Monday, 12 November 2012

McAlpine story: Defamation and the dangers of identification

The Telegraph's Neil Midgeley on defamation and the dangers of identification in the internet age.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Farmers Guardian has fun with video - and wins an award

Journalism has never been solely about hard news so it's always good to see examples of B2B titles having a bit of fun.

Farmer's Guardian's Tractor Factor is a great example of this and it deservedly won the AOP Cross-Media Project award on Thursday night.

The brand produced 'Nothing Compares to Ewe' to encourage agricultural-types to enter the Tractor Factor competition by recording their own song and video promoting UK farming.

It's a fun idea, which created loads of community involvement and engagement.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

A few online resources for journalism students

Interesting to see the US-based Online Education Database has compiled its list of the 40 best blogs for journalism students, which included Online Journalism Blog and a host of others, all of which are well worth a look.

In addition to these sources, for anyone starting out or trying to break in to journalism, I also recommend:
Take a look - and why not suggest some others to add?

Monday, 9 July 2012

GAJ/John Deere course attendees get down to work

Course attendees on the Guild of Agricultural Journalists/John Deere
journalism training course hard at work during the morning sessions.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Tweet the course attendees at the Guild of Agricultural Journalists/John Deere training award course #GAJJD12

The Guild of Agricultural Journalists/John Deere training course kicks off on Sunday evening at John Deere UK HQ, Langar, Nottinghamshire.
The good news is that some of the course attendees have already begun to connect via social media.
Keen tweeters who will be taking part in the journalism sessions include David Acock ‏and Becca Veale
And the latest to connect are Twitter newcomer Louise Hartley and Harper Adams agri-food marketing student Sophie Cawley.

Why not follow and keep in touch with course events? I'll be using the hastag #GAJJD12.                                                                                                              

Video: Watch sports journalists in action

Hat-tip to Martin Green for tweeting this link to a video of a group of football reporters raiding a fridge full of free beer at the Euro 2012 championships.

Reportedly, it took just three minutes to empty the fridge, demonstrating that years of hard journalistic training have certainly paid-off.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

What's the future for paid-for content?

This interesting video from Paid Content features managing director Rob Grimshaw and Tomas Bella, ceo of Piano Media, talking about the future of online content payments plus some other trends in paid-for content.

Worth a listen.

Semi-colons in the spotlight

The semi-colon has been getting more than its fair share of publicity over the last few weeks. 

Writer and poet Michael Rosen recently took a pot shot at what he calls semi-colon terrorism. He was responding to proposals to introduce grammar tests to English primary schoolsHis question was how can teachers get the idea of correct semi-colon use over to a class of 11-year-olds? 

The debate continued on the other side of the Atlantic. According to Ben Dolnick in the New York Times author Kurt Vonnegut's maxim was:
Do not use semi-colons...All they do is show you've been to college.
Dolnick followed Vonnegut's advice until recently but now begs to differ. (Hat-tip to Patrick Neylan for the link).

Personally, I use semi-colons as little as possible. I tend to find myself siding with Vonnegut's point of view when we cover the subject on the regular business writing and editorial courses I run.

Of course, semi-colons have a use. But in most writing where the aim is simple, direct communication - such as in journalism or business documents - I feel you're nearly always better off with a full stop and a new sentence. Besides, not all readers understand them anyway.

Not sure how to use a semi-colon? Take a look at these tips from The Oatmeal plus a few thoughts from Grammar Girl.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

All set for Guild of Agricultural Journalists/John Deere journalism training course 2012

GAJ-JD Training 2011 2
GAJ/John Deere journalism training course attendees, 2011
I've spent some time over the last couple of days putting the final touches to the annual Guild of Agricultural Journalists' training course, which is sponsored by John Deere.

I'm no agricultural expert myself, but each year I teach journalism sessions at John Deere UK HQ for students and graduates with agriculture and horticulture backgrounds. 

Over a couple of days attendees are introduced to core journalism skills including writing, interviewing and copy-editing for print and online. Course host and John Deere PR consultant, Steve Mitchell, teaches the PR segment of the programme.

The course is followed by a few days' work experience on a variety of industry titles, which Steve organises for attendees. Attendees also complete a post-course assignment to write a news story. The best entry wins the John Deere award trophy plus £250 in prize money

Course graduates who've opted to pursue a media career following the sessions have gone on to work for magazines, newspapers, websites and PR companies across the agriculture and horticulture sectors.

As always, I'm really looking forward to working with this year's attendees. We begin on Sunday evening with an introductory talk - followed, of course, by a few drinks.

Where have you been?

The calm before the course: training room in New Jersey
Oops. Long time, no JLB post. You see, I've been a bit busy.  Doesn't sound like a great excuse but, honestly, June was a hectic month.

First of all there were editorial training courses to run in London and in Shrewsbury, followed by a heavy load of marking journalism assignments and media law exams for students at Southampton Solent University.

Then I jetted out to New Jersey to run some editorial workshops and social media sessions with the legal editors at  The great news is they've just won their first award.

And I spent most of last week running a series of one-day media law refresher sessions for editorial staff and teams.

Today, I've been completing the prep for my annual session on the Guild of Agricultural Journalists/John Deere training course while keeping half an eye on the latest developments in the progress of the Defamation Bill.

I should have made time to blog at some point, but sometimes it all gets too much.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Where are US eyeballs and where is US ad spend?

Interesting slideshow looking at where US media consumers direct their attention between web, mobile,  print, TV and radio and where advertisers spend money.

There's also a summary of some of the info  by Derek Thompson at The Atlantic.
KPCB Internet Trends 2012

Friday, 18 May 2012

Now it's Leveson: The Musical - video

Superb. Hat tip to @simoncrerar and @tomwhitwell.

How Facebook became the world's biggest social network - a Guardian animation

This Guardian animation give some useful background to the Facebook phenomenon. But it's also a great example of how you can use a visual medium to get over what would otherwise be a highly statistics-heavy piece of text.

Updated: The new McNae, a Leveson database and a few other media law resources for journalists and students

The Old Bailey. Pic: Anaru
I've just come back from an NCTJ workshop for media law lecturers and examiners. Inevitably there was much talk about recent events in media law so I thought I'd have a look at new-ish media law resources for journalists and students.

Law books
The workshop was led by lecturer Mark Hanna, who is co-editor of the latest edition of McNae's Essential Law for Journalists.  While McNae has traditionally been the bible for journalists and for students taking NCTJ exams, it's fair to say that in recent years it has lost ground to Law for Journalists by Frances Quinn, mainly because the Quinn book was easier to read and easier to navigate

The good news is that the latest McNae has slimmed down a little, has re-designed to help the reader navigate its pages tools and has also added some extra web-only chapters on niche areas of media law. It's well worth a look.

One area of discussion at the workshop centred around the fact that fewer journalists are doing court reporting these days. Sounds like a niche for entrepreneurial journalists to fill.

Libel reform
Anyone interested in keeping up with libel reform now that a Bill has finally been introduced should take a look at David Allen Green's Jack of Kent blog which has aggregated a series of useful bits of info relating to the Defamation Bill 2012.

Freedom of Information
There's a couple of good blogs to put in your feed reader if you want to keep up woth FoI. First, there's David Higgerson, who regularly rounds up FoI stories including this one on the council that wanted to keep the location of jubilee street parties secret. And there's FoIMan, for anyone who's really into Freedom of Information.

And just a reminder that is a great resource for tracking FoI requests - and getting help with making one.

Leveson Inquiry
UPDATE: Hat-tip to @richpeppiatt and props to Full Fact for this searchable Leveson database.

General developments
As always, keep an eye on Judith Townend's Meejalaw blog for news and comment on developments in law for journalists.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Coffee time: Interesting links from the last week

Here's a handful of links gathered from the last week or so on everything from data and long-form journalism to big thoughts on the business of publishing.

Data journalism and data visualisation

Different ways of telling the story

The business of publishing

Trends in the newsroom 

Friday, 11 May 2012

Best journalism job ad ever?

Stop me if you've seen this one before, but for some reason just served up this Mother Jones post from last year for a US job ad looking for committed journalists.

According to the ad the ideal candidate has:
Cursed out an editor, had spokespeople hang up on them in anger and threatened to resign at least once.
It also wants someone who doesn't fear taking on overambitious projects that can be "hellish and soul-sucking".
If you’re the type of sicko who likes holing up in a tiny, closed  office with reporters of questionable hygiene ...all for the glorious reward of having readers pick up the paper and glance at your potential prize-winning epic as they flip their way to the Jumble… well, if that sounds like journalism Heaven, then you’re our kind of sicko.
Nice to see a bit of honesty instead of all the usual buzzwords.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Courts and councils: please make it easier to get information

I've been putting together some sessions on news reporting and the role of PR people and press offices for journalism students I've been working with. This has included going to watch and report on Southampton City Council meetings and the students have also taken part in a mock press conference with Council press officers.

My visit to the council came not long after attending the Justice Wide Open media law event at City University and it struck me that some of the same information issues raised at the law event could also apply to councils.

How easy is to get court information?
Speakers at Justice Wide Open, including information campaigner Heather Brooke and press association legal correspondent Mike Dodd, criticised the difficulties journalists and members of the public face when trying to find out about and attend court cases. Lists of cases are not always available and some courts appear to revel in the mystique and idiosyncracies of our legal system. Two proposals stood out:

Friday, 9 March 2012

Useful tips on how to question numbers

I've been working with some journalism students looking at the challenges of writing stories based on surveys and other stats. So it was good to see some useful tips on how to question numbers from South African journalist Linda Nordling writing on SCiDevnet.

Many journalists started their careers because they are good with words but some are really uncomfortable with figures.

Useful tips from Nordling include:
  • Single numbers aren't always useful: they need other figures to provide context.
  • What's missing: eg check that percentage breakdowns add up to 100. If they don't, what's missing?
  • Use figures that readers/users can relate to.
  • Watch out for stats and financial targets that sound unrealistic.
  • And of course: check, check, check.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Citizen journalists - or just people?

I must admit I've never been that happy with the term 'citizen journalist', so I was interested to read what Steve Yelvington had to say on the topic:
What many meant when they said or heard "citizen journalism" was a lay practice resembling professional journalism ... where "citizens" "covered" "news."
But what I meant when I said "people's journalism" is not that at all. I meant something more organic, more natural, more spontaneous, more personal, less organized, less structured, less "newsworthy" and less ... well, less reliable.
I prefer Yelvington's thought that inevitably 'people's journalism', as he calls it, is more 'natural'. People talk about, write about, report on, and produce other types of content on, topics they find interesting. Journalists might define some of it as 'news' but some if will be just 'interesting stuff', but still important.

Students at Solent will soon be debating what 'citizen journalists' do that helps, improves on, or is better than, the work of professional journalists.

Their start point is a series of links, new and old, plus a couple of books- all listed below. Feel free to contribute to the debate.

How “citizen journalism” aided two major Guardian scoops, Online Journalism Blog                     

Online news: journalism and the internet, Stuart Allen.  Introduction and Ch 4, 5, 8.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Discussing the future of print media

I'll be discussing the future of print media soon with some first year journalism students at Solent University. I came across these videos from US editors/publishers, which are worth a look if you haven't seen them before.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Lessons for publishers from the Kodak story

It's easy to draw some analogies for publishers from Kodak's recent story.

Days before the company filed for bankruptcy protection, the Economist did a great job of analysing why while Kodak is at deaths door, Fujifilm is thriving. Here's how they differ:
Both firms saw their traditional business rendered obsolete. But whereas Kodak has so far failed to adapt adequately, Fujifilm has transformed itself into a solidly profitable business, with a market capitalisation, even after a rough year, of some $12.6 billion to Kodak’s $220m. 
Here's a few of the points the Economist highlights:

  • Kodak had become 'a complacent monopolist'
  • It was slow to diversify, Fujifilm wasn't
  • Its culture was one of perfectionism instead of 'make it, launch it, fix it'
  • There were management and leadership failings 

Taking up a similar theme, Kim Gittleson's BBC article asks Can a company live forever?. It says that over the last century the average lifespan for a leading US company listed on the Standard & Poor 500 index has decreased by more than 50 years:
It's fallen from 67 years in the 1920s to just 15 years today, according to Professor Richard Foster from Yale University.
Today's rate of change "is at a faster pace than ever", he says. Professor Foster estimates that by 2020, more than three-quarters of the S&P 500 will be companies that we have not heard of yet.
No company is entitled to a market just because it's been around for a long time.  It has to innovate, find new markets, change its culture and re-invent itself.  For publishers who haven't already learnt this lesson it may be too late.

When journalists can't do their sums: New percentage calculator tool

Powered by the Percentage Calculator.

Many thanks to Mateus Mucha for letting me know about the latest version of this handy percentage calculator, which Mateus created.

I mentioned an earlier version last year when I wrote about When journalism doesn't add up: reporters, subs and numeracy in what proved to be one of this blog's most popular posts.

Anything that helps those of us who struggle with numbers has to be a good thing.

The changing role of the journalist

Plenty of people have been discussing how to define a journalist and thinking about whether it's really the case that everyone is a journalist these days.

Martin Cloake takes former Independent editor Simon Kelner to task for saying “Anyone with a phone is now a journalist” in a speech at a Hacks and Hackers event. Kelner corrected this when questioned, as Cloake points out:
Kelner immediately qualified his comment, saying that what he really meant was that anyone with phone “could be” a journalist. He should be more careful when defining the debate, but he’s not the only person to sloppily put forward a view that is, in my opinion, extremely damaging.
But, says Cloake, there's more to journalism than simply publishing:
The great change that we are all dealing with is that anyone with access to technology can publish. But knowing why it is important to protect sources, to balance debate where necessary, to check facts and establish authority… these are just some of the things which distinguish journalism from communication.
This is a fair point. Journalists are professional filterers of information, fact checkers and askers of awkward questions. Some 'amateurs' do the same - perhaps occasionally better than the professionals - while some just record events.

The precise role of a journalist has always been a varied one. Paul Bradshaw raises the problem of defining a journalist in a collaborative age in response to a Press Gazette post. What happens, he asks, when more journalism is being done collaboratively:
If, for example, one person researches the regulations relating to an issue, another FOIs key documents; a third speaks to a victim; a fourth speaks to an expert; a fifth to the person responsible; and a sixth writes it all up into a coherent narrative – which one is the journalist?
Equally, any non-media folk watching or reading about the Leveson Inquiry might find it interesting to note that a journalist can be both someone who decides whether to run pictures and stories about celebrities and their weight and someone who takes politicians to task for their actions.

Journalism has always included a wide range of roles and activities. Admittedly there is a bit of churnalism but there's also space for some thoughtful analysis.

We know that the people we used to call the audience have a vital role to play in the process and if we fail to involve them and interact with them, we'll lose them. All we know for certain is that the range of roles and activities in journalism is just getting broader.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Headline writing: when is a 'slump' just a fall?

The headline on this Guardian news story caught my eye:
Number of UK-born university applicants slumps by 8% 
But is an 8% drop really a slump? 'Slump' suggests a major fall in applications to me. The Guardian standfirst says:
In the year fees of up to £9,000 kick in, 283,680 people apply for university from within UK, compared with 306,908 last year
If my sums are correct that's a fall of 23,228 applicants.  Sounds like a lot. But how many places are there to apply for? Also, as one of the commenters on the story notes, last year was a boom year for applications as prospective students rushed to beat the fee increase.  Maybe we need more context.                                                                                                                                                                        
 So is the story about a slump or just a fall?