Archive | September, 2013

Crowdsourcing, Crowdfunding, and Online Journalism

21 Sep


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


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.


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.