Tag Archives: University of Leeds

The Enduring Power Of Twitter Lists

My Hootsuite. I'm afraid I do look at this screen quite a lot.

My Hootsuite. I’m afraid I do look at this screen quite a lot.

Here’s a story about what Twitter used to be like, what it’s like now, and how it’s still more or less as useful as it ever was.

After a couple of false starts in 2008, I finally started to get it in early 2009. There wasn’t all that much you could do with Twitter itself back then, especially when it was interrupted by the all-too-familiar Fail Whale. But one of the things you could do was make a Twitter list of useful tweeters to follow. Import the list into a third-party application and suddenly you had an updating feed of tweets, a bit like the news wires familiar from all those hours spent in newsrooms.

I had a go at creating one of Formula 1 journalists, stuck it into Tweetdeck on my laptop, and kept an eye on it during one of the early Grands Prix that year. As the race went by I noticed I was looking at the list more and more, as reporters (James Allen’s was particularly good) passed on bits of information the TV commentators hadn’t spotted. Some people might remember it as the year when Jenson Button won the title, but in my house 2009 is fondly recalled as the ‘Summer of Second Screening’. Glory days, indeed.

I started to create a list of tweeting journalists to use at work. Local and national, newspaper, TV and radio, every time I spotted a new reporter on Twitter I’d add them. Soon, this list overtook everything else as my main source of news. As an early warning system for breaking stories, and a filter of the best stuff to read online, I found it was remarkably useful. After a while, I even worked out how to turn off the little chirrupy sound Tweetdeck used to make when it updated (I actually switched to Hootsuite and have stayed loyal ever since – evidently I change my bank more often than my social media management tool).

I used various Twitter lists extensively as a tool for gathering hyperlocal news when I did Saddleworth News. I noticed that one of my former employers, Sky News, was really getting into it, too. When I started teaching journalism students at the University of Leeds in 2011, one of the first things I would show them would be how they could use Twitter like professional journalists were starting to.

And all these years later, even though you’d have thought something else would have come along by now, I’m surprised how little has changed. I still add the odd name to my master list of journalists, and a tweet arrived the other day from Electoral HQ telling me it was now the biggest, and second-most popular, list of its kind on all of Twitter. I still look at it every day, several times a day, on mobile, tablet and desktop.

Growing up I found myself impulsively loading up Ceefax all the time, probably to check whether something catastrophic had happened since I last checked. Later when I worked in newsrooms, I was forever casting my eyes down the wires. At one level the Twitter list has really just filled this particular hole in my media consumption. But it’s not because of the technology itself, rather it’s the fact I’ve taken the time to interact with it and curate a list of users who are particularly useful to me that makes it so indispensable.

You can subscribe to the list here.

Leeds Lecture On Information, Digital Journalism And Hyperlocal

I’m teaching the first year Broadcast Journalists at the University of Leeds again this semester, and along with a series of practicals I gave them a lecture last week. It covered a few of the familiar themes I like to bang on about, including how journalists can make use of public documents, open data and FOI, the world of hyperlocal journalism, and some other trends in digital.

I also got a mention in for the new local TV stations due to launch later in the year, including Made In Leeds. Given the relatively low budgets the channels will have to play with, I imagine recent graduates like the ones I teach in Leeds and elsewhere may well make up the bulk of their staff.

Here’s the full presentation.

Leeds MA Course Lecture 5, Social Media And The Arab Spring

I gave the last of my five lectures to MA International Journalism students in Leeds today. It was on social media and the role it is, and isn’t, playing in the ongoing uprisings of the Arab Spring.

As a journalist rather than an academic, I thought the students might appreciate a journalist’s perspective on it all. After putting the Arab Spring into a bit of historical context, I examined some of the ways in which social media and other new technologies were used, and looked at the response of the mainstream international media to the material being generated and shared in this way, including from citizen journalists.

But I told the students not to get too carried away with the notion of a ‘Facebook Revolution’ – just as the Romanian Revolution in 1989 wasn’t caused by people watching Yugoslavian TV in secret. It played a role as a way of spreading information quickly, but it was just one factor among many.

Here’s the full presentation: http://prezi.com/t1az4bd0nwoq/ma-lecture-5-university-of-leeds/

Leeds MA International Journalism Course, Lecture 4

My latest lecture to my international MA students at the University of Leeds was about hyperlocal news. It’s something I know a good bit about, having set up and run Saddleworth News for a couple of years, so hopefully I was able to give them an interesting perspective on this area of the media.

I explained to them that, while I learned a lot from running Saddleworth News, I was unable to find an answer to the problem of how to make journalism, and in particular websites featuring local journalism, pay. But then if I’d found that secret, something tells me I don’t think I’d have been there today giving a lecture!

Here’s the presentation: http://prezi.com/ckqvhfsdym7y/ma-lecture-4-university-of-leeds/

I’ve got one more lecture to give after Easter, and I’ve been doing a series of eight practical sessions teaching them practical journalism skills too. I’ve also been doing more teaching with the first year Broadcast Journalism undergrads, and I’ve got them all to find a local site in their hometowns to discuss in seminars later in the week, so it’ll be interesting to get their views on the value or otherwise of hyperlocal.

Leeds MA International Journalism Course, Lecture 2

Today was the second of the five lectures I’m giving to MA students on the International Journalism course at the University of Leeds. It was on the theme of how more information is now freely available than ever before, and looked at ways in which journalists use this information for news stories and other purposes.

You can take a look at the presentation here: http://prezi.com/ko03xsk9mfco/ma-lecture-2-university-of-leeds/

Inevitably, it was a bit of a canter through lots of different but related issues, including filming of public meetings, open data, data-driven journalism, various Freedom of Information laws, and online whistleblowing of the kind made famous by Wikileaks. I fell back a few times on stories I’d done for Saddleworth News using various pieces of data, I’m not sure whether the students from around the world were particularly fascinated to know about road crashes on the A62, but I hope I got the general points across.

Leeds MA International Journalism Course, Lecture 1

Today I gave the first of five lectures to MA International Journalism students at the University of Leeds. I’m also taking them for eight practical sessions, and it’s all part of a module aimed at giving them multimedia journalism skills, to go with some of the more academic work they’re doing in other modules.

The students are from several different countries, so I decided to use the first of the formal lectures to give them a bit of background on a few of the major challenges and possibilities facing journalism. I’m a journalist and not really an academic, so it was more of a personal perspective on some key issues rather than an in-depth critical analysis, but hopefully it’ll help put the practical skills I’m teaching them into a bit of context.

You can have a look at the presentation here: http://prezi.com/kgmt_p-4zioc/ma-lecture-1-university-of-leeds/

The #leedsBJs Twitter Hashtag

The university newsroom used by the Leeds BJs.

I’ve only got a few sessions in which to teach the first year Broadcast Journalists at the University of Leeds about online journalism. But I hope it’ll be enough time to give them at least some of the tools they’ll need to make a success of the rest of the course.

Last week I got those who weren’t already on Twitter to join. And to help them all get used to the idea of using Twitter as a journalism tool, I’ve introduced a hashtag for the students to use while discussing their coursework or anything related to journalism. It’s #leedsBJs.

Hashtags are one way in which we can get the information we need from Twitter, from amidst all the noise about Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga. I covered another method in a previous post about Twitter lists. Attaching a hashtag to a journalism course is something that already takes place at prestigious centres of media learning such as Columbia and City. So, I thought to myself, if New York and London have got a hashtag, then Leeds should too.

Earlier this year, some of the London #cityhacks used their hashtag to debate aspects of what they were being taught, which was covered by the excellent Wannabe Hacks site in this post. The #leedsBJs can certainly use theirs to talk about their assignments like that. They might also share links with their colleagues, or even just sort out course nights in the pub as they get to know each other better. All of these would be valuable uses of something that is, after all, free. Students may well appreciate that last part of it most of all.

The ExLeedsMedia Twitter List

The Parky building. Not named after the chat show host.

This week I’m starting a run of sessions teaching various online skills to broadcast journalism students at the University of Leeds. One example of how much journalism has changed since I did the very same course a decade ago is that back then we were taught very little about the internet. Tablets were, I’m afraid to say, something you took the morning after a few midweek pints of cheap beer in the Old Bar.

As I’ve already explained in a previous post, I believe it’s important for today’s student journalists to be on Twitter. But just having a Twitter account isn’t nearly enough. I’m keen to help the students get the best out of it for themselves and for their journalism. To that end, I’ve begun to curate a list of Leeds alumni who now work in the media. You can find the list here: http://twitter.com/#!/rlwjones/exleedsmedia

There are two main reasons for doing this. The first one is that many of the traditional graduate-level media positions which were still relatively widely available back when I left Leeds, such as jobs in commercial or BBC local radio, have either gone or are going. Student journalists need to think about their future careers earlier, to help give themselves more options when graduation time comes. I hope that looking at the successful careers many Leeds graduates are enjoying in various parts of the media will help and, yes, maybe even inspire them.

The second point is rather more prosaic. ‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ is such a dreadful cliché it should be a candidate for John Rentoul’s banned list. But there’s no doubt a contact here or there can be extremely valuable. If a student sees a Leeds graduate tweeting about doing a job they’d like to do, there’s no reason why they couldn’t get in touch and ask for a bit of advice, a bit of work experience, or whatever. Less social network, more social networking, if you like.

That link to the list again: http://twitter.com/#!/rlwjones/exleedsmedia

If you know of anyone you should be added, then tweet me @rlwjones. They don’t have to have done the broadcast journalism degree, the list is for anyone who went to Leeds and is now in some part of the media.

(Thanks to @rowanc and @hr_smith for their help in suggesting people!)