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Digital Editors’ Network: Data special today

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Today’s meeting of digital editors from across the country is a special event to discuss various issues around open data and is being held at the offices of North West Vision and Media in MediaCityUK, Salford.

A live blog has been set up via CoveritLive which you can see updated here as the event gets underway from 1pm.

The progamme is detailed here.

The hashtag for the event is #dendatameet

Written by sarahhartley

May 12th, 2010 at 1:56 pm

Future Everything and a whole lot more this week

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This week is surely the busiest so far in the 2010 digital media calender for Manchester.

While the central focus will undoubtedly be this year’s Future Everything festival, there’s also some great events in the run up too.

Here’s a quick run down of what’s booked into my diary – feel free to share any other events from your diaries via the comments below;

Tuesday: Manchester Social Media Surgery. 5:30pm-7.30pm.
The theme is: ‘What businesses can learn from how social media was used during the 2010 UK elections’.I shall be scrubbing up to be on the panel of surgeons alongside;
Adrian Slatcher
, Senior Digital Development officer, MDDA – Chair
Katie Moffat
, Social media consultant, organiser of Manchester Twestival and Manchester Digital council member
Nigel Barlow
, freelance journalist, co-founder of hyper-local news site for Manchester, Inside the M60
Matt Hackett
, Manager, Digital & Marketing Recruitment Team at Orchard
It’s all free and taking place at the offices of the Manchester Digital Development Agency (MDDA) Lower Ground Floor, 117-119 Portland Street, Manchester M1 6ED.

Wednesday: Digital Editors’ Network. 12:45 PM – 5:00 PM.

The bi-monthly get together of digital editors from newspaper groups around the country is moving from out of its usual setting at Uclan in Preston and heading to the offices of Northwest Vision & Media at Media City in Salford Quays for a special event to consider open data.
Speakers include:Julian Tait (from #smc_mcr and FE), who’s working to make Manchester the UK’s first OpenData City, , Paul Bradshaw, author of the Online Journalism Blog and convenor of the HelpMeInvestigate project and my colleague Martin Belham from The Guardian. Again, it’s free but places need reserving. Follow the link above.

Thursday: Future Everything and Social Media Cafe
The conference element of Future Everything get underway in earnest. The major theme of the day will be around data. I’m delighted to be chairing a panel discussion between 12pm and 13:30pm at the Contact Theatre to look at the rewards and challenges a more transparent future might bring. The expert panellists are OpenlyLocal’s Chris Taggert, IP lawyer Jordan Hatcher, GP and patient records holder Amir Hannan plus recent Gorton PPC Tim Dobson.
The rest of the day’s conference events are detailed on the ‘timetable’ found on the right-hand side of this page.

Social Media Cafe
Due to the FE event, our monthly get together is going global for May with live hook ups to Brazil and Canada. It’s an expanded #smc_mcr which is teamed up with Northern Digitals for a one-off special event – the Global Digital Cafe.Through high-speed synchronous data links, we’ll have the chance to expand our reach out of Manchester.
On the Ning’s blog, Josh says;

“Sit on a sofa alongside a counterpart from Sao Paulo, Brazil using the GloNet Front Room. Or try out the Talking Boxes for a beer and a chat with someone from Vancouver, Canada. Members of Manchester’s digital community will be in both locations, hosting the local interaction for FutureEverything so keep your eyes peeled for faces you recognise.”

Friday: City Debate and Gala
The City Debate: A special event exploring the future of Manchester. 3-5.30pm at Manchester Business School.
This promises to be a fascinating debate coming as it does in the aftermath and chaos of the election. Described as “an ideas event for evangelists, cynics, digital artisans, policy makers, property magnates, media vultures, urban planners, you, and me.”
It puts up key figures working today to build Manchester’s future who will be asked to give their vision. Each will reply to the FutureEverything Proposition, a statement about the future of the city region commissioned from leading international thinkers. A studio audience will then debate the future of Manchester.

Future Everything Gala FutureEverything Award Gala: Friday 14 May, 6-8pm at Manchester Town Hall
Sees the awarding of the debut award of £10,000 cash prize, and the FutureEverything trophy recognising outstanding innovation in art, society and technology.

In fact the week has turned out to be such a worlds collide mix of social media, journalism and digital networking that I’m taking some time off from the day job to make sure I don’t miss anything!

Which means, I’ll be blogging regularly here, and at other locations, as well as keeping everything signposted on twitter @foodiesarah.

I look forward to catching up with plenty of you over the week, on and offline.

Useful hashtags #mansms, #futr, #dendatameet, #smc_mcr

Hyperlocal matters at the Digital Editors’ Network


Hyperlocal issues came up at the last Digital Editors’ Network with talks from PA, MSN Local and myself looking at different aspects of local news and information.

  • Tony Johnston from the Press Association gave an in-depth presentation to explain the proposed Public Service Reporting proposal. Most reports on this have concentrated on the potentially massive cost of £18m it would require to roll this out across the country. There’s good reports on this by PaidContent and I was struck by the potential a scheme like this could offer to hyperlocal site operators. 1. By making material freely available to all (instead of by subscription to newspaper clients), bloggers and independent news sites would have the same verifiable source material as all of the other media outlets so adding the capacity that sites with small staff are crying out for. 2. If it was rolled out across the country then hyperlocal site operators could bid for the tenders and so create a revenue stream for their work as previously unpaid council reporters.

  • I felt a wave of unease moving across some of the audience during Alastair Bruce’s presentation about, Microsoft’s local website. As it was reported earlier in the summer, Microsoft is hoping to form partnerships with local newspapers and other news providers to offer its users hyperlocal news within its MSNlocal environments. The fact the site carries property listings in a far more user-friendly, attractive and deeply content rich way than many local newspaper websites looks like it will be a source of disquiet to regional editors. But maybe the stylish way data is visualised – heat maps for crime stats for instance – could be welcomed as providing a stimulus for more creative treatments by newspapers in the future.

  • I gave an update on the ongoing research I’ve been doing tracking developments in the hyperlocal sphere with a quick run through of some of the industry moves made in this area over the summer as well as a canter through some hyperlocal and collaborative initiatives which have caught my eye. The full slideshow is available here and, to explain the images, below is a list what struck me about those blogs and sites which led to me including them in the talk.

They Work for You.
Good example of the sort of sites and tools which help people carry out their own investigations or inquiries and track activity of interest to them and/or their networks or communities.
Politics Cymru.
If a service isn’t available – start it. The three Dewis are producing regular vodcasts and blog posts to provide independent news service from the Welsh assembly.
Ventnor Blog.
Husband and wife team use skype to provide coverage of their local council – something they have been doing for a remarkable four years.
Pits ‘n’ Pots.
Also putting the local council under scrutiny and allowing some of the voices not previously heard to have a platform in Stoke on Trent.
Help Me Investigate.
Another example of a site which provides the tools and means for people to undertake their own investigations by collaborating with others.
The Culture Vulture.
A new take on the tired old listings format. With its innovative use of Twitter and by sourcing the sort of unusual experiences its users value, the Yorkshire blog is working hard on the social.
People’s Voice Media.
Providing support and training to empower community reporters across the north west and work towards to establishment of social media centres.
East Salford Direct.
The CNN of East Salford taking hyperlocal to television.

Cabinet forum on local news: Lots of Qs looking for As


Some notes from this week’s discussion at the cabinet forum debate and dinner. It was an event with unusual format and, by way of explanation, the agreed rules around covering it are that all debates can be blogged, tweeted etc. without individual quotes being attributed to individual people.

In a variation of Chatham House rules, those present can also be identified and it was refreshing to see such a cross-section of voices represented at sessions hosted, by culture minister Sion Simon.

Newspaper reps including myself and The Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger able to sit around the same table as bloggers such as Jeff Jarvis via skype, hyperlocal activists including co-chair William Perrin, industry analysts, civil servants, broadcasters, commentators, people with experience of the local news landscape both in the UK and US.

I make no apology that what I’ve noted here are things of specific interest to me, and are in no way an attempt to provide the definitive low-down of the event.

Others have broadened the experience further and there’s links here. These are my notes while on the train north with the addition of this excellent set of slides from industry analysts Enders.

• What do we call these people? I’ve blogged on this issue before and it keeps being raised at the sort of events I attend. Because someone wants to engage with a news investigation, write a blog or post about a community event doesn’t necessarily mean they want to be a ‘citizen journalist’. Some do of course, but many are simply using the wonderful tools at their disposal as a means to another end – better community, organise an event, change the world or whatever. Do they even need a specific pigeon-hole to fit into? Can they just be people? Engaged citizens? Is the publication part of their output really the most important element in what they do?

• How do large institutions, such as the government or a major broadcaster, ensure these hyperlocal voices are heard? At present there’s no association, guild, group, etc. to represent their widely differing interests. Should there be one, and if there was, how could it be constituted to be truly representative and inclusive? What a challenge that would be, but without it, some of the proposals in this area such as IFNCs risk becoming a non-inclusive consolidation of giants.

• Who should be treated as a journalist? Relates again to the first point but, for those people who do want to be treated as journalists, how do they get access to sources of information? This issue has already seen some plainly daft responses such as councils providing different tables in the same council chamber etc. I always go back to my first Penguin Book of Journalism here which carries wise words for the reporter starting out reminding them that they have all the rights and responsibilities of a citizen. No more, no less. Access is an area where any journalist with legal/public administration training could assist by helping challenge the petty bureaucracies in town halls. But that raises the point again – does training make a ‘proper’ journalist if so what’s the qualification? Or is it experience – if so which institutions count and how long does it have to be to qualify? Or is it an NUJ card?- so are we back to the closed shop? Does it require being employed by a publication registered as a newspaper? Well that’s plainly not sustainable. As journalists we’re not exactly being very transparent with this are we?

• Who will report from the council chambers and courts if local newspapers close or retract so much that staff are unable to fulfil this function? And there lies the BIG question. What will be the long-term impact on democracy? Will councils use that situation as justification for uncritical publications extolling the virtues of their services? People at the forum and generally, in my experience, seem to agree this sort of reporting is a Good Thing. But what’s it going to take to ensure that continues – just how Good a Thing is it? Subsidy? Tax-breaks? Platform agnostic service provision to all as outlined by PA at the Digital Editors’ Network later in the day? This is such a huge issue for the minister to wrestle with……any thoughts, contributions welcome.

Four points from this week’s Digital Editor’s Network


The bad weather led to a smaller than usual turn-out for Tuesday’s DEN get together but those of us who made it heard some quality speakers. Here’s a few points from each;

1. Mark Skipworth from The Telegraph started by banging the drum for journalism as a job choice for the student element of the audience saying now was a great time for enterprising journos looking to forge careers.Some insights into working practices at The Telegraph proved interesting for those of us already in the industry. The working day starts with a ‘web-only’- news conference and reporters now work to two different news desks. The online news editor works during the early part of the day, directing journalists busy breaking news while the old-style news editor picks up later in the day with reporters re-working the stories for print. How those two desks dovetail must provide plenty of challenges. There’s more analysis of this Harris Lecture at Alison Gow’s blog.

2. The Guardian’s blogs editor Kevin Anderson gave us something of an insight into his remarkable journey across America covering the US presidential election, in part by utilising available social media tools. Geo-tagging everything as he went, Kevin was able to produce an interactive map of the journey. His coverage totalled 50 blog posts, 1,600 tweets, 2,050 photos and covered 4,000 geo-tagged miles. DEN has been fortunate to have Kevin speak previously and I always enjoy the enthusiasm he brings to the topic and the way he can so clearly demonstrate the journalistic benefits of social media.

3. Alison Gow of the Liverpool Post and Echo was able to give us the benefit of her experience of liveblogging – something her paper seems to be leading the UK regional press pack on. Because they have done so many very different live blogs – court cases, football, the giant spider and a Royal visit to mention just a few – it was interesting to hear how different the audience’s reactions have been to each. Alison told us how users for the “social” events such as the spider and the Queen would be quick to demand (and share) pix and video while football followers wanted to give and receive opinion. Useful stuff for anyone planning to follow suit.

4. Finally, Eric Ulken was able to talk about the opportunity and experience of creating deep data content such as this amazing homicide map from his former employer the LA Times. Despite having every presenter’s nightmare scenario of  unexpected wi-fi failure, Eric was able to describe how the map had come about with a three-way mash-up of public data (the stats, dates etc of murders) , staff journalism (crime reports/blogs etc) and public contribution (tributes, comments). Eric also pointed to his bookmarks for some further examples. Lots to learned here.

A previous commitment at Manchester’s Social Media Cafe meant I was unable to attend the panel event in the evening but you can replay Robert Peston et al here.

In a deviation from the norm there also wasn’t time to share what we’re currently all doing online around the regional press – if you have a burning project just waiting to be shared, please do feel free to do so via the links otherwise – see y’all at the next one!

February’s DEN meeting focus on business

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Next month’s meeting of the Digital Editors’ Network is promising a range of high-profile speakers willing to share their expertise with regional journalists working online.

Organiser Nick Turner says the free event at the University of Central Lancashire in Preston on Tuesday, February 3 will include the elements listed below before a panel discussion looking at the economics of journalism takes place in the evening:

• An insight into the digital transformation of the Daily Telegraph when Mark Skipworth, executive editor of the Daily and Sunday Telegraph gives the University’s Harris Lecture.

• A discussion about how newspapers can best make use of their archives in the digital age with a presentation by Patrick Fleming, head of reader and reference services at the British Library.

• The Guardian blogs editor Kevin Anderson on lessons learned from the social media coverage of the UK presidential election. With a UK election lurking somewhere on the political horizon it should be an informative and useful session.

• Eric Ulkin, former Los Angeles Times online editor, will talk about building the LA Times datadesk and alternative forms of story building.

The day will also include a networking reception and a Journalism Leaders Forum in the evening with BBC Business Editor Robert Peston joining the panel for a discussion entitled: ‘Reviewing the bottom line: the journalism of economics and the economics of journalism’

The Guardian’s Blogs Editor Kevin Anderson will chair the discussion and panelists will include: Robert Peston, BBC Business Editor; Kate McKenzie, interactive editor,; Arthur Porter, publisher, Crain’s Business (Manchester) and Chris Barry, editor, (North West).

I shall be posting more at this blog from the event but if you want to attend and get further details, please email Nick Turner

Re-defining the role of the journalist

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When Jane Singer stood up in front of last week’s Digital Editor’s Network and suggested that reporters stopped doing some of their current routine bread-and-butter work and handed that responsibility over to others, there was a palpable wall of cynicism from some quarters.

Allowing users to contribute routine community information? Publishing the police force crime releases ‘in the raw’? Letting companies post the press releases of their activity? Whatever next!

Yes, the bright-eyed academic had just put the elephant in the room.

Ms Singer went on to say that, in these times of limited newsroom staff resources, perhaps the journalists’ job was no longer to simply provide information or facts – after all a whole raft of people are perfectly capable of doing that – think community group leader, marketing manager, head teacher or publicly paid press officers in councils or the emergency services.

She wanted to see journalists freed up to do the things users don’t have “the time, talent or training to do: investigate, analyze, contextualize, and explain.

“Their primary role is no longer to provide information but to help people make sense of it” she said.

It’s certainly an appealing argument – no more tedious press release rewrites and the opportunity to get out of the office again. Hurrah! Who wouldn’t want that?

As Ms Singer put so well; “Pursuing the stories behind the information and telling those stories well, whatever the medium……isn’t that the real job of the journalist?”

So where’s the rub?

The debate seemed to reveal that some didn’t feel there would be same quality of information if it wasn’t worked into traditional article form and some felt that the newsworthiness of a piece of information could only be properly assessed by a professional.

Listening to some of the points you could be mistaken into thinking that all of us in regional media are busy breaking stories of such importance to the nation that they couldn’t possible be dealt with by anyone else!

But, with a quick reality check, what would be wrong with a local events listings created by the organisers of those events? The appointments section of the business pages updated by companies themselves? A daily or weekly listing of “mis pers” provided and updated by the police? Planning applications uploaded by the council and geo-tagged onto a map?

Would the non-journalese language of the content undermine its usefulness/interest?

Personally I think that’s unlikely and, considering most of the items mentioned above are difficult to find (or absent) on most regional news sites, just having the content would be a good start to better community information provision.

These sort of objections to community collaboration really go to the heart of a larger issue – what is news and what is the role of the news organisation? Is it merely to present information which is likely to attract the widest and biggest possible audience (i.e. the old mass media model)?

I think not .

Surely our role as journalists is now to seek out information which is important to people’s lives and that might mean ”small” items having “big” significance for smaller groups or an individual.

Ms Singer’s thought-provoking presentation was a timely reminder of that shift in consumption with some provocative suggestions on what could be done to supply that demand.

* The discussion which rounded off the day at the Journalism Leader’s Forumalso turned, inevitably perhaps, onto the role of the journalist in today’s news organisations with The Guardian’s Kevin Anderson among others urging us to get out with our laptops are re-engage with the community.

Read Laura Oliver’s summary here.

See Joanna Geary’s streaming video here.

Update to snapshot of UK local newspaper activity

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This is the first post from yesterday’s DEN meeting at UCLAN. As always, it was a stimulating afternoon and evening giving all of us regional online types plenty to think about and the expected controversial moment.

Below is a list of some of the regional activity going on at the moment which in essence serves to update the slideshow I produced way back in May – just without the slides.

I will update this blog soon with a post about the legal briefing and another about the Journalism Leader’s Forum panel which raised plenty of good points particularly about the role (or possible lack of role) for news in successful online communities.

The buzz at the moment is inevitably community and interaction with a strong push on hyperlocal offerings achieved through geo-tagging.

Trinity seem to be storming ahead in these areas with a raft of initiatives including;

* Fantastic live blog across titles to provide truly interactive coverage of the banking crisis. Love the way it just takes the issue to the community in such a medium-friendly way. Sticky stuff.

* Liverpool now geo-tagging all news content in order to offer users hyperlocal content option navigated by a map. We heard that it’s done by subs manually adding postcodes to every story. At the moment they have a limitation of one location per story but will soon do multiples. This is being rolled out across the group. Archant also understoon to be doing the same.

Outside of Trinity;
* Carlisle has launched a series of hyperlocal community blogs including To see the full range, click on an article and navigate links on the right-hand side of the page.

Written by sarahhartley

October 8th, 2008 at 8:46 pm