Thursday, August 31, 2006

Whistleblowing on YouTube

[Keyword: , , ]. Credit to Michael De Kort who, after two years of frustration trying to get some action on what he saw as critical security flaws in a fleet of refurbished Coast Guard patrol boats, made a video blowing the whistle on his experiences and posted it on

As the Washington Post reports,

"the video describes what De Kort says are blind spots in the ship's security cameras, equipment that malfunctions in cold weather and other problems. "It may be very hard for you to believe that our government and the largest defense contractor in the world [are] capable of such alarming incompetence and can make
ethical compromises as glaring as what I am going to describe." In response to De Kort's charges, a Coast Guard spokeswoman said the service has "taken the appropriate level of action." A spokeswoman for the contractors said the allegations were without merit."

"The video also has caught the eye of people in high places. De Kort's video has been covered by defense trade magazines, and yesterday, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), ranking Democrat on the Homeland Security Committee, wrote a letter to the Coast Guard asking for an answer to De Kort's "extremely distressing" allegations."

One to watch...

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User content discussion

[Keyword: , , ]. There's a lengthy discussion on 'User Content' at NMK, with some well respected contributors, including Richard Sambrook, Head of Global News Division, BBC, and Adam Curry.

Adam Curry is quoted as saying that "within 5 years 50% of media will be created by the people", which seems a suitably vague quote to prove or not to prove, given that if you qualify the internet as 'media', the figure is probably applicable now.

Meanwhile, Richard Sambrook betrays an industry-centric perspective on citizen journalism that sees it as "just like a radio phone-in for the digital age". To compound matters, rather than citizen journalism, he prefers the term “citizen media” or “citizen storyteller”. The debate has moved on, Richard.

At the same time, he "realised that people around him knew more collectively than he did."
"In India the “See It, Report It” banner saw UGC within 12 months go from fringe
right into the mainstream. It is changing editorial culture, he reflected. The
idea that the 6 o’clock news will tell you want you want to know is now
anachronistic, as is the view that we’ll tell you what’s good for you."
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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Citizen journalism - the documentary

[Keyword: , , ]. Poynter reports on a new documentary about citizen journalism, produced by a citizen, naturally. Citizen Journalism: from Pamphlet to Blog takes:

"a wide-angle view of the citizen journalism phenomenon [and] looks at the genesis of citizen journalism in the pamphleteers of the 18th century (most notably Thomas Paine), through the 'zine movement of the late 20th century, and into its current form online in blogs.

"Featured are some of the most recognizable names in citizen journalism: Lisa Williams of H2Otown, Ethan Zuckerman of Global Voices Online, consummate
video blogger Steve Garfield, as well as a number of others who are doing their part for the citizen journalism movement."

The film can be seen at the Project Documentary blog and on Blip TV

Meanwhile, the Center for Citizen Media is asking What if citizen journalism is just a mirage?:

"Are we interested in “citizen journalism” in the abstract only to be disappointed when confronted with actual weblogs?

"If so, there might not be much to learn. Comparing and contrasting blogs and traditional media might be an intellectual dead end. Judging by the staleness of the conversation surrounding citizen journalism — as exemplified by the repetitive articles on the subject and the small number of examples that are consistently recycled — I’m beginning to believe that it is.

"I think that we can only learn about these new entities — big thriving online communities aimed at political change or tiny solo blogs devoted to the changes in a rural county over time — by approaching them on their own terms."

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Online Journalism Award finalists

[Keyword: ]. You can find a full list of the finalists for this year's Online Journalism Awards at the Online Journalism Review, with links. They lead on the fact that published newspaper websites dominate the list, while the Press Gazette notes that the BBC is the only UK organisation listed (in the "Outstanding Use of Multiple Media" category for large organisations).

Well worth a browse, particularly “My Blue Eyed Girl,” a human interest interactive feature by student Heather Gehlert of the School of Journalism, University of Berkeley, while “Azerbaijan Elections 2005,” by reminds me of an interactive election map that one of our Journalism students at UCE Birmingham, Roslyn Tappenden, produced last year.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Multimedia journalism meets conversational media

[Keyword: , ]. Poynter showcases a great example of multimedia journalism that also incorporate conversational journalism: the Christian Science Monitor's feature: Hostage: The Jill Carroll Story:

"Along with a gripping, detailed account of Monitor freelancer Jill Carroll's widely publicized 82 days of captivity while on assignment in Iraq, this package also includes streaming video of an extensive interview with Carroll -- as well as links to related
coverage, including the still-active Jill Carroll update blog.
"Back in May, the Monitor started taking reader questions for Carroll... several of the hundreds of reader questions will be answered with video clips and full
"[It] is an excellent example of how multimedia can become conversational media. I'd like to see this concept expanded, maybe by offering a call-in line where readers can record their comments in audio format, and even send in a photo or a link, so you can splice that in to the final video interview. And, as I mentioned earlier, I'd love it if the Monitor allowed online comments to each Q&A segment, to continue the conversation."
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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

How newspapers can make money from bloggers

[Keyword: , , ]. The editor of The Independent may not think that there's a model for making money out of websites, but two stories today may just force him into a rethink.

The first is a simple story of success from a publication that took the bold step to put its core content - in this case listings - online. Press Gazette reports that Time Out claims its success in the latest ABCs as justifying "the "bold step" of putting its London listings online."

Meanwhile, and perhaps more significantly, reports on the launch by of a service linking advertisers and bloggers. Sponsored Blogroll "invites writers to register their interest in carrying advertisements on their sites. Marketers are then encouraged to select relevant destinations on which to buy space; the blogger shares advertising revenue with the newspaper company and will receive a link from a promotion box on the front page. Launched as an experiment, the project claims three sites as launch partners and is seeking writers publishing about technology, business, health, cars and travel."

What the article doesn't point out is that this is a rather canny approach from the Washington Post to the threat that bloggers - and the likes of Google AdSense - represent to their advertising revenues in the long term. This way, they protect their revenues without having to actually produce any editorial. In fact, what the newspaper is actually doing is selling advertising, and marketing, to bloggers, while the bloggers concentrate on the business of producing content. Now there's a turnaround.

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Monday, August 21, 2006

Online news: journalism and the internet

[Keyword: ]. I wrote this way back in February before Stuart realised his publishers may not be pleased about it leaking out. The book is now ready, so here's the blurb:

Students of online journalism may be interested to hear Stuart Allan is in the process of sending his latest book on the subject to the OU Press. He's very kindly sent me a blurb which uses words like "exciting" and "important", and which I reproduce below in the hope it will all come true... It certainly sounds much-needed:

Online News Journalism and the Internet
In this exciting and timely book Stuart Allan provides a wide-ranging analysis of online news. He offers important insights into the key debates concerning the ways in which journalism is evolving on the internet, devoting particular attention to the factors influencing its development. Using a diverse range of examples, he shows how the forms, practices and epistemologies of online news have gradually become conventionalized, and assesses the implications for journalism’s future.

The rise of online news is examined with regard to the reporting of a series of major news events. Topics include coverage of the Oklahoma City bombing, the death of Princess Diana, the Clinton-Lewinsky affair, the September 11 attacks, election campaigns, and the war in Iraq, amongst others. The emergence of blogging is traced with an eye to its impact on journalism as a profession. The participatory journalism of news sites such as Indymedia, OhmyNews, and Wikinews is explored, as is the citizen journalist reporting of the South Asian tsunami, London bombings and Hurricane Katrina. In each instance, the uses of new technologies – from digital cameras to mobile telephones and beyond – are shown to shape journalistic innovation, often in surprising ways.

This book is essential reading for students, researchers and journalists.
Contents 1) Introduction
2) The Rise of Online News
3) Brave New Media Worlds: BBC News Online, The Drudge Report, and the Birth of Blogging
4) Covering the Crisis: Online Journalism on September 11
5) Sensational Scandals: The New(s) Values of Blogs
6) Online Reporting of the War in Iraq: Bearing Witness
7) Participatory Journalism: IndyMedia, OhmyNews and Wikinews
8) Citizen Journalists on the Scene: The London Bombings and Hurricane Katrina
9)New Directions

Friday, August 18, 2006

Subscribe to an email feed

[Keyword: , , ]. Yes, I have a new box on the right if you want to subscribe to regular emails. And there's some history to this...

Frequent readers of my blog may be familiar with my ongoing quest to find a suitable way to offer email subscriptions. My first effort involved getting my blog to email posts to a group on Yahoo! Groups which anyone could subscribe to. However, for some reason the group stopped working, so I switched to Google Groups. Neither solution was ideal, as it still required users to do more work than simply entering an email address, so I was pleased to discover BotaBlog offered a simple email entry field. Thing is, it didn't seem to work properly either.

So, I'm thrilled to discover a new feature on Feedburner where you can choose from three different email delivery services: the first, provided by Feedburner itself, simply requires users to enter their email address in a box you can insert on your site; the second, from Feedblitz, not only does that, but provides you with subscribers' email addresses too. The third, from Squeet, doesn't provide subscriber email addresses, but does allow them to 'buzz' their favourite articles and promote them further.

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Blog recommendation: Innovations in Newspapers

[Keyword: ]. Here's a blog that's worth perusing if you're interested in the changes in newspapers brought about by new media: Innovations in Newspapers. Produced by a consultancy (clever way to spread the word about your services) it demonstrates a good understanding of good and bad practice in online journalism.

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New Trinity Mirror multimedia chief puts focus on citizen journalism

[Keyword: , , ]. More from Press Gazette as the latest issue includes an interview with newly appointed head of multimedia for Trinity Mirror's regional newspapers Michael Hill.

It seems Hill is going to be firmly focused on making the most of citizen journalism, as he says:

"I think newspapers, particularly regional newspapers, need to be — and will be — much more open to news being generated and sent to them by their readers.

"There is going to be much more of a focus on being inclusive, rather than publishing to an audience at a time you specify, and giving the audience the news diet that you decided.

"There's going to be a bigger focus on interacting with that audience, answering to them, and using a lot of the stuff that they produce for you.

"I think the distinction between professional journalists and citizen journalists may become a little blurred.

"Rather than seeing the content that citizen journalists provide as being useful exclusively on a website, papers can start looking a lot more to use some of that content in print as well."

These are great things to be hearing from a 'multimedia chief', although as part of his role will be "advising local editors on best practice ideas for multimedia" the biggest challenge, it seems, will be persuading them to implement the impressive ideas he has.

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Telegraph website keeps improving

[Keyword: ]. Press Gazette reports on continuing changes to the website with online editorial director Edward Roussel quoted as saying: “We want our readers to be engaged with the news-making process, by sharing their views on our blogs and other forms of online discussion."

The article lists changes including
"larger text ... and more news added throughout the day in the form of written
articles, audio and video. Other new additions include more “economic snapshots”
on the business pages including info on key indicators such as house prices,
unemployment, inflation, GDP and interest rates; content on the travel pages
divided by continent and country using maps; property pages to include data on
historic prices and access to 7.5 million UK house prices; a revamped blogging
site including online diaries from Telegraph writers such as Celia Walden, Ben
Fenton and Hilary Alexander."
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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Contribute to citizen journalism training

[Keyword: , , ]. There's a call for contributions on Dan Gillmor's citizen journalism blog after the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced the award of a grant to Gillmor's Center for Citizen Media "to create five online training modules for citizen journalists. Those modules will cover 1) thoroughness, 2) accuracy, 3) fairness, 4) transparency and 5) independence."

"The modules will be available initially on the Knight Foundation site and here, and will also be available under a Creative Commons license.

"We need your help," says Gillmor. "To that end, we’re creating discussion boards where we can have a conversation about the content and ideas behind these modules. Watch this space for more details."

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Monday, August 14, 2006

How newspapers can take advantage of citizen video

[Keyword: , , ]. There's a lengthy column at Editor & Publisher with some useful advice for any newspapers looking to jump on the latest bandwagon: user-generated videos of the YouTube variety. The writer suggests:

"1. Understand the benefits and drawbacks of the existing sites for viewers and advertisers alike.

"2. Make a conscious transition from being strictly content creators to become local communication facilitators.

"3. Create new channels to capture and share the best content from around the country and world (similar to the Associated Press or ESPN but for user-generated content).

"4. Integrate, don’t segregate. Video needs to be integrated directly into existing sections.

"5. Experiment. Create new sections and new services to test what types of videos
people want to share and whether they’ll pay to place or see them. "

There's plenty more advice including why newspapers have an advantage, how to make sure cream floats to the top, and even the idea of video comics.

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Proof that you don't have to be a big paper to produce interactive features

[Keyword: , , ]. Mindy McAdams has blogged about a good example of multimedia being used at a small newspaper:
"The Star-Exponent just won an award from the APME for "Online Convergence," for a story in January 2006 about the lynching of a black man in Culpeper in 1918.
The award apparently hinges on the multimedia element of the story package (this was designed to pop up in a small window). It includes a slideshow with sound and some original documents. It's not one of the cleanest or most usable Flash packages, but this is a very small newspaper, and I give them a lot of credit for making the effort."

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Friday, August 11, 2006

Airline bomb plot - a citizen journalism angle

[Keyword: , , ]. For most big news stories now there's some sort of citizen journalism component, and the apparently thwarted aeroplane bombing plot is no exception. The Toronto Globe and Mail, of all news sites, has a thorough rundown of the CJ angle on the story, which include links to the BBC's Your Say facility and images on Flickr. Given the saturation coverage-verging-on-repetition of this on BBC in particular, you wonder why they haven't covered this angle in addition to all the others.
(thanks to Dan Gillmor for the link)

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

What makes a good online journalism site?

[Keyword: , , ]. I'm about to meet the man behind a new investigative journalism website to talk about how I can offer assistance and advice - and it's prompted me to identify what exactly makes a good online journalism project. I've boiled it down to these five elements:
  • User involvement: in the age of citizen journalism and blogging there is no excuse to exclude your users from the conversation. At the very least you should allow users to post comments to stories - and equally importantly, respond to those comments and incorporate corrections in stories. Beyond comments, you can also offer forums where users can discuss and suggest stories or angles, or just form a community of opinion. And for a quick and simple user opinion, incorporate a regular poll.
    Then there's the invitation for users to contribute - whether that's pictures, video, audio clips or full articles. These don't have to be big news events they happen to have witnessed (although that's nice), but can be personal 'video diary' type experiences (where topical) or records of public events.
  • Update: Online is always accessible, searchable, and archivable. It is not tomorrow's fish and chip wrapper. Therefore articles should be updated when new information appears, or newer articles should link to older ones on the same subject, and vice versa.
  • Linking and transparency: An online article without links is ignoring one of the fundamental characteristics of the web, and presenting the user with a dead-end. If I read an article about breast cancer, there should be links at the end to more information, organisations, and help. If I read an article about a policy document, there should be a link at the end to that document. And the latest piece about the Middle East conflict should be giving me the opportunity to find out the background to the whole situation, through links. Equally important - but perhaps harder for journalists whose living is based on rewriting press releases - is linking to your sources. If you've used anything online, link to it. This transparency can only improve media literacy, and hopefully, pressure journalists to use a range of sources.
  • Get interactive: This is the biggest paradigm shift in news and the one that news organisations seem to struggle most with, but one of the advantages of online news is the way you can engage the user and explain complex concepts with multimedia. Not considering this is like TV news not considering images or radio not considering sound.
    At its most glamorous, this might involve a Flash interactive as done so well at The Guardian and BBC; but you might also consider quizzes (search for simple JavaScript or PHP templates), live chats with interviewees (invite users to post questions ahead of the interview if you don't have the technology for a live chat), or just a simple range of guides accessible by drop-down menu. The key thing here is giving your user control, and/or using the range of media available to provide depth.
  • Write for the web: brevity and scannability are the watchwords here. The BBC do this impeccably - one point per paragraph and a liberal use of subheadings - perhaps because of their broadcast background. Unintentionally, tabloids do this well too, simply because their simple style translates well. Broadsheet style works less well, especially as they tend to shovel their printed articles without any editing. But as people tend to scan-read online much more (because of the lower resolution), an increased use of subheadings can make the experience much easier for readers, while employing bullet lists where appropriate is always a winner. Splitting paragraphs to make it easier to read is not dumbing down.
Now, I'm sure I've missed something glaringly obvious here, as it seems there must be more than five items to this list, but perhaps it really is that simple. Answers on a comment please.

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TV stations to take on citizen journalism sites

[Keyword: , ]. reports on the launch of citizen journalism initiative by TV station group Pappas Telecasting. As you'd expect, the site "allows any local individual to load images or post a news story to the Web site" and "allows users themselves to determine what is news by automatically publishing content from cell phones, e-mail and the Web site."

Nebraska's NTV is hosting the pilot, while Pappas "plans to roll out Community Correspondent at all of its 27 stations over the next several months, beginning with KMPH-TV Channel 26 in Fresno, California."

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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Moguls of New Media

[Keyword: , , ]. Here's a useful article on the Wall Street Journal if you want a summary of the "powerful players" in blogging, viral video, and new media in general. For instance:

"Christine Dolce, whose MySpace page boasts nearly one million friends -- making her arguably one of the most connected people on the Internet. A 24-year-old cosmetologist who until a few months ago worked at a makeup counter in a mall, she now has a manager and a start-up jeans company and has won promotional deals for two mainstream consumer brands.

"...A video by a 30-year-old comedian from Cleveland has now been watched by almost 30 million people, roughly the audience for an average "American Idol" episode. The most popular contributor to the photo site just got a contract to shoot a Toyota ad campaign.

"...Each week, about half a million people watch a two- or three-minute video starring a man in a ninja costume that includes a Lycra ski mask bought
for $6. He typically delivers a sarcastic comic monologue in response to a ninja-themed question a viewer has emailed in. ("Do ninjas catch colds?" was a recent topic.) In May, "Ask a Ninja" launched an online store and now sells about 150 T-shirts a week, Mr. Nichols says. They'll soon begin selling premium subscriptions at $1.50 a month to fans who want early access to new episodes. This month, they added their first advertisement to the series, a mention of the Sony movie "Little Man" at the end of an episode.

"...The flagship crossover star in digital entertainment is known by one name: Brookers. ...20-year-old Brooke Brodack of Holden, Mass., has posted a
range of videos starring herself ... Though Ms. Brodack's videos have a distinctly amateur feel -- they feature her lip-synching songs, dancing goofily around her bedroom and occasionally adopting silly character voices -- they inspire a passionate following ... Last month, Ms. Brodack, who works as a receptionist, got an email from an executive at the development company of former MTV star Carson Daly. Mr [signing] her to a deal to develop entertainment ideas with his production company for TV and the Web."

There's a great sidebar on 'What to Watch' on YouTube as well...

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Guardian launches 'print-and-read' PDF edition

[Keyword: ]. Here's a move that will have surprised a few newspaper editors, particularly those of the Metro freesheets: Press Gazette reports on The Guardian's launch of G24, an 8- to 12-page PDF version of the top stories from The Guardian website (you can also choose a particular version, such as 'World', 'Media', 'Sport, or 'Business').

The PDF, even more impressively, is updated every 15 minutes, which suggests that it is automatically generated. There is some empty space at the end of some articles as a result, but generally the layout is good for an automated system.

The whole is designed to be read on the move, and is free, with the revenue seemingly coming from sponsors BT. I'm guessing, though, that most people will print this off at work to read on the way home, rather than the other way around, which may give some comfort to Metro publishers.

You'll never make as much money again

[Keyword: ]. That's the message of this article from Corante, which argues that media companies expecting to make a mint from the internet are set for a disappointment. Vin Crosbie makes a comparison with the Industrial Revolution manufacturers who "believed that industrialization would just markedly decrease their costs of production, enlarging their profit margins. But as the Austro-American guru of management Peter Drucker (1909-2005) noted, "Not only did the cost of production markedly decline, but so did the value people were willing to pay for the products."
"The value people were willing to pay for those products declined. And that was when those products had been scarce. We today live an era when we're already
awash in information. It's surplus, not scarce."