What is happening right now?

Last Thursday I attended a lecture by Dr Claire Wardle regarding social media and how it’s shaping the journalism industry. She has been Principal Investigator for a number of funded research projects – one in which she examined the use of User Generated Content (UGC) across BBC news outlets.

Claire gave us a well-informed and ultra fast-paced lecture, not sure if she’s sponsored by Relentless but perhaps she should be. The lecture largely consisted of new social networking tools which are helping journalists find out a lot more about what’s happening in the world than ever before.

Tools such as news aggregators, for example Netvibes which enables people to have news brought to them, social network aggregators like Addict-o-matic and new applications to enhance Twitter such as Twitter Grader where you can find where you rank in the Twittersphere, TweepML to find lists of people you may be interested in following and Twitscoop a useful way of using the micro blogging service to see the current trending topics and automatic refreshing of your live feed. These applications help you keep on top of what is happening in the world in real-time.

The sites are becoming vital for journalists to use. Not only because it helps them keep abreast of local and international news but also it makes their lives easier in terms of research (aggregators/Twitter) and contacting sources (social networking sites).

As we are continually being told the face of the industry is changing, and rapidly. The era we’re entering may be as important as the advent of the Gutenberg’s press and these new tools are essential to learn if we want succeed in this ever-changing landscape.

As Twitter encourages people to let the world know what they are doing right now journalists need to pay attention to the news this can create.

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Twitter vs Private Eye in breaking of the super-injunction

I first heard about the oil company Trafigura and its suspected dumping of toxic oil on the Ivory Coast, that this Guardian article relates to, when I read a tweet on October 13 at 1:34am from @Glinner (Graham Linehan, writer of The IT Crowd): “What a shame it would be if #trafigura started trending after their lawyers went to so much trouble to silence the press.”

Indeed #trafigura became the top trending topic later that day. It seemed the whole of Twitter was awash with tweets from thousands of people spreading the news that the oil company’s lawyers, Carter-Ruck,were trying to gag the media with a super-injunction to stop people knowing about its client’s alleged crime.

This super-injunction, which not only prevented the media from talking about what the Minton Report had said (where the story broke from, see a summary of the report here from WikiLeaks via CyberLaw Blog), it prevented them from publishing questions raised in parliament and the people imposing the super-injunction too. This ban included social networking sites.

I’m pro Twitter and love that this medium can help break and distribute stories such as this. But contrary to popular belief, although helping a great deal in spreading the news to many people, Twitter did not bring the story to light in the first place.

Print beat the internet

Print beat the internet

Later that week on Friday I watched Have I Got News For You on BBC 1 and Ian Hislop (editor of Private Eye) spoke for a couple of minutes about how Private Eye wrote about the issue first, despite the super-injunction. An article in Private Eye by Ian Hislop states: “[We were] the first publication to print the full text of the now infamous parliamentary questions… a full two weeks before the Twittersphere caught up with the story.”

Perhaps Private Eye should have tweeted a link to it?

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Do journalists need an internet manifesto?

Not agreeing with all that is stated here in this Internet Manifesto created by German journalists I do find point nine The Internet is the new venue for political discourse interesting. It demonstrates how the internet is a powerful tool in maintaining democracy as it: “Thrives on participation and freedom of information.”

The internet provides a platform for debate on the media’s output as it enables the people, formally known as the audience, to engage in talks on almost anything and everything. As the Internet Manifesto explains it encourages active discussion which simply wasn’t possible not so long ago. The public are now able to express their opinions by using online mediums like Twitter and comment sections on articles.

In Alison Gow’s blog she talks about internet manifestos and how putting them on the web isn’t the answer because: “Too many of the people who need convincing aren’t looking there that often.”

Alison acknowledges the vital importance of the net and how every journalist needs involvement in its development. She understands that although the print media claim they are internet savvy, this isn’t always the case – especially with regards to the execs: “The focus is [still] on the money-making print product.”

So the problem lays with staff, as Alison states: “Higher up the editorial food chain” that aren’t internet literate. They refuse to learn the new ways of journalism, not grasping that the industry has changed forever.

In essence she is saying just because you understand how it once worked there’s no point having your head in the sand hoping that the industry will  go back to the way it was. Until a time-travelling DeLorean gets invented, that’s not going to happen.

These people should embrace change and help foster democracy online. A manifesto won’t implement this, but it serves as a reference for those that should be paying attention.

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