'With so much to see on the web, attention has become the new, gold standard...'

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Blogging & Journalism

Are bloggers journalists? Can journalists be bloggers, as well? Many people believe that journalism is more of a passive consumption matter, whereas blogging is interactive engagement. 

Our tutor in University of Sheffield, Bill Carmichael, gave a quite interesting lecture about this matter last week.

Citizen or professional journalism?

So, what do bloggers and journalists do? 

  • They both publish. 
  • They analyse items in the news
  • They try to put things into context
  • They comment

Journalism and the notion of fairness

In order to answer whether or not blogging is journalism, we should think what journalism is for: 
First of all, a journalist should be trained - it doesn't apply to all countries, though. 

Secondly, a journalist verifies information and checks sources. This is crucial.  Once the material of a journalist will be considered as 'invalid', the success will be ruined. 

Thirdly, the story should be portrayed from different points. This is what is called  'a different angle'. There are two sides to every story and the notion of fairness dictates that we give both sides a fair track of the whip. 

Finally,  journalists should be objective, impartial and fair.  They adhere to professional codes of conduct like PCC. 

Do bloggers use all the above?

Usually no, but it has to do with the different nature of blogging, not with the fact that is 'invalid' or  'unfair'.
Citizen journalism is a social phenomenon that gives people - not necessarily professional journalists- the opportunity to express themselves in a democratic environment.

Bloggers have no professional codes of conduct and usually they don't feel obliged to give the opposite side of the story. This makes sense, because bloggers' priority is the publication of their thoughts, not the sales.


Personally, I believe that anonymity has also contributed to the expansion of this democratic tool. People don't express themselves openly when they know in advance that they will be criticised for that. So, they choose the way of anonymity to state openly what they think about politicians, media, businesses. Anonymity focuses on what is said and not by whom.

However, the grass is not always green on the other side. There are incidents, where anonymous people post inappropriate content including extreme opinions, blackmails and threats. This is the negative side. The solution should be somewhere in the middle. 

To return to where I began, blogging and journalism are close to each other. I can't really answer whether or not they are independent or if the one includes the other but freedom of expression, interactivity and involvement  with readers should be promoted  in a democratic society, either it is in terms of newspapers (journalism) or publication of  personal conclusions (blogs).

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Scotland slideshow

WINTER 2011. Edinburgh. All pictures from there have  medieval colour and inspiring atmosphere. Awesome. 

Track: Benedictus, Benedictus Qui Venit (tenor), Bach

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Mail Online - top online newspaper in UK

One of the visits that impressed me in London trip  was that at the Daily Mail - Mail Online.  It is one of the most successful online newspapers in UK since 3 million people read it every day.

What is the secret of success? The front-page sidebar with links to popular celebrity stories? The long titles of the stories? A balance between speed and accuracy maybe?

According to Audit Bureau of Circulations Electronic published in January  2011, the daily average browsers for 'Mail Online' are 3,044,961 . The number is impressive compared to The Guardian's which are 2,234,360.

In an extent it makes sense as Mail Online has an office in LA with three editorial and advertising staff, so it boosts traffic and it hosts many topics that are universally interesting. In addition, there is an american team in UK for different time zones.

Mail Online is fed by Press Association and Reuters most of the times and journalists come really early in the morning to renew the pages by 8am.

Many people, including me, believe that the big headlines which kind of describe the story, attracts many readers. It grabs attention. It is quite controversial, since all journalists are taught to write short and tricky - but not vague - headlines. But it works!

Another thing that works, as well, is the comment facilities at the end of the stories. In the beginning, people in Mail Online didn't believe that people would be interested in leaving a comment for what they read, but they do and they are excited, as the comments reflect. It proves for one more time the power of interactivity that new media encourage.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

'This tsunami was the worst I've ever seen', says Dr Costas Synolakis

Japan 2011. Costas Synolakis, from University of Southern California, talked to BBC World Service estimating the tsunami in Japan in terms of forecasting and predicting such natural disasters. 
(source: BBC World Service)

'The initial estimation of this earthquake was probably not very good. In the beginning it was underestimated', he said.

BBC journalist:
'How difficult is it to model what happens when that amount of water hits a city?'
Costas Synolakis:
'It really depends on what kind of structures there are, whether there are  farmlands, airports or roads. All of these are incredibly useful data to develop even better models of to forecast such a disaster beforehand, to predict exactly what you see on your screens. It would be wonderful if we could do that in 10 or 15 minutes before it actually happens.'

Listen to a part of the original interview here:

According to him, the way the forecast works is the following:

The earthquake happens, there is a forecast about the initial shape of the wave.
Then, as the tsunami moves across the Pacific, it is recorded by instruments called 'tsunamographs'. They are deep water recorders. They measure the change in the water pressure, they stay on the sea floor and wait.

And then, when the tsunami comes by, they monitor the change in pressure, they record that, then it is transmitted to a satellite and then back to the warning centres.

So, at this point, we are about a couple of hours after the earthquake has hit, we have the first measurements, so we can improve the forecast and there's a wave keeps on propagating across the Pacific. More and more tsunamograph recordings become available so that the forecast improves even better.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Parliament & Lobby: Iain Dale on journalists & media today

MARCH 2011, Westminster. Journalism students of University of Sheffield visited the British Parliament, the House of Lords and House of Commons. Iain Dale, author, speaker, broadcaster & blogger,  was also there to share his thoughts about the relationship between politicians and journalists.

'Sometimes there is no training in journalism', he said. He had his first journalistic job in 1990 and since then he has worked in national newspapers, broadcasting and now in the Parliament.

'Political reporting is quite hard and competitive and usually the relationship between journalists and politicians is parasitic', he said.

The  Sunday papers is one of the things that he hasn't missed at all. According to him, it is really stressful  to realise on Friday afternoon that you don't have a story to publish on Sunday.

It hasn't happened few times to him to receive calls from Sunday  journalists that in the beginning  wanted to chat with him and then he understood that what they wanted is to ask if he had a story that they could use at the Sunday paper.

As a blogger, he didn't hesitate to refer to the role of social media today. 'Social media are complementary to each other', he pointed out. Blogging, for instance, is a good way to get noticed, display your words and enrich your  CV.

Tony Marchant on BBC's 'Garrow's Law'

Tony Marchant (left) being interviewed by Bob Shoemaker (right)

WHAT are the difficuties of transferring a drama from the author’s script to the TV screen? Professor Bob Shoemaker from University of Sheffield interviewed the author Tony Marchant from the award-winning BBC programme ‘Garrow’s Law’.

BBC drama ‘Garrow’s Law’, is inspired by the online Old Bailey Proceedings which includes 240,000 documents from trials between 1674 to 1913.
The award-winning screenwriter and playwrighter Marchant  talked about the challenges and the opportunities writers face when they have to present history on TV.
“I needed to do a cross-examination of facts. At  the end I had a 40-page document. In drama you have to do several drafts before you finally decide”, he said.
Historical research
Marchant read the book that the story was based on and invented the rest of it. However, he still had concern about telling the truth. As he pointed out: “I tried to be truthfull, it’s different from telling the truth.”
Another important matter is the context. ‘I took seriously the context’, he said. We should try to interpret what do all these things mean to us now and of course taking the motive of the story seriously, which makes people want to see it.”
Expectation of BBC
Exploring history in a very popular way is good and it is a happy coincidence to tell a story of the 18th century through contemporary media and TV, he said.
However, the main concern has to do with the audience and their willingness to watch history on TV.
In the pitch given to the BBC the focus was on the characters and the BBC wanted to be sure that the stories would have an impact on the audience.
Control of the writer or the director?
Many people may wonder, who has the power after a drama is played on TV? The writer or the director?
The answer lies somewhere in the middle as both of them contribute  to the best possible production and presentation of the drama, he said.
Marchant said about his part that during the preparation for the TV procuction on BBC they tried to be less dry, more emotional and visual. And usually, this is what discriminates prose from a TV production.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

The BBC's Robert Peston on the collapse on the banks - The University of Sheffield

A first job on a specialist magazine covering the minutiae of the banking industry – a task he found incredibly boring at the time – helped the BBC’s Robert Peston crack one of the biggest scoops of the decade. 

Peston told students at a special guest lecture organised by the Department of Journalism Studies at the University of Sheffield, that the specialist knowledge he gained as a junior reporter the Investors Chronicle helped him understand the significance of the first signs of the banking collapse.

The BBC’s Business Editor said in 2007 he received a message on his BlackBerry that the BNP Paribas bank had decided to stop investors withdrawing money from two large funds because it could no longer value these “collateralised debt

“This sounds tedious, but I recognised that this was the biggest event in my journalistic career and was the beginning of the worst banking crisis we had ever seen.

“It meant that funds that had attracted trillions of dollars in investments were impossible to value. It was an emperor’s new clothes moment.

He added: “If banks can’t borrow, they can’t lend and the economy begins to shut down – and that’s precisely what happened over the following 18 months.”

A few months later in 2007 Peston broke another huge story when he revealed that the Northern Rock had been forced to approach the Bank of England for emergency support.

Peston said those few months as the banks collapsed were difficult for him as some people blamed him for the crisis, accusing him of “talking the economy down”.

“There was personal invective and some people genuinely believed I was personally to blame.

“But as a journalist you are a messenger, not an actor or protaganist. You should be invisible. What is important is what you say, not who is saying it.

“Suddenly I became a bit of a public figure and it became hard to do the day job. But I believe it is not about you – it is the story that matters.”

Peston said despite starting his career as a traditional print journalist, he had fully embraced new technology.

“The blog is the spine of what I do but there is also TV, radio and I use Twitter.

“I get a huge amount of information from it. Some of the comments I receive are barmy, but many of them are incredibly useful. The multi-platform world is incredibly enriching in the way we do our job.”

He warned that the problems affecting the world finance system had not gone away.

People in producer countries, such as China, were working harder and for less money than people in the West.

They were also saving more and shifting the surplus to the West where it helped fuel a bubble in unsustainable borrowing.

He said we had to consume less, save more and sell more overseas to survive.

      Wednesday, 2 March 2011

      Even the fuel for our lighter changes history

      Ruth Goodman at St Georges LT
      RUTH Goodman, freelance historian and TV presenter was hosted by Sheffield University and talked about social history in terms of heritage, feedback and interpretation. Do little things change the world?

      We have culturally been trained to believe people who give formal lectures about history. We read many books whether we understand the content or not. We see TV programmes. We transfer stuff face-to-face. Finally, which is the best way to learn history?

      Ways of acquiring history and context

      Mrs Goodman says that the ideal way of learning history is the combination of taking heritage into consideration, exchanging feedback and interpreting the past by sharing it with other people. History is not just observing. It would be boring if it was just observing.

      Context is also very important. You have to fit things in the picture of the past, which is not easy. ''Context is everything. Whenever you create a piece of history put it in context'', as Mrs Goodman pointed out. Moreover, context gives you the background needed to ask yourself whether or not you are interested in this. ''You're interested in something when it's more relevant'', she said.

      Little things change history

      Things that we do at home, at work, with our friends, our partners have impact on the world. ''These little things contribute to the big history and they turn out to be really important'', Mrs Goodman said.

      Even the fuel we use for our lighter can change history. This is how our world works. This little thing will bring something - a revolution, an innovation - and and this 'something' may bring something else.

      Mrs Goodman concluded: ''Everything changes, nothing stays for ever. We can change it, we are powerful''.

      Tuesday, 1 March 2011

      Stephen Abell talking to journalism students about PCC

      PRESS Complaints Commission  enforces journalists and editors to make the right decisions about what they publish. Stephen Abell, Director of PCC, talked to students of Journalism Studies in University of Sheffield about the role of PCC: 
      Stephen Abell
      a) making rulings and b) settling complaints. 

      Everyone can make complaints about what has been published, not only the one who has been affected. PCC wants to encourage complaints because it will mean that it works properly. The more complaints, the better the PCC works.

      All members of the press have a duty to maintain the highest professional standards
      ''The code should not be interpreted so narrowly as to compromise its commitment to respect the rights of the individual, nor so broadly that it constitutes an unnecessary interference with freedom of expression or prevents publication in the public interest'', as it is pointed out in the newspaper and periodical industry's Code of Practice.

      PCC coordinates with journalists and editors. ''Usually editors contact PCC and say: We are thinking of doing this..what does the PCC say?'', as Stephen Abell pointed out.

      Some of the basic clauses are the ones about privacy, children, victims of sexual assault, clandestine devices and subterfuge or reporting of crime.

      Press should be careful to what it publishes both in terms of pictures and words. ''Sometimes pictures are more intusive than words'', as Stephen Abell said.

      Part of the slideshow by the PCC Editor
      PCC and social networking 

      However, you cannot keep things artificially out of newspapers if they are of public interest or they have been spread online. Even if social networking (Twitter, Facebook) sometimes obeys to different rules it cannot ignore the existing ethical principles.

      What is important is the context of the initial presentation of information in social networking. Irony, for example, is not transferred very clearly in social networking.

      Wednesday, 23 February 2011

      Nicholas Brett: ''Magazines have still future''

      Nicholas Brett in St Georges LT
      Nicholas Brett, Deputy Managing Director and Editorial Director of BBC Magazines, came to Sheffield on Tuesday, 22 February and talked to the students of Journalism Studies about the editorial side of magazines. 

      Although the future appears to be the digital form of magazines people still love buying and reading them. ''Magazines still have future'', he said, ''I love the feeling of touching a magazine''.

      ''Good Food'' is an example of  a BBC magazine that follows technological progress. Through i-Pad and  visualization of narrative it offers  a really good and modern product to the public.

      The thing is what sort of editors do we need. We need people that can be flexible and can adopt technological challenges. Technology has contributed to visualization of narrative. We can find new versions of ''Good Food'' and ''Focus Magazine''  through i-Pad, which is quite revolutionary as a medium.

       New technological  information X 2
      Media production and technology should collaborate.   Technological developments have opened new gates of presenting content (Social Media, i-Pad, etc). Statistics have shown that if Facebook was a country it would be the third biggest country in the world with 500.000.000 people, after China and India.

      What should be remain the same is the skill of a journalist to tell a story well. As Mr Brett pointed out ''Whatever you do, do it with quality''. The four 'Ps' that a journalist needs to succeed in the world of magazine industry are: preparation, professionalism, passion and persistence.