I’ve left the digital coalface, I suppose.

I am no longer the digital editor of the Sunderland Echo. And I’ve just taken up a post as a senior lecturer in the well-regarded Journalism and PR department at the University of Sunderland.

Term hasn’t started, but I feel like a kid in a sweet shop.

I’m shelving my journalistic cynicism and trying not to think too hard about the tidal wave of pressure (and marking!) coming my way.

Instead I’m beaming. I’ve got bleeding edge technology all around me (amazing radio studios, TV studios, a lovely HD cinema, computers that work and versions of Photoshop I have only ever read about).

My colleagues are a formidably qualified bunch too.

I’m delighted at the prospect of enjoying the autonomy to play with the reporting and multimedia tools I’ve tried to get my hands on any moment I could during my time at the Echo.

And above all, I expect to do more actual journalism than ever before.

Plus, I’ll be able to pursue my growing interest in entrepreneurial journalism – both in theoretical terms and practical terms with my satirical news project www.thenewsgrind.com

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll miss some aspects of my old job. I’ve always thrived in low resource environments, and Johnston Press was certainly that.

But this is a great new start for me, and I can’t wait for term to begin.


I’m helping out the Hartlepool Mail team with their coverage of the Tall Ships Races 2010.

It’s been a great excuse to play with live video streaming.

It’s the kind of job I love as it lets me fiddle with technology, exploit a platform which minimises effort for instant returns and I’ve been given the freedom to work autonomously.

I’ve used my iPhone 3GS over a 3G connection to stream (near) live footage to a custom page via Qik.

The results have been good, and being able to wander around looking for compelling subjects to shoot with an almost instant upload has been great.

Lessons learned:
– Close all your apps, or notifications that appear on screen will pop up in vids you are streaming back
– Start talking as soon as you push the record button, even if Qik is buffering, or you look dumb ūüôā
– Don’t shoot anything further away that ten yards
– Make sure the people back at base have a half-decent connection speed when viewing your results
– Stay within a few hundred yards or a plug point so you can recharge your iPhone at (VERY) regular intervals
– Manage expectations on the quality of video returned and sell the message that what it lacks in quality it more than makes up for in immediacy
– Be quick at returning expense forms if you are about to leave your current employer and you have just racked up a data bill that will make those Jimmy Choos you bought the missus for your anniversary look like a bargain.

I’m back on Tuesday shooting more live footage between 2pm and 7pm if you want to take a look.

>> Hartlepool Mail Tall Ships 2010 Live Coverage

A brief video interview with Sunderland Echo deputy news editor Craig Thompson on news values for a masterclass I am delivering to sixth form students.

I’m usually pretty good at helping people. I go out of my way to, say, direct readers to a relevant contact or to get a hold of past issues of the Sunderland Echo. It’s nice to be nice, and one more reader on our side in an era of dwindling print sales and an uncertain digital future doesn’t go amiss.
But sometimes – as I was reminded this morning – being nice isn’t always appreciated…

1. Reader email:

I would like to vote on the Internet Poll but where and how do I find it please?

2. My polite response:

Dear Mrs Xxxxxx,
Our internet vote is quite tricky to find as it does not appear on the main page of our website.
However, if you visit www.sunderlandecho.com and click on any of the individual articles it appears in the bottom right of the page.
All the best,

3. Reader’s delightful comeback

I’m afraid I do not have time to spend hunting the internet poll all day.
Who in the hell designed this awful web site–a drunk????
Xxxxxx X

I’m always¬†nagging¬†students, colleagues and random people in bars about the fact the web is not just a publishing platform, it’s a tool that can make you a better journalist irrespective of how your content reaches an audience.

It’s a hard sell when you’re giving examples involving the BBC or a Guardian tech reporter.

But I had a simple win today when I tweeted out a call via www.twitter.com/sunderlandecho asking for anyone planning to buy the iPad to drop me a line for a feature I’m writing.¬†Two people¬†duly did and as a result I have case studies with local relevance for my piece. Plus, a relevant local government body got back to me offering their input.

The alternative would have involved digging out some rent-a-quote or – worse still – just asking around the office to see if someone¬†knew anyone who might be the type…

With authorative quotes, background and info, this extra source will lift the piece. Had I ignored Twitter, or shunned the web as some folk seem to, my output in Friday’s newspaper would have been weaker. Simple as that.

>> Newsdesk also tell me that one of the reporters was stuck for fillers at the weekend and put out a call for community events of Facebook. She got a pile of responses from local people. Everyone’s a winner.

Have finally clicked ‘live’ on my new spoof news website.

The News Grind is a hobby enterprise designed as a virtual sandpit for me to learn more about hosting, ads etc online.

Above all, it’s just a bit of fun.

Powerpoints are dull.

To add some wow-factor to your presentations, try www.prezi.com. It’s free*¬†and you can download your¬†displays to¬†run them¬†offline in case of connection issues.

The application is incredibly easy to use, enabling you to do the basics such as embedding photos, video and words. You can then effect beautiful style changes. But the key hook is that Prezi is Flash-based so you can intuitively add lovely, swooshy motion.

Here’s one I presented¬†on May 4¬†entitled ‘The Future of Magazine Journalism’. http://prezi.com/j-99c82bv3uj/

Will dig out the script and attach when I get a spare moment.

*(with premium upgrades to get extra storage and hide your work from others)

The¬†scale of the¬†furore surrounding Johnston Press’ implementation of a new content management system is understandable given¬†the impact on¬†jobs and working practices. Continue Reading »

Reason¬†#362¬†for my recent blogging hiatus is that I’m working on a spoof news and entertainment digital launch.

I’ll be shouting about the url when there’s some decent copy on there.

The site will be a showcase for journalists and new writing talent and a warm place to hide for readers seeking shelter from the barrage of ‘real’ news out there.

Personally speaking,¬†it¬†will also be¬†a virtual sandpit¬†in which¬†to explore a few commercial, technical and editorial recesses I haven’t yet managed to poke my nose into.

Anyone interested in getting involved should drop me an email.

Back soon

Apologies all. I have been ill with a viral reaction which has left me unable to type for almost two weeks! Will be posting soon.

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