Monthly Archives: November 2010

Data Journalism: I heart Excel

If your ears, like mine, automatically fill with white noise whenever you hear the word ‘Data’, boy are you in for a revelation! Data ain’t just about the numbers – data backs up claims, conditions our judgement of fact and fiction, and pretty much powers journalism. This was the topic of this week’s CJS lecture delivered by course leader Glyn Mottorshead.

We were also taught how to use some of the basic – and not so basic – data mapping tools. After running into a bit of a java/firewall/scripting block when trying to use the pretty wordle tool, I decided to put some of Glyn’s lecture into practice.
Here is my geobatch mapping the number of children injured in road traffic accidents across Wales from 1995-2000:
Children injured in car accidents
I will also try and upload a wordle map as soon as I can work out how to persuade my computer that it’s not an evil hacking thing.

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The Community

How do you measure the success of a piece of online journalism?  By hits?  What’s the point of that if people aren’t reading the article?  By comments?  Not according to Nick Robinson.   By the amount of people willing to pay for the content?  Well, that’s a work in progress. 

According to Joanna Geary, communitites and web development editor for The Times, it is the collaborative stories which rock the boat.  The ones that people come together to rant/rave/dissect… The ones that everyone has read.  So what stops journalists posting sensationalist stories just to generate more hits?  Who is to say that Andrew Marr didn’t make his comment about pimpled bloggers just to generate attention? 

I came across this anti-twitter article by Janet Street Porter on the Mail Online site this week, in which she claims the social media site ‘confuses activity with content.’  From the perspective that Twitter rates trends and tweets by hits, I see what she means.  But as Joanna Geary pointed out during her guest lecture at CJS, one of the best ways to generate traffic and comments is an anti-blogging/twitter article.  So, you could argue that Ms Street-Porter is, whether intentionally or not, practising the very traffic-generating tools she condemns.    After all, the article has generated more than double the number of comments than her last despite being in the public domain for half the time.


Blogging: A Journalist’s own Personal Newsroom

A journalist’s blog, whether it be about politics, technology or the best of the web, provides a unique platform for their craft beyond the power of TV, radio and newspapers.

This was just one of the points made by BBC Technology Correspondent and blogger extraordinaire Rory Cellan-Jones at CJS this afternoon.  He was very upfront about the fact that TV reporting is generally considered by most as a ‘higher’ form of journalism than online journalism.  But he also made the refreshing point that having total control of one’s platform reconnects the journalist with the fundamentals of the trade. 

ie:

Yesterday a colleague and I were sent onto the streets of Cardiff with an audio device, handheld video recorder and our smartphones to source a story.  We interviewed a sound tech guy helping to set up the city’s Christmas Lights Switch-on event and a UWIC student dressed as a time machine.

I found that rather than focussing on good questions to elicit interesting responses, I was fiddling about trying to get the audio device near enough to the interviewees’ mouths while desperately trying not to decapitate them from shot.  I think this really proves Mr Cellan-Jones’ point.  Given the broadcasting platform of the interviews, I was more concerned with the mechanics of recording material rather than content. 

He also pointed out the difficulty of getting a piece of journalism on air at all, citing his Spinvox story as an example.  Without blogging, and the audience he has built up online, this would never have been publicised because the content is so specialist.  Yet it was a huge story with massive repercussions for the technology community.

Mr Cellan-Jones conceded that TV journalism will for the moment always reach more people than a blog post.  (Particularly the BBC’s News at 10 and The Today Programme)  TV is showing journalists what the audience rates in news stories – audio and videos which are exclusive and which are complimentary to the story. 

Can blogging emulate this?  If journalists continue to build their online reputation, draw in more followers and ultimately begin to receive the crucial images/videos sent in by members of the public… Why the hell not?

Ending this post with a link to a video about Citizen Journalism vs Traditional Journalism which I came across when researching for this post.  It’s a little out of date now and a bit long but I think some of its points are still relevant.  Plus, I realised about 10 seconds into my first viewing of it that one of its creators is a guy I met in Australia a couple of months ago… Small world…


Blogging On the Beat

Adam Tinworth brought the I back into journalistic blogging at CJS this week. 

He told us that publishing online does make money, that the market is all about the niche and that old school beat journalism is making a comeback.  In short, blogging has facilitated the return of definining journalists by what they report on. 

Using the example of Jon Ostrower, Adam explained how journalists can make their name by reporting on something that they find absolutely fascinating.  The downside is, so can everybody else.  So how do you define yourself in a world where your interest in a particular subject is twn million a penny?  Enthusiasm, honesty, communication, information… they’re all the building blocks Adam gave us, but what I found the most interesting was the emphasis he put on being social.  If you interact with your readers, your public, they will trust you more, more will follow you and you’ll being to carve your little intials on the great big world of your niche.

But what about the journalist who retreats from the face of what they report on?  Who keeps themselves separate from their subject and goes home at the end of the day someone completely different?  Why shouldn’t the journalist be entitled to their own private life? 

To answer this I want to look back at the words of another guest lecturer at CJS, Charles Reiss, former political editor of The Evening Standard who spoke to us in our Reporters and Reported module.  He stressed, among other things, that the root of people’s trust in journalists lay in their determination to ‘tell the complex truth.’  He also revealed some rather damning statistics on the current state of said trust… But even worse off than journalists are politicians – because, among other things, politicians spin.  People feel they only get the slippery surface of a politician when they hear them speak.  And this is why journalists need to be open, this is why journalists should put their all into their beat blogging if they are to have any chance of competing with people who blog on their own steam.  Because if you show that you care about something more than you care about your own self-promotion people will trust you more and you will get a step closer to expanding those inconsequential little initials to a full-flowing signature.


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