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#WANIndia2009: Geotagging and VG.no’s News Portal

Schibsted-owned Norwegian newspaper VG.no isn’t just a newspaper – it’s also a software developer, having built a system for readers to send in stories, news tips and images by mobile. The technology behind the VG News Portal has been bought by newspaper websites internationally, including the Sun and News of the World in the UK.

Papers can also rent the system, Vidar Meisingseth, project manager at VG.no, tells Journalism.co.uk. The image below shows what an editor using the system sees as tips are submitted.

Screen of VG News Portal

But new benefits of the portal are becoming apparent: in Oslo VG has created a database of its freelance correspondents and ‘tippers’ (users who send in tips and content). By geotagging this information the editorial team at VG.no can call up a map when a story breaks showing who is within a 50km radius.

This has potential for both assigning freelancers to stories, but also to finding eyewitnesses or gathering more information from citizens on the ground, says Meisingseth.

Using geotagging presents further opportunities not yet trialled by the paper, for example, mapping related stories such as a crime to see where and how frequently it is happening in a certain area.

VG.no already has information on its regular ‘tippers’ and this too could provide editorial leads, if for example a reader was sending in the same complaint about an unresolved issue in their area month-on-month.

In the Oslo system images sent in are also being geotagged – a useful step in the factchecking process with the potential to create image maps around larger, breaking news events.

All coverage of #WANIndia2009 from Journalism.co.uk can be found at this link.

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MediaGuardian: Mecom to sell Norwegian titles

February 18th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Newspapers

Mecom, former Mirror Group man David Montgomery’s European newspaper group, is to shed some of its Norwegian papers to raise £50 million in funds.

Full story at this link…

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Online Journalism Scandinavia: Online media play crucial role in Iceland’s fleece revolution

January 30th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Journalism, Online Journalism

On Monday, Iceland’s coalition government collapsed under the strain of an escalating economic crisis.

However, because of widespread cross-ownership, Icelandic media is not only feeling the impact of the crisis on its advertisement revenues; it’s in the eye of the storm, and angry Icelanders have turned to turn to the web to inform each other, organise anti-government rallies and vent their frustrations.

“It’s a grassroots revolution,” said Andri Sigurðsson, a blogger and web developer.

He explained that Iceland had seen a surge in political blogs in the wake of the financial turmoil, and that people had turned to using web tools such as Facebook and Twitter to organise demonstrations and protests.

With so many people losing their jobs, this year the island is facing the highest unemployment in decades. Some have turned to blogging full time – the blogger behind Newsfrettir, for example, has started translating Icelandic news to English after being made redundant in October.

Since the country’s biggest newspaper, Fréttablaðið, along with a large portion of the rest of Icelandic media, is controlled by Baugur (the ailing investment company that also owns a large stake in Iceland’s and the UK’s retail industry); and the second biggest newspaper, Morgunblaðið, has been controlled by Björgólfur Guðmundsson (owner and chairman of West Ham FC and chairman of Landsbanki, the bank embroiled in the Icesave scandal)… the whole situation gets rather complicated.

“We’re trying to cut all our connections to Baugur. You know, the sugar daddy behind DV and Fréttablaðið was Baugur, but the sugar daddy behind Morgunbladid was Björgólfur Guðmundsson? Every media here has its problem. We had Baugur’s Jon Asgeir Jóhannesson, they have Björgólfur,” said Reynir Traustasson, editor-in-chief of Icelandic tabloid DV, pictured right.

It is against this backdrop that political blogs such as the conservative AMX.is and the socialist-green Smugan.is have grown in popularity. However, Fréttablaðið’s editor-in-chief Jón Kaldal, does not see the surge in independent sites for news and opinion as a threat to mainstream media.

“None of these are doing investigative reporting; they are just repeating what has been written elsewhere. It is an outlet for gossip and rumours. But certain internet sites have worked well to get information out of the government. When gossip breaks out on these sites, the government is forced to come out of hiding,” he said.

Yet Kaldal was not optimistic about the times ahead:

“The whole society of Iceland is in a very strange place at the moment. It’s like we’re engulfed in a thick fog, and we don’t know quite how the world will look like when it lifts. Always in a recession or downturn there is a stronger demand for effect in advertisement. The strong grow stronger during a recession. But the situation here on Iceland is so critical that I don’t know if that’s enough.”

Read more about online journalism and the media in Scandinavia at this link.

Images in this post used with the author’s permission. For more of Kristine’s Iceland images visit Flickr.

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Online Journalism Scandinavia: Resolutions for 2009 – Yes, we link

January 13th, 2009 | 3 Comments | Posted by in Online Journalism

Danish journalists pen link manifesto, which should be an inspiration for journalists everywhere in 2009.

The last quarter of 2008 did not only open our eyes to how flawed the fiscal economy is, in Scandinavia more and more journalists also realised how awkwardly media organisations operate in the link economy.

In Norway, the union chapel at DN.no, the news site of the country’s biggest financial daily, suggested introducing a common link policy for all the country’s news sites to make it profitable to produce good original articles rather than just to copy-paste.

In Denmark, a survey by eJour found just two links to external sites when monitoring seven Danish news sites over a period of two weeks. Blogging journalists in Denmark were also up in arms over a renewed effort by Danish newspaper publishers to stop websites like Google News from linking to individual articles rather than a newspaper’s homepage.

Against this backdrop, Kim Elmose, the blog editor of Politiken.dk, and Lars K. Jensen, a project manager at Ekstrabladet.dk, launched a link manifesto and encouraged news rooms everywhere to write their own link commandments and use their manifesto freely.

Let’s hope this can inspire more and better linking on many a news site in 2009:

First law: We link to the sources for the data we use in our journalistic products. If we have read, seen or heard important new information on an external site – for instance about companies, people or surveys – we will link to it.

Second law: We link directly and precisely to the information we use from external sites. In this way we provide proper service to our readers rather than just linking to the front page of the external site.

Third law: We are precise in our information about where a link leads to; about who has produced the information we link to and when. The readers should know where it takes them when they follow a link.

Fourth law: We recognise that an article consisting of precise links to information that represents different angles on an issue is a journalistic product.

Fifth law: We are open to inbound links to our own news sites because we want to be an integrated part of the web’s ecosystem

Sixth law: We aspire to making it easier to link directly to our articles.

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Online Journalism Scandinavia: Database journalism making Norwegian politicians more accountable

A new database mapping the networks and voting patterns of Norway’s politicians may become an invaluable journalistic tool when the country gears up for a parliamentary election next year.

During the 2009 election Norwegian hacks will be able to tap into a recently developed politicians’ database that maps how the country’s politicos vote, which boards they sit on, and with whom.

In an interview with Journalism.co.uk in April, Espen Andersen, the database’s creator, described how he was adding to the information held on country’s members of Parliament with data about 11,000 local politicians.

This work has now been completed, and the aim of the project is to turn the database into a broader ‘power database’ by mapping political and corporate networks across Norway.

The creation was so popular that it completely crashed the servers of Brennpunkt, the Norwegian equivalent of Panorama, when it was launched.

Calls were immediately made for expansion, and for it to include similar information about journalists, in order to open up the debate on who watches the watchers.

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Online Journalism Scandinavia: Mecom’s Danish arm will cut costs with open-source CMS

December 23rd, 2008 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Online Journalism

Mecom-owned Berlingske Media, Denmark’s biggest daily newspaper publisher, has decided to ditch its costly online publishing system for open-source software Drupal.

As Journalism.co.uk reported earlier this year, Berlingske Media already runs some of its sites on Drupal – a free content management system (CMS).

After a long period of deliberation, the Danish division of Mecom, the ailing pan-European media group headed by former Mirror-boss David Montgomery, has decided to make Drupal its online publishing system of choice.

“It is no secret that economy means a lot to us, but if the system had been unstable and not user-friendly, the price would not have been decisive,” Berlingske’s CEO Lisbeth Knudesen told eJour (in Danish).

She particularly praised Drupal for being so much more flexible than traditional publishing platforms.

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Online Journalism Scandinavia: using the social web seminar – #socialweb

October 23rd, 2008 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Events

It’s going to be a veritable Journalism.co.uk party in Oslo on Saturday: blog regular Kristine Lowe has organised a seminar on using the social web featuring our very own consulting editor and online research specialist Colin Meek, who also runs the Insite blog.

To kick off the coverage, read Colin’s feature on ‘Web 3.0: what it means for journalists’, which tackles what the semantic web is and why journalists should be paying attention to it.

Kristine will be talking about how she has used and benefitted from using ‘the social web’ as a journalist and blogger; while Colin’s talk will focus on the research opportunities and newsgathering potential of web 3.0 for journalists.

Kristine will be blogging the event and we’ll round up some of that content and Colin’s here for those of us not lucky enough to have made the trip.

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Online Journalism Scandinavia: Waiting for the CAR to arrive

September 17th, 2008 | No Comments | Posted by in Events, Online Journalism

Earlier in the week we blogged that the Global Investigative Journalism Conference in Lillehammer (GIJC) had received a little criticism for being a bit 1.0 in its coverage.  But if its partcipants made limited use of the social web to report live from the event, the Computer Assisted Reporting (CAR) contingent was out in force and here’s what they had to say.

Paul Myers, a BBC specialist in internet research, and web trainer, told Journalism.co.uk how slow CAR is in the UK.  “People pick up on the flashy stuff like Google maps, but not CAR,” Myers said.

“This is quite typical in my experience – lots of resistance when I started training journalists in using the internet at BBC in the early 90s. It has been uphill struggle to convince people to use the web,” he told us.

In an opening session, the director of computer-assisted reporting at ProPublica, Jennifer LaFleur, urged people not to be deterred by how complicated it sounds.  “Computer assisted reporting (CAR) is doing stories based on data analysis, but it’s really just working with public records,” she said.

“Don’t get intimidated by the statistics, maths or excel and access focus: these are just the tools we use to report with.”

Along with database editor Helena Bengtsson, from Sweden’s public broadcaster SVT, LaFleur highlighted several recent successful news stories that had been unearthed by using CAR.

One, an investigation into the voting patterns of Swedish EU-parliamentarians, showed that several of the most high-profile parlimentarians abstained in 50 per cent or more of cases, causing political outcry.

But, maybe journalists should leave the more high powered CAR to the IT people? No, was the blunt answer to that audience question. CAR should be par for the course, said LaFleur. “90 per cent of stories we presented here were done with Access and Excel. I am a journalist doing journalism,” she said.

“You have to interview the data as you interview a person,’ added Helena Bengtsson. “When I do a query on data… I’m asking the data as a journalist.

“There is a lot of information in the data that IT-people wouldn’t have discovered. We’re journos first, data-specialists second,” Bengtsson said.

GCIJ Lillehammer also ran classes on RSS, scraping the web, being an online ‘bloodhound’ and effective web searching.

“There are two reasons for that: we have the training expertise and see major need for training in web research and computer assisted reporting”,  Haakon Hagsbö, from SKUP (a Norwegian foundation for investigative journalism) and one of the organisers of GIJC  Lillehammer, told Journalism.co.uk.

“It has certainly been very popular at earlier conferences. People don’t know what they don’t know until they attend the training. It’s a real eyeopener, but they soon find that it’s not rocket science, as these are simple yet powerful tools. We see more and more examples of colleagues from all over the world who meet online and use the web for research.

In reponse to Isaac Mao’s comment that there had been a low take-up of live social media reporting from the conference, Haugsbö said: “We have streamed everything live online, but other than that I don’t have a good answer to this.”

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Online Journalism Scandinavia: Investigative journalism conference was conference 1.0, says high-profile blogger

September 16th, 2008 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Events, Online Journalism

Some 500 investigative journalists from 86 different countries descended on Lillehammer, Norway, for the Global Investigative Journalism conference (GIJC) last week, but hardly any used social media to report live from the event.

Isaac Mao, who is often referred to as China’s first blogger (pictured right) and has watched bloggers slowly changing China’s media landscape for the better, found the absence of livebloggers and users of microblogging sites such as Twitter surprising.

‘Social media should redefine journalism’
“I wish 20 per cent here would twitter rather than just one, as it makes twittering from a conference more interesting. I think the group here is really big, but I have seen three guys open Skype, and no-one, other than you, have the Twitter-screen open,” Mao told me.

The high-profile blogger and social entrepreneur thinks blogs should redefine the landscape of journalism and how broad it really is, by enabling readers to participate more in traditional media.

He is firmly of the opinion that media should not be the exclusive domain of a few prestigious journalists.

“It is like The Global Shining Light Award which was awarded here: we need everyone to be enlightened. This has been conference 1.0.  I did not want to challenge it as people need time to adjust to the new reality.”

The power of Chinese bloggers
In this new reality Mao talks about, China has some 50 million bloggers (47 million at the end of 2007). Of those, only about 20 million can be described as active, but that is more than enough to make it difficult for the Chinese government to monitor all of them effectively, said Mao, who was invited to the Lillehammer conference to talk about the power of Chinese bloggers.

Mao is the founder of CNBlog.org and Social Brain Foundation, which support numerous grassroots initiatives in China, and is an associate of the Berkman Centre for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School in the US.

He is also working closely with Global Voices in China, the blog network founded by Rebecca MacKinnon and Ethan Zuckerman, and his work is particularly focused on training people in using safe ways to communicate online and empowering bloggers to do their own investigations by providing training in journalistic methods.

He thinks there has already been a great change:

“Three years ago bloggers copied traditional media, now traditional media copies bloggers. In particular, journalists do their best to steal content from lifestyle bloggers,” said Mao.

“But bloggers and journalists are not enemies to each other. In the beginning, journalists thought bloggers would steal their eyeballs, then they laughed at them; bloggers were not serious enough, not in-depth enough, now they have to cooperate with them,” said Mao.

Crossroads
China is now at an important crossroads, he says:

“We have millions of bloggers now; millions doing the same makes it tough for the government to monitor it. I am waiting for the tipping point: we are now at a crossroads. Many journalists have started their own blogs now, some even blog more than they write for the traditional media outlets they work for.

“Amateur writings occupy more and more space to try to cooperate with traditional media. The latter are unable to publish a lot of things, but they can give it to bloggers to publish,” said Mao, who hopes to see the two groups, bloggers and journalists, working together more and more.

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Online Journalism Scandinavia: Bergens Tidende asks users to map traffic hotspots

September 5th, 2008 | No Comments | Posted by in Online Journalism

“Bergens Tidende, our local paper, has a shining example today of how a local newspaper can gather and report local news simultaneously by coordinating reader participation in a very easy-to-contribute mashup focusing on an issue of huge importance to Bergeners right now, though it’s of absolutely no wider interest”, writes Jill Walker Rettberg, an associate professor at the University of Bergen, on her blog.

That issue is traffic: Bergen, a city on the west coast of Norway, is currently building a light rail system through Bergen, and the road works and constantly changing detours are causing major traffic problems.

“We decided to do something different to report on the exasperating traffic situation in the city, ” Jan Stian Vold of Bt.no told me.

What the news site came up with, in addition to their normal coverage, was a Google Map where readers could plot in where they encountered traffic problems.

It asked its readers: ‘Where are the bottlenecks in the Bergen-traffic? How does the construction of the light rail system effect you?’

Walker Rettberg is also rather impressed by the anti-spam measures: “You enter your mobile phone number and instantly receive an SMS with a code that you then type into the website to confirm that you’re an actual person and that you’re a different person to all the other people who’ve entered their comments,” she writes.

This works as an efficient way of identifying people as all mobile phone numbers are registered by law in Norway.

Requiring users to register does raise the threshold for participation, but this has not deterred Bergeners, as around 400 people have reported their traffic problems so far, according to Vold.

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