Posts Tagged 'Birmingham Post'

Big changes for The Birmingham Post – reaction round-up

We’re just come back from a big announcement about the future of Trinity Mirror Midlands, part of that was a major announcement about the future of The Birmingham Post.

I think I want some of the dust to settle before blogging my own thought (and don’t want to gazump my Editor!), but I thought I’d provide a bundle of links to other people talking about what is happening.

I will post my thoughts a bit later, so if you want to leave some questions in the comments, I’ll try and answer them. Suffice to say there are some very interesting times ahead.

How transparent should newspapers get?

A little while ago I got myself embroiled in a rather heated debate with another member of the newspaper industry over the “transparent newsroom”.

It’s a policy that has been adopted by The Spokesman Review in the US.

The newspaper has embraced transparency in an attempt to regain credibility in its community. It even has an interactive news conference which is videoed and put onto the web.

Why shouldn’t UK newspapers such as mine embrace this practice, I asked? Surely it would make us more accountable and show a willingness to engage with our readers. Isn’t our biggest battle on the web for trust and credibility? This would be one way to help us establish ours.

Not so, said my friend. It would be dangerous as news conferences will discuss the legalities of some stories, some of which would not be approved for publication. Showing video of these conversations on the web was publication in itself and we could be sued for that.

Also, there are journalists who are very good at what they do and not very good at public speaking – they would come across poorly on video and may actually lose the trust of readers.

Language and “gallows humour” would also be a problem, he suggested.

These are not, however, issues that come up in this video by The Spokesman Review:

[via Colin Mulvany]

The top issues here are nutters and the increased amount of time needed to interact with and justify editorial decisions to readers.

What is also worth noting is that there is also no current statistical information to demonstrate that this practice is bringing more people to the newspaper.

But, it’s an idea that has been taken up by other UK newspapers. Last month, The Liverpool Daily Post dabbled with transparency and became the first paper in the country to broadcast their news conference live over the Internet.

So, should The Birmingham Post be doing the same?

My Second Birmingham Post Column

Ok, so this is something I’ve never done before (and it may get me in trouble).

Below is a copy of the (unsubbed) version of my column that will go into The Birmingham Post tomorrow.

I wanted to put it here so that people could add comments to it and I could link to it in Del.icio.us before the article was published.

As was pointed out to me, 600 words is never enough, and there is a lot I’ve missed out. So please help me add to it!

There is something I want to share with you. Something that I don’t think a lot of people know:

Journalists are people too.

They are. Honest!

But I doubt you’ll believe me. I am, after all, a journalist.

As a collective body, we seem to be ranked in the public consciousness as something akin to pond life… except a little less trustworthy.

There are numerous surveys placing journalists amongst the ranks of used-car salesmen, estate agents and, heavens forfend, politicians when it comes to trust.

Yet there are many that joined journalism because they wanted to be the trusted, responsible champion of the people.

So what makes people so convinced that, at the drop of a hat, us reporters are willing to lie, cheat and sell our grandmothers for a story?

A straw poll of contacts and friends on micro-blogging service Twitter (an interesting platform that I will delve into more on in a future column) offered up a few explanations:

  • Because some of them are plain untrustworthy – remember Hillsborough and Viglen?”

  • Most who’ve had an article written about them can see how many mistakes get made.”

  • Because when you have a 600 word limit something always gets left out.”

  • Lack of accountability.”

  • Tabloid digging into private lives.”

These show, collectively, we journalists have a long way to go before we are considered even as trustworthy as the ordinary man on the street.

But it is the man on the street that journalists have to worry about in the shiny new world of digital media.

In March, I was lucky enough to be part of a small team of young, West Midland “media types” sent to the SXSW Interactive conference in Austin, Texas, by Advantage West Midlands-funded project Digital Central.

The conference, which originally started as a music festival, is fast becoming known as a premier event attracting the top international talent in digital media.

My fellow attendees were all “early adopters”. Whether they be housewives, techies or students, they are the ones surfing the crest of the digital wave, the first to adopt all the new and shiny tools and applications that the web has to offer.

Many of them write blogs or produce their own videos, but what shocked me was the ability of some of them to command audiences in the thousands or tens of thousands.

When I asked them how they did it, the answer was pretty uniform: They were trusted and they were “part of a conversation”.

This conversation may be had through blogs, video or audio podcasts, but the fundamental idea is that their audience has redress and can correct and build upon the original work.

By opening up in this way, and by acknowledging their readers as real people, they show themselves to real too – something journalists have avoided in the pursuit of an ideal of objectivity, or a belief that their opinions and writing should command authority.

But these digital pioneers shaping a future for online media are demonstrating that, above all, trust is where it’s at.

The old model of distance between journalist and reader is going to have to change.

It is something The Birmingham Post has been investigating over recent months with the launch of its blogs, its experimentation with social bookmarking service Del.icio.us and Twitter.

By realising that they are just one – hopefully well-researched, well-written and interesting – part of a bigger conversation, journalists have a chance of raising themselves out of the pond and – hopefully – becoming seen as the trusted champions they really should be.

To see some of the websites that helped to inform this column or to respond, please visit http://del.icio.us/joannageary/column2

Birminghampost.net goes live!

So… there it is. The shiny new Birmingham Post website is now up and running.

We also have a blogs section covering news, business and lifestyle. Those be the bits I’ve helped to organise.

There’s still a lot to do and more bloggers to add tomorrow (!) but I’m pretty pleased. We’ve all worked really hard…

…which is why I am now going to go home and sleep.

Night!

Guten tag

As the countdown to the website launch begins, I don’t expect to be getting much opportunity to blog over the next few days.

Yesterday was spent tagging up some of the stories that have been imported over from the old CMS. It’s a funny job – my instinct is to just tag everything and anything that is mentioned in the story. But, when you remember that these will appear in the “related stories” box on the page, you have to be a bit more tactical with your tags.

Steve (our multimedia editor) and I have been building up a few internal rules as we go along. As, when the website launches, journalists or sub-editors will tag the story, I imagine we’ll develop a stronger set of tagging conventions. Apprently this, according to people wiser than I, is called a folksonomy. But, of course, it’s a folksonomy that will be created only by the content creators, rather than the users.

I am curious to know if this will effect the way things are tagged and, if it does, whether that is a bad thing or not? Should there be a way for readers to submit tags? Would they even want to? And, if they do, how would you stop that creating a tag cloud as large as the moon?

This ties in to a conversation Marc (my editor) and I were having the other day about the transparent newsroom. He’s written about it on his blog. I have been really taken with what the Spokesman Review is doing in the US (see right hand column on their homepage). They have been experimenting with a variety of different techniques to open up the process of newsgathering and writing, with varying degrees of success. [found via the World Editors’ Forum weblog]

I love the idea that I am not only directly answerable to the people who sign my pay check, but also to the people I purport to be writing for and, if we would make any of the things the Spokesman Review is doing work on our paper, I’d love to try them.

But, as with the tags, would anyone really be interested in taking part? If so, how?

Birmingham Mail relaunch

So, one of the rather major things that happened last week was that our sister paper, The Birmingham Mail, launched its new website.

Snazzy, eh? A big improvement, certainly. The coverage so far from the Press Gazette, journalism.co.uk and holdthefrontpage seems pretty good too.

Bounder has also provided some fantastic constructive criticism. This made me smile:

One problem that illustrates the peculiarity and the difference about content online is the journalists/subs use of “today”, “tomorrow” etc. in headlines – we don’t have the context online that we have with the physical copies “is that today’s Mail?”. Use of airy times online, where content can stay on a page for longer, means that “FOUR unsigned Midland bands are battling it out in Birmingham tonight” can’t work.

Sometimes it is the most simple of things that can elude us.

Now it is no secret, and in fact is announced in the above articles, that the new Birmingham Post website is due to launch this month. As part of the preparations, I’m going to move off of editorial for a few weeks and help with the website project.

It’s also no secret that the basic template that The Post site will use will be the same as The Mail, although we do have a certain amount of room for manoeuvre.

So, with the Mail doing the hard part and launching first, I’d be interested in what, if anything, we could do better?

Obviously, I can’t promise that it’ll be possible to implement it (we are already working from the suggestions that were given here previously). But, well, in the spirit of friendly rivalry it would be nice if we could do a little better than them!

What I’m going to do with the Flickr feedback

As the flow of comments has started to slow on the Flickr post, I thought I’d let you all know what I plan to do next!

Over the next few weeks (after I’ve finished my first assignment), I’ll start collating the comments. I think what has come out from the discussion is going to be applicable to a lot of the other things I wanted to looking at for the website project.

I had just assumed (naively, perhaps) that because people were happy for bloggers to link to their work (as long as they were credited), they would also be happy for a site like The Birmingham Post to link to it too.

This, however, doesn’t seem to be completely the case. Most of the concern seems to come from the belief that – as we are a commercial publishing operation – any and all the material we link to on the web must be paid for.

I can understand that point, but I think the distinction between commercial and non-commercial spaces on the Internet needs to be looked at in more detail. Not that I’m going to do that right here and now – the comments have given me way too much to mull over!

In my head, I saw The Birmingham Post website as a place to go for news and opinion, but also as a (sorry to use this word) gateway to Brum’s professional and creative communities on the web. I still see it that way, but I now realise I need to look at how I’m going to do that in more depth.

But please keep the comments coming in, I really want to get to grips with this.


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