Intro to Journalism – Week 3 – The news cycle

One of the things we should get time to look at in the workshops in Week 3 is the news cycle – what drives it, and how it’s been changed by new media technologies. About four years ago, Radio 4 broadcast Making News, an interesting series hosted by The Independent’s Steve Richards on how news was changing. All of the episodes are still worth a listen, if for no other reason than it will give you an introduction to longer forms of documentary on radio, which I imagine many of you haven’t listened to that much.

Episode 2, The Endless Cycle,  is a a good introduction to current debates around the news cycle.  The episode focuses on how online news, in particular social media, have combined with 24 hour news channels to speed up the  news cycle and create an environment in which it can be hard for journalists to step back and spend more time actually reporting and investigating stories. Things have only got worse since then, especially now that politicians and other people in power attempt to deliberately play to the speed and outrage that dominates the news cycle now.

This is something to think about in connection with ‘hamster wheel journalism’ analysed by Dean Starkman in the Columbia Journalism Review (this piece was referenced by Felix Salmon in his blog post Teaching Journalists to Read, which you wrote about in Week 1. Starkman argues that the speed of online media and the modern news cycle is squeezing out in depth journalistic storytelling. It’s quite an old post now, and not everyone agrees with him, but he makes a powerful case here.


Reading for the Week 3 class

One thing you could for next week’s class (Week 3) is read two pieces by Andrew Sullivan about blogging and consuming information and media online and make some notes about them. Ed will discuss the pieces in the class on Monday October 9th.

The pieces we want you to read are:

I mentioned ‘Why I Blog’ before – it’s from a while ago, when Sullivan was feeling very optimistic and positive about blogging and ‘thinking in public’. In the second piece, which was published last year, he takes a rather different view about online media…

Should you just avoid the news?

Last week I asked you to start logging your media consumption and to think about how much of it was actually journalism. We’ll talk more about this on Monday during Session 2. One thing we will discuss is a deliberately provocative piece by Ralf Dobelli – Avoid News. The subtitle to the piece is ‘Towards a Healthy News Diet’ -Dobelli’s suggestion is that to move in that direction, you need to radically cut back on the news you consume.

He has also posted a kind of FAQ at the end of the piece, in the form of an imaginary interview with himself,  in which he deals with objections to his idea. We’ll look at these in class and discuss them in more detail.

Introduction to Journalism – some reading for Week 1

One of the things this module is designed to do is to get you reading/consuming more journalism. According to Felix Salmon, who used to blog about finance, journalism and online media in general for Reuters, most journalists don’t read widely enough, especially online. Have a read of his post Teaching Journalists to Read and think about what he says and whether you agree. It was written quite a while ago now – is it still relevant?

Another piece we will discuss in  the first class is My Blog, My Outboard Brain by Cory Doctorow – this piece is over ten years old now – but is still relevant and interesting. Doctorow is an SF writer/online activist/blogger for Boing Boing. This is an early piece about what he gets from blogging.

One last piece we may get time to look at is Why I Blog by Andrew Sullivan – a journalist who started blogging early and built his own mini-media business. This is a piece he wrote a few years ago, when he felt very optimistic about blogging. It’s fair to say he has changed his mind a bit now – and we’ll look at a more recent piece by him later in the module.

Two very different adverts for The Guardian

One thing we might do today, to start things off, is look at a couple of ads for The Guardian. ‘The Three Little Pigs’ was done quite recently – in 2012 – and won lots of awards. ‘Skinhead’ was made just over thirty years ago – in 1986 – and also won awards, I think. Have a look at both and have a think about what the vision of journalism presented by each one and how those visions differ.

Get the Digital Edge – some digital literacy links

I’m doing a presentation on digital literacy today at the Digital Edge event at the Marylebone Campus – I’m going to talk a bit about useful strategies for working and living with media and technological change – things I’ve learned from thinking about how to teach new technical and digital skills to the Journalism students at Westminster.

A lot of my approach to this has come from Doug Belshaw and Henry Jenkins, who I namecheck in the presentation. If you’re interested in finding out more:

One other thing – the SMELL test I mentioned comes from an interesting piece on the PBS website by John McManus – it’s a nice way of summing up the ways journalists try to evaluate and verify the content they research.


Advanced Online Media – Audio Slideshows

One thing we’re going to look at today is audio slideshows. Some of you may end up doing slideshows for your individual projects on this module. Slideshows are everywhere online these days. The audio slideshow, in particular, is a really interesting storytelling form, one that seems native to the web in some way.

It’s pretty easy to put a few pics together and call it a slideshow. It’s harder to do something where the images and audio work together to really explore a journalistic idea or story.

We’re going to talk a bit about today about how to do them well. Later on in the module, if you decide you want to do some sort of slideshow, there will be some specific workshops looking at photojournalism, tools you can use to create slideshows and audio features and storytelling.

In the meantime, here’s a few examples to look at in class:

Water Dance from the New York Times

One in 8 Million, also from the NYT (we looked at this one last year). There are loads of different slideshows here, all of them excellent.

The Month in Photography from The Observer’s New Review

The Guardian actually has a whole section on its website devoted to audio slideshows. As does the FT – though their stuff is behind a paywall. The LA Times’ pop.u.LA.tion also has a few good slideshows. And you can find some of the New York Times’ current work in their Multimedia/Photos section.

The Guardian’s more recent stuff looks a bit rushed – as if they don’t always have the resources to do it well. But it’s still worth looking around at what they’ve done recently. I quite like this one about Japan’s Nozawa fire festival.

Here’s a few of The Guardian’s older pieces – for example, from last year a profile of the artist Jeremy Deller and of Cyra, a young teenager who’s spent her life in care.

A couple of years ago, The Guardian ran a slideshow about the recent Alexander McQueen menswear show, which goes for a more ambient approach.

Another example from a while bac in The Guardian – To Obama, with love from… This has no sound but uses captions to create a kind of list feature.

The Atlantic has a really good example of kind of slideshow journalism – Twitter from @A to @Z – there’s no audio here but it shows how to combine slideshows with a story. It followed it up with more of the same – Twitter from @0 to @9.

Finally – back to more traditional audio slideshow fare – One School’s Struggles – from The Washington Post -this feels like a mini-documentary.

There’s lots of good advice online about making slideshows. 10,000 Words has some really useful posts on audio slideshows – for example, a guide to five mistakes to avoid. Digital journalism teacher Mu Lin has some good advice on his blog (which is a really excellent resource) – for example look at his general tips on making an audio slideshow and his advice on shooting photos for a slideshow. I’ll post more links to useful advice later in the module.