Archive for May, 2009

Porn twins Zayna and Noor, aka Kit and Kat

Porn twins Zayna and Noor, aka Kit and Kat

Any local newspaper is only as big as the village/town/city/area it serves, but the sky’s the limit when it comes to attracting an audience online.

In two years at the Sunderland Echo our most popular story by far has been the tale of two Wearside twins who revealed a secret double life of escorting and porn movie stardom to their aghast family. The story will soon pass the 200,000 hits mark and attracts a steady flow of visitors from all across the globe. Continue Reading »

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I’m off to France for the next ten days or so. Apologies in advance if the frequency of my blogging drops. I’m sure I’ll get connected once or twice.

A plus tard.

“So, do you read our newspaper?”

It’s a simple enough question, and a predictable one if you’ve been drafted in for work experience at your local daily. Yet it seems to bamboozle almost every student, as if it’s the precursor to some Stasi-style interrogation.

In fact there’s no wrong answer, provided you respond like a rational human. ‘No’, for instance, is fine – you may be away from home, or you may be surviving on a pittance and therefore unable to afford loo roll let alone the local rag…

But here’s the big ‘no-no’ – once you’ve stumbled through your first ‘conundrum’, don’t be foxed by the follow-up question:  ‘Which newspapers do you read?’

It’s astounding how many people respond with ‘To tell the truth, I don’t read newspapers.’ Are they mad?

Surely any right-minded person would at least take a glance at the product pumped out by the company who are sparing time and effort to introduce them to the world of work? If I was handed work ex at Greggs, I’d try one of their pasties before I turned up (at least one, in fact…)

Oh, and don’t be fooled by kind-hearted pros who respond with a variant of ‘That’s interesting – it says a lot about our audience and the way people are consuming media these days.’ What they really mean is ‘So you couldn’t even be bothered to pretend. You could have said you read it online, you muppet…’

I’m not suggesting any newsdesks I’ve worked with are vindinctive (well, not in this post), but showing zero interest in the product they’ve slaved over from 6am until 6pm every day isn’t exactly going to inspire them to send you out to interview David Beckham, is it?

Work experience folk: do a bit of research, or at least master the art of the white lie next time you’re in a newspaper office. And if you have never read a newspaper – try one, you might like it.

Covering the Premier League with the Press Association Match Centre live text facilityHaving investigated whether any local papers are live blogging the Premier League I’ve only found one title that is doing so independently, and it seems they are operating outside the rules.

Under the terms of the tiered Dataco licence you can only update with three texts and nine images if you’ve signed a Level One agreement, and with nine texts and 15 images under their Level Two agreement. There are specific windows when you can publish these updates too. I’m not sure how vigorously these rules are enforced, mind… (For Dataco enquiries email accreditations@football-dataco.com or call 0207 864 9121)

Continue Reading »

One of the most common questions from Avid users is ‘how do I obscure the identity of individuals using pixelation effects?’ Blurring faces is a skill you’ll find especially useful when handling CCTV footage supplied by the police.

Here’s my video demo showing how to do it.

IT Big Brother means I can’t use capture software on my Avid machine, so I’ve had to shoot the tutorial on camera, with an obvious knock-on in terms of focus/screen refresh… Hopefully the audio and pictures will combine to guide you through the process, but if you have any questions feel free to drop a comment on the bottom of this post.

A genuine example, but not from our newspaper, of one journalism student’s comment to an editor…

Asked to accompany a reporter on job they said they would prefer to stay in the office as they don’t like dealing with the public.

“Okay,” agreed the somewhat bemused editor, adding, “you can stay here and make some calls.”

“I’d prefer not to, if that’s ok,” replied the people-shy student.

A wannabe journalist who doesn’t want to speak to, or meet, normal folk. IT conversion course, anyone?

One staple source of stories for local newspapers is the RSPCA press office. The tales of cruelty we hear are routinely stomach-churning, but sometimes we get images that are genuinely shocking – even to hardened news hacks.

A recent example of this involved photographs we received of a horse found dismembered in a river. The key image was gruesome; the animal’s severed head and blood spattered hooves were scattered on rocks, but there was no body on show. It was truly horrific.

(Read the article here: Dismembered horse found on river bed)

On this occasion our editor was away from the office, but no discussion was required to establish what everyone knew instinctively – there was no way we would publish such an image in a family newspaper.

I could imagine eyes on me – as digital editor – wondering whether I would try to pull a fast one and sneak these images onto our website. They certainly would have generated plenty of page impressions.

I would never do that. Putting aside questions of taste, I operate under the guidelines which inform the brand values of our core product – the newspaper. Sunderland Echo as a multi-channelled brand should deliver the news via different media but to the same standards across the board. 

Of course there are new ethical dilemmas in the digital age – still photos of a brutal mugging seem relatively tame compared to moving images of the same incident, for instance. When we have footage like this we always consider whether showing the shots will do more good by aiding the apprehension of suspects than harm by offending the sensibilities of some website users who have the right not to click ‘play’. Footage is labelled clealy, and never gratuitous.

A footnote to this post regarding oft-claimed declining moral standards in journalism…

April’s anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster caused me to look back at the coverage from 20 years ago and proved that we weren’t so squeamish when it came to images of people crushed to within an inch of their lives in 1989. A front page picture showed young people fighting for breath, and who knows which of them survived.

Such an image would never appear in the Echo, or on echo.com these days. Standards of decency have simply improved since then.

I’ve not seen a live blog of a Premier League clash on a local newspaper site. Most of the live football coverage centres on lower league sides and the occasional FA Cup game.

To officially blog from a game you have to be mindful of the Dataco agreement which covers fixtures, results and reporting on England’s topflight.

But in the era of Twitter and Qik feeds to CoverItLive blogs, there must be a way to start a conversation with the readership of the Sunderland Echo around a specific game – even if it doesn’t mean presenting a traditional match report.

We could pay for a service such as the PA Match Centre to do it for us, or make infrequent updates throughout the game which would hardly constitute the kind of comprehensive coverage I’m looking for. Neither option is acceptable as a mechanism for engaging the audience (either due to prohibitive cost or our desire to maintain standards).

Scanning  the fixture list, Sunderland’s televised game at home to Portsmouth on May 18 and the ‘Survival Sunday’ on May 24 are musts for interactive coverage. The challenge is coming up with a solution that respects the licencing agreements without lurching into patchy reporting.

At the very least we should open a channel to fans who are watching the game anyway and want to discuss what they are seeing. Surely the Premier League haven’t signed a gagging order on pub-style banter yet…