Tag Archives: WordPress

Journalism Technologies 3: The People Formerly Known As The Audience

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.

Journalism Technologies: 22. Hyperlocal

Week 22 of Journalism Technologies brought me back to a subject I know a bit about, hyperlocal journalism. I was very closely involved in this area during my time setting up and running Saddleworth News in 2010 and 2011, and I’ve maintained an interest in it ever since.

It’s probably true to say that the hyperlocal sector has, in general, not lived up to some of the expectations which certain commentators ascribed to it back then. With some very honourable exceptions, it hasn’t really replaced some of the declining ‘district’ coverage offered by local newspapers. Experiments conducted by legacy media companies in this space, such as Guardian Local and Sky Tyne & Wear, have been scrapped despite some critical acclaim. Nor has there been much outside cash, whether through investment, grants or advertising, for UK hyperlocals, which has left our sector looking rather impoverished when compared with the US.

But on the other hand, I don’t think many of us involved in hyperlocals really believed the hype back then. Hyperlocals at their best, then and now, and whether on a WordPress site or a Facebook page, offer information which helps bind communities together, information that may not be readily available anywhere else. Sometimes this is journalism, and research by Andy Williams, Dave Harte and Jez Turner shows that council coverage is a key part of many hyperlocal sites, while at other times it’s probably not – that same research demonstrates the eternal popularity of posts about community events and local history. Hyperlocals may not be the flavour of the month these days, but they are a part of the media landscape and will certainly remain so.

In the workshops this week, I got students to find a hyperlocal from their hometowns and discuss their strengths and weaknesses, before searching for new ones to add to the Local Web List directory. This is the best online resource available to navigate the UK hyperlocal sector. There are more than 600 entries, and after a bit of work from my students this week, there’s a few more on there now.

Journalism Technologies: 3. The People Formerly Known As The Audience

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.

Embedding Notes From Findery In WordPress.com Blogs

Further to my recent blogpost about the ability to embed Findery notes in websites, it’s now possible to do it in wordpress.com blogs like this one. And here’s one of my recent notes to prove it!

There’s also a plugin for self-hosted WordPress sites. More detail is available at the Findery blog.

Embedding Notes From Findery

One of my notes on Findery, complete with embed code.

I’m a fan of Findery, a start-up which lets you create notes about anything you like, then post them at locations around the world on a big online map. Writing little tidbits and leaving them for other people to find is fun, but more fun is simply moving through different parts of the map and discovering what others have posted. The standard of notes is generally high, ranging from the deeply personal to the fascinating to the completely random. The site itself works smoothly and looks good, which makes the whole process quite satisfying.

Having spent most of the year in private beta (and going through a name change from Pinwheel for legal reasons), Findery is now open to the public. It’s steadily rolling out new features, the latest of which is the potentially very useful ability to embed notes on third-party blogs and websites.

There’s now an embed code beside each note, but seeing as it uses iFrames and this is merely a wordpress.com blog, I can’t demonstrate it here. So a screenshot will have to do instead. The note was from my trip to the Manchester Science and Industry Museum today. I aim to educate as well as entertain, clearly.

Leeds MA International Journalism Course, Lecture 3

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.