Jun 12

Paul Bradshaw on journalism education (and how slow some people are to wake up to change)

My colleague and City University Visiting Professor Paul Bradshaw has been reflecting in a 3-part blogpost on the changes in journalism education being driven by the disruption of the previous era’s pattern of communications.

Bare summaries of other peoples writings shouldn’t be so necessary in the digital world since I can link and you can click direct to the originals. But in case you’re short of time, I’d boil Paul’s case down like this:

I agree with Paul about the first, query part of the the second and think the third point overdone: Continue reading →


Jan 11

Facebook and Twitter targeted by Egyptian authorities

Evgeny Morozov, author of the recently-published The Net Delusion, tweeted the other day that he felt sick having to restart discussions for Egypt about whether the country was starting a Twitter or Facebook revolt.

I know how he feels and social networks aren’t the same as the courage required to get onto the streets in these countries. So I just mention quietly that Twitter stopped working in Egypt yesterday; both Twitter and Facebook seem to be blocked today. It’s worth noting what the authorities think is a threat: the enhanced ability to connect and mobilise. (Readers new to this theme start here or here).

While on the subject of Morozov, if you are looking for a single piece which sums up his contra-suggestive thinking, I’d recommend this. Coming from a quite different, and more constructive, direction on the same theme are two pieces which both examine how journalism needs to adapt to verify the information that flies at us on the web. The first is from the Online Journalism Blog of my City University colleague Paul Bradshaw and lays out basic methods of verification on the web. The second is by the BBC journalist Matthew Eltringham (via Charlie Beckett) and reflects on the practical problems of sifting the truth in new circumstances and something called the “line of validation”. These are both creative ways of extending the idea of “verification” which I listed when trying to pin down the definition of journalism in the digital age.


Oct 10

Media and journalism: reasons to be cheerful

This weekend selection of snippets happens to be linked by a happy common denominator: the news is good.

  • The vast news agency Reuters (now Thomson-Reuters) has been through some wrenching changes in the past decade. At the lowest point its total headcount of staff journalists was down to 2,100. That figure is now back up to 3,ooo.
  • I went to listen to a panel of expert on mobile phone technology at the Royal Society of Arts a few days ago. I learnt that:
  1. Africa is now leading the world in mobile banking (Ralph Simon).
  2. That the battle between the tablets, inaugurated by the launch of the iPad, will be “the most interesting technological bloodbath ever.” (Christian Lindholm)
  3. The Intercontinental Hotels chain built 400,000 rooms in 100 countries; it took decades. Couchsurfer.com assembled a catalogue of a million rooms for rent in a year. (Ralph Simon)

Continue reading →


Oct 10

Andrew Marr and the inadequate, pimpled and single

It seems highly unlikely that Andrew Marr meant what he said very seriously when he laid into bloggers at the Cheltenham Literary Festival, describing them as “inadequate, pimpled and single.”

Marr can’t seriously believe that many people nowadays think that bloggers or “citizen journalists” (whatever they are) are going to “replace” journalism, even if they have already changed it.

He seems to be confusing people who comment online with bloggers. These categories overlap, but aren’t the same. Marr is on to something in drawing attention to the unreadability of long comment threads. They’re rarely rewarding, many comments overlap, the sequence is incoherent and quantity of rewarding reads very low. As Marr says, it’s the anger that makes them off-putting.

I’d predict that newspaper websites in particular will start to look ever harder for ways of reducing the prominence of comment strings, moderated or otherwise, despite having strained so hard to generate them only recently. You can see the trend already in “Editor’s picks” which function as a short-cut through the ranting. Surely there will before long be software which enables comment threads to reduce duplication, get the best to the top and actually distinguish by value added? Perhaps it’s already out there and I don’t know about it.

Continue reading →


Jul 10

Wikileaks and what they mean for journalism

The Wikileaks release of the Afghan war logs has unleashed a hail of commentary ranging from learned treatises on deciphering military jargon, through the morality of war to the implications for media and democracy. This post deals with what we’ve learnt about journalism. So far.

1. The unforeseen effects of quantity. Stories which begin with huge caches of data may begin with a bang (if the data is shown to mainstream media in advance, as here) but however they start, they will go on for a long time. A long tail of fresh stories will be fed by discoveries which can only, in the nature of the source material, be made slowly. The pace of the reporting changes; the sources of discoveries will be varied. We can see what one writer neatly termed the “sheer weight of failure” but we can’t see many detailed patterns until more work is done.

The estimates of what percentage of the logs have been trawled by whom vary. Two per cent? Five? Wikileaks said that documents had been witheld to protect individuals at risk. Did that mean that Wikileakers had been through 100% of the total? The Times this morning carried a story (can only be seen with payment) saying the raw documents did put Afghans at risk and suggesting that the screening was less than complete.

But whatever the exact extent of anyone’s knowledge, every conclusion about this is provisional  (and that includes my judgement in the post immediately below this on the Pentagon Papers comparison).

Continue reading →