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Mainstream media drives Twitter trends, claims study

Mainstream media drives a large number of trending topics on Twitter, according to a new study by Hewlett Packard.

The HP research analysed more than 16 million tweets over 40 days last year, finding that mainstream media accounts belonging to CNN, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Sky, Reuters, the Telegraph, the BBC and El Pais were among 22 accounts identified as the source of the most retweets related to trending topics.

Full study on HP at this link and embedded below.

Trends in Social Media: Persistence and Decay

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Update on Futurity.org: the science news site run by US universities

September 22nd, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Journalism, Online Journalism, Training

Last week Journalism.co.uk reported on Futurity.org, publicised as an online news service through which US university departments will publish their scientific findings directly online in a digestible format – a project designed to combat a reduction in science reporting in mainstream media.

We were interested to learn that the site would be included in Google News and asked Lisa Lapin, one of Futurity’s founders and assistant vice president for communications at Stanford University, for more information.

“Google News is recognising Futurity as a news organisation and will be capturing our news for search, and for display within Google News, as they would another news organisation,” she told Journalism.co.uk.

A release initially announced 35 partners, although we now count a total of 39 participating universities featured on the site. All are members of the  Association of American Universities (AAU), an association of leading public and private research universities in the United States and Canada.

We asked Lapin if they would be adding even more to the service:

“As for partners, we wanted to begin with a reasonable size and institutions that have strong research programmes – thus it was natural for us to include AAU universities,” she said.

“To be elected to the AAU is quite an accomplishment and there is already criteria that we didn’t need to develop. There are 62 AAU universities in the US and Canada. We will discuss expanding futurity.org membership, but we would need to develop some criteria to assure that the news remains truly the greatest discoveries coming out of research universities.”

The project has attracted some criticism, as reported by the San Jose Mercury News:

“Any information is better than no information,” said Charlie Petit, a former science reporter at U.S. News & World Report and the San Francisco Chronicle.

“The quality of research university news releases is quite high. They are rather reliable,” he added. “But they are completely absent any skepticism or investigative side.”

Petit followed up with a lengthier comment and example on the Knight Science Journalism Tracker, and said that press releases published by Futurity should be clearly labelled as such:

“Press releases can and often do carry real news, and in professional and ethical style. In aggregate, they serve reporters and the public in an essential way. However:  They may be science writing. They are not independent journalism that seeks (if not always successfully) to get wide opinion and angles on the news. This is not a fine point. It is essential that the distinction be clear.”

Related: Columbia Journalism Review: Is Futurity the Future?

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Jon Bernstein: Sorry Guido, the BBC did for Duncan

Three high-profile political figures mired in controversy, two thrown out of their jobs, one suffering a humiliating demotion – all thanks to internet activists of differing political hues from green to darkest blue.

Hang your heads in shame video-sting victim Alan Duncan, and Smeargate’s Derek Draper and Damian McBride. Take a bow Tim Montgomerie, Guido Fawkes, and Heydon Prowse.

But was it really the web wot done it? I’m not so sure.

Or at least I don’t think the web could have done it without the traditional media, television news and newspapers in particular.

Clearly this is at odds with Guido’s reading of the situation.

Writing on his blog this morning yesterday Paul Staines (for it is he) asks who forced Alan Duncan from his role as shadow leader of the House of Commons.

Not Tory leader David Cameron, that’s for sure. Rather it was the unlikely pairing of Tim Montgomerie and Heydon Prowse, ‘the blogosphere’s shepherd of the Tory grassroots and the angry young man with a video-cam’.

Of Prowse, who filmed Duncan on the terrace talking of ‘rations’ in the wake of the MPs’ expenses scandal, Guido notes:

“Heydon Prowse, who is he? He just destroyed the career of a greasy pole climbing Westminster slitherer. No house-trained political nous, no insight, in fact a little naive. He still did it.”

And Guido is in no doubt what this means in the wider context:

“The news is now disintermediated.”

The same applies, apparently, to the sacking of Damian McBride and Derek Draper, both prime ministerial advisors in their time. McBride and Draper were outed for their parts in a plot to use a pseudo-activist blog to spread rumours about various high-profile Tories.

The emails incriminating the two men found their way to Guido/Staines, and were in turn picked up by the media.

(Ironically, the site was meant to be the left’s answer to right-wing blogosphere attack-dogs, Guido among them.)

This week saw the story take another twist. Would-be smear victim Nadine Dorries MP carried out a threat to sue Draper and McBride and enlisted the help of Guido and fellow blogger Tory Bear to be servers of writs.

No one is doubting the origin of both stories, nor the journalistic craft in exposing the men at the heart of them. But it took the mainstream media to push these events into the public consciousness, into the mainstream.

And it took the attentions of the mainstream media to effect the sackings and demotion.

On the day it broke, the Duncan story led the BBC 10 o’clock News and featured prominently on other channels. In the ensuing 48 hours it spawned dozens of national press stories – the Daily Star went for ‘Dumb and Duncan’, The Mirror for ‘Duncan Donut’, others were more po-faced – as well as leader comments, opinion pieces and letters.

The coverage continued into the weekend and despite Duncan’s very swift apology and Cameron’s initial willingness to draw a line under events (“Alan made a bad mistake. He has acknowledged that, he has apologised and withdrawn the remarks.”) the drip, drip of media focus eventually forced the Tory leader to act.

It was a similar pattern with Smeargate.

Would PM Gordon Brown and Cameron have acted if these had remained just web stories? Not in 2009.

Is the news disintermediated? Not yet. Instead we have a symbiotic – if dysfunctional – relationship between the blogosphere and the traditional media.

The latter fears and dismisses the former in equal measure, but increasingly relies on it to take the temperature of various constituent parts of society and, yes, to source stories. Guido is such a good conduit through which to leak precisely because the media reads him.

The former, meanwhile, is disparaging about the latter (sometimes for good reason) but nonetheless needs it to vindicate its journalistic endeavours.

A final twist to the Alan Duncan story. Heydon Prowse offered Guido first refusal on his secret video recording back in June. Guido turned it down. “D’oh!” he later wrote in a confessional blog post.

Guido always has the good grace to admit when he’s goofed, as he did earlier this year over James Purnell’s fictitious leadership bid.

Will he accept with equally good grace that the mainstream media were a vital ingredient in the sackings and demotion of McBride, Draper and Duncan?

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 jonbernstein.wordpress.com.

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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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Independent.co.uk: Online ‘made a mockery of High Court’ in Baby P case

August 12th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Legal

“The rules which should have prevented online publication are governed by an outdated piece of legislation enacted at a time when Parliament could not have comprehended what a website might be, never mind know how one might work in the context of the criminal law,” writes the Independent’s law editor, Robert Verkaik.

Verkaik is referring to the transgression of reporting restrictions, which banned the identification of Baby P’s mother and stepdad, by bloggers, online forum users and Facebook groups. The restrictions were officially lifted this week.

“There then appears to be a double standard at work, where the law is incapable of punishing flagrant breaches of court orders by internet transgressors while imposing draconian sentences on the mainstream media for committing much less serious breaches. The internet was born into a lawless cyberspace and has little respect for the fusty orders of the High Court.”

Full article at this link…

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IFJ: 39 journalists and media workers forced to leave Iranian news agency

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) this week issued a statement voicing ‘deep concern over continuing harassment of media in Iran amid signs of growing opposition from independent journalists to censorship and manipulation in the country’s mainstream media.’

The organisation reports that, according to its affiliate, the Association of Iranian Journalists (AoIJ),  the ‘conservative’ Iranian news agency, Fars News, has sacked or forced resignations of 39 journalists and media workers: ‘a number of them in recent weeks following clashes with management over the agency’s editorial line.’

“There is evidence of strong pressure on independent journalism from outside and inside the newsroom. Even some media owners inside the profession are bullying their journalists who refuse to toe the official line. Journalists are arrested, sacked or forced to resign for standing up for ethical journalism,” said Aidan White, IFJ general secretary, in the IFJ statement.

Full statement at this link…

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Science journalism: a row

This week is the World Conference of Science Journalists (#WCSJ). This is what the Independent’s Steve Connor had to say in an article entitled ‘Lofty medics should stick to their day job.’

“The sixth World Conference of Science Journalists is underway in London. I can’t say it’s going to change my life, as I missed out on the previous five, but I did notice that it has attracted the attention of a bunch of medics with strong views on the state of science journalism today.”

Connor picked up on a gathering advertised by Ben Goldacre (a post-event meet-up on July 1 with  Petra Boynton and Vaughan Bell) and quoted Goldacre’s website, labelling him as the ‘bête noir’ of science journalists.

“All three speakers are gainfully employed by the public sector so they don’t actually have to worry too much about the sort of pressures and financial constraints the mainstream media are under. But they nevertheless condescended to offer some advice on the sort of ‘best practice guidelines’ I should be following, for which I suppose I should be eternally grateful.

“But their arrogance is not new. Medical doctors in particular have always had a lofty attitude to the media’s coverage of their profession, stemming no doubt from the God-like stance they take towards their patients. Although I wouldn’t go as far as to say their profession is broken, dangerous, lazy, venal and silly – not yet anyway.”

Ouch. Goldacre spotted it and comments beneath his post, and Connor’s article, are flowing pretty fast. Goldacre also reproduces a letter and email sent to the Independent, on his blog.

  • Here’s the letter sent to the Independent (unpublished as yet):

Dear Sir,

Your science journalist Steve Connor is furious that we are holding a small public meeting in a pub to discuss the problem that science journalists are often lazy and inaccurate. He gets the date wrong, claiming the meeting has already happened (it has not). He says we are three medics (only one of us is). He then invokes some stereotypes about arrogant doctors, which we hope are becoming outdated.

In fact, all three of us believe passionately in empowering patients, with good quality information, so they can make their own decisions about their health. People often rely on the media for this kind of information. Sadly, in the field of science and medicine, on subjects as diverse as MMR, sexual health, and cancer prevention, the public have been repeatedly and systematically misled by journalists.

We now believe this poses a serious threat to public health, and it is sad to see the problem belittled in a serious newspaper. Steve Connor is very welcome to attend our meeting, which is free and open to all,

yours

(Drs) Vaughan Bell, Petra Boynton, Ben Goldacre

In other WCSJ news, Goldacre wasn’t too happy with the panel addressing science and investigative journalism yesterday. He tweeted from the event: “so what about investigative science journalism done by bloggers? not a single person addressed the question. these ppl need to read more.”

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Global Voices Online: The unmasking of NightJack as told by the UK blogs

I will now be cross-posting, and/or contributing occasional posts to Global Voices, the US-based founded but global community of more than 200 bloggers ‘who work together to bring you translations and reports from blogs and citizen media everywhere, with emphasis on voices that are not ordinarily heard in international mainstream media.’ Sponsors of the project can be found at this link.

My first post for the site looks at the implications of the NightJack case (which I’ve previously rounded up here) with links to some of the best UK blog posts on the subject.

“A victory for freedom of expression (The Times’)… or a severe restriction for freedom of expression (anonymous bloggers)? Popular opinion is divided, though a blog search would indicate that blogger opinion veers towards the latter.”

Full post at this link…

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New America Media: LA Watts Times managing editor on why his paper covers the black community better than the MSM

New America Media (NAM) reports on the LA Watts Times, a newspaper in Los Angeles, focusing on the black community. It is part of NAM’s LA Beez network, a collective of hyperlocal ethnic media.

“We try to look at positive stories that don’t portray blacks in a negative light, as we see in mainstream media,” managing editor Sam Richard says in the piece. “L.A. Watts Times has just been better in reporting deep down in the trenches.”

Full story at this link…

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TheWayoftheWeb: How the 80/20 rule affects mainstream media

Dan Thornton looks at how the Pareto Principle (that 80 per cent of the effects come from 20 per cent of the causes) plays out on social media and new media platforms.

“Internet access gives everyone the ability to self-publish – it doesn’t mean everyone will. Or entitle everyone to be able to make a good living out of it,” writes Thornton, who references Jakob Nielsen’s suggestion that in online communities 90 per cent of users never contribute; 9 per cent contribute a little; and 1 per cent a lot.

“[A] small number of people can get Wikipedia over 55 million U.S. visitors in a year, or create the fact that 20 hours of video are uploaded every minute (…) It doesn’t mean it’s all popular, or high quality.

“It just means that most of mainstream media is likely to end up covered in content as if it went out in a desert sandstorm – and successful businesses need to figure out how to engage and build on that 1 per cent or 20 per cent which creates the value for everyone else.”

Full post at this link…

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