Posts Tagged ‘journalism’

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.

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There are generally two types of work ex people who come into newspaper offices…

Shrinking violets who sit dutifully and silently while they are ignored, and those who feel they deserve better treatment and aren’t afraid to say so.

The latter group will indignantly shuffle up to a senior staff member and demand, “Have you got something for me to do?”

On the face of it, a fair question. But it’s another entry into the ‘what not to say’ hall of shame, for me.

The work ex folk who excel are the rare breed who come up with their own suggestions of how to fill their time (and we don’t mean mumbling ‘I might as well go to lunch because no-one has spoken to me for three hours’).

Why not try one of the following stock phrases? Fill in the blanks yourself.

  • My aunty/friend/ex-partner is <doing something interesting> and I thought it was worth a story, so I’m going to give them a ring.
  • Is it worth me going to to check the <church hall, library etc> noticeboards to see if anything has come up?
  • I read in <a national newspaper> that <something happened>. Is it worth me coming up with a local angle on this? Maybe I could speak to <a local expert>, or do a vox pop?

Since you know long in advance that you are coming in for work ex, prepare something – even if it is just an idea for a small filler.

Oh, and don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Why not steal other peoples’ ideas from repositories such as the Hold The Front Page story ideas list?

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
 

 

Adobe Audition is a space rocket when all I need for day-to-day digital work is a bicycle. In truth I don’t exploit this powerful audio editing tool to anywhere near it’s full potential.

But I was given a great tip for adding radio-style punch to voiceovers from a pro via a work experience chap.

Import any audio into Audition, then under the Amplify Tool click ‘Normalise’, then under Amplify click ‘Dynamic Processes’ and from the drop down select ‘Classic Soft Knee’.

Once applied these effects make a significant difference to podcast and voiceover tracks.

Thanks to Andrew Hilliar for the tip.

Many thanks to David Banks, co-author of McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists, for these answers, and to those of you who sent questions.

Is a commercial website such as a newspaper’s able to use even a few seconds of a song or piece of music without having to pay royalties? A common belief used to be that as long as the clip was under 30 seconds you were ok…
The defence here is fair dealing. It works for printed material, extracts of books, plays,  films etc. So long as your extract does not extract the entire value of the original material  you should be ok. Remember you have to accredit

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My friend Robin Brown has a seriously interesting opportunity for a web-literate journalist/ journo graduate with an interest in cars at Motortorque, the online magazine bit of motoring website Askaprice.com. Not the kind of thing I’d usually blog about, but I know how tricky it can be to find out about these things at the moment.

Working under editor Robin in Liverpool’s vibrant city centre, you’ll be carving out a career as the next Jeremy Clarkson. He’ll want a grafter, but you’ll be the Associate Editor on a commercially successful site and get a leg up in an exciting sector. Please note, he needs someone to get started in January. Read on for job spec and contact details…

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As promised to my University of Sunderland students – here’s a quick video walkthrough on how to create a slideshow in Photo Story 3. Hope it’s useful. Feedback welcomed. Should hold up to full-screen viewing if you need a closer look.

>> Download Photo Story 3 (it’s free!)

Post-moderation of user comments is now the accepted safest practice for journalists. Pre-moderation opens us up to the risk of letting through an offensive or libelous comment in error, effectively endorsing it through our approval process.

But there’s still confusion and differing opinions about how we should treat comments we don’t like once they go live.

This week a story about a Congolese woman facing deportation sparked an interesting debate in the Sunderland Echo newsroom.

>> Battle for mum and son to stay in Britain

A comment suggesting the subject of the article should ‘go back to the Congo’ as she was a ‘parasite’ was posted by a user. It was an uncomfortable read with worrying racial undertones.

But how do you handle such a comment? Removing it ourselves would set a precedent of moderation which would be difficult to maintain in terms of resource. More importantly, perhaps, it would show that we were hands-on with moderation thereby raising the notion to readers that comments we don’t remove are implicitly approved.

On the other hand, the comment does not sit with the inclusive values of our newspaper and journalists, and would almost certainly cause offence to the subject of the article or some readers.

In the end we opted to leave the comment and trust our readers to contextualise it with responses of their own.

Even by the time our debate had ended the decision had become a moot point – one poster had taken the original commentator to task and another had reported the comment as unsuitable, thereby hiding it from view.

But what would you have done?

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.

transfer deadline dayLast transfer deadline day digital intern David Allison and I ran a CoverItLive blog from 8am through to 6.30pm. Hardly original, but we used several techniques to make it an engaging read for users and a fun (if stressful) day for us. For the next deadline we’re scaling up the operation and asking student journos to get involved.

>> Sunderland Echo transfer deadline day Summer 2009 coverage

The response in the summer – thanks to intense work, solid preparation and some support from our sport team – was phenomenal. 7,000 visitors viewed the coverage and left 2,400 comments. It was a hectic day, but it paid off spectacularly with hugely positive feedback from those who took part.

For February we’ll step up the coverage on two counts. Firstly, we’re working with John Price in the Media department at the University of Sunderland. We’re setting up a live transfer deadline day HQ with a suite of computers, TV coverage from other outlets piped in and hotlines to other football journalists. We’re taking over the newsroom at the David Puttnam Media Centre for a day. No news yet on what biscuits we’ll be laying on…

Once again the blog will be hosted at www.sunderlandecho.com. But part two of our plan to ramp up the operation is inviting digital editors and editors from all across the Johnston Press network of 300+ sites – from The Scotsman in the north down to the Portsmouth News in the south – to take our coverage. It’s likely several smaller titles, including some dailies, will be delighted to do so.

As a result of this two-pronged approach we’ll be competing with similar services from national news outlets. Exciting stuff…

Any media students who want to know more or who wish to take part should email me or comment on this post.