30 June 2008

North West Web Winners Announced

The Liverpool Daily Post and the Warrington Guardian took the online honours at this year’s North West Newspaper Awards.

Among the three prizes taken by the Daily Post was the award for best Daily Newspaper Website, reports Holdthefrontpage.co.uk.

“We’re very proud of what we have achieved online in a relatively short time; from our breaking news and video reports to the niche sites, live blogs and hugely popular Flickr group,” said editor Mark Thomas.

And the corresponding prize for a weekly newspaper website went to the Warrington Guardian.

Editor Nicola Priest commented: “This is a prestigious award and is a testament to all the hard work of our brilliant journalists as well as the valuable contribution of our readers.”

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27 June 2008


Hello and welcome to this fortnight’s SPOTLIGHT post on the use of maps by the news media.

We’ll start our journey by going back to see when using maps as online reporting tools really took off.

Then we’ll travel through the current media landscape to take a look at some of the many innovative ways that news sites are using maps to enhance their online coverage.

Along the way we’ll also see examples of maps which rely on user participation, before completing our travels with a guide to mapping resources for journalists.


Exactly eight years ago yesterday, Dylan Loeb McClain wrote in the New York Times:

“If The Associated Press succeeds with its newest project, people who read newspapers, watch television news broadcasts or scan Web media sites will soon see maps, maps and more maps.

“And not just ordinary, run-of-the-mill maps - those pedestrian items with a couple of roads and the names of some towns - but maps that show demographic data, or earthquake fault lines and the number and location of quakes along each fault or even the location of every tree and bush in a neighborhood.

“The new product, called MapShop, is a Web-based program designed to allow journalists to create in minutes sophisticated, information-rich maps that once might have taken hours or even days.”

McClain may not have backed the right horse in the software stakes but his prescient article does provide a pretty accurate picture of today’s multimedia mapping landscape.

Newsrooms are now able to create detailed maps integrating different kinds of data in a relatively quick and easy way which must have been almost unthinkable back in the early days of news websites.

The Advent of Google Maps

But it wasn’t MapShop that unleashed this mapping frenzy, rather it was the launch of Google Maps in 2005 which saw cybercartography become one of the most popular and exciting trends in online journalism.

Unlike the paid-for MapShop (now known as Map Studio), the Google Maps API is a free tool which enables users to create their own maps which can be embedded on their own sites.

Since then, growing numbers of mapping software providers offer their applications for free (listed at the end), but the Google Maps API is the overwhelming tool of choice for the majority of news sites.

Now let’s take a look at how news organisations in the UK and the US have created their own maps to add a fresh dimension to their stories.

The Three Degrees

There are three main ways that maps are currently used by news providers or aggregators, they can be categorised as follows:

1 Interactive Maps

The map and all its data is submitted and maintained by journalists/ technical staff. Users can usually interact by choosing which areas to view and digging down to find more content.

Examples:- Maps of restaurant reviews, traffic hotspots and special projects such as crime maps.

2 Collaborative Maps

Users can submit their own data to the map to supplement the information provided by the editorial team.

Examples:- Pothole and fuel price maps.

3 News Maps

These maps enable users to select news in areas of interest to them by browsing a map and are created using geotagging or geocoding systems – these will be discussed in next fortnight’s post.

Interactive Maps – UK

Maps can be used as part of a campaign issue and this is how the Manchester Evening News started the new year with its interactive multimedia map showing shooting deaths in Greater Manchester over the last eight years.

[Manchester Gun Murders Mapped – 10.01.08]

While Sky News used an interactive map to highlight the various environmental projects taking place throughout the UK, from individual actions to large-scale green schemes.

Maps can be used as an information resource and are particularly popular in relation to fuel price issues.

For example, the Lancashire Evening Post recently used a Google map satellite image to show where to buy the cheapest petrol in Preston.

Maps are also a popular tool for election coverage and here’s an example from the Liverpool Echo’s online reporting of the recent council elections.

And maps can be an effective way to communicate information from a breaking news story, demonstrated by the Plymouth Herald which used a Google map with an article about unsafe drinking water.

The Herald used the map to inform people of the areas potentially affected by the incident.

Journalists are also deploying mapping applications in order to provide a multimedia dimension to major news stories.

For example, the Ipswich Evening Star used several interactive maps in its coverage of a multiple murder trial.

[Multimedia Journalism Draws Traffic – 18.03.08]

Interactive Maps – US

Looking across the pond, maps are being used in similar ways but there are also several areas where maps really seem to have taken off in a manner not seen in the UK.

Interactive maps using real-time data are cropping up on a significant number of sites and a great example is the 911 Calls graphic from the Indianapolis Star.

The map, which received a notable entry mention at last year’s Knight-Batten Awards, enables users to see the most recent 30 emergency callouts for police and fire services.

While among the Toronto Star’s gallery of interactive maps is a traffic information resource which provides links to real-time pictures from the city’s traffic cameras.

In the US, journalists are also using maps to provide graphics on non-news stories and feature articles.

For example, the Las Vegas Sun illustrated its History of Fabulous Las Vegas with an interactive map charting the development of casinos along the strip.

While the Bakersfield Californian has mapped the favourite restaurant reviews of its resident food critic.

Collaborative Maps – UK

Collaborative maps are certainly a less common sight on UK websites at present but seem to be growing in popularity.

They encourage the active participation of users to help submit information and build a collaborative data resource.

Recent examples include an online map from BBC Radio 4’s iPM programme which asked visitors their experience of the credit crunch in order to create “a mood map”.

[Users Help Beeb Map Credit Crunch – 13.05.08]

Another example of an innovative collaborative map can be seen at the Sunderland Echo where expats from the north-east can add their locations and details about themselves on a map of the world.

Collaborative Maps – US

The Bakersfield Californian boasts a number of interesting collaborative maps, including the potholes graphic where users have helped map potholes so they can be brought to the attention of local services.

In addition, the website has a Quirks map where registered members can post details about their favourite quirky features and local landmarks in the area.

The Bowling Green Daily News is using collaborative mapping to serve the community through its Yard Sales map where users submit information of garage and yard sales.

Finally, the Times Herald-Record used collaborative mapping tools to create its Gas Watch graphic showing petrol prices in the region.


There’s no shortage of online resources about mapping so here’s a just a few links to some useful sites.

Directions magazine has regular podcasts about geospatial technology and many include discussions on the use of maps by news media.

While the Google Maps Mania blog offers an abundance of hints and tips through its Special Features posts such as 100 Things to do with Google Maps Mashups and a four-part series on how the news media is using maps.

Other useful posts about Google maps include this entry from 10,000 Words on how to use pictures with Google maps and this Google maps tutorial post from Andy Dickinson.

There are lots of other mapping software providers and here’s links to a few of them:

Stamen Design


Quik Maps

Map Builder

MappedUp – This displays stories from news source RSS feeds and puts them onto a world map

Frappr - Enables users to map visitors to their websites

Platial - Social mapping provider

So that’s it for this fortnight’s SPOTLIGHT post, next time we’ll be looking at the accompanying subject of geotagging.

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Trinity Papers Launch YouTube Channels

A further 20 Trinity Mirror newspapers have created their own channels on video-sharing site YouTube.

The Liverpool Daily Post was the first Trinity title to launch its own branded space on the website last month.

It has now been joined by another 20 including the Huddersfield Examiner channel and the Liverpool Echo channel.

Journalists are able to upload videos to their own sites and to the channels by a single click since the incorporation of a YouTube application within the content management system.

Trinity Mirror’s online marketing manager told Holdthefrontpage.co.uk that its newspapers are creating YouTube channels as they launch their revamped websites.

Jessica Healy said: “Every new site that we launch, we set up the functionality and encourage them to use it.”

She added: “It’s very much in its infancy but the aim is that every video we put up on our sites will be put into YouTube.”

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26 June 2008

News Sites Offer Interactive Flood Coverage

Regional news websites are collaborating with their readers to provide comprehensive coverage of the recent floods in Iowa.

The Des Moines Register has created picture galleries where users are able to post their photos of the extensive flooding.

Residents are also able to contribute to a Google map indicating the severity of flooding across the state (at time of writing this map was down due to technical problems).

The Register has also created several non-interactive maps, including one which shows the evacuation zones for people living in the Des Moines flood plains.

Data editor James Wilkerson told Poynter Online: “We’ve been doing interactive maps like this for other, non-emergency situations, so it just struck us as an appropriate use for something we’d already developed.”

He added that the Register’s digital projects editor took about a day to produce the information maps from existing code.

Iowa’s (Cedar Rapids) Gazette has also deployed multimedia tools to report on the floods.

Its YouTube channel has videos with aerial shots of the rising waters as well as footage take from boats.

Further information on the Iowa floods coverage can be found at Poynter Online.

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Times Maps Major League Menus

A New York Times journalist has used multimedia tools to tell the story of his trip round the food stalls of America’s baseball stadiums.

Food critic Peter Meehan visited all 30 major league ballparks in order to produce his culinary scorecard feature.

This includes an interactive map where users can choose a stadium and see Meehan’s reviews with photos of “what to order” and “what to avoid”.

Visitors can also view a slideshow of photographs taken during the cross-country road trip and read Meehan’s 3-page article about his culinary quest.

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25 June 2008

Boston.com Employs Geotagging Partner

The website of the Boston Globe has enlisted a third party to geotag all its content.

MetaCarta will geocode all articles uploaded to Boston.com and will also handle the geotagging of information taken from other websites for the Globe’s local search service.

This means visitors to the Globe’s site will be able to search for stories and information within their own hyperlocal area.

These search services are intended to improve user frequency and the number of page views.

According to the vice president of product at Boston.com, the new tagging service will enable readers to “zero in on locations that matter to them”.

Bob Kempf added: “We are committed to positioning content and offering functionality in ways that meet the needs of our audience and advertisers.

“We see that opportunity as increasingly local.”

More information on the deal can be found in the press release.


Interactive Graphics: Recipe For Success

A designer with USA Today has revealed the secrets behind its successful interactive political feature.

Juan Thomassie told Poynter Online about the process behind putting together USA Today’s Candidate Match Game.

The interactive graphic enables users to see how their opinions on key issues match up with the declared views of the future presidential candidates.

And this month saw the website launch Candidate Match Game II – where the field has been whittled down to an Obama-McCain head-to-head.

The original game has attracted some 2.5 million unique users since it launched in September 2007.

According to Thomassie, the success of the feature is down to three elements:

1 Design

2 Content

3 Development

The designer said that the content side requires the most effective teamwork and communication.

And it’s the feature’s development which is the crucial ingredient for a successful online interactive game, asserted Thomassie.

He stated: “Each piece of the equation in interactivity requires some level of programming and familiarity with dynamic content, often dealing with databases and queries and presentation of the data.”

“Interactivity takes more and more skills, more teamwork and more people involved to bring all of those skills into the project,” noted Thomassie.

He concluded: “If someone comes to the page, interacts with the graphic, spends time digging for more content - spending at least 5 or 6 minutes on a page - it’s worth it.”

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24 June 2008

Mayor Goes Local With Live Interview

A local newspaper joined forces with a radio station to produce a live interview with new London mayor Boris Johnson.

The interview between Johnson and the Willesden and Brent Times was broadcast live on the title’s website and on Life FM.

News editor Andy McCorkell and sub editor Lorraine King spoke to the mayor on a range of subjects including bendy buses and violent crime.

The audio interview is still available on the Times’ website and is accompanied by a slideshow of photographs taken during Johnson’s visit.

Representing an example of web-first publishing, the interview’s transcript is to be featured in the print edition of the newspaper this week.


Detention Debate Live Blogged

Channel 4 provided innovative coverage of the recent terror law proposals by live blogging the crucial debate and vote in parliament.

Journalists from Channel 4 News used Cover It Live software to create a blog to report on the House of Commons 42-day detention debate as it happened.

Channel 4 said of the blog: “Think over-by-over commentary but this time for political junkies.”

The writers worked from noon covering Prime Minister’s Questions, the Commons discussion of the bill and ending the blog in the early evening with the result from the vital vote.

Posts to the live blog detailed questions from the House put to Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Home Secretary Jacqui Smith.

The journalists also used a more informal and conversational tone in the blog, for example passing comment on members’ ties or writing that Hackney MP Diane Abbott was sending a text message.

Particularly impressive was the inclusion of embedded video clips from PMQ’s, the debate and the subsequent vote and the linking to other sources such as Iain Dale’s blog.

Plus, the blog provided an insight into the goings on within the Channel 4 newsroom and issued updates on the afternoon’s progress putting together the evening bulletin.

And the journalists embraced the interactive capabilities of the Cover It Live tool by inviting users to post their comments and questions which could then be put to guests on the television news.

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23 June 2008

Northcliffe Ushers In Geocoding Era

Northcliffe Media’s journalists are getting to grips with geocoding technology as several revamped sites now boast local search functions.

Last week saw Northcliffe launch a further ten redesigned websites with the new software which enables visitors to search for news by postcode.

The publisher’s content strategy director told Press Gazette that getting used to the new coding technology is proving an interesting challenge for reporters and editors.

Robert Hardie stated: “On the one hand it’s opening up a major opportunity for us, but it also means we’re going have to learn new skills and make value judgements about how we tag stories with postcodes.”

The relaunched websites are part of Northcliffe’s “next generation” of news sites, which also aims to place greater emphasis on multimedia storytelling and user-generated content.

Among the ten websites unveiled last week are thisisderbyshire.co.uk and thisistotalessex.co.uk.

Further information on the ongoing relaunch can be found at holdthefrontpage.co.uk and Journalism.co.uk.

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Election Prediction With LA Times

Visitors to the LA Times site can now map their predictions for the forthcoming presidential election.

Users are also encouraged to share their voting scenarios by embedding the resultant maps on their own websites and blogs.

The map is divided into states which can be assigned to either Republican candidate John McCain or Democratic hopeful Barack Obama.

And clicking on each state reveals past election data so visitors have the latest stats at their fingertips as they make their predictions.

LA Times revealed that it has based the interactive map on its 2004 election tracker tool and added that the ability to share and embed the image is the key new feature.

More details on the map and how it could be improved can be found at Online Journalism Review.


20 June 2008

RTE Launches Online News Channel

Irish broadcaster RTE has unveiled its new 24-hour online news channel which will form part of its proposed media player service.

RTE News Now offers breaking news stories, bulletins and current affairs programmes which can be watched live or on-demand.

According to the Sunday Business Post, the broadcaster is also planning to use the channel to screen events which are currently not televised such as special debates in the Irish parliament.

In addition, RTE is in talks with mobile network carriers about making the 24-hour news channel available via mobile phones.

And a spokesman for RTE Publishing stated that the news channel will add to its present content by including entertainment, business and sports news by the end of this month.

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Why Journalists Should Live Blog

Blogging events in real-time is allowing journalists to get “down and dirty” with the audience in a way they never could before, according to one prolific live blogger.

Sean Ingle from the Guardian recently outlined the benefits of live blogs and claimed that the most popular ones can prove a valuable traffic generator, reports the Digital Content blog.

Speaking at one of the newspaper’s panel events for its current internal conference, the sport editor stated that live blogging is now one of the Guardian’s most popular online formats since it began using it during the 2002 World Cup.

“A good live blog has all the information as well as being quick, but it is also trying to entertain - it needs to be funny and quirky,” he said.

“It’s like a really intelligent pub chat - it might occasionally turn into a bar room brawl but it allows our journalists to get down and dirty with the public in a way they couldn’t before.”

As well as discussing the Guardian’s live blogs (some of which may contain strong language in the comments sections) on sports such as football, cricket and horse racing, the panel talked about the newspaper’s live coverage of TV shows.

The Apprentice and Big Brother live blogger Anna Pickard told the audience that the platform’s strength lies in its ability to create communities.

She asserted: “The exciting bit is that a community builds around the event, and what started as a small group of people who would say ‘I saw that’, now works as a standalone review of a show.

“I think conversation is the best thing about the internet, and live blogs introduce this idea of simultaneous conversation. People have an innate need to join in.”

Further information on the Guardian’s @ Future of Journalism conference can be viewed in this article.

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19 June 2008

Vanity Fair Unveils Blog Chart

Vanity Fair has created an innovative chart of the current American blogosphere.

Blogopticon features blogs with subject matters such as news and journalism, politics, showbiz, and social media.

The chart has two continuums - tone and content - with tone ranging from Scurrilous to Earnest and content going from News to Opinion.

Creators Matt Pressman and Keenan Mayo say they created the Blogopticon in order to provide a simple guide to the sprawling blogosphere.

They write: “In an effort to make some sense of it all, Vanity Fair has charted the most influential or amusing blogs about politics, gossip, Hollywood, media, and miscellany, and located them on two basic continuums: tone and content.”

Among the journalism blogs featured are Jeff Jarvis’s Buzz Machine, Poynter Online’s Romenesko blog, and Cyber Journalist.


Guardian Makes Web & Print Equal

Management and union representatives at Guardian News Media have reached an agreement to introduce equal rights for web and print journalists.

According to Press Gazette, the terms and conditions will cover editorial staff at the Guardian, Observer and Guardian.co.uk.

Guardian managing editor Chris Elliot revealed that the new deal encompasses the multimedia working rules agreed last year and introduces new clauses on issues such as copyright and severance.

It also covers areas including working patterns for editorial staff in the new digital world of 24/7 publishing.

“We’ve got a good staff, many of whom are doing bits of multimedia. We’ve tried with the union to create a framework where it becomes part of their normal day,” said Elliot.

He added: “There is a legitimate concern that some people are working too hard and, yes, we have had instances of people working too hard.

“We’ve got to a get a more natural approach to the audio-visual world where people work normally.”

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18 June 2008

Mirror Seeks To Reflect Readers

The Mirror Group is looking to gather feedback from its readers by creating an online research community.

Journalism.co.uk reports that the organisation has deployed Market Evolution to coordinate the project, entitled Mirror Mouthpiece.

The community will be asked to provide its opinions on national titles including the Daily Mirror, the Sunday Mirror, and The People as well as accompanying websites.

Among the tools expected to be used by Mirror Mouthpiece are webchats, opinion polls, blogs and forums.

“The launch of Mouthpiece enables us to have a regular dialogue with our readers, putting them at the heart of what we do,” commented Richard Webb, managing director of the Mirror Group.

“Mouthpiece has already been used for advertiser projects and can give immediate insight and feedback on their campaigns.”

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Hoax Calls Fall After Online Campaign

A news site’s initiative to identify hoax callers has been credited with cutting the number of false 999 calls by over 20%.

Journalists at the South Wales Argus uploaded audio files of hoax emergency calls to their website earlier this year and encouraged visitors to name the culprits.

And South Wales Fire Service has revealed that the Argus’s first web-only campaign has led to a 22% drop in such incidents and saved the service an estimated £165,000.

Fire investigator Mick Flanagan told Holdthefrontpage.co.uk: “The website played a hugely important part.

“We are grateful to the South Wales Argus for this, and for giving us excellent coverage of every deliberate incident we have had in the Gwent area.”

Assistant editor Mark Templeton added: “The feeling from the fire service is that the thought of having your voice heard on our website if you make a hoax call is enough to deter some people from doing it.”


17 June 2008

Facebook Tips For Journalists

Online Journalism Blog has published its four-point guide to how journalists can use the social networking site Facebook.

1 - Find New Contacts
“Say you cover the health industry and you add 20 of your contacts to Facebook - by looking at their friends you may be able to find other contacts you wouldn’t otherwise have met.”

2 - Get A Different View

“Facebook is a great source of special interest groups, however obscure … now we can get a further perspective...”

3 - Find Stories

“Use Facebook as a news source itself via the feed of your friends’ status updates … this can be more miss than hit, but there’s always the chance someone will mention something they’re doing which is newsworthy…”

4 - Facebook Feedback
Create a group for your publication or blog and then ask members for their ideas about stories.

“As journalists become increasingly stretched, being able to tap into support networks like these is becoming increasingly important.”


Hull Daily Mail Scoops Multimedia Title

The Hull Daily Mail was named Multimedia Publisher of the Year at last week’s Regional Press Awards.

Editor John Meehan dedicated the prize to his team of staff, which has introduced a series of new online features in 2008.

Among the Mail’s multimedia innovations is a user-generated content site entitled Your Mail, a Sports Flash text alert service and an expanded slideshow gallery.

Meehan said of the award: “The future of our business is multimedia publishing. Our people get it and do it all of the time.

“What I’ve seen them do every day is breathtaking. This award is a tribute to every one of our fantastic people.”

Meanwhile, taking the title of Multimedia Journalist of the Year was Adrian Sudbury from the Huddersfield Daily Examiner.

Sudbury uses the Baldy’s Blog to chronicle his experiences since being diagnosed with a rare form of leukaemia.

Notes from the judging panel stated: “The subject matter of this blog is compelling and highly emotional.

“The judges were impressed by the quality of the journalism and the professionalism.

“The winner … understands the medium, and its conversational relationship with the readers in an extremely powerful way.”

Sudbury was unable to attend the ceremony in person but recorded a video message available to view on YouTube.

A full list of winners from the Regional Press Awards can be found on the Press Gazette website.

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16 June 2008

How To Attract Online Ads

News groups need to expand their online advertising options in order to capture the market.

That’s the view of Barb Palser from McGraw-Hill, who asserts that traditional sales managers will only succeed if they adapt to new advertising models.

The director of digital media suggests that managers “need to play up their role in a mix of options that’s vastly larger and more complex than before”.

Writing in American Journalism Review, Palser outlines her ideas for an effective advertising strategy in a world where search ads are becoming the dominant model.

“For starters, they should look for ways to co-opt emerging ad formats. To complement their traditional ad packages, for example, sales reps can assist clients with their search marketing goals.”

In addition, Palser says some news providers are widening their advertising offerings by creating standalone websites which offer targeted opportunities to clients.

Palser highlights examples of these non-news niche sites such as the IndyPaws pets website from the Indianapolis Star and the Orange County Register’s OCMoms.com.

“Diversification away from news is a smart way to reach new viewers and revenue streams, but these sites will be competing with numerous local and national brands - so they’ll have to be pretty darn good.”

Palser concludes: “Whether in print, on air or online, people will continue to seek news, and advertisers will want to be connected with it.

“But new options have changed the game; things won’t go back to the way they were.”


Birmingham’s Broadcast And Blog Double

Live blogging and video streaming were the platforms of choice for the Birmingham Post when covering a recent debate.

Visitors to the Post online could follow the digital discussion event via a live video stream on Bambuser and also had the option to participate by posting questions to the live blog.

And twitterers were not left out of the debate as the Post tracked tweets containing #bigdebate within them via search application Summize and then displayed a selection within the live blog.

Entitled Digital Revolution: More Power or Powerless?, the Big Debate’s participants included BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones, BT project director Doug Williams and the Post’s media and marketing editor Joanna Geary.

More information on the event can be found in this Post article, while Stef Lewandowski and Nick Booth have posted critiques of the debate on their blogs.

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13 June 2008

10 Reasons To Be Cheerful Journalists

Online Journalism Blog has launched a website inviting journalists to say why the profession is going “in the right direction”.

The brainchild of university lecturer Paul Bradshaw and his team, JollyJournalist.com aims to fight the “thick veil of gloom” that is “slowly blanketing journalism”.

According to OJB: “We stand against this trend. We are sure that journalism is getting better and stronger by the day. And that journalists will benefit from this.”

To kickstart its campaign, the blog has come up with ten reasons to illustrate why the current landscape presents today’s journalists with great opportunities.

Here’s some of the highlights from the list:

* “Be the paperboy. That’s actually better than it sounds: As a journalist, you can now also take care of the distribution of your content - and decide whether you want it to be an article, a blog post, a video, a podcast or whatever.”

* “Real-time fact-checking. Interviewing a politician who’s bluffing you with tons of statistics? Ask her to quote the source and confront her with Google on your 3G cell-phone.”

* “Feedback that’s not from mom. Reading comments, blog-searching or twitter-watching let you see what others are saying about your article or your area of expertise.”

12 June 2008


Welcome to the latest SPOTLIGHT post. This week’s subject is the wiki - something which always seems to be on the cusp of becoming the next big thing in journalism.

Firstly we’ll look at what a wiki actually is before showing some examples of how wikis are being used by journalists and then offering links to some practical guides.

What’s A Wiki

Here’s an excerpt from the Poynter Online definition of a wiki:

“A wiki is an application that allows Web users to contribute to a site and edit its content. Collaborative Web sites based on the wiki principle are themselves known as wikis, a term derived from the Hawaiian word for quick.”

Unlike blogs where the author is in control of the content and visitors may only contribute via comments, wikis place control firmly with their users - whoever they may be.

And how much control is up to the administrator - visitors can have the power to add, remove and edit content as well as change the structure of the wiki by creating new pages.

These changes are usually tracked by a page history which shows all the previous versions of each page.

Importantly, users do not need to know any computer code in order to submit their content so wikis essentially enable non-techies to create and edit websites.

For a simple and effective explanation of wikis, here’s a video tutorial from Common Craft.

While a brief history of the wiki is supplied by online journalism lecturer and blogger Paul Bradshaw on his wiki.

The Wiki Landscape

Thanks to their user-friendly features and ease of creation, there are millions of wikis on the Web and on intranets around the world.

Like blogs, there are also lots of different providers who supply the requisite software and templates.

Perhaps the best known wiki is Wikipedia - “the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit” - which now boasts almost 2.5 million articles created by its community of registered users.

But wiki creators don’t necessarily have to think this big as they can take advantage of the so-called wiki farms which enable beginners to quickly set up their own little space on their wiki pages.

From PBwiki to WikiSpaces to Wetpaint, there are plenty of organisations offering free wikis to anyone from major corporations to primary schools and individuals.

Wiki Journalism

So what has any of this got to do with journalism? Well, advocates of wiki journalism suggest that the collaborative nature of wikis makes them an ideal platform for the integration of user-generated content.

Birmingham City University lecturer Paul Bradshaw has asserted: “Wikis allow news operations to effectively cover issues on which there is a range of information so broad that it would be difficult to summarise effectively in one article, or by one journalist, alone.”

And Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has said mainstream news organisations could use wikis as a space on their site where local communities can post their own news.

Bradshaw has also provided a useful guide to categorise the different ways journalists can use wikis and here’s some of the main types he suggests:

Crowdsourcing Wikis – This asks users to contribute information on big topics or ideas to produce an article or resource with a depth that could not have been produced by journalists alone.

Second Draft Wikis – Journalists write an article and upload it to a wiki so users can make amendments.

Open Wikis – Where users have the freedom to write anything about subjects of their choosing.

Now let’s have a look at some of these ideas when they’re put into practice.


One of the few examples of an open wiki devoted entirely to citizen journalism is Wikinews, which is owned by Jimmy Wales and his Wikimedia Foundation.

Wikinews boasts original reporting and aims to provide news written from a neutral standpoint.

Its guidance page also reveals that Wikinews wants to give a voice to communities which feel underrepresented in the mainstream media.

Wikinews is yet to emulate the widespread success of its counterpart Wikipedia but it is proving to be a popular go-to site in the wake of major breaking news stories such as Hurricane Katrina.

Mainstream Media & Wikis

Not many mainstream media news providers have used wikis in the course of their online coverage, but here are some of those that have taken the plunge.

The Los Angeles Times invented a new term for its foray into the world of wikis in 2005 when it invited users to make changes to an editorial piece.

Called a wikitorial, the article regarding American action in Iraq was a finished comment piece which visitors were able to edit as they saw fit.

However, some inappropriate editing saw the wikitorial taken down by LA Times staff, as this Guardian article explains.

A year later, technology magazine Wired conducted its own wiki experiment by putting up an unedited article for users to amend on SocialText.

The piece attracted almost 350 edits and writer Ryan Singel outlined the positive and negative aspects of this group editing project in a subsequent Wired article.

Since the experiment, Wired has launched two ongoing open wiki projects where users are given more freedom.

The Big Questions wiki invites users to post their ideas on what should be the key questions in the world of science while the How-To wiki asks readers to submit articles offering tips and tricks on anything.

Next up is the San Diego Union-Tribune, which is trying to create a resource about the local music scene by using a wiki.

Here’s how they explain the ethos behind the Amplipedia wiki:

“We’re passionate about San Diego music, but we’ll admit we don’t know everything. That’s why we need your help to tell the whole story - about San Diego’s best music venues, bands big and small, and the continually evolving changes in our local music scene.”

The final mainstream media example comes from the UK and shows how news organisations can create wikis which exist outside of their own websites.

Cornwall and Devon Media launched wikiKernow in March this year with the aim that the wiki will become a valued resource for both Cornish natives and visitors to the county.

Pages were initially created by ThisisCornwall journalists but now the site is open to user-generated content and subjects include restaurant guides, town histories and local myths.

[Cornwall Gets Wiki Treatment – March 2008]

Incidentally, environmental journalism students at Michigan State University have done a similar open wiki for North America’s Great Lakes.

Internal Wikis

As well as these external wikis where users are invited to produce content, some newspapers are using wikis as an internal communication tool.

Examples include a closed newsroom wiki created by the Raleigh News & Observer where journalists can post details about ongoing news stories and find out their colleagues’ areas of expertise.

The St Louis Post-Dispatch has installed a wiki to act as a practical information resource for its team of researchers.

Pros and Cons

As the above examples demonstrate, some experiments with news wikis haven’t proved entirely successful and this has led some to suggest that wikis are not really suitable for journalism.

So it would be useful here to provide a brief round-up of some of the perceived pros and cons of wikis.

Daily Telegraph blogger Shane Richmond wrote in 2007 that some of the problems with wikis include vandalism, inaccuracy and authority.

He has suggested that these obstacles need to be addressed before mainstream media can deploy them with confidence.

Meanwhile, Bradshaw outlined on his wiki both the advantages and disadvantages of using the application to report the news.

Under strengths he pointed out that wikis can improve a site’s stickiness and can help journalists identify the issues that their readership want to see addressed.

In his round-up of weaknesses Bradshaw suggested that, quite simply, the vast majority of users don’t know what a wiki is.


If these examples have inspired you to create your own wiki, then your first action will be deciding what kind of wiki software you’d like to use.

WikiMatrix helps you choose the wiki that suits you through its Wizard device where users input required features - from page history to storage requirements - and it brings up the closest matches.

And Wikipedia has this useful page which compares and contrasts a large number of wiki software providers on a range of categories such as cost, privacy options and editing capabilities.

Once you’ve selected your template, the Thought Farmer blog has six steps to launching a successful wiki project.

It’s chiefly concerned with internal wikis but also has some good tips for setting up public wikis.

Finally, if you want to know more about wiki journalism, Bradshaw’s wiki has this reference list which links to stories about internal and external wikis and to academic articles on the subject.

That’s it for this SPOTLIGHT post, do get in touch if you have an example of a wiki you’ve created and let us know any themes you’d like to see covered in the future.

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Google ‘Understands Users Better’

Newspapers are letting web visitors “fall through the cracks” as they don’t fully understand the user experience.

That’s the view of new media blogger Scott Karp, who says Google is hoovering up the benefits by better tailoring its services to what users need and want.

Karp argues his case on his blog by looking online for the latest information regarding severe storms in Washington.

He turns first to the Washington Post website but can’t find what he wants so ends up going to Google to search there instead, noting “is it any wonder why Google makes $20 billion (£10 billion) on search?”

Through this circuitous route Karp locates the information he wants on Post.com, but claims “it is BURIED three layers deep, where I couldn’t FIND it”.

He adds: “It’s like newspapers on the web as saying: Here’s all the static stuff we produced for the paper - you want all of our dynamic web innovation? Oh, that’s downstairs, in the back room. Knock twice before you enter.”

Karp’s solution: “Just a search box and a list of blogs.

“Instead of putting all the web-native content and publishing in the blog ghetto, why not make that the WHOLE site?”

And one more thing from Karp – take a leaf out of Google’s book and try to gain a better understanding of user experience.

“Google is obsessed with not letting any users fall through the cracks.

“That’s the brutal reality of the web that we all live by. We can have all these features and content and design and intent, but the user experience is the only arbiter.

“Google understands this better than newspapers. If newspapers understood it better, their sites would get better, which would create more economic value for them on the web.”


Hyperlocal News: 5 Tips From Finland

Websites offering hyperlocal news are flourishing in parts of Finland and Sweden and editors shared the secrets of their success at a recent summit.

Speaking at last week’s World Editors Forum in Gothenburg, news editor Elin Olofsson discussed setting up a hyperlocal project with her newspaper Osterunds Posten.

According to the Guardian, the Heartproject initiative comprises eight hyperlocal sites with content supplied for free by local bloggers.

Olofsson reported that the project increased visitor counts by 60%, attracted the interest of advertisers and generated goodwill for the newspaper.

Editor-in-chief Reetta Merilainen also relayed a success story from her Finnish newspaper’s foray into the world of hyperlocal news.

Helsingin Sanomat’s Oma Kaupunki site provides searchable public data and event/restaurant listings and attracts 60,000 unique users every week.

Merilainen asserted that this kind of content is an ideal way to create communities and outlined her five principles for providing hyperlocal news:


“Hyperlocal is not only about geography it is also about mental proximity.”


“You must cover issues which are really close and relevant, touching or at least funny.”


“Newspaper and its website are there to serve and to connect people.”


“You can easily combine the role of a watch dog and a guide dog.”


“Ivory Towers are history, you mush be ready for close encounters - virtually and physically!”

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11 June 2008

New Site Aims To Engage Community

The Henley Standard has launched a new website and stated its aims to offer more “community driven features”.

Among the new components of the revamped site are video content, an updates service for mobile users and a Your Community section.

The video news feature kicked off with an interview with soon-to-be departing Henley MP Boris Johnson, who discussed his new position as London Mayor.

In addition to its video news content, the Standard is planning to install live web-cam feeds overlooking the course for next month’s Henley Royal Regatta.

The Your Community feature enables local schools and colleges to create their own web pages on the Standard’s site and is likely to be extended to include clubs and other associations in the future.

Spokesperson Jacqueline Alexander said: “The launch of the new site is not the end of this project, but the beginning.

“We have put together a foundation on which to build and plans are afoot to integrate more community driven features that our visitors can get involved with.”

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Radio Branches Out With Video

More than 150 independent radio stations in the UK now have video news content on their websites following a deal with ITN.

The broadcaster’s multimedia arm ITN On has struck a deal to supply news, sport and entertainment packages to stations operated by groups including Independent Radio News and Tindle.

Journalism.co.uk reports that the video news will be supplied free in return for ITN On receiving revenue generated by advertising.

In addition to video news, the broadcaster will supply special video reports, a range of viral videos and some text articles.

A total of 175 station websites now have the video feed and a further 75 will be included later this summer.


10 June 2008

Local Sites Report Direct From US Court

Two journalists from local newspapers have travelled to the US in order to file the latest news from a high-profile murder trial.

The Nottingham Evening Post and Worksop Guardian have reporters posted in Boston to provide regular updates online from the trial of Briton Neil Entwistle.

Holdthefrontpage.co.uk reports that Kate Skelton is sending audio, picture and text content to the Post’s website using a “sophisticated mobile phone”.

Meanwhile, Debbie Lockett is covering the trial for the Worksop Guardian and has posted a series of audio, video and text pieces.

“I wanted our own take on the trial and felt it was important that our readers were aware we are covering this from our own perspective, rather than taking a national feed,” said Guardian editor George Robinson.

He added: “Also, the priority is to get this on our website, and filed reports from our own reporter out there have more value to our readers.”

[Disclosure: The Worksop Guardian is a Johnston Press publication.]

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Trinity Considers Footie Blogs Rollout

Trinity Mirror is looking into rolling out its standalone football blog sites to include other clubs within their publishing areas.

The company currently has two such sites in operation and has revealed that more could be launched in the future, reports Journalism.co.uk.

Unveiled last month, Liverpool Banter and Everton Banter are managed by the Liverpool Daily Post and Echo and provide an opportunity for fans to have their say about the clubs.

Features include group blogs penned by journalists and by users, a Funnies section dedicated to the latest jokes, opinion polls and a comments area.

Director of Editorial Development Neil Benson explained that the banter blog is “not a companion site, it’s us offering a platform for Liverpool and Everton fans to post their own content. It’s a kind of semi-detached approach”.

He added that there were no immediate plans to roll out the blogs, but confirmed it was an option under consideration for the future.

“We’ve got titles in Newcastle, Middlesbrough, Birmingham, Cardiff, with the club there on the upswing, it’s very much in our thoughts looking at the success that our Liverpool titles have had, we think it’s something that would certainly work in those places.”

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09 June 2008

Cornwall Rewarded For Video Content

ThisIsCornwall has been named the best news website in England’s south west at a recent awards ceremony.

Judges at the EDF South West Media Awards praised the Northcliffe site for its speedy development and use of video.

The panel said: “Since devoting resources to online news provision for the first time in 2007, ThisIsCornwall has seen a significant increase in traffic to its website.”

It added: “The judges liked its strong use of videos, with some footage of police and trading standards showing just about everything that had gone on.

“The winner is a website the judges felt is still developing, but which showed real potential for the future.”

A fill list of winners from the awards is found at Holdthefrontpage.co.uk.

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Multimedia Tells Stories Of War Dead

Journalists at the LA Times have used a database to create an obituary for all local soldiers who lost their lives in the Middle East.

The database provides information on all of California’s casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001 and is searchable by categories including name, hometown and high school.

Each entry has photographs of the deceased and provides details on the soldier with a link to the original LA Times obituary.

Visitors are also welcome to post their tributes to the war dead via the extensive comments section.

The LA Times explains how and why it made the database using Django software in this accompanying launch story.

One of the key figures behind the creation of the database was computer-assisted reporter Ben Welsh and he writes on his blog that the initiative has been challenging but very worthwhile.

“The most rewarding part of the project for me has been to see how quickly we’re getting great, thoughtful comments submitted by friends and family members of the deceased.

“One of my goals in the design was to give their writing equal footing with our previous reporting.

“It can be heartbreaking to read, but I’m proud to have helped make something that people think is worthy of such sensitive information.”

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06 June 2008

Time To Talk About Online Video

A leading photojournalist with the Washington Post has revealed the creative process behind his latest online video.

Travis Fox talked to Poynter Online about his new film on female entrepreneurs in Rwanda and also offered his views on how to produce effective video for the web.

And the main theme of the discussion was timing – so here’s an overview of Fox’s ideas on the ideal length for online video.

Firstly, Fox pointed out that there are major cultural differences between producing packages for TV and for online newspapers when it comes to timing.

He stated that journalists at the Post “let the story dictate the time, not the time dictate the story” because time is not the all-important factor that it is with TV news.

“On TV, if viewers lose interest with a story, they change the channel and you’ve lost them.

“If viewers lose interest with a video online, they often just click on the next video, or maybe go to an article or blog on the same site.

“We haven’t lost them as viewers like on TV.”

Fox also noted another crucial difference between TV and online is related to the culture surrounding newspapers and how they are read.

“When was the last time you picked up the Washington Post and read every article all the way through?

“We hope you do, but recognise that’s not how our readers use the paper.”

Fox made it clear that he doesn’t believe every video should be ten minutes long, but does think there is room for variation and it certainly shouldn’t be a rule of 90 seconds per video.

And finally, Fox recommended that journalists can usually enhance longer online videos by splitting them up into chapters.

The full text of Fox’s interview, including details of the equipment he uses, is available at Poynter Online.


05 June 2008

Blackpool Live Blogs Local Talent

The Blackpool Gazette launched a live blog last Saturday to follow the progress of a local singer in a TV talent show.

A journalist at the Gazette posted regular updates about the happenings on BBC’s I’d Do Anything as Jodie Prenger competed to win the role of Nancy in a forthcoming production of Oliver!

Part One of the blog covered the first stage of the show’s finale and Part Two reported on the second show at 8.45pm when Prenger went head to head against fellow finalist Jessie Buckley.

And following Prenger’s victory, users took the opportunity to post their messages of congratulations via the blog’s comment sections.

[Dislcosure - The Blackpool Gazette is a Johnston Press publication.]

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Wash Po: Go Where The People Go

The Washington Post has launched another widget application as it seeks to take content to the people.

Sponsored by real estate company the Bozzuto Group, the new apartment finder application is the Post’s first ad-supported widget and forms part of its latest online strategy to deliver content to wherever users are.

People can embed the Washington Area Apartment Finder into their blogs or own pages on social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace.

The Post’s director of business development explained the idea behind these widgets to Editor & Publisher.

“From a strategic sense, we came to a realisation that investing in bringing eyeballs to our sites was going to be more difficult over time, so we want to deliver our content where people [already] are,” said Ken Barbieri.

He added: “More and more what you see is this content is going to be consumed where the readers encounter it.

“The question for us is how do you grow this into a long-term business.”

The Post now has a range of widgets, including an Issue Coverage tracker for the current presidential nomination elections, an Entertainment Scrambler and Recipes for the Day application.

More information about widgets – what they are and how to use them – can be found on the Web Trends site.


04 June 2008

10 Trends In Online Journalism

Web developer Tim Burden has published his guide to the top trends in online journalism.

Writing on his Printed Matters blog, Burden has used his experience as a news website consultant to put together his Top Ten Current Trends In Online Journalism.

Here are some highlights from the post.


1 Mobile Journalism

Burden predicts the rise of the mojo will see reporters “cut the tethers to their desks” and will result in freelancers working in the field as professional/citizen journalists.

2 Social Networking

Sites such as Flickr, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook encapsulate “the idea that reporters will not be the first on the scene” and provide a way for news providers “to reach out and connect to the very people who will be reading your stuff, allowing them to help you shape it and target it”.

3 RSS Filtering

The latest trend is finding ways to manage the information coming from multiple RSS feeds using applications such as Yahoo Pipes.

4 Churnalism

“News companies should be using wire copy strictly to augment their news gathering ... they should not be dumping them up on their websites just because they can.”


5 Geotagging and Maps

“The location of the event is probably the most important piece of metadata you can share. And aside from the beautiful map interfaces you could put on your own site, you could syndicate your data to other sites that map the news.”

6 The Semantic Web

Burden says tagging every component of a story – from place to person to time – will enable the creation of timelines, databases, biographies and a multitude of other resources.

7 Multimedia

Includes everything from video to photos to slideshows and should be available for others to embed on their sites.


8 News as a Platform

Make your content available for others to embed, use and build upon.

9 Aggregation

Making it easier for others to aggregate content.

10 Search

“Fifteen years into the web and many news companies still don’t have a decent search.”

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Revamped Surrey Site Goes Live

Guardian Media Group (GMG) has relaunched a website covering its weekly and daily titles in Surrey.

The site – getsurrey.co.uk – is a merged online operation which displays news from publications including the Surrey Advertiser, Woking News and Mail series, and the Surrey and Hants Star.

Sam Blackledge told Holdthefrontpage.co.uk that the revamped website aims to offer more opportunities for users to have their say.

“There’ll be a lot more video content and user-generated stuff - loads of blogs and comments, things that people can get involved in.”

The online reporter added that the new-look website “has been developed by the Guardian people in Manchester and we’ve been constantly liaising with them on how it looks”.

GMG has also recently launched new websites for its titles in Reading and Hampshire.

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03 June 2008

Murder Trial Twittered

A reporter in the US has used Twitter to publish constant updates from a murder trial.

Wichita Eagle journalist Ron Sylvester issued the microblog posts from inside the courtroom using a mobile phone and small keyboard, reports Journalism.co.uk.

Users could then directly access the mini reports on a dedicated Twitter account feed or via the Eagle’s website.

Sylvester blogged throughout the trial and has published over 1,000 updates covering jury selection, testimonies and the verdict.

The interactive journalist said this alternative form of court reporting enables people to follow the case at their leisure.

Although such coverage would not be possible in the UK where mobile phones are disallowed from courtrooms, Journalism.co.uk considers the legal implications of microblogging a trial in this article.

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Graduate Starts Own News Site

A journalism graduate has launched an independent news website covering north Staffordshire.

Matt Taylor runs the Radical Press from his living room and says he hopes the website will provide an alternative view to the mainstream press.

The majority of the stories are sourced and written by Taylor himself and he also has voluntary contributors and guest columnists.

Taylor currently funds the operation through money earned as a bar owner but is looking to make it pay for itself in the future by attracting local advertisers.

He told Holdthefrontpage.co.uk: “The site is a good thing and much needed in Staffordshire.

“The Sentinel has a monopoly on the press and we needed another source of news, not only an alternative but something independent that provides a source of debate.”

Taylor also confirmed that he hopes to expand his site’s coverage in the future to include central Staffordshire and south Cheshire.

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02 June 2008

How To Use Twitter For Breaking News

Poynter Online has published a column offering four ways for journalists to use Twitter as an information-gathering tool.

Writer Amy Gahran uses the example of a recent tornado in Colorado to show how the microblogging platform provides reporters with real-time details in the event of a breaking news story.

She says: “Twitter cannot and should not replace traditional reporting techniques, like calling sources and getting photographers on the scene.

“But this service has become extremely popular, which makes it a powerful resource for timely, diverse information.”

She adds: “Twitter’s popularity has reached the point that it can be a valuable early warning system to nearly anyone - including journalists and news orgs.”

Here are Gahran’s four top Twitter tips for newsrooms:

1 – Create Twitter Accounts

Have an official one for the news organisation itself as well as individual ones for journalists.

2 – Get Familiar

Reporters need to become active on Twitter before an emergency situation arises so they can become comfortable with the platform.

3 – Find Local Friends

Use TwitterLocal to find users in the area and then subscribe to the RSS feed to gain an overview of local talking points. The application can also be used to find people in the affected area of a breaking news story.

4 – Search For Breaking News

Use the TweetScan application which allows users to search for specific words. For example, Gahran searched for “tornado” to find relevant news.

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Video News Grows At Grantham

The Grantham Journal says its video news service has become daily following positive feedback from users.

Originally launched as a weekly feature, the bulletins are presented by reporters and provide a round-up of the latest local news headlines.

Assistant Editor Bob Hart told Holdthefrontpage.co.uk that Journal TV has proved popular with the audience since its inception.

“The bulletin started life as a weekly feature - but reader feedback was so good the move to daily production was the inevitable next step.”

He added: “Production values might be a bit cheap and cheerful - and we’re not all Kaplinsky lookalikes - but we’re giving our readers what they want and that’s solid local content.”

The latest video news bulletins can be viewed at Journal TV and on the Journal’s YouTube page.

[Disclosure: The Grantham Journal is a Johnston Press publication.]


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