Rupert Murdoch quotes

Over the years I’ve read an awful lot of things about the future of newspapers in a digital age… and I mean an AWFUL lot.

Every so often though, someone utters a nugget that chimes so clearly with me that it lodges in my brain and becomes part of the structure of my own arguments and thoughts on the topic.

I realised today that two examples of these are from Rupert Murdoch.

They are:

“I can’t tell you how many papers I have visited where they have a wall of journalism prizes – and a rapidly declining circulation. This tells me the editors are producing news for themselves – instead of news that is relevant to their customers. A news organization’s most important asset is the trust it has with its readers – a bond that reflects the readers’ confidence that editors are looking out for their needs and interests.”

— Rupert Murdoch Before the Federal Trade Commission’s Workshop: ”From Town Crier to Bloggers: How Will Journalism Survive the Internet Age?” [PDF]
December 1, 2009


“What I worry about much more is our ability to make the necessary cultural changes to meet the new demands. As I said earlier, what is required is a complete transformation of the way we think about our product. Unfortunately, however, I believe too many of us editors and reporters are out of touch with our readers. Too often, the question we ask is “Do we have the story? rather than “Does anyone want the story?”

— Speech by Rupert Murdoch to the American Society of Newspaper Editors
April 13, 2005

Could I help out?

Is there a charitable news (preferably English language) organisation anywhere in the world that might benefit from having a volunteer for two-to-three weeks this year?

Loving travel, but not being a fan of beach holidays, I’d love to spend some time exploring a cool part of the world but being useful at the same time.

What I could offer:

– Trained journalist (short-hand 100wpm).

– Working with technology/new reporting and publishing tools

– Development of online engagement and community strategies using social media.

– Experience of working with both regional and national news brands.

– Energy, positivity, willingness.

I’d pay my way, of course. That’s what volunteering’s all about. I’d just need a place to volunteer, details of how to get there and probably a suggestion of a nice place to stay.


The first paragraph

One thing all journalists are taught is that the most important part of your news story is the first paragraph. This is because most people don’t read past it. It begs the question: why do we invest so much time and effort creating more than one paragraph?

Guardian SXSW Hack Day – the hacks I was involved with

I spent this weekend at the Guardian offices for the Guardian/Rewired State SXSW Hack Day.

The theme was to look at 21st century tools for journalism, and used covering the SXSW conference as a starting point.

Sorely lacking in any useful coding skills, I think my best input came at the beginning of the weekend when a few developers sought me out to talk through some of the barriers and frustrations journalists face when trying to cover events.

The most interesting of these conversations was with Sym Roe, who came to the event wanting to create something that would have a wider use for journalists beyond reporting SXSW.

We talked over a number of issues journalists face.

One notable one that didn’t make it past the discussion stage was how to filter out noise on Twitter to get to the really interesting stories. This is really needed when you report on an event that has hundreds of social media-savvy people present and (as with SXSW) many sycophants willing to furiously retweet certain folk in the hope they might mention their startup, app or idea.

We decided there might be a very simple tool that could count retweeted links, but then allow you to inspect the results in quartiles. That way you could check for stories below some of the more frenetic retweeting. A hack for another time, perhaps.

However, the idea that got us both really interested was what became known as Fluffbox.

Fluffbox, which was developed by Sym and Premasagar Rose, is designed to let journalists curate from a variety of social sites and file all the interesting stuff they find into one, searchable “box”.

This box then lets you drag and drop the pictures, tweets, links, audio, etc, into a document that renders them all in lovely, clean html.

This is fantastic in two ways: one, it allows us journalists to have one place to store all the little bits and bobs we might want to use for a story. And, two, the clean html also makes the finished document something that can be copied and pasted into pretty much any editorial content management system.

Fluffbox was highly commended, but I personally think Sym and Prem’s work is probably the most practical journalist tool that came out of the Hack Day… but then again, I may be biased!

As if he wasn’t busy enough, Sym also helped me realise a second hack that I’d been wanting to do for ages.  This one, however, had absolutely no practical use.

The Romp-o-meter pulls in all the stories that contain the word “romp” that are published in the UK tabloid press. They are aggregated together, the sport-related “romps” are removed, and then the UK is given a “romp” score, based on the amount of naughty nookie appearing that day. In my unwittingly double entendre-filled presentation, I noted that “romps can go up and down” and that this might indicate then general moral (or morale!) levels of our nation.

Sym had less than 40 minutes to pull this hack together, so I was impressed he even had something to demo! There are plans, however, to make the fully-fledged version. I’m really hoping it will involve a romp-o-meter swing-o-meter.

You can also browse some of the hacks on Rewired State’s project page.

Free beer and pizza at Ruby in the Pub 4!


(Image by koadmunkee)

What: Ruby in the Pub
When: Tuesday, June 22nd, 7pm
Where: LBi, 146 Brick Lane (streetview – turn right for the entrance)
Why: More hacks learning to hack, but with free food and drink!

Please register for the event by emailing joanna.geary[at]

Well, I said this month’s Ruby in the Pub (#ritp or #rubyinthepub) was going to be a bit different!

It’s still following the same format – volunteer programmers spend time with journos over a beer and – if not teach them a little code – at least help demonstrate the amazing things that are possible if you combine the power of programming with an eye for a story.

However, this time the lovely folk at LBi (especially the very lovely Paul Carvill)  have offered to host the fourth Ruby in the Pub, which takes place on June 22 from 7pm.

They are also offering us free drinks and pizza for up to 30 people.

If you want to come along, please email me so we can put your name on the door.

Remember: Just turn up with your laptop and, if you have one, an extension lead. Also, downloading Hackety Hack before you arrive is advised.

Also, developers: if you want to run a specific session at this event (scraping, spreadsheets, Twitter API, etc.), feel free to let us know in the comments below. Journalists – if there is anything specific you want to learn, please do the same!

Ruby in the Pub 3

Picture by "stoicviking"

What: Ruby in the Pub
When: Tuesday, May 25th, 7pm
Where: The Shooting Star, Spitalfields (streetview)
Why: More hacks learning to hack!

No registration/sign-up necessary – just turn up!

We had such a fantastic response to last month’s  Ruby in the Pub (#ritp or #rubyinthepub) – thank you so much to all the wonderful people that turned up.

I’m hoping we get an equally good turn out this time!

Remember: Just turn up with your laptop and, if you have one, an extension lead. Also, downloading Hackety Hack before you arrive is advised.

Looking forward to seeing you there!

Ruby in the Pub 2

Beer and Laptop

(picture by jdn)

What: Ruby in the Pub
When: Tuesday, April 27th, 7pm
Where: The Shooting Star, Spitalfields (streetview)
Why: So hacks can learn to hack!
No registration/sign-up necessary – just turn up!

Once a month, a bunch of keen, but slightly confounded journalists meet up with some knowledgeable and patient coders to learn the basics of Ruby and drink beer.

I have a very good feeling about this.

The first Ruby in the Pub (#ritp or #rubyinthepub) was born last month after me and James Ball discovered we were both trying to develop some programming skills.

The first meet-up was great – lovely people and some great teachers too! Now I’m hoping after my first lesson I might be able to help out a few newbies, whilst also learning some new stuff.

Rumour also has it that a certain head of the New York Times development team might pop in to help out too!

Just turn up with your laptop and, if you have one, an extension lead. Also, downloading Hackety Hack before you arrive is advised.

Come join us!

Pulitzer or community – daddy or chips?

Last night I was part a debate on the regional press at City University.

Near the end, talk moved on to the subject of journalism enterprise.

When asked for a show of hands, most of the students said they would like to work in the mainstream media. Eighteen out of approx. 70 in the room said they wanted to work for a start-up.

I said I expected it would be those 18 that would be employed by mainstream media organisations. I guess, for me, the skills priority for journalists has changed.

It reminded me of a hypothetical situation someone put to me the other day:

You are the editor of a newspaper. You are allowed to employ one more person. You can choose either a writer that has won a Pulitzer prize or a writer that has built an online community of 40,000 highly committed readers and contributors. Which do you choose?

I know nothing is ever that clear cut, of course. This is a real “daddy or chips” question. Yet, I guess how you answer it gives a good indication of how you think we should train our journalists of the future.

Alan Rusbridger: “Blurring the distinction between journalist and reader”

Alan Rusbridger on the Future of Journalism from Carta on Vimeo.

I have just come across this video of Alan Rusbridger talking about the development of journalism.

I think it’s interesting to hear an editor admit that there is more knowledge and expertise outside his organisation amongst his readers than within it.

I’m now waiting for mainstream news brands to take the next step and talk about their journalists being in the service of their readers. It’s not something that gets mentioned too often but I think is an important mindset to start developing.

NB. Also David Montgomery of Mecom has also been uttering some wise words along the same lines.

The Birmingham Mail’s Gareth Barry letter: why so late on the web?

Did anyone else notice that today’s fantastic exclusive from the Birmingham Mail – an open letter from Gareth Barry to Villa fans – did not appear on its website until after lunch?

It seems many other websites ended up covering the story publishing the letter online before the Mail did.

Some even ran the full letter on their websites before The Mail. The Express & Star had the letter up online at midday and Football 365 appears to have published it at 12.31pm. However, Head of Multimedia for Trinity Mirror Regionals, David Higgerson (see comments below) said many of these were actually excerpts.

The Mail had originally had an article and  a teaser on their site saying that they would publish the full letter online at 4pm, although it appeared to go up onto the site a bit  earlier than that.

It’s a very different strategy to the way The Guardian broke its recent video exclusive on Ian Tomlinson, where it used its website to publicise the story first.  I’m also not sure how it could have benefited the Mail to publish on their website so late.

I guess it shows the way newspapers deal with exclusives and how best to split them between print and online is still an area very much open to debate.