Tag Archives: the times

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…


Can we trust Twitter?

20 Mar

by Georgina Leggate @GeorginaLeggate

Can we trust Twitter? It is a question that I have asked myself since I set up my account in September of last year. When I first started using Twitter, I was like a kid at Christmas. I could follow my favourite celebrities, get the latest updates and pick up the day’s headlines in the middle of a lecture. It was, and is, very quick, surprisingly easy to use and in my opinion, just as addictive as Facebook! On my TV journalism course, using Twitter is not only a tool I use to keep up to date with my peers; it has arguably become a necessity. If you aren’t on this futuristic social network, you are prehistoric! Many broadcast journalists feel that Twitter has allowed them to get closer to sources, case studies, and people they perhaps wouldn’t usually be able to contact so easily. However, over the past six months, one issue has been niggling away at me…

Can we trust Twitter?

Worry 1. We have all been warned that you shouldn’t have too much private information on Facebook, as bosses will check out employees’ profiles routinely. Risky photographs from a drunken night out or albums from holidays where you are wearing less clothes than is appropriate…. all of the above, I have been advised, should be hidden or deleted before a job interview. (That is, of course, unless you are going for an interview at Spearmint Rhino!) So why aren’t the general public as skeptical about Twitter as they are about Facebook? Surely we need to be careful what we broadcast to the world on Twitter? How can we know who reads our ‘tweets’ and who doesn’t? And if there is unhealthy goings on, is there an obvious person or organisation to report this to, if so, I cant find him or her!

Worry 2. Another important point to address is ‘are people who they say they are?’ The North African ‘pro-democracy’ leaders claim that social networks can take a lot of credit for the uprisings and demonstrations seen in Egypt and Tunisia but, surely, given the anonymity of the internet, the activists behind the upheaval just MIGHT NOT be who they say they are! Another example of this could be Adam Boulton ‘& co’….Who is ‘& co’? Who is actually tweeting us these messages we read, form opinions on and listen to? If it isn’t Adam, we certainly should be told it’s not him and credit someone else for ‘his’ words of wisdom.

Worry 3. A recent article in The Times hypothesised that the US military is developing 500 fake social networking profiles to spread propaganda in countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan. The $2.76 million project will be able to set up 500 identities, operated by a total of 50 users, which could be used to infiltrate blogs and sites such as Twitter and Facebook. The US military wants to tweet reassuring messages both domestically and in troubled Middle Eastern states in the hope of spreading calm amongst its national citizens and those of Iraq and Afghanistan. How, then, are we as journalists supposed to believe the information that we are being fed? And, how are the general public supposed to believe what they are being told, if, factually, such information is not sound and is entwined with conspiracy theories.

We all know that when we log on to someone’s Facebook page and read their ‘updated status’ that there is no guarantee that it is that person writing it, but there is something about Twitter which leads us to believe that there is a level of sophistication and professionalism. We all recognise that social media in online journalism is here to stay and Twitter has played a major part in the recognition of online resources, BUT it still begs the question ‘Can we trust Twitter news?’

‘Can we trust the news’ was actually a lecture given at Oxford University by Professor Stephen Coleman, Professor of Political Communication at the University of Leeds. His lecture discusses lecture whether or not we can trust the news, and indeed can we trust those who are ‘better informed’ than us at all? He also discusses why it is so important for a democratic society to have trust between the Media and Citizens. Trust in the news is crucial in a democratic society and though I realise Twitter is a platform not a paper, if we can’t trust Twitter… CAN ‘social media in online journalism’ really be substantial enough to stand the test of time…?