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Questions on use of social media during London riot coverage

Over on his blog, Andy Dickinson, who teaches digital and online journalism at the University of Central Lancashire, reflects on a question he posed via Twitter last night, while monitoring activity on the platform in relation to the violence taking place in London and beyond.

He said his question was prompted by Tweets from journalists outside London stating that nothing was happening on their patch. But other Twitter users were quick to cast doubt on his statement.

His blog post details the points made, but one of their points was that the value of what a journalist reports is not always about news but the provision of information. That, as a trusted source, journalists could let the online community know whether or not there was substance in rumours circulating on sites such as Twitter, that violence was building elsewhere.

Ultimately Dickinson “held up his hands” (via a hashtag), and his subsequent blog post today (9 August), reflecting on the issue, and some elements of the argument he still stands by, gives some food for thought about the use of social media by journalists in these sorts of situations.

Despite protestations of its importance ‘no news’ statements like that would never make the front page or head of a bulletin.  As Neil Macdonald pointed out that they where [sic] more information than news. Journalism as a source of information – very valid.

A few tweets did quote authoritative voices – police etc. That was better. Some proper information in there. Many did not.

Online video journalist Adam Westbrook also offers his thoughts in this blog post, on what he calls the “messy” situation for the media using social media/user generated content. He got caught up in the so-called “mess” when retweeting video footage which was originally linked to the wrong location.

On the plus side, I do think real-time web’s ability to self correct is extraordinary. My blunderous retweet was corrected within five minutes. If you don’t mind taking stern words from other users, it’s a rock solid facet to the platform.

However, Twitter being used by journalists, who (hopefully!) question sources and try to verify, is one thing. But non-journalists aren’t necessarily as skeptical of information. A rumour to a journalist could be read as fact by someone else, especially people who are scared.

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#ijf11: Be accessible, be realistic, Guido Fawkes advises small news outlets

Accessibility and community are key to having an impact as a small online news outlet, political blogger Paul Staines (aka Guido Fawkes) told the International Journalism Festival this morning.

Some of my best stories come from my readers.

If I want to contact the Sunday Times investigations editor, I can maybe ring the switchboard but I probably won’t get through.

I have my phone number and email address on my site. Alright, you won’t get though to me directly, you’ll get an answerphone, but I will get back to you.

And there is the promise of a free T-shirt if I use your information.

Staines cited the recent example of an image of David and Samantha Cameron looking terrifically glum waiting for a Ryanair flight to Malaga.

The image was sent to Staines by a reader, and within an hour he had published it and sold international syndication rights, making enough money to fund the blog for a month.

The blog shared the money with the photographer, he hastened to add.

Another important factor is being realistic, he said, knowing what you can and can’t do.

The Guido Fawkes blog is a two-man operation, and “can’t spend a long time investigating a corporation across five continents”.

The way we approach it is much more tabloid, more hit and run, but we will keep coming back to a subject and wear at it to get results.

We’re not worried about getting scooped as long as we keep at the story.

He put that need for realism in sobering financial terms when he said that he had bid £10,000 – as much as he could – for the MPs expenses disk, but came up against the Telegraph, which bid £100,000.

Since its modest beginnings, started “on a whim” in 2004, the blog has landed “one politician is jail, a few fired, a few resigned”, Staines claimed. “Oh and a few special advisors, I forget about them”.

Not all of them perhaps, The Guido Fawkes blog was responsible for a story about William Hague sharing a room with a young special advisor, who resigned as the story spread like wild fire across the nationals.

Compared with larger, more established news organisations, Staines’ disregard for the need for double checking the facts was another advantage, he said.

Newspapers have to have double sourcing and verification, Whereas I’m more likely to take a flyer and a risk with the lawyers.

For that very reason, another important source of stories for Staines is political journalists who have had stories spiked by their editor for not standing up, but who want to get it out.

That’s great, when that happens, because I get all the credit and they get nothing.

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Mashable: Monday is the worst time to post and tweet

Mashable reports on research looking into when readers are most engaged and when is the best time to get traction on posts and tweets.

Thursdays and Fridays are the best days of the week to engage with users via Twitter and Facebook whereas Monday is the “noisiest” and therefore the worst time to engage, according to the study.

Analysing more than 200 of its clients’ Facebook pages over a 14-day period, Buddy Media found engagement on Thursdays and Fridays was 18 per cent higher than the rest of the week, and that engagement was actually even better on Thursday than on Friday. Meanwhile, Twitter chief revenue officer Adam Bain — speaking at the Ad Age Digital conference earlier this week — said that Twitter users are more engaged with tweets on Fridays.

The reason is fairly obvious, says Jeremiah Owyang, a partner at the Altimeter Group: “People are heading into the weekend so they’re thinking about things besides work. They’re mentally checking out and transitioning to the weekend.”

However, [Rick] Liebling [director of digital strategy at Coyne PR] adds that there might be another factor at work: There may be fewer posts overall on Fridays, which means a greater number of average click-throughs.

The above idea, of engaging when there are fewer people tweeting,  is reinforced by this article on the best times to tweet posted on Nieman Journalism Lab last month. It states mined data on retweets and blog posts suggests the optimum time to get traction is at 9pm at night when other traffic has died down.

Mashable’s full post is at this link.

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SimsBlog: ‘Top 10 lies newspaper execs are telling themselves’

September 2nd, 2009 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Editors' pick, Newspapers

Judy Sims, once vice president, digital media for the Toronto Star Media Group, offers up a list of lies newspaper executives might tell themselves to deflect from the reality of the crises faced by their industry:

1. “We can manage this disruption from within an integrated organisation”

2. “Print advertising reps can sell online advertising too”

3. “Aggregators are killing my business”

4. “We can recreate scarcity by putting up pay walls”

5.  “Our readers paid for news in the past, they will again”

6. “There will never be enough online revenue to support our newsroom’

7. “No one will ever cover crime/health/city hall the way we do”

8. “Our readers can’t be trusted/they are idiots/they are assholes”

9.  “Democracy will collapse without us”

10.  “I can compete with the best digital leaders/thinkers/creators in the world without becoming an active member of the online community”

Sims gives her own take on the thinking behind the ‘lies’ and why she thinks they’re false – agree or disagree?

Full list at this link…

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The new Student Publication Association needs to converse with existing communities

August 7th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Journalism, Training

Josh Halliday, an undergraduate journalism student at the University of Sunderland and InJournalism editor, takes a look at a new student organisation. A version of this post originally appeared on his blog. A disclosure: he launched Euro CollegeJourn, an online student community, earlier this year.

The UK-centric Student Publication Association will be a ‘national representative body’ for student publications ‘which supports student publications and their contributors by offering guidance, knowledge sharing, links in to the industry and become a forum for all involved,’ according to notes from a preliminary meeting last week, which I have permission to quote from.

These early developments suggest that online resources will be central to the SPA (or SJA according to their website.) Such online resources will seek to provide information and resources regarding good practice and legal issues.

Member publications will have the option to upload their content to the SPA website allowing for ‘affiliated publications’ and industry experts to see their work and, presumably, offer feedback and advice.

There is also plans for an ‘alumni association’ to allow for ‘strong industry contacts to be sustained and have a base of knowledge and experience which affiliated member publications can use to their advantage’.

Regarding the set-up, there will be nine regional representatives whose job it is to report back to a central body, enabling the Association to make ‘informed decisions about how it should operate and run itself’. The regions represented are: London and East Anglia, South East England, South West England, the Midlands, North East England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland.

Now my take. Any organisation which acts as a forum for student journalists and student journalism can only be a good thing.

I think the SPA would do well to get in touch with, and be inspired by, CoPress in the US. CoPress are, in their own words, an ‘organization dedicated to providing college news outlets with the technical resources and support network they need to innovate online’.

Look at what they’ve done with a wiki, a forum, published conference calls, engagement with the online community through social media; all ‘best practice’ essentials, in my opinion.

I admit, when I received the email from the SPA, it concerned me that it was the first I’d heard of their plans.

It would have been good to see mention of it on Tomorrows’ News, Tomorrow’s Journalists, a purpose-built forum for student journalists.

Similarly, with Euro CollegeJourn. Even though my project is currently on a summer hiatus it would have been good to see Association members involved with it.

In the hope the SPA will join the existing and evolving online conversation. I’ve reserved a Twitter account especially for them. It’s @StudentJournUK – take it, it’s yours.

Nonetheless, I wish the Association every luck. What better time can there be for meaningful collaborative work between journalism students?

What would you like to see a representative body for student journalists and student publications do? How could they help you out? Leave a comment below.

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Robert Niles: ‘Communities are key in building websites’ advertiser support’

Robert Niles looks at the monetary benefits of an online community over on the Knight Digital Media Center’s OJR blog: “If a website’s editorial mission focuses on building community, as I’ve argued, so should its advertising sales strategy focus on community as well. Don’t fall into the trap of selling potential advertisers nothing more than numbers; don’t neglect to sell them on the opportunity to support the community that you are building.”

Full story at this link…

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OJB: Why people stop blogging

December 16th, 2008 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Social media and blogging

Paul Bradshaw’s theory on why people stop blogging: ‘They do not become part of an online community’.

“There is a moment at which the momentum of starting a blog fades, and a new momentum – the regular input of community – is needed to continue,” he says.

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Postscript to Advertising and Digital Media Awards

October 3rd, 2008 | No Comments | Posted by in Online Journalism

While it’s all very nice that regional digital contributions are being celebrated at the Newspaper Society (NS) Advertising and Digital Media Awards 2008 (it was the first time for blog and digital team catgeories), Journalism.co.uk did raise its eyebrows slightly at the winners of Blogs of the Year…

Gold: Trinity Mirror Midlands – The Geek Files (nice looking but not exactly interactive)
Silver: scotsman.com – Luke Donald (still searching for its whereabouts – any ideas?)
Bronze: Hull Daily Mail –  Lucy Clark for Hullvibe (last updated two days ago)

Perhaps they could take some tips on blogging from the winner of the AOP online community of the year, Farmers Weekly Interactive: its blogs are easy navigated and found from the main site.

And we can’t help but wonder why regional digital is judged in a competition for advertising – why is there not one single category for digital in the regular weekly newspaper awards?

Who/or what would you nominate for your favourite regional blogger/blogs?

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AOP: RBI takes four prizes at Digital Publishing Awards 2008

October 2nd, 2008 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Online Journalism

Reed Business Information (RBI) won four of the 16 awards handed out at last night’s Association of Online Publishers (AOP) Digital Publishing Awards.

The publisher was named best online publisher in the business field for the second year running, as well as picking up prizes for best business website, best B2B online community for Farmers Weekly Interactive, and best online advertising sales team in the business category.

Sky News’ website was awarded the gong for best consumer website, while parent company BSkyB was named best consumer publisher online.

The Guardian picked up an accolade for its Katine project and FT.com for use of video online.

The full list of winners (courtesy of a release from the AOP):

Launch 2008 award – Guardian News and Media for www.guardian.co.uk/katine

Editorial team (business) – Accountancy Age, Incisive Media

Editorial team (consumer) – NME.com, IPC Media

Research & insights project – The Origin Panel – Women’s Space, IPC Media

Online advertising sales team (consumer) – Future Publishing – digital agency team

Online advertising sales team (business) – RBI e-newsletters

Innovation 2008 award – Financial Times, Mockingbird Model

Cross-media project – WKD Nuts Football Awards, IPC Media

Commercial partnership – Ford Bite, Channel 4

Use of video – FT.com

Mobile site – Sun Mobile, News Group Newspapers

Online community – Farmers Weekly Interactive, RBI

Best website (business) – XpertHR.co.uk, RBI

Best website (consumer) – Sky News, BSkyB

Best online publisher 2008 (business) – RBI

Best online publisher 2008 (consumer) – BSkyB

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Was the Scotsman right to sack Nick Clayton for blogging?

September 25th, 2008 | 4 Comments | Posted by in Jobs

Earlier this week Journalism.co.uk picked up an update to Twitter from Nick Clayton, technology journalist, weekly tech columnist for the Scotsman, and recently signed-up blogger for Scottish media news website Allmediascotland (AMS):

The blog post in question – published on Friday 19 – mentioned, amongst other things, Clayton’s attempts to sell his house and the following statement, which seems to have riled The Scotsman:

“All but one of the too many estate agents I spoke to told me not to bother advertising in The Scotsman. Whether you’re looking for work or a home, the web’s the place to go.”

Clayton was told he was fired by Alison Gray, editor of the paper’s Saturday magazine, just hours after the post was put live, with it cited as the key reason behind his sacking.

“I’d written a slightly controversial blog entry for allmediascotland.com suggesting that, as websites replace printed newspapers, there would be little need for physical offices and that the role of the sub-editor would disappear. I hoped it would be a little provocative, but the most I expected was to have a few virtual brickbats lobbed in my direction,” said Clayton, in a follow-up piece.

Journalism.co.uk tried contacting the Scotsman, leaving messages with Alison Gray and the office of Tim Bowdler, chief executive of Scotsman Publications, but received no response to the following:

– does the Scotsman have a set policy on staff writing for external websites? and are journalists aware of this?

– could the blog post have been amended to prevent Clayton from losing his job?

– why was Clayton sacked for his comments on the state of print advertising after the Scotsman itself ran the story ‘Johnston Press hit by house market woes as property advertising slides’ on August 28?

Admittedly there’s no disclaimer on Clayton’s AMS blog – e.g. ‘the views expressed here are my own and do not reflect those of my employer’ etc etc – but nevertheless was this the right course of action for the Scotsman to take?

There’s nothing to stop a journalist from setting up their own personal blog or contributing in their professional capacity to another blog site – either as poster or commenter – and as the trend for doing so continues to grow more popular, will publishers start setting out stricter guidelines for what staff can and can’t say elsewhere?

Reactions like this and the idea of more stringent restrictions on where journalists can write online are counterproductive: letting journalists write, comment, engage and react with colleagues and readers online can help build an online community around them and their content, driving users back to the publisher’s site.

Spilling company secrets is one thing, but Clayton’s post was hardly exposing something that’s hidden from the rest of the newspaper industry.

Clayton has told me he’s contacted the National Union for Journalists (NUJ) (who haven’t got back to me either for that matter) – and I’ll be really interested to hear its stance on this: firstly, in reaction to the immediacy of his sacking; and more importantly, as to what this means for journalists working online, in multimedia and for multiple taskmasters.

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