Four posts on the Online Journalism Blog outline the range of considerations when writing for the web, and the role of a content strategy in making those decisions:

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The Online Journalism Handbook reviewed by Sallyanne Duncan in the Journal of the Association for Journalism Education:

In the process of setting up a Master’s degree in Digital Journalism this year I faced the daunting task of finding suitable reference materials for this new course. It’s a tricky exercise to select the right key texts that will meet the needs of bright graduate students who come from diverse disciplines and who have mixed experiences of  journalism.

A fine balance needs to be struck between recommending a book which challenges their intellect but does not assume they are all digital natives who only need to polish their inherent skills.Equally, students tend to expect something which goes beyond the basic skills-based manual which often fails to engage them in current debates.

Paul Bradshaw and Liisa Rohumaa’s book The Online Journalism Handbook: Skills to Surviveand Thrive in the Digital Age certainly does not fall into the latter category. This is a fine, nuanced resource, particularly for those with limited knowledge but who are keen to extend their understanding of not only their skills but also the context of digital journalism. For example, the first two chapters on the history and technology of online journalism are comprehensive scene-setters,written in an informative, concise and pacy style.

When I received it I was immediately struck by the look of the book, the manner in which data is broken into manageable chunks and the quality of the colour plates. I was also surprised by how compact it is – I expected a much larger tome – particularly when I examined the comprehensive contents. The authors pack in a great deal of material in only 203 pages. There are chapters on writing for the web, data journalism, blogging, audio, video, interactivity, user generated content,and the law. It is also written with a touch of levity on occasion, which assists in putting over complex issues and building the confidence of the reader, perfect for students who are all too aware of their lecturers’ expectations that because they are young they will know all about this online stuff.Throughout, Bradshaw and Rohumaa debunk myths about the internet by writing in an accessible, intelligent, clear style without any unnecessary techno-babble. The chapters are split into logical sections which gives the reader the opportunity to master one particular form of online activity before moving on to the next rather than confronting them with several platforms at a time. The colour plates are superb and it would be useful if these were available as slides (or other suitable format) so they could be projected on to a screen for use in class.That said, there could be more on how journalists use online tools, social media and the invisible web to research routine news and features as opposed to data journalism which is dealt with extensively in Chapter 5.There is a useful chapter on the law and online communication, saving the reader from having to search out relevant legal texts. This chapter looks at the usual suspects of freedom of expression, privacy, defamation, contempt of court and copyright but through the lens of convergence.

Numerous examples support the discussion through ‘closer look’ sections on specific legislation,approaches to stories, and the efficacy of using terms and conditions.

Overall, The Online Journalism Handbook is a valuable guide for the reader who wants to extend their knowledge of digital journalism, and one that should be recommended reading on every university journalism course. It certainly tops our reading list.

If you want to get media online there are a number of approaches, broadly split as follows:

  1. Uploading via email
  2. Uploading via a webpage on a specialist audio/image service
  3. Uploading within a blogpost, e.g. on WordPress

This post will explain briefly how to do each.

Uploading multimedia via email

If speed is an issue with getting your multimedia online, email may be the quickest way to do it – especially if the multimedia is on a mobile phone.

Posterous is the service I use most on that front. If you email your image or audio to post@posterous.com then Posterous will publish it on a blog (even if you’ve not set up an account with them). Audio will be embedded in a special player; video too. And if you’ve uploaded more than one image it will put them in a gallery. The subject line of your email will be used as the title.

You will then get an email back from Posterous telling you that your email was published, with a link to the page. Note: if you have more than one blog with Posterous the site will give you a different email to use for each one, e.g. birminghamcrimenews@posterous.com

Many other services allow you to upload via email too – including Tumblr, Flickr and Facebook (see this help page). You just have to find out what email address to use. Search for ‘uploading email’ and the name of the service (e.g. Flickr, etc.) to find a how-to.

Uploading via a webpage on a specialist audio/image service

If you prefer to have your audio/images hosted on a service specifically for audio or images, then create an account first (Flickr is good for photos; Soundcloud and Audioboo for audio – there’s a fuller list at http://delicious.com/paulb/tools+audio and http://delicious.com/paulb/tools+images).

Then go back, and log in with the username and password you chose.

There should be an ‘UPLOAD’ link where you can fill in various information about your media (e.g. description, title), find the file on your computer, and upload.

Once it’s uploaded the webpage should show you a link to the new content. You can now share a link to that page wherever you want.

Quite often there’s also a button marked ‘embed’ or ‘<>’ which will give you the code to put that content on another webpage, such as a blog post.

However, note that most embed code will not work in blogs on WordPress.com. Instead, see if the service has a ‘shortcode’ for embedding media on WordPress, by looking for it on this page: http://en.support.wordpress.com/shortcodes/ and following the relevant link to see instructions on how to use them.

Uploading within a blogpost, e.g. on WordPress

If you want to include your images in a blog post, then create a new post, and when you’re ready to add that media look for the ‘Add media’ button (in WordPress it’s just above the formatting buttons).

Click on this and you should have the option to upload media from your computer (in the same way as you would upload to a specialist service, above), or grab it from a URL.

If you’re doing the latter, make sure you use the image URL, not the URL of the page containing it. This, for example, is just a webpage URL: http://www.flickr.com/photos/onlinejournalismblog/6078887277/in/photostream – to find out the URL of the image you’d have to right-click it and select ‘Copy image URL’ or – if you’re on Flickr – select the size you want to look at, and then on that page right-click the image and select ‘Copy image URL’.

An image URL should end in .jpg or .png or .gif

Note also that many Flickr images have ‘All rights reserved’ and you may not be able to embed those images. Contact the copyright holder to ask if you can have a copy to upload.

Once you’ve chosen the image to upload or embed, you’ll need to add descriptions such as a title and alternative description before clicking ‘Insert’ or similar to add it to your post.

If you’re uploading audio to a blog you need to make sure that your blog is set up to host audio. More information on that here: http://en.support.wordpress.com/audio/

In a nutshell, with audio in particular it’s generally easier to upload to a specialist service like SoundCloud or Audioboo first, and then use one of the shortcodes listed under ‘Audio’ here: http://en.support.wordpress.com/shortcodes/ – make sure to click through to the full instructions.

Video presents similar problems: make sure your blog can host it, and that the video itself is in the right format if you really want to upload it directly. In most cases, however, simply uploading to YouTube and adding a link in your post will automatically mean it is converted and embedded.

Freedom of Information news site Wobbing Europe reports on proposed legislation regarding ‘personal data’ which could impact on both journalists and citizens, based on a 2003 case:

“Bodil Lindqvist, a Swedish maintenance worker, and part time webmaster learned this the hard way nine years ago.

“In 1998 she built a website to inform young confirmands about the people who worked for the local parish in Alseda, a small congregation in the Swedish Protestant Church.

“Five years later the EU-court found that Lindqvist had violated the data protection directive by ”processing sensitive personal data”. Bodil Lindqvist had mentioned – in a humoristic way, but still – that one of the persons had injured her foot, and health data are by definition sensitive”

“… The EU-commission regards the case as a platform for departure for the future.
This is shown in a classified, but leaked, document on the data protection package presented by the Commission in January this year.

“In the proposed regulation […] anything uploaded to the net, and thus accessible to the public, shall be regulated by the proposed data protection rules. And as a general rule the following will be a no go-zone:

”The processing of personal data, revealing race or ethnic origin, political opinions, religion or philosophical beliefs, trade-union membership, and the processing of genetic data or data concerning health or sex life or criminal convictions and offences or related security measures shall be prohibited.” (Article 9.1)

“Hence the proposal clashes head on with all kind of net publishing, as well as with the fundamental right of freedom of expression.

“Should media ask for permission to publish a person’s political opinions or ethical background? Can we blog about Barroso’s political past, without his consent?

“To avoid such a conflict the Commission suggests a way out. Some will get at free ride:

“Member states shall provide for exemptions for data processing ”solely for journalistic purposes or the purpose of artistic or literary expression” (article 80).”

Twitter and the law

Nice list of legal considerations in using Twitter from the UK.

In addition to the hate speech laws covered on page 166 of the Online Journalism Handbook, publishing journalists should also be aware of three other laws that are increasingly coming into play with relation to comments posted by website users.

The law on incitement – now “encouraging or assisting a crime” under the Serious Crime Act 2007 covers acts where individuals incite others to commit illegal acts. It was used in a number of cases surrounding the UK riots where defendants were accused of encouraging disorder using social networks such as Facebook, with two men in particular receiving a sentence of 4 years in prison as a result.

Student Liam Stacey was charged under a second act – the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 – which covers incitement to ethnic or racial hatred, after making racist remarks on Twitter in the aftermath of the collapse of Bolton Wanderers footballer Fabrice Muamba. He was sentenced to 56 days in prison.

The Communications Act 2003, specifically Section 127 – covers “grossly offensive” messages, a term broad enough to include a worrying range of behaviour for publishers.

A number of Twitter users have been prosecuted under the act for offensive messages sent to footballers.

It was also used to prosecute Azhar Ahmed for the following statement, also on Facebook:

“People gassin about the deaths of soldiers! What about the innocent familys who have been brutally killed.. The women who have been raped.. The children who have been sliced up..! Your enemy’s were the Taliban not innocent harmless familys. All soldiers should DIE & go to HELL! THE LOWLIFE F*****N SCUM! gotta problem go cry at your soliders grave & wish him hell because that where he is going..”

The contentious issue here is who decides what is offensive. As Fahad Ansari explains:

“The test for “grossly offensive” is whether or not the message would cause gross offence to those to whom it relates, who need not be the recipients.”

Normally these laws are used to charge individuals, but publishers and journalists should also be aware of the potential for them to be used to request users’ details – including sources. If they have been warned about such content and have not removed it, there may also be legal consequences. These are as yet largely unexplored, although the case of News Ltd in Australia – found to have breached racial discrimination laws in publishing moderated comments – is illustrative.

The lawyer Charles Russell deconstructs a series of cases relating to that act here, including the ‘Twitter Joke Trial’ where a user was successfully prosecuted after he joked that he would blow up Robin Hood airport.

The Online Journalism Handbook‘s chapter on law covers some of the rights issues relating to databases. A recent judgement in the Court of Justice (Case C-604/10, Football Dataco & others v. Yahoo UK ! & others) is worth noting as it explores some further distinctions regarding database copyright.

Dr. Estelle Derclaye, Associate Professor and Reader in Intellectual Property law, University of Nottingham, sums it up here:

“The Court rightly holds that the Database Directive’s concepts of “selection” and arrangement” refer to the “selection and arrangement of the data through which the author of the database gives the database its structure”. Selection and arrangement do not extend to the creation of the data contained in the database. Therefore, the intellectual effort and skill expanded in creating data are not relevant in order to assess the eligibility of the database that contains them for copyright protection.

Here’s more:

“In short, the directive aims at stimulating the creation of databases. Its aim is not to protect the creation of data capable of being collected in a database.

“The court then refers to its InfopaqBezpečnostní softwarová asociaceFootball Premier League and Painer rulings to reiterate once more its interpretation of the originality requirement, namely the author’s own creation. Accordingly and applied to databases, the “criterion of originality is satisfied when, through the selection or arrangement of the data which it contains, its author expresses his creative ability in an original manner by making free and creative choices […] and thus stamps his ‘personal touch’”. Therefore, the Court continues, the criterion is “not satisfied when the setting up of the database is dictated by technical considerations, rules or constraints which leave no room for creative freedom”.

… “The crux of the judgment comes at paragraph 42 when the court clearly states that skill and labour in the selection or arrangement of the data, even if significant, is not sufficient as such to trigger copyright protection. The labour and skill must express the originality in the sense defined by the court (i.e. creativity) for it to give copyright protection to the database.”

Matthew Ericson writes about when to map – and when not to map:

“[S]ometimes the reflexive impulse to map the data can make you forget that showing the data in another form might answer other — and sometimes more important — questions.

“So, when should you use a form other than than a map?

“1. When the interesting patterns aren’t geographic patterns

“2. When the geographic data is more effective for analysis”

Tom Steinberg of MySociety writes simply about visualisation:

“There are only two kinds of data visualization in the modern world. They are Story Visualizations and Answer Visualizations.

“Story Visualizations are those produced by one set of people with the goal of telling a story to an audience. Think of a newspaper graph showing deaths during a war, or a map showing where within the country unemployment is highest.

“The second kind of visualisations are Answer Visualisations. Answer Visualizations are produced to supply an answer to a single question posed by a particular person.”

Worth bearing in mind when you begin to visualise your data: are you doing it to tell a story, or to answer a question of your own?

From feverbee on planning communities:

“They should apply Ramit’s two-qualifier rule . A community for shoelovers {qualifier 1} who who … {qualifier 2}

“This ‘qualifier 2’ should be either a demographic qualifier (young shoelovers, old shoelovers, shoelovers in San Francisco, budget-shoeshoppers etc…), a habit qualifier (who who love to go clubbing, who are shopaholics) or a psychographic qualifier (who believe in recyled materials, who hate shopping malls, are
introverts etc…).”