This week in Journalism Technologies at the University of Huddersfield, I enjoyed telling the first years the story of blogging. In some ways it’s a bit of a rise and fall of blogging, from the very earliest experiments with personal blogs (before they were even called blogs) in the mid-1990s, through the rise of Blogger and WordPress, to its gradual decline in the era of social media to become just another part of the media landscape. The title is from Jay Rosen’s memorable 2006 article about all this published on – what else? – his blog.
When considering the impact of blogging on journalism, there’s still only one place to start: the publication by Matt Drudge in 1998 of the fact Newsweek had dropped its investigation into President Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky. When I asked the room whether the name Monica Lewinsky was familiar to everyone, there were quite a few shaking heads. This was all before most of the new first year students were even born, after all.
In the practical workshops we’ve been setting up blogs for the students to use in their first assessment of the module, in which they write a series of posts about the tools we’ll be using in future weeks. Once again I gave them the choice of Blogger, WordPress or Medium, the latter having the continued benefit of being extremely user friendly indeed, despite the various pivots and changes taking place with its financial model.
Even though blogging is far from being the most exciting part of today’s media landscape, it’s still worth students doing, I think. In part because you quickly pick up how to handle a standard CMS, as well as other associated skills born from running a website (moderating comments for example, and tweaking the layout). And also because a decent blog might well be the top result on Google for some students, or at least those with less common names. I still like blogs as a way to have a professional showcase for the right audience, even if the days of traditional personal blogs getting big traffic are receding into the distance.
Posted in Lectures
Tagged Blogger, blogging, Drudge Report, Jay Rosen, Journalism Technologies, Medium, Monica Lewinsky, University of Huddersfield, Usenet, web 2.0, WordPress
It’s blogs week on our new Journalism Technologies module at the University of Huddersfield. And that means setting students up with their own professional blogs – from a menu of WordPress, Blogger and Medium – as well as the above lecture tracing the recent history of how the audience turned into something a bit more than that.
Putting the lecture together a few weeks ago, I was struck by how old hat it all seemed now. I made Web 2.0 the week’s key concept, but even as I was discussing it during Monday’s class, I was struggling to remember the last time I’d even had cause to say the term out loud. Blogs have been around long enough to have passed from flavour of the month to workmanlike part of internet furniture.
I actually spent the lecture and the practical workshops posing the question: why blog today? Basically as a way of justifying why I’m making each of the students do it for their first assessment this term. I still think blogging is hugely valuable, in particular for journalism students. It allows them to learn straightforward tools of online publishing and sharing, gives them a professional-looking online home, and even offers the more ambitious the chance to tinker with a bit of html around the edges of their customisable templates.
The danger is that students are encouraged to start a blog, but after they post once or twice, it just sort of withers, unloved and never updated. While it’s important for students to blog, the only thing worse than not bothering is doing so half-heartedly, as it hints at disengagement from the world the students want to enter after their courses. By the end of this first term everyone on the module will have a busy-looking blog with a series of (hopefully) interesting posts reflecting on current trends in journalism and tech. I’ll report back on how they get on.
Posted in Lectures
Tagged Blogger, blogging, Jay Rosen, John Battelle, Journalism Technologies, Medium, Tim O'Reilly, University of Huddersfield, Usenet, web 2.0, WordPress
Well worth £1.99.
I was very kindly sent a review copy of the new ebook from Guardian Shorts about online communities. Called Connected: The Power of Modern Community, it’s by the Guardian’s Hannah Waldram, Ed Walker of Trinity Mirror, and the Cardiff-based publisher and journalist Marc Thomas. And having read it over coffee in Huddersfield this lunchtime, here are some brief thoughts about it.
Cardiff’s a bit of a recurring theme here, because Hannah and Ed both worked there on Guardian Cardiff and Your Cardiff respectively. And the book kicks off with a great story from the city, about how a remarkable trove of old pictures was found and then shared both online and off, culminating in exhibitions and the tracing of the original photographer.
The blend of online and offline features throughout the book. In the conclusion, there’s a list of ten principles for managing an online community, the first of which is ‘get offline’. This excellent advice might seem counter-intuitive, but the rise of Meetup among other similar services has helped take a lot of the hassle out of organising real world events.
A group I’ve joined this year, the Manchester Whisky Club, which runs tastings in a Northern Quarter pub and in members’ homes using Twitter, is a classic example of how those tools and others including Blogger and Paypal can all be harnessed to create a lively community. Even though the main aim is to get drunk and talk about whisky, rather than do something worthy like save the local swimming baths.
The book also touches on Reddit, Mumsnet and some good examples of current hyperlocal news activity in London such as the Brixton Bugle and the evergreen london-se1.co.uk.
You can get the book here. It’s well worth £1.99 of your money.
Posted in What I'm Reading
Tagged Blogger, Brixton Bugle, Cardiff, Communities, Ed Walker, Guardian Shorts, Hannah Waldram, Hyperlocal, Leeds, London SE1 community website, Manchester Whisky Club, Marc Thomas, Meetup, Mumsnet, Nick Booth, Northern Quarter, Paypal, Reddit, The Guardian
I work here. Well, in a different building entirely as it happens, but you get the general idea.
This week I’ve started my new full-time job as a Lecturer in Journalism and Media at the University of Huddersfield. As well as teaching and research work, I’m going to be looking after admissions for the department from next month.
I’ll be keeping this blog updated more regularly with links to presentations and other material I’ve used in class, as well as the odd post about topical journalism issues.
Meanwhile, after four years I’ve stopped writing Like Father, Like Daughter, the blog of my time as a stay-at-home dad. Mainly because, well, I’m not a stay-at-home dad anymore. Sadly, this blog features 100% fewer pictures of ice cream.
After a week during which my MA students had a lecture from someone else, it was back to me today for the third in my series of talks. The session ran through several related points on a similar theme. I covered online communities, experiments in open journalism including the latest relaunch by The Guardian of their efforts in this area, new ways of working for journalists, and how journalists themselves are facing increased scrutiny from members of the public using the internet.
Here’s the presentation: http://prezi.com/w6grnzs43jlm/ma-lecture-3-university-of-leeds/
I spoke a bit about how, sometimes, individuals with a particular interest or specialism can offer better coverage of a certain issue or event than the mainstream media, and how the ease of setting up your own blog nowadays makes this task a bit easier. A classic example from recent months is the Rangers Tax Case blog, which is worth looking at whether you’re interested in Scottish football or not. The author wrote a very interesting piece for The Guardian about how his coverage had rather shown up the established newspapers in Scotland.
Posted in Lectures
Tagged Blogger, Daily Mail, Facebook, Help Me Investigate, Jack of Kent, Johann Hari, Money Saving Expert, Mumsnet, Rangers Tax Case, The Guardian, They Work For You, Twitter, Wikipedia, WordPress