Category Archives: Training

Media release: New edition of McNae’s to launch at NCTJ seminar

The 21st edition of McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists will be launched next month, at the NCTJ’s media law seminar.

According to a release from the NCTJ, the new edition of the media law book includes a further look at issues such as:

… new coverage of broadcast regulation; new material on privacy and the media, including injunctions and phone hacking; new guidance on journalists’ use of social media; and further coverage of online journalism issues.

The book is authored by Mark Hanna and Mike Dodd, the release adds, who “will present and discuss these changes with tutors at the seminar”.

Press Complaints Commission chairman Lord Hunt will give the keynote speech at the London-based media law seminar on 30 March. According to the NCTJ, he will be giving “his views on the Leveson inquiry and the future of press regulation”.

Google to help Tunisian journalists pick up new skills

Google is to sponsor six Tunisian journalists to spend three months at a leading French newspaper, picking up digital news-gathering skills.

The internet giant has teamed up with liberal daily Le Monde, which will offer a newsroom placement to each of the journalists, covering daily news and the French presidential elections taking place in May.

Google’s William Echikson wrote on the company’s European public policy blog:

Our hope is that they then will return home with new skills that will serve to construct a new, free but responsible professional press in Tunisia.

At Google, we are aware of the need to work with publishers to smooth the transition not only from oppression to freedom, but from analogue to digital distribution. We are sponsoring a series of digital journalism prizes with Institut de Sciences Politiques, the International Press Institute in Vienna and the Global Editors Network in Paris.

Meanwhile, journalism academics at City University in London are heading to Tunisia next week to lead a series of workshops for Tunisian journalists on “reporting a democracy”.

The project is the first of its kind being organised by the Journalism Foundation, which was founded last December and is led by former Independent editor Simon Kelner.

City lecturer Roy Greenslade writes on his Guardian blog:

The courses are the first to be held in Tunisia since last January’s overthrow of Ben Ali’s authoritarian regime.

They will provide practical advice to journalists on coping with the realities of reporting in a free society. But the classes will be held amid an ongoing battle for media freedom.

Former BBC journalist Suzanne Franks joins City University

Former BBC senior producer Suzanne Franks is to join the journalism department at City University in London as its new head of undergraduate journalism.

Professor Franks joins from the University of Kent, where she was director of research.

She previously had a long broadcast journalism career at the BBC, including work on Newsnight, Watchdog and Panorama. She went on to set up an independent production company specialising in political coverage.

Franks said in a release: “I was attracted to City University London because of its outstanding reputation in journalism. I’m looking forward to working closely with the next generation of journalists as they embark on their professional and academic careers.”

Getstats: 12 ‘number hygiene’ rules for journalists in full

A campaign launched by the Royal Statistical Society has proposed 12 “rules of thumb for journalists” in order to encourage a better understanding of numbers in news.

Getstats is also calling for numeracy and statistics to be taught in journalism schools.

More details and a 12 point summary is at this link.

The full 12 rules of “number hygiene” for journalists are below:

1. You come across a number in a story or press release. Buyer beware. Before making it your own, ask who cooked it up; what are their credentials; are they selling something. What other evidence do we have (what numbers are they not showing us?); why this number, now? If the number comes from a study or research, has anyone reputable said it is any good?

2. Sniff around. Do the numbers refer to a whole group of people or things or a sample of them? If it’s a sample, are the people being questioned or the things being referred to a fair representation of the wider group? Say a company is claiming something applies to the population at large. If it is basing the story on a sample, such as a panel of internet users, the company goes back to time and again then beware: the panel may not be representative.

3. More probing. What was the sample asked? The wording of a question can hugely influence the answer you get. People’s understanding of what it means to ‘be employed’ or the nature of ‘violent crime’ may differ. What the public understands may not match the survey researcher’s idea. In government surveys bigamy was till recently classed as a violent crime. Might researchers’ choice of words have led people into a particular response?

4. One number is often used to sum up the group being measured, the average. But different averages measure different things. The mean is extremely sensitive to highs and lows: the very fact of Bill Gates coming to live in the UK would push up mean wealth. The median tells us, for example, the income of an average person – half the population get less, half more. Comparing earnings, the mode tells us the salary most people earn.

5. There is a lot of uncertainty about. We need to be sure the number on offer is a result and not just due to chance. With a sample, check the margin of error, the plus or minus 3 per cent figure, usually stated by reputable polling companies. A poll saying 52 per cent of people are in favour of something is not definitively saying half are in favour: it could be 49 per cent. Beware league tables, except in sports reports. Chelsea is higher than Arsenal for a simple and genuine reason: the side has collected more points. With hospitals or schools, a single score is a never likely valid basis for comparison (a teaching hospital may appear to have a worse score, but only because sicker patients are referred to it). Comparisons between universities or police forces are unreliable if the scores fall within margins of error. Midshires scores 650 on the ranking and Wessex 669: they could be performing at the same level or their respective positions reversed.

6. The numbers you are given show a big increase or sharp decrease. Yet a single change does not mean a trend. Blips happen often. Blips go away, so we have to ask whether the change in the numbers is just a recovery or return to normal after a one-off rise or fall (what statisticians refer to as ‘regression to the mean’). The numbers may come from a survey, like (say) ONS figures for household spending or migration. Is the change bigger than the margin of error?

7. Unless researchers carried out a controlled experiment (such as a trial of a new drug, based on a randomly chosen group, some of whom don’t know they are getting a placebo), it’s very difficult confidently to state that a causes b. Instead, the numbers may show an association (a correlation) between two things, say obesity and cancer. Beware spurious connections, which may be explained by a third or background factor. If use of mobile phones by children is associated with later behavioural disorders, the connexion could be the parents, and the way their behaviour affects both things. If the numbers suggest an association, the important thing is to assess its plausibility, on the back of other evidence. Finding a link can stimulate further study, but can’t itself be the basis for some new government policy. Recommendations for changing daily behaviour such as eating should not be based on speculative associations between particular food and medical conditions.

8. A key question for any number is ‘out of how many?’ Some events are rare — such as the death of a child. That’s why they are news, but that’s also why they deserve being put in context. Noting scarcity value is the way to reporting the significance of an event. An event’s meaning for an individual or family has to be distinguished from its public importance.

9. Billions and millionths are too big and too small to grasp. We take figures in if they are humanized. One way is comparing with, say, the whole UK; another is to plot the effect on an individual. Colourful comparisons can make risk intelligible: the risk of dying being operated on under a general anaesthetic is on average the same as the risk being killed while travelling 60 miles on a motorbike.

10. Good reporting gives a balanced view of the size of the numbers being reported. Better to focus on the most likely number rather than the most extreme, for example in stories about the effects of a flu pandemic. ‘Could be as high as’ points to an extreme; better to say ‘unlikely to be greater than’. Numbers may be misperceived so try to eliminate bias.

11. Risk is risky. ‘Eating bacon daily increases an individual’s lifetime risk of bowel cancer by 20 per cent.’ Another way of saying that is: out of 100 people eating a bacon sandwich every day one extra person will get bowel cancer. Using the first without noting the second tells a story that is both alarmist and inaccurate. If the information is available, express changes in risk in terms of the risks experienced by 100 or 100,000 people.

12. The switch from print to digital brings opportunities to present numbers more dynamically and imaginatively, for example in scatter plots. Graphics can show a trend. Stacked icons in graphs can show effects on 100 people. But the same rules of thumb apply whatever the medium: is the graphic clear; does it tell the story that is in the text.

Media release: Reuters announces global extension of Journalism Trainee Program

Reuters announced today that it will be extending its Journalism Trainee Program outside the UK from 2012 and into New York and Asia.

According to a release the scheme, which offers nine-months of training, has been running for 50 years.

University graduates, working journalists and other professionals wanting to move into journalism can apply for the highly competitive program that involves hands-on training in the classroom and on the newsroom floor. Trainees who meet Reuters rigorous standards will be placed in staff jobs and assigned mentors to guide their careers at the company.

In a statement in the release editor-in-chief Stephen Adler, added that this year a total of 15 jobs were made available to trainees.

Active recruitment across universities and top journalism schools is underway to find exceptional talent committed to journalistic excellence. Applicants should exhibit a passion for news, a competitive instinct, and speak and write fluently in English.

Applications can be made online with a closing date of 31 December.

Steven Morris: How I tweeted the Vincent Tabak trial

The Guardian’s Steven Morris has an insightful post up today on how he went about tweeting from the trial of Vincent Tabak for the murder of Joanna Yeates.

With the attorney general reportedly considering a contempt prosecution against someone who tweeted about Tabak’s interest in pornography, which had been banned while the case was active, Morris’ post is a timely look at the dangers of posting live to the social network in real time. (That said, the only contempt prosecution brought so far in the case has been over stories printed in newspapers).

Making sure coverage made up of necessarily self-contained 140-character tweets is both legal and, in a case like that of Yeates, sensitive to younger followers or family, is no mean feat, Morris’ post highlights.

He doesn’t just look at the dangers though, which inevitably are more scrutinised, but also the opportunities. Opportunities to provide detailed, live coverage alongside a traditional newspaper report.

It turned out that the Twitter format – 140 characters a tweet – was not as problematic as it might seem. Reporters are used to transforming long-winded sentences into pithy paragraphs. The format seemed to work particularly well for courtroom exchanges. Here are some examples taken from the heart of the case: Tabak’s six hours in the witness box.

“Prosecutor asking why Tabak wanted to kiss Joanna Yeates. ‘It’s nice to kiss someone’ – Tabak.”
“Tabak: I didn’t want to hurt her, I didn’t want her to die. I didn’t want to cause her any harm.”
“Prosecution: Were you looking in her eyes? Tabak: I can’t remember.”

But what of the dangers? When you tweet, no second pair of eyes is looking at what you write before you send it. It is all down to you. Members of Tabak’s defence team certainly monitored tweets carefully and, no doubt, would have made great play if something prejudicial to their client had crept out.

See Morris’ full article on at this link.

Tool of the week for journalists – Codeacademy, for those who want to start to code

Tool of the week: Codeacademy

What is it? Free tutorials in basic JavaScript

How is it of use to journalists?  The rise in data journalism, an interest in Hacks/Hackers meetups and collaboration between journalists and developers has led to many journalists to express a wish to start coding. But where to start?

Codeacademy is a learning tool that offers tutorials to get you started. So far there are only a couple of courses on the site but they are free and superbly designed.

The homepage gets you to begin entering a bit of JavaScript and you soon find yourself progressing though the tutorial. There is a progress bar to show you how much of the course you have completed and reward badges to give you the equivalent of the teacher’s gold star.

You might well find you quickly learn simple JavaScript that has a useful application for you as a journalist. For example, within the first five minutes you learn that writing “.length” at the end of a word or phrase gives you the character count. You can then open an editor (using Chrome from a Mac the command is ALT+CMD+J), paste the headline of a news story, add “.length” and you will have the character count of the headline.


Guardian Student Media Awards 2011: shortlist announced

The shortlist has been announced for this year’s Guardian Student Media Awards. The list of 45 individuals or publications, which were whittled from 648 entries by a panel of judges including Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger and freedom of information campaigner and journalist Heather Brooke, will compete in nine categories. The awards will be presented on 23 November.

See the full list of nominees below:

Publication of the Year

York Vision, University of York

Mouth, Kingston University

Cherwell, Oxford University

River, Kingston University (won 2010)

Felix, Imperial College London

Website of the Year, University of Birmingham, University of Warwick, University of Southampton, University of Liverpool , Oxford University

Reporter of the Year

Simon Murphy, Newcastle University

Lizzie Porter, Oxford University

Tom Farmery, University of Lincoln

James Burton, University of Cambridge

Michael Smith, University of Sheffield

Feature Writer of the Year

Jamie Ross, St Andrews University

Alex Dymoke, Oxford University

Thomas Hocking, University of Sheffield

Minas Panayi, Cass Business School, University London

Camilla Apkar, University of York

Columnist of the Year

Rhiannon Williams, University College London

Charlotte Hogarth Jones, University of York

Mehreen Khan, Oxford University

Samuel Gilonis, University of Southampton

Helen Robb, St Annes College, Oxford

Critic of the Year

Rachel Aroesti, Durham University

Daniel Barrow, Warwick University

Alex Gruzenberg, Darwin College, Cambridge

Toby Parker Rees, Homerton College, Cambridge

Thomas Killingbeck, University of York

Photographer of the Year

Rajan Zaveri, SAE Institute London

Ibolya Feher, University of the West of England

James Marsh, University of Wolverhampton

Bernat Millet, Middlesex University

Rosangela Borgese, University of West London

Digital Journalist of the Year

Joseph Stashko, University of Central Lancashire

Helen Stead, University of Salford

Jake Lea-Wilson, Imperial College

Dylan Lowe, Imperial College

Nick Eardley, Edinburgh Napier

Broadcast Journalist of the Year

Claire Freeman, Nottingham Trent

Clare Davis and Michael Greenfield, City University

Munawar Shaikh, University of Leeds

Elaine Ly, Nottingham Trent

Joanna Beaufoy, Emmanuel Cambridge

Image by Michael Brunton-Spall on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

NUS Awards: York student newspaper Nouse nominated for fourth year running

University of York student newspaper Nouse has been nominated for Best Student Media in the NUS Awards for the fourth year running.

Nouse was a runner up in 2008, won the award in 2009, and then missed out to fellow York student publication the Lemon Press last year.

In 2006, the newspaper was nominated for Best Student Newspaper at the Guardian Student Media Awards, an award it won the year before, and the National Student Journalism Awards.

The other two nominees for this year’s award are 2009 finalist Forge Press, University of Sheffield, and the National and London Student Journalism Support Networks – University of London (submitted by Queen Mary Students’ Union).

Forge Press editor Matthew Burgess is nominated for the the Student Journalist of the Year prize, alongside Simon Murphy, news editor of Newcastle University’s the Courier, and Nick Stylianou, media and communications officer at Royal Holloway and former editor of university publication the Orbital.

Wannabe Hacks: Sunday Times foreign editor on ‘rough ride’ of profession

In an interesting interview with the Wannabe Hacks Sunday Times foreign editor Sean Ryan offers plenty of tips for journalists interested in becoming foreign correspondents. There are plenty of warnings too, calling on journalists to be sure to consider the realities of reporting from across the world:

There’s also a psychological toll which I think as an industry we’re becoming increasingly aware of which is the tendency to suffer from depression as a result of traumatic experiences that you’ll inevitability accumulate along the way. So we have had cases of post-traumatic distress disorder diagnosed in several of our reporters and it’s deeply distressing to witness. It takes a lot of treatment and a long time to recover from, although I’m pleased to say that in all cases, we’ve seen a full recovery and people have gone back to work and come to terms with what they’ve experienced in the past. But it’s not easy and it’s not good going into being a foreign correspondent thinking it’s all travel and meeting people and being on the frontline of a war because there’s a heavy price to pay.