Two interesting Mashable stories

Today on Mashable there are two stories that anyone interested in journalism should read. I’ve harped on relentlessly in this blog about the implications of technology and the social media revolution on journalism. These two stories cover both bases.

Story 1: Washington Post tells journalists not to engage on Twitter

Maintaining a perception of journalistic objectivity has been one of the key problems for news organisations on Twitter. You may recall this blog discussing Reuters bringing in new rules for its twitterers back in March. Now the Washington Post is the latest company to put its foot down.

In a memo to staff, managing editor Raju Narisetti said:

“Once we enter a debate personally through social media, this would be equivalent to allowing a reader to write a letter to the editor–and then publishing a rebuttal by the reporter. It’s something we don’t do.”

Mashable’s Vadim Lavrusik in his analysis rightly argues that the Washington Post doesn’t get social media. In an era where journalism is becoming increasingly about engaging with readers and encouraging a debate, Narisetti has put a clear roadblock between his organisation and the future. Yes, the Post needs to monitor and regulate how Twitter is used, but to put a blanket ban on this kind of interaction is not the solution.

Story 2: Is the iPad really the saviour of the newspaper industry?

The newspaper industry's saviour?

Now here’s an interesting one. Technology is widely credited with causing the decline in the newspaper industry, but here is a suggestion it will also be its saviour.

The article explores the popularity of the iPad and subsequent rise of apps for consuming newspapers. It suggests that the tablet revolution may be helping publishers tap into new digital markets. With this uptake new revenue models are being created that may just make publishing viable again.

It does point out that there is a way to go – newspapers are still not designing apps that take full advantage of the iPad’s capabilities. These comments about the Sydney Morning Herald iPad app seem to bolster this view.

I think it’s great that newspaper publishers may have found a way to stay viable (as it helps my chances of making a living!) but I think there is no doubt that if they expect consumers to pay, publishers will have to produce a product that’s worth the money.

Oh no! Twitter spam!

We’ve all received those emails, be it a poorly-English worded “Hello, my friend. How are you recently. I write tell you of big electrical bargains, reliable company” or the infamous “I write because you have good reputation. I wish to use your bank account to transfer $1,000,000 and you get give $10,000 for assistance”. Let’s face it, email spam is annoying and for the poor souls that fall for it, dangerous.

But what about Twitter spam?

I had never been spammed on Twitter before, so it never even occurred to me that such a thing existed. In hindsight I guess it was too good to be true. For yesterday morning when I logged in to the world’s favourite microblogging service, there it was:

Spam was already becoming an increasing problem on Twitter in mid-2009, according to this article from TechCrunch. Then in June this year itnews.com.au reported on a malicious spam attack, involving tweets containing a link to a website that self-installs rogue software on the user’s computer.

This video talks about what constitute Twitter spam:

Twitter itself is well-aware of the spam problem and says it is working hard to fight it. The service has strict rules to try prevent spammers. This graph, sourced from Twitter, shows the amount of spam as a percentage in the 12 months to February 2010 (although with the exponential increase in Twitter users, the actual number of spammers may have increased even if the percentage has decreased):

Computerworld questions whether Twitter is doing enough, and has itself demonstrated that identifying spammers can be done. The problem however is you find and block one spammer, then another takes its place.

The other battleground against spam is through third party clients. TweetDeck, for example has introduced a spam button which deletes the message, blocks the user and reports them to Twitter. Hootsuite also allows a spammer to be reported, but popular mobile client Echofon appears to be yet to follow suit.

Time will tell of the effectiveness of these measures – in the meantime, it looks like this annoyance will be with us for the foreseeable future.

New Domain for Doing All Write!

Different address – same great blog!

Doing All Write can now be found at www.doingallwrite.com.

I’ll continue to share my thoughts on journalism, social media and how the two collide. Please comment freely and often.

Journalism is undergoing a metamorphosis – no one can deny that anymore. Traditional news mediums are no longer the be all and end all. The news has become a conversation.

Join my conversation today!

Last days of Sydney Writers Festival

The Sydney Writers Festival finishes on this Sunday 23 May 2010.

There are still plenty of interesting sessions happening around town so check out their website at www.swf.org.au for more information.

Also, be sure to check out aMUSE, the Alternative Media Group’s independent review of the festival, available in this week’s City News or City Hub newspapers.

So, You Want to be a Journalist? Read On…

So you want to be a journalist? Great, welcome aboard. Nice to have you with us. But I’d like to take this opportunity to give you some advice.

Some of this I’ve learned from personal experience. Some of it I’ve been fortunate to have been warned about – and thus far avoided having to learn it the hard way. My purpose here is not to scare you, but rather to prepare you. If you really want to do this then you’ll read the below, shrug your shoulders, and dive right in.

Welcome to your adventure…

  1. Journalism is not Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 – Get used to this now. You will have to make sacrifices. Lots of them. The world works on its own schedule. Your job is document events that happen… and plenty happens after business hours and on weekends. You will miss that dinner party sometimes. You will have to cover an event or a story while your friends are at the beach. You chose this. Don’t complain.

  2. You’re not as good as you think you are – You may have a way with words. You might be great at poetry or fiction. But journalism is an entirely new craft. There is a formula – a way to do it, and you don’t know it yet. This point is easily fixed by learning from an established journalist or as I have done, enrolling in an appropriate course of study. Even then however, you’re going to have to practise, practise, and practise – like anything practice makes perfect (or in this case, better).
  3. You’re not going to walk into your dream role – you may dream of interviewing movie stars on the red carpet or your favourite football players in the dressing sheds after a game. And maybe you will one day. Before that though you’re going to have to “do your time” at the grassroots level. Be prepared to do a lot of local reporting about community events, residents opposing developments and other issues of this nature. And be grateful as hell to be given the opportunity to do so.
  4. You will work hard for little to no pay in the beginning – this follows on from the previous point. Local papers don’t have a lot of money to pay you. But if you don’t start somewhere you’ll never get the experience. So you should be prepared to sacrifice a few comforts in the short term. I’ve cancelled my regular wine deliveries and am about to say sayonara to Foxtel. I’ve kept a second job that I dislike in order to stay afloat. And I’m about to flog off some unused belongings on eBay to pay for an overseas trip I had no business booking on my current income.
  5. Your sources don’t work to your schedule – once you start researching and writing articles you will be dealing with sources. They are important to you. But you may not be all that important to them. Sources have their own lives and jobs, their own problems and their own schedules. Don’t expect them to fit into your schedule. Organise interviews in plenty of time. Have backup sources ready in case your preferred source isn’t able to coordinate with you. Always talk to more people than you need – better to have too many quotes than not enough.
  6. Forget your own opinion – when you are starting out as a reporter you don’t have one. You may dream of being the next Annabel Crabb or Piers Akerman but until people know who you are they won’t give a damn what you think. Your job right now is to 100% objectively report news. Take out your creative expression, your tone and your clever language. Keep it simple and to the events of the story. Never take sides. Read your articles over several times once you’ve written them to make sure that you’re not.
  7. You will be edited: swallow your pride and get used to it – Your joy at seeing your first by-line may well be soured once you read what you wrote and find it’s not exactly what you wrote after all. This is going to happen. It’s up to the editors to decide how the articles that go into their papers read. If that means changing quotes to paraphrasing, rearranging your paragraphs or deleting some of your piece altogether, they’re going to do it. Suck it up.
  8. Be prepared to be beaten to the punch: it will happen – the reality is that there are other journalists out there trying to make a name for themselves too. You do not have a monopoly on any story. Particularly if you are chasing a really hot story, you can bet there will be other journalists on the case. The best you can do is try and file first… and hopefully you will, but be prepared that sometimes you won’t. All your hard work and you were beaten. Don’t feel sorry for yourself. Move on to your next story.
  9. You can be sued – this is the fun bit (not). You are writing about people, groups and organisations. And people, groups and organisations can all sue. The best way to avoid this is to get a copy of the MEAA’s code of conduct and follow it religiously. Check your facts. Make sure you have permission for every quote you use and document this permission. Don’t defame anyone. Stay objective.

    So… by now you’re probably wondering what you’ve gotten yourself into. This is why I’ve covered all the “scary stuff” first. Here’s something to keep you inspired. And that is…

  10. You can make a difference – I’ve left the best for last. If you give this your all and do it right, you can truly make a difference. One of my university tutors told us a story about a news piece that covered a fatal car crash involving some teenagers. The reporter interviewed the father of one of the victims, and his words resulted in major changes being made to driving laws which have resulted in less teenage fatalities on our roads. I can’t claim yet to have achieved such a feat, however my constant hounding of a pub owner whose establishment was ignoring a court judgement to meet with concerned residents led to him agreeing and attending said meeting.

So there you have it… now throw yourself into it, get out there and start making a difference!

Where have I been?

Greetings Blog-land. You may be wondering where I have been since July, or if I had given up on this blog. I can assure you wholeheartedly that I have not, and this post is just the beginning of more exciting things to come.

The reason for my absence has been lack of time due to my commencing postgraduate studies in a Master of Arts in Journalism. I have taken the plunge to learn the craft of something that has interested me ever since I was a child writing fictional newspapers about a fictional place for my family to read.

So of course in order to do my best to excel in my studies I had to devote much of my time to them. All three of my blogs have gone unloved during this time. But no more.

I am pleased to report that the time I devoted so far to my studies has been worth it. Not only am I enjoying and achieving (yeah I’m modest) at university, but through my studies I’ve picked up a reporting role for “The City News” and its sister newspapers “The Inner West Independent” and “The Bondi View”.

This is a fanstastic opportunity that I’m grabbing with both hands, to expand my skill set and build practical knowledge on top of what I’ve learned in the classroom.

Naturally then, you can look forward to this blog covering a lot more about journalism. I still intend to talk about social media and copywriting, however the blog will be enriched with posts about journalism and reporting as well. And as social media and journalism are becoming more and more inter-related (refer to my post “Welcome to Twitter World News”) the implications of social networking on news and journalism will also feature.

Think of it (in sporting terms) that this blog has been in the off-season for the last few months, and now the regular season is kicking off again. But don’t forget that with an expanded playing roster and rule changes designed to make the game more interesting, this season promises to be the most exciting yet.

Welcome back to Doing All Write!

Welcome to Twitter World News…

Regardless of where in the world we are, the way we are getting our news is changing. Traditional news media such as television, radio and print still exist – but exist more as a means of providing more of the story, rather than as a means of breaking it.

As an example, the recent tragic bombings in Jakarta were first reported to the world via social media tool Twitter. Within seconds, tweets about the tragedy were flying through cyberspace – first hand accounts of people who were there. Photos from camera phones were already up on the Internet before most news crews even arrived on the scene.

Twitter also broke the news of the Mumbai terror attacks last year, and played a major role in spreading the news of pop star Michael Jackson’s death around the world, along with fellow social networking sites Facebook and MySpace.

This changing nature of the way we receive our news has many implications. The catchphrase “News as it happens” has never been more true. We no longer need to wait for radio or television bulletins to find out the latest headlines. Even Internet based news sites, while constantly being updated, cannot match the viral power of a site like Twitter in terms of speed when breaking a story. This is because Twitter is updated by everyday people, who naturally are already everywhere while news crews can only respond after an event has occurred.

Another implication is that everyday people who break news stories via social media do so free of traditional media angles. Savvy people who are after the whole story are hence going to be more likely to increase their reliance on these alternative news services rather than take what the networks or newspapers say is gospel.

This is not to say social media cannot be and isn’t abused – as anyone can post a message there is a huge risk of incorrect information, intentionally misleading messages or false rumours being circulated. It is up to everyone who uses social media to take the moral responsibility and do the right thing. At the same time we should also check the sources we read from, and consult others to ensure we are indeed getting the true and full picture.

One thing however is clear. The way we receive breaking news has forever changed, and traditional media sources have some work to do if they are to figure out how they are going to fit into this new order.


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