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.

Anyone?

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.

The market and the internet don’t care if you make money

I think, from feedback I have received beyond this blog, that there is some confusion with regards to the importance I attach to journalism.

I want to clear this up now. I think a free press is massively important as a tool to help preserve democracy and to keep people informed about issues that they feel are relevant to their lives. My concern is finding ways to fund journalists in the future.

The thing is the act of journalism and the business that sustains it are two different things.

The business aspect has occupied my thoughts because I may care about journalism, but that doesn’t mean the market does. It is this point that has been put across very eloquently by Scott Karp of Publishing 2.0:

The web is the most disruptive force in the history of media, by many orders of magnitude, destroying every assumption on which traditional media businesses are based.

But the market should care, you say. What would happen if we didn’t have the newspapers playing their Fourth Estate watch dog role?

Here’s the bitter truth — the feared loss of civic value is not the basis for a BUSINESS.

The problem with the newspaper industry, as with the music industry before it, is the sense of ENTITLEMENT. What we do is valuable. Therefore we have the right to make money.

Nobody has the right to a business model.

Ask not what the market can do for you, but what you can do for the market.

This is the best analysis and assessment of the disruptive nature of digital that I have seen yet.

Job interview – the presentation

When I decided to post about my impending job interview, I would not have guessed I would get the response that I did. I have received some fantastic feedback. I am lucky indeed.

So, to continue the thread, this is a version of the presentation I’m going to give today (edited to remove commercially sensitive info and stuff that might get me sacked).

Yes, I know it’s a pretty cruddy Powerpoint… perhaps I should have added presentation skills to my training list.

The interview is not until 15:30 GMT, so if I’ve mucked up please let me know – I might still have time to change it! :)

From dino to digi in five days!

I have a job interview on Monday.

It is at The Birmingham Post and the job title is “Development Editor”. It would be overseeing innovation and the development of new platforms for the newspaper.

I wasn’t going to say anything about it, as by telling the world I run the risk of potentially having that toe-curling moment when I have to tell everyone that I didn’t get the job.

But, when I saw the presentation I had to make, I thought it was worth sharing. I have already chatted about it to a few friends, so why not go the whole hog and put it up online?!

I have to outline a training course that would convert traditional print journalists into “fully-equipped and knowledgeable multi-media, multi-platform journalists” in just five days.

Not much then.

Despite my initial reaction being “it’s impossible”, trying to devise such a course is actually a great way to get the brain cells into gear. The last few months I have been immersing myself in all that is new and shiny on the web and, as a result, my way of thinking about the future of journalism has changed.

But do I have the ability to take a step back from that and assess where the industry is at the moment and what skills print journalists will need to have a share in that future? If I can, can I describe that transition in logical steps – as you would have to in a training course.

I hope the answer is yes.

What occurs to me is that the biggest battle is not the training in the use of tools such as Twitter, but the understanding of why you might want, or need, to use them.

It is a horrid thing when someone is told that the skills they have perfected over many years are no longer enough to survive in their industry and that the market and the competition has changed.

I guess the only way to acceptance is understanding, so my training course would start with at least a day investigating trends in the UK newspaper market and the rise in online competition. Perhaps a bit on insight into the best journalism on blogs too – which might open up the issue of the importance of conversation.

All too often the Internet comes across as the bad guy – the place where people read our stories for free and don’t have the decency to buy a paper. So, I think, there has to be a day dedicated to making sure journalists also know how much the web can benefit them in their jobs – that RSS Feeds, searches, alerts, etc. are all ways to make tracking down stories easier.

Then, and only then, would I get down to the business at looking at producing multi-platform content – experimenting with the best ways of communicating a particular message online.

It would be great to do a breaking news story exercise at the beginning and the end of the course to see if thinking had changed.

As you can see, I haven’t fully formed a training course yet but will be spending my weekend pondering! I’ll let you know how it goes…

What videos by The Post will not look like…

…otherwise I will be hanging my head in shame.

This was dug up by Paul Bradshaw on his Online Journalism Blog and is the 60-second update from the Reading Evening Post:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0st6x-vrW5M&rel=1]

[Edit: Is it just me or can you hear a female voice saying “lovely jubbley” at the end of the piece?!]

And it seems the crazy transitions and cutting your reporters’ off before they’ve finished are both techniques employed elsewhere on their site:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qNsi-DqKH4I&rel=1]

I don’t blame the journos though (although someone has terrible taste in music and graphics). This smacks of poor training. Notice that the script sounds like it was written for print, not for video.

I hate the way that some people just expect that because you write the news you’re also going to be happy with and capable of presenting it on camera. It’s not true. Personally I’m skin-crawling-ly uncomfortable infront of a lens. I realise it’s something I will have to get used to and, when the inevitable comes, I hope, at the very least, I will have been given the right training to help me do it.

Journalist spleen venting

Got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning? Coffee machine broken? Swamped with press releases about charity walks and Easter bonnets?

Take some solace from the fact you’re not the only journo out there with problems and share the misery on Angryjournalist.com.

Some of my favourites:

Angry Journalist #246:

I’m angry at myself because I love getting up at 2:30 a.m. every morning to go to my job…a job that I don’t get paid crap for. And when I get there my boss hasn’t written SHIT so I have to write 20 TV stories in 1 1/2 hours and get paid HALF of what he does. I’m angry because at the end of the day I still love my job. I want to get angry at my job so I’ll find the courage to get ANOTHER one!

Angry Journalist #225:

My editor changed my proper use of the verb “comprise” to “is comprised of.”

Angry Journalist #210:

Because my officemate has the social skills of an emotionally stunted 13 year old.

Because my editor can’t decide from one day to the next if I’m any good or not. One day I’m his best writer, the next I’m an enormous piece of shit who needs looking after.

Because my paper insists on turning a blind eye to the enormous staff defection over the last 15 months, and fills open positions, if at all, with part-time college kids who don’t know shit.

Because when I taught the intro newswriting course at my alma mater as an adjunct, I made so little money that I could have been better paid at the nearby grocery store, while the law school adjuncts in the next building over were making 3 times per credit hour what I did for one class.

Oh, and because of fucking photographers who won’t drive more than 20 miles for an assignment, but it’s perfectly OK to send a reporter with no skills beyond a point-and-shoot digital two hours out of town to shoot it, as long as they’re going to be there anyway.

/rant

Thanks for this site!