FOI: How local journalists make a difference by sticking with a story

Richard Kendall:

A great example of utilising FOI to dig out the important facts that can’t be ignored. And hoping this story goes some way to getting some of those flood defences repaired…

Originally posted on David Higgerson:


At certain times in the last 12 months, it will have been quite hard to avoid journalists in the West Country as news outlets from across the country followed wave after wave of floods hitting the region.

The 24-hour news cycle, the instant update world of social media and the ease of publishing online have all combined to ensure big events become ones of national focus very quickly. As a result, the thirst to lay blame can emerge more quickly, which in turn can result in big promises and pledges from those in power.

The widespread flooding in the South West resulted in big promises from the Government to get flood defences fixed, and rivers dredged to reduce the risk of a repeat this year.

Almost a year on, and it’s pretty much only the local media who are still covering a story which, for a while, led national news…

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Is hard news not the place for humour (yes, sometimes)

Jim Tyner, Community Policing Inspector for South Holland in Lincolnshire highlighted the question of whether it’s appropriate to inject an element of humour into hard news on social media with this tweet this morning:

Once reply asked ” taking it seriously then?”, a fair point given it came from an official police account, but as Jim points out, particularly in the social media environment, straight and serious updates aren’t always going to capture interest.

With careful judgement, a small injection of humour can go some way to getting a story or piece of information to a far wider audience, in this case, helping to solve a crime…

The newsroom strategy of the now

Never mind a vision of a newsroom of the future, here’s The Telegraph’s latest digital strategy, via @theguardian.

Regardless of anything else the Telegraph has done or is doing, the strategy as described makes sense in a stripped-down newsroom environment.

It highlights a streamlined approach to production and workflows, moving “beyond the concept of “digital first”:

“The engine driving the content decisions is the 80 million worldwide unique users per month. But readers of the newspaper will not notice a difference, the paper is still a crown jewel.”

Staff have been told to embrace a new editorial ethos with five main elements:

  1. One integrated print/digital newsroom.
  2. Two shifts worked each day, one from 6am and one ending at midnight.
  3. Three speeds to work at, from fast for breaking news to slower for a feature.
  4. Four key skills for each journalist: social, video, analytics and search engine optimisation [SEO].
  5. Five deliverable ideas required from each desk each day: including one video, one shareable and one interactive

Overall, I don’t see an issue with this as a set of guidelines on how a newsroom should be forging forwards in 2014.

The shift patterns – an open-ended discussion, dependent on news publication/resource etc. – apart the rest appears a realistic appraisal of how news content should be produced in reaction to how news consumers are hungrily consuming. So my take on the above list, in order:

  • 1. Content creation shouldn’t be split between teams, content is content regardless of publishing platform, seems inefficient to have multiple teams working independently on content.
  • 2. Technically you could argue journalists are somewhat on duty 24/7 in the social sphere – clearly unworkable and unmanageable long-term, but flexibility in working practices has to be acknowledged. The news cycle doesn’t/shouldn’t revolve around print deadlines any more – at least as little as possible given legacy media production needs.
  • 3. Different types of story need a different set of technical skills, quicker reaction to in depth research, all clearly underpinned by journalistic standards, ethics and quality, see @martinbelam on this: Oh my word the Telegraph has given up on reporting the news!.
  • 4. Four key skills:
  • Social is a given for news publishing, both as a means of finding, searching for news, engaging with the audience and pushing out content and links to content;
  • video  is an accessible means of content and can’t be ignored, but tools and quality control important;
  • analytics are vital, even simple page view figures give an idea of the potential audience or interest or success of publishing process;
  • SEO follows as a basic requirement, understanding how to write for digital platforms, be it hard news, features, and sharing on different social platforms – all require SEO understanding.
  • 5. Targets are always decisive for content creation outside of print, the digital world can take endless content, but some sort of guide for journalists even if not 100% strict is required.

Following up on the issue of targets:

Further reading:

Jasper Jackson at The Media Briefing asked: Can the Telegraph build a digital business model to match its new editorial focus?

These editorial changes look set to put the Telegraph on the right path editorially, but it will be interesting to see if the newspaper can come up with a healthy digital business model to match.

Notes and quotes on #ijf14 and the future of journalism

Notes on tweeted quotes from the International Journalism Festival in Perugia , Italy, 1-2 May 2014:

On accuracy and verification

We need to be moving past just tweeting stories, and whilst live updating is a great service, it sometimes needs context and clarity. And as has always been the case for journalism verification is at the heart of what makes it through to being published. In the first instance, just contact the source:

Fergus Bell from the AP talking about about verification processes, via Martin Belam’s post on the subject:

“The quickest verification on a breaking news story happens when someone still has the device in their hand.”

UGC and crediting supplied content

Start simple when someone sends or shares something interesting or newsworthy, retweeting is quick and simple, but there are pitfalls.

Is it too good a story to be true? Then it probably is. Who are they, where are they from, what else have they written/tweeted about? And if it’s legit, always credit them or the source webpage, we do the same with quotes:

On communities and engagement

It’s give and take regarding online communities, much can be gained from listening and monitoring, and you will get interaction from just being a news organistation.

But even more stories, comments and content are out there with the right input and human contact from journalists:

On the future of digital news and journalism

The legacy of old media still weighs heavy on staff and resource of newsrooms around the globe, it can’t be ignored, its as important a publishing platform and product as any, but it can no longer be an excuse for change and looking forwards to what audiences want and what news orgs can do in a digital future:

Image editing using Google Drive and Chrome apps

If you have a plain Google or an Apps account, you can manage and edit images from within Chrome for publishing and sharing online.And the experience is pretty neat and efficient from my experiences.

Firstly, sign in to Chrome.

Install Chrome Apps for in-browser editing (I’ve used these as mobile apps and they have a similar look and feel):

Pixlr Express offers quick edit tools such as cropping, sharpening, resizing or improving quality or sharpness, plus an array of effects.

While Pixlr Editor has a Photoshop-style feel for more advanced editing with many adjustments and filters that will be familiar to Adobe suite users.

Upload images and graphics to your Drive, then when you need to correct/resiz/e edit images, view in Drive, then open with and choose the apps

Then in Pixlr Express you can save back into Drive overwriting the original or a new copy (original file type only), whilst in Pixlr Editor you can also save at different quality levels to Drive or your computer or as a PNG file and rename files, plus the ability to share with Facebook, Flickr or to Picasa.

This is a bite-sized tip included in my loinger post: Fast, free and efficient image editing tools for digital publishing

Things to do in South Devon

Updated, April 2014: If I was going back home for a short break in or around south Devon, I’d do any of the following:

Torquay/Torbay based:

View from Torre Abbey Sands, Torquay

Panorama across Tor Bay from Torre Abbey Sands, Torquay, by me

Slightly further afield, but with a short drive of south Devon:

Teignmouth beach looking across to Shaldon

Teignmouth beach looking across to Shaldon, Devon