Friday, 20 May 2011

21 ideas on how to do the new journalism - and 21 reasons to subscribe to MMJ

New publishing platforms, apps and ways of multimedia reporting are emerging all the time.

So how do you make sense of all that is now possible?

What should you do, and how?

And how can you pick up skills you need?

That’s a topic we are looking at in great depth in the Masterclasses section of Multimedia Journalism: A Practical Guide.

Here, I’ve selected 21 from a far wider range of tips, advice and practical demonstrations, to give a flavour of what subscribers to Multimedia Journalism: A Practical Guide get for their money.

If you buy the textbook, in either paper or e-book form, (it’s about £26 or $48 via Amazon)  you get full access to the companion website, and the database of 28 up-to-the-minute masterclasses.

More masterclasses are scheduled.

This twinning of static paper/e-book and dynamic online masterclasses means that the MMJ project is never out of date – and always relevant to the needs to the modern, mobile, multimedia journalist

So here are those 21 tasters:

Idea 1: Drag the Inverted Pyramid into the 21st century by adopting the Digital Media Pyramid (DMP) to structure your multimedia stories.
The (DMP was invented by Ben Davis, journalism lecturerer at Rutgers University, New Jersey, because he didn’t think the inverted triangle took account of the use of photographs, video, interactivity and all non-text elements.
His triangle also takes account of the practise of ads being automatically selected for slots alongside particular copy depending on key words within it. That can have huge risks for inappropriate juxtapositions.
His triangle looks like this:

Idea 2: Create a Topic Page; an area that covers a big, long-running story as an ongoing process rather than as a finished product, but which gives you all the background and context you need to fully understand it. That’s in contrast to the typical, 200-word online news story which just nudges the story on the latest few centimetres.

Idea 3: Start a Beat Blog about the subject you want to specialise in.
Blogs have had a bad press.
They’ve generally been seen, at worst, as the self-indulgent ramblings of those who would never make it into print or, at best, second-rate print publication-style first person pieces: light and disposable

What we are talking about here is the Beat Blog, a very different beast. The Beat Blog, far from being peripheral to everything else a journalist has to do – and knocked off in the odd half hour when more important writing assignments allow – is actually central to a journalist’s work.

Idea 4: Learn about layered reporting, which spreads your content across Twitter, a blog, print and more, and lets you link to source material, documents, and reports.
Example: A roll-call of great exponents of layered reporting from Alan Rusbridger:

Idea 5: Think about the apps that enable you to link your content to place, and serve your audience while they are on the move.

Idea 6: Create content and community around a location with Bubbleby.
It's a great geo-location tool for any journalist who wants to focus on a place where he or she knows there is a good story

That might be an anti-social crime hotspot, the focus of a planning controversy, or simply a landmark or beauty spot.

Idea 7: Use maps in your reporting. Peg anything from traffic trouble spots and house price data to a travel feature on a Google Map.

Idea 8: Make Foursquare work for you. 
It’s not that big in the UK – yet – but in the US Foursquare is a really powerful social/location platform. You can get your blog or website on it, and add another dimension to your social engagement.

Idea 9: Build your own location-based smartphone guides, for free. 
Let users navigate around your area, or your subject, with a Geodelic app.
Example: Add the Geodelic app on your smartphone and look for: Multimedia Journalism Training

Idea 10: Use Gowalla to create an interactive journey for your readers.
Example: Load Gowalla onto your phone and search, under trips, for Ealing Comedy Capers.

Idea 11: Find out about curatorial journalism, and how you can do it without lifting a finger.

Idea 12: Use Storify to curate a story that’s important to you and your readers

Idea 13: Use to claim, and then curate long-term, a subject area that is important to you and your readers.

Idea 14: Learn how they do community curation so brilliantly on Wikipedia. 
If you check out a big story on Wikipedia, you’ll find a really comprehensive (if a bit sober) presentation of every aspect of the issue. They do that by harnessing the power of a crowd of volunteers.

Idea 15: Live-blog a big news story.  
Maybe a demo, perhaps a war, but most likely a conference or other event of importance to your readers
Examples: How the Guardian, BBC, New York Times and others approach live blogging:

Idea 16: Report live, using video, audio, stills and text, from a major event.

Idea 17: Run a live blog from your desk, drawing upon the input of your own reporters, other professional journalists, experts, eye-witnesses and citizen journalists.

Idea 18: Do some data journalism. 
It may sound scary, but it’s not. It involves taking large sets of figures and creating visualisations out of them – visualisations can be maps, graphs or tables.

These visualisations are to enable us to spot stories that were buried in the data.

So, data journalism is about using computers to find stories in data. It’s also about presenting visualisations that anyone else can delve into and then make their own connections, spot their own stories, and reach their own clearer understanding of the issues the data covers.

Idea 19: Learn how to combine Factual, Excel and Many Eyes to find, sift and visualise data.

Idea 20: Improve your video storytelling. 
You don’t need to be able to create a polished TV news-package, but you can pick up some tips from TV journos about telling stories in moving pictures.

Idea 21: Take your first steps in photojournalism, using tools that turn your smartphone into a great camera

How to become a sports journalist: previewing Masterclass 28 of MMJ

Sport. Great
Who doesn’t think they would be good at lying on a sofa, sipping a beer and sounding off about their favourite game?
But that's not quite the full range of talents you need.
Maybe commentating on matches takes your fancy?
That’s one very visible aspect of sport, but it’s not what most sports journalists do most of the time.
There are many more types of sport report.
As well as live match reports (and there are plenty of those thanks to text-based ball-by-ball commentary on mobile phones) there are  previews or scene setters before a game and inquest pieces after it
One major growth area is in sports news reporting. Sport is big business, as well as an obsession for many, and it can attract readers to newspapers and eyeballs to websites and broadcast news coverage.
If we take football, the finances of the clubs, the transfer fees for star players, the intrigues concerning the sport’s governing bodies, all require a solid knowledge of a sport if they are to be reported effectively.
These brands of sports reporting all require skills quite apart from those of knowing a sport and how to analyse a game or match.
Some are the skills of a general reporter, but awareness of, for example, business reporting, quickly become important.
So, here’s what we’ll look at in Masterclass 28:

  • How to get into it sports journalism – should you specialise early on or get general news reporting experience first?
  • What you’ll need to know about what sports
  • Examples of how to report throughout the sports news cycle
  • The skills of the commentator
  • How to make stories about a particular sport of interest to a general audience
  • How to learn from the very best sports writers and broadcasters around
  • University courses in sports journalism
The link below will take you to the first of seven modules, which will be available for a few days for non-subscribers to MMJ, and for good if you have bought the textbook Multimedia Journalism, A Practical Guide and activated your account usign the access key you'll fidn in the paper textbook, or in the Kindle edition

 Next: How to become a sports journalist

Friday, 13 May 2011

How to become a political journalist - previewing Masterclass 27 of MMJ

When Andrew Marr was voted top UK political journalist he was asked by Press Gazette what he thought the attributes of a good political journalist were.
I’ve extracted from his quote, which you can read in full here: curiosity, fair-mindedness, respect.
Perhaps this is a surprising choice. He doesn’t mention ruthlessness, an obsessive interest in politics or the killer-instinct to pursue and trap a politician who is up to no good.
But I’ve chosen to begin with Marr’s words because I think they are a more accurate reflection of the way a political reporter needs to operate if they are to survive, and succeed.
They reflect the fact that stories come from people, and to get stories from them you need to treat them right.
In Masterclass 27, which you can read in full by following the link at the bottom of this post,  we’ll look in much more detail at the aptitude and interests you need to have a chance of becoming a good political reporter.
Also at the experience you should try to gain on your journalism course, in your blogging activities, and in your first job
Then we’ll take a look at how to find and tell political stories, with a detailed examination at how Westminster political reporters, press officers, and special advisers operate.
There is a top-trumps list of the best political journalists, as voted by the public and their peers, with links to their work, plus guides to the best political commentators.
And a look at a curiously British form of political reporting – sketch writing.
There are very few university courses in political journalism, but we have some links – including a look at what they do at Winchester University, teaching multimedia political reporting, including covering an election live and through the night.

Next: How to become a political journalist

Friday, 6 May 2011

Specialisms: Introducing Masterclasses 26 to 33

We are moving in these masterclasses to a new area – that of specialisms

For most newly-qualified journalists, general reporting is their starting point – unless they choose the subbing and production route

If you want to remain a reporter long-term it’s often a good idea to specialise: to choose an area of news that you cover intensively and on which you become a trusted expert and authority.
There are a couple of reasons for this. One is that specialist knowledge, and the provision of reliable, authoritative information, has a value above that of general news.
As we are seeing, it is almost impossible to get people to pay for general news online. In the UK, it is very hard to make general news pay. You have the massively well-resourced BBC pumping out a huge volume of general news, without needing to heed the commercial realities that other, private media outfits are governed by.
So, as a reporter, you need to be a purveyor of information that is valuable to the audience you are targeting – perhaps for their work, or for informing commercial decisions that they must make. Or, it may be information that gives them depth of coverage in an area of interest to them: a hobby or pastime perhaps.
The rise in social media has further devalued the work of the general reporter.
Because so much general news coverage is contributed by citizens in some way – whether through their eye-witness stills or video, or through celebrities tweeting what is happening to them – the general reporter sees their stock falling.
We are going to look at a number of very different specialisms in this run of masterclasses:
There are loads of others we could cover. But whatever the specialism you choose, there are general principles of how to be a good specialist reporter that we can apply across the board.
So in this general guide to specialisms we’ll start off by looking at how to be a specialist reporter, and I’ll link to the areas of learning in previous masterclasses, and in the book version of MMJ and the companion website, that give you the general approach to take and the tools to use.
The last five linked masterclasses, Numbers 22 to 25 are particularly relevant, because they show you how to apply specialist reporting to the modern media world.
A good specialist reporter is locked in to social media. Just look at how many stories in tabloids are sparked by a celebrity’s tweet. Tabloids don’t always tell readers that they are sourcing so many stories on Twitter, but it has become a vital hunting ground for the showbiz specialist reporter.

Next: How to choose your specialism

The emerging face of International Journalism: an MMJ masterclass

They used to be called foreign correspondents, now they are beginning to become known as international journalists
That change is more than just semantics

The old skool approach of embedding foreign correspondents involved sending someone with your world view, values and mind-set into foreign parts, and have them report on and, inevitably, interpret that country and situation as you probably would.
So being a foreign correspondent was often to present the world from your audience’s viewpoint. It was a form of colonialism – news colonialism.
With the developing idea of International Journalism, we are trying to move beyond that.
Think for a minute how sobering it can be to see the foreign coverage of your own country.
I know that when a German newspaper chooses to portray the zenophobic rantings of English red tops as representative of the nation, I don’t see that as being a true picture of my country, and its people, as a whole.
International Journalism seeks to bring a more objective presentation that blends input from native journalists in any given country with that from journalists from the country where coverage will be consumed.
It also tries to harness the huge power of social media, of our easy access to journalism from all over the globe, with citizen journalism and input from eye-witnesses
So it has a lot to do with the things we covered in Masterclasses 22-25, particularly what we did with curation and live blogging. Then there is the huge importance of smartphones as reporting devices, which we covered in Masterclass 14.
So I try here to develop a more modern idea of what a foreign correspondent – or international journalist - is, or should be, drawing on the thoughts of Peter Horrocks, the BBC’s head of global news, and his approach to bringing a truly international character to the corporation’s world news output.
I also draw in the important role Al Jazeera has had in reminding us that the west’s view of world events isn’t the only one.
I’ve gathered as much wisdom as I can from individuals who have become foreign correspondents – often by striking out bravely for a distant land and using all their guts, nous and journalistic ability to get established there.
There is a good deal of practical advice on how to pick the country you’ll report from, what to do to prepare for your departure and how to establish yourself once you arrive – all of it from people who’ve done it.
There is specific information on becoming a foreign correspondent in Africa, China, Russia, South America and Israel.
We look at some of the most successful foreign correspondents, and link to their award-winning work – so you can learn from the very best.
This masterclass is the first in a series on various journalistic specialisms. Look out for the others, and check out the overview of specialisms – why most reporters follow one, and how to pick the best one for you.

Next: What International Journalism is