The Potential of Online Journalism

In the 21st century, when technology is becoming rapidly more advanced, the web stands in the centre of these developments. Each field has felt its impact more or less, but among those transformed by it, is journalism. Text, audio, video, pictures, all find their place on this platform, making journalists’ job easier in some aspects, but more complicated in others. They also face competition by amateurs, who thanks to Web 2.0 can produce their own content online.

During my Multimedia course, I learned that online journalism has higher potential than expected. Not only does the Internet provide all content, available on other platforms, it often combines it to create something unique, in cases like the previously reviewed One in 8 Million. Another important aspect of online journalism is engaging with the audience. Online newspapers often allow comments, and this is the way to the future. Nowadays, creating content to be viewed by the public without taking into account their opinion is not acceptable. Comment sections, however, are not the only place, where journalists and readers/viewers can exchange views. Social networks provide an amazing opportunity to engage the audience and also promote new material. Curation and gathering of new news sources is also available through Twitter and Facebook. Nevertheless, there can always be complications. Two of many, which I see as most dangerous to the professionalism of every journalist, are the verification of news found online and getting into arguments with readers. However, some go as far as suggesting, that even having a simple conversation with readers about an article means journalists have an opinion and lose their objectivity in the eyes of the audience. I do not agree with this statement. Passive consuming can be more misleading in the long term, as there is no way for the readers to ask questions about something that is not clear or criticize. Nonetheless, arguments are not productive for either side.

Technical complications also exist, as the web is an ever-evolving platform. Mobile devices and tablets change the way readers view content today, in the near future a new innovation will emerge. Web journalists have to adapt to all these changes, which makes online journalism a serious challenge.

Overall, I believe that online journalism is the future. It is not just simple reporting; it’s being creative and exploring not only the capabilities of new technology, but one’s own. It is not without risk, but as this is my chosen platform and field for the future, I am ready for evolving along with the web and learning how to integrate new tools in my work and present the best content possible.


Editorial Research: Food and Drink Blogs

To understand what makes food and drink blogs successful, I decided to have a look at two blogs that have received blogger’s choice awards in 2010 in the food and drink category. These are Lick My Spoon and Good Food and Travel.

I am going to explore design and content for both, while comparing them to The Fat Sausage.

Lick My Spoon‘s design can be a bit overwhelming, when the website is opened. Many photos are included, which in my opinion, requires lighter colours used for the background. The Good Food and Travel blog, on the other hand, has a very simple design with a white background.

Lick My Spoon, has a an original logo, while the second blog again relies on simplicity – just text. The Fat Sausage does not have an image logo on the blog, because the regular version of WordPress does not allow it. Nevertheless, we have one on Twitter and I think the choice was very relevant. In this case, The Fat Sausage is only a bit behind its competitors. Our design is also simple and chosen not to distract readers from the articles. The layout is closer to the one of Good Food and Travel blog.

On our competitors’ blogs, however, posts do not appear in their entirety. This is a huge advantage, as browsing them is more convenient. WordPress layouts are limiting The Fat Sausage in this case.

When it comes to pictures, all blogs perform very well. Lick My Spoon and Good Food and Travel, of course use mainly original photos taken by the bloggers. By doing that copyright issues are avoided. The Fat Sausage also uses a lot of original images. The quality might not be as great, but it is a good attempt.

Content is various on both websites. They feature reviews, events, recipes and more general articles, like A Guide To Sushi. Lick My Spoon has separate categories for those, while this cannot be seen on the Good Food and Travel blog. The Fat Sausage also has similar categories, but our recipes are divided into regular, vegan and vegetarian, so no reader feels excluded. This cannot be seen on the competitors’ websites. The Fat Sausage also has a daily section – Recipe of the Day. Having a daily updated section brings readers back to the website, if they have been satisfied with previous posts. Our blog also relies on diversity of topics, but uniformity of articles. Recipes all have similar structure, while creativity is allowed when writing reviews.

The angles of the blogs are also different. Lick My Spoon focuses on diverse meals, Good Food and Travel on food around the globe. Our group blog discusses food suitable for a student lifestyle and the main factor is affordability and simplicity.

Overall, The Fat Sausage has potential to be a real competitor to the blogs mentioned, although the angle is different. Our blog relies on simplicity in both design and recipes posted. Our target is students, but the diversity of content and posts aimed at vegetarians/vegans attract a larger audience. We still have things to learn from our competitors in terms of design, but they can also learn from us in terms of not excluding the vegan/vegetarian society. As a whole, I think The Fat Sausage was very successful, considering the fact, that we are amateurs.


The Fat Sausage: Critical Evaluation

As part of the Multimedia Journalism course, we also had to create a group blog.

I joined a food and drink blog, called The Fat Sausage. The group consisted of 10 people and our idea was to provide students, like ourselves, with easy-to-make recipes, restaurant and take away deals. We chose this angle, as we are familiar with student lifestyle and the way many of our peers struggle to find good, healthy food on a tight budget.

The fact that we are from various countries and have different lifestyle choices (vegetarian, vegan) helped improve the diversity of the posts and topics covered on our blog. This made The Fat Sausage appealing to a larger audience.

We used social media to promote our blog, focusing on Twitter. This is where we had some difficulties. There was a problem with our account and no one could log in for a few days. Even after fixing the problem, however, few people of the group were updating our account. I updated it for a while, tried to use trendy topics, but our number of followers did not grow very much. On the other hand, individual promotion on Facebook was very successful. We did not create a Facebook page, and this was not necessary, in my opinion, as the blog was going to run for two weeks only. Instead, others and I promoted our posts on our personal Facebook profiles. This was a good choice, because Facebook is where many of us interact with peers and they view us as a trusted source.

Commercial blogs on the same subject are quite rare. On Life with Food and Drink, a commercial blog focused on food and drink in New York, reviews predominate. What made our blog successful was that we offered more diversity. Not many students can afford eating out every day, that’s why adding recipes was key. The angle we offered was also helpful – healthy and affordable food for students, from students.

Working in a group was not hard and everyone put a lot of effort into their work. Overall, I think this blog and the methods we used were successful. We managed to get a great amount of views for beginners and even gather a few regular readers.


Japanese Popular Culture Documentary: Critical Evaluation

As part of the Multimedia Journalism module, we had to create a short documentary or video vox pops, on a subject chosen by us. I chose a documentary, because it offers more opportunities to be creative and use different filming and editing techniques.

My topic of choice was Japanese popular culture. The reasons behind that choice were that Japanese popular culture is growing into a worldwide phenomenon. However, I focused on the United Kingdom and more specifically London, as little time was available and London already offered many good examples of this new trend. I focused on three main parts of Japanese pop culture – animation, subcultures and music. As someone already familiar with the subject, finding the right places to film was not very hard. My research was done online and I focused mainly on shops, as their existence and number of customers provide information on how rapidly growing this popular culture is.

However, I was not allowed to film in one of shops. Their policies were not mentioned online, so it could not have been avoided. Nevertheless, I think enough information on the gothic lolita subculture was provided, given the circumstances. There also were some technical difficulties when editing, as some of the files on the camera were corrupted, which made it impossible for them to be used in their highest quality. Better quality and a bit more footage could have made this documentary better. However, in my opinion, the concert clips compensate this, as some of them were very emotional and represent not only the popular culture itself, but the people that are part of it.

Video online is not very similar to this project. Short documentaries are rare these days, but the editing techniques used were influenced by video content online. I chose to observe, while filming, rather than interfere.

Overall, I think this project was a success. The documentary is informative, even if there is lack of footage in the lolita shop. The technical difficulties were worrying and this is something that can be fixed in my next project. However, as this is my first attempt, I am quite satisfied with the results.


Egypt Podcast: Audio Project Critical Evaluation

For the Audio project, part of the Multimedia Journalism module, we had to create a podcast and an interview.

My chosen topic for the podcast was the Egyptian revolution. This decision was influenced by the fact that these events were unfolding at the moment. I listened to programmes by BBC radio on the same subject, did research on the topic online and attended a rally in solidarity with Egypt.

What need to be included in the podcast itself was not made very clear. Finding information about the situation in Egypt was easy, as it was constantly updated online. However, finding interviewees proved to be difficult. Many of the people attending the rally were not willing to speak to any journalists. More public opinions and short interviews could have improved this podcast by giving it more colour and detail. Sound effects and music were not suitable for the serious topic chosen and excluding them could have made this podcast better. The project brief also mentioned voice work, which I found hard, as someone who cannot really change the way they sound and does not have a very radio-friendly voice. On the other hand, the podcast was informative and provided background to the events unfolding in Egypt, but I was not very satisfied with the results.

The interview was not very successful either. The fact that the topic had to be chosen by ourselves made it difficult to understand what kind of interview would be suitable. No music or sound effects would have made it sound more professional. Nevertheless, it provided insight into the hardships of being a college intern and represented the inconsiderate way many students are treated at their temporary workplace.

Overall, I don’t think this project was very successful technically, but the information included was satisfying.


Оne in 8 Million: Review

One in 8 Million is a very interesting multimedia project created by The New York Times. It features the stories of around 50 New York citizens, ranging from absolutely ordinary tales of barbers and single men to extraordinary tales of taxidermists and runaways from religious sects. Pictures, sounds and voice-over by the person, telling their story are used.

I liked One in 8 Million, because I have often wondered how the person sitting across me sees life, what they have experienced and what makes them unique. This project tells the story of people, who we otherwise might never hear of. It is told emotionally, uninterrupted by journalistic commentary and it bears resemblance to art, rather than reporting. The black and white photos and occasional sounds, related to the person’s tale – hair cutting and others, stimulate the viewer’s emotions. And you don’t have hear each story, it’s all up to you. With a few clicks and scrolls you decide, whose life you want to know about.

Even though video is easy to produce, I like the fact that pictures are used instead. They capture short moments of the life story of these New York citizens and share them with the world. This project is not only innovative, because of the different way it was produced, it is also artistic, emotional and thought provoking. I highly recommend having a look at One in 8 Million.


Can Journalism Benefit from Twitter?

Twitter

Source: Flickr. By Jim Milles

Is Twitter really all about pointless little messages? Many view Twitter as a platform, where people complain about their personal life in 140 characters, others jokingly claim this is the only legal way to stalk celebrities.

However, I believe Twitter has proven to have a much greater impact. The social network has influenced the practice of journalism and created new opportunities for both journalists and news agencies.

The first, and most obvious benefit, are the instant updates that can be posted. They reach a large audience, especially when hash tagged (#) with one of the trendy topics. This makes the spread of breaking news easier and also promotes the articles, posted by the journalist/news outlet. However, the opposite process is also becoming very common. Journalists find stories by reading the posts of regular users. An article on ReadWriteWeb states:

Here at ReadWriteWeb we’ve been leveraging Twitter heavily for some of our most important news writing. While cynics dismiss twitter as frivolous, we’ve got stories to share that should make anyone reconsider their doubts about the microblogging medium.

They are not the only ones taking advantage of the social network. Twitter’s role in motivating the recent uprisings in Egypt, all over North Africa and the Middle East has been debated over and over again. However, the microblogging website was used as a source for updates about the situation very effectively by some journalists.

Andy Carvin, former director of Digital Divide Network, now working for National Public Radio, is one of them. In an interview, he claims to have tweeted for up to 14 hours a day, trying to stay informed about the situation in Tunisia. Andy Carvin retweeted pictures, videos first from Tunisia, then Egypt and Libya.

This is not just an act of empathy, he is gathering news and making his followers more aware. Andy Carvin is also getting information straight from the location, that correspondents for major news agencies might not have access to. This is especially valid in Libya. It is very hard to get into the country and it is also, where an Al Jazeera staffer was killed.

Carvin curates Twitter and among the noise finds newsworthy information. The Guardian discusses how he dealt with verifying the tweets:

Although Carvin had a network of blogger contacts in the region whom he used to check information being tweeted, what marks him out is his willingness to retweet unverified material and ask his followers for help to establish its accuracy.

He relies on the fact that a community always has more knowledge than a single journalist and succeeds in not only gathering alledged facts, but verifying them. It is evident that Twitter has provided new, vital tools for journalism – new sources and connection with the ‘former audience’.

Another interesting development is that more and more courts allow tweeting during a trial. I attended one of Julian Assange’s court hearings, where both the public and journalists were allowed to post updates on their Twitter accounts. This is just another advantage in the age of constant flow of information. Not only journalists benefit from it, but readers, who eagerly await the results of a trial or just want to know what is happening instantly, instead of waiting for a long, detailed article to be published.

Twitter has trully changed the landscape of journalism, and in my opinion it is for the better.



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