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Month: November 2010

The Two Direction Era of Publishing

I couldn’t help but chuckle, as two stories came to my attention in a very short period of time:

So, which way are you going? Towards more sharable content or less?
(And yes, I’ve added the LinkedIn Share button already)

Hacks’n’Hackers Day at RBI

Anyone with even a passing interest in data journalism will be aware of the hacks’n’hackers days that have been going on all over the country. Well, today is RBI’s turn to host one, which is being run by the good folks at ScraperWiki.

After a morning briefing, liveblogged by Sarah Booker, the teams have formed and are hard at work scraping data and building projects from it. I’ll try to chronicle what happens as the day goes on, but here’s some photos of the day in progress:

RBI hacks'n'hackers day in progress

Solving a data scraping problem

Heads down, building a project

Work in progress

The award-winning Olympics blogger

The award-winning Paul Norman

I thought Mr Paul Norman was looking a little rough around the edges this morning at Estates Gazette‘s busting metropolitan HQ. I didn’t figure out why until I got around to catching up with his excellent Olympics blog on my iPad.
Last night Paul bagged the multimedia journalist of the year award from the IPB, largely for his work on that blog. 
As I mentioned to Paul, his is one of a handful of our blogs I cite when training or advising people as an excellent example of beat blogging. It’s great to see his skill recognised by people in his niche, too.
What a great end to the week. 
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Blogs: The new source of poster quotes

Windows Phone 7 & Gizmodod

I noticed this (huge) advert for Windows Phone 7 on my way through London Bridge this morning. Now, I must have seen it over a dozen times in the last few weeks, but it was only today that what it actually said registered with me.
There was the normal quote from a publication extolling the virtues of the new product – but this was no national newspaper or technology magazine.
A quote. On a huge advert. In one of the mainline commuter stations. In one of the biggest cities in the world.
That feels like another tipping point. 
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News and Journalism are not synonyms

vanityfeature My most recent bugbear has been the confusion between “news” and “journalism” in the online debate about the future of our industry. As I see it, news is a subset of journalism, but not the entirety of it. But then, as a former features editor, I would say that, wouldn’t I? 🙂

I was reminded of this over lunch, most of which I spent reading this feature from Vanity Fair: The Case of the Vanishing Blonde, linked by Kottke.

It’s not, by any standards, news. The core facts and events were reported a while back. But it is a great piece of journalism. Compelling reading, telling a great story that’s factual. It’s great, compelling feature writing. (And yes, I did read it on a screen…) Great journalism, in other words.

Journalism is exciting. And don’t you forget it.

Day 134 - MACBOOK.jpg

I was reminded this morning that this is, despite all appearances, a great time to be in journalism.

I’ve been training on a series of blogging workshops for various of our magazines, doping some close analysis of the blogs they have, setting a strategy for improving them, and then reviewing progress a few months on. (Dave Mascord has been doing the heavy lifting in organising them. I just turn up and pontificate.) The follow-up with the Community Care team this morning suggested that at least some of them are really coming to enjoy the freedom to experiment that the medium gives them.

And there’s so much exploration to be done. We have new tools, from iPhones to Flip cams, and new methods of delivering journalism, from beat blogging to data journalism. There are new audiences to reach out to, and engage with. There are new audiences to serve, and they may be as active in content production as we are.

The boundaries are breaking. The playing field is not what it was. We don’t have all the answers yet. We may not even have most of them. Everybody who comes into journalism has a chance of being one of the people who helps redefine this profession. How can you not be excited by that and call yourself a journalist? This is an inquisitive, status quo-challenging profession. We should enjoy change and the death of received wisdom.

So, sure, business models are being disrupted. And sure, journalist’s working methods are having to change. But change is part of life, and I find the current environment a hell of a lot more inspiring that the stultifying, formulaic received wisdom journalism that defined so much of the first 10 years of my working life.

There is, in short, room to play. Why do children play? To learn about themselves and their environment. That’s where we all are now. We are children stepping into a whole new publishing environment, a whole new information ecosystem, and we have to learn our role in it. And we learn by playing. Or “experimenting” as we grown-ups like to call it, to pretend that it’s something important.

I’m fairly sure I do a post like this every nine months or so. And if you’ve seen this before, I apologise. But I do think it’s worth repeating. I don’t want to see the doom-mongers who bemoan the end of the Old Ways defining the conversation about online journalism. I want to keep the excitement alive.

Photo by Margot Conner, used under a Creative Commons license

Afternoon Coffee Reading: The Return

Afternoon Coffee

I’m back at work, and Afternoon Coffee Reading is back on this blog. I was taken to task by a colleague the other day, who had apparently found them good readin’, but who didn’t find the equivalent links shared intermittently on Twitter as useful. So, here goes:

Student Protests, 1989 Style

Anti-Student Loans Demo

November 1989. I was not long turned 18, in my first year at Imperial College, and working on Felix, the student newspaper. Oh, and Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government was proposing to replace student grants with student loans. Cue a wave of protests and demos…

The first of those was on November 22nd, meeting at 1pm on Malet Street, London. I was there – but not as a protestor. I had my notebook, I had my camera. I was reporting
Over two decades later, I was watching this year’s demos begin, and discussing it with others on Twitter. I couldn’t resist digging out my old negatives, scanning them and sharing them, as a point of comparison with last week:
Things have, I think, changed…