The Neverending Conversation

10 Oct

We’ve reverted to type. News has come full circle and now we’re back to gossiping, spewing forth information we haven’t verified. Pretty quickly, it gets verified. It’s just that now, unlike back in the 18th century, this conversation happens online. And, as the title of this blog suggests, it is never ending.

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It is simply no longer viable for news organisations to employ old, out of touch reporters who were at their prime in the 70s, and are unwilling to alter their practises to suit the new era of online journalism. The benefits put forward by Spencer Howson, Brisbane’s top radio presenter, were pretty fundamental. The internet platform takes journalists from their mass media pedestal and dumps them right down in the thick of it: the dreaded comments sections.

This is how audiences like it, and you’re only going to be able to monetise a service (as journalism must now do) if the audience likes what is being presented.

“Digital is not about putting up your story on the web. It’s about a fundamental redrawing of journalists’ relationship with our audience, how we think about our readers, our perception of our role in society, our status. We are no longer the all-seeing all-knowing journalists, delivering words from on high for readers to take in, passively.” – Katharine Viner, Editor in Chief of the Guardian Australia.

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The benefits of this “open journalism” are neatly set out in this article by Matthew Ingram.

–       Readers often know more than you: who know what kind of expert might be willing to give you their insight. It’s much more likely they will on a simple online discussion, than in a real interview, which as we all know, are odious.

–       Openness brings accountability: as I stated before, regarding the dreaded comments sections.

–       Being open can produce scoops: there are countless examples of stories being stumbled upon during Twitter crowdsourcing exercises.

Whether we like it or not, as journalists we technically work 24/7. Miss out on a key conversation, and you might miss out on your scoop, or a key factoid, and hence your credibility.

Public Twitter = Public Money for Journalists?

3 Oct

It was only a matter of time until Twitter really became in-it-for-the-money. The question arises: can Twitter journos hitch a ride on the money wagon?

Merit in 140 characters?

US Financial analysts (those beacons of foresight, ahem, housing bubble) have all but guaranteed that one inevitable repercussion of Twitter’s floating on the securities exchange is going to spell the end for the ultra- short aspect of users’ messages on the site. To satisfy the incoming companies who are going to be advertising, they’re going to need a bigger boat, or at least a bigger character limit. Probably, no character limit. In a mildly ironic twist, Twitter might have to go full circle to keep itself alive, even though it seems to be doing perfectly well as it is. What started out as the shouting box for the mundanities of celebrity life has morphed into the content curation behemoth of our times. No longer do we just look out for what Ashton Kutcher had for breakfast. We get taught how to use it at journalism school. We are physically made (kind of) to follow politicians and reporters.

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It is now the instantaneous news delivery system. And what made it so viable in that paradigm was, paradoxically, its brevity. Several lecturers in our Online Journalism class this semester – Natalie Bochenski, Marissa Calligeros and Spencer Howson – have all affirmed how the rapid fire, constant buzz that is the Twittersphere has made news updates infinitely more accessible and widely consumed. Unfortunately, it just hasn’t directly made us any money yet.

Is that about to change?

Twitter has 218 million active users. Now, it is following in the footsteps of Google and Facebook, with an initial public offering (IPO), in which it intends to raise US$1bn. The only way they’re going to make a profit in 2013 is with ads. It’s impossible to say at this stage how successful they’re going to be in the venture, and it is likely they will share the problem journalism has had for a few years now: monetising their user base. They’re faring much worse than Facebook at the same phase of their time of publication.

The journalism/ twitter relationship is getting stronger by the day. More of the old oligarchy are signing on, and it is opening up at least ten entirely new avenues to make news better. I’ve previously discussed crowdsourcing; that’s one of them. In this writer’s humble opinion, something like Twitter can easily be a pilot for the new models of monetised journalism that will lead us out of the mire into the inevitable new golden age. Wishful thinking? Perhaps, but it’s a certain thing that Twitter and reporting are really one and the same nowadays.

Crowdsourcing, Crowdfunding, and Online Journalism

21 Sep

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In this week’s Online Journalism lecture, Susan Hetherington (@snoozen) introduced us to crowd sourcing, which is  the distributed gathering of information online. Twitter, for example, facilitates the outsourcing of information to a vast amount of people around the world. A person can post a question  or issue for discussion, and within minutes there can be hundreds of responses. Hashtags are another way to gather information (in 140 characters or less) on the one topic, and in the one place. Whereas before, journalists would have to go out themselves to source public opinion, now they can access much of the information or perhaps story inspiration they need, through crowdsourcing.

The rise of online journalism has created new opportunities for reporters to source public opinion, and crowd sourcing is becoming increasingly useful as more people embrace online sharing. The same process is also used in Crowd funding, which is about the outsourcing of funds rather than information. On platforms like Crowdrise anyone can contribute money online to a number of projects focused on world issues. Instead of acting as a charity, people can pick an issue, either in their local community or overseas and “invest” in it. The platform shows how much money the project has raised, and how much it needs to be successful.  Crowdfunding can be a useful tool for journalists in presenting issues of concern, and highlighting the issues that public are most passionate about.

For more information, take a look at this Prezi I put together.

Happy Greenpeace day!

15 Sep

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According to my Twitter and Facebook feeds, today is Greenpeace day, a day for the organisation’s 2.9 million members to celebrate. I myself am not a member, but I do follow the eco-crime stoppers on social media, an outlet I have come to realise they rely heavily on.

Screen Shot 2013-10-11 at 5.55.42 PMOn the Greenpeace website there are links to Facebook, Twitter, Google and Pinrest, as well as an “other” option, which opens a window with over 340 less popular platforms to share with. The organisation has over six hundred thousand followers on Twitter and over one million likes of Facebook- each of which are often shared thousands of times. Greenpeace has expanded significantly since the emergence of social media, a fact I attribute to the emotive content the organisation shares; sex may sell, but so do tortured kittens.

What does this have to do with us?

Well, news stories are just as capable of being shared over social media. The problem is, they aren’t. People only scroll through a Facebook newsfeed for a few seconds- not long enough to read more than a few words. The trick is to make these words absolutely attention-grabbing. We write print news different to online news, and accordingly we need to adjust the way we present our news in a social media landscape. Sharing a link to an online article is most likely to be opened, read and shared if it is accompanied with an emotive and interesting graphic. Similarly, most people will scroll straight over a large paragraph, but will stop and read a post of only a few words. The moral of the story is that people are lazy and if we want them to read our stories, we need to present them in a short, simple and most of all attention-grabbing way.

Live Blogging

14 Sep

With the advent of the new journalistic “era” heralded by social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, the nature of journalism as an entity has shifted towards an increasingly time-based paradigm. Readers expect their news instantly; effectively, a minute after the event unfolds is “late” for modern reporters. Otherwise, the news will probably have been spread around the internet by onlookers with camera phones, making the jobs of journalists redundant.

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The response to this by many larger news organisations has been to employ reporters to cover the action of any event deemed worthy on a minute-by-minute basis. These events can range from sports games, elections, conferences, stock markets, natural disasters and international or civil unrest. They are characterised by a less formal type of journalism, with moderators encouraged to adopt a more conversational style. This appears to be the media’s response to their readership’s changing interests. As readers, we now want to follow live coverage that a) we can relate to, b) have our opinions challenged by other opinions and c) arguably, to have a laugh.

The concept of live blogging has not been universally embraced, though. Some journalists and readers, like this one, are unsure about the merits of the liveblog’s format. The argument put forward in that blog post is that the “running” nature of liveblogging erodes the key values behind the inverted pyramid style of journalism. The writer of the above post was not thrilled by the Guardian- calling it ‘nonsensical unstructured jumble’. While that may seem a little bit harsh, the structure of liveblogging could be considered a pitfall; it is at odds with the traditional journalistic maxims of a structured story, with important information at the top of the story, filtering down.

When we were assessed on our ability to live blog two political speeches  and one interview, it was a stressful time for me. I found it extremely challenging, balancing listening to the riveting speeches, and transcribing relevant comments, as well as augmenting them with my own (often hilarious) commentary. This is why news organisations often employ more than one journalist to cover a live blog, and also why media organisations are often given transcripts of speeches before they are said.

In my humble opinion, live blogs are a reporting tool that will endure as long as social media remains the ubiquitous presence that it is today.

All-in-one Journalism

29 Aug

backpackThey say men are unable to multi-task. If this is truly the case, then no doubt we will soon see the journalism profession rid of all male reporters. More and more frequently, reporters are being required by their employers to be a one-man (woman, actually) band, sending out fully finished stories from the scenes of news events back to the newsroom.

Marissa Calligeros from the Brisbane Times gave an excellent lecture to our online journalism cohort about the mechanics behind being a working journalist in Brisbane in 2013, and it was an eye-opening speech. Marissa spoke of how, at the scene of a car accident last year, took a video of the scene, wrote a few lines of copy, and sent it back to the newsroom, all on her iPhone. The video was one of the first to appear on Brisbane news websites, and has since become the most viewed video on these sites ever.

She explored how it is necessary for us journalists to be resourceful in the way we operate. There’s a whole lot of doom and gloom over the industry right now, so it seems inevitable that, if we want to become journalists, we’re going to have to work hard for it. That means being a photographer, videographer, editor, subeditor and reporter all in the one breath. (Perhaps we should be getting paid more.)

Apparently, it’s called backpack journalism. According to pioneer backpack journalist Jane Stevens, backpack journalists must also “know the difference between when you’re a lone wolf and when you’re part of a greater whole.”

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Backpack journalist Cameron Atfield

There is always the counter argument from the critic. Here, some argue that – surely- if we have less time to research, edit or verify a story, the quality of our stories will become diluted. However, if Marissa Calligeros is anything to go by, the new breed of super reporter will not have any trouble in more efficiently managing  and balancing their days on the job reporting. Indeed, it seems more of a process of evolution, rather than devolution. The characteristics of backpack journalism will change and expand news coverage.

We keep talking about instantaneous journalism birthed from the internet. It is a natural progression that people want to see the full story instantly, and that means photos, videos and words. If I can get as good as Marissa Calligeros is at her job, I think I’d be doing a pretty good job as a backpack journalist.

Online Journalism exercise

19 Aug

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Find original article at the Gold Coast Bulletin: http://www.goldcoast.com.au/article/2012/08/14/436658_gold-coast-news.html

A TEEN who allegedly rammed three police vehicles while leading officers on a two-hour chase through south east Queensland has been denied bail.

The 16-year-old Stockleigh boy, who is facing 15 charges, applied for bail in Southport Magistrates Court today after handing himself in to Coomera Police Station yesterday.
Police will allege he reached speeds of up to 140km h during a two-hour chase that started at Warwick at 10.30am on Sunday when officers sighted a vehicle wanted for an earlier evade police incident.

The teen allegedly rammed a police car at about 11.30am while avoiding tyre spikes set up on the Cunningham Highway at Willowbank.

Police said the youth allegedly drove along Beaudesert-Boonah Rd to Bromelton. He  allegedly drove at an officer and rammed two police cars at 12.10pm when he avoided road spikes on Waste Facility Road at Bromelton.

Police will allege he then abandoned the vehicle on Kurragong Drive at Jimboomba.
Duty lawyer Bridget Patchell told the court the teen had gone off the rails this year after his family situation at home deteriorated.

He had been living with his father after the relationship breakdown but recently moved to live with his mother.

Ms Patchell said all his possessions were left at his father’s house and he was driving to get them on Sunday when the incidents happened.

“It was a situation that just blew out of proportion,” said Ms Patchell.
The teen’s parents were visibly distressed in court when Magistrate Catherine Pirie denied him bail until a bail plan, including counselling and employment, was drawn up by Youth Justice Services.

He was remanded in custody and will reappear in Southport Magistrates Court on Friday.