Archive for the ‘Waffle’ Category

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 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,
 
Lee

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

First for bad news

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.

Big news. All Northeast Press titles will switch production systems to a new content management system at the end of April. The Atex and Polopoly-powered CMS is theoretically capable of delivering content to the web with greater ease.

A new centrally-imposed template, which is frankly in its infancy (as you can see at www.peterboroughtoday.co.uk), will accompany the new backend.

An end to the time-consuming cut-and-paste uploading which drags some of my working day into the dark ages? I certainly hope so…

Spent an hour at Venerable Bede school in Ryton, Sunderland today talking about a newsletter project they hope to get off the ground. If only everyone grasped the power of complementary print and web products as well as these enthusiastic Year 7 and 9 pupils. They were full of ideas, excitement and great questions, so it made a change from the day job…

Was surprised to find Facebook now very popular among 12-year-olds. They’ll be on Google Buzz next…

I’m in Dene Community School, Peterlee on Thursday working with positive young people once again, I hope.

The transfer deadline day coverage I put together with sports journalism students at the Sunderland Uni was very well-received.  I make no apologies for performing a brief celebratory jig on behalf of the team, who did a fantastic job on the day.

We syndicated the content across the Johnston Press network and the user experience was really good, which is obviously the key win.

>> Sunderland Echo transfer deadline day live

However here are some facts, figures and quotes from those involved and those who took the coverage. Please note the page views are for www.sunderlandecho.com only as I don’t yet have stats from the many sites who took this content.

Numbers

Visits to blog page – 10,000

Comments from users – 4,200

Clicks on articles produced by students 50,000+ 

What the students said

“It gave me a great insight into how these things actually work, and made me want to be a journalist more than ever!” Anthony Gair

“It was a great experience and I’d love to be involved again if you do a similar event in August.” Chris Fryatt

“Really enjoyed the day. Would be keen to get involved in another transfer day or similar projects” Dave Preddie

“Got loads out of it! Great Day!” Hamish Blackstock (via Facebook group)

What the pros said

“The deadline day live blog was a great piece of work. Congratulations on a job well done.” Alan Greenwood, Editor, Scotsman.com
“Thanks for the transfer deadline coverage, it was first class.” Kevin McLaughlin, Sports Editor Londonderry Sentinel

“Superb platform yesterday!” Jon Peake, Digital Editor, Lancashire Publications Ltd, http://www.wigantoday.net

“Congratulations on the blog yesterday, thought it was really good.” Matthew Brown, Digital editor Portsmouth News
 

 

Transfer deadline team in action.

I’m still here. I survived. The digital adventures continue, for now at least.

Yesterday’s live transfer deadline day event was a great success thanks in large part on the day to the contribution of around 40 University of Sunderland journalism students – many of whom pitched up at 7.45am and earlier, then stayed for a marathon shift.

The numbers certainly stack up – with over 4,000 user comments on the blog and getting on for 10,000 views of the page – as well as over 50,000 more views on the articles penned by the students and shared to a specially-created section at sunderlandecho.com. And I’m sure those numbers will climb significantly thanks to the coverage’s syndication across the Johnston Press network.

More importantly, we delivered an interactive, up-to-the-minute, sustained piece of coverage which was lapped up by our users. The quality of the writing and levels of professionalism shown by the students were truly commendable.

Many thanks to David Allison, John Price, James Ronson and Mark Woodward for their help, support and patience too.

Now, what’s next?

>> Transfer Deadline Day as it happened

This blog has suffered of late. Blame the football transfer window.

I’ve devoted a pile of time in and outside work to pulling together a transfer deadline day service which will provide great experience for students and great coverage for sunderlandecho.com and many other Johnston Press sites – if it all goes off as planned.

Sessions with students to brief them on Coveritlive and the brand values of JP, meetings with lecturers to sort out turning part of the Media Centre at the University of Sunderland into a live newsroom, hours on Facebook and email enthusing students and sorting out incentives to contribute – right down to the sausage sandwiches we’ll take delivery of at noon… It’s been hectic.

Add to that the more onerous task of selling the project to my colleagues at JP and providing them with an affiliate pack including everything from web buttons to print ads, animated skyscrapers for their site to editorial penned by my excellent intern David Allison. Thankfully my pitch has worked – with the likes of the Yorkshire Evening pst, Yorkshire Post, Lancashire Evening Post, Portsmouth News, Belfast Newsletter and many more taking our content.

As a result all eyes are on us. JP’s head of digital content will be there, Sunderland Echo editor Rob Lawson is popping in… All of which ups the stakes and reinforces what a good opportunity this is for the students, I hope.

To be honest, it’s all a bit nerve-wracking. The pressure is largely self-imposed as the groundwork has been done and we did a great job last year when it was just David and I sweating in a room with 2,700 user comments pinging at us.  But we’re on the eve of d-day now and things are pretty much out of my hands. It’s now down to how many students turn up tomorrow at 7.45am for what could be an incredibly busy, and incredibly rewarding, day. And, no, I’m not just talking about the sausage sarnies.

What can possibly go wrong?

>> Transfer deadline day live

David BanksI’m kicking-off a series of Q&As with leading lights in digital media – the interviews will be your chance to pick the large brains of key thinkers and doers.

First up is David Banks, media law expert and co-author of journalism legal bible McNae’s.

I’m looking for real-life examples to throw at him, plus any burning legal questions related to digital journalism. Everything from the legal rights and wrongs of post-moderating user comments to the dangers or otherwise of spent convictions cropping up on related links widgets are fair game.

Please email me with questions or comment on this post.

Just a note to say that I am now getting stuck into a part-time role as an academic tutor at the University of Sunderland.

Ran a session with journalism students today on Photo Story 3 in which they created their own slideshow from scratch. They seemed to enjoy having a tangible product at the end. And hopefully they appreciated the context of the lesson which was designed to show how a free, quick and easy tool can turn a two-dimensional story into compelling content that will generate significant traffic for a site.

Slideshows often out-perform videos on www.sunderlandecho.com. And they’re handy when it comes to covering poignant stories which are too sensitive for video intrusion, such as Sharon Dyer’s funeral.

Better still, applications such as Photo Story 3 can be learned in a few minutes and produce professional results in a matter of seconds.

>> Download Photo Story 3 for Windows