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Digital storytelling workshop to start 2018

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The impressive library hosts the workshop

For the first major project of 2018 I was pleased to be invited to a StoryLab event run by The Thomson Reuters Foundation, in partnership with the Stanley Foundation . The event was part of a wider programme for experienced journalists and academic researchers who are interested in similar security-related topics. The event gave them the opportunity to work together – to learn from each other, to share skills, expertise, resources and contacts.

The organisers say:

The programme will support journalists to collaborate with researchers to uncover emerging threats in specific communities, countries or regions worldwide, and produce stories that reach a wide audience.

The group was hosted at the impressive Wiston House in West Sussex and worked through a series of workshops on different approaches to their reporting. My involvement was to introduce ideas around digital storytelling and run a hands-on workshop where the group could create story elements including maps, timelines, charts and interactive photography.

It was a lot of fun and it will be interesting to see how the collaborations deploy their newly acquired skills for the final work they will pitch for the programme.

In advance of the session I researched some great storytelling examples – with more than a little help from my Facebook friends who  recommended some of them.

I settled on these seven as examples where the techniques used are all very different and cover a variety of countries. I share the list here as they are all worthy of further exposure. I hope you enjoy them too.

The seven great storytelling examples shown:

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Written by sarahhartley

January 14th, 2018 at 6:50 pm

Musings on the week: A north-south social media divide?



Inside #1pound40

Two very different experiences this week have had me musing on whether there’s a north-south divide in how social media is used.

Looking first at the #1pound40 event in London. It was an intriguing concept – for just £1.40, the opportunity to share knowledge and ideas with some of the leading lights of the social media UK whirl.

There were Tuttlers, journalists and broadcasters; there were geeks, students and marketing types; the venue was impressive (Reuters in the Daily Planet like environs of Canary Wharf) and the whole event had an air of expectation.

Something was going to happen. SOMETHING IMPORTANT.

So, a couple of days later, why do I still have this niggling feeling that, if something did happen, I must have missed it?

Perhaps this feeling was in part provoked by my experience the night before at Leeds Social Media Surgery.


Leeds surgeons

The surgery was an opportunity for charities and not-for-profits to come and find out about social media and see if it could help them in their work. I spent the evening talking about blogging with a woman who wants to provide the opportunity for interaction via a blog for workers in the mental health sector, as well as hearing about an impassioned campaign to help Palestinians where I was able to offer some basic advice about libel. In this setting, the social media tools were just that – tools to be utilised as part of a wider aim.

Back to London and what was described as ‘a curated unconference’, the purpose of our gathering was to explore issues raised by social media – questions such as if Twitter was a force for good, whether journalism was being democratised by the tools of web 2.0 and my old favourite – who can be called, or call themselves, a journalist?

Unlike other ‘unconference’ events I’ve been to, there were no sessions or pitches and instead small groups at tables discussed the issues between themselves before sharing their individual pithy conclusions via Twitter.

(As an aside, oddly for an event which ended up being monopolised by talk about Twitter, the backchannel wasn’t always in evidence – in fact when it was projected behind the panel at the end of the event it proved to be such a novel intervention that it completely distracted both panelists and audience!)

As the sessions concluded I took stock – had I learned anything? No. Had I contributed to anyone else learning anything? No.

It felt like we were all saying the same thing, speaking the social media speak. The digerati in full flow – agreeing with one another.

Some of the topics touched upon digital inclusion and the potential for political engagement through social media, but while we were talking, tweeting and pontificating, who was actually listening? What do the views of a bunch of always-on wired meeja professionals in London have to do with delivering news and information services to people working in tough but essential spheres such as the mental health sector, or living in areas where broadband access is still an aspiration not a reality?

That’s not to say it wasn’t an enjoyable event – I caught up with some people I haven’t seen in a while, put some faces to Twitter avatars and met some completely new people I’m sure I’ll enjoy following. As a meet-up, it was most conducive.

But all in all, for me at least, it was an afternoon inside the echo chamber, the reverberations of which will probably not even reach Islington, let alone Leeds.

There’s some other coverage of these two events that I’ve seen, as follows;

* The Guardian’s Mercedes Bunz gamely attempted a live blog of #1pound40 here and here.
* Leeds Social Media Surgery organiser John Popham summed up the evening here.
* The echo chamber is one of the topics which Christian Payne (AKA @documentally) also discusses in this audioboo which considered the psychology of Twitter.
* The Business Two Zero blog discusses the £1.40 event and also provides plenty of links to other views from the day.

Mainstream media and the Fifth Estate

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The impact social media has on journalism, and journalists, has been put under the spotlight with the launch of a study by Nic Newman.

The BBC journalist looked at five different mainstream news organisations and concluded that social networking platforms such as Twitter and Facebook together with a rise in citizen journalism had formed a ‘Fifth Estate’.

Borrowing the phrase from the work of academic William Dutton, he said this Fifth Estate would not replace mainstream media but instead was complementary to it.

“Each party is beginning to understand its place in a complex new eco-system of news and information. The mainstream media monitors a wide range of sources, including the Fifth Estate. “But as the timeline of stories is compressed, it can be argued that there is an even greater need for traditional journalistic skills of sorting fact from fiction; selecting key facts for a mass audience.”

During last night’s debate hosted by the BBC, Newman introduced his study to a panel which included Meg Pickard of The Guardian and Kate Day of The Telegraph in front of an invited audience of journalists, broadcasters and academics.

He said there were three main points he wanted to make; 1. The revolution is real and relevant to journalism; 2. It was worth noting that mainstream news organisations were busy waking up to social media and 3. They no longer had to apologise, they could operate in these areas on their own terms.

His research focussed on the activities of the BBC, The Guardian, The Telegraph, New York Times and CNN as well as individual journalists. The BBC’s Robert Peston was quoted as being “hugely enthusiastic” about his blog which he believes has been instrumental in helping to explain a complex story while The Guardian’s Jemima Kiss explains her vast Twitter following as being the result of a level of personal interaction.

But Newman concludes his chapter on changing journalistic practice by noting that actually, little has changed. “But so far at least, the use of new tools has not led to any re-write of the rule book – just a few tweeks around the edges. “As with so many aspects of the internet, social media are providing a useful extra layer of functionality, enabling stories to be told in new ways, not changing the heart of what journalists do. ‘Same values, new tools’, sums up the core thinking in most newsrooms”.

* The rise of social media and its impact on mainstream journalism by Nic Newman is a working paper produced in conjunction with the University of Oxford and Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.

Written by sarahhartley

October 1st, 2009 at 5:50 pm

Will Second Life ever be a serious news channel?


The news that press agency Reuters has abandoned its Second Life bureau will surely discourage other serious news organisations from getting into the virtual world.

The story broke at The Register and since then reporter Eric Reuters explains why Reuters backed away from the project which has been reporting on the life and goings on within the massively popular multiplayer environment.

At AlleyInsider, Eric “Reuters” Krangal gives some insight into the decision as well as putting forward some suggestions on how the situation could be improved.

 He explains: “It’s hard to say what, if anything, Linden Lab can do to make Second Life appeal to a general audience. The very things that most appeal to Second Life’s hardcore enthusiasts are either boring or creepy for most people: Spending hundreds of hours of effort to make insignificant amounts of money selling virtual clothes, experimenting with changing your gender or species, getting into random conversations with strangers from around the world, or having pseudo-nonymous sex (and let’s not kid ourselves, sex is a huge draw into Second Life). ”

And a glance at SL’s official newspaper The Avastar (produced by German tabloid newspaper giant Bild) certainly backs up that assessment of why ailing newspapers might struggle to find its worth.

The Avastar’s review of the year has just been published and what’s the top story? “RL (real life) porn star Jenna Jameson was training an army of SL’s “nastiest” girls to dominate the virtual sex industry. ”

While the many loyal fans of the service are always desperate to assure us all that it’s not just about flying penises and adult island life, my own limited experience of SL has also failed, as yet, to find the true news worth of the platform.

I enthusiastically roamed the SL Manchester in the hope of reporting from that community on a dedicated section I started at the Mancunian Way blog - but have so far failed to find anything much like a community with deserted shopping streets and a lonely Hacienda night out.

With the frequent crashes and lack of support when things are inexplicable that Eric also notes, the technology for SL still seems too clunky for the average user.

Having said that, I would love to be proved wrong because I find the concept of a virtual world fascinating.

But, for now at least, SL remains a better idea than it is an experience.

Written by sarahhartley

November 23rd, 2008 at 4:14 pm