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TNTJ – a network for young journalists

At work we’ve relaunched TNTJ or “Tomorrow’s News, Tomorrow’s Journalists“. The idea is a blog network for young journalists and journalism students to share their experiences, be given an instant audience for blog posts and seek advice from their peers.

The team of moderators behind it are journalists currently studying or starting out on their careers, so why not support them by signing up and adding your two pennies to this month’s debate:

We’re hoping to add advice guides and Q&A features with more experienced journalists, as well as monthly topics for debate.

Even if you might not think of yourself as a young journalist – you can still comment and http://www.twitter.com/tntj.

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Help fact check the final #leadersdebate

I watched all of the televised leaders’ debates and enjoyed them, but the same thing struck me during each: numbers were seemingly plucked from the air by each candidate to back up their points.

This is nothing new for politicians, but with the multi-platform coverage of the debates has any news site been fact-checking these persuasive stats?

If someone is already doing so let me know – I’d find it really useful – but in the mean time, I wrote down all the figures used as evidence by the leaders last night. I want to see where these numbers are coming from and if they are correct.

Help me fact check them!

Gordon Brown said:

  • Standard income tax rate has dropped from 23-20p since Labour came in and Labour has raised tax rate for +£100,000 earners by 50p;
  • 6 million people in this country benefit from tax credits;
  • 50,000 jobs are being made available through the Future Jobs Fund;
  • 1 million more home owners than there were 10 years ago;
  • 2 million more people in work than in 1997;
  • There are currently 900,000 young people in training, employment or education, which is a record.

David Cameron said:

  • At the moment 5 million people are on outbof work benefits;
  • In every £4 this government spends, £1 is borrowed;
  • The budget deficit for the UK this year is forecast to be bigger than Greece;
  • 60,000 jobs in manufacturing have been lost in the Uk in the past three years;
  • In the last 13 years more than 1 million people have been given citizenship;
  • Closer to 1 million people came from Poland to the UK when it joined the EU;
  • Never been lower than 140,000 immigrants a year under Gordon Brown; under last Conservative government it was never above 70,000 a year;
  • There are 17,000 attacks each year on teachers.

Nick Clegg said:

  • A teaching assistant earns around £10,000 a year;
  • 80% of people who come into this country come from the European Union;
  • There are 1.8 million families still on the waiting list for Affordable Homes.

An industry body for hyperlocal news sites

Had an interesting email from the editor and founder of a hyperlocal news site this week. The independent site has been going for around two years and as such the editor wants to join an accredited industry body – but which and why?

It’s a business and a professionally run site, so a citizen journalism network/body wouldn’t suit; it doesn’t and has never had a print equivalent, so it’s interests aren’t really represented by bodies founded on those grounds.

It’s an ongoing conversation, but I did recommend looking about Talk About Local – while it’s a project not a trade body as such and works with sites being run for both journalistic and non-journalistic motivations – its establishing a network of independent sites that I think will become increasingly influential on the local and community media scenes.

But I’d be interested to know from other local news bloggers/journalists/independent news sites whether they’d like an official body to belong to? What would the benefits be, or is something already emerging that goes beyond traditional ideas of an accredited industry body?

Do news organisations have a duty of care to readers on Facebook?

It’s been a week of two halves for Facebook. Firstly, a load of new launches with interesting potential for news organisations:

Facebook plugins
Partner sites can now integrate bits of Facebook with their sites – it’s called Open Graph. CNN International, for example, will let you share with Facebook from CNN.com and give a Facebook ‘like’ to content on the site. It’s another way for news organisations to drive traffic to their sites via Facebook networks and create individual ‘publishers’ in users.

(According to Mashable, these developments signal the end of Facebook Connect and should make it easier for users to login and use a site integrated with Facebook.)

Facebook Docs
A partnership with Microsoft for building Word, Excel and Powerpoint documents and sharing them via Facebook – but without the same collaborative capabilities of Google Docs, says Fortune.

Universal ‘like’ buttons
News sites can add a ‘like’ button to their pages – if I recommend an article or page it will appear on my wall and therefore be shared with my network, BUT also on my profile page as a link = stronger recommendation for the news site in question, plus more information for them about who I am, my likes, dislikes etc

As explained by the New York Times:

The Like button will allow Facebook to keep a record of what a user linked to, providing the company with ever more data about people’s preferences. Facebook, in turn, plans to share that data with web publishers, so that a magazine website, for instance, may be able to show users all the articles that their friends like. A site like Yelp may show reviews from a user’s friends, rather than those from strangers.

But now for the other half – the social network’s approach to privacy and data is coming under even closer scrutiny as these new developments encourage users to share even more.

Journalism.co.uk has taken a look at Address Book Importing (not just on Facebook, other social sites too). Dan Costa takes a look at the implications of the ‘Like’ function for PC Mag:

Until now, the most granular measure of our human intent has been our search terms, and Google has done an exceedingly good job of connecting that intent with advertisers who want to capitalize on it. By integrating personal and profile information through third party sites, Facebook is making its database of intention social.

As Costa argues, while these new features are opt-in for users, Facebook’s privacy settings have been adapted/changed/the rules redrawn several times recently, so are users’ really making an informed choice?

With greater options for integrating with the social site, it’s not just Facebook that needs to be more transparent about what’s going on with users’ information – news organisations using the new features and with existing fans and friends should too. The ease with which most users ‘opt in’ to Facebook may be a benefit to news sites in terms of creating quick and user-friendly options for interaction, but do readers of these sites fully understand where this interaction will end up?

There’s a duty of care in encouraging readers to share/comment/interact with your news site through Facebook and not explaining the implications of doing so.

Digital storytelling: brands, myths, superheroes and journalism

Fascinating presentation at a conference called Digital Storytelling ’10 a couple of weeks back from Molly Flatt, blogger and ‘word of mouth’ evangelist for agency 1000heads, on storytelling by brands and individuals online, the creation of myths and superheroes and how this affects storytelling/advertising/brands. [She features late on in this video, courtesy of the BBC College of Journalism.]

Social media sites, with the onus on individual user profiles, and blogging in particular mean we are all now the heroes of our own narratives, suggested Flatt. It’s no coincidence that gaming has flourished with the rise of social media, as so often the player takes the part of hero.

What we publish of ourselves and how we blog/write online is all a part of constructing an online persona, narrative or, indeed for a brand, myth. As an individual I probably do filter what I publish online though this selection is largely uncontrived; as a professional working for a brand, I know that we try to create a personality in our social media interactions e.g. making sure we reply to queries on Twitter, being irreverent as well as serious. Other news sites do this fantastically well – take a look at Channel 4 News and its behind-the-scenes blogger and tweeter.

Why should this matter to news organsiations? Identifying the stories that their readers or potential readers are creating online and trying to align themselves as closely as possible can lead to deeper relationships with readers. I’m not talking about editorial content per se [though the tone and style of this will play a part], but the identity that a news organisation constructs, or should be constructing, to differentiate itself online.

Crowdsourcing projects, Flatt suggested, show a personalisation of brands. Allowing readers to become heroes (citizen experts, eye witnesses, commenters, contributors), to let them take part in some element of the storytelling process will help them buy into the brand and its myth. Such a relationship can help sell products and services too.

Brands are telling stories more and perpetuating our self-image of that brand, said Flatt. And whether readers/consumers are talking about the myth/product/story and whether what they are saying meets the brand’s/news organisation’s expectations will be crucial in managing relationships with readers online.

Creating sound maps in Brighton

Following on from my post about the 4am project – word of another art/community/multimedia initiative dropped into my inbox.

Sound Maps of London Road is a joint project between community artist Esther Springett, Matt Weston from Slack Space Brighton and Graeme Walker of Coach Werks. Its aim is to record the sounds and stories of London Road – an area of Brighton that, as the project, suggests has received a “bad press”:

Our hope is to produce an interactive sound map for public access. The edited collection of stories and sounds will form an audio archive and guide for the local community and beyond. Together we will record the cultural richness and revitalise the soul of this part of Brighton & Hove!

There are mapping workshops for locals (unfortunately I live too far off the patch) next weekend (6th) and on the 12th and 13th. Full details on the project’s website. I’m looking forward to seeing what comes out of it and how the present it.

(See also the excellent Save Our Sounds project to create an interactive sound map of the world; and Artists and Makers’ Empty Shops Network.)

The ‘siteless’ news organisation?

Steve Rubel has posted his thoughts on why it’s a clever move by the Associated Press’ to direct its Twitter followers back to its Facebook page through links in its tweets:

The AP is now changing the game for news by not only going where attention spirals are taking us but by also using their content to curate a conversation on Facebook and – above all – build relationships.

As of this writing, the AP page on Facebook has 9,400 fans. I bet this will grow over time as people spend more time on Facebook and slowly become more accustomed to getting their news there, in addition to friend updates, games,etc. Swap out the word fans and replace it with subscribers and suddenly you can see where I am going and why this is a smart idea. It’s CRM for news!

This idea and my own recent tinkerings with the Journalism.co.uk Facebook page got me thinking about how news organisations use Facebook, what the benefits might be and whether a Facebook-only news outlet is a foregone conclusion (if there isn’t one already out there).

With my own experiments I’ve been trying to work out and ask what readers of Journalism.co.uk via Facebook might want. Aside from bringing the news from the site too them via RSS/Hootsuite and adding links to other articles specifically relating social media and journalism, I think I need to identify what Facebook’s features or some of its functions that make it the point of entry for some readers.

With its own experiments with social media and Facebook, the AP (along with pretty much every other news org out there) is trying to reach what it thinks might be an untapped audience, members of which are already familiar with sharing links, commenting and drawing their friends and connections attention to other sites and services.

Hitwise figures suggest Facebook is the source of an increasing percentage of traffic to news and media sites in the US.

But could a news organisation without a destination site or other platform (printed paper, magazine, broadcast channel etc) set itself up as a Facebook-only outlet? BreakingNewsOn established itself as a breaking news service for Twitter. It’s since decided to develop a companion website and (its original Twitter account was bought by MSNBC), but its origins were in delivering exclusive bursts of news in a Twitter-friendly way, matching content to demand and the expectations of the distribution channel.

If the figures from Hitwise continue to grow, surely a Facebook-only news org can’t be far behind?