Archives for posts with tag: Online

I lost my live blogging virginity yesterday.
A lovely sunny day, in the park with friends, it just seemed like the right time.

I was covering ‘The Jomec Derby’ a sporting showdown between the Jomec Allstars (current Diploma students), CJS Old Boys (the alumni) and Staff FC (the staff).
I haven’t written about sport since I penned a match report in primary school so I figured I’d tried something new.

I used The Scribble Live website as recommended by Hannah Waldram.
This site provides users with a pretty power application and integrates most of the features you’d hope for (although if anyone can recommend an alternative please let me know).
I was using the 28-day trial version so some of the features were limited but I was still able to do the following:

  • Create and share an event: sounds basic but the simple interface and template function made it very easy to add your event and then get it out there using a built in URL reducer.
  • Add guest writers: I think one of the most exciting aspect of live blogging is the social component and the possibility of getting a real plurality of voices. This was made easy through the email function and Iphone App.
  • Get comments: Scribble Live provides an address to which readers can email their comments. This is great to get a dialogue going with your audience who can, in theory, shape your coverage in real-time.
  • Use my mobile: well… I should have been able to. If you have an Iphone the app makes it really easy. But for those who have primitive devices it’s a little harder. You should be able to set up text updates (like on twitter) however my activation code never came through. Fortunately I was able to…
  • Source from Twitter: this is one of the best things about Scribble Live. You can add five twitter accounts, the posts from which will be automatically added to the blog. You can also (although I failed to take advantage of this) set up an auto post query, which can be used to draw in content via a hashtag. The twitter integration improves both the social aspect of live blogging as well as boosting your hit count.
  • Add other Media: I originally assumed live blogging meant only text – which would take away from the power of a blog – however Scribble Live allows you to add videos and pictures. You can also integrate your Flickr and photos posted to twitter via Yfrog or Twitpic come up automatically (if you’ve set up the function mentioned above).  Youtube integration wouldn’t go amiss although perhaps there’s an issue with content ownership?

Having set this all up I lugged my laptop down to Pontcanna Fields and took my place on the touchline (with the WAGs and David English). This is where I encountered my first obstacle: A total lack of WiFi.

It was wishful thinking that the field would be within the University’s network coverage. Fortunately I’d prepared for this obstacle and, even though I wasn’t able to text directly to Scribble Live, I was able to text content to my twitter account which I’d set up to feed into the blog.

And I had phone signal… Or at least I thought I had phone signal. I was, once again, betrayed by my handset, which gave the illusion it was sending the messages I thrashed out during the furious first game (Jomec Allstars trumped the CJS old boys 2-0).

It wasn’t till I was walking back to the bar to have a between game Internet session, when my phone started buzzing uncontrollably, that I realised it was only sending the texts now. Around 20 posts went out. 5 minutes after the game had finished. Live blogging disaster.

Thankfully Neil Pooran was on hand to save the day. With his far superior technology – Iphone on a 3G network – Neil was able to document a dramatic second match, a seven goal spectacular with a gutting own goal from Will Bain.

So how would I rate my live blogging experience? Was it everything I’d hoped it would be? It was certainly fun. You get quite a thrill from reporting something in real time. The format itself isn’t suited to all journalism but it’s great for sport and I can see how it could be used well in politics.

But I’m a big believer in giving yourself some ‘thinking space’. Stepping back from a situation and working out what you’re going to say before you write it. Also on a practical level you have a chance to properly check the spelling and grammar. This is more difficult on a live blog, especially if you’re getting caught up in the heat of the moment and are using a phone with stiff buttons and terrible predictive text. Which leads to strange sentences such as:

“Lovely through call from thor”

and

“Allstars vs old boys starts with a brutal table from joe blogs”

Which is great for someone who’s already espoused the importance of accuracy. But all in all it was an enjoyable experience… we should definitely do it again sometime.

Perhaps the Varsity match between Cardiff and City? I feel the format would be perfect for catching the heated dialogue between the two sides. Who’s up for it? From City? Drop me a line and together we can document your devastating defeat.

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The changes brought about by digital technology was the topic which guided discussions at The Cardiff School of Journalism’s 40th Anniversary conference: Tomorrows Journalists Today.
The first of four lectures was titled the Challenges of Convergence and featured Peter Barron of google, Nick Brett of BBC Magazines and Pete Clifton, head of editorial development and multimedia journalism at the BBC.
Topics of discussion included multimedia newsrooms, the democratisation of information and the importance of brand.
Much debate revolved around the way in which technologies such as the Iphone and the IPad are changing the way we consume news. I asked the panel:

“New technologies allow us to tell all sorts of stories in a way that anyone can understand, regardless of literacy or specialist knowledge. However, is there a danger that the cost of new technology will create a digital underclass who are cut off from the events which define their lives?”

Mr Barron responded that prices will fall, particularly as the market gets more competitive.
While Mr Brett told an anecdote about how he uses his IPad to read books in bed which despite not really answering my question, did make me want to buy one.

The second talk was on digital spin and the 2010 election and featured Simon Lewis who from 2009 was the director of communications at 10 Downing Street and Prime Minister’s Spokesman until Gordon Brown’s resignation.
Mr Lewis spoke largely about the culture of corruption which governs political journalism.
He focused on the workings of the journalist lobby which he described as dangerously adversarial, saying that journalists are treating politics like a game instead of acting in the public interest. I asked:

“Will social media and blogs be able to disrupt the traditional political communication or will it they just become another organ of spin?”

Mr Lewis was sceptical about the power of political bloggers saying that while they are excluded from the cosy confines of the lobby they will never get access to the raw information they need to be effective.

A heavy cloud of gloom hung over the third session – Does Regional News Have a Future? – with Alan Edmunds from Media Wales, Ron Jones of Tinopolis, Clive Jones of Netplay and Arwel Owen from S4C.
Much of the discussion involved the potential cuts being imposed on S4C.
There was plenty of talk about regional newspapers as well. I asked:

“The internet should free us up to work anywhere but from my experience it seems that journalism is increasingly becoming a desk job, is this the case? And if so what are we sacrificing by not being out in the community?”

Though Mr Edmunds said that this was partially true he warned against being overly nostalgic for a past which wasn’t as great as we imagine it to be.
Mr Owen said that the journalism industry itself is responsible for this trend by not investing in quality journalism, he cited the BBC as an exmaple of this.
Despite such negativity all four members of the panel said that they were optimistic about the future.
Check out the sketches on Mark Cardwell’s excellent blog.

Thankfully the final talk dispelled the air of doom.
With three recent graduates – Hannah Waldram, Hattie Brett and Sally Rourke – telling the stories of what they’ve gone onto do since leaving Cardiff School of Journalism.
The three presentations were massively encouraging.
I thought the most interesting fact was that, although all three women work online, they’re still using the skills and techniques of traditional journalism.
This seems to be more common among young journalists, who make little distinction between digital and print.
And I think this is an encouraging trend for tomorrow’s Journalism.

It is the duty of each successive generation of journalists to assess their relationship with truth and it seems that transparency may be the most honest device a modern reporter can employ.
This is what I took from today’s lecture by Claire Wardle on Journalism and Social Media.

Dr Wardle spoke about the challenges faced by traditional media outlets – good to know I’m not the only one – in keeping up with the changes brought about by the Internet.
She provided an exciting run down of these developments drawing on the availability of information and the increase in connectivity to show what a good time it is to be a journalist.

But she warned that journalists must also be mindful of these facts when putting together a story.
The arrogant assumption that we are privy to special, secret knowledge should be abandoned, replaced instead with a respect for the reader and a recognition that they may well know more about the subject than you do.

Therefore Dr Wardle recommended making content out of the process, showing the steps we take and sharing the content we collect on our way to getting a story.
This will not only give veracity and realism to our work but will also heighten the audience’s interest in the story by making them feel part of it.
Also by including the audience in on our projects we are able to draw upon their knowledge to develop and enhance our story.

This notion of a news story as being organic and changing struck a chord with other people in the group.
After the lecture Richard Welbirg and I discussed the drawbacks of narrative storytelling and the potential of the Internet to remedy this.
I argued that if transparent journalism is all about improving your work by accepting the limitations of your craft then surely, in recognising the artifice of a self-contained story we can draw attention to the way in which an event connects to wider issues:

Perhaps integrating what Dr Wardle described as the audiences desire for ‘the moment’ and ‘the background’.

I’ve enjoyed watching the web frenzy prompted by Andrew Marr’s comments about blogging.
A strong dose of blind irony and self-contradiction never fails to brighten my day.
Marr is clearly well up on his blogs, having read so many that their “spewings and rantings” seem to have bled into his style:

“A lot of bloggers seem to be socially inadequate, pimpled, single, slightly seedy, bald, cauliflower-nosed, young men sitting in their mother’s basements and ranting. They are very angry people.”

Ouch. Say what you want about my writing but leave my vegetable features out of this.
The Internet community then outdid itself with a selection of responses, which vindicated Marr in splendid style.
My favourite of these was this splendid piece of journalism the power of which will surely have the fathers of the fourth estate shaking in their boots:

“Andrew Marr, however, is a bald, jug-eared, media whore whose pathetic and slavish devotion to NuLabour may or may not be influenced by his employment by the extortion-funded BBC and his marriage to Jackie Ashley, the raddled-looking harridan daughter of a life peer who writes for both The New Statesman and The Grauniad.”

The saddest thing about this piece was that it actually had some good points hiding beneath the bile – regarding the limitations of citizen journalists and the threat to commentators – but these were lost in a barrage of hate.
A Measured response came from Paul Bradshaw who wisely highlighted the shortcomings in Marr’s arguments by using his own words to trap him.
But my favourite comment was that of Adam Tinworth (who will soon be appearing at Cardiff University as part of the Online Journalism module).
Speaking on Twitter he simply said:

“You can do journalism on a blog, [Marr’s] making a massive category error. Blog = container, not activity”

I think this is completely true.
Journalism is a practise, it has less to do with where you are published and more to do with how you conduct yourself and the skill set you use.
My personal and professional goal is to produce work, which measures up to the standards set by my favourite journalists.
I don’t care whether I do this for a paper or for a blog.
What I am interested in is reaching the greatest number of people and if it’s blogging which allows me to achieve this then so be it.
I believe communication to be the essence of journalism and what you have to do is find the ‘container’, which will best facilitate this.

Glyn Mottershead and Hannah Waldram kicked off what promises to be a 10 weeks of stimulating discussion about the changing face of online journalism.
Glyn gave us a brief run down of the key issues interspersed with LOLcats and XKCD maps (to illustrate key points of course).
He then introduced Hannah who shared her experiences of course.
She warned against cynicism and viewing new technologies as a ‘fad’. Instead she said we should be playful and experimental.
Sage advice I think. It seems to me that the key to online success is discovering how to make technology work for you, so as to better achieve the things you want to do in Journalism.
If a piece of new hardware or application software allows us enter into a greater dialogue with a larger number of people then it should be embraced.
After all if we are to believe Harold Evans “news is people”.
To be fearful or unduly reverent of new technologies is completely unjustified.
The history of Journalism (like the history of human society in general) is totally tied up with technological discovery.
Typewriters, telephones and fax machines all changed the way in which journalists worked.
What they didn’t do was alter what journalist’s role of “serving the community by helping inform citizens in a democratic society”.
This is a duty which pre-dates the Gutenburg Galaxy and which will not be discharged even after the last printing press falls silent for the final time.