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Radio show features blogger’s Twitter ban

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The case of the blogger who’s been excluded from reporting live from Tameside Council has now been the focus of local radio attention.

Tameside Radio featured the case of Liam Billington (TamesideEye), which I first blogged about at The Guardian on Monday, and have released the following three audio clips – first Liam, then director of the think-tank POLIS, Charlie Beckett gives his reaction, followed by a statement read out on behalf of the council.

1. Twitter – Liam Billington

2. Charlie Beckett’s reaction

3. Tameside Council state their position ………and say they are now considering Liam’s request to tweet.
Broadcaster Andy Hoyle reads the Council’s statement.

As soon as I hear the outcome of that request, I’ll share it here although the wider issue which still stands here is whether the council (or any council) has the right to stop anyone tweeting from a public meeting.

Written by sarahhartley

March 11th, 2010 at 10:25 pm

Three steps to rubbish journalism

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Following on from the New Media, Old News: Journalism and Democracy in a digital age seminar, I thought that, instead of a standard blog post to summarise the debate, I’d ask you to indulge me with a little journey of fuzzy logic.

Here’s how the internet has ruined journalism (according to those who believe such things).

1. Internet = more news.

2. More = poor.


3. Internet = crap journalism.

 See? it’s conclusive! Everything that is wrong in journalism can be put down to the internet.

But this “logical” progression of an oft-quoted argument (that I’m frankly getting just a teeny bit pee’d off with) just doesn’t stand up to any scrutinity.

Take point 1- why does the publishing online automatically mean more content? As the Guardian’s Emily Bell pointed out during the debate last week, there’s no hole’s to fill, no space that demands that a 450 word article be written to allow the page to be published.  So why produce 500 words when 50 will do? Why not post that audio clip, picture or whatever instead. Surely the fact that stories can be updated, amended and progressed is a blessing for good journalism rather than a curse. Doesn’t this pressure for more that is so reviled actually come from audience demand? People who want what we do and want more of what we do. Are we really saying we’ve got too many customers and that we can’t supply?

Point 2. What is bad about having more? Can you have too many pictures, too many links, too many stats and facts? If a journalist is producing more material on a subject surely they’ll have a deeper knowledge of it or have carried out more interviews or have unearthed more data? Won’t the writer who also blogs get greater reader input and insight? Who is it poorer for – the hard-working journo or the reader? I’d be really grateful of a real-life example of  a story where having more, has led to a poorer user experience.

Point 3. Simply conflates two things that don’t belong together. There is the technology and there is what you choose to publish with it. If the journalism is poor, it will be poor in whatever medium it’s just that the web has made it easier for people to compare that quality. 

Obviously there was a whole lot more to this debate and this reflects just a tiny element of it. The research team at Goldsmith’s has produced  some extremely meaty findings which will be published in a book next year and which you will be able to  read extracts from here.

(Unusually, the chapters published online can’t be quoted from which has meant less blogging on specific points than I would have liked to do. I would particularly recommend chapter 8 to anyone interested in looking at the role of the journalist and citizen journalism)

Some of the main points from the seminar last week were live blogged on Twitter – see my tweets here and Judith Townend’s here.

For blog post which go into the day’s debate and further links see Charlie Beckett’s good post Journalism is rubbish: New report or Judith Townend’s Disagreement among Guardian journalists to influence new book on changing

Written by sarahhartley

November 22nd, 2008 at 6:28 pm

Social media and moden warfare


It was interesting to see this item from the BBC this week; New media plan to combat Taleban

According it its “Whitehall sources”, the BBC reports that “a radical new plan is being considered by the UK government to counter growing Taleban propaganda in Afghanistan.

“The programme involves using new media like mobile phones and the internet to empower ordinary Afghans to contradict the prevailing Taleban message.”

As readers of this, and Charlie Beckett’s , blog already know, the fact that the military is moving to utilise social media platforms isn’t a new idea.

Activity in this area already includes active bloggers for the US military, a dedicated UK video unit and the openness to engaging with new audiences using the tools of Web 2.0 to better communicate with the public were explored at the recent NATO Public Affairs Conference.

But what I found interesting (but not surprising) about the BBC report is the response from the interviewer. Part way through this radio clip he says, while chuckling; “Well it’s certainly a different way to win a war!”.

He later goes on to dismissively say something about “a Facebook thing going on”.

It demonstrates an oft-experienced scepticism when dealing with the issues social media throws up.

I blame part of the problem on the silly names the developers too often give these services – I mean, whoever came up with Plurk was just having a laugh and getting a business-minded professional to engage with something called Dipity is always going to need a leap of faith!

But aside from the naming, there’s something else going on here, a sort of unwillingness to accept that these tools are used for real communications, really serious endeavour and meaningful engagement.

Anyone who doubts that should spend just a few minutes looking at how terror groups have successfully embraced the possibilities of the internet and utilise mobile and Web 2.0 tools.

When the Talaban mash up a video showing death and destruction and distribute it across mobile and online platforms, it’s unlikely they have much of an issue with the name of the app. or the purpose for which it was created.

It’s a tool, it does the job they need they need it to do, it’s low cost, high visibility - and it works. 

The projects mentioned above are all an acknowledgement of this fact, however difficult a pill that is to swallow.

Yes, these tools may have been dreamed up for use for innocuous reasons but, like technologies throughout history, it’s the real-scenario take-up which then changes the world.

Written by sarahhartley

October 12th, 2008 at 6:26 pm

Blogs and bloggers: Background resources

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Below is a series of links to further information about blogs and blogging as discussed in my workshop at the Shape PUblic Affairs conference in Lisbon.

They are intended to provide further reading to those who attended the event, but could also be of wider  interest.

Any thoughts, comments, questions or further links, as ever gratefully received. Either submit at the end of this page, contact via email at or choose your platform from the contacts page.

Recommended reading
The annual Technorati State of the Blogosphere reports are an essential way of tracking how blogging is developing. It comes in four parts;
1. Who are the bloggers?
2. The what and why of blogging.
3. The how of blogging.
4. Blogging for profit.
5. Brands enter the blogosphere.

There’s constantly updated information and reports about blogging available on my delicious bookmarks tagged blogs, feel free to join my network and share your own too.

For good blogs about blogging, online journalism and mainstream publishing, please check out my blogroll on the right of the page. This is an ever-growing list of links to useful sources of information on the subject.

How you’ve been blogged
As far as the confreence goes, so far I’ve only seen this post from fellow speaker Charlie Beckett; NATO plans invasion of the internet.
Let me know if you come across more.

However, a scan of people who are currently using the micro-blogging platform Twitter and mentioning NATO throws up some interesting results. Just shows how many people are engaging with NATO in some way using this digital tool.

Written by sarahhartley

October 4th, 2008 at 1:32 pm

(Not) Building online communities


At the risk of this sounding like the start of one of those jokes that includes mother-in-laws or bottoms – it’s been a funny old week and that’s the only way to sum it up.

Having just signed a contract to act as a consultant for something called SHAPE, my every evening and weekend hour is being spent carrying out research in readiness for a couple of days activity at the NATO Public Affairs Conference in October.

I shall be joining Charlie Beckett,  author of the amazing sounding  SuperMedia – Saving Journalism So It Can Save The World, who is giving a presentation on “Adapting Communications to Changes in Journalism brought about by the rise of New Media” as well as Randy Covington, Director of IFRA Newsplex Training Centre USA, who is speaking on “World Wide Trends in News and Strategic Communications”.

As well as leading a discussion on “Official Blogging in a Conservative Organization” (their z!) I’ve also started work on a presentation which was initially called “Creating and sustaining online communities” but will now probably be ”Online communities: A social world”.

The reason for the change has come about as I prepare materials – having been involved in online communities for many years now I’m just not convinced they can be “created”.

It makes it sound as if they’re built or constructed by some official providor of such things – perhaps in the manner of a town planning exercise, a sort of “build it and they will come approach!”.

Idea seems to be that you can build the online equivalent of shiny new structures and people will pick up their belongings and move in wholesale.

(Perhaps the legacy of empty apartment blocks across our northern cities reavels the flaws in this type of thinking without any further explanation.)

But I do know what people are getting at when they use these terms, after all news organisations, companies, institutions all want to engage better with their potential audiences, customers, clients or citizens.

But how will creating a special structure to which they are expected to invest their time, money or interest achieve that?

 So my curent thinking in terms of this preperation is to look at the successful online communities and consider how they achieved their success in order to learn more.

Using case studies with the youtubes and Facebooks of the world and then drilling down further to understand how people communicate and interact as well as the sort of tools they employ to do this activity.

I’m sure they will have many common elements – ease of use has to be the number one but what other elements make for an engaging online community? If you consider that you belong to such a thing I would love to hear why you “joined”, or is it more the case that the platform you engage with actually provides you with a service, something which enables you?

According to this long posting on the Encyclopedia of Informal Education, three linked qualities appear with some regularity in discussions of communal life:

Tolerance – an openness to others; curiosity; perhaps even respect, a willingness to listen and learn (Walzer 1997: 11). 

Reciprocity – Putnam (2000) describes generalized reciprocity thus: ‘I’ll do this for you now, without expecting anything immediately in return, and perhaps without even knowing you, confident that down the road you or someone else will return the favour’. In the short run there is altruism, in the long run self-interest.

Trust – the confident expectation that people, institutions and things will act in a consistent, honest and appropriate way (or more accurately, ‘trustworthiness’ – reliability) is essential if communities are to flourish. Closely linked to norms of reciprocity and networks of civic engagement (Putnam 1993; Coleman 1990), social trust – trust in other people – allows people to cooperate and to develop. Trusting others does not entail us suspending our critical judgment – some people will be worthy of trust, some will not. 

Realise this post has turned into a bit of a braindump! I find it a truly is a fascinating topic, and as it all becomes more concrete, I will update.

Written by sarahhartley

September 20th, 2008 at 2:26 pm