journalism, news, socialmedia

Breaking news, social & mobile journalism tips – notes from news:rewired

(Un)Impressively, almost a year old, I’ve finally got round to sifting through my collected quotes, ideas, tips, best practices and talking points from the news:rewired digital news and journalism conference at Microsoft UK offices in London in December 2012 organised by

I think, hopefully they still resonate and have importance for anyone in the news industry… I’ll let you judge and heckle:

View from inside the Microsoft UK building at Cardinal Place, London
The view from inside the Microsoft UK offices at Cardinal Place, London venue for the News:Rewired conference in December 2012.

Data journalism

Newsrooms collect data all the time, stored in various methods, e.g. paper, spreadsheets, shared files, links to maps, a datastore is required to make the collected information more useful now and in the future.

An important post-conference discussion highlighted the issue that data journalism, like social media, it shouldn’t be viewed as a separate or specialist areas of journalism (comment inspired by @kcorrick), they are all part of journalism in the digital era.

Unattributed quote: “Data is not just for finance any more”

Nicolas Kayser-Bril, Journalism++, @nicolaskb: ‘Open data is not always available or easy accessible, requesting, data-scraping an essential skill – but not always any point creating own data files if official sources exist. All needs time and resource.”

For local newsrooms, on a basic level, just linking to the original source of a report or a more detailed analysis elsewhere if there’s no time or resource locally – it adds value to the story even if it’s on an external site.

Panel: collecting social conversations

Katie Rogers, Guardian US, @katierogers: ‘Use existing Twitter lists for big events, Facebook Interest Lists too.’

  • ‘But “mind the bubble”, don’t go to the obvious, usual sources, eg Reddit, Quora.
  • ‘Gather the news and check it twice”. Accuracy and verification important as can break down, follow up with basic journalistic verification, make contact etc.
  • Try and add something to the news, interesting angles, people’s stories.
  • Reliable sources can share bad, inaccurate news, e.g. Separate account created to share inaccurate content, ‘bad’ news.
  • The more people are using mobile devices, the more curating will be required and vital.
  • has good search power including Facebook profiles.

Related: How news groups use social media to build stories #newsrw

David Wylie, Breaking News: ‘You’re not always part of the conversation. An approach can be scary, e.g. Being quoted – the reaction unknown… But should be expected as part of publicly publishing.’

  • Personal touch is preferred to corporate accounts. Always ask re republishing information/content.
  • An important point #1: ‘People can trick us (news organisations) if they really want to, however much you check up’
  • An important point #2: “The initial few minutes of a news event are where the best information is, “people don’t have time to lie”, get your search phrases, contacts, sources”
  • It is vital to ‘manage the chaos’, use TweetDeck etc. to pull in as many sources as possible. “It’s not information overload, it’s filter failure.” Clay Shirky
  • “Don’t try and do too many things at once, do a few well.”

Catarina Oldershaw, Synthesio UK: ‘Twitter/Facebook are very transitory, many other sites important for finding content, topics and insights.’

‘E.g forums, e,g. Are they talking about subjects you think people are? Who are the (new) influencers and where are they talking?’

Related links:

Mobile reporting & journalism session

Mark Settle, BBC College of Journalism:

  • Hold camera phone horizontal; know what youre filming is what’s being recorded, extra space around viewable are;
  • Be aware of distance for interview sound and where your mic is, and get a wind-shield; airplane mode for when you are recording;
  • Choose which recording app carefully, what format does it come out in, is this quickly, easily usable, sendable. Filmic pro, 8mm, fast Camera, Camera+ are good for Applle video/camera use, SoundCloud and AudioBoo for audio sharing
  • Glyph for sticking to tripod, special gloves, external batteries! More
  • Battery life, recharging essential aspect/problem for mojo, but chargers needed for variety of devices
Neil McIntosh, WSJ Europe:
Mobile reporters, mobile video examples, users demanding/appreciating authenticity of video reports, not to same quality of broadcast, but adds to the story

Twitter reporting session

Channel 4 news (under ITN) team, Anna Doble, Jenny Rigby:

  • Round the clock presence, we are listening & ready to act on info; a ‘family’ of tweeters.
  • Play to individual strengths, use specialist knowledge, post mod/common sense policy.
  • Trying to create news #event topic, exclusives, campaigns, real-time etc, e.g. #nogobritain
  • Consistent approach, strategy across multi-platform, and YouTube, Facebook etc.
  • “Twitter is the story”, use tweets in other mediums/publications, ‘understand where social topics cross over with engaged digital communities’
  • Verification “more vital than ever”, hold workshops, share best practices and experiences
  • Twitter is an easy way for people to speak, share their stories, experiences
  • Be human, fun: Cheeky tweets can get most attention, retweets, still with important point – give people a payoff sometimes, different ways of engaging, introducing to a news team
  • Important to respond to questions and potential tip-offs – vital to check @s, DMs
  • Archiving social media, tweets, for future viewing in context
  • Social media success not based on numbers, e.g. followers, but level of meaningful engagement
  • Google+ success started organically without external promo, not for breaking news, used fir debates, using Hangouts – a different platform/audience

Digital lessons from 2012

Irish Times, @johnnyryan, analogy, oil tanker needs help to move, change course. The paper inviting startups to get involved, harnessing young businesses. Feeding into a digital channel, funded by finance from venture capitalists.

Tool to turn data, tables into print ready and HTML5 digital content

FT on paywall strategy, print/digital subs have same cost now = same value to customers. Pulled out of App Store, went HTML5, for web app, 15% subs via that route.

“Mobile devices make people read more news” move towards responsive content, e.g.

More Android tablets, growing market from Xmas onwards.

Need to accommodate single article viewers/pay strategy, @johnmlevitt, filter failure driving product, traffic metric tool. Real-time data ncorporating social data, offering API. Unifying all aspects of publishing, including content metadata to help newsroom workflow. Looking to content personalisation trend.

Storyful, @MarkLittleNews, momentum in newsroom change, understanding and harnessing social publishing. “Sheer scale of the noise” in digital content. ‘Building social newsrooms’ enabling big news brands.

2012 saw “The Death of #Social Media?” = no longer parallel, separate from established journalism.

Instagram’s rise, now pulled out of Twitter, Facebook, competing social platforms.

Attribution not standardised, Pew said of YouTube content.

Who guides the ethics of content – also about human behavioural change

My Conclusions, important points

Future about rebuilding sustainable news organisations, money and truth & justice important issues. A constant, sometimes painful but important battle.

Importanly, the distance between journalists and technologists needs to narrow. e.g. ‘Distance between News editor and social media/web editor in physical sense’ – wisely observed by Mark Little. But has it happened in your newsroom?

Applying ‘agile’ to journalism, leveraging the technology, e.g. don’t be scared of the data.

It’s now far more accepted that social media can be an original source for breaking news – newsrooms need tools to monitor/filter/curate.





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