30 May 2008

Courier To Crowdsource Interviews

Visitors to the Halifax Courier’s website now have the chance to put their questions to some well known faces.

The crowdsourcing experiment is a joint project between the newspaper and interactive website Yoosk, which enables the public to quiz celebrities and public figures.

Registered users can submit their questions and fellow visitors then vote on the five best teasers to be put to the interviewee.

First to face the results from the crowdsourcing initiative will be BBC regional weatherman Paul Hudson.

And among the questions he could be facing are: “What will the weather in Halifax be like in early June 2040?” and “Did you predict the Sheffield floods?”

The final five posers and Hudson’s responses will be available online and in the Courier’s print edition.

Johnson Press’s group editorial content manager told journalism.co.uk that the joint project hands control over to users.

Mark Woodward said: “In print we have always given readers the inside track on what is going on in their community - with this partnership we can take this a stage further and put the reader in the driving seat when it comes to questioning local personalities and people in power.”

He added: “The ability for readers to then rate and judge responses means accountability is also taken to another level.”

[Disclosure: Halifax Courier is a Johnston Press publication.]

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Merger Aims For “Rich Diet Of Multimedia”

Newsquest has announced that its Glasgow titles are set to merge their online operations this year as part of a £1m makeover.

The new digital venture for the Herald, Sunday Herald and Evening Times aims to provide a greater range of multimedia offerings, from video interviews to podcasts and slideshows.

According to Holdthefrontpage.co.uk, increasing interaction with users is also high on the agenda for the joint site.

“We can significantly grow the audience for our excellent journalism by taking full advantage of the technologies available,” said newly appointed online editor, David Milne.

He added: “We aim to be fast and authoritative on breaking news, have a rich diet of multimedia content and offer users the most comprehensive and compelling ideas and debates platform in Scotland.”


29 May 2008

Trinity’s Hounslow Goes Hyperlocal

The new website of the Middlesex Chronicle series of newspapers has gone live.

Hounslowchronicle.co.uk is part of Trinity Mirror’s rollout of revamped sites with news pages covering hyperlocal areas.

Visitors to the new website can now directly access news for areas including Feltham, Brentford, Isleworth and Hounslow.

Trinity Mirror hopes that readers will provide some of the hyperlocal community news content which can then be reverse published in the print issues, reports Holdthefrontpage.co.uk.

“The arrival of hounslowchronicle.co.uk is undoubtedly the key development for the future of the Chronicle brand,” said Janice Raycroft, series editor.

She added: “From this week the service we offer readers and advertisers is unsurpassed and taking a clear - and very exciting - direction to the future of multimedia publishing.”

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New Tools Tell Vegas Story

A multimedia project chronicling the history of Las Vegas has been launched by a regional newspaper.

Staff and university interns worked for almost six months on the large-scale feature, which tells the story of Vegas and many of its big name associates.

The History of Fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada” boasts video documentaries, archive film, a timeline and an interactive map introducing the city’s many casinos.

It also has podcasts, hundreds of archive photographs as well as new and “vintage” articles about all aspects of the city, from its relations to the Mob to atomic bomb tests.

And the crowning glory of the project has to be the 11-part video documentary, “Boomtown: The Story Behind Sin City”, which charts the development of Vegas decade-by-decade.

The newspaper’s new media managing editor explains the practicalities behind putting the history together in this post to the Digital Edge blog.

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28 May 2008

Post Streams Pub Feature Live Online

The Lancashire Evening Post streamed live video using a mobile phone last week in a first for the newspaper.

Journalists went to a Preston pub to shoot footage for their feature examining the state of the pub industry.

The video was accompanied on the site by a live blog which enabled visitors to put their questions to the landlord.

Prior to filming the feature, digital editor Martin Hamer told Journalism.co.uk he hoped the live video would provide online users with a different perspective on the story.

He said: “We’re acting as the eyes and ears of the public and offering them a window into that pub, as if they’re there.

“They can ask questions, they can get involved - the only thing they can’t do is order a pint and drink it.”

Hamer and the LEP team used Qik software to stream the footage and used CoverItLive for the live blog.

[Disclosure: The LEP is a Johnston Press publication.]

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27 May 2008

Royal Visit ‘Live Blogged’

The Queen’s visit to Liverpool handed editors another opportunity to provide live coverage online.

Journalists at the Liverpool Daily Post and Liverpool Echo provided real-time reports on the royal walkabout via a live blog using CoverItLive software.

About a dozen reporters, video journalists and photographers were in the field for the event and sent updates to the blog throughout the visit.

Links to photographs were posted as they were filed and the two editors also issued blog updates about their activities back in the office.

As well as providing users with a real-time perspective on happenings in the city, the blog offered a single forum where editorial staff could communicate with one another throughout the day, whether they were out and about or at their desks.

This is not the first time Daily Post and Echo staff members have flexed their live blogging muscles, they used the tool before as part of local elections coverage.

Live blogging was also used recently to provide readers with an insight into the goings on in a regional newsroom and the blog attracted about 1,600 visitors.

More about this editorial live blog can be found at Holdthefrontpage.co.uk.

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Comments Interaction Rules Considered

How journalists communicate with readers via comment threads is being discussed at the Guardian.

Managers at the national newspaper are working on producing guidelines which will recommend the most effective ways for reporters to utilise and interact with user comments.

Director of Digital Emily Bell told Journalism.co.uk: “We haven’t got something which is nailed up on the office wall yet saying these are the ten rules for engagement, but we are having internal discussions about what these should be.”

She added that interacting in comment threads represents a specific multimedia skill and is “something you have to learn”.

“For all content-based analysis and commentary websites, if you are serious about having news and analysis and having a community around that, these are new skills that we’ve got to develop.”

Bell also asserted that journalists should delve into user comments for potential stories, paying particular attention to those posted by readers on a specialist interest issue.

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26 May 2008

Text Alerts For Sports Fans In Hull

This month saw the Hull Daily Mail launch its first ever mobile service with Sports Flash text alerts.

Supporters of local football team Hull City and two rugby league sides can sign up to receive breaking news exclusives about their respective clubs.

Each club has its own Sports Flash subscription service, with text messages costing between 10p and 12p depending upon the network provider.

Senior assistant editor Paul Hartley told Holdthefrontpage.co.uk: “The potential of mobile for the delivery of content is huge.

“The SMS alerts are our first step down this road but we’ll be looking to exploit this technology further in the future.”

He added that Tigers Flash, Rovers Flash and Hull FC Flash will only text important stories that readers will not have read or seen elsewhere.

“We will only send out an SMS alert for major breaking stories which we know we can publish first and Mail exclusives.”

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How To Attract Citizen Bloggers

Trying to set up a readers’ blogging community but struggling to attract interest?

Help is at hand with a five-step guide to encouraging ‘citizen bloggers’ from Online Journalism Review (OJR).

The guide is aimed at local news editors and offers some great practical tips on creating an active blogging community.

Here’s a selection of OJR’s recommendations:

1 - Keep It Simple

It has to be easy for users to register for a blogging account and to submit posts.

Bloggers should be given easy to remember URLs for their blog page as they’re easier for telling friends and help pick up search engine traffic.

Offer automated promotional tools such as RSS feeds and pings to the main blog search sites.

2 - Easy To Find

It needs to be easy for visitors to find readers’ blogs from the newspaper’s homepage- aim for two links or fewer.

Linking the pick of the blogs from the homepage will enhance Google PageRank positions and enable quicker indexing in search engines.

3 - Recognise Top Bloggers

Create a system where readers or editorial staff can highlight the most impressive blogs and have these listed and linked to on the blogging front page or homepage.

4 - Blog By Topic

Rather than inviting readers to blog on anything, it can be more effective to split blogs into themes and encourage users to write about particular topics they are interested in.

5 - Lead By Example

Journalists must provide a model blog using the same software tools as those offered to readers.

This will provide inspiration, an example of effective blog writing and enables users to see a connection between themselves and the newsroom.

Editors also need to assume the leadership role when it comes to providing bloggers with “clear and consistent” guidelines about conduct, language and so on.

And don’t make them all negative - guidelines can also include writing tips.

View the full list at OJR.

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23 May 2008

Mojos: Pros And Cons

The rapid growth of mobile journalism in the US is outlined in a recent Editor & Publisher article.

Significant numbers of American newspapers are investing in so-called mojo kits so their journalists can get out on the road in search of stories.

So E & P has spoken to editors from across the country to ascertain some of the advantages and disadvantages of the roving remote reporter.

On the plus side, the Fort Myers News-Press editor says creating mojos definitely increases the amount of online material being produced and helps fill the newshole.

Kate Marymont also points out that mojos improve contact between the newsroom and the local community and are able to file stories and visual content fast.

Then there’s the ability to get to places quickly, an advantage illustrated by News-Press mojo Mark Krzos who reveals that he sometimes beats the police to the scene of an incident.

Being in the right place at the right time can also provide mojos with better-than-expected stories.

The fact that Seattle Times mojo Peyton Whitely works from his car most of the time enabled him to get right into the thick of it during a large storm and power outage that paralysed most of the city.

However, not all editors and journalists are convinced about remote reporting and E & P includes some thoughts on the downsides.

Tim Franklin from the Baltimore Sun worries that mojos are missing out on the exchange of ideas and editorial guidance that they can get in the newsroom.

And even ‘mojo convert’ Marymont says the volume of information being filed to the web by mojos can be overwhelming and requires effective organisation.

Plus E & P adds that mojo kits – including laptops, video cameras, audio recorders and mobile phones – hardly come cheap and can cost $14,800 (£7,500) each.

Find out more on this story at E & P.

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Police Pics Boost Post-Match Reports

Video footage of last week’s clashes between football fans and police in Manchester brings an extra dimension to a website’s post-match coverage.

The Manchester Evening News has almost ten minutes’ of video showing the violent scenes which occurred between police and Glasgow Rangers supporters who had travelled to the city for the UEFA Cup Final.

And the dramatic film captures the moment when a policeman falls to the ground and is attacked by a group of men.

Some of the pictures, which were supplied to the newspaper by the police, come from permanent CCTV cameras in the city centre and others from a hovering police helicopter.

The Evening News also has picture galleries showing clashes between riot police and fans as well as photographs showing the centre of Manchester the following day.

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22 May 2008

Twittering China’s Earthquake

The importance of Twitter as a news-gathering and news reporting tool is being debated in the aftermath of the Chinese earthquake.

Journalists and new media experts are discussing the role of the micro-blogging platform during the recent catastrophe in Sichuan province and here’s a brief introduction to the main issues.

The big story floating around the mainstream media and blogosphere is the claim made by blogger Robert Scoble that news of the earthquake was broken in the US via Twitter before traditional news providers and the US Geological Survey reported it.

Scoble’s claims have prompted BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones to suggest that these events could have a dramatic effect on the success of Twitter in the future.

He notes on the dot.life blog: “Let’s see, as this story unfolds, whether this is the moment when Twitter comes of age as a platform which can bring faster coverage of a major news event than traditional media, while allowing participants and onlookers to share their experiences.”

Significant numbers of new media bloggers would no doubt agree with this sentiment, and several have pointed out its use during the event as an information source.

Writing on Poynter Online, China-based advisor and blogger Fons Tuinstra asserted that the micro-blogging platform quickly became an important resource.

“Twitter developed in just a few hours into an excellent information tool, combining different sources of information.

“I knew more about the earthquake than many people in China.”

And according to an AFP story, journalists working for mainstream media are reported to have used Twitter as a source of information in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake when putting together their own articles.

While non-profit news provider Global Voices Online embedded tweets posted by users from within China as part of its breaking news coverage.

And for those who want to know more, journalism lecturer Paul Bradshaw has provided a detailed round-up on his blog of how Twitter and its various applications were employed by users and reporters.

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Talking Headlines At Telegraph

Users of the Grimsby Telegraph website can now receive the latest headlines from a virtual newsreader.

Newsbot Kate Carter is an animated talking head on the site’s homepage who provides visitors with a round-up of the latest local stories and breaking news.

Editor Michelle Lalor revealed that the idea for a virtual reporter came about as the newspaper wanted to further enhance its online offerings.

She said: “Breaking news 24-hours-a-day has been the norm for at least two years, and we have consistently been adding more interactive content to the site.

“We have done so much to it, we were left scratching our heads a little about what more we could do - and then the idea of the newsbot was born.

“They are a great example of how differently news can be reported - it’s all about novelty and fun.”

And according to Holdthefrontpage.co.uk, journalists at the Telegraph have gone as far as to give Kate Carter an individual identity with a family, back story and personality traits.

Lalor added: “Of course, Kate is only virtual, but we wanted to give her a personality to make her what she effectively is - a new member of the reporting team.”


21 May 2008

Multimedia Awards Shortlist Unveiled

Press Gazette has revealed the news sites and journalists battling for the multimedia prizes included in its regional press awards.

The seven titles shortlisted for the Multimedia Publisher of the Year award are:

Hull Daily Mail
Liverpool Daily PostManchester Evening News
Express & Echo, Exeter
Evening Gazette, Middlesborough
Evening Chronicle, Newcastle
Oxford Mail

While there are also seven nominees in the Multimedia Journalist of the Year category, and they are as follows:

Adrian Sudbury - Huddersfield Daily Examiner
James Shaw - Shropshire Star
Jessica Salter - Manchester Evening News
Jessica Shaughnessy - Liverpool Daily Post
Lauren Pyrah - Northern Echo
Simon Parkin - Norwich Evening News
Tony Clixby - Chester Chronicle

The winners will be announced at the awards ceremony on June 13, and further details on the event and the nominees can be found at Press Gazette.

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YouTube Opens Channel For Citizen Journos

Citizen journalists from around the world can see their work side by side on a new YouTube channel.

Citizen News says it is dedicated to hosting video content produced by citizen journalists and aims to offer a single go-to location for non-mainstream news.

According to ReadWriteWeb: “YouTube now wants to bring some of the focus on citizen journalism back to their site, where so many of today’s citizen journalists post and share their work.”

YouTube visitors are also encouraged to flag up examples of citizen journalism pieces posted elsewhere on the video-sharing site so they can be added to the channel.

A post from the people at Citizen News explains the ethos behind the venture: “Thanks to better, cheaper, and easier access to video equipment, there’s an amazing amount of news being reported on YouTube every single day by citizens in all corners of the globe.

“You’re conducting interviews with local community leaders, doing weekly reports on the latest campus news for your school television station, and investigating untold stories you think the world should know about.

“This stuff is fantastic, but we want to see more from you all and to bring more citizen journalists into the fold.”

Among the current favourite videos on the channel is a report on a camp for displaced persons in Sudan and coverage of a visit to Oregon by Democratic nomination hopeful Barack Obama.

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Pompey Online Goes Football Crazy

The News is helping fans to celebrate Portsmouth’s cup win with extensive online coverage.

Visitors to the newspaper’s website can access an array of multimedia reports on Saturday’s FA Cup Final from the Wembley 08 gateway page.

Among the special features are videos of supporters and the players at the London stadium as well as video footage of celebrating fans watching the game on big screens at Southsea Common in Portsmouth.

There are also several photo slideshows and picture galleries which capture many of the day’s most memorable images.

And fans are encouraged to contribute via a message page where they can post their congratulations to the club and by submitting their photos from the big day.

More details on the News’s coverage of the final can be found at Holdthefrontpage.co.uk.

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20 May 2008

Step-By-Step Guide To Facebook Traffic

Everything you ever wanted to know about Facebook applications but were afraid to ask is now featured on Poynter Online.

Well, everything may be a slight exaggeration but blog post How To Create Facebook Applications does contain some very useful tips for journalists looking to dip their toes into the waters of social networking websites.

Poynter Online shows how to do so by using the example of an application recently created for one of its own news blogs which enables people to access posts from their Facebook profile pages.

“We wanted to use this application to learn more about the best vehicles to drive traffic to Poynter Online using a Facebook application,” writes Interactivity Editor Ellyn Angelotti.

She includes a video guide to show how she created the widget using widgetbox and then charts the number of Facebook users who added the application to their profile page and those who registered as fans.

The application seems to have had an immediate impact with over 100 users signing up to it within the first few days, enhancing the reach of the blog.

And numbers were improved further by the addition of a Facebook button on the blog page.

The full guide to creating a Facebook application features on Poynter Online.

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19 May 2008

Derby Coverage Goes The Final Furlong

A newspaper has really lasted the distance with its comprehensive online coverage of the Kentucky Derby.

Louisville’s Courier-Journal had a total of 36 freelancers and staff out on the course during the horseracing festival in order to serve up a feast of multimedia news and entertainment.

For the racing enthusiasts the website provided text alerts of results, extensive photo galleries of the competitors, video footage from the event and Derby Day screensavers.

The glamorous side of the world famous event was also covered in-depth through the Buzz blog, showbiz news text alerts and video interviews with celebrity visitors.

And race-goers were encouraged to get involved with the coverage by helping to create picture galleries and enter photo competitions.

In addition, registered members could start their own blog or chat to others about Derby Day via forums and comment sections.

Taken all round, the website’s a great example of event coverage using all the latest tools and technologies.

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16 May 2008

Guide To “Mastering Twitter”

The best way to learn about Twitter is to try using it, according to blogger Paul Bradshaw.

And to help journalists do this, the Birmingham City University lecturer has assembled “a guide to mastering Twitter as a journalist”, which includes lots of tips about some nifty Twitter applications.

So here are a few highlights from his guide to the microblogging platform:

Newsgathering Via Twitter

- “The more people you follow on Twitter, the more likely you are to come across a lead or a useful contact.”

- “Try Twits Like Me to find people who twitter about the same things as you.”

- “Twitterlocal will help you find twitterers in your local area.”

Managing Your Contacts

- “Desktop applications like Twhirl and Snitter will give you an audio alert; the latter also allows you to filter your tweets (for keywords for instance).”

- “Set up Twitter to send updates to your mobile phone. It's free, and is particularly useful for following what’s happening while you’re on the move.”

- Track your own username to pick up messages aimed at you or track keywords of relevance to your patch.

News Publishing Via Twitter

- Tweet breaking news before posting articles in order to “get to the top of Google quickly”.

- Use applications such as TwitPic and Twiddeo to post breaking news tweets with photos or video.

- “Tap into its social, conversational nature - or combine the RSS feeds from a number of twitterers.”

The full guide is available to view on Journalism.co.uk.

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15 May 2008

Local Site Draws Video Views With Becks

Footage of footballer David Beckham is dominating the most viewed video chart of thisiscornwall.co.uk.

Clips of the international star training youngsters on the Isles of Scilly have accounted for some 80% of video views after the website was the only regional news provider to obtain the images.

Most of the footage comes from the advertisement Beckham was filming, but the site also has a short video interview with the LA Galaxy player where he says how much he enjoyed working on the island.

Holdthefrontpage.co.uk reports that thisiscornwall has also enhanced its coverage with readers’ photographs of Becks taken during his visit last year.


14 May 2008

Multimedia Story Earns Investigative Honour

A Norwegian newspaper has received a journalism award for its large-scale multimedia project about victims of domestic violence.

Journalists at the tabloid VG were honoured with the Skup-diploma for investigative journalism for their work researching the deaths of over 70 women at the hands of abusive partners.

Blogger Kristine Lowe writes that the multimedia project (links to Norwegian language site) comprised front-page stories in the print edition supplemented by in-depth web articles, videos, interviews and online chats.

Writing on Journalism.co.uk, she reports that the initiative took a total of six months to complete and has led to changes in the way domestic violence incidents are recorded by the police.

Revealing its decision, the jury said of the VG story: “In contrast to other countries, we did not know how many women were killed by their husbands, partners and boyfriends in Norway.

“VG’s project required extensive research, meticulous accuracy and careful ethical considerations.

“Wounds had to be ripped open, next of kin contacted and identification approved for 72 murders committed over a period of seven years.”

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13 May 2008

Users Help Beeb Map Credit Crunch

A map showing the perceived effects of the current economic slowdown has been put together by the BBC and a group of spatial analysts.

Visitors to the website for BBC radio programme iPM have provided the data for the map by answering which single factor is affecting them most during the “credit crunch”.

The map is then updated every 30 minutes and illustrates the differences in financial concerns across the UK.

According to the iPM blog: “We like this idea of crowdsourcing - where we recruit you in an act of journalism to help us create a picture of an aspect of UK life.”

It continues: “In a totally unscientific study that makes no claims to be anything other than a (potentially) interesting experiment, we want to create a mood map of the credit crunch. And we hope to use it to inform our journalism.”

Featured on MapTube, the graphic is the result of collaborative work between the broadcaster and the Centre for Advanced Spatial Awareness (CASA).

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12 May 2008

Website ‘To Be Springboard For Local Business’

A new regional business news website has been launched to cover the East Midlands region.

The site has been created by local publisher Northcliffe and features content pooled from several of the company’s titles in the region, reports Holdthefrontpage.co.uk.

It includes national and global business news and links to local business services covering sectors such as motors, jobs and property.

Thisisbusiness-eastmidlands.co.uk also has links to Northcliffe website thisismoney.co.uk.

Bringing the East Midlands business sector to the attentions of a global audience is one of the key motivating factors behind the new site, according to Northcliffe Midlands managing director Alex Leys.

Leys states: “Thisisbusiness-eastmidlands has the opportunity to become the reflector of commercial activity on a daily basis to a worldwide online audience.

“Allying thisisbusiness to the pages of the daily titles in the region will create a new springboard for everyone who has the ambition of the East Midlands at heart.”

The newspapers supplying content for the new website are: Derby’s Evening Telegraph, the Leicester Mercury, the Lincolnshire Echo, the Nottingham Evening Post and the Stoke Sentinel.


09 May 2008

Hyperlocal Site Offers New Business Model

A new community news initiative in the US says its business model could earn contributors up to £30,000 a year.

OurTown owns about 70,000 websites covering hyperlocal areas across the country and is seeking local editors to run them via a licensing agreement.

Appointed editors will then be able to keep money generated from the site’s local advertisements and a portion of the revenue from national ads included on their particular site.

OurTown’s chief news officer and veteran journalist George Blake recently reaffirmed the company’s claims that this business model could enable local editors to earn up to $60,000 (£30,760) a year.

Blake told Online Journalism Review: “Our model is completely ad supported (including local classified ads) and we believe that a good local editor can make between $45,000 and $60,000 each year once they have built up a regular clientele in their area.”

He added: “We give local editors the tools they need for ad sales and ad placement. We bill the advertiser for them.

“Success is very achievable because the local advertisers want to build their close-to-home business and the OurTown websites offer a new opportunity for them.

“Unlike the daily newspaper that needs to sell the $100,000 ad contract, OurTown editors can sell $100-a-month contracts and create significant income.”

Blake also revealed that OurTown is using a screening process to ensure it appoints the right people for the job and is using contacts within journalism to find them.

And he asserted that the business model should provide the incentive needed to run effective websites since more traffic means more money for the editors.

Although he added: “If a site is not updated regularly or contains content that is inappropriate, we retain the option to pull the editor’s licence.”

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Daily Mail Beta - 7 Pluses

A beta version of the Daily Mail website is now online and open for feedback from users.

The Mail is using the test site to try out some new ideas so net consultant and blogger Martin Belam has provided a list of the seven things he likes about it.

1 - Picture Panel

A prominent part of the new design is a photo panel in the centre of the top of the homepage which rotates several images throughout the day and enables users to link directly through to the stories.

2 - Soft Focus

Belam says the new site places stronger emphasis on lighter stories branded as Femail with the right-hand column devoted to stories on style and showbiz news, although he says it could run the risk of becoming a downmarket version of its print counterpart.

3 - Headlines Archive

This new addition chronologically lists every story published each day, categorised by section.

Belam writes that it’s “a useful variation on the section-based browse mechanism used across the rest of the site”.

4 - Polls

The site has a page dedicated to user opinion polls.

“Casting a vote is a satisfying user experience, with a great big custom tick appearing across the check-boxes on the form.”

5 - Quirky Stuff

The homepage has a photo strip called “Fancy That”, featuring picture-led stories of the weird and wonderful from around the world.

“It is a very visual way of showcasing quirky content that is likely to generate click-throughs.”

6 - Clippings

Users can create their own page of personalised content page by making clippings of up to 50 their favourite articles.

7 - Beta Better

“I love the fact that it is a Beta. Not many mainstream media organisations have been brave enough to engage with widespread testing of new designs on their audience in this way.”

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Northcliffe New Site Offers “Breadth and Depth”

Northcliffe has launched its first redeveloped local news website with thisishullandeastriding.

The new-look site features major changes in style and content and also has a fully specified mobile version, becoming the first Northcliffe site to offer this service.

Holdthefrontpage.co.uk reports that Northcliffe’s new generation of websites aims to offer improved site navigation and enhanced search engine performance.

Hull Daily Mail editor John Meehan also asserts that the website features more content which is directly tailored to meet the needs of an online audience.

“The stories are also edited specially with web users in mind and will carry more photos and related content, giving you more breadth and depth to each story,” comments Meehan.

He adds: “The new-look site is much easier on the eye, using more white space to help create an open feel.

“Navigation, including the content tabs across the top of the site, has been greatly improved to help you find what you want more easily.”

And among these content tabs, which feature at the top and bottom of the homepage, are options such as Business and Slideshows.

Northcliffe plans to roll out the new websites to all its local titles by autumn this year.

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08 May 2008

Video Tips From Wash Po

Effective video journalism is vital for a stable news organisation, according to Chet Rhodes from the Washington Post.

The newspaper’s assistant managing editor for video says future news groups need a successful balance of video, photography and text-based journalism and he has offered some tips on how to work towards achieving this.

Rhodes’s advice, featuring on the editorsweblog, comprises strategies for training reporters to use video and for shooting and organisation.

So here’s a few tips from his experiences at the Post:

Shooting & Organisation

*When first starting out, videos lacking in quality but with interesting content can be acceptable.

*“We don’t want reporters to try to shoot documentaries.” - Rhodes says short interviews and simple shots that set the scene are great.

*TV anchor style news round-ups do not work on websites.

*Videos should conclude with journalists speculating on “what’s next”.

“Our reporters can tell people what’s next in a way that no television reporters can do, because for the most part they don’t have the same deep knowledge as do newspaper reporters.”


*Keep it voluntary.

*The main idea is to help reporters recognise which stories are suited to video.

*Practical training sessions should be followed up over the long-term via a “conversation that lasts several years”.

*Allow journalists to decide when video could be useful to avoid fears it will hamper text-based articles.


Speech Search From Google

A new addition to Google News enables users to search for quotations within news stories.

The search engine says the idea is to allow people to find original quotes from speeches made by politicians and other public figures.

Users access the new option by searching for a name in Google News which then brings up, before articles found about this person, a quote results link and a recent quote if there is one.

The searcher can then click on the link to be taken to pages of excerpts from speeches made by the person and reported by the media.

Google says users can then search within these quotations for specific key terms.

For example, I searched for Gordon Brown and clicked on his quotes results page.

Then I performed a search within these results for terms such as election and credit crunch, which produced a small number of relevant quotes and links to the original articles in which they feature.

This seems a useful tool for journalists, and Google reckons it has a mass appeal too as it will enable people to keep track of what their “favourite politician, actor or sports star is saying”.


Rivals Sharing Stories Online

An American state’s eight biggest newspapers are to begin sharing some of their online news articles.

Cyberjournalist reports that the titles have formed the Ohio News Organization (OHNO), a system by which they agree to use each other’s stories on their websites.

Each afternoon the editorial teams will upload relevant stories onto a shared screen and will then select which ones they would like to include on their own sites.

The readers’ representative at one of the participating newspapers has asserted that the agreement does not spell the end to competition between the titles, but aims to address changes within the industry.

“We almost always break our stories online now as soon as they happen, so they’re not exactly a secret from the other newspapers anyway,” said Ted Diadium from the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

He added: “So why not give readers all over Ohio the benefit of the best work from each corner of the state?”

And Diadium explained that the system will cut out the middle man - news wire services - so the newspapers will share directly with each other and improve speed of service.

“In today’s world, breaking news is measured in minutes, not days.

“It’s important that we provide our readers with the best news report we can, as soon as we can, on our Website and in the best and most current newspaper possible each day.”

He concluded that the new agreement “doesn’t mean we’re not competing”.

“The difference now is that when we get to a good story first, not only our readers get to see it, but so do readers of the Dispatch and the other papers.”

Among the other newspapers taking part in OHNO are the Columbus Dispatch, the Toledo Blade, the Cincinnati Enquirer and the Akron Beacon Journal.


07 May 2008

Elections - Online Coverage Highlights

The council and mayoral elections provided journalists with a great opportunity to indulge in a bit of online multimedia reporting.

Here’s just a small selection to give an idea of what was happening on the Web during and immediately after the vote counts.

 Live Blogging

The Liverpool Daily Post set up a live blog which was posted to by ten reporters in different locations across the city.

Using CoverItLive software, the blog featured immediate updates and election results as they were declared.

The BBC also ran a live blog throughout Thursday night, hosted by Newsnight anchor Emily Maitlis.

Emily’s Election also included live posts from political bloggers representing the three main parties.

 Twitter

Wrexham’s Evening Leader posted immediate updates to its Twitter feed throughout Thursday night.

Digital Editor Christian Dunn told Holdthefrontpage.co.uk: “Our websites, and services such as Twitter, really give us back an advantage - allowing local journalists to be at the forefront of breaking news.”

He added: “This means that regional newspapers, like the Evening Leader, can finally break news just as fast as the big boys - even Sky and the BBC.”

And the nationals also made use of Twitter on election night, with the Guardian posting results tweets.

While blogger and lecturer Paul Bradshaw created a feeds filter application to show how many people were twittering about London mayoral election candidates Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson.

 Video

The Bolton News had several videojournalists hard at work on election night and their presence paid off as they secured an interview with prominent Labour MP Ruth Kelly.

Videojournalists at the Liverpool Daily Post captured some of the images of the night and produced an interesting overview of the results.

And the BBC’s live blog also boasted embedded video clips featuring interviews with Boris Johnson’s dad and impressionist Jon Culshaw.

 User-Generated Content

The Liverpool Daily Post had a small section where visitors could submit their own stories, pictures and comments about the election.

And the Evening Standard hosted some lively debates on its mayoral election messageboards.

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Tabloid Launches Facebook Sports Quiz

Sports fans in Chicago now have the chance to see their witticisms in print thanks to a newspaper’s use of Facebook.

The application from daily tabloid RedEye invites Facebook users to take part in its mock quiz where fans compete to give their funniest responses to the day’s burning sports question.

Members can then vote for their favourite and the winner is included in the newspaper’s print version of the game - known as Five on Five.

Editor & Publisher reports: “The Five on Five page is RedEye’s latest use of Facebook, the social networking site which, like the commuter daily, targets a younger, urban, and professional demographic.

“A RedEye announcement quoted the frequent Five on Five contributor, Bag Boy, who wears a shopping bag over his head: ‘Facebook is for delusional people with too much time on their hands. That’s why I’m confident all Chicago sports fans will join me on it.’”


Newbury News Launches Business Website

Newbury Weekly News Group has become the latest publisher to launch a specialist business site.

The website - newburybusinesstoday.co.uk - is dedicated to commercial news within the Berkshire area and also includes other stories and information of interest to local businesspeople.

Holdthefrontpage.co.uk reports that the website will run alongside the media group’s current print business publication, which is included with the Newbury Weekly News as a free monthly supplement.

As well as business news and features, the site offers directories of local traders and a searchable photo gallery with pictures from the latest social networking events.

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06 May 2008

Telegraph Creates Web Lab

Editorial, technical and commercial staff at the Daily Telegraph are joining forces in a bid to produce innovative ideas for online services.

Press Gazette reports that the national newspaper has just launched its Telegraph Labs initiative, which is designed to bring journalists together with IT specialists in a creative environment.

“It’s meant as a space where we take people on four to six-week cycles, take them out of their day jobs and get them to focus on a specific thing, and get them to rapidly create something that we can put out there very quickly,” explains Paul Cheesbrough, chief information officer at the Telegraph.

Cheesbrough hopes that the rotation system will enable as many staff members as possible to participate.

He adds: “We’re trying to move as many people as possible through to bring some of its culture back out onto the floor.”

The project already has some targets in sight, with the development of mobile internet services likely to figure among them.

Cheesbrough also states that the Lab hopes to come up with a new online product idea every month, although he stresses that success rates are not the be all and end all of the scheme.

“It is a safe place for people to work on things that might be high-risk and might be subject to failure, but that’s alright as long as we learn things out of it.”

ABC Considers Mobile Traffic Metrics

Audited data on mobile web users could be made available to media groups in the near future.

Reports state that the electronic arm of the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABCe) is currently looking at the feasibility of supplying mobile metrics to its members.

The news comes after significant numbers of mobile advertisers, operators and media owners called for accurate reporting of mobile user statistics in order to aid the growth of the medium.

Meanwhile, US firm Nielsen Online recently unveiled a new online measurement tool which is able to track mobile internet use.

Further details on this story can be found at Editor & Publisher, while more details on the ABC plans can be viewed at Journalism.co.uk and at the Sunday Business Post Online.

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Amateur Video Captures High Drama

A video shot by a passer-by shows a dramatic helicopter rescue at the top of York Minster.

The footage of a helicopter hovering above the cathedral was sent to the York Press by one of its readers.

Alison Smith caught the moment when the helicopter winched up a tourist who had collapsed at the top of the central tower.

Other members of the public also captured images of the sky rescue and sent them to the Press.

And one photo was judged to be so good that it was later used beside the front-page article in the print edition.

Editor Kevin Booth told holdthefrontpage.co.uk that the submissions illustrate the good relationship the Press enjoys with its readers.

“We like to think we are close to our readers. This confirmed it many times over. Their first thought was for their local paper.”

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02 May 2008


“The failure of one citizen journalism Web business after another this year ought to be showing news publishers that a business model based on readers doing reporters’ jobs for free isn’t working.”

This view was put forward by Online Journalism Review (OJR) at the end of last year in its list of five lessons to be learned from 2007.

OJR declared that the future of citizen reporting lies not with traditional journalism formats, but instead with “crowdsourcing techniques”.

More recently, “Long Tail” author Chris Anderson says news providers should harness the collective power of their “engaged, smart, informed, opinionated readers” in order to succeed in the digital age.

But how exactly can this be done? Is anyone already doing it? And what exactly are crowdsourcing techniques?

These are the questions to be addressed in this fortnight’s SPOTLIGHT post, and we’ll begin by taking a look at some definitions of crowdsourcing.

“The Rise of Crowdsourcing”

Jeff Howe is often credited with coining the term “crowdsourcing” in a Wired article of June 2006, entitled “The Rise of Crowdsourcing”.

Since then, Howe has produced two definitions for the term, which are worth quoting here in full:

“The White Paper Version: Crowdsourcing is the act of taking a job traditionally performed by a designated agent (usually an employee) and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people in the form of an open call.

“The Soundbyte Version: The application of Open Source principles to fields outside of software.”

So crowdsourcing involves utilising the talents of a big group of people to collaborate openly together to produce a large-scale end product.

Apply this specifically to a journalistic context, and the definition according to Poynter becomes:

“Crowdsourcing is taking a task traditionally accomplished by a professional journalist and includes outsourcing to a large group through an open call.

“Members of the public might be asked to gather information, use their expertise to examine documents, or participate in other ways.”

So one could say there is a spectrum of crowdsourcing techniques: At one end, users could be asked to perform small simple tasks such as reading papers, and at the other end the public could be researching and writing traditional journalism articles.

What unites these different types of projects though is the underlying assumption that the efforts of many non-specialists can prove more effective than those of an informed individual.

Or as Dan Gillmor neatly sums it up for all journalists: “my readers know more than I do”.


It should just be mentioned here that crowdsourcing is by no means a fixed definition and there are several other terms which are used interchangeably with it by some writers and practitioners.

Examples include pro-am journalism, which emphasises the collaboration aspect between users and professionals, and open-source journalism to stress transparency and freedom.

For the purposes of clarity, this post will adhere to the term crowdsourcing but will offer in its further reading section links to resources for anyone interested in knowing more about this aspect.

The Spectrum

As we’ve seen from Poynter’s definition, crowdsourcing can involve varying degrees of involvement from its amateur participants.

So the examples we’re going to look at will follow the pattern of this spectrum, starting with projects which require the least active engagement from readers.

We’ll then move on to examples where users and journalists are equally involved and also see some crowdsourcing multimedia techniques.

Finally, we’ll arrive at the opposite end of the spectrum where it’s the public which sets the agenda and produces fully-formed journalism pieces.

Lend Us Your Eyes

At its simplest level, news groups are deploying crowdsourcing techniques to help them quickly evaluate masses of data.

In essence this involves journalists obtaining reports, facts and figures, making these available to people and enlisting their help in reading them.

An excellent example of this at a local level comes from the Washington Examiner, which has established its own Community Action Network (WECAN).

Journalists have made databases available online and asked users to have a look through and report anything of interest.

Editorial Page Editor Mark Tapscott reveals that the network made public a database containing details of education sector workers’ compensation pay schemes and subsequently received numerous leads from readers.

Tapscott says the project “illustrates how the internet encourages an innovative partnering of media with the region’s residents and civic groups in expanding the resources available for independent analyses of local and regional public services”.

Similarly, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle has opened a RocDocs section on its website where visitors are encouraged to examine databases containing information on local issues such as business, education and property.

Both these examples are permanent online fixtures, but the crowd can also be called upon to help with one-off reading projects too.

For instance, the Dallas Morning News recently got its hands on copies of numerous reports relating to the assassination of US president John F Kennedy which were found in a district attorney’s safe.

The scanned and uploaded documents are now online and visitors are busy reading through and alerting Morning News journalists to anything of potential interest.

And attracting the help of willing readers has also been used at a national level too, most notably in the US by independent website Talking Points Memo (TPM).

The site’s Muckraker blog enlisted the help of users to read through some 3,000 pages of a government document relating to the dismissals of attorneys nationwide.

Volunteers posted summaries of the sections they had read and also helped TPM gain a national perspective on the situation by submitting any extra information they had about attorneys in their area.

And the Guardian has shown how readers can be found to help with stories of an international significance too.

The newspaper has an online section devoted to its investigations into the sales of arms to Saudi Arabia.

According to UK journalism expert Charlie Beckett, the data made available on The BAe Files site has “encouraged a network of amateur and professional investigative journalists around the world to add to the digging”.

Data Collection

Getting users to spare a bit of time at their desks to read a few government papers is one thing, but how about enlisting their help in the field?

Well, a significant number of news groups have persuaded the audience to get out and about collecting facts and figures in order to create some rather impressive databases.

“Are you being gouged?” was the dramatic title for a New York radio station’s crowdsourcing project, which asked listeners to help find out the cheapest and priciest shops for certain foodstuffs.

While last November, Press Gazette reported that the Shropshire Star was asking its readers to provide details of local fuel prices.

As seen above, New York’s WNYC station is a keen advocate of crowdsourcing and it also enlisted the help of the public in finding out how many gas-guzzling vehicles are on its streets.

Such projects not only provide databases, they can prompt leads to news articles for both print and online newspapers.

This is exactly what happened last year when the Liverpool Daily Post appealed for any information about budget airline safety issues and ended up with a splash on the subject.

Leading the way with these crowdsourcing investigations in the US is publisher Gannett, which has restructured its newsrooms to better suit this way of interactive working.

The company’s biggest success so far has been the Fort Myers News-Press’s investigations into a utility pipeline scheme, which received over 6,500 posts from local residents.

Crowdsourcing The Multimedia Way

So far we have looked at text and database content produced from crowdsourcing initiatives, but there are plenty of other tools which can reinforce the impact of a story.

Independent media site ePluribus Media has used a timeline to present information submitted by residents about the events in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Mapping technology has also proved a useful tool in presenting crowdsourced information.

For instance, the Cincinnati Enquirer asked users to report any problems with their polling stations during an election in 2006 and mapped the resulting information.

Elections are fertile ground for crowdsourcing techniques and the New York Times is currently managing a project harnessing the photographic talents of its readers.

The NYT says its Polling Place Photo Project enables the public to document local voting experiences and to “contribute to an archive of photographs that captures the richness and complexity of voting in America”.

Journey’s End?

As we draw nearer the opposite end of the crowdsourcing spectrum, we’re going to take a brief look at some of the big projects – both current and planned – which require a little more from their volunteers.

Wired For Crowds?

Assignment Zero was a joint project between Wired magazine and Jay Rosen’s New Assignment.net.

The idea was to crowdsource a trend rather than an event, and they chose for their subject...crowdsourcing!

Jeff Howe explains the project’s objectives: “Have a crowd of volunteers write the definitive report on how crowds of volunteers are upending established businesses, from software to encyclopedias and beyond.”

The project accumulated a mass of narrative pieces, essays and interviews, and key players Rosen and Howe produced a couple of interesting articles discussing the successes and failures of the experiment.

Crowd The Campaign Trail

OffTheBus is another collaboration project from NewAssignment.net, this time with the Huffington Post website.

The plan is to provide “ground level coverage of campaign 08,” and some 1,800 unpaid volunteers are supplying articles, audio clips, video content, blog posts and other information to the site.

Its official wiki says the aim is to provide people with an idea of what’s really going on during the presidential nomination campaigns.

And it’s already scored its first controversy after a volunteer publicly disclosed comments made by Democratic hopeful Barack Obama during a political fundraising event.

The posting has prompted debates on the ethics of citizen reporting, with well known figures such as Jeff Jarvis and Michael Tomasky joining the discussion.

Crowd Control

We reach the end of the crowdsourcing spectrum with a proposal from UK online journalism lecturer and blogger Paul Bradshaw.

Bradshaw’s Citizen Investigation plans, which have been shortlisted for Knight News Challenge funding, would see the crowd not only research and write the story, it would also see them decide the story to be covered in the first instance.

Through a voting system, a large group of people would therefore be able to set the agenda and decide for themselves the issues they would want to work on.

Resources / Further Reading

Anyone interested in the history and development of crowdsourcing may want to take a look at James Surowiecki’s “The Wisdom of Crowds”, which discusses the advantages of using aggregated information from a mass group.

Jeff Jarvis’s blog post about networked journalism is also worth a read, as is the blog from last year’s Networked Journalism summit.

While an invaluable resource for those who want to know the origins of the term is Jeff Howe’s blog dedicated to all crowdsourcing matters.

Meanwhile, the results from the Assignment Zero project about crowdsourcing contain some valuable essays about its development.

Among the 12 reprinted by Wired are “Creative Crowdwriting: The Open Book”, “What Does Crowdsourcing Really Mean”, and “Open-Source Journalism: It’s A Lot Tougher Than You Think”.

Practical Guides

For journalists interested in the nuts and bolts of crowdsourcing, OJR has a useful guide.

And American Journalism Review has a good article entitled “Crowded House” which has more examples of putting crowdsourcing ideas into practice.

While an online publisher from the Spokesman-Review has provided his top tips on putting together a network of engaged readers to help with stories.

Finally, OJR is currently asking journalists to give details of any good crowdsourcing projects dotting the landscape.


So that’s it for this fortnight’s SPOTLIGHT, we hope it’s been useful and, as always, please get in touch if you have any crowdsourcing examples you’d like to share.

And we’ll leave the last words on the subject to the man who coined the term, Jeff Howe, who reminds all journalists:

“One thing any volunteer project must inspire - be it citizen journalism, an open-source programming project or simply an AIDS drive - is passion.”


Beeb Interacts With Russian Bloggers

Citizen journalists and bloggers in Russia are sharing their work with the BBC as part of a new project.

The corporation is working with Russia’s largest blogging platform on Live_Report, where members of the public can submit their own news articles, photos and other items of interest.

Some of the best reports are then featured on the BBC’s Russian-language website and could also be selected to be used on radio.

The initiative has already attracted an array of blog posts and comments on subjects ranging from anti-Nato protests to the appearance of the Russian president at an internet forum, notes the head of the BBC’s Russian Service.

Sarah Gibson writes that the partnership project with LiveJournal aims to harness “fresh reporting talent” and gives the BBC “access to direct reports from all around the country, even though our team is based mainly in Moscow and London”.

Gibson adds on The Editors blog that Live_Report is designed to be relevant to the BBC’s more active Russian audience.

“We already have a very active band of readers and listeners who are constantly telling us what they think, and suggesting ideas for interactive programmes.”

And what about the standard of submissions offered by this band of citizen reporters? Gibson says the team of journalists is well-prepared to work with less then polished pieces.

“My view is that this is an exciting challenge to our team of journalists - who are already very used to dealing with user-generated content through forums, interactive programmes and so on.

“If there are issues with a particular piece, we can work on that on a case by case basis.”

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01 May 2008

Users Help Revamp Via Live Blog

A newspaper website in the US had a smooth relaunch thanks to error spotting from eagle-eyed users.

The Grand Island Independent featured a live blog during its recent revamp so readers could provide feedback in real-time.

And an unexpected benefit was that users quickly pointed out technical problems, which could then be addressed by the web editor and her team.

Web Editor Stephanie Romanski told journalism.co.uk: “I mostly expected either ‘Love it/Hate it’ responses or a lot of ‘I can’t find…’ questions."

She added: “The whole errors issue surprised me and was an unexpected bonus to holding the Q&A.”

Romanski also thinks the real-time element of the blog helped the Independent resolve issues almost immediately in some cases.

“I think we impressed some readers by being able to respond to their issues so quickly.”

The newspaper used CoveritLive software for its live blog, and plans to use the same tool again for future temporary blogs.

To see highlights from the Redesign Q & A, take a look at the Independent’s blog pages, while the full text of the live chat is available in the blog archive.

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Top Uses For Twitter

ReadWriteWeb (RWW) is beating a drum in support of journalists using Twitter and offers four examples of how it can be used effectively.

The writers at RWW believe the free microblogging platform, where posts are restricted to 140 characters, can be useful in the field of serious journalism.

In fact, the team asserts that short messages on Twitter “have proven wildly useful for some writers penning larger pieces”.

So here are their four examples of how Twitter can be used effectively by journalists:

* Finding breaking news

According to RWW, the tool is so easy to use that users will often make a quick post about something they’ve just discovered on Twitter before putting information on a blog.

“Whether it’s natural disasters, political developments or breaking tech news - it’s common to discover items of interest first on Twitter."

* Interviews

RWW writers have used Twitter as a public interview tool, putting up questions in the hope that some interesting responses can be used in articles.

And they say they have got replies from high-profile industry figures and a diverse range of people.

“By putting out single or multiple questions into our Twitter networks in a call-and-response fashion, we’ve gathered piles of rich research in far less time than it would have taken to try and call people on the phone.”

* Quality Assurance

Via Twitter, RWW writers receive feedback on stories pointing out any content errors or linking failures and they also use the site to get help with minor technical queries.

“There’s a general sentiment of giving on Twitter, but a journalist’s opportunity to perhaps provide later coverage can’t help but further incentivise people to provide help.”

“If you had 20 to 50 people that consistently offered feedback on your articles, wouldn't that be great? That’s what it feels like we get on Twitter.”

* Promotion

RWW says promoting sites or blogs via Twitter is “probably the crassest way a journalist can use the medium”.

However, RWW will post links to its own articles if they are particularly interesting or “add a little extra value to each link to our own content we send out”.

And writers will use Twitter to let people know what they’re working on for future articles.

Put all these uses together and RWW claims Twitter is a “remarkably good traffic driver”.

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LSJ Launches In Second Life

A virtual journalism lecture has been staged in the alternative world of Second Life (SL) thanks to a new initiative from the London School of Journalism (LSJ).

The LSJ has established a college in the virtual world to host seminars and presentations about various aspects of the industry, reports journalism.co.uk.

And the six-month series of free events kicked off last weekend with an inaugural lecture about issues in freelance journalism.

Director Michael Winckworth says the Second Life college will also provide existing LSJ students with an alternative learning environment.

“What Second Life can add is that students can see each others’ avatar faces, and we can combine sound and text.”

He adds: “We think it will give a greater sense of belonging to a group, and so the SL College will be an addition to the services we already provide.”

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