Posts Tagged 'blogging'

What every regional journalist needs to hear about their industry…

In this Seesmic post Kevin Anderson, Blog Editor for The Guardian and co-author of Strange Attractor, pretty much covers many of the things I’ve wanted to say, but better:

Kevin Anderson on Seesmic

Kevin Anderson on Seesmic

He is answering a question posed by Birmingham City University’s Paul Bradshaw – with recent job freezes/cuts at UK newspapers, is there any point in universities running journalism degrees training students for the newspaper and broadcasting industries?

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

Looking for a host to call home

On September 23 2007 I started this lil’ol blog claiming that I would “tentatively” look to the future of local and regional newspapers.

How things can change in six months!

Now, and I hope this doesn’t sound too cocky, I feel like I’m pretty much immersed in looking at the future of regional newspapers in the UK.

It has been a rapid education. For example, things that I did for the first time at SXSW include:

  • Access Twitter over mobile internet.
  • Interview people on a camcorder.
  • Live stream video over a mobile phone.
  • Blog via live streaming.
  • Upload a video to Youtube.
  • Speak on a podcast.

I know, I know, these are things I should have been doing already. Well… you’re right. In my defence, it’s taken me a while to build up the right kit in order to do much of the above.

Anyway, now I’m getting to grips with new platforms, I thought it was about time to get a host for this blog. I’ve been doing on the cheap by having it hosted free by WordPress, but I would like to have more freedom to play with the blog and I’ve been told the best way to do that is get me a host and download the lastest version of WordPress. Plus, I kinda need to learn how to manage my own website.

If this is right, then I could really do with some advice on hosts. I’m looking for something that is relatively cheap and reliable. Any ideas?

Newspapers suck at SXSWi

GGRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!

*Sigh*

Right, well I have just wasted 20 minutes of my last day at SXSW watching what was the most dire representation of the newspaper industry I could have possibly witnessed at a world-leading conference on interactivity.

I will have to come back to who was the speaker and what was the title, because right now the need to rant overtakes the need to Google for that particular information.

The talk was by a 36-year-old US journalist who is trying to help his colleagues embrace new platforms and get to grips with the power of the social Internet.

The executive summary (before I walked out) was:

“Print is dead.”

“Time is running out.”

“It’s real hard to get journalists to blog.”

“Change isn’t happening fast enough.”

“I don’t know what the solution is.”

Well… that’s useful. I can think of at least half a dozen people who could have produced a more insightful assessment of the industry as it currently stands. I might even be so bold as to say I could have done better.

First of all, let’s stop saying that the Internet is the death of print. It is not. The Internet is the death of some print. There will always be a need to place words in places where screens can’t go. Plus text is harder to read on the screen so, for long articles, print is always going to be a more comfortable experience.

But t’s true that a large swathe of news is being repackaged into a sharper, more condensed form making it easier for busy people with busy lives to learn what they need to know quickly. This is the sort of news that needs to be taken out of print and put onto the Internet, rather than print.

The other thing is that “time is running out”. Running out for who, exactly? Running out for newspaper groups? Well, I suspect they are well aware revenues are declining and, if they don’t get their income from newspapers, then they’ll get it from elsewhere and dispose of or wind up anything that makes a loss. Running out for newspapers? Maybe… Running out for some journalists? Yes.

Yes it is really hard to get journalists to blog – mainly becuase they are tied into the busy regime of producing an outdated newspaper and see a blog post as extra work. The hard part is finding the space for them to take time out of that treadmill to realise they need to look at their work in a new way. Once you do that, and once you explain how blogging can connect you directly to readers, most are pretty open to the idea of using the platform.

I simply can’t understand all this negativity associated with the change that is happening to the newspaper industry at the moment. There are lots of things to feel positive about: blogs can help you improve your stories through reader feedback and contribution, video can help you build trust between you and the reader, mashups can help provide readers with richer data and information on the areas and topics that they are most interested in.

Those people that get this stuff right, have a bright future. I wish we’d start looking forward rather than constantly peddling the message of doom and gloom.

The first few steps…

The blogs are starting to get a few comments: Roshan Doug, James Treadwell, Stef Lewandowski and Terry Grimley have recieved good-quality responses. Terry’s is longer than his actual post, which is both unbelievable and wonderful. I’ve always had a feeling that Terry would make a good blogger… he has said he plans to respond to comments soon.

I’m so nervous…it feels so scary to have to wait to see what works and what doesn’t.

I’ve already realised that we might have been slightly guilty of letting form get in the way of content, with some very good blog posts ending up in some very odd blog sections. It’s nothing that can’t be changed with a bit of aggregator wizardry… but it’s a lesson learnt.

I just hope our bloggers keep up the good posts!

As an aside, I’m still looking to cover a few more areas in the blogs, namely: music, sport and politics.

It has been pointed out to me more than once that there’s not a strong right-of-centre voice amongst our current team. I might disagree, but still… there’s certainly room for more controversy…

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!

What is going on with WordPress Stats?

 I clStrange WordPress Graphicked on my blog stats today and got this rather odd graph:



What does it mean?! What are Region A and Region B? And why were they doing something in 2003 – 2005 when my blog wasn’t even a twinkle in my eye?!

When I refreshed the graph went back to normal, but I’d love to know if anyone else has had something similar or knows why it might have happened.

Max Gogarty: A Warning?

Poor Max. Just 19 years old, fresh out of college, a summer trip planned and a writing career on the cards. Landing himself a blog on The Guardian website must have been the icing on the cake:

Hello. I’m Max Gogarty. I’m 19 and live on top of a hill in north London.

At the minute, I’m working in a restaurant with a bunch of lovely, funny people; writing a play; writing bits for Skins; spending any sort of money I earn on food and skinny jeans, and drinking my way to a financially blighted two-month trip to India and Thailand. Clichéd I know, but clichés are there for a reason.

Alas, Guardian website readers were not inclined to share in the clichés of the skinny jean-clad young-un. Even less so when it was revealed that Max was the son of occasional Guardian travel writer Paul Gogarty.

The comments were choice:

… As for skinny jeans , Max if ever you eat from the street you may wish you had something a little more baggy and easy to remove, alternatively you could take some nappies.
I’m not sure that the street vendors take Amex though.

You can have your first ladyboy experience in Thailand, but maybe you won’t journal that one, just look out for the adams apple.
Is this for the gold or silver DOE award?

Where are quentin, rupert and tiggy going to be? i’m sure the blackberry will keep you all in touch. (rowanblades)

and:

That clears that up then. I was initially baffled as to why Guardian Unlimited (a website/publication that I thought had a reasonable amount of integrity) would produce this dollop of crud. But it turns out that ol’ chesnut is to blame; nepotism. Ah sweet, sweet nepotism…how would society function without you?
(calleprofunda)

After the travel editor tried to placate the angry hoarde, moderators eventually decided to switch off comments altogether. The following day, the travel editor posted a defence of Max’s blog. That also recieved some interesting comments.

I think it is a good warning to newspapers to keep tighter control over the type of subjects and people that write for them in their blogs. Just because blogs are relatively cheap to publish doesn’t mean you have the freedom to publish anything and everything. Readers still expect to see something that makes sense in terms of the newspaper’s brand. Doing a “Max Gogarty” may be a way to encourage reader comments, but it’s not going to do your reputation any favours.

[This topic is dong the rounds on t’internet. Other posts include:
Emily Bell – The week that was – football links and other problems
One Man And His Blog – When Mainstream Media Goes Bad
Bete de Jour – Max Gogarty: The Ugly Side of Travelling
Travel Weekly: Guardian’s teenage travel blogger gets flamed
Wayne Type, 19 Hits the Road
and Pete Ashton: Oh, Max… which explains it all better than I.]

No items unread

No Items Unread

OK, so I did use Shift A quite a number of times, but I’m still feeling pretty proud of myself!

Blogs on the brain

I have been bad! Twelve whole days without a single post!

Would it surprise you that I can blame my lack of blogging entirely on… well… blogging?

Over the last two weeks I have been immersed in the creation and organisation of http://blogs.birminghampost.net. It has been a fantastic thing to get stuck into – if not a little hair-raising given the time schedule!

The brief has been to create a blog section for The Post that links into the sectors that we hope to cover. But, within that brief, there was quite a bit of flexibility. Would we just have staff writers? Would we ask for volunteers from outside of The Post? Would we have one blogger per sector, or more?

I had one big aim for the blogs – to get a bigger blogging presence in the West Midlands. My attention has been drawn to the BBC Manchester Blogs Project (thanks Craig and Francois), which includes guest bloggers (some who blog already, some who do not).

It’s an interesting and innovative approach and I like the way it draws people in and allows them to test the water. But, when some only post once and do not have their own blog, it seems to limit the conversation that can build up.

I also looked at some of the approaches that other newspapers have taken to blogging.

Many seem to have labelled blogs as online columns, choosing one or two people to be their “voices of authority”and sticking to them. It has always been an approach that has annoyed me, there’s something quite dictatorial about it.

Newspaper blogs that take this approach also often end up covering rather predictable topics which are probably more interesting to journalists than their readers: an editor spouting forth his wisdom in a “I know better than you” kind of way, a grumpy old man talking about how things aren’t as good as the old days… of course, I’m generalising here, but I think it’s a pattern others might recognise.

Another approach newspapers seem to take to blogs is to open them up to all their staff as an ultra-niche publishing platform for their interests. While many hobby blogs can be great, you can often end up with a collection of blogs that have nothing to do with anything else that appears on the newspaper’s website

So, I’ve been spending the last two weeks putting together a plan and doing a spot of recruiting both inside and outside of the paper. I wanted us to have a mix of experienced bloggers and complete beginners and I wanted them to be covering issues that loosely made sense within the context of The Post. Those who are completely new to the platform will be given help and guidance when and where they want it.

The response has been great… actually better than great. We have a mix of young and old from journalism, business, academia and the creative and cultural sectors. We’ve even had to start a waiting list!

I am under no illusions, however, that everyone who launches a blog with us will stick with it. Blogging is not for everyone, but I’d rather people had a go to see what worked for them. Because we want to keep things flexible for our first wave of Post bloggers, we’ve (hopefully) designed the blogs in a way that factors this in. If they post once or twice and never again, so be it, although I will be working very hard to get them as hooked as I am!

I hope too it’s something that can grow and change as it develops. If we have a demand for niche hobby bloggers, then we can cater for that, or if our site gains a substantial following for a particular topic, we can deal with that too.

Obviously I’ll be relying on you all to tell me what you think when we launch!


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