maternity/paternity leave rights

Wolfgang Blau, from Zeit Online, said changes to German parental leave law had made a “really crucial” difference to managers’ attitudes to hiring women. He explained:

When it comes to staffing a position that’s really strategically important and I’m looking at a female candidate in her thirties, the question of course is how long will she stay.

I’m genuinely happy when any of my colleagues has babies. German law incentivises fathers [to take more time off]. The risk now is evenly spread when I look at young men and young women; the risk is pretty much the same, that he or she will take off for the year. The law can do wonders.

#GEN2012: Will we still have digital development editors in 10 years?

Newspaper publishers need to “keep looking outwards” and make changes – even the titles that are the most digitally advanced – the Guardian’s digital development editor told editors at the World News Summit in Paris today.

Asked at the conference whether jobs like hers – helping newsrooms find and implement new processes and tools – would still be needed once newspapers had migrated further towards digital, Joanna Geary replied:

I’d like to hope that in the future it’s something that every journalist would play a role in and would start to understand and have an interest and curiosity in how they connect with readers in meaningful ways.

I still think there is a need to be honest and open with ourselves that this is not a communication revolution that is going to slow down any time soon. If that means we have to have a role that is constantly looking outwards at how our readers are changing, I think there is always going to be a need for this.

She later added:

The Guardian has a very unique culture, specifically about embracing new ideas and understanding new platforms and seek opportunities from new tools. When you see journalists work closely with developers, what’s great is watching both sides learn what’s possible.

For anyone who’s working on internal change it’s so easy to become internal looking and focused on internal structures and politics. My own bit of advice would be to keep looking outwards.

Guardian network editor Clare Margetson said there were still some journalists who needed a hand getting to grips with digital.

When I was on the newsdesk 10 years ago it seemed like a very different place. One of our best reporters would sit smoking a pipe and would not touch a computer. He would call in his story. It seems a world away.

There are still some who need help and some for whom Facebook is still quite a scary thing to use, but it’s quite collaborative and you find the younger reporters on a bank of desks will help out the older ones.

#GEN2012: Swiss news start-up on why it ‘forced’ editors to join Twitter

The blogs editor of a new Swiss weekly newspaper and website that required all of its senior staff to join Twitter says the move has helped them better understand the challenges of multi-platform publishing and engage with readers.

Tageswoche launched in October – and had 3,000 people buying a subscription “before they even knew what it was about”, David Bauer told the News World Summit in Paris today.

Reflecting on the lessons learnt from the launch, Bauer said getting journalists to be truly platform-neutral was something of a challenge at first:

It’s difficult to get into journalists’ minds that they’re working on a story without knowing where it’s going to be published. Up until recently it wasn’t common in Switzerland for journalists to be on Twitter. We forced all our editors to join Twitter – it teaches you about pace, about interaction, about information flows, about making mistakes and being open about them.

The one thing that surprised me and astonished me the most was the great quality of user content. We required everyone to sign up to post a comment, keeping out the trolls. We actively and prominently featured good reader comments, thus setting a bar. Our editors actively engage in discussions about their own articles, be it on Facebook, Twitter or our website.

He spoke about the importance of apps and being seen on mobile:

We had to learn the hard way. We didn’t have a native app – we just had a website that was optimised for mobile devices. But what happened was people went to the App Store, didn’t find us and concluded that it didn’t exist.

Story selection – and what works best online – was also an interesting discovery:

A lot of people told us that we need to have more news on our website but when we look at what articles people read and share the most it’s when we go beyond news, comment on news, add background information and explain the news. We curate a lot, send people away, and have them come back to have the news explained by us.

Tablets and mobiles boost BBC iPlayer use

The BBC has reported a 94 per cent year-on-year surge in the use of its iPlayer TV and radio catch-up service on mobile and tablet devices.

New figures covering the first four months of 2012 show 15 per cent of all programme requests made in April were on tablets or mobiles – some 28 million streamed programmes in a month.

The total number of requests for TV and radio programmes rose 24 per cent year-on-year to 190 million in the period from January to the end of April.

Radio use of the iPlayer was boosted by demand for football coverage on BBC Radio 5Live. Among the most listened-to radio programmes in April were 5Live’s coverage of the Champions League (Barcelona v Chelsea), Premier League (Manchester City v Manchester United) and FA Cup (Liverpool v Everton).

The BBC said it would publish iPlayer statistics on a monthly basis from now on. The report does not include requests for web-only content (such as online news clips) – only requests for full-length programmes which have been transmitted on a TV channel or radio station.

PCC seeks ideas from Irish press regulatory system

 

The Press Complaints Commission is looking at the Irish press watchdog system as a possible option for reforming the UK self-regulatory approach, according to reports.

Press Council of Ireland chairman Dáithí O’Ceallaigh is quoted by the Irish Times as saying the chairman of the Press Complaints Commission, Lord Hunt, and other senior PCC officials have visited Dublin for a “lengthy meeting” to look at how the Irish press regulatory system works.

The Press Council is part of a two-tier approach introduced in Ireland in 2008. Complaints are first referred to a separate Press Ombudsman, who tries to deal with them through conciliation.

If a resolution cannot be achieved, the ombudsman can make a ruling based on a code of practice and can refer significant complaints to the 13-strong Press Council, which runs independently of government and media.

Mr O’Ceallaigh said:

The fact that they came here at all, and those discussions, reflect the fact that Leveson himself and a number of the witnesses at the inquiry in Britain have already publicly expressed their interest in the origins, the structure and the functions of the Press Council and the Press Ombudsman in Ireland.

Meanwhile, Lord Justice Leveson gave a strong hint yesterday afternoon about the regulatory structure he could recommend when his report comes out later this year.

He discussed allowing group complaints and introducing a “swift” system for dealing with privacy and libel issues without lawyers. Leveson also suggested that an ombudsman could give guidance on whether a newspaper needs to notify the subject of a story before publication.

He said yesterday:

Whatever comes out of this must be independent of government, independent of the state, independent of parliament but independent of the press. It has to have expertise on it or available to it, but must command the respect of the press but equally the respect of the public.

It seems to me that it can do lots of different things. I would like to think about a system that provides redress particularly to those who can’t afford to litigate.

At the moment, the PCC doesn’t take group complaints. So, for example – and I had a number of people giving evidence from, for example, the transgender community and other groups, who say, ‘Well, because there’s no name in this, there’s nobody to complain, and therefore there is no mechanism to obtain redress for them.’

Leveson also said there needed to be “some sort of mechanism to resolve disputes. So that can be consensual, the complaint-solving thing, but a mechanism in the absence of consensual resolution”.

I equally understand that there is an argument that in some circumstances requiring prior notification would lead to litigation and would kill the story. So there has to be some way of drawing a line.

One possibility might be to say there is some mechanism within the regulatory regime that allows the press to say: ‘Look, we have this story, we don’t feel we ought to notify the subject of it for these reasons: he’ll destroy the evidence’, or whatever and to get a view.

If either he doesn’t ask or alternatively he does ask and gets the answer: ‘No, we think you ought to notify’, then again, that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t publish, it’s up to him, but then perhaps there should be a potential regime for exemplary damages. I’m just throwing out ideas.

But then I have another mechanism for swift resolution of privacy, small libel-type issues. Not the enormous stuff, perhaps an inquisitorial regime which can be done without lawyers, but some mechanism for members of the public to be able to challenge decisions and get a swift response.

On top of all that, one has to have a mechanism that means that sanctions work. I recognise entirely the parlous financial position of much of the press, but it’s important that sanctions are taken seriously.

Leveson added:

When I said to [Jeremy] Paxman that I didn’t want my report to end up on the second shelf of a professor of journalism’s study as yet another failed attempt, his only comment was to say: ‘As high as the second shelf?’

‘This won’t be solved through recruitment alone’: Your thoughts on the NUJ’s financial crisis

Confirmation from the National Union of Journalists that it is facing insolvency has prompted journalists to suggest some ideas on how to improve the union’s situation.

NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said in an email to all members yesterday that “doing nothing is not an option” – and she asked members to encourage colleagues to join the union.

She said: “If no action is taken the union would face insolvency and the consequential prospect of a merger as soon as later this year.

“We have been here before, and the way out is by acting together in the collective interests of the union we are all passionate about.”

Journalist Leah Borromeo said the NUJ’s problems would not be solved through recruitment alone and that a merger with broadcasting union Bectu would reflect convergence in the wider media industry. Back in 2008, the NUJ looked at leaving its Headland House headquarters in London and sharing with Bectu, but nothing came of it.

Brian Whelan says not enough is being done to recruit graduates:

NUI Galway MA student Colette Sexton adds:

And Sheffield Uni MA student Luke Martin says the NUJ’s antiquated website isn’t helping:

However, Donnacha DeLong says improvements to the site are on the way:

One option being proposed is a five per cent rise in subscription rates. However, Telegraph journalist Jennifer O’Mahony suggests rethinking the membership fees structure altogether:

Any ideas? What would you do to improve the finances of the NUJ?

Journalisted Weekly: Queen’s Speech, Manchester City and Leveson

Journalisted is an independent, not-for-profit website built to make it easier for you, the public, to find out more about journalists and what they write about. It is run by the Media Standards Trust, a registered charity set up to foster high standards in news on behalf of the public, and funded by donations from charitable foundations. Each week Journalisted produces a summary of the most covered news stories, most active journalists and those topics falling off the news agenda, using its database of UK journalists and news sources.

 

Queen’s Speech, Manchester City and Leveson

For the week ending Sunday 13 May.

  • The Queen’s speech the top story of the week
  • Manchester City win the Premier League, Rebekah Brooks’ and Andy Coulson’s appearances at Leveson, Greece in political turmoil covered lots
  • Mutilated bodies found in Mexico, Russian jet crashes and Algerian elections covered little

Covered Lots

Covered Little

Political ups and downs (top ten by number of articles)

Celebrity vs Serious

Eurozone leaders (top ten by number of articles)

No other Eurozone leaders were mentioned in UK press coverage. Who wrote a lot about…the Greek election

Long form journalism

Hacked Off is reporting live from the Leveson Inquiry again this week via twitter @hackinginquiry and hackinginquiry.orgThe Orwell Prize awards ceremony is on May 23rd. All welcome, email katriona.lewis@mediastandardstrust.org to reserve your free placeFor the latest instalment of Tobias Grubbe, journalisted’s 18th century jobbing journalist, go to journalisted.com/tobias-grubbe