I found this article while browsing around for convincing pieces of evidence as to why I should join Google+ (no, I’m not convinced just yet!).
This article from Mashable, while not pushing me over the edge, certainly got me thinking as to why the site has great potential use for journalists.
Behold: five tools for recording your hangouts in Google+. And the age of the instant interview begins! What do you think, would you use this?
As I settled in with the nightly news last night, hoping to get an update on the riots in the Tottenham neighborhood of London (where a friend lives), I was discouraged and shocked that the story received as little airtime as it did. In fact, the story was dwarfed in comparison to a feature on a 60-something swimmer who is attempting to swim from Cuba to Florida. I was sad to see the quest for viewers won out over the station’s primary obligation to inform viewers and keep them up to date with the latest news coverage.
That said, the Tottenham riots were the main event in the social media world. Twitter and Facebook had frequent updates, and video and photos began streaming in almost as soon as the first rock was thrown. News organizations did a much better job covering this story on their websites, mostly by compiling various collections of social media reports as the riots progressed.
I wonder what factors went in to the decision to focus on online coverage vs. airtime. Perhaps much of the footage was from witnesses and not able to be verified. Maybe the internet was a faster medium, allowing the story to be covered in close to real-time – and by the time network news went to air it was already stale. Or maybe the story just wasn’t that interesting to American audiences focused on the ongoing financial fallout.
On a tangential note, there have been a few stories focusing on the role of social media in fueling the riots. One from ABC’s Mark Schone begins: “As riots continue throughout London, British police have threatened to bring charges against those who use use social media to incite looting and violence.” Australian publication The Age noted the use of Facebook as the first organized place of mourning for Mark Duggan, the shooting victim whose death sparked the initial violence. And the Wall Street Journal reminds readers that the same social media that brought the Arab Spring is also bringing anarchy in London.
Whether or not social media caused a disproportionate swell in the London riots is still up for debate. The fact that it played a role in helping rioters get the word out and organize is less disputed. But let’s turn the tables. What role did social media play in helping news organizations cover the riots? I’d like to look at The Guardian as a prime example of how journalists thrived in the social media environment during the events. Many of the “best practices” we have been discussing all semester are demonstrated and I’d like to highlight them below:
The Guardian had a page dedicated to live updates, using a mix of social media (tweets, videos, photos, etc) and traditional reporting (from their staff), that chronicled the events as they unfolded. The mixed media and real-time coverage was a particularly effective and engaging way to display all aspects of the story, and I frequented their site the most as the riots progressed. Here is a screen grab from yesterday:
LOCATION-BASED REPORTING: This page featured frequently updated maps (using the Google Maps tool, although they could have also used intersect to enhance the time/location element) that highlighted where the looting was occurring. I found this enormously helpful in providing context and tying the story together for those of us who are less familiar with London:
USING SOCIAL MEDIA TO TELL THE STORY IN A SAFE, SMART AND HELPFUL WAY:
The Guardian on Monday posted an article to their website titled, “The Guardian on BlackBerry Messenger.” In a nod to many of the social media policies we’ve read this semester, the Guardian made a call not to publish any real-time messages that may anticipate or incite violence. Instead, their focus was on providing a historic account that would (safely) cover the story and provide information. Another aspect of this post is that the reporter put out a call for sources to send Messenger scripts “in confidence” to his provided account. This speaks volumes to the idea that reporters need to build a strong rapport with their followers if they want to solicit help in the future, and plays into the importance of building relationships via Twitter, Facebook, etc before putting out the call.
VERIFYING ACCOUNTS GATHERED THROUGH SOCIAL MEDIA:
As we have discussed, it is often difficult to verify stories “heard” in social media. Tweets and photos can easily be fabricated, but in the heat of the moment—particularly during a dynamic story like the Tottenham riots—it may be tempting to go with the information you have and report, report, report. A technique used often by Andy Carvin, the Guardian many times solicited verification from its readers. This starts the social media conversation, as Vadim Lavrusik discussed, and engages with readers by involving them in the storytelling:
PROVIDING CONTEXT THROUGH TRADITIONAL REPORTING:
Social media curation is fun, fast, and sometimes even easy. But reporters can’t get lost in the “tool” and forget that they need to weave context into the story for their readers. Tweets do not make a story, and often good old fashioned reporting is needed to help provide the “why” or “so what” lacking in social media coverage. Lazy coverage is not helpful.
DON’T FORGET TO GIVE CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE:
If the clip, video, photo or tweet didn’t come from a Guardian reporter - it was clearly sourced. This provides visitors to the Guardian site a transparent view of where the information is coming from. It, in turn, builds rapport with other news outlets who are providing helpful additions to the Guardian, and may also drive up traffic to their sites in the process. It’s a win-win situation for all involved, in my opinion.
USE ALL THE TOOLS IN YOUR REPORTING KIT:
The Guardian live feed also featured a link to a survey that hoped to gather information about why the riots happened and who was involved. It looks like they used a tool we discussed multiple times in class, Google Forms. This is another way to start the social media conversation with their readers and gather information to fill out the story context. The Guardian writes:
“Why did Saturday night’s protest in Tottenham turn into a riot? A lot of people online, on TV and in the press are giving their views, but we are most keen to hear what people actually living in the area - whether they rioted or not - think.
While such responses cannot be used to build a definitive picture, the anecdotes and insights will be used to inform our reporting and guide the journalists on the ground. Let us know your thoughts using the short questionnaire below.”
The news organization also made excellent use of hashtags (#LondonRiots) and @ mentions to get the discussion going on their twitter feed:
…although its YouTube channel was sorely lacking any updated information of any kind. This is one area where they really could have used some work in getting the story out on all available platforms. As you can see, this hasn’t been updated to reflect the latest info at all:
What do you think - did they miss anything? Is this a good example of how journalists can use social media to their advantage when covering breaking news?
After our discussion last class about the usefulness of social media geolocation tools such as Gowalla, Flikr Photo and Facebook Places…I thought this article by the Wired blog “Danger Room” brought up an interesting aspect of the danger/usefulness of these applications. The post discusses how the US is hoping to use these tools to find where suspected bad-guys took their photos, often posted around the internet, in hopes of finding them as well. The concept focuses on using the metadata in digital photos to extract the location information. While this is great for catching terrorists and criminals, the process is also being eyed by social media giants as well as a way to make a little extra revenue:
“And you better believe that it’s not just spooks who want to know where images were taken. Google, Facebook, Apple and all the other internet and social media giants are probably looking to do the same thing so that they can better understand where their users are and what they are doing there.
So before long your Facebook or Google+ account will be automatically tagging who is in your pictures and where they were taken
…and spooks might be, too. “
One tool the article mentioned was Google Image Search, which has a reverse image search capability that allows users to looks for similar images on the web. Has anyone tried this yet?
What do you think? I find this a bit concerning, even if it’s just a social media site trying to “better tailor” their service based on where I like to visit. No need to track me down. But you tell me, creepy or helpful?
Last week megachurch pastor Rick Warren tweeted, and then deleted, the following:
I thought this story was particularly interesting in light of some of our “to delete or to not to delete the tweet” discussions in class. It certainly highlights the critical importance of checking your stats and thinking through your message before hitting the tweet/post/upload button. It’s important for credibility and we owe it to our followers/readers. This is certainly something I hope to bring up on Tuesday with our planned discussion with Craig Silverman on accuracy and error prevention. I’m predicting Warren would have benefitted from some of his advice!
What do you think, should he have deleted the controversial tweet? Or let it fly and embrace the fallout (it looks like he has to do this anyway…the errant tweet is still out there).
As I watched the events unfolded in Oslo last week, my thoughts went immediately to how social media may be used to help tell the story. After doing a quick search, I found a few examples and wanted to share. It seems like social media—on a variety of platforms—played a crucial role for both those involved in the attack and those covering it. The event was quickly unfolding, however, and the first reports indicated that the attack was done by Islamic terrorist, possibly al-Qaida. But as the day went on and reports came in, the story shifted. This is an interesting example of both the convenience and danger of social media - what do you think? How would you have used social media to cover this event?
Blogger and writer Jon Worth’s article “Oslo and Utoya attacks - understanding the reporting of an evolving event” makes some interesting points about real-time reporting and how it’s crucial to not jump immediately to conclusions.
From Silicon Republic:
As the shootings happened one of the youths put an update on Facebook that read: “There is shooting on Utoya. DO NOT call anyone there. They are hiding in the bushes. Police on their way.”
According to the Telegraph another youth tweeted: “We are sitting down by the beach. A man is shooting clothed in a police uniform. Help us! When are the police coming to help us?!”
Here is a tweet from one youth in the immediate aftermath of the shooting:
Theories ranging from far right extremists to links with Al-qaeda are being flouted in the media but there are no conclusive answers.
A poignant message from Norway’s Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg began appearing across Facebook and Google+ last night which read: “We will stand by our democracy. The answer to violence is more democracy, more humanity.”
Eye witness accounts from YouTube:
Mashable posted an awesome article on how Google+ was used during the Oslo crisis..the first example of Google+ being used for breaking news…
When a massive vehicle bomb went off Friday in Oslo, Norway, it was easier at first to find news about it on Google+ than Google itself. The search giant may have lost the relationship with Twitter that enabled its realtime search, but it has created a tool that can potentially compete with Twitter’s instant information fire hose.
Like Twitter, one advantage that Google+ has in breaking news situations is the ability to easily create a feed around any topic. On Twitter, this feed is called a list. On Google+, circles can be used the same way. Google+ user Siegfried Hirsch, for instance, has already suggested a list of Google+ users for following the Oslo bombing that includes reporters and residents of Oslo.
Google+ as a breaking news tool is far from perfect. Ironically, its biggest problem is search. Profiles include a “people search” but no topic search. The platform does have a content recommendation and discovery platform, Sparks, but its results for “Oslo bomb” look sparse compared to the results that a query for “Oslo site:plus.google.com” turns up on Google’s general search engine.
There’s also no way to easily pass on circles to other people. So while assembling a dedicated newsfeed is easy, sharing it requires that someone else visit each profile on the list and add it manually.
Despite its flaws, Google+ seems to be holding its own as a tool for breaking news, especially for a platform that is still invite only. We don’t know what tweaks to the platform are in the pipeline, but if they’re the right ones, there’s a chance that Google won’t miss its Twitter-enabled real-time search as much as we thought.
One example from Google+
And one example from Storify:
I chose to look at Intersect this week, a social media tool that makes storytelling social by chronologically plotting events in time and space. It looks something like this:
And works something like this:
Intersect, a social platform for storytelling, is proving to be a great resource for reporters. Users publish stories (that happened in the past, present, or will happen in the future) and map the “intersection” where the story took place. They can add pictures and video to their text. Stories can be then shared with others who live in the vicinity or have also shared stories in the same location. (From www.editorsweblog.org)
Users can share stories via Twitter and Facebook, and any postings can be embedded into a blog or website.
This sounds good, so let’s check it out…
How are journalists using Intersect?
I found five examples of how journalists have used Intersect to help tell their stories.
1. The Detroit Free Press used Intersect to chronicle their reporters’ 13-day, multi-state journey to investigate the overpopulation of Asian Carp up into the Great Lakes. The paper’s Director of Digital Audience Development pointed out that the technology helped the story evolve from one print edition to a series of real-time updates. She said, “One of the reasons we like Intersect is because it combines geolocation with live blogging and visuals,” Murray said. “Being able to put content against a map, and against a timeline, gives the news consumer more options.”
2. The Washington Post used Intersect last year to build coverage of the Colbert/Stewart rally by crowdsourcing content. Reporters and people attending the event all chipped in their photos and stories, which were compiled on the Post’s website. the executive producer and head of digital news products for The Washington Post, was quoted on Intersect blog : “The Intersect experiment has worked really nicely. Great automatic feed of photos, video, and insights from the rally.”
3. A Seattle-based NBC affiliate put out a call for local residents to share their stories of an earthquake, which were then mapped out on Intersect.
4. A Missouri news station used Intersect to aggregate photos of flooding across the Ozarks.
How could journalists use Intersect?
The examples above provide great ideas for how journalists can use Intersect in both their news-gathering and their storytelling. Intersect allows journalists to browse for sources, search for leads and broadcast their own content in a visual, engaging and fun way. I imagine Intersect can also be a useful tool to engage audiences by posting where news outlets are currently reporting from, where they are finding leads, and asking for input from the community.
Intersect was founded by a journalist, and its director of editorial outreach envisions the platform as a useful tool for the profession. “We want to work with journalists to develop Intersect as a great tool for the craft, and part of my job is to learn how journalists want to use it and bring that back to the development team so we can work to make it happen.” (via poynter)
Also, the Nieman Lab took a stab at answering this question, and I wanted to share some of the best excerpts:
Why isn’t Intersect useful for journalists and how can that be changed?
What are the limitations or dangers of Intersect?
Plotting events in real-time could spell trouble for a reporter who is covering something dangerous, controversial or secret. Using this tool from a war-zone, for example, would probably be a bad idea.
Also, this tool is only as useful as its users. There are real limitations based on how many people use Intersect, and what they decide to share.
Okay - now that you’ve read all about Intersect….what do you think? Would you use it?
After taking a look this week at a number of news organizations’ social media guidelines (or…more accurately…restrictions), I wanted to take a stab at aggregating from a few different corporate guides and compiling my own personal list of do’s and don’ts. While this is not necessarily a final version (guidelines are meant for updating, in my opinion) - it was definitely a helpful learning tool to pick through what other news organizations had used and see how those could be put toward my own use.
Now go have fun!
If you’re interested in using the power of social media and crowdsourcing to track leads for stories in DC (and aren’t we all?), you may want to download this new app (when it comes out, hopefully later this month).
Branded as a “live photojournalism platform,” Tackable (@Tackable) promises to give journalists “a live look at everything happening in your city, right now. Connect instantly with people witnessing what you’re interested in. News organizations use the platform to write better articles, faster.”
This hyperlocal take on social-media-driven journalism claims to tap into the previously unharnessed resource of “spontaneous journalists” who send photos and first-hand accounts through their Facebook, Twitter or other social media sights. By having these individuals do that same thing—but now using this application—Tackable hopes to consolidate location specific information to spark larger stories. Conversely, journalists can use the application to put out calls for specific information when needed.
From what I can tell, this application is putting a lot of stock in regular joe schmo smart phone users downloading the ap and (more crucially) actually using it. If there’s live news happening in front of me, I would want to make sure it goes out to my normal Twitter and Facebook followers to build my own following and credibility. I’d then have to open a third ap and upload the same information to this map-centric info database for someone else (read: local journalist) to use.
As Liz Heron mentioned last night, social media is about joining in the conversation. I’m not exactly sure how this application adds to the conversation, or even allows for one, other than providing a easy go-to pool of facts and photos for local journalists to browse through while posting requests for specifics here and there. Then again, isn’t this what journalists are using Twitter and Facebook for? So is this just another case of duplicated effort?
What do you think?
Tackable demo pitch via YouTube
More on Tackable:
My second social media study this week focused on the guidelines in place for BBC employees. At first glance of the posted “key points”, I knew that BBC had taken a different approach than The Washington Post (it was even accessible on the BBC website - shock!). For one, the entire tone of it was more of a “do as you please, but please keep these points in mind” instead of The Post’s “watch your back, we’ll be watching you.” For example:
Bottom line: if you associate yourself with BBC, you need to be mindful that your actions and information remain consistent with BBC standards of objectivity.
Two points strike me as the most interesting with the BBC guide: (1) their openness to employees’ social media use and (2) their willingness to have conversations about it. The guide encourages journalists to use blogging and micro blogging sites to add to the “industry conversation” and encourages them over and over again to “discuss any potential conflict of interest with their line manager” - which as Steve Buttry points out on his blog, is the kind of conversation-starting guidance needed (and lacking at The Post) when offering social media guidelines.
The guide even offers special guidance for managers, saying that any rules of social media use must not be restrictive and clearly communicated to the staff - again, encouraging communication over rules.
I have to say, if I were a BBC employee, I would be very encouraged by these guidelines and would feel as though the company was excited about my personal and professional use of social media (within common sense). If I had any questions, I would know that they would be welcomed by management and would offer a point of conversation in the office. This is worlds different than passing rules down in an internal memo (not released online) with no offer for discussion about them (I’m looking at you Post).
What do you think?
For class this week, I chose to read and analyze the social media guidelines for the Washington Post and BBC. I’m a frequent visitor to both sites and was interested to see what advice they gave their journalists about wading into the wide world of Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare and the like.
After making my way through the Post’s do’s and don’ts—sent via internal memo in 2009—I decided the following sentence (taken from the guide) pretty much it up: “…we must remember that Washington Post journalists are always Washington Post journalists.” Meaning: whether personal or professional, we own your content. There were many negative responses to the seemingly overbearing rules (including blog posts from Steve Buttry and Staci Kramer of paidcontent.org), arguing that they didn’t trust the reporters’ judgement and were almost draconian in their severity. Buttry also added, “When you’re choosing tools to help journalists make ethical decisions, conversations work better than rules.”
While I agree that the method used to impose these guidelines was less than stellar, and that a conversation about how Washington Post would like their employees to use social media would have been better than passing down a cold, emotionless internal memo…the actual rules themselves seem rather (dare I say it?) practical and based on common sense. Some highlights:
The Media Decoder blog at the New York Times gave its take on these new rules, and made an extremely important point that I think needs to be addressed: “…but surely a big part of the reason that anyone follows us is precisely because of those day jobs.”
Isn’t this the main point? Whether we post it to our professional page or our personal one, our closed Twitter account or our work one - the reason many people want to hear what we have to say is because we are journalists, first and foremost. So it really shouldn’t be a shock to the system to follow The Washington Post’s guide, as much of it is (in my opinion) based on the common sense journalistic rule of “Would you want to see this on the front page of the Post? If not…don’t write it!”
One thing that is missing from the guide, I would argue, is a list of things that journalists should do, instead of rules against what they shouldn’t. Examples of best practices would at least offered a way forward instead of what many saw as a closed door.
Interestingly enough, a story was posted just this month on The Washington Post online titled “At The Post, reporters get socialized to social media.” I had to laugh at this, given the outrage at the Post’s social media guidelines when they first appeared almost two years ago, with many arguing that the policy would ultimately quiet journalists’ online discussions and discourage any use of social media for outreach and interaction with readers and sources.
It seems the case is just the opposite, at least at this point in time. The article focuses on new mandatory social media classes for reporters and editors on the Metro staff, setting up Twitter, Facebook and other accounts to help with their coverage. It also mentions that Twitter followers of the Post are up 210 percent from May 2010 to May 2011.
Post Local editor Vernon Loeb said, “Social media are not really optional anymore. You can’t do your job without them. Social media are where news often breaks first. They are a great way to cultivate sources, track events, find experts, and to drive audiences to our journalism…You can’t be a good reporter unless you are involved in the social media realm.”
Ultimately, social media use by newspapers and their journalists boils down to being smart and savvy about what gets published in your name, privately or professionally.
The Media Decoder at NYT put it best, I think, in their post about the Post’s guide: “There will be stumbles and missteps on the way to a hybrid future, but if you can’t trust the women and men who put out your newspaper to use their keyboards wisely regardless of platform, what are they doing working for you?”