Tag Archives: web

Cllr Grower and sockpuppeting; we can see your email address, you know

Well I couldn’t go home today without writing something about this.

Views range from the absolutely-we-did-the-right-thing to the lazy-story-he’s-got-a-right-to-privacy.

What do I think? From a management of the community we’re building perspective, I’d like to have seen him privately warned tp cease and desist before we named and shamed him.

But from a news perspective, I think it’s a great story. I think he has attempted to deceive his electorate and if we’d been mid-election I’m fairly sure those comments could have seen us in breach of electoral regulations if we hadn’t named and shamed him once we knew.

But as Judith Townend from journalism.co.uk said to me today, where do we draw the line between silly and serious?

No harm has been done by the comments, so should we, as holders of private data and managers of a website where people are allowed, if not encouraged, to post under pseudonyms which currently range from Frying Leper to Lord Jesus, have told him to back off, register under his own name or stop bigging himself up? And what of the countless other commenters promoting their own agenda? Who’s allowed and who isn’t?

On reflection, I think I fall on the side of news here. He’s a public servant, paid by the tax payer. They deserve to know if he’s the kind of man who’ll post nice things about himself while trying his hardest to pretend he knows nothing about the story in question.  If he was a company, it would be illegal. Has it done us harm with our online readers? Maybe. But you can’t please all the people all the time.

But I will make a quick point about the age old issue of links.

Not a single one of the national stories (nor Iain Dale’s blog, which linked instead to the Indy) has a link to us, or any of the stories Cllr Grower commented on, or journalism.co.uk, who picked up the story first.

To be fair, the nats are all using PA copy. But why can’t PA include links in their feeds? And someone has made the choice to pull the PA story from the feed and highlight on those sites – it’s not hard to find the link to our story.  I know Alison Gow has complained about this before, and we’ll no doubt be more annoyed when we see how the print versions use it tomorrow. But if the link economy is part of our future model for news, then why not link to us? I am, courtesy of a Yahoo pipe, linking to them. How about they return the favour?

PS: the best part, in my view, was a complaint from Cllr Grower that people commenting on the story were pretending to be him. Not who they said they were. Oh the irony.

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A quick thought about story comments

Anyone who follows me on Twitter (or who’s read this post) will know that story comments and the negative atmosphere they can create has exercised me recently.

But here’s a quick thought. Maybe the ‘quick to criticise’ aspect isn’t so bad after all. Frustrating, yes, but also a challenge.

Take this, for example.  I like this story: How Bournemouth Christmas Tree raised the roof From Bournemouth Echo.  It’s quite funny. It’s seasonal.

But as one commenter points out, it also includes a pointless adjective (don’t ask me who subbed it, I don’t know) and there’s no mention at all in the copy of the firefighters in the picture, why they’re putting a smoke detector on the top of the tree or how dad-of-three Grieg persuaded them to take part.

Two things I think this illustrates: the web DOES need subs. Whatever you call them or however your system works, somebody has to have quality control, final checks, removal of lazy cliches.

Point two: We can’t get away with the kind of reporting my old tutor, the legendary John Foscolo, would have called slapdash (actually I don’t think I ever heard him say the word slapdash. Would definitely have been a D- though.) If we do half a job, people WILL pull us up, in public, and immediately. And that’s no bad thing.

Frustrating and annoying and embarassing, yes. But in the long term, maybe it’s good for quality?

When I was a news editor, under the equally legendary Anita Syvret, I made sure our copy was as good as I could make it before I showed it to her, because I knew what she’d say if I didn’t.

Perhaps our angry story commenters are the virtual equivalent of the angry editor or chief  sub. They won’t accept sloppy writing. And why should they?

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Publish 2.0

Thanks to this post by Scott Karp I’ve been investigating the possibilities of Publish2 as an aggregator.

I’ve been saying for a while that we shouldn’t be afraid to link to other sites (the Rick Waghorn/Jeff Jarvis argument) – whatever the answer to the news crisis is (and if you work for Newsquest things look pretty critical right now) surely it’s going to involve giving our audience reason to come to us and not somewhere else.

So, Publish2 gives you the option to set up newsgroups that other people in your newsroom can join.

You then set about finding the best blogs, links, videos etc on a particular subject, add them to the group (it’s like a cross between Delicous and Digg) – and then Publish2 shows you how to create a widget that you can embed on the site.

I’ve blogged before about the problems the group template gives us – no access to html, restricted widths, no way to design a decent homepage that reflects the paper it represents and so on- but the little cheats I’ve been using seem to have gone down okay with the men in charge.

SO I was hoping this post would be a ‘look what we’re doing’ one….

…but unfortunately Javascript, which makes the Publish2 widget work, isn’t accepted by our CMS. So there’s no way I can cheat on.

Instead I’m just going to bite the bullet and ask: please can we have the facilty to aggregate news from other sites. Please.

Watch this space!

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Newsroom 2.0: re-imagining our business

There are a lot of people talking about business models and the web. How has the news gathering process changed? How do we best utilise the new technologies? How do we think of news as a process, not a product.

But for those of us who started in the print world, most of these people are leaving one element out. There’s lots of talk about the web and barely any talk about the newspaper – except to say that the printed product is done for.

So here’s my question:

If you were starting a newspaper from scratch, today, how would you run your newsroom?
Assume that there IS a printed product; a daily paper, a free sheet or two, a property and business supplement, a what’s on pullout maybe, as well as the online offering.

How would you staff it?

I think there are three core stages:

  • news gathering (in which I would include the writing of the story, creation of video, pictures)
  • honing (the casting of a critical second eye, consideration of legal issues, editorial angles, things the reporter might have missed, extra details that will make the story better)
  • packaging: how the story is displayed, online and in print

There’s obviously a subtext here: the viability or otherwise of sub-editing in the new world. I think there’s still a role (as I have said before) for editorial judgement as well as the obvious need for design, both online and in paper.

But if the news creation model is changing elsewhere on the editorial floor, does it need to change in the production department too? And if so how? My key questions:

  1. Should reporters upload straight to the web?
  2. Who ‘hones’ the copy: newsdesk? If so, does it need to be done again?
  3. If the copy’s been honed for the web, does it need redoing for the paper? If so, who should do it?
  4. If we trust reporters to edit their own video, why don’t we trust them to edit their own content? (Or should that question should be: if we don’t trust them to edit their own content, why do we trust them to edit their own video?)
  5. Should reporters write to box? If so, who checks their copy? Who creates the box?
  6. Do we abandon page design completely, stick to a set number of free designed pages and create templates for the rest, or template everything?

I’m not sure I have any answers for these questions (although I have strong opinions about some of them!) and I’m sure there are other key issues I’ve not thought of. But I’d be interested to hear what you think….

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When is small too small?

So I built this nifty New Forest gallery…


but to embed it in our site I have to shrink it to 300 pixels wide, too small to see much.

Not sure how to solve this problem, except maybe with a big single picture that links to the gallery. Any thoughts?

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Getting ready for switchover

Our new site goes live tomorrow.

So far today I have discovered that the search and archive don’t work, we’ve got no control over our RSS feeds and we can’t use any iframes wider than 320 pixels because of the mandatory content panels that run down the right of the page… which makes embedding dipity timelimes sort of a waste of time.

But we’ll try it anyway…

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Changes ahead

We’re all waiting for the go-ahead to switch from our existing site to the new Newsquest template.

It looks like this – and there has already been much discussion about the design. Readers, as whole, haven’t responded well – but then they haven’t really responded well to the Northcliffe redesign either.

The new version is undoubtedly better. The main issue for us will be the navigation – we’re moving from a side nav bar to a top nav bar  – and some of the sections don’t really make sense. Things aren’t where you’d expect them to be.

We’re hoping to put together some editorial for the paper about the new site and where to find your favourite sections, highlighting some of the new features, but there are some people who think this should be done after the switch-over and not in the run up to. There may also be a ‘how to’ video on the site.

We’ll see how it goes!

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Nokia N95 – should I get one?

I’m thinking of upgrading my phone – and while I can’t see the big bosses providing for me, I’d like something I can use for work; video, pictures and so on (nothing like leading by example, I say – if the reporters see someone doing it, perhaps we’ll start the culture shift I’m hoping for but have no authority to achieve!)

So: the N95. All it’s cracked up to be?

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TimeTube – Bournemouth Air Festival

Thanks to Alison Dow over at Headlines and Deadlines I’ve been experimenting with Dipity TimeTube today. Now to persuade the powers that be that it deserves a place on our site, despite not being ‘our’ content. For some reason I can’t get it to embed here (working on it!) but in the meantime, follow the link!

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The point of this whole shebang

At the moment, I sub for a living.  As a student, subbing was my dream job. (Now I dream of having the authority to make some long overdue changes to certain newspapers’ websites, but that’s another post.)

The trouble is, now that I am a sub, I find the job is not what it once was.

Partly that’s the fault of subs themselves, who no longer consider it their job to rewrite copy, remove cliches, check facts or query the angle but are content with ‘making it fit’.

And partly it’s down to that oft-repeated ‘truth’: subs aren’t needed for the internet.

So print subs resign themselves to becoming irrelevant. And as a result, they become irrelevant.

I disagree.  Here’s three of the reasons why:

1. In many newsrooms the internet revolution is still in its infancy. And I’ve never been in a newsroom where a reporter and news editor have the time to produce two distinct versions of a story for each medium. Who’s going to take the print copy and sub for the web (and of course vice versa)?

2. Web headlines are an art. we all know how important geo-tagging and SEO is. But if you want a web headlines that don’t consist solely of place names and SEO terms, you need someone with skill and imagination.

3. Similarly, the web intro that is all the reader sees of the story.  Should it be the same as the one that has appeared/will appear in the paper? What about your feature content?  How we sell the story to the reader is, if anything, more important than in print.

Now I know there will those who say reporters can do all that, the Northcliffe give-them-a-box-and-
they’ll-fill-it school of subbing.

But I’ve never been in a newsroom where they were doing successfully. And I’d bet that’s the case in lots of the smaller regional newsrooms.

So the challenge for the sub who wants to survive is to make themselves relevant. Don’t just upload what you’re given in the form you’re given it. Apply the skills that got you the job in the first place.

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