Archives for the month of: July, 2011

The high speed 3G technology  which allows journalists to send and receive information in multimedia formats on their phones has helped them in terms of being more efficient at their job and producing work that is more technically proficient. It’s helped journalists such as Kevin Sites (Online Journalism Handbook cover star and video journalist) upload and distribute their stories.

So what does fourth generation cellular communication mean for journalists? Short answer: better handsets, faster speeds, greater coverage and therefore potentially access to untapped audiences (those people in rural areas who can’t even get cable). Bloggers and video journalists are excited at the capability of 4G – but citizen journalists will have access to the same technology.

The long answer is more complex: there are various systems within 4G and providers such as Verizon and Sprint in the US don’t necessarily use the same systems. In Europe, competitors are experimenting with different systems – at the moment something called LTE is favoured.

Ofcom says it plans to auction additional spectrum for mobile services in the UK next year. Companies such as BT and o2 in the UK are carrying out trials. It is still early days – a good blog to keep up to date with progess and technology deployment and trends is the 3G and 4G Wireless Blog. If you thought you already had a smart phone the likelihood is that they are going to get even smarter. Tablet devices will follow suit but don’t throw away your laptop – yet.


The Huffington Post was sold for $315m just as The Online Journalism Handbook went to press. According to its founder this was a ‘merger of visions’ to fully realise ‘the launch of international Huffington Post sections (beginning with HuffPost Brazil); more emphasis on the growing importance of service and giving back in our lives; much more original video; and additional sections that would fill in some of the gaps in what we are offering our readers, including cars, music, games, and underserved minority communities’.

Q: How do you define UGC? 
User-generated content for BBC News encompasses any audience-based journalism or interaction we facilitate between our viewers, listeners and users and our various programmes and services.

Increasingly, it also reflects our engagement with the public via external social networks, and where appropriate, our sourcing of stories and content which people have already published on the wider web themselves as well as sending directly to us.

Q: What value does it add? 
It helps our newsgathering – finding out information direct from the scene of a breaking story before we can get reporters or crews there, or opening our eyes to different takes or updates on a developing or ongoing story.

It enriches our journalism, providing compelling human interest angles and true perspective on the stories and issues we are covering.

And it deepens our engagement with our audience, so they hopefully feel a more direct connection with BBC News, appreciate we are listening to them and reflecting the news that they want us to cover.

Q: What do the editors of the BBC’s UGC team look for? 

We look for people directly involved in the breaking or important stories of the day, as well as personal anecdotes or opinion on the wider issues in the news agenda that would help others understand the impact and context of any particular story.

We’re keen for people’s comments and may record our interviews with them or offer them up, with their permission, as guests for TV or radio programmes across our domestic and global output.

We also look for photos and videos that the audience have sent us or posted themselves that we may feel are appropriate for us to use or publish ourselves online.

Q: What should journalists be wary of? 
Journalists need to appreciate that working with UGC and directly with your audience can sometimes be labour-intensive and take time to do properly.

That’s because it’s important to authenticate and verify any content you are looking to use – especially if working with photos or video.

It’s also crucial to speak to those involved to corroborate what they have said or to get their permission to either use their material and potentially use them live on your own services.

Equally, you always need to be mindful – as we are in BBC News – about not encouraging your audience to put themselves in danger or take any undue risk in anything they are doing with a view to them contributing content or comment to you in some way, especially around certain types of stories.

Q: What’s the future for UGC?
UGC is vital for keeping BBC News relevant and in touch with its audience, not least to keep us thinking about how they can continue to help us improve our newsgathering and story-telling.

Our audience will continue to publish and share more of their stories and content themselves, so in BBC News, we need to make sure we are still able to get that content directly into us where appropriate while also increasingly monitoring and interacting with our audience in the spaces and communities where they already are.

In doing this however, social media can also, where appropriate, provide new environments within which we can distribute our best content, so that our audience can appreciate and interact with our journalists and journalism in these new networks as well as via the more traditional TV, radio and online platforms.

Another resource if you are looking to mix and map geographical data is GeoCommons. This not only has dozens of datasets that you can map using the site, but also allows you to upload and map your own data.  You can also combine data if they share the same piece of classification, such as country, city or region.

It’s important to recognise the increasing importance of style in writing across different web-based platforms. This post goes into detail on what those challenges are, and how important it is to understand both the medium and your audience:

“Not only must they be able to adapt their style for different types ofreporting; not only must they be able to adapt for different brands; not only must they be able to adapt their style within different brands across multiple media; but they must also be able to adapt their style within a single medium, across multipleplatforms: Twitter, Facebook, blogs, Flickr, YouTube, or anywhere else that their audiences gather.”

Kaiser Fung has a ‘Trifecta Checkup’ to help clarify visualisations. He writes: “All outstanding charts have all three elements in harmony. Typically, a problematic chart gets only two of the three pieces right.” The diagram below illustrates this – it’s an excellent reference point if you’re creating an infographic.

Kaiser Fung Trifecta Checkup