Tag Archives: cardiff journalism school

Niche Blog Assessment: The Story of a Weblog

The purpose of my niche blog Day One was to explore the storytelling of news, and ultimately try to discover a new way of communicating news stories online, both creatively and journalistically.  I aimed to compliment the more ambivalent nature of Insert Future Here with at least one answer to the blog’s opening question, Where is Journalism Going?  I think this was a very ambitious goal to set myself, but I do think that ultimately, the direction of the blog has stayed true to its origins.

It was always my intention to interweave creatively-presented journalism with a serial piece of creative writing.  As a former newspaper reporter with a creative writing degree, I felt this was a strong ‘niche’ topic for me.   What is more, people seemed genuinely interesting in the idea when I pitched it to them.

I launched the blog with a piece of creative writing, which was somewhat ambiguous in nature as I purposefully did not explain in a blog post (only in the About Me page) what I was doing or why.  I wanted the post to set a tone of creativity which would remain a consistent thread throughout the blog’s life. 

Day One was not only about experimenting with the storytelling of journalism, it developed into a social experiment on a larger scale.  As the hits began to pick up around December time, I decided to branch into more socially contentious subjects to see whether their SEO strength would affect my site statistics and comments. 

One of my most recent posts was a reflection on the diet industry of today and how it is handled in the media.  This post received around 20 hits within 24 hours of going live, as well as two comments.  These were judged by WordPress to be spam as neither were particularly constructive and one was downright abusive about some of the personal information I had put into the post.  I had decided to include this information as a means of engaging readers, in the style of the bloggers I had sourced for research, but in light of the response I see this was perhaps a bit naive. 

One of the best examples from Day One of my exploring different and creative means of newsgathering was my Story from an Iphone post.  I had covered the Cathays Sex Attacks story already for a CJS assessment, and wanted to experiment by very roughly putting the bare bones of the storyline onto some footage shot on my iphone.  I think the result showed an interesting interpretation of a news story, but the post did not gain as many hits or comments as I would have liked. 

In my niche strategy I mentioned that I would attend and review creative events in and around Cardiff as a means of ‘supporting my community.’  I didn’t want to just write a review, as I have done in previous blogs, I wanted to communicate these events differently.  As a result, I began building a Google map showing some of the alternative places to go and things to do in the city for people interested in exploring the creative side of life.   Cardiff, A Little bit Differently proved very popular as soon as it was published, and it continues to bring in hits as I update the information on it.   This was my blog’s most successful attempt at supporting my community through a creative method.

My most popular posts on Day One as well as Insert Future Here (my course blog) dealt with contentious subjects such as domestic abuse, binge drinking, the diet industry and the role of social media in journalism.  This was not only good for my blogs, it proved my point in terms of social experimentation – that posts about subjects that people care (and therefore search) most for will get more hits.  

My most popular post for Insert Future Here was my Capture Cardiff post, which continues to gain hits daily (currently 121).  I think this is a mixture of good SEO tags and categories, good sources and topical subject.  The post which I am including in the links below, however, is my very first one discussing Claire Wardle’s lecture to CJS students.  This gained the most comments out of all my posts, which I think shows that good use of links, a concise point and a good story to tell are the essentials needed for interactive blog traffic. 

My Day One post with the most hits (88) was my most recent, Tutors could be putting Students at Risk.  The content exactly reflects the headline, there is a link to more information, and a Soundcloud upload of an audio interview cementing the story’s validity.  As well as being a genuine piece of original journalism, the story is topical, contentious and relevant to my audience.  

I considered experimenting with social media differently to tell this story, but I judged that using the bare minimum of tools and letting Rebekah’s interview speak for itself would be the most creative approach ultimately.   On reflection, this approach clearly engaged readers as the post got 68 hits within a few hours of publication, and continues to gain popularity.

I did comment on some of the blogs and sites listed in my niche strategy, which in turn probably earned me a few more hits.  But I wasn’t as active with this as I had hoped to be – mainly because I found that I was not getting comments on my blog in reply.  This is something I will try to improve.

I did not post as often as I would have liked.  The complicated nature of my strategy meant that I became a bit perfectionist about my posts, I wanted each one to really earn its creativity.  I do plan to continue the blog though, as I would like to see its following increase, develop my strategy of creative journalism as well as the serial piece of creative writing.  This – which tells the story of a family struck by cancer – was originally intended to be a piece of fiction, but has turned autobiographical. 

I liked the idea of drawing readers to the blog with the creative journalism posts and then giving them a flavour of something completely different which they would, hopefully, then want to read more about.  This following is something I will continue to build on in order to gain a fledgling place in the niche of creative writing blogging.

Links: Social Media: Power to the Pimpled

Tutors could be putting Students at Risk

Cardiff, A Little bit Differently

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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…


Social Media: Power to the Pimpled

Whether he was serious or not, Andrew Marr’s scathing description of citizen journalism certainly threw an interesting shade on the subject-of-the-week at Cardiff Journalism School. 

After the fast-paced discussion of the role of Social Media by Claire Wardle of the BBC’s College of Journalism, something which stuck with me was her reference to Jay Rosen’s article about The People Formerly known as the Audience and their changing role from reactors to interactors.  It got me wondering, if readers are to users as magazines are to tablets, what are journalists to? 

When I wored at my local paper, my editor used to quote Mark Twain, saying that the mark of a good news story was one which someone, somewhere did not want published.  As an inexperienced local reporter, I came across many such people of a publication-day morning. 

Once, when I had been in the job a matter of weeks, I wrote a very small article saying there had been rumours that the local Post Office was going to close.  I had been unable to get confirmation from the press office or representatives at the local branch, but my editor said that rumours themselves were justifiable news, so we went with that.  Come Friday morning, I received a visit from the local postmistress who explained in no uncertain terms just how mistaken we had been, and that I was a disgrace to journalism in general and the elderly Post Office users in particular.  I think she would have given me a journalism-ASBO if she could. 

Needless to say, we printed a clarification/apology the following week, I realised that being the local reporter meant taking verbal punches with the glory no matter who was ultimately responsible, and began to walk the extra mile whenever I needed to post a parcel. 

So is it terrifying to face the prospect that the people ‘formerly known as the audience’ will soon be brought that significant step closer to the journalists themselves?  No.  Not really.  Because another point I picked up from Claire’s words, as well as those of the many respected journalists who spoke at Friday’s Tomorrow’s Journalism Conference, was that quality journalism stood to be enhanced by the future, not damaged. 

I agree with this.  I think that there is a level of security facilitated by distance from the consumer which the weekly newspaper journalist/ columnist/ TV and radio reporter has when delivering a story in a controversial way.  Users who can comment directly and immediately on journalism provide a challenge to the journalist to step up their game.  There is no room for error or complacency anymore, the bar has been raised, and that is why it is so exciting to be training right now.  Because in some ways we are training to be multi-tasking journalists of the juggling-small-children-while-riding-a-camel-on-roller-skates calibre.  

Having said that, try not to aggravate the local postal workers.  The buzz is no match for the looming realisation that you’ve run out of stamps.


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