Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Five masterclasses: in data journalism, writing for Buzzfeed, live reporting with Snapchat and Periscope, creating mashed-up RSS news feeds, and how to bring gaming into your reporting

There are now five masterclasses to accompany the new, second edition of Multimedia Journalism: A Practical Guide

You can find all that tuition here, or read on to explore individual topics.

But please note that these masterclasses are designed to complement the tuition in the MMJ textbook, and not as stand-alone explorations of new developments in journalism. So you'll need the book to put them in context, and you can buy it here for the UK and here for the US and Canada.

Data journalism: new practical projects
In this masterclass we offer a new range of data journalism projects, with step-by-step instructions on completing them. Tuition here

How to write for Buzzfeed: the art of the listical 
This masterclass offers a practical demonstration of how to create features in the listical style used widely on new journalism platforms such as Buzzfeed. Tuition here

The journalism of now: using Snapchat and Periscope for reporting 
I’ve called this masterclass the journalism of now simply because both these platforms are designed to carry live news and information. It typically disappears within 24 hours, although there are ways to keep it live for longer. We look in detail at the particular demands of  live reporting on these platforms. Tuition here

Creating a mashed-up RSS feed of news or information 
 This tuition explores ChimpFeedr. ChimpFeedr lets you add a series of individual RSS feed urls to a list, and then – at the click of a button – it generates a new RSS feed which combines all the posts going to those individual feeds in your original list. It's a great way to create a news feed from a wide range of sources which you can then republish. Tuition here

How to bring gaming into your reporting and compete with Candycrush
We’re not talking about games for diversion in this tuition, but rather games that are part of the news offering of a media company.
The idea is that games serve to illustrate the impact of given events or actions much more powerfully than if a story is told through text and other media that do not directly involve the reader.
Gamifying a news story enables readers to interact with the information presented, entering into the story, exploring it and discovering its complexities.Tuition here

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Masterclass 5: How to bring gaming into your news reporting and compete with Candy Crush

Why do games have a place in news?

This post introduces the latest tuition related to my textbook Multimedia Journalism: A Practical Guide
Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 14.54.36
  We're not talking about games for diversion here, but rather games that are part of the news offering of a media company.
  The idea is that games serve to illustrate the impact of given events or actions much more powerfully than if a story is told through text and other media that do not directly involve the reader.
  Gamifying a news story enables readers to interact with the information presented, entering into the story, exploring it and discovering its complexities.
  They might, for example, choose options within the story and then discover the consequences. Games make for a more immersive experience.
  In a survey of what media companies are doing to make games a part of their offering, Poynter came up with this list of those experimenting with gaming that included The Washington Post, Buzzfeed, the New York Times and AP.

Readers love games 

  Games are popular - as we'll discuss later, there is a view that if your journalism can't compete with Candy Crush for sheer irresistibility and as an immersive experience, it will fail. 
 The good news is that news-based games are also very popular with readers.  This dialect quiz was the most popular piece of content on the NYT in 2013, according to Poynter. Slate's most popular piece of content to date was this name generator, inspired by a light news story in which John Travolta mangled a name at the Academy Awards  Both those examples are entertaining adjuncts to news stories, but games can also be used to tell a story.
  Poynter reports that American University has had many enquires from news organisations seeking to incorporate games into its news coverage since it launch an MA in games design

Games allow audiences to experience information in a new way 

cutthroat capitalism

  Programme director Lindsay Grace told Poynter he attributes this growth in interest in games to factors including the ubiquity of mobile devices, and the shift to a culture that views play as productive. 
He believes that, done right, games can be useful storytelling tools, because they allow audiences to experience information in a new way. A story experienced through a game may have a more lasting impact, he believes, than a report in which facts and figures are quickly forgotten.
  Lindsay gives two examples of games which put a reader into a story.

  Cutthroat Capitalism 

  One, from Wired, is called Cutthroat Capitalism and explains the economics of modern-day piracy by putting the reader in the role of a Somali pirate commander seeking to board supertankers and extract millions of dollars in ransom for their safe return, and for sparing the lives of their crews. 
There is a conventional story, with facts, background, analysis and video here  cutthroat the game
  Go here to play the game.
  This approach could be used in all kinds of major news stories.
  You might for example, seek to gamify the story of individuals trapped in a war zone - Syria would be a powerful current location - and allow the reader act out the role of a refugee. They don't just see what is happening to others. 
 Their role in the game gives them a much more profound - albeit virtual - experience of what happens to a refugee when they take a given course of action. Do they stay put? Do they seek the protection of one faction or another? Do they move to a refugee camp in the region? Do they seek to make the journey to the EU?
  Real stories could be used to illustrate what happens if one or other of these options are taken. 
The individual stories will be true, and information about the wider context in which those individuals are operating ( and the reader-as-player) can be introduced as the game is played.

  Gauging your distraction 

  Grace's second example, Gauging Your Distraction, from the New York Times, puts the reader in the driving seat of a car and forces them to send and receive texts while navigating a series of obstacles. You could use this format for all kinds of stories which explore the consequences of actions.

The place of games in modern news reporting

Maxwell Foxman of the Tow Centre for Digital Journalism has studied the place of games in modern news reporting.

In this NeimanLab report he says: "While games, play and the news have a long history, we find ourselves at an exciting moment as newsmakers' strategies and efforts to playfully engage with users are beginning to see benefits...for digital newsrooms already built around much of the same technology and practices of game designers, a playful approach seems particularly attractive."


Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Masterclass 4: Creating a mashed-up RSS feed of news or information

In Chapter 10 of Multimedia Journalism we looked at creating email bulletins and, in module 10B4 within that chapter, at how you can mash up RSS feeds from a number of sources to create a new, curated RSS feed of targeted news or information.

  One element of that tuition now needs updating. The text below forms that update.

  10B4 Creating an RSS feed with ChimpFeedr

Yahoo Pipes, which we used originally, as been withdrawn, so I have been on the lookout for a suitable alternative.
  Sadly, there isn't anything I can find that is as easy to use for the non-coder, and does as much, as Pipes.
  A number of people have offered lists of alternatives, and you'll find a range of suggestions herehere and herebut I wasn't entirely happy with any of them.
  They were either too complicated, or did not allow you to sift the information you were gathering as efficiently as Yahoo Pipes did.
  The best current option, for me, is a service offered by MailChimp and, as we are using MailChimp to create our email bulletins, that's pretty convenient.
  It's called ChimpFeedr, and you an find it here:  
 ChimpFeedr - like Yahoo Pipes - lets you add a series of individual RSS feed urls to a list, and then - at the click of a button - it generates a new RSS feed which combines all the posts going to those individual feeds in your original list.

Why would you want to do that?
  Well, if you get this right, you can create a feed that picks up on all the latest news or information in the area you cover. 
 You can combine your own output with that from other specialists in your field, giving readers the place to come for comprehensive coverage of your beat.

How to choose your feeds
  Your feeds need to come from a closely targeted area. That might be localities, if you have a local or hyperlocal site; an area of business activity if you are creating a B2B news product; or other news sources if you are covering a topic nationally or internationally. 
  You might also cover film, music or any other special interest area in a mashed-up feed. (In Chapter 17 of Multimedia Journalism we look at how we can use the RSS feeds we create to feed into a mobile phone app.)
  You'll need to be highly selective when combining feeds.

Here's an example of how to get started
  As mentioned on page 117 of the print version of Multimedia Journalism, the Mail Online offers a comprehensive list of news feeds here:
  Among them are feeds for Mail Online coverage of many celebrities. If you are a showbiz reporter, and want to create a mashup RSS feed from a range of key stars, this is a good starting point. 
  You'd also need to identify other sources of news on the celebrities you have chosen. Choose the ones you find most useful in your research and you won't go far wrong.
  The Mail Online presentation makes it easy to find the feeds, linking to each under an orange button, but when seeking feeds from many sites it is often it is harder to find them, so here's some guidance...

How to find the feed url in each case
  Click on the page’s orange RSS button, and you’ll get a screen come up that offers you various ways to subscribe to it. 
  In the url address box at the top of the browser window is the feed url. 
  Copy and paste it into the input area of ChimpFeedr.
  Some sites put this logo prominently on their homepage, others hide it, so you occasionally have to hunt it out. 
  As a last resort, Google the website or blog name plus RSS and see if that helps.
  For this demonstration, I've gathered a range of news sources for the area covered by my hyperlocal news site, LondonW5 (creating it is covered in Chapter 2 of MMJ).
  I've gathered the RSS feed urls from a mix of local news sites, the Met police, what's on guides and transport updates. The grab below shows some of them ready to be combined. 

ChimpFeedr will ask you to name your mashup, and I'm calling mine West London Live.

When you have all your feeds gathered
  Click the 'Chomp Chomp' button and ChimpFeedr generates your new RSS url.

What to do with your new RSS feed url
  As covered in Chapter 2 of MMJ, Wordpress lets you display content from an RSS feed on your website, using either a widget (if you are using or a plugin (if using
  You can place the widget or plugin on your website's homepage, following the guidance given in Chapter 2 (for .com sites, or Chapter 8 for .org sites). 
 Then paste your RSS url into the box indicated, and title the feed.

To see your content
  Switch from the edit view to 'view my site' and you'll see the content you have gathered. Here's a grab of mine: 


MailChimp's own tuition
  You'll find it here: 

Thursday, 31 December 2015

Why old media still smashes it when things really matter

My daughter Bea got engaged a couple of days ago and, when she told us, my immediate thought was that we should make an announcement in The Times.

I suggested this to her and she said: "Oh, I didn't know you could do that."

But she liked the idea, and mentioned it to a few of her friends, all of whom were either engaged or recently married. And they all said, "Oh, I didn't know you could do that".

So these young men and women, who are highly savvy when it comes to new media, and how to spread news using it, had no idea that you can buy space for a personal announcement in a print product and its online equivalents.

I suspected that they'd see me as a media dinosaur for feeling it was important to mark such an important life event in print. But they didn't. Infact, they all thought it was really cool.

So Bea hung fire on the Facebook update until The Times announcement was published, and then did a screen grab from The Times iPad app that became her Facebook post. Then she bought five copies of the paper.

Of course, many more people saw that Facebook announcement than heard of the engagement from The Times.

But I learned that it really mattered to these new-media natives that the first announcement came in the paper-of-record environment of the Times.

Which surprised me, and made me think that this, in its own small way, was a further illustration of the phenomenon that made Facebook's founder Mark Zuckerberg announce that he really liked reading books.

Zuckerberg had realised - in my interpretation - that when you really want to know something, or when you discover a book that really matters to you, it's important to have it in physical form on your shelf.

And it also occurred to me that old media is really missing a trick in not pitching such print announcements as an essential - and relatively inexpensive - part of the build-up to a modern wedding.

After all, you are unlikely to announce a profound event such as a death on Facebook (sad face) so why would you feel it was sufficient for a truly profound happy one?

Friday, 18 December 2015

The journalism of now: using Snapchat and Periscope for reporting

This tuition is about using Snapchat and Periscope for journalism

Credit: Nieman Journalism Lab

It supplements material in the new 2nd edition of Multimedia Journalism Chapter 6, on live blogging.

  I've called it the journalism of now simply because both these platforms are designed to carry live news and information. It typically disappears within 24 hours, although there are ways to keep it live for longer.

  As ever, we should not get fixated on particular platforms - Snapchat and Periscope, as with all the other platforms we have looked at in MMJ - are merely additional ways of publishing or broadcasting.

  As we shall see, the way we report on them is the same, in most ways, as when we report on any of the other platforms covered in MMJ.

  What they offer us as journalists is access to new audiences. 

As we'll see later, many of the news organisations using Snapchat and Periscope - be they legacy publishers, legacy broadcasters or digital natives - do so to reach millennials and others who it is hard to connect with on the more traditional platforms they publish on.

Here's what we'll cover

  You can follow the links here to go to individual tuition modules, or go through them sequentially by clicking on the next button at the bottom of this screen.

  Please note that this tuition is not stand-alone. It is supplementary to that in the new 2nd edition of Multimedia Journalism, which is available in print textbook and ebook form here for the UK and here for North America.
Next: What Periscope is and how to use it

Monday, 30 November 2015

Previewing Masterclass 2: How to write for Buzzfeed, the art of the listical


New ways of communicating - of doing journalism - are coming thick and fast these days.

 Not all journalists believe sites such as Buzzfeed, with their distinctive use of listicals, animated Gifs and highly-shareable content are really about journalism.

Some hate the idea of having to craft content that fits this style.

They're wrong to dismiss this trend. Buzzfeed, and the best of the new breed of journalism sites, embody all the core virtues, skills and values of good journalism. And what they do is not nearly as new as it might at first appear.

 So this masterclass offers a practical demonstration of how to create features in the listical style used widely on new journalism platforms such as Buzzfeed.

The tuition updates and builds on material covered in Chapter 17 of MMJ

 But it also draws on everything taught in MMJ about what news is, finding news, writing it, headline it, creating stills and moving images and so on. So what follows is not to be taken in isolation.

Buy they book here for the UK or here for North America

 Not sure what a listical is? Check out this definition.

Why Buzzfeed?

Screen Shot 2015-11-29 at 14.17.18

One of the key things I've tried to do in MMJ is replicate the working journalist's experience of coming up with ideas, pitching them to an editor and then producing a highly professional story that gets published.

If you are on a university course that's no doubt what your tutors try to do as well, and you almost certainly create content for a print or online publication.

Buzzfeed also offers you that opportunity.

They invite you to write, photograph and produce video for them. This How to use Buzzfeed guide tells you what you need to know. 

Once you are up-and-running with a Buzzfeed account, you'll be ready to click on the link below to continue with our tution.


Friday, 13 November 2015

Masterclass 1: Data Journalism, new practical projects

Data Journalism: new practical projects


In this masterclass we offer a new range of data journalism projects, with step-by-step instructions to completing them.

The first is designed to replace the project found in module 13B4 of the print and ebook versions of Multimedia Journalism.

A replacement has become necessary because Many Eyes, the platform we used there to turn our data into a range of visualisations, has now been withdrawn by its makers, IBM.

The three steps of data journalism: gather, process, visualise

Here's a reprise of the approach to data journalism we take in Chapter 13 of MMJ.

The easiest way to grasp how to do data journalism is to think of what you do in more traditional practises of the journalism craft

You gather information, you sift it, pick out the significant and interesting bits, and present it to the audience in as interesting way as you can. In short, you:  

  • gather raw information, 
  • process or filter it, and 
  • shape or visualise it.

You do exactly the same when data is your source material, rather than a collection of quotes, documents and events.

So in this and all other practical demonstrations of doing data journalism we will follow three steps:

  • Gather or find data
  • Process or filter data
  • Visualise data

Gather or find data
Go to Open Data by Socrata, , which is an open data resource. You'll be prompted to open an account at Socrata at some point, if you don't already have one.

I've taken as an example a data set I found there on alcohol consumption per country from the World Health Organization (WHO). It offers a breakdown of per capita alcohol consumption among adults over 15 across 193 countries.

You can find that dataset here (you'll need to open an account at Socrata if you haven't already got one):

You'll see this is a very simple data set with only two columns of information, which makes it ideal as a first data journalism project

Process or Filter data

Filtering data involves two tasks:

·      Cleaning it up by removing any information that we do not want in our visualisation

·      Sorting the information in the data by, for example, adding subsections of the overall data.

We aren't going to do either with this piece of data, but if you want an idea of how you might filter data in Socrata, they have a useful video demonstration here:

Visualise data

We are going to use a platform called Silk to visualise this data.

So we need to export it from Socrata and upload it to Silk.

Under the Export options in Socrata, choose 'Export  as a CSV  for Excel' and, for ease, save it to your desktop.

Open Silk and click on Create a new Silk.

Name it.

You'll be invited to view a three minute video of how Silk works. It's worth pausing to take a look as it explains how silk is organised

Here's what it says in summary:

When you upload a spreadsheet to Silk, each row of your spreadsheet is a unit of data. With the alcohol consumption example we are working with, each line has the name of the country and the alcohol consumption in litres per individual over the age of 15 in that country

Silk turns each of those lines into what it calls data cards.
So with this example, when we upload it a data card will be created for each of the countries covered.

Your spreadsheet needs a row at the top which has the titles or headings that enable the software to organise your data.

This one has just two, location, and alcohol consumption per capita. If that line were missing for any reason, Silk or any other visualisation tool could not make sense of the data, so you'd need to add appropriate headings.

That's something you'd do at the Filtering data stage.

I could also have a column that grouped indiviual countries into the continents they are a part of. If I did, then Silk would organise these data cards into  groups, which would mean the information could be filtered and presented continent by continent

Your data is also converted by Silk into what it calls pages. You can add elements to those pages, each of which is given its own unique url.

So if you are writing an article and want to embed pages of data - subsets of the overall dataset - at particular points, you can do so.

Let's go ahead and upload our data into Silk.

Click to Proceed and choose the 'Upload spreadsheet' option. Then click and drag the spreadsheet you have saved to your desktop into this area of Silk.

Click 'start import'.

The data on your spreadsheet is being turned into data cards. When that has happened you can click to explore data cards.

'Explore' is where you create visualisations in Silk

Try them out. Think, in each case, how easy that particular visualisation makes the data to 'read'.

Ideally, we'd like the type of visualisation we finally choose to enable readers to see at a glance some salient facts. For example, which countries have the highest  per capita consumption, and which the lowest.

Some types of visualisation aren't much use. 'List' givers each country in alphabetical order, with the consumption. 'Grid' and 'Mosaic' don't add anything.

Groups is useful.

If you click on Group and then, under the 'Group by' option that appears, use 'Litres per capita', you get individual countries grouped under levels of consumption, which mean you can quickly see geographic and cultural patterns in the data.

Visualise on a map

Map sounds promising but you'll find you are prompted to add categories via dialogue boxes to organise the data. Silk gives suggestions.

Experiment with them.

You should find a set of markers added to the map, and when you click on them you get information on alcohol consumption, as in this example:

But that takes a lot of work by the reader, who has to click on a country pin to find out what the alcohol consumption there is, so doesn't help them all that much.

Use the 'Colour by' dialogue and you get a more useful picture.

Now, a coloured disc appears on each country, with a number on it. The number represented the consmption, rounded to the nearest litre, and the discs vary in size depending on the level of consumption in that country.

So, now we are beginning to get a visual representation of the data that helps readers interpret it at glance, rather than by wading through lists of figures.

Publish your visualisations

At any point I can publish the visualisation Silk has created for me, and share it in various ways, including via a link:

Here's that link:

Click on it and my visualisation will open up in a nicely presented Google map, with the map element presented effectively in context. This is one of the  individual pages Silk has created for me, so I could use it as part of the article I am writing.

From there I can pick up code to enable me to embed it in the article I am writing, if I'd like to:

If you do click to publish you'll then have to click on Explore again to get back into the data.

Run along the rest of the options.

Bars and columns give you an immediate comparison.

With columns you need to scroll across to reveal which country is represented in each stack.

See anything immediately interesting or surprising?

Which country would you have guessed, befroe looking at this data, had the highest alcohol intake?


Infact, according to his WHO data it is little Luxembourg.

Second comes Ireland.

In terms of giving an instant indication of what the data shows, this is an effective visualisation.

As you'd expect, Muslim countries show the lowest readings.

Silk limits you to 3,000 rows of data, and will reject any data set that exceeds that total when you try to upload it.

Further tuition on Silk and Socrata Open Data

Silk has a guide: How to use silk for journalism, here:

Silk's YouTube channel is here:

Socrata's guide to its Open Data initiative