19 Jan

The Changing Role of a Journalist – a few thoughts

What is the role of the journalist in today’s world?

During the Birmingham riots, when a huge amount of rumour and speculation was being passed around the social networks (Riot rumours – Guardian), should the local media have also stepped in to set the records straight?

(check out this fantastic visualization of Twitter rumours by The Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/interactive/2011/dec/07/london-riots-twitter)

Many believe that journalists should only deal with news — a rumour is not news, and should be left alone.
This may have been the case before the era of social networks and citizen journalists – when the journalists had the monopoly on the information reaching the public, and to mention “rumour” was to give it credence.

However, today – thanks to the power of the online world, rumour has credence without the journalists being involved.
Consider this example: a station is evacuated due to a suspect package. Word breaks online and spreads quickly.

Traditionally we would turn to our the established news outlets (local radio, local newspaper website etc) for confirmation or, at least, information. However, if they are saying nothing about it because nothing has been confirmed, then that organization will quickly lose its reputation. Concerned parties will instead continue to believe the information being passed around online.

Those local news outlets should be on Twitter and Facebook saying what they know about this situation. They should besaying that the station has been evacuated. They should also be passing on information as they receive it.  Granted, it probably won’t make a story, but people are talking about it – hence it deserves attention.
Now we are left with a situation where minute-to-minute updates are handled by the sources themselves (police, Government, NHS) and an army of citizen journalists.

It is no wonder that local/regional news outlets are losing their grip on their regions – when there are other sources of information not concerned with filling pages, and maintaining exclusives.
04 Jan

Uni applications drop off – but which subject area is hardest hit?

Thanks to a hike in tuition fees, there has been a drop off in the numbers of people applying to UK universities, compared to the 2011 figures.

Usefully, the Guardian has posted the numbers on their Datablog and I’m starting to munch through the data

Here’s the first set of findings – by subject area grouped into discipline, thanks to Wikipedia’s List of Academic Disciplines

03 Jan

MP’s subsidized dining rooms [visualization]

So MP’s are expected to pay the equivalent of “high street pub” prices when buying food in the subsidized restaurant in House of Commons are they? (Telegraph)

Let’s see if that’s the case.

Taking 5 dishes mentioned in the article above – I compared them to an equivalent TYPE of dish at Wetherspoons, Walkabout and All Bar One. (click for larger image)





And special thanks to @keridavies (http://www.keridavies.net)





02 Jan

The embargo > a few thoughts

Embargo: a request by a source that the information or news provided by that source not be published until a certain date or certain conditions have been met News embargo – Wikipedia 

A lot of talk recently about embargoes, after a journalist for the New Yorker posted a review of the new David Fincher film, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo ahead of an agreed embargo date.


You can read the email exchanges between the reporter – David Denham and Sony here  but Denham’s points appear to be:

  • They were trying to spread reviews to avoid a “jam up” of articles featuring the large number of important movies released at the same time
  • His review was positive – he says he would not have broken an embargo with a “bad” review
  • “madness” of early publication dates in the run up to the Xmas period and a need for serious content for this particular edition.

Sony retaliated by accusing him of doing  “a deeply lousy and immoral thing“, that the glut of Xmas films is nothing new and that the needs of the magazine should not come ahead of an agreement.

Embargo’s are designed to structure the flow of information between a source and a journalist within an environment of trust and it is important that they are maintained. They not only offer an obvious benefit to the source (by controlling coverage) and the wider situation (e.g.protecting  police operations, court cases etc) there are also definite benefits to the journalist.

A journalist who is given access to embargoed information is working within a privileged position. The source considers their, or their outlet’s reputation to warrant this trust and in return the that journalist is given time to absorb and develop the story.

With the online information-explosion thanks social networks and blogging, it is important for traditional news outlets to play to their strengths. Whilst many are excelling in breaking news in innovative ways, they still have a definite advantage when it comes to their access to information. This head-start gives the perfect opportunity to prepare a well-researched, in-depth piece ahead of time.

A journalist who breaks an embargo is often punished in the future by missing out on information – it would be a shame if this becomes a habit and more journalists ignore this agreement that is there for the greater good. 

All content (c) Caroline Beavon 2020