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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.

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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.

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.

Citizen journalism: Friend or foe?

14 Aug

Let me properly introduce myself. My name is Alex and I am an emerging journalist, fresh from a semester abroad in Spain. I am most interested in online journalism and particularly, how quickly it has changed the media landscape.

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Now to the topic for this week’s entry: citizen journalism. These days anyone can produce and publish news. It’s as easy as posting a tweet, updating a blog or snapping a few photos or videos.  People want to actively participate in the news they consume, be it through commenting, sharing or writing their own.

The growing use of mobile devices with Internet means most people have the capacity to record and almost instantaneously publish what they see.

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It is a wonderful thing for citizens, but what I want to know is- what does it mean for journalists?

Well, according to this week’s lecture presented by Trina McLeallan to our ‘Online Journalism’ cohort, it means a serious decline of traditional news methods. The rise of social media, blogs and other free platforms is making it increasingly difficult to turn journalism into profit.  No one wants to pay for a print newspaper when they can read, share and comment on online news for free. What this means for us is, more journalism; less jobs.

Don’t worry; it’s not all bad news.

Citizen journalism and mainstream media can work together. On the 28th of November 2010 WikiLeaks began publishing over 250,000 leaked U.S State Department cables, cables which were seized by mainstream media outlets and have subsequently become the basis of reporting for journalists around the globe.

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This means we (budding journalists) can use citizen journalism, which is often published first, to find stories.

It looks like citizen journalism is a little bit friend and a little bit foe. The mass of free content it creates is contributing to the demise of paid jobs, while also providing inspiration for mainstream media reporting.

Either way, I think it’s here to stay and might as well be embraced.

Snow Fall- The start of something new?

5 Aug

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Snow Fall, was a predominantly online, multimedia story by John Branch, one of the New York Time´s Pulitzer Prize-winning writers. It consisted of six parts, each of which working together to present a brilliant multimedia story on skiing fatalities. The piece received great attention, praise and criticism not for its words but for its “revolutionary” use of the unwritten – videos, graphics and bios.

Groundbreaking? Hardly.

Despite the acclaim and attention (3.5 million views within the first 6 days), Snow Fall is not the start of a shift to a multimedia landscape for journalism. I (like probably most of the traffic to the page) came for the spectacle not to read the particularly long story. I skimmed most of the content, focusing my attention on the pretty pictures and videos. Yes it´s engaging but not enough hold my attention for the 12 minutes it would take to read through and despite the hype, Snow Fall is not the first multimedia story out there.

Journalism has been becoming increasingly online and interactive since the slow demise of print media began over a decade ago. For example, it is commonplace now to have interactive social media “buttons” on news sites that allow readers to like, comment or share stories on several different platforms. In addition, there are a number of non-news sites that have been utilizing multimedia tools. Click here for examples.

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Snow Fall is not the start of something new; it is just one, particularly well presented, example of how media corporations are adapting with their market. Readers no longer want to be passive consumers but rather active participants, taking part in the news they read. Aljazeera, the Guardian and basically all major news corporations have been utilizing videos, graphics and interactive discussion boards to engage with consumers for some time now.

In my opinion, Snow Fall is a great story but nothing more.