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


Friday, 11 September 2015

Previewing the brand-new 2nd edition of Multimedia Journalism, published October 14 2015

Equipping you for the fourth revolution in journalism

Yet again, journalism is undergoing radical change.

James Harding, the BBC's director of news and current affairs, speaks of a fourth revolution in journalism.
First there was print, and then came the first three revolutions:
• Radio
• Television
• Online
Each caused radical upheaval in their turn.

The fourth revolution, which is taking place right now, is being caused by mobile technology.

Harding, who is responsible for shaping the BBC's vision for news coverage, told staff: "In the age of the smartphone, we have entered the age of smart news, of handheld, news of what, for want of a better term, I will simply call interactive news – news that is portable and personalised; news that is fully internet-enabled and responsive; news that is available to everyone, everywhere, right now; news in which everyone has a hand on the microphone, i.e. not just broadcast, transmitted or distributed, but shared, exchanged, checked, investigated and explained as much by the audience as the author; news that can plug you in to what’s happening anywhere in the world, but equally root you into where you live and work; news that puts the world, with all this implies, in the palm of your hand."
The Multimedia Journalism (MMJ) project is designed to equip student journalists - and, indeed, working journalists - with the skills they need to join this revolution.

With its textbook in paper and ebook form, its companion website, its mobile and social media presences, MMJ teaches how to do journalism across all media and on all platforms.

It will take you through from day one to graduation, covering all practical, journalistic aspects of your course.

It will give you everything you need to know to develop as a fully rounded multimedia journalist.
It will start by assuming absolutely no knowledge or experience, and accompany you through to full competence: the level of competence required to graduate from a practical undergraduate or postgraduate journalism course.

It will take you through the practice of reporting - of storytelling - in text, audio, still and moving images, mobile platforms and on social media. MMJ takes as its starting point the way news, information and entertainment is consumed today.

How do you consume your news?

Chances are, you use a mix something along the lines of the following:
• News alerts on Twitter
• Status updates on Facebook or other social networks
• News headlines from a range of titles you like
• An app - either free or (possibly) paid for - on your mobile phone or tablet computer
• A free print product (if you live in a city) that you pick up before or after your morning commute
• TV news

You may, just possibly, also buy a newspaper.

What about your other information and entertainment needs?

You might buy one or more glossy magazines that fall into the categories of general consumer or specialist consumer titles.

That's particularly likely if you are into fashion, movies, gaming. Or you may read them on a tablet.
Your interests and hobbies may also be served by a range of other apps, headline alerts of email newsletters.

So if you follow a particular sports league or team, for example, you are likely to be signed up for news from them, and this news will often be produced not by independent journalists but by journalists employed by the club or league itself.

A lot of what you read or watch will come to you - those in your social circle will share or like a video on YouTube, say, or a news story that has been shared by someone you know on Facebook, or linked to on Twitter.

You might listen to a radio station, or download podcasts of news or other information to listen to on your smartphone, iPod or tablet while you are on the way to work, at the gym or on a run.
So that's a pretty complex media landscape, and because we have so much choice about where we get our news, information and entertainment, everyone’s pattern of media consumption is likely to be unique to them.

How you learn to deliver news and information in the age of the fourth revolution

So if you want to be a journalist, how to you find a way to make a living in this complex landscape?
The answer is to acquire all the skills it takes to produce that news and information, across a wide range of media.

To become, in short, a multimedia journalist.

Someone who can use all the modern tools that are available to us as gatherers and disseminators of news and information - to be equally at home writing for print or online, doing an audio or video report, taking still images, crunching data to reveal the stories hidden within it, and using a wide range of social media to find, research and publish stories.

That's what the MMJ project sets out to help you do.

And, because this is a revolution, MMJ can't stand still. So, while the textbook will remain a guide to the unchanging principles of good practice, in whatever medium you operate, the online versions will be constantly updated to take in new technologies - new software, hardware and ways of doing journalism.  

MMJ 2nd edition is published on October 14 2015

Its available on Amazon in the UK
And in the USA