Some nice examples of mobile journalism

Ahead of last week’s Circom Regional conference in Santiago de Compostela a group of young journalists from different regional stations met for a short workshop on mobile journalism led by RTÉ’s mobile journalism expert Glen Mulcahy, NRK’s John Inge Johansen (Norway), HRT’s Darko Flajpan (Croatia) and Circom’s Karol Cioma.

The participants shot and edited short ‘postcard’ packages from Santiago. I attended a session at the conference on Friday where the videos were broadcast and we heard from the journalists. The following packages stood out to me:

Patrik Samuelsson‘s video is interesting – it has lots of nice shots that really show off the range of the iPhone. Interestingly, Patrik, who is a Video Journalist at SVT (Sweden), said he got better shots with the iPhone than he would with his usual VJ kit.

I love this story from Adrian Rozenberg of TVR (Romania). What Adrian observed was that his interviewees behaved differently in front of an iPhone compared to his usual set-up. There was less of a barrier and they talked to him much more freely.

This story below was shot and edited by Nadejda Uzunova of BNT (Bulgaria). Before the course in Santiago, Nadejda had never used a camera to shoot a story nor had she edited a package. This package shows that mobile journalism is a great entry point and something that can be taught, if the participant is willing and interested, in a very short period of time.

There’s no doubt that news organisations are using mobile journalism regularly in live and breaking news situations, but what these packages show is the potential for packaging content and how accessible it can be with some focused training and the right equipment.

Sitting in the session watching the videos it also made me think about how organisations could work with the audience to grow and develop user generated content. There’s so much potential considering the huge, and ever-growing, base of smartphone owners.

All of the videos from the workshop can be found here and Glen talks a lot more about the process over on his blog here.

All about the NYT’s paywall

Nieman Journalism Lab has been offering up excellent analysis on the New York Times paywall/fence (it went up earlier this week in Canada and it will be in place later this month in the US).

To get acquainted with the complicated metering approach, learn about the gaps already found and take a sneak peak at what it looks like, check out some of Nieman’s coverage.


Polis & BBC Value of Journalism Conference

I’m heading to London on Friday for a conference on the value of journalism organised by Polis and the BBC College of Journalism.

The one-day events coincides with the publication of a new paper from Polis and the London School of Economics – ‘The Value of Networked Journalism’.

According to the organisers, the event will examine the following questions:

– What can new forms of journalism offer the digital society?

– Can blogging, social media and mobile deliver quality, accuracy and universal access?

– What impact will this have on politics and political reporting?

– How will journalism be funded?
It’s a great schedule with some excellent speakers and panelists. In particular I’m looking forward to hearing Janine Gibson (Guardian News & Media), Peter Horrocks (BBC) and Adam Westbrook.
Hoping to tweet on Friday and I’ll post some notes over the weekend … and maybe a video or two. You can follow the event live via the #voj10 hashtag.
Anyone else going? If so, tweet me!

Limber up news organisations

Once upon a time the equation for funding a news organisation was a lot more straightforward. Most of the budget came from a combination of advertising (inc classifieds) and either cover price or subscriber fees and sometimes tax-payer’s money.

Things have become more complicated recently. These days organisations, through trial and error, are attempting to come up with new ways to fund journalism.

Today, the new ready-for-a-paywall Times and Sunday Times websites launched. Later this year the New York Times will try out a metered pay model.

However, Silicon Valley Watcher’s Tom Foremski has another less-straighforward suggestion dubbed the ‘Heinz 57’ model, which I think is very interesting.

I’m sometimes asked what the new business model for media will be. My answer is that it will be a “Heinz 57” model. The Heinz food brand often has “57 varieties” in its promotions. And that’s a good metaphor for the emerging media business model.

He highlights the case of Australia’s Fairfax Media, which media consultant Frédéric Filloux looked at in February.

Filloux says Fairfax Digital (the part of Fairfax Media that runs hundreds of publications, websites and more than a dozen radio stations) has ‘no less than 15 revenue streams’ and it has an ‘entire team devoted to strategic advertising’ to react fast to changes and maximise ad money.

Filloux lists seven lessons to take from Fairfax Digital, which he expands in his post.

1. Accept the coming digital domination
2. Focus on reader engagement
3. Be an online company. Period.
4. Bet on multiple business resources
5. Capture readers and users one group after the other
6. Control your advertising innovation
7. Stay awake

The launch of the two News International sites today has put a spotlight on how news is funded and it’s going to be fascinating to see whether it can work. But I think there’s something in what Foremski and Filloux are highlighting.

Organisations must be flexible going forward. There will not be another simple equation, no answer to the 64-million-dollar question. A multiple-revenue model may be more complicated but it would hedge the bets, however organisations, no matter how big or small, need to be limber and able to react fast like Fairfax does.

Lots to think about,


US government to examine direction of journalism

Via Nieman Journalism Lab

In the US, the Federal Communications Commission has issued a public notice today seeking comment on the ‘future of media and information needs of communities in a digital age’.

The objective of this review is to assess whether all Americans have access to vibrant, diverse sources of news and information that will enable them to enrich their lives, their communities and our democracy.
The Future of Media project will produce a report providing a clear, precise assessment of the current media landscape, analyze policy options and, as appropriate, make policy recommendations to the FCC, other government entities, and other parties.

It sets out its reasons for the undertaking – talking about worrying trends in the industry and quoting research from Pew and Columbia:

These trends could have dire consequences for our democracy and the health of communities, hindering citizens’ ability to hold their leaders and institutions accountable.

It says that while it is a time of difficulty for the industry there is also opportunity to be found and points to the benefits the digital age creates for newsgathering and the choice it offers consumers.

The FCC asks 42 questions under a number of headings including:

Newspapers and Magazines
Information Needs of Communities & Citizens
Business Models and Financial Trends
Commercial Broadcast TV and Radio Cable and Satellite
Noncommercial and Public Media
Internet and Mobile

Along with paper submissions, comments can be made to the FCC through a special website, which they are launching for the project:

Even if you don’t intend to submit anything  the questions are worth a read.


Future-proofing: Ideas for journalists has a good article for people who find themselves bamboozled by the world of online journalism.

It makes some good points particularly about producing video and building up an online profile.

However, I disagree with a few points:

Point 6:

Embrace Twitter. Twitter is simply a huge echo chamber made up of millions of people. It is absolutely a source of news, but it is not ‘journalism’. That’s your job: to make sense of noise, to validate sources and stories, and to unearth the news. As such journalists should tune into Twitter. Follow influencers and use Twitter as a filter. People will follow you back and you can use Twitter to create an awareness of your work.

Twitter may turn out to be a fleeting platform. Personally I have found it to be very overrated (here’s a NYT article on how kids aren’t sold on the platform). There are many things to prioritise before you end up wasting hours reading your Twitter stream.

Point 15:

Exclusives are passe. All journalists love a good scoop, but an exclusive story doesn’t stay exclusive for very long these days. TMZ bagged the Michael Jackson exclusive but there were more than 1,000 copycat stories on Google News within an hour. Exclusives are great for kudos and links, but ‘scoops of interpretation’ are perhaps just as important. And if you cannot interpret the story then speak to people who can help. Try to join up the dots for readers.

Firstly,  the Michael Jackson story was breaking news. It wasn’t really a scoop and TMZ was just the first outlet on it. The Telegraph’s expenses scandal series is proof, if needed, that fantastic exclusives/scoops still exist – they are just  few and far between (mostly because of the funding needed).

Points 16 &17:

Objectivity is overrated. Only a very small proportion of published articles in the mainstream media can be considered ‘objective’. Journalists may work hard to file truly objective copy, but any number of editors and sub-editors – not to mention publishers, proprietors, commercial bulldogs and influential advertisers – can transform stories beyond belief. Perhaps it would be better to position yourself on one side of the fence, rather than trying to sit on it? Obviously this won’t work for every kind of story.

Subjectivity kicks ass. Considering the above, is there a way of training your brain to insert a little bit more opinion into your stories? It might be that you’re not allowed to do this right now, given your platform (go start a blog immediately!), or perhaps the story doesn’t allow for it, but my favourite writers all have a strong voice and are happy to holler from time to time. Back your own views. Develop your voice. And don’t be afraid to express an opinion. After all, opinions can help put you on the radar, can help you find new work, and may in fact be the future of the news industry (if they aren’t already).

Obviously I disagree with these points. News journalists must always strive for objectivity as The Guardian so succinctly puts it ‘comment is free, but facts are sacred’.

Internet cited as a cause in LA Times cuts

Yesterday it was announced the LA Times is to cut 250, the majority of these are editorial positions.

Today, AFP reported that the newspaper’s editor, Russ Stanton said the cuts reflected the paradox of the Internet revolution.

AFP reported that the Stanton memo said:

Thanks to the Internet, we have more readers for our great journalism than at any time in our history. But also thanks to the Internet, our advertisers have more choices, and we have less money.

Read the full story here

Huffington Post to go local

The Guardian has reported that news website The Huffington Post  is to move into local news.

Founder Arianna Huffington made the announcement last night at Guardian News & Media’s Future of Journalism conference.

The Huffington Post will initially target Chicago with an edited news aggregation website and will function with one (presumably very busy) editor.

Huffington said the Chicago site would aggregate news, sports, crime, arts and business news from different local sources as well as contributions from bloggers in what will be the first of a series of projects in “dozens of US cities”.

The second city already has a good local news website and blog, the Chi Town Daily News. It is of course a different online offering, but it covers local Chicago news very comprehensively.

Full story from here

Audio of Arianna Huffington speaking at the conference here

Power steps down from Obama campaign

Irish journalist, professor and Pulitzer-prize winning author Samantha Power has stepped down as an adviser to Barack Obama over comments she made about his rival Hillary Clinton.

A full-length version of the story can be read here.

I just heard her speak in University College Dublin last night, she is such a talented woman and this is a big loss for the campaign. As a journalist I have huge respect for Ms Power, she has written several fine articles from countries around the world.

Her article about Darfur published in the New Yorker back in 2004 is still one of the finest pieces of journalism I have ever read. (If you haven’t read it already I strongly recommend that you do) Before I read it I was wavering back and forth between Journalism and Music as a career, but after reading if my mind was made up.

All of that aside, there is something else to discuss.

Ms Power apparently made her remarks about Ms Clinton off the record to the Scotsman newspaper. It perhaps wasn’t the smartest move in the world, but nonetheless since when did off the record stop meaning exactly that to reporters? To me off the record is still off the record.

It may be frustrating as hell when a source says something great and you know you can’t do anything with it, but that’s the way the game works. If as journalists we burn sources and print off the record comments people will get scared, hush up and we will never get to the bottom of stories.

The Scotsman may have gotten themselves a story and a whole lot of publicity, but they may well have damaged journalism in the long run.

Did someone say baby and bath water?

Steve Yelvington has bravely waded into the whole John Lavine anonymous source debacle, you can read his post here.

He may well have one thing right, there are probably other agendas at play here and they all centre around what direction Lavine wants to take Medill.

However I feel Steve Yelvington is being too harsh on Medill’s students and faculty.

I think the angry faculty who are fighting change need to step out of their comfort zones and take a really hard look at their assumptions, their motives, and their own skill sets. In the future we need great editors who can act as — gasp — the chief marketing officers, content strategists, and product leaders of their journalistic organizations. This will require a mastery of tools and techniques not taught in a 1970-style reporting and editing course.

I certainly believe we must change and adapt as journalist, but lets not forget what it is fundamentally about: reporting and investigating, producing accurate stories, being aware of the audience you are writing for.

The tools and techniques that were right for the 1970s are right for the current day and most likely for 2025 too. But what will change is distribution and delivery method and range of roles we will be taking on.

As I commented on his blog:

I do question whether the shift (when we reach 2025) will be that big. Of course we need to be more conscious of our audience, but many of the basic principles of journalism will remain the same. Reporting and editing will still be the backbone of that, but the packaging and approach will most certainly change. We will have to become a lot more flexible and be able to do much more: write copy, edit it, take photos, shoot video, record audio, update websites, write headlines, write blurbs, design graphics and much more. In the short year I spent in Medill (Lavine took over about six months into that time) I learned how to do many of these things and in my current job I am learning to do several more.

Lets all not get carried away with the obvious changes that digital platforms offer us. They are powerful tools, but the basics of journalism are constant.