Mobile devices for reporting

Journalists shouldn't scoff at using recording devices on mobile phones to get that all important interview. (Image courtesy of http://www.niemanlab.org)

A brilliant article on using mobile devices for recording published on the Neiman Journalism Lab website: Your handiest reporting tool may be the smartphone in your pocket. Andrew Phelps writes that journalists should not forget the simple technology we have at our disposal:

Public radio people can be pretty snobby about audio quality — I can say that, having worked in public radio for five years — but, given the alternatives proliferating in the market, it’s getting harder to justify the expense and bulk of pro kits for field work. Judge the audio quality of Toness’ piece for yourself. And remember, as you close your eyes and turn up the volume in your noise-canceling headphones, that most listeners hear radio stories over a cheap FM set while making breakfast, getting the kids dressed, or driving to work. News producers may be snobby about sound quality, but consumers, generally, are anything but.

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Twitter introduces text ads

Digital Inspiration writes:

“Twitter is experimenting with sponsored text-ads on their website that show-up just after the “trends” section.”

Not massive news but interesting to see how Twitter is developing. Also reminds me that I really should start using my twitter account.

Image courtesy of digitalinsider.com

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Accuracy in reporting

Accuracy in reporting is an important (and obvious!) element of journalism – but how do we measure this and how can we quickly and efficiently correct errors?

Worth reading this post by Jonathan Stray.

Idea Lab’s Scott Rosenburg writes ‘There’s No Problem!’ Newsrooms in Denial About Rampant Errors’. Here’s an excerpt from his article:

Climbing The Ladder of Transparency

ladder to the sun.jpg

In the field of corrections as anywhere else, “openness” isn’t binary — it has gradations and nuances. I like to imagine these as a sort of ladder of transparency that news organizations need to climb.

On the first rung of this ladder, journalists readily fix mistakes they learn about and conscientiously disclose and record the details of each fix. (Most newsrooms declare allegiance to this ideal but, sadly, our MediaBugs research shows, the majority still fail to live up to it.)

One rung up, news outlets effectively solicit error reports from their audiences, making it clear that they welcome the feedback and will respond. The Report an Error Alliance is trying to push more news organizations to climb up here.

On the next rung up, newsrooms also willingly expose their own internal deliberations over particular controversies, explaining why they did or didn’t correct some issue readers raised and leaving some sort of public trail of the decision. At some publications, the ombudsman or public editor takes care of some of this.

On the final, topmost rung, the news organization will assure accountability by turning to a neutral third party to maintain a fair record of issues raised by the public. This shows external critics that the newsroom isn’t hiding anything or trying to shove problems under the rug. This is a key part of our model for MediaBugs.

I like the idea of an accuracy search engine – the Report and Error Alliance is pretty good but more organisations, bloggers and journalists need to adopt this kind of thinking – particularly online! The internet allows for readers to communicate with journalists like never before…such abilities should be embraced to enhance journalistic standards and methods.

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Sony enters the tablet war

Image courtesy wired.com

From wired.com:

“Sony has shown off a pair of tablets that will launch later this year. The S1 is little more than yet another Honeycomb tablet in a Sony-designed box, with a 9.4-inch widescreen display and a wedge-shaped case.

Way more interesting is the S2, a clamshell tablet with two 5.5-inch screens. Each section has a rounded back, making it look like a squashed burrito when closed. When open, you can use it as a tablet with a black stripe down the middle, or each screen can display different content, similar to the dual-screen Nintendo DS consoles.”

You can read more here.

Hmm…I’ve been toying with the idea of getting an iPad for a while but with new designs from other retailers emerging all the time, I think I may wait a little while before making my decision!

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E-book Piracy

“Books are the last bastion of analogue”, said Jeff Bezos, in an interview with Newsweek in November 2007.  “Music and video have been digital for a long time,” he continued, “short-form reading has been digitized, beginning with the early Web. But long-form reading really hasn’t.”

(Image Courtesy Newsweek November 2007)

Later that week, Bezos, the CEO of Internet commerce giant Amazon.com, released the Amazon Kindle, a device that was to transform the way we can access, read and store e-books. Since then, its success has brought about rival devices – such as the Sony Reader – and now hundreds of thousands of books are available for download straight to your reader.

The question now posed, it seems, is how piracy will affect e-books, authors and – wider still – the publishing community.

Last week I read this article in The Metro  “Ebook piracy is ‘colossal threat’, in which ‘award-winning crime writer David Hewson’ remarked that the illegal downloading and piracy of e-books would bring about the end of the world as we know it. Oh okay. I lie. He didn’t say that. Something more along the lines that books would now be affected like the music industry has been. My general interest was one of ‘meh’ before I turned the page, only to be distracted by my bus driver announcing that the destination of my bus had changed, which meant that we all had to get off the bus and wait on the side of the road for the next one to come along, my copy of The Metro long forgotten as was the article about e-book piracy mayhem…

….until today, when I read this  piece on Guardian.co.uk about The Metro‘s article. The Observer journalist Russell Davies comments that he hopes e-book piracy fears do not prompt ‘the draconian crack-down of the 1990s’.

“The book business likes to invoke those days too and repeatedly assures us it is not going to make the mistakes the music industry made. Unfortunately, the conclusions it seems to have drawn are that the recorded music business wasn’t draconian and heavy-handed enough, that it didn’t issue enough take-down notices and didn’t sue enough children and sweet old ladies. They seem not to have realised that the only way to compete with pirates is to offer a better product and better service; a better combination of price, convenience and availability.(guardian.co.uk 24 April 2011)

Which? also featured a piece on Hewson’s comments. Sarah Kidner writes that this ‘colossal’ threat is far from reality and in fact presents a ‘colossal opportunity’. The Publishers Association, where authors can report copyright infringement, received 831 notifications of infringement in the past week yet ebooks are now outselling their paperback equivalents, as reported by The Association of American Publishers. That’s great news!

Both Davies and Kidner remark that publishers should take this as a sign that e-books must remain competitively priced – and priced LOWER than the version available in bookshops. People want the best value – they’re not going to pay more for an e-book if it’s considerably cheaper to walk into WH Smith and pick it up off the shelf. As an avid reader of books, and someone who’s toyed with the idea of buying a kindle, I’m interested to see how this possible issue develops. Let’s hope it’s not another case of Napster.

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Open source journalism: newassignment.net

A website I’ve recently been made aware of, trialing open-source journalism. The site welcomes contributions from journalists, bloggers and anyone who wishes to contribute. It’s a nice example of the types of non-mainstream news sites popping up featuring original content, rather than news aggregation and comment.

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Apps for Photographers

This makes me want to get an iPhone. Proof that journalists, and now photographers, don’t necessarily need cumbersome, heavy and expensive equipment to produce good quality work!

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The New York Times: the move towards a digital future

Image courtesy of gigaom.com

The NYT released it’s quarterly financials today.

Interesting article on the giant’s performance, as it graples with subscription fees and improves its online performance.

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Videogames valuable for journalism

I would never think to put videogames and journalism in the same article, let alone the same sentence, but it seems journalists could learn a thing or two from the way video games are put together.

In a post on Design Lab today, Designing a Newsgame Is an Act of Journalism, Bobby Schweizer interestingly muses that journalism is so focused on the who,what, where, and when that sometimes the how and why are put to the side or ignored all together – especially in 24-hour rolling news as viewers can easily identify with what’s happened or who is involved. It’s reporting that merely makes viewers/readers aware rather than totally informed.

Schweizer says videogames can’t work like this – the how and why are incredibly important. Games ‘are nothing’ , he says, without these elements. “Videogames are valuable for journalism because they don’t just describe — they demonstrate.”

I admit, this has nothing to do with the post.

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Photoshopped Photojournalism

In one of my classes last year, we were shown a photo taken in Beirut of the aftermath of an Israeli air raid bombing in 2006. The discussion was on truth in photography and whether we could take what we saw at face value or if it required interpretation. At first we talked about cropped images – perhaps a photograph of a large demonstration, which in actual fact was only a small group of angry people. Then he showed us this one:

Photoshopped? An image of Beirut after an Israel air raid in 2006

Our seminar leader asked if we could see anything wrong with the picture. We stared at it for a few minutes but none of us knew what he was talking about. Was there something missing? Should there have been something else there? After a while, he smiled, and clicked over to this image:

The original photo - less smoke and fewer buildings

This one was far less dramatic and we were told this was the original photograph – the former had been Photoshopped to display more smoke, darker plumes and even more buildings at the foreground. Looking at it now, with the two picture to compare, it’s quite easy to see that the Photoshopped image doesn’t look quite right. There were other examples too and it prompted a heated discussion on how photojournalism, which you would assume can show an event far better (and easier) than a journalist describing it, could actually be misleading.

The Guardian posted an article on this very issue:

“The whole point of photojournalism, of course, is that it does not lie – it illustrates to readers what so many column inches can’t. More worrisome, however, is that photos in the news do not even have to be doctored to distort reality or damage someone’s credibility. ” (The Guardian 16 July 2008)

While I don’t think this is a common practice, the altering of journalistic images is an important issue and ways to spot such changes should be explored.

Today, niemanlab.org published this article Photoshop, journalism, and forensics: Why skepticism may be the best filter for photojournalism:

“Part of the reason images…are so powerful and telling is that there is an inherent trust that goes along with photography, particularly news photography: Seeing is believing.”

Nieman got talking to Santiago Lyon, director of photography for the Associated Press about the dangers of photo manipulation. Lyon and  Hany Farid, an expert in the emerging field of digital forensics, gave a talk at MIT about photojournalism in the age of Photoshop. Both Lyon and Farid are trying to establish a way to filter out manipulated pictures. Although differing in their approaches (Lyon overseas around 300 photographers and Farid is a computer science professor at Dartmouth University) both seem to agree that skepticism – doubting a photo is genuine and working from there – is the best way to approach this complicated issue. It’s encouraging to see organisations, such as AP, addressing the matter – what’s not so encouraging is that photojournalists feel the need to change their image in the first place.

Separately, how awesome does digital forensics sound?! Forget CSI – it’s PSI!

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