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Jon Bernstein: A telling tale of the twittercrat who wasn’t

September 4th, 2009 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Comment, Online Journalism

So the government is not seeking another Twittercrat after all, ‘someone (…) paid to teach the [it] how to use social media such as Twitter, Facebook and Bebo’.

On one level this is a shame. Take this from the very web 2.0 Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Using the microblogging site Twitter, it announced earlier this week:

“@foreignoffice: Opium cultivation, production and prices are down according to @UNODC report http://bit.ly/qjGVm #afghanistan

As Guido politely asks on his blog:

“Why, if you are trying to eradicate supply in Afghanistan, proudly boast that opium supplies are cheaper?”

Perhaps Whitehall really could do with a deputy to help the Twittercrat-in-chief (aka the director of digital engagement, aka Andrew Stott) to knock the troops into shape.

But that’s not going to happen. In fact, what’s more interesting is to follow the story – how it got out there and how the Cabinet Office went online – with mixed results – to rebut those original claims.

On Tuesday and Wednesday this week, the Daily Telegraph (‘Whitehall expands “Twittercrat” empire‘); Daily Mail (‘Ministers seek £120000-a-year ‘Twittercrat’ to help them communicate on the internet’); Daily Express (‘The Twittercrat on £118,000 a year – and you’re paying’); and a trade journal called Public Journal (‘Now they want a deputy Twittercrat‘); all carried very similar stories about the government’s supposed appointment of a director of digital engagment.

The only problem was that many of the points of fact in all four weren’t true. In its rebuttal statement, the Cabinet Office met each claim head on:

1. The job title is wrong
2. The details of the job description are wrong
3. Claims that the vacancy is for a ‘spin doctor’ are wrong
4. Details of reporting lines are wrong
5. Claims that digital engagement is all about pushing government messages on Facebook are wrong

Got that? It’s all wrong, although the circa £120,000 remuneration (including pension and bonuses) is not challenged.

To be fair to the papers, the job ad on which they were basing their copy lacked clarity. With its calls to ’embrace’, ‘re-engineer’, ‘extend’ and ‘engage’, the technocratic language is certainly open to some interpretation.

Nevertheless, there were some obvious inaccuracies, not least the job title, worthy of correction. As yet, scanning the print and online versions of these publications, no corrections have been made.

Meanwhile out on the web, the Cabinet Office was doing its bit to get its message across. It floated it out on social networks and the blogosphere. Meanwhile, former cabinet office minister Tom Watson (a Twitter veteran) put this out:

“@tom_watson Old media have problem with the word ‘digital’ when added (or not) to ‘engagement’. Cabinet Office fightback: http://bit.ly/12pI0S

It carried a link to the Cabinet Office statement and was retweeted half a dozen or more times to be seen be many thousands of followers. Thanks to the network effect that underpins social tools like Twitter, word was getting out.

The end result?
A tight(ish) circle of digitally savvy Westminster, Whitehall and media folk and their associates got the message. But beyond that? Probably not quite far enough.

One of the great promises of the internet even in its pre-web 2.0 days was disintermediation, the notion that you can cut out the middle man.

It is an attractive proposition for everyone, from those seeking cheaper car insurance to celebrities keen to protect or repair their reputation to government departments wanting to go over the head of the fourth estate.

As we’ve seen in the recent past, for example in the case of singer Chris Brown, things don’t always turn out how you hope.

As so it is with the Cabinet Office’s attempts to right some wrongs. You and I know there’s more to the Twittercrat story than first thought, but most readers of the Telegraph, Mail and Express probably do not.

A story about outlandish salaries and civil service dilettantism is grist to the mill for those three papers – it plays to their agenda.

But as yet the average reader of all three is still expecting a £120k Twittercrat to head to a Facebook page near them soon.

Jon Bernstein is former multimedia editor of Channel 4 News. This is part of a series of regular columns for Journalism.co.uk. You can read his personal blog at this link.

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Social and mainstream media join forces to cover Afghanistan election

Rivals currently claim to both be on track for victory in the Afghan elections, in a race watched closely by the world’s media – mainstream, citizen and social.

The Guardian, for example, reports that ‘President Karzai’s staff said he has taken a majority of votes, making a second round run-off unnecessary,’ while Abdullah’s spokesman, Sayyid Agha Hussain Fazel Sancharaki, said the former foreign minister ‘was ahead with 62 per cent of the vote,’ even though preliminary results are not yet expected.

But publicity hasn’t always been courted by the government: critics the world over were shocked by the Afghan foreign ministry’s demand for a media blackout. On Wednesday, the government ordered all journalists not to report acts of violence during its elections, as a last minute attempt to boost voter turn out.

Both the foreign and domestic media said they intended to ignore the ban. Rahimullah Samander, head of the Independent Journalist Association of Afghanistan said that they would ‘not obey this order’. “We are going to continue with our normal reporting and broadcasting of news,” he told the Associated Press.

Both domestic and foreign reporters turned out in force to cover yesterday’s election.  Although the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reports that there have been reports of at least three foreign journalists and several local journalists detained and other acts of aggression towards the media, it is believed that no one was seriously injured.

As with the Iranian election protests, yesterday highlighted the pivotal role social media and citizen journalists now play within mainstream news. Here are a few examples:

  • Alive in Afghanistan introduced a new system during yesterday’s elections allowing citizens to ‘report disturbances, defamation and vote tampering, or incidents where everything ‘went well’ via text message. BBC report at this link.
  • Demotix, the citizen-journalism and photography agency which saw its profile rise during the Iranian election protests, was also instrumental in documenting the day’s events. Follow Afghanistan photographs and stories at this link. “We’ve had reports from Kabul, Helmand, Kandahar and most other provinces during yesterday’s election and the preceding weeks. As well as the political campaigns, our reporters covered the fierce violence including last week’s Taliban attack on a NATO convoy,” said commissioning editor Andy Heath.
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Academics threaten Observer boycott: the letters in full

August 21st, 2009 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Job losses, Jobs, Newspapers

As reported on the main site, a number of high profile figures in business and academia have already, or are threatening to, cancel their subscriptions to the Observer, after the paper – the threatened closure of which has been widely reported – cut the weekly column by management expert Simon Caulkin. Below:

(1) Original letter to editors of the Guardian and Observer protesting the decision from over 60 signatories, never published.

(2) Follow-up letter from a key figure in the campaign, Philip Whiteley on behalf of over 80 signatories, questioning the lack of response, never published.

(3) Email reply from Observer editor, John Mullholland.

Hat-tip: Private Eye Issue 1243, August 21 – September 3, page 7, for a story that alerted us to the protest.

Letters in full:

(1) Original letter to editors of the Guardian and Observer

15 June 2009

The Editor
The Observer

Dear Sir

We are astonished and appalled by your decision to drop the Simon Caulkin column just at the point when the ideas he has covered over the years have become more relevant than ever.

We are living through one of the biggest crises of governance in history. September 2008 saw not just the end of Lehman Brothers but the end of 30 years’ dominance of neo-liberalism as the guiding ideology in running major private and public sector institutions. The notion that ‘maximising shareholder value’ can be considered in isolation from society was exposed as a pretence – bad for business as well as for society. The mechanistic strictures of the dominant management orthodoxy, with its dehumanising notion of people as a ‘resource’, its target culture and its opaque lexicon of competences, outputs and so on, have wrought terrible damage in social care, the NHS and education, as well as in the private sector.

Over the past 16 years, one journalist alone has been consistent in exposing the shallowness and limitations of these approaches. Simon Caulkin has set out a coherent alternative, rather than merely channelling protest. The unifying theme of the thinkers that he has championed – W Edwards Deming, Jeffrey Pfeffer, John Seddon, Gary Hamel and others – has been that organisations and economies are best managed by understanding the inter-dependence of different stakeholders.

Your decision, therefore, is ill-judged and ill-timed. A wiser choice would be to elevate Simon’s column to the main section of the paper. There is huge potential in the ideas he has promoted to assist ideological renewal of political parties, as well as to help governance generally.

We hope that you will see this as not just a letter of protest, but as sincere advice to recommend urgently that you reconsider your decision, and retain a vital element of your paper that could continue make a major contribution to policy debate.

Yours sincerely

Ricardo Semler, entrepreneur and author
Andrew Campbell, Director, Ashridge Business School
Philip Whiteley, chair Human Capital Forum
Dennis Tourish, Professor of Leadership and Management, Aberdeen Business School, Robert Gordon University
Susan White, Professor of Social Work, Department of Applied Social Science, Lancaster University
Petra Wilton, Director of Policy and Research, Chartered Management Institute
Joe Lamb, Emeritus Professor St Andrews University
Professor Jonathan Michie, President, Kellogg College, University of Oxford
Susan Scott-Parker OBE, chief executive of the Employers’ Forum on Disability
Professor Chris Brady, Dean, BPP Business School
H. Thomas Johnson, Professor of Business Administration Portland State University, USA
Mark Goyder, Director Tomorrow’s Company
Alistair Mant, Chairman, Socio-technical Strategy Group, Adjunct Professor, Swinburne University of Technology (Melbourne)
Ismail Erturk, Senior Lecturer in Banking, The University of Manchester
Su Maddock, Director Whitehall Innovation Hub
Dave Wastell, Professor of Information Systems, Nottingham University Business School
Gary Kirwan, Senior Employment Relations Adviser, Royal College of Nursing
Howard Clark, The Systems Thinking Review
Jim Standen, Director, Lignum Quality Services
Professor Bob Galliers, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Bentley University, Massachusetts, USA
Nigel Nicholson, Professor of Organisational Behaviour, University of London
Clive Bone, Chairman, Institute of Value Management
GD Cox
Keith Reader
Professor Anthony Hopwood, Said Business School
Alison Widdup, Managing Director, Better for Everyone
Fred John, Estates Officer, NHS.
Roy Madron, political scientist, UK/Brazil
Dr Richard Howells, Director, Centre for Cultural, Media and Creative Industries Research School of Arts and Humanities King’s College London
Margaret McCartney (Dr) GP and writer
Max Mckeown, Strategist and Leadership Innovation Expert
Sally Garratt, Director Garratt Learning Systems
Bob Garratt, Visiting Professor Cass Business School, London
Andrew Sturdy, Professor of Organisational Behaviour and Associate Dean, Warwick Business School, University of Warwick
Dr Martin Parker Professor of Culture and Organization, Director of Research and Deputy Head of School Editor-in-Chief of ‘Organization’ University of Leicester School of Management Leicester
Dr Gordon Pearson, Keele University
Jan Gillett, Chairman PMI
Dr. Mihaela Kelemen, Professor of Management Studies
Ian Christie, Associate, Green Alliance, Visiting professor, Centre for Environmental Strategy, University of Surrey
John Carlisle, Visiting Professor Sheffield Hallam University, Founder, Cooperation Works Ltd and the Intlizyo AIDS Trust, South Africa
Morice Mendoza, editor and writer
Dr Olivier Sykes, Department of Civic Design, University of Liverpool
Ron Glatter, Emeritus Professor of Educational Administration and Management, The Open University
Bob Bischhof, Chairman – Vitalize Health Products, Non Executive Director – Henderson Eurotrust Plc, Member of Board – German British Chamber of Industry and Commerce
Dr Paul Hodgkin, Chief Executive, Patient Opinion
Alastair Mitchell-Baker, Director Tricordant Ltd
Adam Hogg, Managing Director, (Retired) Conquest Inns
Simon Hollington, Director, Leading Edge Personal Development Ltd
Dr Philip McGovern, Programme Leader – Technology Management Programmes ITT
Neela Bettridge, Founding Partner, Article 13
John Orsmond, Chairman Data Vantage Group
Peter Medway
Paul H Ray, sociologist, USA
Tim Pidsley, director Tricordant, New Zealand
Dr Timothy Wadsworth, NHS
Dr Bruce Tofield, University of East Anglia
Warwick Mansell, freelance journalist and author Education by Numbers: the Tyranny of Testing
Professor Tom Keenoy, The University of Leicester School of Management
Bill Cooke, Professor of Management and Society, Lancaster University Management School
Dr Leslie Budd AcSS MCIT MCILT, Reader in Social Enterprise, Open University
Ken Starkey, Professor of Management and Organisational Learning, Nottingham University Business School

(2) Follow-up letter from a key figure in the campaign, Philip Whiteley, on behalf of 80 signatories

29 June 09

Dear Mr Rusbridger, Mr Mulholland

We write to register a double protest over the unjustified decision to drop the Simon Caulkin column, and your refusal to acknowledge the wave of anger that this decision has provoked.

Some 60 distinguished figures, including some of the most influential people in the world of business and management education, jointly signed a letter condemning your decision. You did not publish this, nor even give any of us the courtesy of an acknowledgment. In addition to this jointly signed correspondence, we know that over 200 people have individually registered their protest. The only letter to appear was mildly expressed. In short, you have seriously misled your readers over both the nature and extent of the protest, and of the support that Simon commands.

The Guardian/Observer has a strong tradition of respecting and upholding the principle of freedom of speech and dissent, so we find it shocking to be denied a space for an entirely legitimate argument, made by some of your (previously) most loyal and long-standing subscribers.

Doubtless you have made this move on business grounds; but you appear to have made no calculation of the business consequences of this decision. The supporters of this campaign are not just any readers, but long-standing subscribers who have passed on the habit of reading the Guardian/Observer to friends, colleagues, children and (given the number of professors and authors co-signing) to students and readers also, but who are now reconsidering their loyalty.

Questions of governance and management do not constitute a side issue to those of economics and politics: quite the reverse. It is the culture of management that has led to chronic waste in the public sector and the banking crisis in the private sector. Simon Caulkin possesses a deep understanding of the underlying causal factors of these crises.

Since we began this campaign, the extent of the protest has grown, as can be seen by the extended list of signatories to this letter.

If there is a necessity to drop pages, we urge you to move Simon’s weekly contribution to the main section of the paper.

Yours

Philip Whiteley
On behalf of over 80 signatories (see list below)

Cc
Will Hutton
Polly Toynbee
Dan Roberts
Liz Forgan

Signed by:
Ricardo Semler, entrepreneur and author
Andrew Campbell, Director, Ashridge Business School
Philip Whiteley, chair Human Capital Forum
Dennis Tourish, Professor of Leadership and Management, Aberdeen Business School, Robert Gordon University
Susan White, Professor of Social Work, Department of Applied Social Science, Lancaster University
Su Maddock, Director Whitehall Innovation Hub
Petra Wilton, Director of Policy and Research, Chartered Management Institute
Joe Lamb, Emeritus Professor St Andrews University
Professor Jonathan Michie, President, Kellogg College, University of Oxford
Susan Scott-Parker OBE, chief executive of the Employers’ Forum on Disability
Professor Chris Brady, Dean, BPP Business School
H. Thomas Johnson, Professor of Business Administration Portland State University, USA
Professor Christopher Grey, Head of Industrial Relations and Organizational Behaviour Group, Warwick Business School
Mark Goyder, Director Tomorrow’s Company
Alistair Mant, Chairman, Socio-technical Strategy Group, Adjunct Professor, Swinburne University of Technology (Melbourne)
Hilary Wainwright, Co-editor Red Pepper magazine, Fellow Centre for Participation Studies, Bradford University
Ismail Erturk, Senior Lecturer in Banking, The University of Manchester
Charlie Hedges, Chartered Geologist
Dave Wastell, Professor of Information Systems, Nottingham University Business School
Professor Martin Parker, University of Leicester
Gary Kirwan, Senior Employment Relations Adviser, Royal College of Nursing
Howard Clark, The Systems Thinking Review
Jim Standen, Director, Lignum Quality Services
Professor Bob Galliers, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Bentley University, Massachusetts, USA
David Davies, Director Didero Ltd
Nigel Nicholson, Professor of Organisational Behaviour, University of London
Clive Bone, Chairman, Institute of Value Management
GD Cox
Professor Anthony Hopwood, Said Business School
Alison Widdup, Managing Director, Better for Everyone
Fred John, Estates Officer, NHS.
Roy Madron, political scientist, UK/Brazil
Dr Richard Howells, Director, Centre for Cultural, Media and Creative Industries Research School of Arts and Humanities King’s College London
Max Mckeown, Strategist and Leadership Innovation Expert
Sally Garratt, Director Garratt Learning Systems
Bob Garratt, Visiting Professor Cass Business School, London
Andrew Sturdy, Professor of Organisational Behaviour and Associate Dean, Warwick Business School, University of Warwick
Dr Martin Parker Professor of Culture and Organization, Director of Research and Deputy Head of School Editor-in-Chief of ‘Organization’ University of Leicester School of Management Leicester
Dr Gordon Pearson, Keele University
Jan Gillett, Chairman PMI
Dr. Mihaela Kelemen, Professor of Management Studies
Ian Christie, Associate, Green Alliance, Visiting professor, Centre for Environmental Strategy, University of Surrey
John Carlisle, Visiting Professor Sheffield Hallam University, Founder, Cooperation Works Ltd and the Intlizyo AIDS Trust, South Africa
Morice Mendoza, editor and writer
Dr Olivier Sykes, Department of Civic Design, University of Liverpool
Ron Glatter, Emeritus Professor of Educational Administration and Management, The Open University
Bob Bischhof, Chairman – Vitalize Health Products, Non Executive Director – Henderson Eurotrust Plc, Member of Board – German British Chamber of Industry and Commerce
Dr Paul Hodgkin, Chief Executive, Patient Opinion
Alastair Mitchell-Baker, Director Tricordant Ltd
Adam Hogg, Managing Director, (Retired) Conquest Inns
Simon Hollington, Director, Leading Edge Personal Development Ltd
Dr Philip McGovern, Programme Leader, Technology Management Programmes, Institute of Technology, Tallaght, Dublin, Republic of Ireland
Neela Bettridge, Founding Partner, Article 13
John Orsmond, Chairman Data Vantage Group
Peter Medway
Paul H Ray, sociologist, USA
Tim Pidsley, director Tricordant, New Zealand
Dr Timothy Wadsworth, NHS
Dr Bruce Tofield, University of East Anglia
Professor Tom Keenoy, The University of Leicester School of Management
Bill Cooke, Professor of Management and Society, Lancaster University Management School
Dr Leslie Budd AcSS MCIT MCILT, Reader in Social Enterprise, Open University
Ken Starkey, Professor of Management and Organisational Learning, Nottingham University Business School
Kieran Doyle, General Manager Production at Sulzer Pumps UK Ltd
Dr Luke Mitcheson, Consultant Clinical Psychologist
Paul Buxton, Policy Officer, Crawley Borough Council
Roger Evans
Martin Meteyard (former Chair, Cafedirect plc)
Christopher Bird Owner, IT U Consulting Group
Laurence Barrett Associate Management Consultant
Paul Hodgkin Chief Executive at Patient Opinion
Bob Birtwell Tutor at University of Surrey
Andrew Campbell Director at Ashridge
Kathy Sheehy Williams Programme Manager at WEA
Rob Worth
Natascha Wolf, self-employed writer
Paul Summers, Corporate Programme Manager, Portsmouth City Council
David Kauders, Partner, Kauders Portfolio Management
Dave Kerr, Business Improvement Manager, Atkins
Paul Barratt, PMBprod
Kate Gott, PhD Student, Brunel Business School
Kevin Cryan, Analyst at DHL
Donal Carroll Associate at Open University Business School & Director at Critical Difference
Tim Casserley, Discovery Alliance & Edge Equilibrium & Author
Emma Langman, Head of Business Improvement at E Squared Thinking Ltd and Visiting Fellow in Systems at University of Bristol

(3) Reply from Observer editor, John Mullholland (by email)

1 July 2009 [by email]

Dear Phil Whiteley

Thank you for your letter and I must apologise for the delay in responding.

Simon Caulkin is a tremendous writer and his column has added enormously to our understanding of British business and management. For these reasons, the decision to lose the column was not taken lightly. It followed much discussion and only after exploring many different options did we reluctantly conclude that we had to take this course of action.

As you will doubtlessly appreciate, this was just one of a host of difficult decisions we have had to make in order to reduce costs across the newspapers at Guardian News and Media.

Newspapers and media groups are experiencing the most difficult trading conditions imaginable. Not only are we suffering, like everyone else, from the catastrophic fallout from the credit crunch in terms of severely reduced advertising revenues but, additionally, our industry is under structural assault from digital media which is causing enormous disruption to our business models.

In these circumstances, we are having to make extremely difficult decisions many of which have caused real anguish as we seek to cut costs. I do hope that Simon can continue to have a relationship with the paper and that we can continue to publish his writing from time to time. Should the economic climate change, then perhaps we can revisit the issue.

Thank you for taking the trouble to write and I completely understand your sense of loss but hope you can appreciate the dilemmas we are facing.

Yours sincerely
John Mulholland
Editor
The Observer

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Crowdsourcing the perfect press release – an update

July 30th, 2009 | 1 Comment | Posted by in About us

We’ve published the results (so far) of our experiment to crowdsource a guide to writing the perfect press release, from the perspective of the journalists who receive them.

Here’s the guide as it stands at the moment – feel free to leave additional comments in the box below the article or email me (laura [at] journalism.co.uk) with your feedback.

The tips were received via a couple of blog posts, which can be read at this link to the first and this link to the follow-up post; responses to our @journalismnews Twitter account; and in direct emails.

Any feedback from the PR community would also be very welcome.

Update (July 31): Some additional comments from:

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Jon Bernstein: Five lessons from a week in online video

July 22nd, 2009 | 3 Comments | Posted by in Comment, Multimedia

It’s now four years – give or take a few weeks – since broadband Britain reached its tipping point.

Halfway through 2005 there were finally more homes connected to the internet via high speed broadband than via achingly slow dial-up. Video on the web suddenly made a lot more sense.

And given that we’re still in the early stages of this particular media evolution, it’s not surprising that we are are still learning.

Here are five such moments from the last seven days:

1. If you build it they will come…
…provided you build something elegant and easy to use. And then market it like crazy.

This was the week that we learned how the hugely successful BBC iPlayer has overtaken MySpace to become the 20th most visited website in the UK . The iPlayer is now comfortably the second most popular video site even if its 13 per cent share is still dwarfed by YouTube’s 65 per cent.

If you want more evidence of success just look at the BBC’s terrestrial rivals. ITV, Five and even Channel 4 – which had a year’s head start over the BBC – are now aping the look, feel and functionality of the corporation’s efforts. No hefty applets to download – just click and play.

Of course, this model – a different player for each network – will look anachronistic within a few years. Maybe less. Hulu arrives on these shores soon.

2. Don’t do video unless you’re adding value
If you are going to put moving pictures on your newspaper website it’s a good idea to ask why? And the answer should be that it adds something to your storytelling.

Last week the Independent completed a deal that sees the Press Association providing more than 100 90-second clips a week, each focusing on a single news item.

Nothing wrong with the quality or content of the video that the Indy is getting, but where’s the added value? Unless the video has some killer footage or a must-see interview, why would a reader of a 500-word news article click play? I’m not sure they would.

As someone eloquently put it on my blog:

If it’s visual, it needs pictures and maybe video. If it’s verbal, sound will do. For everything else, words are cheaper for the producer and quicker for the consumer.

3. You can’t control the message
Singer Chris Brown chose YouTube as the medium to deliver his first public pronouncements following February’s assault on his now ex-girlfriend Rihanna.

He plumped for the video-sharing site rather than a TV or newspaper interview presumably so he could control the message – no out-of-context editing of his words and no awkward follow-up questions.

To some extent he got his wish. Within 24 hours of posting his 120-second, unmediated mea culpa, it had been viewed nearly half-a-million times.

More significantly, however, the video had received over 12,000 comments and most were hostile.

4. Brands love YouTube
In an oddly defensive post on its YouTube Biz Blog, the people behind Google’s file-sharing site set about busting what it claims are five popular myths.

Putting ‘Myth 4’ to rest – namely that ‘Advertisers are afraid of YouTube’ – the post asserted:

Over 70 per cent of Ad Age Top 100 marketers ran campaigns on YouTube in 2008. They’re buying our homepage, Promoted Videos, overlays, and in-stream ads. Many are organizing contests that encourage the uploading of user videos to their brand channels, or running advertising exclusively on popular user partner content.

We wait, breathlessly, for a follow-up post so we can discover how many of these elite brands made a return on their YouTube investment.

5. Death becomes you
Nearly a month after his passing, Michael Jackson’s life is still being celebrated online. Eight out of this week’s viral video top 20 are either Jackson originals or owe their inspiration to the singer.

A case of the long tail occupying the head. For a few weeks at least.

Jon Bernstein is former multimedia editor of Channel 4 News. This is part of a series of regular columns for Journalism.co.uk. You can read his personal blog at this link.

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Telegraph relaunches mobile website

July 10th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Mobile

The Telegraph has relaunched its mobile website – the second redesign of the site almost a year after its last overhaul in August 2008, following its launch in July last year.

The revamped site now offers video content from Telegraph TV and site-wide mobile search, a press release said.

The redesign of the site, which was implemented by Bluestar Mobile – the firm behind the Independent’s mobile launch too, will also offer new ad formats including banner ads, Google Ad Sense and sponsorships.

“Mobile is an increasingly important platform for both our readers and advertisers – it is also an area which is going through major change. At TMG we are working to ensure that we remain at the forefront of innovation and offer our readers and advertisers the most compelling product available,” said Maani Safa, who was named head of mobile for Telegraph Media Group in February, in the release.

In October last year the title launched its Google Android app.

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#FollowJourn: @davidhiggerson/head of multimedia, Trinity Mirror

July 9th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Recommended journalists

#FollowJourn: David Higgerson

Who? Head of multimedia for Trinity Mirror; executive editor Birmingham Post and Mail.

What? Oversees multimedia developments for Trinity Mirror’s regional titles.

Where? @davidhiggerson or on the Liverpool Daily Post’s politics blog.

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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Poynter Online: Q&A with ProPublica’s Amanda Michel

A comprehensive Q&A with Amanda Michel, editor of distributed reporting at ProPublica. The former head of the HuffPo ‘OfftheBus’ project provides detail about the investigative organisation’s recently launched citizen journalism project, the Reporting Network.

Full post at this link…

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Trials of a redundant journalist: 11 days teach me that I sound like a fat layabout on the phone and I can’t act

June 5th, 2009 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Freelance, Journalism

A round-up of posts from this week’s activity. Redundant Journalist, resident FleetStreetBlues blogger, gets her first rejection letter, learns that she sounds ‘larger’ on the phone, and that she’s a terrible actress…

DAY FIVE: I have a voice like a fat layabout
I’ve been learning new things about myself. My visit to the recruitment agency opened my eyes in more ways than one.

Other than my nimble keyboard fingers, I also discovered that I sound like a fat layabout on the phone.

The recruitment consultant didn’t say so in so many words, but my other half has, cruelly, confirmed it.

Before we met, I’d spoken to the consultant over the phone a number of times over the previous week, and when we finally met in person, she revealed that I wasn’t what she imagined I’d look like, going by my voice.

‘What did you think I looked like?’ I asked, slightly perplexed.

‘Well, slightly taller and larger,’ she began, trying to look diplomatic, and my jaw dropped. It was a first for me, being neither tall nor fat.

She said it might have something to do with my laid-back voice, and suggested I try smiling when on the phone to potential recruiters.

Just a few months ago, feedback I received from one of the interviews I went for also described me as a ‘cool customer’. I wasn’t really sure what this meant, but I wonder if the two are related.

So, despite being a naturally dry, cynical and rather lugubrious character, I’ve been trying to smile and act happy while on the phone to people. I’ll have to let you know how I get on with that one.

DAY SIX: A 20 page job application
People are currently digging up the road directly outside my front door. The drilling is doing my head in and the only thing that rivals it is a 20-page job application I filled in recently.

Yes that’s right, 20 pages – PLUS covering letter! And to top it off, it’s not even for a journalism job.

I nearly lost the will to live whilst doing it – these sample questions will explain why.

Despite spelling out all my duties in all my past employment, there were 12 questions to answer, and you had to give three examples of when you’d demonstrated each of the 12 requirements.

Go on, you try finding three un-inane examples to illustrate these….

1. You must be educated to degree level.

2. You have a good level of spoken and written English.

You may also have lost the will to live just reading that. But the job was well-paid and easy – what more could you ask for in an interim job?

I also have to admit that what these application forms do give you a chance to do is to be…well, creative is one word. Someone else might use something ruder. And what I’ve discovered is quite a few of the more old-fashioned application forms have very similar questions, which means a lot of simple copying and pasting.

So, I admit, grudgingly mind you, that it wasn’t a complete waste of time.

DAY SEVEN: The dreadfully paid non-journalism job gets back to me first

Late last week, I went to register in person with a media recruitment agency that put me forward for a job and says the employer is keen to interview me next week. Not a dream job, and will be really tough too, but it’s a journalism job that could take me onto the newswires, so I can’t knock it. And it’s not like the offers are flooding in at present.

Then, home again, I fired off three job applications. One journalism, one half-journalism and one completely-not-journalism.

And guess which replied first? Of course it’s the completely-not-journalism one, and I’ve got an interview for it. To top it off it pays dreadfully, but I guess I’ve reached that stage where I have to just admit it – I urgently need some income, any income now, rather than nothing. Moreover, while I’m stupidly over-qualified for it, I’m also over-qualified for an Asda job, which is an alternative I may have yet to consider, and this other job is at least better than that. I hope.

Otherwise, it was completely unheard of for me to get a response so quickly. It was literally a matter of hours.

Actually that may help you job hunters out there. I asked the recruitment agency what the market is like at the moment, other than just being very quiet. Apparently employers are taking far longer to make decisions now, safe in the knowledge that they’ll get hundreds of applicants so they just sit and wait for a good one to come along. I had figured as much. They also told me that they’re advising everyone to just take the first job offer they get, being so few and far between these days.

I certainly am already in that mindset – so if any of you are sitting on a job offer, just take it – and count your lucky stars.

DAY EIGHT: My first Actual Rejection
Received my first actual rejection today, not including the ones where I’ve not heard anything at all, and the first one for a job I really would have liked.

It wasn’t a journalist job. But if I had never gone into journalism, it would have been my dream job, and I had perfect qualifications for it. At least they did let me know I guess. Their reason was that someone else had more suitable qualifications, though.

Very depressing.

In other news, applied for another journalism job today. I’ve got my covering letter to the stage where I only have to change a few words to adapt it to each job, which makes things so much easier.

And tonight, although I really can’t be bothered, am going to do some networking, virtually gate-crashing a PR company’s drinks night with one of my old employers. I know they don’t have any vacancies at the moment but I might as well remind them that I’m available face-to-face.

DAY NINE: Schmoozing leads to good advice
I’m glad I went to the networking drinks last night – caught up with old friends and all their latest gossip, chatted to some really nice PR people and got the heads up on three potential jobs.

It is definitely good to remind people in person that a) you exist and b) you’re ready and available, and a friend at the event also gave me some excellent advice.

Like most people probably, I’ve been guilty of sitting here, sending off applications and just assuming that they’ve been unsuccessful because I’ve not heard anything. However, the advice I received and have already taken up is that you should always follow up your applications with a phone call to just let them know that you’re still interested in the job.

So I called a few of the people up this morning to ask them to check if they’d received my CV. One of them didn’t have any record and therefore I was asked to re-send it (that was a near miss); one checked their email as I was on the phone, therefore actively re-looking at my name and hopefully making a positive connection with my keen phone call; and another very kindly emailed me to confirm that they had my application and gave me an indication of when I could expect to hear from them.

All in all, I hope it won’t be wasted effort and that it works, but in the last case, it was particularly helpful to receive the extra information about the time-scale – something I wouldn’t have got just sat here on my bum staring at the computer, so go on, pick up that phone!

DAY TEN: I cannot lie and I am a bad actress
Had an interview at recruitment agency for a non-journalism job the other day that really tested my ability to lie.

I’m not a good liar and a terrible actress, and unfortunately it’s pretty clear that I still want to be a journalist.

This job I was going for required me to declare that I wanted to change my career entirely, even though it had billed itself as a contract job. Being completely unprepared for this (I thought it was just going to be for the six months it stated) I was therefore too honest when asked the question ‘where do see yourself in five years’ time?’

To some extent, you have to feign enthusiasm and interest for certain journalism jobs, especially if they are trade magazines in industries you know very little about, but deep down, at least you are not lying about wanting to be a journalist.

So, at least I know that if I don’t get this job, it will be because I didn’t lie well enough, rather than because I’m not capable. (I hope.)

A useful lesson to learn for the next non-journalism job interview I’ve got coming up next week, methinks…

DAY 11: I am told I am ‘bright’ but it’s a no
I had an interview for a journalism job the other day. It was going great – I passed their writing and numeracy test, I was confident and personable and seemed to get on with the interviewers.

But then the next day I phoned the recruitment agency to give them my feedback, saying how much I really liked and wanted the job. They immediately went to their client telling them so but then yes, you guessed it: ‘Sorry, it’s a no.’ Reasons given: although they liked me and said I was ‘bright’, they thought I was too ambitious and would be using them as a stepping stone and, crucially, they preferred someone else.

At least I only had a day of wondering, but it was pretty crushing. It really is useless bothering to do your best at these things when all it comes down to is they just see someone else they, for one reason or another, prefer.

I’m trying not to keep count of the number of days I’ve been job hunting now as that will depress me even more, but anyone out there with any tips on how to keep spirits up while job hunting?

A blog series which will run until our guest blogger, The FleetStreetBlues Redundant Journalist finds a job or gets too busy to blog. Follow the Trials of a Redundant Journalist series, by the Redundant Journalist, here. She is also posting her updates on FleetStreetBlues.

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The Birmingham Mail’s Gareth Barry letter and breaking ‘exclusives’ online

June 5th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Online Journalism

Earlier this week the Birmingham Mail (and its sister titles) scored a great scoop – an open letter from Aston Villa footballer Gareth Barry on why he has decided to leave the club to join Manchester City.

Breaking news procedures and the idea of the ‘exclusive’ have shifted (are arguably in flux) as journalism has moved online.

Blogging about the Mail’s scoop, Joanna Geary asks whether the title made the right decision not to post the letter in full until 12:30pm, having broken the story on the site earlier.

Did this allow the rest of the ‘pack’ to steal in on the Mail’s ‘exclusive’?

Mail editor Steve Dyson helpfully explains the editorial decisions behind breaking the story in this way:

“My thoughts at 7am conference when I realised the strength of what we had was to refuse any access to the letter for as long as possible. Tease it online and boost sales (…) The unexpected boost was Setanta, PA, Five Live, Sky Sports and TalkSport all calling us to beg for the letter and, upon understanding why we were saying ‘no’ for print sales, offering interviews with the editor and/or the Villa writer with ‘excerpts’ read out from the letter, and listeners/viewers told they could only read the full version in that night’s paper.”

Dyson says he believes the additional publicity was generated by not realising the letter in full immediately.

His comments are well worth a read – it’s also refreshing to see an editor interact so candidly on another blog on the editorial process.

David Higgerson, Trinity Mirror’s head of multimedia, also joined in the discussion, raising a couple of points about the publication schedule of the letter and whether this impacted on traffic:

“Did we lose out by delaying publication online? We’ll never know. My gut instinct is that yes, we probably did miss a bit of traffic online but the reaction when we put it online was so great that I’ve taken it as proof that if people know the original source of information online, they’ll flock to it.

“Interestingly, the article which contained the letter had a real surge around 4pm [the time the Mail originally said it would publish the letter in full], suggesting people responded to us saying what time it would appear online. Had they read it elsewhere before? Perhaps. It’s still very well read at the moment, along with Bill Howell’s analysis.”

As witnessed by the comments on Geary’s post, finding the balance between the news demands of print and online is still up for debate. Is there a best practice for handling this kind of story – or should it be judged on a story-by-story basis?

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