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A trade journal of a still-emerging field, written by Adam Tinworth.

Posts tagged The Guardian

Interesting – and quite important – experiment from The Guardianexposing the right and left in the US to Facebook newsfeeds from the other side of politics:

Tobias said that exposure to the other side made her realize how difficult it might be to find common ground after the election.

“It’s frightening to me to see how much the left and the right are divided right now,” she said. To bring us back together, I don’t know what it’s going to take.”

I have much to say about the recent kerfuffle over fake news – but I’m still working it through. In the meantime, it’s important to remember that what Facebook has created in its newsfeed algorithm is a dark mirror of humanity, one that feeds on our own confirmation bias to reinforce a cosily reassuring view of the world, in the sense that our existing opinions are rarely challenged.

That said, exposing people to new views doesn’t mean they’ll shift the way you might want them to:

“Seeing the liberal feed pulled me further to the right,” said Loos. “Without getting the counterpoint, I was drawn more and more to the conservative side. Instead of luring me in, it pushed me away.”

The filter bubble is us – Facebook just makes it easier.

From one of Kath Viner’s first memos as editor-in-chief of The Guardian, as leaked to Guido:

One of the easiest things everyone can do is link to other Guardian stories when writing a Guardian story.

Internal linking: easy and free traffic.

It’s very simple (highlight the word; Apple K; paste in link) and yet is one of the most important elements of digital practice and good journalism. It gives readers context and background, and it drives traffic.

Preach it.

Editor-in-Chief-elect of The Guardian, Katharine Viner is a speech 18 months ago:

In fact, digital is a huge conceptual change, a sociological change, a cluster bomb blowing apart who we are and how our world is ordered, how we see ourselves, how we live. It’s a change we’re in the middle of, so close up that sometimes it’s hard to see. But it is deeply profound and it is happening at an almost unbelievable speed.

Further on in the talk:

A newspaper is complete. It is finished, sure of itself, certain. By contrast, digital news is constantly updated, improved upon, changed, moved, developed, an ongoing conversation and collaboration. It is living, evolving, limitless, relentless.

This is all really excellent stuff. I have great hopes that The Guardian have made exactly the right choice.

99 Designs highlights the Guardian NSA article I liked as a bad example of a Snowfall-eque multimedia feature:

Rather than embed each speaker’s testimony in a single video, however, it breaks them up into many short fragments which play automatically as a reader scrolls, distributing them evenly throughout the article. Multimedia at its most interruptive.

I strongly disagree with many of their assessments, if only because they seem to think that the textual elements of such features should be separate from – and consumed separately to – the video and graphical elements. I’m in favour of weaving them together as one narrative.

Fast Company takes a look at how The Guardian produced their multimedia NSA story:

Sure, they could whip up a 5,000-word explainer and hit “publish” (as others have done and will undoubtedly continue to do) but today’s digital news ecosystem calls for something more immersive and engaging. To achieve that, they would need to blend a written narrative with interactive elements and video clips and package it all in an eye-catchingly beautiful layout. Like the New York Times‘s Snow Fall and Pitchfork‘s interactive feature on Daft Punk, NSA Files Decoded needed to feel like an experience rather than a news article.

Lots of nice, crunchy technical detail in there for the production-minded.

Guardian Multimedia Feature

I meant to link this last week, but it got lost in the manifold tabs lurking in my browser… The Guardian did a really nice multimedia feature on what the NSA/Snowdon business actually mean to us as people.

What I like about this multimedia feature is that it keeps a coherent narrative and guides you through the reading experience, unlike so many of its other post-Snowfall kin. Clever use of integrated multimedia shouldn’t preclude – or obscure – good storytelling. The running narrative still needs to be clear, and I think they managed it pretty well here.

(As an aside: it’s astonishing that it’s taken us this long to start creating genuine multimedia – stories that use multiple forms of media well – rather than just sticking up a crappy YouTube video, and calling it job done…)

joanna-geary.jpgThis morning’s launch of GuardianWitness has created some debate about what it actually is. The Guardian’s digital development editor Joanna Geary (friend of the blog 😉 ) was kind enough to give me a ring and answered some of my questions about the background of the service.

First up: this was built in two months. The sponsorship pot from EE gave them a budget and time to get the job done, but not necessarily have everything they wanted at launch. She says it’s a complete, working system that can be built upon. I suggest the phrase “minimum viable product” to Jo but she suggests that it’s a full product – one that will be built on. Do they have aspirations for more integration with social media? Yes, they do. And it’s something they’re looking at as the system develops. 

The key part of the development which is invisible to us right now is that the Guardian Witness system is deeply integrated with the Guardian’s CMS. Once the content has passed through verification, it’s available to the journalists, and they can insert it into a story or liveblog just by inserting an URL, which creates an embedded version of the contribution that links back to the contributor’s profile. 

“The really exciting thing is not what you see now, but what you see when Witness is included in a story,” she says. It’s a tool to facilitate genuine collaborative working between the journalist and external witnesses. Jo says they’ll collaborate with people on the ground, or with expert knowledge, in any way they can – and already do, via phone and other traditional methods. This adds another tool for doing that. 

Verification is journalism

Thumbnail image for GuardianWitness on the iPhoneVerification is critical, and there are basic verification tools built into the system, that look at things like a photograph’s EXIF data and compare it to the claimed location, for example. Once something’s through that front line, it goes through a series of journalist-driven verification checks, that start at “is this a tall building or is it actually a hippopotamus?” and ends with detailed checking of the veracity of the contribution. “People suggest this is about free content, but it’s actually costing a lot in time,” she suggests – although she acknowledges that the issue of payment (or not) for contributions will likely be a point of discussion and criticism. 

More than 100 journalists have been put through training around Witness, focusing on good stories for assignments and verification techniques, which was delivered by Jo and Claire Wardle. Jo describes the reaction from the newsroom as “exciting”, which, in my experience, is pretty uncommon in a launch like this. It’s a hopeful sign, if true. Generally it takes time and some successes to persuade the oft-skeptical journalism community that this is the right sort of initiative.  

An experienced team

Jo is clear that she and the team are aware of previous failures in this space – that’s why they’ve so consciously steered away from tainted terms like “user-generated content” and “citizen journalism”. They are not, she emphasises, just creating a place for the community to talk to itself, or for The Guardian to grab free content, but a system that facilitates collaboration between professional journalists and The Guardian community. 

Talking of the team – there’s some interesting talent on board. Phillipa Law is ex-BBC and is in the process of doing a PhD in online collaboration, while Caroline Bannock is a news producer from Channel 4 news. They’ve been working with both key community members and the journalists in the weeks building up to the launch to explain to them what The Guardian are trying to do

“We’re just getting started with it,” says Jo. “I’m really excited to see where it goes.”

Guardian Witness

Joanna Geary:

The GuardianWitness platform, and supporting iPhone and Android apps will help us to carry on this tradition. It will allow you to tell your story – by desktop or mobile – by submitting pictures, videos and text to journalists directly from an assignment.

It also has its own site, which allows you to submit and browse news, opinions and creations submitted to those assignments.

If your submission is picked up by a journalist it could go on to be featured across the Guardian – in print and online – which means you can help set the news agenda and become part of the Guardian’s award-winning journalism.

Guardian Witness is part of their Open Journalism initiative, of course, which is itself just a branded version of the idea of networked journalism.

But it does seem to offer a method of smoothing the journey from an isolated act of citizen journalism to that act being part of an orchestrated piece of journalism conducted by a journalist. Is it needed? Aren’t people more likely to contribute via their own social presences? I suspect that this experiment will tell us one way or another. 

Update: there’s an obligatory “tinkly music” app demo video that startups have made de rigeur

Update 2: Graham has a good point: 

Yes, this does feel very much like a 2006/2007 “come, create user generated content on our site” effort. But there are good people that I respect involved in this effort – I’d be interested to hear from them how this differs from that… 

Update 3: Graham has articulated this further on his own blog.

Update 4: And now we know the commercial relationship with EE at work, thanks to Joanna speaking at Shift 2013:


Update 5: Joanna has some interesting hints in her response:

The Guardian has killed its Facebook social reader – which is interesting, given that it appeared to be something of a political hot potato inside the company, with some people very keen to have control of it. 

Martin Belam tells the story of its design, by way of a memorial.

Kudos to all involved for trying something new, though, even if it ultimately failed.