Wow… this is incredible.
Archive for May, 2008
“Eschew the monumental. Shun the Epic. All the guys who can paint great big pictures can paint great small ones.”
Think about it. The world’s best journalists should be the world’s best bloggers too. But can the best bloggers be the best journalists? A much harder transition, I’d say.
Interesting notes on how web headlines differ from print headlines.
For one of my sessions in New Zealand, I will be teaching students about researching on the internet.
As I type, I have piles of Wikipedia entries about various topics as I am revising for an exam. Controversial, but as a starting point for revision and research, Wikipedia cannot be beat.
I’d like to start an open debate to give me an idea of opinion on Wikipedia’s worth to journalists:
Is it OK to endorse Wikipedia for journalism research?
The earthquake video took off like I could never have imagined.
I have to admit, I’m a little disappointed that my ‘break’ (if it ends up being like that) is a clip of me rather drunkenly shouting at the TV, but it’s publicity all the same.
Anyway, I think the clip has now reached its climatic point: Click here to watch it being discussed on the BBC News Channel’s Newswatch programme. (This won’t be here forever, folks. Watch it before Friday!)
A couple of points, from the programme, that I would like to talk about briefly here.
Firstly, I’m delighted the BBC think it’s a good idea to have a contingency plan. When being interviewed for the show — I tried to get them to invite me on, but to no avail! — I cited the example of having black suits and graphics ready for the Queen’s death.
Of course, the Queen isn’t dead. But she will die at some point, and the channels have to be fully prepared for that to happen, and God help a newsreader who isn’t in a black suit and tie when that event occurs.
Other, less extremes examples include ‘false’ developments in high profile cases being ready to go live online. It may be bad taste to have shocking stories ready on standby, but it’s all about being prepared. It’s worth pointing out, though, that these preparations must remain secret — I’ll never forget the time I saw the Sky News ticker read “Michael Jackson found guilty of child molestation”.
Anyway, this should happen with the BBC News Channel*. If something UK-centric happens in the UK, then we should hear about it. The BBC World channel is fantastic when nothing major breaks here — I enjoy the continent-hopping news bulletins — but the British public wanted to know why they’d just been shuddered awake, and the BBC failed, miserably, to deliver.
My second point is more of a query. In that show, Kevin Bakhurst (controller, BBC News Channel) says there were personnel changes following the events that night. Was there really?!
Ever since I first heard about the concept I’ve been intrigued by ‘20 per cent time’. It’s an initiative spawned by Google, who urge all their employees to take out 20 per cent of their day and spend time on something completely unrelated to their assigned jobs.
So, for example, a graphic designer at Google might spend his 20 per cent trying a spot of coding, as he may have had an idea for a new feature on an existing Google product.
The BBC also tried it out, this time giving 10 per cent (stingy buggers) to some of their stuff to try other bits and bobs on the site. Not quite the flexibility of the Google-time, but handy nonetheless — it has so far produced iPhone podcast pages.
All well and good, but how does that relate to journalism? Well let me recall a discussion I had with Jon Grubb, the editor of the Lincolnshire Echo. He very kindly commended me on my efforts with The Linc, and went on to say how it was great that we were out there finding stories. In some cases, we were even making stories.
Now that’s not to say that we were making them up — although there is a University press office that might argue that point — but instead we were bashing our noggins together and saying: “Look, we don’t have a good lead story. What can we do to find something out? Who do we not speak to enough? Who needs a voice?”
It shows: Our last issue was our most successful. Our lead story came as a result of our own research into drugs use on campus. A full-page feature was down to Dan Clough wondering if it’s a ball-ache to get around Lincoln on a wheelchair. It was. So we spoke to a load of people — and Danny even made a short documentary. Another full-page feature came as a result of Sadie Geoghagen speaking to as many single-parent students in Lincoln as she could. None of these stories would have ever come from a newswire. They were all too humble — and nice — to toot their own horns and come to us. Indeed, often the people with the most important stories don’t believe they are important enough. It is up to us to find them.
When I discussed this with Jon Grubb he agreed. But then I stressed that newspapers, particularly regionals, are not encouraging journalists to go out. There is always another press release to get typed up. He agreed. I brought up the example of Andrew Gilligan who is literally given free-reign at the Evening Standard. If he wants to follow up a story for three weeks… he bloody well can. And boy does it pay dividends: the Standard had a triumph with the Lee Jasper debacle (and arguably won the election for Boris), and Andrew won Journalist of the Year.
Gilligan is an exceptional example. I see Andrew’s skill as being rare — you could practice his methods all you want, but you won’t be as good. Just as if you practiced heading a ball for 15 hours a day, you still wouldn’t be as good as Alan Shearer.
What I’m saying is we need to give journalists a chance. If every reporter at every paper had 20 per cent to spend following their own nose on a story, heaven knows what gold we might find. We always hear the phrase ‘more bobbies on the beat’. How about ‘more journos on the beat’? Sounds great to me. If I was a regional reporter I’d want every parent at every school to know my face, and I’d want every copper to know my name, so that if anything happened that the public should know about, they wouldn’t be afraid to call as they’d know me as being an good, honest bloke.
20 percent is roughly one day a week. Is that too much to ask? If newspapers stick strictly to it, I believe the initial stresses of being a person down each day would be over-turned when the lead stories come rolling in by the bucketload.
Let’s see it happen!
I’m half tempted to keep this little cracker to myself, but this blog deserves a mention.
Jobs, jobs, jobs. I’ll need one soon. I’m officially a working journalist now. Although, technically, without a permanent job in the bag, I’m not exactly ‘working’ as such.
I’m hoping this guy/girl can help me find something. But, as I’ve linked all you guys to it, I expect first dibs on that Guardian editor job that might suddenly appear. Hmm.
If this blog looks a bit crazy, it’s because I’m trying out a few designs for some work I’m doing.
Burton Albion v Cambridge United, Blue Square Premier Playoff, semi-final, first leg. 7:45pm.
PLEASE GOD LET US WIN.