Tag Archives: The Guardian

Social media in hyperlocal online journalism

1 Apr

Caroline James @CarolineJames1

Hyperlocal online journalism: the local journo has much to learn if they’re to exploit social media the way their national counterparts do.  Check out The Guardian who have a whole subsection dedicated to social networking and the peripheral issues, like the article on U.S. spy software that manipulates social media.

I was granted an exclusive interview with Hannah Keep, who has experienced firsthand how they use social media in the news gathering process on a hyperlocal level, at The Bedfordshire on Sunday. She gives us a fascinating insight into the way the hyperlocal news outfits are catching up with their national siblings.

As Hannah says, the local press have been slow to catch up with the social media trend.  My local paper, The Surrey Advertiser has only been tweeting since July 2009.  Compare that with The Times who’ve been actively tweeting since May 2007 and you see the scale of the catch up they’re facing.

And if they don’t, they’re missing a trick.  City journos will tell you the value of: #islington when on the hunt for a story in their patch.  The story of the Islington vigilantes who warn motorists of speed cameras was broken by two of my colleagues: Katie Satchell and Livvy Bolton.  And then two days later it hit the Islington Gazette.  And ask Katie and Livvy where their lead came from? You guessed it: a Sunday morning #islington on Twitter.  Well, maybe you didn’t guess the Sunday morning part.  But the hashtag delivered the goods, nonetheless.

That’s not to say the local press aren’t writing about social media.  The Surrey Ad. reported on a 14-hour tweeting event which took place at the University of Surrey in February.  But that’s their most recent article on the matter.  Let’s look again at The Guardian and their most recent social media themed article is from today: an interview discussing how the internet has altered the face of journalism.

And let’s think smaller: I’m talking really hyperlocal journalism, here.  Step forward: The Horsley Magazine. What, no hyperlink? We’re old school here, readers: no website, no hyperlink.  But the potential is there: there’s a Horsley Network profile on Twitter and we just need some aspiring journo to connect the dots.

Hyperlocal is the platform where there exists the most room for rapid and broad expansion in journalism, whether on- or offline.  And I’m not alone in thinking so – the Editors Weblog agree!

I think I’ve just found my next project…


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Are we giving Social Media too much credit for the Middle Eastern uprising?

28 Feb

Ian Kearney

@IanKearney

You may have read my colleague Georgina’s thought provoking piece on social networking and the fight for democracy in the Middle East. Yes undoubtedly social networks have and are still playing a part in rousing a lust for democracy, bringing repressed revolutionaries together and letting the world know what’s happening, but are we giving them more credit than they deserve?

Perhaps I’m being cynical or maybe I’m just plain wrong but it is important to question these things. Just because the mass media has given us the perception that Social Media played a huge role in the Middle Eastern uprising it doesn’t mean we should consider it fact without further thought.

Consider this, soon after the Egyptian uprising began the internet was shut down. This didn’t stop the growth of the protests, in fact we sat there day by day watching the masses grow.

How many people even have social networking accounts in these countries? The relevant Twitter statistics are not available but according to Facebook Statistic website SocialBakers;

  • Egypt has: 5 651 080 users and has had a 10% rise in the number of new accounts in the last month.
  • Tunisia has: 2 201 780 users and has had an 8% rise in the number of new accounts in the last month.
  • Libya has: 305 420 users and has had a 16% rise in the number of new accounts in the last month.

As we can see all three countries have had a notable rise in the number of people signing up to Facebook but if we look at the numbers as a percentage of their overall population the picture is a little different.

Only 4% of Libyans have Facebook accounts, 7% of Egyptians and 21% of Tunisians.

Looking at these figures, do the social networks have enough reach in these countries to move an entire nation to revolt? Perhaps in Tunisia but as for Egypt and Libya I’m not so convinced.

Facebook Revolution

Revolutions have been happening throughout the ages and while social networks are a relatively new phenomenon, revolutions are not.

To quote Peter Preston on his recent article in The Guardian, Twitter is no substitute for proper war reporting – just look at Libya;

“Lenin, Fidel Castro and Ayatollah Khomeini all managed to stage revolutions in the age before Twitter. The Soviet Union collapsed while Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook was still in short pants. So, just possibly, some of the credit for freedom’s wave as it washes around the Middle East belongs more to ordinary human beings standing together than to a tide of tweets.”

Would these revolutions have happened without social networks? Yes, of course they would. Would the world have gotten a similar insight, perhaps not.

When social media is The News

28 Dec

Caroline James @CarolineJames1

What happens if social media isn’t used to tell a story, but is the story itself?

I’ve just used Google News to search for “Facebook”.  In the past day, there have been over 72,oo0 uses of the word Facebook across the 4,500 “English-language news sources” collated by Google News.

Some of these are instances of the role social media plays in contemporary journalism: The Guardian tells us how the social networking site was used to help police hunt for clues after Joanna Yeates disappeared.  There are also reports from Matt Tran at Online Social Media of the numerous Facebook pages which have sprung up in tribute to her death.  Here we have a clear example of how social media has become an intrinsic part of journalistic news gathering, as well as in reporting the news.

There are, however, more navel-gazing aspects of Facebook for the journalist.  We have hits under the search “Facebook” returned in the following areas:

Business – Google News tells me there’s 52 related stories, The New York Times among them, about the trade in Facebook shares, in spite of the fact that the company is privately held.

Technology – Where I’d expect a Facebook story to crop up, in a subsection called Techland, part of Time’s online offering.  And according to the experts there, the more friends we have on Facebook, the bigger our “amygdala”.  Check out the article if you want to know if that’s a good thing or not.

Legal – I discovered a pupil in Florida has pursued successful legal action after being suspended after making comments about a teacher on Facebook.  32 articles on the subject will surely provide some comfort to all those students out there who worry about the damage a drunken Facebook photo might have done to their job prospects.

So, Facebook news stories aren’t just to be pigeonholed as technology based.

Social media isn’t a niche that can be categorised per se, but its functions overlap many aspects of journalism.  If I was writing in October 2010, I’d be able to count in my Google News search the articles about the film The Social Network following Mark Zuckerberg’s roller-coaster ride revolutionising modern communication with Facebook.  It’s not just the news taking its cue from social media, now Hollywood’s at it, too!

Is it only a matter of time before Facebook adds its own news function?

It could take the form of listing the most popular news stories, like the BBC.  Or, perhaps the most popular links flying around Facebook would give it its own “Most shared on Facebook” hierarchy of news.

We know that the YouTube Gap Yah video which went viral –  incidentally, it has over 3,000,000 views to date – benefited from Facebook friends sharing the link with each other.  Just think how much faster it would’ve spread if the first thing you were directed to when you logged on to Facebook  was a table showing you that 75% of all your Facebook friends had clicked on that link…

Facebook wouldn’t be the first social media site to collate popular topics.  Twitter has its “trending” which must be one of the most up-to-date and immediate ways of tracking the most discussed news of the day:

So, Mark Zuckerberg, if you’re reading this: we’re ready for Facebook to give something back to the news it’s so often responsible for generating.