Posts tagged “news

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.

A news experiment:

Theoretically, could someone shun all other media and rely solely on Twitter for news? To find out I’ve decided to tell the story of Australia’s 2010 Federal Election in under 20 tweets.

To make it more fun, I’ve introduced three rules:

  1. I must include tweets from people – not just news sites
  2. I must include tweets from the politicians who are on Twitter where possible
  3. I cannot use the same tweeter twice.

Here goes:

Election set for Sat Aug 21 12:05 PM Jul 17th

This election is about giving a great people a better government. The Coalition will end the waste, stop the taxes and stop the boats. 6:35 PM Jul 17th

According to Wayne Swan, Labor can’t stop the leaks. If you can’t govern yourself, how can you govern the country? 10:49 AM Jul 29th

So PM says she’s going to cut the PR and be the “real Julia”. Let me guess, a PR hack advised her to say that? 10:25 AM Aug 2nd

Switched on the NBN in Tasmania today. It will deliver faster internet to Australians & create jobs but @TonyAbbottMHR wants to axe it. JG 12:21 PM Aug 12th

A new opinion poll gives Labor an election-winning lead – but it’s close 5:57 AM Aug 18th

GetUp members and vollies are EVERYWHERE today as #ausvotes! 10:22 AM Aug 21st

Poms split their vote across 3 parties to get hung parlt. Ha! we can do it with 2 parties and a few indies! 12:17 AM Aug 22nd

ALP, Libs to negotiate with Independents to win office after Saturday’s election 8:37 AM Aug 23rd

Together with Bob Brown & Christine Milne, just signed agt with the PM to support a Gillard govt. Real movement on climate. More to come. 11:50 AM Sep 1st

3 independents don’t agree with each other but have put forward a “7 point wishlist” how will this be stable? 7:40 PM Aug 25th

Both Katter and Windsor have now criticised Abbott for refusing to put Coalition policies in to Treasury for costing. 10:41 PM Aug 25th

A confidential Treasury analysis has revealed an $800 million hole in the Coalition budget costings 12:11 AM Aug 10th

IND Wilkie reflects his constituency & backs Labor. 3 Amigos should reflect theirs & support LNP! 8:04 PM Aug 28th

Bob Katter throws his support behind the Coalition, but indicates it’s not unconditional support 2:10 PM Sep 7th

Tony Windsor chose to support Labor because of the issues of broadband and climate change. Onya Tony!! 3:09 PM Sep 7th

Do we have to wait another 17 days for Oakeshott to finish talking? 3:29 PM Sep 7th

OFFICIAL: Oakeshott and Windsor back Gillard. Labor survives election 76-74. Coalition defeated. 3:31 PM Sep 7th

Done – in 18 tweets!

Who watches the watchers?

Online whistleblower WikiLeaks has made quite a splash making available various pieces of information that governments, corporations and mainstream media don’t want us to know.

It has attracted fierce critics from the right, supporters from the left and caused lively debate in both the traditional and social media. It’s been busy rewriting the rules on information sharing, while its eccentric founder, Julian Assange has become quite the mystery man.

But what is WikiLeaks’ real purpose? To release privileged information in its raw form, leaving it up to the consumer to make up his/her mind? Or do they have their own agenda?

In the video below, Assange explains that due to a lot of the source documents WikiLeaks gets being exceptionally long and difficult to understand, they are interpreted – and Assange admits this interpretation goes beyond a mere summary – to make them understandable and consumable for the general public.

But Assange’s admission raises new questions. The minute anyone interprets anything its meaning gets altered. There is not a  journalist on Earth who can take thousands of pages of complicated source material and transform it into one page of plain English without affecting, and indeed influencing how its meaning will be perceived.

To his credit, Assange explains that the original material is always released alongside the interpretation. But he’s already said the source data is too long and complicated for most people to understand. So what are the chances of them going back to it to check that what they’ve just read/viewed is an accurate interpretation?

Assange adds that the material is edited for impact. Given that impact is an extremely subjective thing, this further complicates matters given that the perceived meaning of the material will then be firmly in the hands of the editor.

Assange also freely admits that WikiLeaks is indeed an activist organisation, with a goal. Yes, that stated goal is an honourable one – justice – but the mere existence of a goal at all means the organisation can’t be objective.

WikiLeaks finds itself in a position of immense power. It has done an enthusiastic job of keeping governments, organisations and the mainstream media in check, but who will keep it in check?

"Wow, I’ve got a story here!"

Today’s entry is purely a journalism-related one. As you may know I started a contract at a new paper last week. Well, on Tuesday I was reminded of one of the things I love about journalism.

Being a journalist, you’re always going to get a mixed bag of stories to work on. Some will be really interesting, some will be less so. Some will be sad (I had such a story this week). Some will involve merely re-writing a media release, while others will involve trying to find an angle in some fairly dry source material.

On Tuesday I was handed what seemed like a fairly dry report to read through and find an angle on for my paper’s readership. And I very nearly missed something that was staring straight at me.

After spending much of the day getting regulation comment from the appropriate spokespeople, I decided to read a section of the report I had skimmed over. I had skimmed over it because it concerned the research methodology and I was only interested in the findings.

In short, I had decided what I was looking for. Now if you don’t have a lot of time, deciding what you’re looking for can help you to turn out a fairly decent news story quickly. But it can also sometimes mean you miss out on something far more important.

Well, I’m glad I decided to read through the methodology section. For in it I found my real story.

At the start of this ramble I said I was reminded about one of the things I love about what I do. In short, that thing is the rush you get when you realise you really have something. Something more than just dry commentary or an everyday interview.

Rather, an important piece of information that your readership don’t know; one that they should know; and that they will now know because you will tell it to them.

It’s those little moments of satisfaction that make it all worthwhile.

The moral of the story? Don’t decide what you want to find. Open your mind. Think outside the square. And remember, the best stories are often to be found where a lot of people won’t go looking for them.

Reuters introduces ‘rules’ for Twitter

You will have read in this blog last July about the implications that social media tool Twitter has on traditional news mediums. Now, one of the world’s largest news wire services, Reuters, is taking those implications very seriously:

Reuters are attempting to answer a lot of questions about how social media and Twitter in particular affect news coverage. Included in their new rules is a requirement that their journalists do not break news over Twitter before doing so over the wire, as well as several rules aimed at counteracting perceptions of individual bias.

Requiring their journalists to break news over the wire first is a business decision, and a fair one. For a journalist to break a story by other means and not for who they work for would be akin to an Apple employee selling a palate of iPads before the product’s release date.

Of more interest is the requirement that Reuters employees do not post anything that may indicate personal bias on Facebook, as well as the requirement that they maintain separate business and personal Twitter accounts.

This is because social media has allowed us to know so much more about the people who provide services to us, the public. In days gone by, a byline was merely a name in news reporting (Opinion was obviously another story). Now, with access to journalists via social media we can find out their likes and dislikes, partner’s names, see pictures of their pets, you get the idea…

Clearly then, Reuters is right not to want their journalists’ views broadcast across the social mediasphere. Reporting is meant to be subjective and impartial – and whether it conforms to this regularly or not – clearly knowing a journalist’s personal stance on an issue will affect how we see their reporting of it.

One thing that does puzzle me though is Reuters frowning upon their journalists following certain sources on Twitter. As a journalist, I find Twitter an extremely useful source for story ideas. The key however is to follow sources with a wide variety of opinions, which is why (to give an example) politically I follow Liberal, Labor, Greens and Independents.

It will be interesting to see if the other major wire services including Associated Press and Agence France-Presse, or AAP in Australia take heed and look at instituting similar rules.


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