THE BRITISH LIBRARY

The Newsroom blog

14 posts categorized "Events"

24 February 2015

Talking about things local

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Last year we wrote a post on how we were archiving community news websites, or hyperlocal sites, as part of our non-print legal deposit web archiving plans. Part of the great upheaval taking place at the moment in how news is produced, distributed, consumed and shared is the rise in self-produced news web services, usually serving a small community. The trend started in America, where it was given the name 'hyperlocal', and has spread vigorously to the UK, where it has caught the eye of funding bodies, academics and campaigners.

Hyperlocals

The British Library's strategy for news collection extends beyond newspapers to encompass all forms in which the news is produced and communicated across the UK. So it is important that we capture hyperlocal sites, just the same as we are capturing newspapers, the websites of newspapers, television and radio news. Sites such as The City Talking (Leeds), Brixton Blog, Papur Dre (Caernarfon)), Little Bit of Stone (Stone in Staffordshire) and Port Talbot MagNet are redefining what news is and who owns it.

The blog post attracted some interest, and since writing it we have - with the help of Dave Harte of Birmingham City University - identified some 500 hyperlocal websites from across the UK that we have now started archiving on a regular basis, and tagging as hyperlocal sites so that they and the phenomenon can be more easily traced by researchers in the future.

As part of our commitment to hyperlocal news, we are delighted to be playing host on Saturday 28 February to an 'unconference' organised by hyperlocal champions Talk About Local. An unconference is a conference without an agenda, as the idea is that the audience turns up and decides what the day should be about. So we can't tell you as such what is going to feature during the day, but the Talk About Local blog suggests that themes could include the upcoming general election, crowdfunding, the BBC and local news, working with the police, and working with local newspapers. Many of those attending will be producers of hyperlocal sites - a community of their own - and it is going to be exciting to see how this new newsform, still on a few years old, is shaping up to manage the great challenge of reporting the worlds most immediately around us today.

Tickets for the unconference (named #TAL15) can be booked here.

15 October 2014

Newspaper reading rooms - a subversive history

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The third in our series of lectures named after the 19th century journalist WT Stead is to be given by Professor Aled Gruffydd Jones, newspaper historian and head of the National Library of Wales, on 21 November 2014 at the British Library. Entitled 'Newspaper reading rooms and civic engagement: a subversive history,' it will look the history of the newspaper reading room and their relation to civil society.

Newspaperreadingroom

The Old Newspaper Reading Room in the British Museum, Bloomsbury. Sell's Dictionary of the World's Press 1893. Copyright ©1999, The British Library Board

Newspaper readings rooms in the UK since the eighteenth-century have come in all shapes and sizes, from local literary societies and miners' institutes to august national institutions like the British Museum. Often they allowed access to both a range of relatively immediate information about the contemporary world and to the past. In both senses, they could serve as spaces not only for the quiet consumption of information but also for the development of creativity, the deepening of civic engagement and the enhancement of public education in the broadest sense.

6H3A8611

 The Newsroom at the British Library, St Pancras

Professor Jones's talk will look at the history of newspaper reading rooms, the role the collective reading of the Press has played in the building of civil society, and the creative challenges posed to the cultural and civic world they represented by the digital technologies and platforms that are a growing part of their current manifestation. The British Library's own Newsroom, opened earlier this year, is only the latest expression of a long and important tradition, fitted out for a digital age and hopefully playing its own part in contributing to the growth and maintenance of civil society.

Aled_jones

Aled Jones

Professor Aled Gruffydd Jones is Chief Executive of the National Library of Wales and a notable cultural historian, who has published on has published widely on newspaper and journalism history, the history of modern Wales, labour history, tand on the relationship between Wales, the British Empire and the Indian sub-continent. His publicati0ns include Powers of the Press: Newspapers, Power and the Public in Nineteenth-century England and Press, Politics and Society: History of Journalism in Wales. His is a broadcaster and columnist, and was the joint organiser of the first Welsh International Film Festival and co-founder of the film and video arts collective, Creu Cof. He has also acted as an advisor to the British Library on its newspaper digitisation plans. 

This will be the third in our series of W.T. Stead lectures, named after the 19th century journalist William Thomas Stead, which have looked at news past, present and future. The previous lectures were given by James Harding, head of BBC News, and Emily Bell, director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at the University of Columbia.

The lecture will be from 18:00 on 21 November 2014 at the British Library at St Pancras, in the staff restaurant area on the first floor. Details of how to book for the event are on our What's On pages.

10 July 2014

Newspapers in Europe and the Digital Agenda for Europe

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Europeana Newspapers is a three-year project (running to Jan 2015) which aims to 

  • Aggregate 18 million historic newspaper pages for Europeana and The European Library
  • Convert 10 million newspaper pages to full text
  • Create a special content viewer to improve online newspaper browsing
  • Build tools that will allow professionals to better assess the quality of newspaper digitisation in relation to level of detail, speed and costs

 

As part of the British Library's contribution to the Europeana Newspapers project, we will be hosting a workshop entitled Newspapers in Europe and the Digital Agenda for Europe, 29-30 September 2014. Registration for the event is now open, and here's the agenda:

29 September: What is the value of newspapers? 

13.00 – 13.15 Welcome
Caroline Brazier (The British Library)
Marieke Willems (LIBER)

13.15 – 13.30 Europeana Newspapers Project
Hans-Jörg Lieder (Berlin State Library, Coordinator of Europeana Newspapers
Project)

13.30 – 13.45 The Digital Agenda for Europe
Krzysztof Nichczyński (European Commission DGCONNECT)

13.45 – 15.30 Panel discussion: What is the value of newspapers?
Tim Sherrat (Trove), Toine Pieters (University of Utrecht), Alastair Dunning (The
European Library), Clemens Neudecker (Berlin State Library & Coordination of
Europeana Newspapers Project), Max Kaiser (National Library of Austria)

15.30 – 16.00 Coffee

16.00 – 16.45 Break-out session: What is the value of newspapers?

16.45 – 17.15 Reporting back from break-out groups

17.15 – 17.30 Wrapping up

19.30 Dinner (participant’s own expenses)

30 September: Barriers to improving access to digitised newspapers

9.00 – 9.30 What helps the Europeana Newspapers project and its partners to improve access to
digitised newspapers and what stops them?
Marieke Willems (LIBER)

9.30 – 10.15 Break-out session: Roadmap for policy makers

10.15 – 10.45 Coffee

10.45 – 11.00 Reporting back from break-out groups

11.00 – 13.00 Panel Discussion: How to overcome barriers to improving access to digitised
newspapers
Kristiina Hormia-Poutanen (National Library of Finland and LIBER president), Lucie
Guibault (University of Amsterdam), European Newspaper Publishing Association,
Patrick Fleming (The British Library), Krzysztof Nichczyński (European Commission
DGCONNECT, Henning Scholz (Europeana)

13.00 – 13.15 Wrapping up

13.15 – 14.00 Brown bag lunch

Hope to see you there.

13 June 2014

St Pancras Intelligencer no. 22

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Welcome to the latest edition of the St Pancras Intelligencer, our weekly round-up of news about news - stories about news production, publications, apps, digitised resources, events and what is happening with the newspaper collection (and other news collections) at the British Library.

Antisocial

Stop sharing this photograph of antisocial newspaper readers: This much retweeted and shared photograph of a train carriage full of newspaper readers has been viewed by many as a comment on an anti-social past age. Medium makes a strong argument why this is a complete misunderstanding of how a newspaper is consumed.

... what you are seeing in that picture of “antisocial” people reading newspapers is actually an eminently social activity: citizens keeping themselves informed so they can participate in the civic discourse of their community.

Enabling access to digitised historic newspapers: We held a Europeana Newspapers event here at the British Library, on assorted issues relating to the digitisation of newspapers, with interesting contrasts between traditional browsing and big data analytical approaches, and between free and paid access services. The link is to a Storify collection of tweets, links and slideshows from the day (fun to put together - will be doing more of these).

Broadcasting D-Day: The BBC's recreation of radio broadcasts from D-Day by using digitised scripts and actors (Benedict Cumberbatch, Toby Jones, Patrick Stewart) made a powerful impact and was a fitting tribute on the 70th anniversary of the landings. The BBC radio scripts come from the British Library, and this post gives the background.

 

Digital News Report 2014: Eagerly devoured and much commented upon has been the latest annual Reuters Institute Digital News Report, the result of a survey of digital news consumption in UK, US, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, Denmark and Finland. Among the key findings are:

  • The use of smartphones and tablets has jumped significantly in the past year, with fewer people using their computers for news
  • More than a third of online news users across all countries (39%) use two or more digital devices each week for news and a fifth (20%) now say their mobile phone is their primary access point
  • US social sharing news sites like Huffington Post and Buzzfeed are beginning to make inroads around the world, with new formats and a fresh tone of voice aimed at younger people
  • Even so, traditional brands remain strong in most markets, with cross-platform newspaper reach averaging 75% in most countries
  • The number of people paying for digital news (11% average) has remained stable over the past 12 months, although there is a significant switch to more valuable ongoing digital subscription in most countries 
  • Of those paying for news in all countries, 59% are paying for an ongoing subscription (43% 2013). Of those who are not paying, 15% say they are likely to pay in the future
  • Facebook is by far the most important network for news everywhere
  • Although Twitter is widely used in the US, Spain, and the UK, it is far less influential in many other European countries. Google+ is emerging as increasingly important for news, along with messaging application WhatsApp

Robert Peston’s speech: Hotly discussed all week has been Robert Peston's British Journalism Review Charles Wheeler lecture, where he queries James Harding's statement (given in his WT Stead lecture at the British Library), "I think this is the most exciting time to be a journalist since the advent of television". Peston is not so sanguine, seeing threats in online culture, reader power, and the power of the public relations industry. He concludes:

...we don’t yet have what you might call a stable ecosystem in news. The poll-tax funded BBC is one kind of news-media model. The loss-making Guardian, funded by vast private-equity capital gains, is another. The Daily Mail another still. And Quartz, Huffington Post and BuzzFeed something different again. There is diversity – which all ecologists would tell you is vital to long-term survival. But there is also pollution, from a dangerous elision between news that pays and news that matters.

Why would anyone want to be a journalist?: But then there's Sarah Hartley at Contributoria, who speaks to several journalists about the hazards and frustrations of their occupation, and finds the answer to her question in these words from photographer Giles Duley (a triple-amputee after stepping on an IED in Afghanistan):

It’s about storytelling for me. There are these incredible stories out there and I think I follow a tradition that started around camp fires, in caves around ten thousands of years ago and there’s an innate need for people to tell stories and to hear stories and I just love being part of that tradition and so I’ll carry on doing it.

The Sun Launches A £4.2 Billion Marketing Campaign?: The Sun is delivering a free special World Cup issue to 22 million UK homes over a 48-hour period (avoiding Hillsborough). Chris Brace at the Brown Moses blog notes that the giveway lacks the imprint that identifies the publication as a newspaper. The fine for breaching this legal requirement can be up to £200 per copy. 200 x 22M = £4.4Bn. That's a quite fine...

Not Everyone Is Happy About The Sun’s “This Is Our England” Front Page: Patrick Smith at Buzzfeed rounds up some less than complimentary reactions to the great free Sun giveaway. There's even a @PostTheSunBack campaign.

Internet not responsible for dying newspapers, new study finds: Riding against the general trend of argument is a paper by University of Chicago Booth School of Business Professor Matthew Gentzkow, which says that comparisons between the internet and newspaper are based on some false assumptions. ScienceDaily summarises these.

A year on Guardian continues to face derision from Fleet Street rivals over Edward Snowden revelations: Press Gazette reviews the opinions expressed about Edward Snowden in other British newspapers, which are distinctly unimpressed.

Time Inc. Has a Big Problem - So Does Digital Journalism: Derek Thompson at The Atlantic feels that the future looks bright for digital journalism as a product, but dim for large-scale digital journalism as a business.

 

Victorian Meme Machine: Bob Nicholson of Edge Hill University is one of two winners of our BL Labs competition for innovative ideas to use digital collections. His Victorian Meme Machine will create an extensive database of Victorian jokes, drawn from newspapers etc, and pair them with an appropriate image drawn from BL and other digital collections. 

Annotating the news: Intriguing piece by Jihii Jolly for Columbia Journalism Review on student news literacy and annotation tools.

The BBC was impervious to the launch of Sky News. Now they have to take notice: Ian Burrell at The Independent interviews Sky News editor John Ryley, who is full of plans, is disparagaing of ITV's attitude towards news, and states firmly: “The future for news is on mobile.”

European newspapers search for ways to survive digital revolution: A Guardian survey of how newspapers in Spain, France and Germany are struggling (belatedly) to find ways to make money as print sales plummet.

16 Pictures Of Beyoncé Where She’s Not Sinking In Quicksand: The Onion has launched Clickhole, its parody site for 'clickbait' viral sites like Buzzfeed and Upworthy. Not super-funny yet, but we have hope.

Why banish words from the front page?: The sharply opinionated Grey Cardigan on The Spin Alley blog is critical of sloppy front page design in some UK regional newspapers, and thoughtful on the reasons why.

Newspaper printed with ink that repels mosquitoes: This is such a heartening story - a Sri Lankan newspaper has come up with Mawbima Mosquito Repellent Paper, printed using bug-repelling ink, as part of campaign to help prevent the spread of Dengue fever. Probably a bit of a preservation challenge though...

Chatting with bots: How Slack is changing how newsrooms talk amongst themselves: Nieman Journalism Lab on Slack, a chat application being used in the newsrooms of  The Times, BuzzFeed, The Atlantic, Quartz, Slate, NBC News, The Guardian and more.

Kevin Turvey investigates ... the media: RIP Kevin Turvey, peerless investigative reporter from Reddtich, aka Rik Mayall.

29 May 2014

Enabling access to digitised historic newspapers

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Enabling access to digitised historic newspapers is an event being organised as part of the Europeana Newspapers Project with the aim to raise awareness of Europeana Newspapers and the value of collaboration to make historic newspapers content available online. It takes place at the British Library Conference Centre on 9 June 2014. There will be presentations from the UK partners in the Europeana Newspapers Project, The European Library and newspapers researchers.

Eunewspapers

The British Library is one of the partners in Europeana Newspapers, a three-year project running to January 2015 which aims to aggregate 18 million historic newspaper pages for Europeana and The European Library from across Europeana newspaper collections, and to convert 10 million of those newspaper pages to full text. Our role in the network is a relatively minor one, cheifly participating in the promotional work of the project and hosting this June event. The project is led by the Berlin State Library, and there are 18 project partners, 11 associate partners and 22 networking partners.

There are a few tickets left (at the time of typing ), which can be booked through this link.

Programme

09:30 -10:00 Arrival and Registrations (refreshments)

10:00-10:10 Welcome and aims of the day

10:10-10:30 News collections at the British Library (Dr Luke McKernan, British Library)

10:35-11:00 The British Newspaper Archive: Tales of the unexpected (Dr Ed King, Independent researcher)

11:10-11:40 Digital research and newspapers (Paul Gooding, Digital Preservation Coalition; Dr Ulrich Tiedau, University College London)

11:40-12:00 Welsh Newspapers Online (Alan Vaughan Hughes, National Library of Wales)

12:00-13:00 Lunch (provided)

13:00-13:30 Europeana Newspapers Project: an overview (Dr Rossitza Atanassova, British Library)

13:30-14:00 Europeana Newspapers browser (Alastair Dunning, The European Library)

14:00-14:30 Europeana Newspapers: evaluation and quality assessment (University of Salford)

14:30-15:00 Coffee break

15:00-16:00 Digitising and researching historic newspapers collections: panel discussion with Dr James Mussell, University of Leeds; Professor Lorna Hughes, University of Wales; DC Thomson Family History and others TBC

16:00 – End of the official programme

16:00-17:00 - Drinks and nibbles

21 May 2014

The concept of news

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'The Concept of News' was the title of a symposium organised by The Newsreel Network and held over 20-21 May at the Danish Film Institute in Copenhagen. The Newsreel Network is a collection of scholars interested in newsreel research, convened by the University of Lund in Sweden, newsreels being  a common feature of cinema programmes in many countries between the 1910s and the 1960s. I was there

  1. because I have a particular interest in newsreels
  2. because the theme touched on all news media and I am interested in how newspapers, television news, radio news, newsreels and other media have interoperated
  3. because it was a gathering of some fine scholars from several countries
  4. because I was giving a talk on archiving news at the British Library
  5. because they paid me to go

The purposes of research networks such as these is to bring together scholars with interest in a common theme, to learn from one another’s research through the presentation of short papers, and to discover through discussion practical ways in which to further research in the field. Despite all the social interaction that goes on online, it still helps hugely to meet actual humans face-to-face, and a two-day symposium for fifteen or so people can be more productive in helping to shape an agenda and construct practical plans than a formal conference.

The full title of the symposium was ‘The Concept of News: Scandinavian and Global Perspectives’, and there were several short papers on newsreel research in the Scandanavian countries, as well as Belgium and East and West Germany, focussing on the subjects of the Cold War and the Suez Crisis. The latter was chosen as a useful example for cross-comparing how different national newsreels treated the same topic, often with the same footage – there were few camera teams on the spot  during Suez and what was filmed was pooled to other news organisations – but with dramatically different interpretations of that footage in the respective commentaries.

A paper I particularly liked was given by Tore Helseth of Lillehammer University College. He has found paper records of what international newsreels were shown in one small Norwegian town during the 1950s, and contents lists for those newsreels. This is a precious discovery, because for many countries barely any records survive that document what the contents were of the newsreels and when they were issued. In the UK we are fortunate that a huge amount of newsreel documentation survives. In America, by contrast, a vast amount of documentation has been lost, and the survival rate of the films themselves is sadly poor.

Most of the remainder of the symposium was given over to broader issues about news archives and the definition of news itself. These issues matter for us at the British Library, not simple because we what is probably the world’s largest news archive, but because we are looking to move from being a newspaper archive to becoming an archive for news in all its forms. This raises interesting issues of definition. How far does the idea of news stretch? Does it include any kind of information delivered to an audience at a particular time, or does it lie specifically in those media which identify themselves as being carriers of news, such as newspapers?

Professor Brian Winston of the University of Lincoln, talked about news vs information in his paper, which was a response to the recent book by Andrew Pettegree, The Invention of News, a history of the production of news 1400-1800 (previously covered by this blog). For Winston, Pettegree has failed to distinguish between a history of the delivery of plain information and a history of news, which is something mediated, always biased in one way or another, propagandist in the broadest sense, and never – in an absolute sense – true. He called on many early examples of news as an emerging form, starting with Galbert of Bruges, a lawyer driven to write a report on the assassination of  Charles the Good, Count of Flanders on 2 March 1127, to a 1499 woodcut of Vlad the Impaler to show how news is a political tool, to Ben Jonson’s 1625 play The Staple of News, a satire on  the proto-newspapers (corantos) being published in London, which includes these striking words:

We not forbid that any News be made,
But that't be printed; for when News is printed,
It leaves, Sir, to be News...

Act 1 Scene V

Winston concluded with the eternal truth, attributed to New York Sun editor John B. Bogart, “When a dog bites a man, that is not news, because it happens so often. But if a man bites a dog, that is news”.

I enjoyed Winston’s provocative analysis, but for me the definition of news lies not in its producers but in its consumers. News is something that we seek out when we want to understand what is happening in our world, and plays a vital role in how we understand our place in that world. We seek it out from multiple newsforms, be that newspapers, TV, radio, web, pr mobile apps, and in past times from a medium such as the newsreels. Newsreels are important to this multimedia sense of the news, because they were the first news medium that consciously positioned itself as one link in the chain of news provision. Newsreels were issued once or twice a week, so they were always late with the news, but they understood from when they first emerged in the 1910s that their audience already knew what the news was – be that from newspapers or later radio. They added more to the understanding people had of what was news to them by providing it in motion pictures. They were built on choice. They played a key part in what it is to be modern: we the audience being given the tools with which to pick and choose how we build up the picture of our world. This applies many times over today, with the multifarious news (and information) outlets available that threaten at times to overwhelm us. The news is made by us.

 The symposium included some papers on radio news, which provided useful comparisons across the two news media. There was an interesting tension throughout the two days, between viewing the newsreels as a news medium (one which often fell short when it came to reporting ‘hard’ news) and viewing them for their own sake, as a distinctive product of the cinema entertainment industry rather than the news industry, as Sara Levavy of the Cortauld Institute argued. In truth, both definitions apply. Newsreels entertained, and they informed. That they informed best by their dependence on other news media, notably newspapers, to set the agenda, makes them interesting for news history itself, and helps illuminate how newspapers themselves worked for their public throughout much of the twentieth century.

02 May 2014

St Pancras Intelligencer no. 16

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Welcome to the latest edition of the St Pancras Intelligencer, our weekly round-up of news about news - stories about news production, publications, apps, digitised resources, events and what is happening with the newspaper collection (and other news collections) at the British Library.  

BLNewsroom28.4.14_005

Robert Peston speaking at the launch of the Newsroom

Open for business: Well, we've been busy this week. The British Library's Newsroom was officially launched by the Secretary of State for Culture, Sajid Javid, on Monday 28 April, with a star turn from the BBC's Robert Peston,  before a gathering of journalists, media commentators, educationalists, British Library staff and ordinary users of our newspaper collection and other news services. There was a promotional video, a TV news package that appeared on many regional newspaper sites, and widespread media coverage (I think my favourite was Us vs Th3m's breathless 'The British Library is now improved with ARCHIVE ROBOTS'). The Newsroom's own blog post looks behind the scenes at the manufacutring of our own news event.

A strategy for news: On the day of the Newsroom launch we published a summary of our news content strategy for 2014-2017. It points the way for turning a world-class newspaper service into a world-class news service, by collecting (or connecting to) not only newspapers, but television news, radio news and web news.

Sajid Javid: Hacking down to 'bad apples' - press freedom 'cornerstone of democracy': The new Culture Secretary says it is up to press industry to decide how to proceed with regulation following the phone hacking scandal, reports Press Gazette.

Announcing FB Newswire, Powered by Storyful: Facebook and social news agency Storyful (owned by News Corp) have launched FB Newswire, which describes itself as "a resource for journalists that aggregates newsworthy social content shared publicly on Facebook by individuals and organizations" and could be a significant development in (social) news gathering. Facebook's Newsroom explains the background.

Local TV plan on the rocks as funding frozen, while London Live head quits: Oh dear. Plans for a network of local TV stations appear to have hit the rocks, while the chief programmer of London Live (which shares an owner with the Evening Standard, which has liberally promoted the channel) quit following terrible viewing figures, including near zero for some news programmes.

Nate Silver’s advice to young journalists: Learn to code now: Emily Bell gave a scintiallating lecture at the British Library on automated journalism, which we'll be blogging about in due course. One of the themes she raised was the advantages of journalists being able to code, and others have raised the same issue this week. US news media star Nate Silver tells Geekwire that “If you’re an aspiring journalist who knows how to code really well, you are in a very hot market”, and Richard Sambrook argues that "journalists can learn lessons from coders in developing the creative future".

Ofcom should be looking again at Putin's TV news channel: Steve Bloomfield at The Guardian is appalled by the news coverage from RT (formerly Russia Today), which is readily available to UK viewers (and programmes from which are recorded daily for the British Library's Broadcast News service).

Anyone who has tired of Sky News's endless reporting of the Oscar Pistorius trial or CNN's down-the-rabbit-hole coverage of the hunt for Flight MH370 would accept that the world of 24-hour TV news could do with an alternative voice. But propaganda for an autocratic government and conspiracy theories linked to antisemitism are not an alternative anyone should be comfortable with.

Paying for online news: Dominic Ponsford at Press Gazette considers the mixed lessons to be learned from the Telegraph's metered paywall, one year on from its introduction.

Journalists' sources are no longer safe in Australia: Paul Farrell at The Guardian worries how Australia's Telecommunications Interception and Access Act 1979 could permit government agencies instantaneously to track down journalists’ sources.

ITV’s new breakfast show divides opinion: Four presenters at a single desk (plus weather reporter standing awkwardly by), fast pace, US feel, and star acquisition in Susanna Reid: ITV's Good Morning Britain launched on Monday and has had mixed reviews so far, as in this Metro report. But no one is saying bring back Daybreak.

Print is not the future, but it's not the past either: Peter Preston at The Observer thinks print's not dead yet - not while the industry has yet to work out how to make money from digital.

Revealed: The top 10 regional papers on Twitter: interesting list from Hold the Front Page of the top ten UK regional newspapers with the largest number of followers on Twitter. The Liverpool Echo's @LivEchonews comes out top with 136K followers. But what do they mean by saying that 77 newspapers in the UK are using Twitter? Our figures here suggest well over 350 do so...

Fears grow that the BBC News Channel could become online only: Could the BBC News 24-hour channel go online-only (as has been suggested will happen to BBC30 as part of BBC cost-cutting plans. Ian Burrell at The Independent asks the questions.

The Onion sets its sights on BuzzFeed, Upworthy: At last, The Onion is to set its sights on the listmania of quasi-news sites like Buzzfeed and Upworthy with a new site to mock the whole concept called Clickhole (launches in June). Unless the news about this is a spoof itself...

Max Clifford has finally got some of his own medicine: Max Clifford has been found guilty of eight counts of indecent assault, and schadenfraude reigns in the media world. At The Drum one "master of spin" Richard Hillgrove considers the downfall of another.

An incomplete list of things which are going to shape the next journalism: George Brock's latest wise overview of how journalism is changing, with seven issues that all in the industry need to be asking themselves.

BBC hacks – tweet the crap out of the news, cries tech-dazzled Trust: You can trust The Register to have taken a less than deferential apporoach to the BBC Trust's report Getting the best out of the BBC for licence fee payers: BBC Trust Review, BBC Network News and Current Affairs.

Once the BBC was un-ignorable, whatever age you might be. Today, half of under-25s and two thirds of under-20s ignore it completely. And even online, apathy reigns: the corporation's digital share has increased from only 24 per cent of adults in 2012 to 26 per cent today.

We haven’t even scratched surface of explainer journalism: Adam Tinworth at journalism.co.uk looks at the US phenomenon of explainer/exploratory/data/call-it-what-you-will journalism and argues that we need to "rethink our content models to make our journalism relevant for a digital age".

Jeremy Paxman to step down as presenter of Newsnight: The nation's favourite torturer of politicians is standing down in June.

30 April 2014

Open for business

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On Monday April 28th the British Library officially launched the Newsroom, its new reading room for news. It was a long day, the fruition of much organisation to ensure everything went just right (the British Library strives very hard to make sure that everything always goes just right), as well as the culmination of seven years of planning for the proper preservation of the UK's newspaper collection. Here's a record of some of what happened over the day, from your blogger's perspective.

Empty_newsroom

An empty Newsroom

07.15 - A bleary-eyed news curator stumbles into the Library, heads up to the Newsroom on the second floor, and joins the head of press (a man who may not actually sleep at all) whose job it is to manage our messages. We set up two of the 40 digital microfilm readers that we have installed. We choose The Times from the late 19th century and a News of the World from the 1920s, one displayed 'landscape', the other 'portrait', to show off how the screens can be manipulated to fit the shape of the newspapers they show. Before the TV company comes in, I take a quick phone snap of the empty room.

07.30 - A camera operator and a journalist from TNR, a Press Association off-shoot, arrive to film a short piece about the Newsroom, to be sold on as a package to TV news providers. They work out camera angles, position me by a wall with a long display of newspaper front pages, pin a microphone to my lapel and get me to give my name and so forth to check sound levels. They shine a bright light in my face. I have a crib sheet telling me all of the messages that I have to get across. I stutter my way through the interview, surviving somehow. Try as I might I cannot say the words "Secretary of State for Culture" without stumbling. They say nice things, which means that my gloomy assessment of how I appear on camera is probably spot on. They go off to shoot some background shots, and I head for my desk.

09:00 - I publish a blog post (written two days beforehand) on the British Library's news content strategy. It seemed timely to do so.

10:00 - Checking through the advance news coverage of the launch. An excellent, thoughtful piece in The Independent by Ian Burrell, that gets where we are coming from and going to, lifts the spirits. The Guardian has a shorter piece full of all the facts and figures we sent to them - the online version unfortunately states that the reading room itself cost £33M. It's very hard for anyone to spend that amount of money on a room (the money was mostly spent on the preservation store for newspapers that we have built at Boston Spa in Yorkshire). I review my list of newspaper collection facts and worry about what our earliest, still published newspaper title might be. Is it the Stamford Mercury or Berrow's Worcester Journal? The London Gazette (first published 1665) trumps them both, but is it strictly speaking a newspaper?

11:00 - Another TV crew, this time from ITV London. They are much quicker about things, letting me talk more freely about things. I show off the microfilm readers, the Broadcast News television service, the archive of web sites, throw in mentions of the preservation centre and say how pleased we all are. The interviewer is somewhat smaller than me and I wonder how it will look on screen with me looming over him. Odd, is the answer. Odder is the near-empty Newsroom. Where are they all? The place has been packed for days, and the moment we bring in cameras, everyone disappears. He-who-never-sleeps boldly invites a researcher sitting blamelessly at one of the microfilm readers if he would be willing to be interviewed for the news piece. Certainly, he says. It turns out he has no TV but he talks to camera like a trouper.

12:00 - Lunch, then coffee while reading The Independent piece.

13:00 - He-who-never-sleeps has been in touch with Newsnight. They have a great idea for when the programme signs off by showing tomorrow's papers - why not do so with tomorrow's news from 1914, 1814, maybe even 1714? It's going to be a bit pot luck, but I scour the British Newspaper Archive and find some uninspiring front pages. Our friends at DC Thomson Family History join in and do rather better at finding good stories. I redeem myself by looking at our Burney collection of early newspapers and finding a couple of good items for 29 April 1714. Fingers crossed.

13:30 - BBC London want to do a radio interview with me. It will be on my home phone, but at 06:25 tomorrow morning. I agree to this, somehow cheerfully.

14:00 - News about the launch has spread all over Twitter, or at least the bits of Twitter that I know. There is some confusion out there (no, the room did not cost £33M; no, we haven't digitised all 750 million newspaper and magazine pages in the collection) but huge enthusiasm. It's a good news story.

14:30 - We have the final project board meeting for the Newsroom. Nothing gets done at the British Library without a project team, project plan, work packages, risk register, budget, lessons learned log and such like. Everything is meticulously thought through, though we all have issues that we don't think have been properly resolved as yet. But we are pleased with the reaction there has been from researchers so far (we actually opened the room on April 7th), both new and the old hands who used the Colindale newspaper library that we closed down in November.

15:30 - I fret over the slow loading of videos in the Newsroom and check the display for live TV and live web sites in the networking area of the Newsroom. Everyone is bothered by the archive videos that we show there because they aren't captioned as such, and people have been spooked by seeing footage of London riots and not realising it's 2011. I say that making adjustments to the display is not as straightforward as they might think. This is true, but doesn't sound convincing.

16:30 - We have a team meeting in the Library foyer to make sure everyone knows what they have to do for the evening. Screens have been put up (two show newspaper pages, one for video), there is a platform for the speakers that looks amusingly like a trampoline, and there is an extraordinarily large amount of audio equipment for what will be three speeches at one microphone and a video. 

17:00 - The Newsroom is closed early. The newspaper curator and I carry newspaper volumes into the Newsroom and display them on rests or lecterns. We have chosen four titles from four centuries that are each all still in print - The London Gazette (17thC), Stamford Mercury (18thC), Manchester Guardian (19thC) and Daily Mail (20thC). The Manchester Guardian does not sit steadily on its lectern so wisely we lie it flat instead. The print copies of the newspapers won't start to become available in the Newsroom until Autumn, but we had to display some. I test the videos - they are still taking an age to load. I make contingency plans.

17:30 - I put on a tie. It looks terrible. I take it off then put it on again. It looks worse. I repeat this action several times. I resign myself to my fate.

18:15 - The first guests arrive for the launch of the Newsroom. The party is taking place in the foyer. The great, the good, former Colindale users and staff past and present have their names ticked off the list and pick up coloured cards which say which of the tours of the Newsroom we have organised with our elegantly-attired newspaper reference team they will be going on. Despite some chaos behind the scenes, the visitors all enjoy their tours, not knowing that they might have enjoyed them even more had we been able to organise them as we have dreamed we would do.

18:25 - The ITV London piece is broadcast. The TNR team are here for the party, to film the event and the minister's tour of the Newsroom.

18:30 - The place is packed and we humans do what humans do best and talk animatedly at one another. The canapés include fish and chips in newspaper - just the one chip and a sliver of fish in a newspaper-ish cone, but a neat idea all the same. I say hello to many friends.

Peston

Robert Peston in full flow

19:15 - The minister has arrived, and the speeches begin. The Chief Executive of the British Library thanks everyone for coming and praises the achievements of the Newspaper Programme which has worked so had to ensure the long-term preservation of the newspaper collection. The recently-appointed Secretary of State for Culture, Sajid Javid, then gives his first speech in his new role. He talks engagingly about his nerdish adolescent fondness for newspapers at his local library and says all the right things. Then the BBC's Robert Peston gives a most charming speech, keen in tone and theme, with a most touching reference to his late wife's great fondness for the Colindale library where she researched regularly.

 

The Newsroom launch video

19:30 - We play a promo video that we shot a couple of weeks ago which introduces the Newsroom and the Boston Spa store. The conceit of having the opening images move up and down as though being viewed on a microfilm reader is probably lost on most (I didn't get it until a third viewing), but it has cheery music, says what it needed to say, and the Newsroom looks great, if populated by some familiar faces from our press office (filming mostly took place before the room opened to the public, and you have to get your 'users' from somewhere). I cringe as the video ends with me giving the cheesy pay-off line - "We're open for business". They clap anyway.

Minister

Roly Keating, chief executive of the British Library, Sajid Javid, Culture Secretary, and a curator inspecting the Stamford Mercury

19:45 - The CE, the minister and I go up to the Newsroom (it's on the second floor) to show him round. I explain the idea of the networking area is to encourage collaborative research and to show current news, so that we're as much about news today as the news of yesterday. We show him the newspaper volumes, the microfilm readers (ably demonstrated by one of our newspaper reference team), Broadcast News (everything works - oh happy day), showing off our recording from that morning of ITV's new breakfast show Good Morning Britain (he hasn't heard of it). He is interested in everything, particularly in our web archives, then goes off script by searching for his own name rather than the subject terms I had prepared. Sure enough the link he selects doesn't work. We move on quickly. TNR films him and he comes up with perfect short quotes. It's a gift.

Interview

The minister is interviewed

20:00 - The party continues, though the numbers have thinned as various people decide they would rather get home now before the Tube strike starts at 9pm. I make plans, arrange meetings, smile constantly, then escape. Other remains behind to clean it all up as if the event had never been.

21:00 - I answer some of the many Tweets and emails that have appeared through the day. Enthusiasm still reigns. @BL_newsroom has many more Twitter followers than it did. 

22:00 - Home. The other news out there - a schoolteacher has been stabbed to death in her classroom. A special report from ruined Aleppo. Max Clifford has been found guilty of indecent assaults. Pfizer is confident of a takeover of AstraZeneca. Arsenal have beaten Newcastle 3-0. ITV London shows its Newsroom piece again, in re-edited form.

 

A look at tomorrow's papers...

23:20 - Newsnight closes with the tomorrow's headlines from three past centuries. Jeremy Paxman says that we have 7.5 million pages instead of 750 million, but the conceit works well. He stumbles over his words more than I do, which I find reassuring. They subsequently publish the clip on YouTube.

23:30 - End of a long day in which we played our part in manufacturing the news while showing how well we are archiving it and making it available again. News is not what happens, it is what is mediated through accepted news channels and consumed by us as clients of those channels. Likewise with history, which is not what happened but what we select and re-tell from what once happened (often found through news archives such as ours). All we ever do is tell stories to one another.

24:00 - TNR delivers its completed video package of the day. He-who-never-sleeps takes receipt of it and starts work for another day....

Update: The TNR video package has appeared on several news websites, for example the Yorkshire Post.

 

11 March 2014

Robot reporters and the age of drone journalism

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We are delighted to be playing host to Emily Bell, Professor of Professional Practice & Director, Tow Center for Digital Journalism at the University of Columbia and previously director of digital content for Guardian News and Media. She is delivering our second WT Stead lecture on 25 April, entitled 'Robot reporter: Journalism in the Age of Automation and Big Data'.

Emilybell

Emily Bell

Digital technologies are transforming the ways in which news is gathered, processed and consumed. This is not just a question of how the news is reported, but what we understand news to be. The robot reporter is not a theoretical concept - it is a rapidly approaching reality. Emily Bell describes the subject of her lecture in this way:

The world of information is changing and journalism is buffeted by the disruption. Our stories are told now through vast network protocols and social networks by hundreds of people. The 'first draft of history' is now on a spreadsheet in the cloud rather than a notebook on a reporter's desk. In the newsroom we are on the brink of an explosion of drones, sensor technologies and wearable computing, turning our world into one where every event can be captured, intentionally or by stealth. When everything can be surveilled, what do we report? We are now in the age of drone journalism, but with technology running ahead of legality and ethics, how can journalism use the technology responsibly?

Emily Bell is herself one of the leading figures in digital journalism. During her time at The Guardian it won the Webby Award for a newspaper website in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2009, and British Press Awards for Website of the Year in 2006, 2008 and 2009. At the Tow Center for Digital Journalism she works at an institute dedicated to providing journalists with the skills and knowledge to lead the future of digital journalism and serves as a research and development center for the profession as a whole.

This is the second WT Stead lecture to be held at the British Library, and takes place in the same month as we are opening our new reading room for news, the Newsroom. The WT Stead lectures are named after the pioneering Victorian newspaper man William Thomas Stead, who did so much to transform the nature of journalism in his time. The first lecture was delivered by James Harding, Director of BBC News, in January 2014 and was widely reported and much discussed (you can find his script here and a podcast of the lecture here). Emily Bell's lecture is likely to have a similar impact, and we encourage anyone with an interest in where news in going to join us.

Details of the event and how to book are on the British Library's Events page.

The third and final WT Stead lecture will be in November 2014.

29 January 2014

New ways, old ways

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'New ways of doing journalism' was the enticing title of a seminar held last night at City University in London. It brought together leading practitioners in the new modes of web-based news production whose success (social, and in some cases commercial) is challenging existing models and exciting a lot of people in he news world. The room was filled with journalism students (and some journalists) aware that they were joining a profession that is on the verge of something very exciting. The question was, how to sort out the excitement from the journalism, the tweets from the passion for truth.

The speakers were Andrew Jaspan, founder and CEO of The Conversation, a site publishing news and commentary by academic experts; Annette Novak, ex-editor and CEO of Sweden's Interactive Institute, which experiments with interaction design and data visualisation; Sarah Hartley, journalist, blogger and co-founder and editor of Contributoria, the recently-launched crowdfunded, collaborative journalism platform; and Luke Lewis, editor of the British branch of the site that is doing the most to overturn accepted news models, Buzzfeed. The chair was Professor George Brock, who has written so illuminatingly about the new journalism, both its refreshing aspects and its challenges.

Sphinxinsnow

Not the Sphinx covered in snow

To be honest, the seminar didn't quite live up to its billing. One did not get a great sense of missionary zeal, with the talk on Buzzfeed in particular offering more amunition for its detractors than encouragement for its advocates. The site, if you don't know it, specialises in witty, illustrated lists (e.g. 35 Frustrating Things About Playing Video Games In The '90s) with occasional forays into harder news territory - stories which are then driven worldwide by social media. Buzzfeed has a following of many millions, it makes money, and it is hiring journalists - and many others are trying to emulate it. Hence the enthusiasm. But tales of how Buzzfeed pointed out that a viral image of the Sphinx in snow was in fact a half-sized model from a Japanese theme park don't really suggest strong journalism, but rather how revealing the truth behind a viral image is shutting the barn door after the horse has bolted.

Instead the event was notable for how many were expressing unease at the world of web news, and calling out for informed journalism - and the time to compose such journalism - to fight against the tsunami of uniformed opinion, half-truths and untruths that too often pass for information in the social media world. Andre Jaspan's The Conversation publishes news stories written by academics and issued for re-use under a CC licence. Based in Australia, and with a British outlet now opened (located at City University), the site is home for serious news analysis, but with nil marketing budget is has managed to get 1.6M unique visitor hits per month. Jaspan warned that where we have fewer journalists, "PR moves in to fill the vacuum", and sites such as The Conversation and Contributoria (a sort of Kickstarter for community funded, collaborative journalism) are defending traditional, idealistic journalism, producing a news you can trust. Trust was the key word throughout the event. Where does trust lie in the world of online information? If we can't trust it, how can it be news?

The new journalism seems to be going in two different ways. One is following the tweets and the likes, placing value on stories which will be shared. Luke Lewis was keen to stress that Buzzfeed is not only committed to stories that are shareable but stories that have value because of the truths the reveal. Hopefully this will remain so, particularly as such sites start to develop roots and offer a more rounded, less transient news offering. The other is a reaction to the overwhelming volume of information and disinformation to be found online by reinvesting effort in "value-based journalism" (Annette Novak's phrase). This form of new journalism finds its inspiration in old journalism, or a belief in what old journalism has been at its best.

So the platforms are changing, but the idea of news and the role of journalists seems to be much as it has ever been - torn between truth and the marketplace.

All of this matters to what we are doing at the British Library, where we collect news for the benefit of researchers today and in the future. We are in the process of developing a news content strategy, one which looks beyond newspapers (which we have always collected) to all of the news media published in the UK - print, web, TV, radio. To collect news, we have to know what news is. Just now news is in a melting pot, uncertain of the ways in which it will exist and how it will look in the future, but there is great excitement in the air about the possibilities. It's just that there are great fears too.