Do you have a disaster recovery plan for social media?

Given last week’s announcement by Twitter that it would comply with tweet censoring in certain parts of the world, it might be time for editors and journalists to think what this kind of policy adoption means for them, both now and in the longterm. If you are a journalist who regularly uses social media tools in your work (Facebook, Twitter, Google +), or an editor who encourages their use in your newsroom , here are five basic questions you should know the answer to: Read the rest of this entry »

Yes, it's Republican Primary season : photo by Christopher Dilts for Obama for America

If you are ever anxious about the disappearing craft of journalism and your metaphorical engagement in horse-shoe manufacture during the age of space travel, comfort yourself with the sight of small town American libraries and school gyms heaving with a seemingly limitless throng of media talent. Like a roil of mating frogs in a pond, the ‘pack’ of press that trails around the Primaries, sucking up the West Wing atmosphere shows there is life in the old ecosystem yet. Given the vast numbers of reporters and huge resources thrown at the election, it is a grand time to watch out for digital trends and innovations which news organisations showcase during such events. I thought I would write a few down as an ongoing aide memoire as to which innovations stuck, and which fell by the wayside. Please feel free to add, disagree or amend. Read the rest of this entry »

It used to be the case that the news media’s engagement with social media and the commercial web was once reminiscent of Dr Samuel Johnson’s quote about women preachers  ‘ a dog walking on its hinder legs.It is not done well, but you are surprized to find it done at all’.  Not any more.

Rupert Murdoch’s gift to the rest of the ailing packaged media this New Year was his sudden, spontaneous and apparently authentic appearance on Twitter . It is astonishing to see (apparently) a man that the world’s media media has spent decades trying to decode, announcing as a casual aside that he favours Rick Santorum in the GOP race . The feverish delight at his debut gave way to slow news day speculation about his interest in Twitter in general. I was one among many wondering (on Twitter, naturally) what would happen if Rupert Murdoch liked Tweeting so much, he bought the company?

A Murdoch purchase of Twitter is not the point of the thought experiment. The point is really to sharpen focus for journalists on what their use of  third party platforms really means for the long term.  Read the rest of this entry »

Many of our students here at Columbia Journalism School have spent the week reporting the Occupy Wall Street protests. They documented the clearance of Zuccotti Park and the subsequent protests with a diligence, persistence and quality of reporting which was a credit to them and the J School. There were many professional news organisations, freelance journalists, students, bloggers and others covering the dispersal of the peaceful protests. There was also an alarming level of restriction placed on those reporters, and a number of arrests. The threat to journalists of restraint and detention whilst reporting public interest stories in New York City is extremely troubling. Here is an open letter to Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly signed by an number of faculty at the Columbia Journalism School documenting our concerns. For those following this story Josh Stearns of Free Press has being doing an excellent job of documenting all journalist arrests at Occupy protests.

Dean Starkman’s long read on ‘the news gurus’ in the Columbia Journalism Review starts out with the story of the remarkable Ida Tarbell, a template for the modern investigative reporter, whose work in 1904 took on Rockerfeller’s Standard Oil.  He tells us about Tarbell to remind us how different journalism has become – and inevitably so. Whilst acknowledging that those days have past, the piece draws a line between institutional support and individual journalistic power which, argues Starkman, has been recently undermined by a school of thought which elevates and promotes the idea of networks ahead of professional journalists and institutions.

The piece sets out to argue that the people at the center of the  consensus, Jeff Jarvis, Jay Rosen, Clay Shirky and Dan Gillmor, have been misguided Read the rest of this entry »

I am sure the public editor of the New York Times will be thrilled to know that Monday is ‘free advice day’, so he is in luck with the question he posed this week in his column: Occupy Wall Street: How Should It Be Covered Now? . The piece includes some great advice from the men who were asked, and some even more good advice in the comments section, from the wider audience. But, as it’s free advice day I thought it would be wrong to pass up the opportunity.

In a post on Friday I suggested that OWS has some lessons for newsrooms, Read the rest of this entry »

Occupy Wall Street: Photo : Anna Hiatt

Occupy Wall Street: a visual culture for networked news. Photo: Anna Hiatt

Occupy Wall Street is the perfect framework for understanding what is happening to news dissemination in an internet age. If there is a journalist or journalism student left in New York who has not yet been down to Zuccotti Park,  they should feel uncomfortably ashamed. The park itself has become a striking metaphor for the internet; it is a space which is privately controlled but to which the public have access, giving the impression of freedom of association without the assurance of continuity.

It is also a story with some complexity, a nebulousness some find irritating, and others find refreshingly nuanced. It is also an overwhelmingly visual story. Go to the Park, read the signs. Here is a post from academic Dr Alison Trope at USC Annenberg on exactly this subject. It is a theme which is as relevant to news reporting as it is to political and media theory.

The movement itself bamboozled the mainstream media and government with what was perceived as a lack of purpose. ‘They don’t know what they want’ being the generic complaint from mainstream outlets such as CNN. Again, if you visit the square, and read the dozens and dozens of signs it is clear what the complaints are, but they are not expressed in a way which is readily interpreted by packaged media.  For those of us who attended plenty of student marches in the 1980s, the mass-produced signs, run off in a student union or by a fringe political organisation, bore one short message with a simple solution;  ‘Coal Not Dole’, ‘Ban the Bomb’, ‘Thatcher Out’, ‘Rock Against Racism’. These messages were created, knowingly or subconsciously, with the medium in mind. One minute on the evening news and one shot in the newspaper, the unitary message is vital, but in the world of the real time social web it is over too soon, it lacks the conversational tone necessary for engagement of audiences. At last year’s good humoured but largely ineffectual Rally for Sanity, the signs were the principal output of the movement, grabbing the coat tails of the rise in photo sharing through easy to use tools like Facebook, Twitpic, Yfrog and flickr.

Nothing could be further from this packaged media message than the maker culture signs of OWS protesters. Read the rest of this entry »

The announcement from Google, that it is going to allow journalists to become more visible in its Google News service, as long as they have a profile on the Google+ social platform has sparked some comment and reaction. My own initial reaction was instinctively negative, whilst others, such as the journalist Alex Howard, whose views I respect a great deal, were largely positive. In fact Alex has summed up those initial reactions rather well  here . Whilst I really don’t want to come over all Evgeny Morozov about it, and naysaying a great leap forward for journalistic transparency, I still feel that we should be questioning the ‘inevitable’ more closely, as it marks not progress but a regression. Read the rest of this entry »

Twitter does not have many users in Abbottabad in Pakistan, where Facebook is apparently more the social platform of choice. But it has enough to break the first sounds of gunfire in the fight which was to eventually lead to the death of Osama bin Laden. Sohaib Athar, with his @ReallyVirtual Twitter handle, is not the future of news he is the present of news. Read the rest of this entry »

The BBC’s announcement today of its streamlining and focusing of its web strategy, 25 per cent budget cuts, the loss of 360 jobs, cannot have been a surprise to anyone, least of all its most ardent competitors. The out of control growth of the BBC’s websites has often been posited as a commercial ‘market impact’ problem for commercial rivals, but it is more of an editorial challenge than a regulatory one. After all, it is not clear exactly what the ‘market’ is for it to ‘impact’. Delivering a constantly evolving web strategy is not something Mark Thompson is alone in having to deliver. He’s just unique that he’s compelled to do it in public. Read the rest of this entry »