THE BRITISH LIBRARY

The Newsroom blog

10 posts from April 2014

30 April 2014

Open for business

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 ÂŁ33M. 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 ÂŁ33M; 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.

 

28 April 2014

A strategy for news

The British Library is close to completing its ÂŁ33M, seven-year Newspaper Programme, designed to ensure the long-term preservation of the UK's collection of newspapers by building a dedicated store in Boston Spa, Yorkshire, closing down the former Newspaper Library at Colindale and opening a new reading room for newspapers at its St Pancras site, the Newsroom. It has also partnered with DC Thomson Family History to digitise 40 million newspaper pages over a period of ten years (2010-2020).

Recently we have been looking to the future and developing a news content strategy to guide collection development over the next four years. Simply put, at a time when the production and consumption of news are changing radically, the strategy points the way for turning a world-class newspaper service into a world-class news service. On the day of the  official launch of the Newsroom, this is an overview of our strategy for news 2014-2017.

Newspapers

Newspaper volumes for various national titles from the British Library collection. We have over 660,000 bound and boxed volumes of newspapers, a third of which are also available on microfilm, while 2% has been digitised. Our policy is that users should consult microfilm or digital alternatives to the print copy where these are available. 

Changing news

The news media are undergoing significant change, with a move from print to digital and news organisations increasingly viewing themselves as being news providers rather than simply newspaper publishers. The Guardian's shift in strategy from 'from a print-based organisation to one that is digital-first in philosophy and practice' is symptomatic of changes impacting across the industry. News is gathered and composed digitally, and then transmitted through a variety of media, one of which – for the time being – remains the print newspaper. Moreover, the idea itself of who produces the news is being challenged by the rise in ‘citizen journalism’ and the way social media can be used by anyone to break a news story.

This model applies equally to the past. News does not exist, and probably never has existed, through one medium. It is we, the readers, who construct the news by selecting from the variety of forms on offer. Users should be able to discover and comprehend whatever the news choices were at whatever point in time that they choose.

NHK_tsunami

NHK World TV coverage of the tsunami of 11 March 2011, from the British Library's Broadcast News collection. Though NHK World is a Japanese station, it is available in English free-to-air in the UK via Freesat and so falls within our definition of 'news produced in the UK or which has had an impact on the UK'.

Objectives

Our news content strategy has been developed in the context of the Library's overall 2012-2015 Content Strategy, which sets out the Library’s three-fold role: to develop the national published archive through legal deposit; to support UK research through collecting and connecting to contemporary content; and to support research and culture through developing world-class primary research collections.

The news content strategy keeps within this framework, and has these key objectives:

The Library’s news offering should incorporate the full range of news media – newspapers, news websites, television news, radio news, and other media – through a combination of legal deposit, purchase and voluntary deposit, capture through copyright exception, and connecting to both licensed content and content shared with strategic partners.

The Library should view news as part of the broader media landscape, finding the news content it requires by collecting or connecting to the UK media world (print, web, audiovisual), of which news forms a fundamental part.

The Library's news content should comprise primarily news most relevant to UK users, meaning news produced in the UK or which has had an impact on the UK.

News content that falls outside the definition of news produced in the UK or which has impacted upon the UK should be covered by other subject-led areas of the content strategy.

The content strategy for news media is underpinned by legal deposit collecting, both print and non-print, but incorporates audiovisual media that lie outside legal deposit.

The Library must be a champion of regional news, including regional newspapers, hyperlocal websites, community radio and regional television news.

The Library primarily collects and connects to published news, not raw news data.

The Library's news content (or news data) should be made as widely available as possible to UK audiences, offering content online through licence, subscription, copyright exception and partnership arrangements, as well as maintaining physical research centres in London and Boston Spa.

The Library recognises that the concept of ‘news’ can be expanded to embrace anything of relevance to a particular community at a particular point in time, which long-term could have considerable impact on how it describes content and the services that it offers.

Lbc

The Library's radio news collections including daily recordings made of LBC programmes. We are seeking ways of making radio (and television) programmes as word-searchable as printed sources, to create equality of searching across the different news media.

News today and yesterday

The British Library's news collection needs to be considered in two ways: the cumulative historical corpus, and the current and ongoing collection. Stressing news currency will be an important element of the Library’s position as a news centre, capturing the world’s matters today while illustrating that behind every such story lies a history that the Library can help uncover. The Newsroom is an expression of this intention, offering the best possible service for the researcher of yesterday's news while highlighting the news we are collecting today.

We already have 60 million newspaper issues (from the 1600s onwards), 25,000 news-based websites (archived since 2013) and over 40,000 television and radio programmes (mostly recorded since 2010). The collection grows by over 2,400 news publications each week - 1,500 newspapers, 500 news websites, 280 television news programmes and 140 news radio programmes. Our task will then be not simply to collect, preserve and make accessible these different news forms, but to facilitate the connections between them.

Our overall aims for the individual news media are:

Newspapers: To continue to collect UK and Irish newspapers under legal deposit, with a managed transition from print to digital collecting, but with the default position remaining print. 

Television: To record and deliver access to representative content from all television news channels available free-to-air in UK from 2010 onwards, while connecting to historical television news archives.

Radio: To capture through off-air recording a substantial proportion of the UK’s radio news output as part of an emerging national radio archive offering, while continuing to preserve and make accessible heritage radio collections. 

Web: To capture selected news-based sites crawled on a high-frequency basis, as well as an annual UK web crawl, including multimedia content as far as possible; to capture selected examples of news-based social media.

Other media: To collect and connect to a range of content beyond the traditional understanding of what constitutes news, testing the viability of such an extension of service through pilot projects.

By 2017 we will aim to have achieved the following main goals:

The acquisition of 400,000 additional newspapers (individual issues), for which the annual intake in 2017 will be 25% digital, with an ‘iconic’ 5% collected in both print and digital forms.

A 5% fall in newspaper intake by reducing the number of heavily advertising-based titles.

A critical mass of digital news content across different media, including 30M digitised newspaper pages, 100,000 television news recordings, 100,000 radio news recordings, 1.5M news web pages, and connection to 3M news records from external sources.

An increased number of partners (and content made available through partners).

New research outputs based on interlinked news media resources.

Increased citations of audio-visual news media in scholarly publications.

Recognition by academic researchers, creatives, family historians and the news industry of the Newsroom as essential to the discovery, understanding and reuse of news content.

Exeterdaily

Over 500 UK news websites are being archived on a daily or weekly basis under the new non-print Legal Deposit regulations introduced in 2013, including online-only news publications such as the Exeter Daily.

A sense of the now

These four statements represent our overall vision for news at the British Library - the world of news research that we want to encourage. 

A British Library news collection and service that is not constrained by one form but embraces all the different news media, created through a combination of legal deposit, voluntary deposit and connecting to content both licensed and shared with strategic partners.

The British Library becomes a news centre, serving scholarly, commercial and personal researchers, both onsite and remote.

A resource discovery mechanism that opens up the Library's news and news-related digital content through cross-media searching, encourages searching across other news collections, and has a set of tools to encourage innovative thinking and creative re-use, leading to new kinds of research questions.

A model for the presentation of current and historical news media that transmits to users a sense of the 'now' at any time in the past, expressed in the research experience, exhibitions, publications and in public understanding of the Library itself as playing a fundamental role in the understanding of British society.

That 'sense of the now' is key. It represents the urge we all feel to keep up with the news every day, if we want to belong. But it is also what makes yesterday's news so compelling to anyone seeking a connection with the past - from the academic to the family history researcher, from the journalist to the creative artist in search of inspiration. That is what is so exciting about news archives. We turn to a record of the past, and because we have chosen to look at it, it comes back to life - it is news once more.

This post summarises our news content strategy for 2014-2017. We welcome any comments you may have about it.

25 April 2014

St Pancras Intelligencer no. 15

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. 

Upshot

Graphic accompanying The Upshot's post 'Who will win the Senate? from its first issue

Here comes The Upshot, the new explanatory journalism effort from the New York Times: Exploratory journalism is the great craze among America's chattering classes, and this week the New York Times produced its rival to Vox and FiveThirtyEight. Mathew Ingram at Gigaom investigates.

The Upshot vs. Vox vs. FiveThirtyEight: A hands-on review of explanatory journalism: And from the source hand and the same source, a handy guide to the exploratory journalism phenomenon.

BuzzFeed: Cute cats and hard news? Ian Burrell at The Independent looks at Buzzfeed's ambitions to become a serious news providers (while still having a space in its New York offices called the NoNoNoNo Cat Room).

8 Digital Tools Every Journalist Should Try: A fascinating selection from Eric Newton of the Knight Foundation, including Creativist, Videolicious and Wickr.

FT favours one rule for itself, and another for everyone else, when it comes to press regulation: The Financial Times has decided to regulate itself rather than join the new Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO). Press Gazette asks why.

Ukrainian newspaper office burned down after threats: It has been a sorry week for respecting the rights of journalists and the press. The Newsroom of Ukraine's Provintsiya was burned down with Molotov cocktails, Pakistani news anchor Hamid Mir was shot and wounded, the trial in Egypt of the three al-Jazeera journalists continues, and American journalist Simon Ostrovsky from Vice was taken by militia in Eastern Ukraine. Happily he has now been released, as have been the four French journalists held captive in Syria for nearly a year.

Risk and Reporting: The Dangers of Freelance Journalism in Syria: Freelance journalist JosĂ© Gonzalez provides a useful overview of the operations of freelancers in Syria: the risks, the questions and the imperatives.

Happybardday

Happy Bard Day: Among the many newspaper tributes to William Shakespeare on his 450th, none matched  The Sun for wit, or surprise factor, with a classic spread containing potted summaries of all of the plays and spoof front pages: " "Massacre at the palace: Claudius killed, Queen poisoned. Hamlet and Laertes dead too ... Alas poor Yorick - skull found."

Four out of ten Britons think it was right to give Guardian a Pulitzer: Some might query whether four out of ten Britons have actually heard of the Pulitzer prize (or Edward Snowden for that matter), but a YouGov poll asked this question:

It was recently announced that The Guardian and US newspaper The Washington Post would receive the Pulitzer Prize, the biggest prize in US journalism, for their coverage of the NSA surveillance programmes as revealed by ex-CIA contractor Edward Snowden. Do you think it is right or wrong for the prize to be given to papers that publish stories like this?

and got these results: Right: 37 per cent; Wrong: 22 per cent; Don’t know: 41 per cent.

Pathé goes to YouTube: There has been much rejoicing at the news that the British Pathé newsreel archive has been made available on YouTube. The Newsroom blog is pleased too, but asks some questions about how useful it is to historians in this form.

Blendle: Dutch news platform offers money-back guarantee: Not a week seems to go by without a new form of payment for online news being tried. Dutch government-funded news site Blendle asks you to pay for stories, giving you your money back if you are not completely satisfied.

How is user-generated content used in TV news?: A Tow Center report examines the ways television news organisations and online media companies employ user-generated content and finds much inconcistency of crediting, and use.

 

23 April 2014

Pathé goes to YouTube

The news that the entire British Pathé newsreel archive has been published on YouTube has made a huge impact. There have been news broadcasts, web news and newspaper reports, and the story has spread widely across social media, which is very much was British Pathé wanted. 85,000 videos, or 3,500 hours of film ranging from the 1890s to the 1970s has been made freely available on YouTube via http://www.youtube.com/user/britishpathe. This is very good news, of course, but for researchers it is good to know some of the background history, and to ask some questions about what we have in the form in which we have it.

Britishpathe

http://www.youtube.com/user/britishpathe

The PathĂ© FrĂšres company was formed in France in 1896 by the brother Charles and Émile PathĂ©. Initially marketing  sound and motion picture products, the company gradually became dominant in the world film business before the First World War. It set up many subsidiaries, including a British office established in 1902, which turned to newsreel production in 1910. PathĂ© in France had come up with the idea of a reel of news stories, issued on a regular basis, much like a newspaper, in 1908. The British version was called PathĂ©'s Animated Gazette, then PathĂ© Gazette, continuing under that title until 1946 when it became PathĂ© News, under which name it continued until its demise in 1970. 

Newsreels were a common feature of cinema programmes in Britain from the 1910s to the 1950s, when they started to die out on account of the competition from television. Alongside Pathé, there were British Movietone News, Gaumont-British News, Universal News and British Paramount News, as well as several other, shorter-lived newsreels. They served up British and world news, with a strong emphasis on entertainment through subjects such as sport, celebrity, royalty and the quirly side of life, though they could treat politics and social issues with a deft populist touch. They were hugely influential in how the twentieth-century mass audience understood its changing world.

The newsreels were issued twice a week, so between 1910 and 1970 PathĂ© produced over 6,000 issues of its main newsreel, as well as several ancillary magazine series such as PathĂ© Pictorial and PathĂ©tone Weekly. It also served as a distributor for films made by other companies, and all of these films ended up in its archive.  There were other branches of PathĂ©, involved in feature film production and distribution, but they were separate from the newsreel operation, and their films are not held in the archive.

When the newsreels ceased to be a viable concern in the cinemas, they turned into footage libraries, serving the television market, in particular history programmes. This is a precarious business, particularly for a company no longer producing new films, and with a shrinking market for black-and-white footage. The archive was bought and sold several times, being owned by EMI for a time, then by the Daily Mail and General Trust, acquiring the name British Pathé in the process. It is now owned by an indepedent media company operating under the name British Pathé.

 

Review of the Year (PathĂ© News, issue 46/104, release date 30 December 1946. PathĂ© issued annual reviews of the year. This one for 1946 gives a good idea of the newsreel's typical content and has the added bonus of a sequence showing British newspaper editors who helped make the selection of stories for the review.

In 2002 the British Pathé archive was digitised and made available online for free thanks to a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, which supplied half the funding necessary. The deal was that the archive would remain freely available online for three years (including the facility to download low resolution copies), before the company could decide to charge if its wished, but in practice that didn't happen and its has remained free ever since. The entire archive has been available online to all for the past fourteen years, via http://www.britishpathe.com, so although the YouTube announcement is great news, there is nothing new that it being offered in terms of content. It is simply British Pathé opening up its existing online collection through a new platform.

British Pathé has been imaginative in how it has kept interest alive in its collection and ensured its relevance. It has done a special deal with the BBC for use of its footage, so that Pathé clips have become a regular occurence on BBC news and magazine programmes, and BBC4 produced a much-repeated four-part series The Story of British Pathé, which explored the history revealed by the British Pathé archive. Most recently it has made dynamic use of social media, with a strong Facebook and Twitter presence. The YouTube development will further spread their brand and use of the collection, making Pathé shareable, embeddable, relevant and fun. What was viewed as a quaint medium from cinema's past towards the end of the twentieth century now finds itself at the heart of communications in the twenty-first. There has been some very smart thinking going on.

However, there are some problems. The British Pathé collection has been around for over one hundred years, and has seen many changes. Its footage has been re-used, reissued, re-edited at times. Films have been lost. Films have been acquired which had nothing to do with Pathé but ended up in the collection anyway. Catalogue records have not always been kept, and where re-cataloguing has taken place (British Pathé had a major re-cataloguing programme in the early 2000s) the results have been variable, and not always historically informative. In short, the archive has been developed as a film library, not as a resource for historians or other academics.

 

World Cup Final - England v West Germany (PathĂ© News, issue 66/61, release date 31 July 1966)

It is therefore necessary for the serious researcher to treat the British PathĂ© archive with some caution. Every newsreel was issued on a particular date, with an issue number, and that is how to identify a PathĂ© newsreel. Individual stories always came with a title (which appeared on screen), so one might identify a typical newsreel story as, for example, World Cup Final - England v West Germany (PathĂ© News, issue 66/61, release date 31 July 1966).

But not all films in the British Pathé archive come with such details, particularly for the First World War period, for which records of issues of the newsreels do not survive. So while many of the films from 1914-18 exists, it is often difficult to put a precise date to them, which dilutes their value as historical record. Then there are the many films from this early period which are in the British Pathé archive but which were never produced by Pathé. How can one judge the provenance of these? Often British Pathé itself has no idea where the footage came from. It is in their archive, so they use it.

 

Take this clip for example. It is a compilation of First World War films. Some of it may have been filmed by Pathé at the time, but not much of it. There are clips from the 1916 documentary feature The Battle of the Somme (certainly not produced by Pathé) mixed with dramatised recreations of trench warfare filmed in the 1920s for films which Pathé may have distributed. The films are all silent, so they have added music and a commentary by John Humphrys, further altering the films from their original context. It has some value as an emotive depiction of the horrors of war, but for the historian its provenance has been shot to pieces, and its use is nil.

Of course British PathĂ© is a business, not a resource built for historians, and the tools for the serious researcher do exist to help them pinpoint PathĂ©'s archive in time and place. The News on Screen database of the British Universities Film & Video Council lists most PathĂ© news stories 1910-1970 with correct titles, dates and issue numbers, crucially linking the stories to others released inthe same issue (the British PathĂ© site itself often has the release data but doesn't bring together the separate stories into the form in which they were released). News on Screen also links the records to digitised production documents (such as commentary scripts) and to the films themselves on the British PathĂ© site. Regretably the same links are not available for the YouTube versions, and there is no link back from the YouTube versions to the British Pathe site (the YouTube description merely reproduce the British PathĂ© catalogue description without further identifiers).

So the British Pathé archive is going to enjoy a much higher profile, and its films will be discovered and enjoyed by many more people now that they are on YouTube. But the link with their historical reality is being diminished, as they are separated from their catalogue, and indeed are not easily searchable as a discrete archive unless one leaves YouTube and goes to News on Screen or the British Pathé website. Historians must therefore look that little bit further and make use of the tools and data available. These will demonstrate that the British Pathé archive is of great and illuminating historical value, even if questions must be asked about the veracity of some of what is on display. It is as relevant now as ever it was when it played in cinemas across the land to an audience of millions, when its news was not history but news.

Further reading:

18 April 2014

St Pancras Intelligencer no. 14

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.   

Dailymirror

Daily Mirror, 16 April 2014

The Mirror’s Crying Child Photo – Not All That it Seems: Ethical conumdrum and news image of the week was the Daily Mirror's hotly debated selection of an image of a crying child for a front page story on food parcels in Britain.  Blogger Dan Barker points out that the children isn't hungry (she was crying over an earthworm), she's American, and it was taken in 2009.

Pulitzer Prizes Awarded for Coverage of N.S.A. Secrets and Boston Bombing: Some would imprison them; others hand them garlands - The Washington Post and The Guardian have been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for public service for their reports based on the National Security Agency documents leaked by Edward Snowden. The Boston Globe won the breaking news prize for coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing, a year ago this week.

To the Snowden story system a crowning Pulitzer might have gone: No prizes should be awarded for the grammar in the title of Jay Rosen's article for his PressThink blog, but he argues that how the Snowden story was developed and shared internationally, outflanking national attempts to prevents its publication, is what merits a Pulitzer prize.

Tusrkey is a case study in the value of citizen journalists, thanks to the ones behind @140journos: Fascinating account by Mathew Ingram on how journalists use social media  in some countries when the traditional news media are perceieved to have failed - here the example of a citizien journalism initative in Turkey, crowdsourcing verification of poll results.

Appeals court says blogs are not only media, they're an important source of news and commentary: Mathew Ingram again, on the implications of a legal decision from a Florida court case on the status of blogs in a defamation case.

Digital journalism: we're still waiting for the third model of news publishing: Emily Bell asks what the recent launches in America of news sites such as Vox.com and the FiveThirtyEight mean for the development of the news media. 

Vox.com 's Melissa Bell: 'This is a chance to do journalism differently': Talking of which, Vox's co-founder Melissa Bell explains what the sites aims are, and what explanatory news (its special selling point) aims to achieve.

The IMPRESS Project's plans for press regulation: Journalism.co.uk reports on a crowdfunding initative to create a regulator for small regional and hyperlocal publishers.

 

Pathe Gazette's report on the evacuation from Dunkirk (1940), filmed by Charles Martin

British Pathé releases 85,000 film on YouTube: The British Pathé newsreel has released its entire archive of 3,500 hours of newsfilms 1896-1970 on YouTube. The films have all been available on the site www.britishpathe.com for twelve years, but this bold gesture should greatly increase their reach and profile.

A ... is for Advertising: The Newsroom blog gets its scond contributor, Jaimee McRoberts from the British Library's newspaper reference team, who kicks off an A-Z series on newspapers with Advertising.

The only way is ethics: Will Gore at The Independent is very interesting on the reporting of the Oscar Pistorious trial by the South African media, with its more permissive approach to what gets reported - and the different news imperatives between print and web news outlets.

Data journalism in Venezuela: Philip Smith at Media Shift tells how data journalism is developing in Venezuela, despite all of the hurdles:

... a visual history of violence in Venezuela; the relationship between Venezuela and Columbia in the trafficking of cocaine; analysis of various epidemics and outbreaks; live-tracking of how long ships sit in ports waiting to be unloaded of much-needed staples like sugar; an investigation into the paper shortage facing newspapers; a Twitter analysis of candidates in a recent election; and deep search into the network behind several Venezuelans who were charged in the U.S. for finance-related crimes, which was not well reported in Venezuela itself.

An enthusiastic, engrossing account.

Pickles pursues the wrong policy as people reject local newspapers: Thought-provoking piece from Roy Greenslade on the closure of a local paper (the Fulham & Hammersmith Chronicle), the supposed competition from the local council's free paper, and how demographics are as much of a theatre to local newspapers as rival news sources.

BBC is the most-shared news brand on Twitter: 96 million unique users in March 2014;  user figures up 26 per cent on the monthly average of 76 million; news stories shared 2.71 million times across the month on Twitter - the BBC website marches on, having celebrated its 20th anniversary last week. The Drum reports.

A print newspaper generated by robots: The Guardian has been experimenting with a limited edition printed newspaper - called #Open001 - that is produced by algorithms based on social-sharing activity. So the robots are gathering the stories, not writing them. Yet.

Well, this is hawkward: Hmm, how good are robots at spotting humour? Press Gazette gleefully reports how The Guardian was fooled by a Vatican April Fool's Day story (about hiring a hawk to protect the Pope's doves).

14 April 2014

A is for
 Advertising

Today’s blog post marks the start of an eclectic A-Z of Newspapers which we hope you will find to be a stimulating if not invaluable resource. We begin with A for Advertising.

Advertising seems to be everywhere these days, and I personally cannot seem to go more than a few paces on my daily commute without coming across another advert. Whether it’s a poster, billboard, digital screen, projector, ticket barrier, or even a human with advertising strapped to their bodies or leaflets to hand out, there is an advert every couple of steps in some of our daily lives.

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Just a photo taken during a small portion of my commute home

The history of advertising is as old as newspapers themselves: Jackson’s Oxford Journal, dated 5 January 1799, features a fantastic advertisement for lozenges (amongst others) – although whether or not the integrity of the benefits offered by the product is entirely true is up to the readers’ discretion.

Oxfordjournallozengeadvert
Oxford Journal, 5 January 1799. Image © D.C.Thomson & Co. Ltd. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

Advertising has been essential to the success of newspapers as a whole, as the payment received for adverts allows them to employ their writing staff, editors, photographers, and for the actual physical publication itself, including all of the printing costs. Investigative journalism, which can impact on a papers readership, is especially made possible by these funds. This is why many feel that print newspapers will continue for a while yet, instead of being superseded by news blogs.

The evolution of advertising is dramatic, and the history of advertising in newspapers is no different. In the past, newspapers were dominated by advertisements, and it wasn’t until 6 May 1966 that The Times actually published news on the front page. Until then, the front page of every issue was solely devoted to advertising.

These days, most advertisements in newspapers are inserted on a portion of the page, rather than taking up the entire page (although there are some full-page and double-page advert spreads). Generally speaking, these adverts blend into the background, although occasionally there are some ad placements which seem to contradict an article that lead to a fair bit of amusement.

Enhanced-buzz-25317-1364477626-3
This crime duo may not be part of an advertisement but this image illustrates the inopportune layouts that some newspapers fall victim to. Image courtesy of BuzzFeed.

Advertisements today must adhere to certain regulations and are kept in line by regulatory bodies such as the Advertising Standards Agency and the Competition and Markets Authority (formerly the Office of Fair Trading). Where advertisements are found to be misleading or promotions
are falsely advertised they can be investigated and made to change their advertisements or promotions, such as certain ‘free’ offers in certain national newspapers or misleading statements on products’ manufacturing location.

This wasn’t always the case and untruthful, boastful, and downright ridiculous adverts used to dominate the newspapers. Here are some of the more delightful examples I have come across:

These cigarettes are 'so safe, agreeable, and beneficial, as to be patronized extensively by the Medical Faculty of Paris. [...] The Diseases in which they have been hitherto employed and found so useful are, difficulty of Breathing, tightness of the Chest, Spasmodic Asthma, Catarrhs, Hoarseness, Sore Throats, Ear-aches, Rheumatism of the Jaws, and Tooth-Ache.'

Cigarettesad1
The Western Times, 29 May 1847. Image © D.C.Thomson & Co. Ltd. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

Perhaps one should consider taking this ‘grand discovery’ after trialling the previous cigarettes, as ‘Dr. Kiesow's Elixir of Life’ advertises that ‘a sudden Indisposition, a disorder of the Digestion, is AT ONCE removed by A SINGLE SPOONFUL'.

Elixiroflife
Bucks Herald, 7 April 1860. Image © D.C.Thomson & Co. Ltd. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

Could this be one of the first instances of modern-day ‘spam’?

Cigarettesad2
Yorkshire Evening Post, 15 August 1893. Image © D.C.Thomson & Co. Ltd. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

I guess I can skip next years’ flu shot, so long as I have plenty of hot beefy ‘power’ in my kitchen cupboards!

Bovril
Hull Daily Mail, 14 March 1935. Image © D.C.Thomson & Co. Ltd. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

Further Reading:
Dictionary of nineteenth-century journalism in Great Britain and Ireland edited by Laurel Brake & Marysa Demoor, 2009.
‘Advertisements’, p139-163, From Grub Street to Fleet Street by Bob Clarke, 2004.
A History of English Advertising by Blanche Beatrice Elliott, 1962.
Advertising in Britain: a history by T.R. Nevett, 1982.

11 April 2014

St Pancras Intelligencer no. 13

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.  

Newsroom3April2014-13

The Newsroom

Opening day: So of course the British Library tops the week's news about news with the opening on April 7th of the Newsroom, its new reading room for news. Newspapers, television news, radio news and web news can now all be found in the one physical space - though for newspapers that means microfilm and digital for now, until the print papers become available again in the autumn. It all looks very beautiful - and has a lot more people in it than in this photo taken just before it opened.

Shift 2014: It's all been happening here this week, with Newsworks, the marketing body for UK national newspapers, holding its Shift 2014 conference at the British Library. The live blog of the event includes reactions to star turns such as the editors of The Guardian (Alan Rusbridger), The Independent (Amol Rajan) and The Telegraph (Jason Seiken) and Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive of WPP. Jason Seiken's speech is here.

Here & Then: And there's more. The British Newspaper Archive, which provides digitised copies of British Library newspapers online, has issued a free iPhone app, Here & Then, with articles, images and adverts from the collection. Oh, and 135,000 pages were added to the BNA site in March.

What will yesterday’s news look like tomorrow?: Article of the week, by a mile. Adrienne LaFrance at Medium looks at the future of news archives, which focus on how they are catalogued and their data mapped for rediscovery in the future. "News organizations need to design archives that better mirror the experience of consuming news in real time, and reflect the idea that the fundamental nature of a story is ongoing".

The Press Freedom Issue: Contributoria, the community funded, collaborative journalism site, published a special issue on press freedom this month. Among the great articles available are Crowdfunding critical thought: How alternative finance builds alternative journalism, Court and council reporting - still a bedrock of local news?, Pirate journalism and The printing press created journalism. The Internet will destroy it. Read and learn.

News is still a man's world: A City University study reveals that male experts still outnumber female experts by a ratio of four to one on flagship radio and TV news programmes.

Has Thompson at the NYT given newspapers a new way to pull in extra cash and readers?: Mark Thompson, former BBC DG and now heading the New York Times, may have had a big idea - New York Times Premier, an added subscription to the online version of the newspaper, with additional content, offers (two free ebooks a month), even special crosswords. The Drum speculates.

Upvoting the news: long, engrossing article by Alex Leavitt for Medium on how news spreads across social media channels, with particular emphasis on Reddit.

The state of Egypt's news media: Al Jazeera's excellent news analysis programme The Listening Post looks at the "sorry state of journalism in Egypt".

Fracking

A sample 'card' from Vox.com

Three good things about Ezra Klein’s new site Vox, plus three challenges that it faces: The much-hyped Vox.com site, with celebrity news blogger Ezra Klein, launched on April 6th. Mathew Ingram at Gigaom says what he likes (especially the user-friendly 'cards' with background information to stories) then wonders how it will thrive.

Bristol Post editor baffled by fact that front page gay kiss costs thousands of sales: Press Gazette reports on what happened when Bristol Post editor Mike Norton decided to put same-sex marriage on his paper's front page.

'Video-checking' the Clegg and Farage debate: Fact-checking videos - where videos of speeches are analysed to see whether or not the statements made stand up - have been popularised by The Washington Post's Truth Teller. Now the fact-checking organisation Full Fact have done the same for LBC's Nick Clegg v Nigel Farage debate.

Peaches Geldof – was the coverage by newspapers, and TV, over the top?: Roy Greenslade ponders on what would have been proptionate news coverage for the sad death of Peaches Geldof.

More UGC, fewer photographers – and no paywalls:  Editors set out visions of future: Hold the Front Page reports on the Society of Editors Regional Conference, where likely changes to the regional newspaper world were set out: user-generated content, smaller offices, cover price rises,  no staff photographers, and no paywalls.

One easy, transparent way of making accuracy visible: open sourcing: George Brock argues that the way for news providers to build up trust is through links to source material - footnotes, sort of, though he prefers the term open sourcing. 

How some journalists are using anonymous secret-sharing apps: Using apps like Whisper and Secret to turn rumour into news.

We need to talk: Raju Narisetti, senior vice president of strategy at News Corp, poses 26 questions to ask news organisations about the move to digital. Fascinating insight into a business in transition.

 

08 April 2014

Opening day

On Monday 7 April 2014, at 10:00, the Newsroom opened at the British Library. We were just about ready. I don't know what it is about we humans, but with all the months, indeed years, of planning that went into developing a new reading room for news at the British Library, we were working right up to the last minute getting the last fixtures and fittings in place. Was it true, as I heard, that they only hung the Newsroom sign up above the door with not much more than an hour to spare? The first punters didn't notice any such final hammering or tweaking. They queued patiently outside, though our first researcher actually managed to come into the Newsroom via a side entrance, which we hadn't expected. Those who came in through the front door gawped briefly at the newness before them, then made their way to the desks. "Bloody hell", said one. Which was nice. 

Longview

View down the Newsroom

The Newsroom is the British Library's news reading room for its news collections. It replaces what was the Newspaper Library at Colindale, though the print newspapers themselves are being transferred to dedicated storage facilities at Boston Spa in Yorkshire. They will become available to order once more in the Autumn, so the Newsroom at present offers access to microfilm and digital newspapers, as well as television, radio and web news.

Microfilm_readers

Row of terminals with microfilm readers

The Newsroom seats around 100, with 40 microfilm readers with digital display and monitors that can be turned landscape or portrait depending on how you wish to view your newspaper.  There is a large number of newspaper microfilm reels available on open access, while the remainder can be ordered from our basements with a promised maximum delivery time of 70 minutes. There are also many news media reference books available on the open shelves, photocopying facilities, and of course our expert reference team, who quietly introduced researchers to the news resources, the intricacies of the microfilm readers, and the other particulars of the Newsroom. 

Front_pages

Newspaper front pages display

We wanted to made the Newsroom a visually striking and newsy place, while ensuring that it remain first and foremost a place for study. A striking feature is the row of 21 newspaper from pages, from 1643 to 2013, which decorate the length of one wall above the microfilm cabinets. The display works both as a history of newspaper design and of history in the making as reflected through newspapers.

Cubicles

Cubicles in the networking areas, with Twitter display above

Some of the most eye-catching features are in the networking area, which is the first part of the Newsroom that you see when you enter. It's an area that's open to anyone (you only require a reader's pass to enter the main reading room) and it is meant to be both an informal space and an area in which to display news present and past. There are tables, chairs and sofas liberally scattered about (with plenty of charging points, which we suspect will make the space very popular very quickly). On one side is a row of cubicles, with above it Twitter feeds which show the news coming in as it is tweeted from news web sites that we archive. So, in a way, you see the news being made, and the news being saved.

Video_wall

The video wall

The live news element is also seen in the networking area's most striking feature, the video wall, which occupies a large part of one side of the space. We plan to have different kinds of display on its multiple screens in due course, but we have started with a BBC news ticker feed, live TV news from Sky News, archive videos from our Broadcast News service, a loop of front pages for news-based websites that we will be archiving, and a display of the ingenious Newsmap news aggregator site, developed by Marcos Weskamp, which shows news stories around the world in a grid format, classified by territory, place and importance.

Issue_desk

Issue desk

The networking area and main reading room filled up gratifying quickly over the day, though it is Easter time when the British Library is always particularly busy, and a lot of the desks were occupied by overspill from other reading rooms. But that's fine. The Newsroom is not an ivory castle for news. We're interested in seeing the boundaries blurred between what gets researched where, just as we are looking beyond newspapers to incorporate other forms of news publication, to create a richer, more interconnected archive.

Full

View down the Newsroom through the glass partition between networking area and main reading room

There was much else besides on that first day - British Library colleagues coming to admire, familiar faces from Colindale days settling down to continue their work once more, much tweeting of images and updates, some fretful pulling out of hair when the live video stream failed for a while, some careful explanation to visitors that the footage of rioting in Tottenham was an archive recording from 2011 and did not mean what they thought it meant... I held my first meeting there, charged up my computer there, and drank the first cup of coffee there (in the networking area, I hasten to add, not the reading room itself, which would not be allowed). And we launched a new set of web pages for news media (we have to call it that to avoid confusion with news about the British Library).

We hope we may see you there soon. We're on the second floor.

Doorway

Welcome

 

 

 

04 April 2014

St Pancras Intelligencer no. 12

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.  

Bernardshaw

From The Poke via @jameshoggarth

45 local news stories that rocked the world: It started with Patrick Smith at Buzzfeed - now headlines from UK regional newspapers are fast becoming an Internet cult. The Poke collect 45 that show just why we love local newspapers so.

Against beautiful journalism: Thought-provoking article from Felix Salmon at the Reuter blog, who argues against the over-designed nature of some (mostly American) news sites. "Today, when you read a story at the New Republic, or Medium, or any of a thousand other sites, it looks great; every story looks great. Even something as simple as a competition announcement comes with a full-page header and whiz-bang scrollkit graphics. The result is a cognitive disconnect..."

How 3 publishers are innovating with online video: Journalism.co.uk looks at how Huffington Post, the Washington Post and BuzzFeed are taking different approaches to using video, as discussed at the FT Digital Media conference.

Harry Chapman Pincher: Perhaps the best-named journalist ever, certainly one of the most famous living British journalists, Chapman Pincher has turned 100 years old and is still writing. Nick Higham at BBC News profiles the man who became legendary for his espionage scoops.

Safeguarding the “first rough draft of history”: How pleasant to have a history of newspapers (with thank yous to the British Library for its newspaper preservation work from Sylvia Morris at the excellent Shakespeare Blog.

In praise of the almost-journalists: A fine piece by Dan Gillmor at Slate on the distinctive contribution to online news made by advocacy organisations such as Human Rights Watch and Cato Institute.

News Corp boss brands Washington Post journalists 'high priests': Not such good times for journalists of the old school. The Guardian reports how News Corp's Chief Executive Robert Thomson feels that the Washington Post's journalists have failed to embrace the transition to digital.

Apple Adds Talk Radio And News To iTunes Radio Starting With NPR: iTunes Radio gets its first non-music offering with this team up with NPR (National Public Radio), Techcrunch reports.

Journalists increasingly under fire from hackers, Google researchers show: ArsTechnica reports that news organisations are increasingly being targeted by state-sponsored hackers.

The Evolution of Automated Breaking News Stories: Is this the future of news? Technology Review reports on how a Google engineer has developed an algorithm, Wikipedia Live Monitor, that spots breaking news stories on the Web and illustrates them with pictures. Now it is tweeting them.

Debugging the backlash to data journalism: Data journalism has been all the rage, so inevitably there has been a backlash. Alexander Howard at Tow Center provides a good overview of the phenomenon, its strengths and its limitations.

Taming the news beast: The Newsroom blog goes to an International Society for Knowledge Orgaization event on news archives and news metadata, and comes back thoughtful.

London Live – capital's first dedicated TV channel – takes to the air: The Evening Standard-backed TV channel went live on March 31st. Meanwhile, Jim Waterson at BuzzFeed provides an entertaining history of the last time someone tried to launch a TV station called London Live.

The Guardian crowned newspaper of the year at Press Awards for government surveillance reports: Press Gazette names all the winners at the Press Awards. Meanwhile, former Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald has won the University of Georgia's McGill Medal for Journalistic Courage.

German officials ban journalist from naming his son #Wikileaks. No comment.

02 April 2014

Taming the news beast

Taming the News Beast was the striking title of a seminar held on April 1st by ISKO UK, the British branch of the International Society for Knowledge Organization. Subtitled "finding context and value is text and data" its aim was to explore the ways in which we can control the explosion of news information data and derive value from it. Much has been written about this explosion from the points of view of its producers and consumers, but less well known is the huge challenges it presents for those whose job it is to manage such data by working effectively with those who generate it. Few environments depend more on effective information management - while creating any number of problems for those trying to apply the rules - than the news industry today. Hence the seminar, which aimed "to share knowledge from the intersections of technology, semantics and product development".

Bbcnewslabs

Looking at the large lecture theatre at University College London filled to the brim with an enthusiastic audience of data developers, information scientists, journalism students and archivists, your blogger was moved to think that things were very different to when he spent his time at library college, many years ago now. Library and information studies, as they called it then, excited no one. Now, in the era of big data, it is where the big ideas are happening. Librarians (let's continue to give them their traditional name) are masters of the digital universe, or might aspire to be. Metadata is cool; ontologies are where it's at; semantics really means something.

The epitome of this excitement about information management - particularly news information - is the work coming out of BBC development projects such as BBC News Labs, which was introduced in a presentation by its Innovation Manager, Matt Shearer. News Labs has a a small team of people looking at better ways in which to manage news information, both within and outside the BBC. Its work includes the Juicer API (for semantic prototyping), the #newsHACK days for testing of product development ideas, entity extraction (extracting key terms from a mass of unstructured text), linked data (the important principle of working with data based on terms produced for DBpedia which other institutions can share in to create linked-up knowledge) and the Storyline ontology. There is particular excitement in trying to extract searachable terms for audiovisual media, through such technologies as speech, image and music recognition. If there is a pattern, the machines can be trained to recognise it.

Shearer's enthusiastic and sometimes mind-spinning presentation was matched by his colleague Jeremy Tarling, data architect with News Labs, who introduced Storyline - an open data model for news. Storyline is a way of structuring news stories around themes, based on a linked data model. The linked data bit is the way of ensuring consistency and shareability (they are working with other news organisations on the project). The theme element is about a new way of presenting news online which joins up stories in a less linear, more intuitive fashion. If you type in 'Edward Snowden' into a search engine you will get hundreds of stories - how to sort these out or to tell what the overarching narrative is that connects them all? If you can bundle the Snowden stories that your news organisation has produced around stories that go to make up the Edward Snowden theme - for example, Snowden at Moscow airport, Snowden finds job in Russia - you start to impose more of a pattern, and to draw out more of a story - the storyline, that is.

The nuts and bolts of this are interesting, because it requires journalists to tag their stories correctly, and listening between the lines one could see that some journalists were more willing and able to do so than others. But this sort of data innovation is happening, and it will have a dramatic impact on how news sources such as the BBC News website look in the future.

The energy, resources and ingenuity put into such work by the BBC can leave the rest of us overwhelmed, not to say humbled, but the remaining speakers had equally interesting things to say. Rob Corrao, Chief Operating Officer of LAC Group, gave a dry, droll account of how his consultancy company had been brought in to enable ABC News in New York to get on top of the "endless torrent" of news information coming in every day. This was a different approach to the problem, more of an exercise in logistics than simple data management policies. They managed the people and the work-processes first, then everything else fell into place. A content strategy was essential to understanding how best to manage the news process, including such simple ideas as prioritising the digitisation of footage of people likely to feature before long in obituary pieces. The more you know what the news will be in advance, the easier it is to manage it.

Ian Roberts of the University of Sheffield introduced AnnoMarket, a European-funded project which will process your text documents for you, or conduct analyses of news and social media sources. As automated metadata extraction tools start to make more of an impact (that is, tools which extract useful information from digital sources), so businesses are popping up which will do the hard work for you. Send them a large bunch of documents in digital form, and they will analyse them for you. Essentially it's like handing them a book and they give you back an index.

Finally Pete Sowerbutts of the Press Association talked about how the news agency is applying semantic data management tools to its news archives, so that with a bit of basic information about a subject (e.g. name, age, occupation), place or organisation and some properly applied tagging, a linked-up catalogue starts to emerge. People, places and organisations are the subjects that all of the projects like to tackle, because they are easily defined. Themes - i.e. what news stories are actually about - are harder to pin down, semantically speaking.

Beneath all the jargon, much of this was about tackling age-old problems of how best to catalogue the world around us. Librarians in the room of a particular vintage looked like they had seen all of this before, and indeed they had. Librarians' role in life is to try impose order on an impossibly chaotic world. Previously they came up with classification schemes and controlled vocabularies and tried to make real-life objects match these. Now we have automated systems which try to apply similar rules with reduced human intervention because of the sheer vastness of the data we are trying to manage, and because it is digital and digital lets you do this sort of thing. Yet real life continues to elude all of our attempts to describe it precisely. Sometimes they only way you are going to find out what a news publication is actually about is to pick it up and read it. But you still have to find it in the first place. 

An unanswered question for me was whether what applies to news applies to news archives. News changes once it has been produced. It turns into a body of information about the past, where the stories that mattered when they were news may no longer matter, because researchers will approach the body of information with their own ideas in mind, looking across stories as much as they may look directly for them. Our finding tools for news archives must be practical, but they must not be too prescriptive. ABC News may hope to guess what the news will be in the future, but the news archivist can never be so presumptuous. It is you, the users, who will provide the storylines.