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National news media? Yeah, right.

So, today the (allegedly) British media goes into its annual frenzy of exam-results celebration, in predictable style. First we have the pretty girls celebrating.

Tomorrow, inevitably, it’ll be all about how A-levels have been dumbed down

But that’s not what’s really irritating me.

No, I’m niggled by the same thing I’ve been annoyed by since I was a teenager growing up in Scotland. The Scottish exam results came out two weeks ago, but would you know it from coverage from our supposedly national media? No you blooming’ well wouldn’t. A few stories about the text-messsage cock-up, sure. But a live-blog? Nope.

Elitist, shallow and London-centric media? You betcha.

Le Web: Queen Rania of Jordon

Queen Rania of Jordan

And now, possibly our most high-profile speaker, Queen Rania of Jordan. Genuine royalty, rather than the metaphorical tech royalty…
It’s interesting that Queen Rania finds that social media allows her more human relationships with people, dispelling the air of slight deference people take on automatically when around her.
Michael Jackson’s death wiped Iran from the Twitter tending list. Did his demise change the course of the Green Revolution? No. It’s more complex than that – but it illustrates how fleeting social activism can be on social network. 
BUT real time is the new prime time – it’s a place for news, information. collaboration and organisation. 
Number of kids out of school worldwide? 15 times the population of Paris.
In the end, this talk is a call for us to move our activism in social media beyond a hashtag and a sense of self-satisfaction. And that’s a message I can buy into.
She’s encouraging us to to devote “1 Day for 1 Goal” – to use our social media outlets to talk about the child education issue for one day. You might have other causes you support. But I think she has a point. The hashtag campaigning has shown that people have a hunger to do more to deal with problems. It’s time to stop being so idealistic and be a little more pragmatic about how social media can change things – as danah’s talk so ably illustrated. 
[Once again, Steph has more notes]

Facing The Future of Journalism (and liking it)

I’ve gone a bit quiet, haven’t I? Sorry about that, but I’ve been busy, holidaying and sick, but not necessarily in that order. One element of the busyness was this:

Cardiff Journalism Postgrads

Yes, I was back in Cardiff to guest lecture to this year’s crop of postgraduate journalism students. And an interesting experience it was, too. This bunch seemed to be more aware of social media and the changes in journalism than those of a year ago. There were some good challenging questions from them about entrepreneurial journalism, and a couple of them came to talk to me afterwards about their own plans and ideas for journalism businesses.

It might not be good news for big companies, but the fact that the spirit of journalism is alive and well in the younger generation – and actively trying to create its own means of funding itself, gives me a lot of hope for the future.

house.jpgAnd I can’t resist sharing this piece of art (right) that was created by Caroline Cook, one of the students, for her Broadsheet Boutique blog. It’s always interesting seeing how your lecture filters through into the student’s blogs. Thank The Monkey (good advice in most circumstances) sums up parts of my argument pretty well, and you’ve got to love someone who’s been inpired to turn their blog into a party. And I’m really glad this point came across loud and clear:

Without sounding cheesy, if you are not passionate, interested, or keen, about what you are blogging about, why should your readers be? If you enjoy what you are doing it will be a pleasure to update your blog 3 or 4 times a week…*cough*. If you are not enjoying writing your own blog, it is unlikely people will enjoy reading it, and from a business point of view, this will result in swift homelessness. 

Passion? Fashion. Farming. Politics. All good stuff.

Ways to Warm to Wikipedia

The good Doctor Tinworth, my wife Lorna, has told me many times how Wikipedia is becoming a battleground in universities, particularly in the sciences. More and more students are handing in papers which cite only Wikipedia as a source. Anyone who knows anything about how scientific literature functions, and the fundamental concepts that underpin it, can see that as a problem. Wikipedia is closing the specialist students’ minds to potential information, not opening them to it.

Not good.

In light of Lorna’s comments, danah boyd‘s contribution to a discussion about the role of sites such as Wikipedia on the Britannia Blog makes a lot of sense:

Why are we telling our students not to use Wikipedia rather than educating them about how Wikipedia works? Sitting in front of us is an ideal opportunity to talk about how knowledge is produced, how information is disseminated, how ideas are shared. Imagine if we taught the “history” feature so that students would have the ability to track how a Wikipedia entry is produced and assess for themselves what the authority of the author is. You can’t do this with an encyclopedia. Imagine if we taught students how to fact check claims in Wikipedia and, better yet, to add valuable sources to a Wikipedia entry so that their work becomes part of the public good.

And perhaps that’s a good route for educators to take: move from step one (reject) to step two (embrace and extend). It’s a blue monster moment all of their own.

Life With Open Laptops

The Washington Post has published an interesting article by a law professor about students attending classes with laptops open. It calls into question the idea that the younger generation are as able to multi-task and process as many information sources as we think they can.

Is he being reactionary, or is this going to be a genuine problem?

Ironically, I’m typing this in an internal meeting with my attention on 50% on the proceedings.

[Via a comment on Anil’s Vox.]