Rising to the Google maps challenge

1 11 2012

Today’s journalists need to understand how to use online tools to enhance news stories.

Tweeting and posting to Facebook is just part of the story that starts with a good web-friendly headline to entice reader involvement.

Students at Brighton Journalist Works had a vast amount of information to process during their interactivity and online journalism class with The Argus web editor Sarah Booker Lewis.

They started out learning about search engine friendly headlines and encouraging reader involvement.

Then the fun began with a masterclass on Twitter use and an introduction to building bespoke Google maps.

Maps can enhance a story to give readers a geographical concept.

Examples included a basic map showing the trail of destruction along major roads after a lorry leaked fuel along five A roads in Sussex and maps showing flashpoints during the London riots of August 2011.

MediaUK.com managing director James Cridland created his riots map after verifying incidents, rather than relying on rumour.

James Cridland London riots map

Students learned how to set up a map, add pins, draw shapes and lines and add notes, pictures or video to information post.

Once armed with this knowledge students had a week to create maps on a theme of their choice.

Rebecca Creed writes a Formula One blog and chose the same theme for her map.

She marked the location of every race in this year’s season with a bespoke marker.

Google maps offer users a wide selection of markers from Google pins to themed icons. However, Rebecca’s efforts proved she went the extra mile to resize and upload an image before adding it to Google.

Readers taking a look at her map see race highlight videos as well as details of who was in poll position and the eventual winner.

In choosing a map to support her blog Rebecca has the opportunity to enhance her readers’ experience.

Three students used their travel expertise when building maps.

Sarah Jessica Morgan’s (Jess) used knowledge gathered during her life growing up  in Africa, when creating a guide showing places to stay and visit.

Puja Tirwari also shared her experiences of international travel.

With encouragement it is hoped Puja and Jess can expand their maps into a useful resource for travellers.

Puja grew up in Dubai and has lived in Bahrain for 12 years giving her insider knowledge to advise visitors in an informal way. The same applies to Jess with her South African and Kenyan background.

Travel and music journalism are popular future career choices for young journalists, so providing and applying an extra layer of information can only enhance their stories.

Samantha Graham added a personal flavour to her Brighton gigs map by including her own pictures in the pop up windows.

A music venues map linking to blog posts about future concerts and reviews is relatively simple to set up.

Sarah was particularly pleased with the group, saying their maps were the best she has received since she started teaching the class three years ago.

The ability to build a Google map is an extra string to the student journalists’ bow. Employers are looking for individuals with a multitude of skills and the ability to think beyond the story.

Brighton Journalist Works students are certainly heading in the right direction.


A very social media course

1 03 2012

Facebook is the third highest referer to The Argus website – that’s why trainee journalists learn all about social media in lectures at Brighton Journalist Works, writes Emily Hoquee.

Sarah Booker-Lewis, web editor at The Argus spoke to students about community, interactivity and social media.   She described how she has seen the internet change journalism over the last fifteen years and explained that it was vital readers are engaged and involved with content through new tools such as polls, forums and live blogs.

Facebook and Twitter have both grown fast and journalists can use these sites to promote their content and reach readers on an unprecedented scale. Flickr, Storify, Tumblr and Bambuser have also stepped onto the market and present a new ways for journalists to interact with readers through photos, video and blogging.

Sarah also stressed that Facebook and Twitter are not just great for connecting with readers, but can be useful for networking with other professionals who have similar interests. Image

Just flippin do it – hyper-local journalism

24 11 2011

By Melanie Brown

‘Just flippin do it’ was the message from Philip John to a group of wannabe multi-media student hacks.

He’s not a Nike representative but a hyper-local journalist guru who is encouraging others to start their own media sites using niche or local content.

Philip who lives in the Midlands town of Lichfield started ‘Lichfield Live’ a popular local website.

He says he started the site in response to the slow pace of news reporting in traditional media in his local area.

He started tweeting local news and was soon gaining followers many of whom then started to send him their news.  He has 735 followers on twitter.
He stressed the importance of not just observing but getting out and about and meeting people camera and audio recorder in hand.  “Just flippin’ do it,” he told students from Brighton Journalist Works on both the MA in Journalism and on the Fast-track NCTJ Diploma in Journalism courses.

Reassuringly, he said the costs of his work are low and described how some innovative thinking can bring in revenue.

He has already brought in over £1000 from advertising without really trying and also sells ‘Love Lichfield’ T-shirts.

He recommends connecting with other similar organizations as this can raise your profile with a wider audience, improve your own work and create new networking opportunities.

It seems that Philip is on the cutting edge of where technology and local media converge and he had lots of ideas for how start-up journalists could find resources.

We thought scrapers were for cleaning your car window but apparently ScraperWiki is offering a different way of pulling and presenting data from multiple sites.

For more information visit his site: www.philipjohn.co.uk

Data Journalism: A Way To Get Hired

1 06 2011

James Ball at News Rewired

It would’ve been rude NOT to use a phone, laptop and tablet (preferably all at the same time) at the latest News:Rewired conference. Even the speakers sent tweets while fellow panellists presented at the fast paced, energetic event.

Data Journalism was one of the hot topics discussed, debated and dissected during the day by industry experts. Freedom of information campaigner Heather Brooke, key note speaker, called for a continuing campaign to get more data into the public domain.

Compared to the US, Brooke said the UK had a long way to go, particularly in the field of crime reporting. She argued police control the agenda here about how the public perceive crime and that on many levels bureaucracy should be challenged.

In the digital age of citizen journalism and blogging Brooke said professional journalism still had a place. She said people would always come to professionals because of their unique selling point – their training and expertise to sift through information to uncover what is important and true.

And so to Data Journalism – analysing numbers and making a story out of them. Nothing new in that for the seasoned journalists at the conference – including Greg Hadfield, director of strategic projects, Cogapp, who refused to call it data, preferring the word “stuff”.

There was much talk of “drilling down” numbers and putting them in context but journalists (or “curators” as they seem to be referred to these days) have always known the end result of most investigations is to workout out how much it’s going to cost the reader.

What is new though, is how journalists crunch the numbers: how they “scrape” the web for data with simple and usually free tools such as Google Docs, Google Refine, ArcView and other stats packages, advanced searches and Google fusion tables.

And then there are the tools for presenting those facts to the readers – sophisticated graphics, charts, representations and the incorporation of interactivity for the user. A word of warning though, from James Ball, data journalist with the Guardian investigations team, not to “kill the audience” with incorrect stats. He gave examples of national newspapers getting their numbers spectacularly wrong and Ball appealed to journalists working on numbers always to ask them selves, “does this make sense?”

Chris Taggart, founder of OpenlyLocal said there has been no better time in this country to get data from councils and there are tremendous opportunities out there for the taking to investigate and use freedom of information requests.

Philip John, director of Lichfield Blog showed how he made the most of the data produced by his local council Lichfield and sites such as Data.gov.uk, WhatDoTheyKnow? and ScraperWiki.

Building open-data cities was the focus for Greg Hadfield who said councils, organisations and local groups should work together to share data to help improve communities and “give the voiceless a voice.”

Powerful stuff and food for thought for trainee journalists, particularly as one speaker admitted, many established journalists are scared of data and so trainees should get into data journalism as a way to get hired.
Louisa Hannah

Brighton to become one of first Open-Data Cities?

10 02 2011

Journalist and internet guru Greg Hadfield shared Fleet Street experiences and innovative ideas for an “open-data” Brighton and Hove with an audience which included Brighton Journalist Works students, writes Al Horner.

From regional reporting at the Wakefield Express to Fleet Street stints at the Sunday Times, Daily Mail, Sunday Express and DailyTelegraph, Greg forged a 30-year career in journalism out of sheer hard work and unflinching enthusiasm for reporting.

The talk, at The Eagle in Brighton, was at the February meeting of BFONG (Brighton Future of News Group) and was full of enlightening insight, interesting asides about the world of reporting and honest admissions into the pressures which go with the job – “every deadline is like pulling teeth,” Hadfield laughed.

His résumé is, to be frank, littered with the kind of illustrious positions on national papers aspiring journalists like me can only dream of. However, Greg elected to spend a sizable chunk of his speech happily recalling his time at the Wakefield Express and discussing the merits of local journalism. To the Journalist Works students who are each dipping our toes into community reporting on The Argus as part of the course, it was great to hear.

Greg is currently campaigning to make Brighton and Hove an “open data” city. If he is successful, the region could soon be one the first places in which local authorities’ statistics and data is all readily available online. The face of journalism could very well change in a way hinted at by the data-born expenses scandal and Wikileaks stories that dominated last year’s headlines.

Clutching a copy of George Orwell’s seminal “Why I Write,” Greg said the author is his inspiration. But while Orwell explored the hop-fields of Kent and streets of Paris for stories, Hadfield is exploring a more digital landscape for the future of journalism.

“Open data is changing our lives for good,” he said, “People living and loving in Brighton and Hove can create a new form of journalism using data and produce something George Orwell would have been delighted with.”

Follow Greg Hadfield on Twitter: @GregHadfield

BFONG blog: brightonfutureofnews.wordpress.com

Greg explains Open Data:  Open Data Cities: A lifeline for local newspapers

How to get a job on a national newspaper days after graduating..

18 01 2011

“Work hard, have no friends and go and interview real people.”  This was the advice from  Josh Halliday who started a job as a writer on the Guardian days after graduating from an NCTJ course.  Josh came to the Brighton Future of News Group  meet-up in Brighton at The Eagle in Brighton in January.

He set up his own hyperlocal website, SR2,  in Sunderland, while he was at university. It covered one and a half square miles and had 900 users a month.

“It started as a slapdash effort in two hours, then I started updating it four or five times a day.  No one else on our course was interested in local news or anything extra curricular.

“I used to go to neighbourhood watch meetings with half a dozen pensioners and a policeman there, my success all boiled down to personal relationships and actually getting out there. Showing up shows you care,” he said.

And he said he thought the scheme at Brighton Journalist Works, where NCTJ course members all have a page each on The Argus website covering a patch of the city, was brilliant, making it possible for students to replicate his success.

His tips for stardom on their patches?  “Set up searches for your area on Twitter and Facebook, follow-up stories in the newspaper, adding something new,  and get out and talk to people.  There’s no trick to it,” he said.

He attracted readers to his site via Twitter, and soon prominent journalists, including his future employers, were following him. When he graduated, the Guardian called him up.  “I was amazed and have still not had time to take it all in,” he said.

After the meeting Greg Hadfield, the Brighton web guru who used to head up digital development at the Daily Telegraph, said Josh’s talk was inspiring.  He also knew of BJW graduate Tom Hasson who got his job via twitter (see earlier BJW blog) and said that could be the future of job-hunting:  blog your way to a job.

How I got my job in journalism via Twitter – Tom Hasson

14 01 2011

If I was asked, “What is Twitter?” I would find it difficult to know where to start, writes Tom Hasson. It is a fantastic application that can be used in many ways; it’s a marketing tool, an agent for free speech, a way of keeping in contact with your friends and even a new way to contact celebrities.

Twitter describes itself as having endless possibilities, and a few weeks ago I came across one of them. Twitter can get you a job.

Since completing the NCTJ-accredited course at Brighton Journalist Works in March 2010 I have taken on several freelance roles with various publications but I was constantly searching for full-time employment within journalism.

I came across a job advertisement on the Wired Sussex website; a web design agency called Bozboz was seeking a “Self-Facilitating Media Node” – a reference to Channel 4’s 2005 sitcom “Nathan Barley” that at first didn’t seem to describe the role at all. After thinking about it, I realised it was describing it perfectly; they wanted someone who had good copywriting skills as well as a full knowledge of digital media, and more specifically, social media.

The job description ended with the usual ‘Send us a copy of your CV as well as a covering letter’. It also said ‘Alternatively, you can apply via Twitter.’

The task seemed impossible. How on earth could I apply for a job if I could only use 140 characters? My address is at the top of my CV and that takes up 48 characters alone.

After a bit of thinking I came up with the idea of using a web-link in a tweet to get more content across. Simply putting a link to a copy of my CV seemed boring though – I might as well send the CV as it is. Instead I wrote myself a short script and set up a video camera. I filmed myself talking about why I’d be good for the job as well as a brief outline of my experience and interests.

After a bit of video-editing, the basics of which I had learned at BJW, I uploaded the video to Vimeo.com, then minimised the link using bit.ly and sent a tweet to Bozboz saying simply ‘I’d like to apply for the role of Self Facilitating Media Node’ followed by a link to my video.

A week later Bozboz phoned me to say that I’d been the only person to apply via video and, because of this innovative use of Twitter, they would like me to come in for an interview.

A couple of days after the interview I received another phone call to tell me that I’d got the job. I asked them what it was that set me above the rest. They told me that it was all down to my application via Twitter.

What is Twitter? Twitter can get you a job.