THE BRITISH LIBRARY

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21 posts categorized "Digitisation"

16 January 2019

Multi-title newspaper volumes – historic practice vs. modern process

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The British Library (and its previous incarnation as a department of the British Museum) has been collecting newspapers for over 200 years. The ways in which these items have been acquired, processed, and stored have changed over time as priorities, policies, locations and technologies have developed, but some historic practices have had interesting implications for our current Heritage Made Digital programme to digitise a number 19th century newspapers. The newspapers we are digitising are mostly London based, and we are focussing on titles that have a number of volumes in poor or unfit condition, with the aim for filling in some gaps that currently exist in the digital archive.

Mixed_press

Multi-title newspaper volumes

One of the practices that has had a real impact on the way we have approached this digitisation project is the way in which items have been bound in the past for storage and preservation. When thinking about how newspapers are stored by the British Library, most users probably imagine that complete runs of a title, for instance the Morning Herald, would be held together. But that hasn’t always been the case. For ease of processing and storage and to conserve space, many newspapers were held in annual sequences, rather than in title runs. So newspapers published in 1832 were held together, and these were followed by the titles published in 1833.

For many newspapers, particularly the dailies, this simply means that one or more volumes of a title are held in each yearly sequence. But for a significant part of the collection, mostly weekly titles of 12 pages or less, for which the British Library collected only one edition, there simply wasn’t enough material to make up a bound volume on their own. This has meant that there are many volumes containing two, three or sometimes more titles for a year. For example, a volumes currently sat on my desk contains both The Ballot and the Weekly Times for 1831.

Ballot

The Ballot and the Weekly Times in one volume

This practice saved space and money by reducing the number of bindings produced for each year. There were no strict rules about how many titles or pages constituted a volume, and practices varied over the years, but mostly newspapers of a similar size are bound together, as this makes them easier to store. In most cases all of the items bound into a volume are newspapers, but occasionally they also contain periodicals bound, and these fall under the care of other departments within the British Library.

This has led to some complications in the workflow of our digitisation processes. The catalogue records for newspapers do not contain details of how they are bound, so we are often unaware of whether items are bound individually or in multi-title volumes, or which items are bound together. This sometimes means that a single volume is called up multiple times by our digitisation team, as several titles from our list are bound together for one or more years. It has also made the process of scanning titles more laborious and complicated. Staff do not simply open a volume and scan the contents, they have to identify the correct title, and work out where it starts and ends, checking this against the details that are on the catalogue records.

It has also raised some interesting questions for our digitisation project. What impact does going through the digitisation process several times have on volumes, particularly as many are already in a poor or unfit condition? If one of the titles we are digitising is bound in a multi-title volume, should we be digitising all of the other titles with which it is bound? Should we be digitising the periodicals that are contained within these volumes, even though they are not officially part of the newspaper collection? How far should what is digitised follow the physical reality of what is archived?

We are still working to answer some of these questions. In general we have had to stick to digitising only the items already on our list, as otherwise the numbers could spiral out of control, and we might end up digitising large numbers of titles that do not meet our criteria (i.e. in a poor or unfit condition; out of copyright; and with a circulation beyond London). We look closely at the other titles we come across, and access them against our objectives, but in most cases there are reasons why they had not already been selected.

Despite their complications these multi-title volumes do also provide opportunities. I will talk in a future post about serendipity and its role in newspaper research, but it has also played a very small role in our selection process. As mentioned above, in most cases we have stuck only to those titles already on our selection list, but there have been a few occasions when looking at a volume, we have stumbled across another newspaper that has proved interesting enough to make it onto our list. It has also made us think a lot about how and why things were done in the past, and how practices evolve, giving us a better understanding of how the collection was, how it currently is, and how it could be in the future.

 

Beth Gaskell

Curator, Newspaper Digitisation

07 January 2019

Heritage Made Digital - the newspapers

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The British Library is currently engaged on a major programme entitled Heritage Made Digital. The aim of the programme is to transform digital access to the British Library's heritage collections by streamlining digitisation workflows, undertaking strategically led digitisation and making existing digitised content available as openly as copyright and licensing agreements allow. Heritage Made Digital is embracing a wide range of materials, from manuscripts through to sounds, and one of its major elements is newspapers. 

Unfit

Unfit newspaper volumes awaiting conservation inspection

The first thing to ask is why the British Library needs to be digitising newspapers, when we already have a very productive relationship with family history company Findmypast, which selects and digitises newspapers for the British Newspaper Archive, providing us with digital preservation copies in the process. It has digitised over 20 million pages from our collection, and adds hundreds of thousands of extra pages each month.

The simple answer is that there is more that we would like to see digitised that isn't likely to get digitised soon otherwise. The greater part of newspapers processed by Findmypast come from our microfilmed copies, because it is so much easier and quicker to do so (about eighteen times quicker than digitising from print). But only a third of our collection of some 60 million newspaper issues has been microfilmed. Of the newspapers for which we have only print, some get digitised, but many do not. In part this is because of the condition of many of newspapers, often produced using low-quality newsprint and for many years not stored in optimum conditions. We define preservation status of our newspapers under three categories: good, poor and unfit. Unfit no one gets to see, even onsite, unless we have a microfilm or digital access version. And around 4.5% of our collection (or 20 million pages) is in an unfit state and with no microfilmed or digitised copy available. That's a lot of newspapers not to be making available at all.

So, for Heritage Made Digital, we have chosen to concentrate on newspapers in a poor or unfit condition. This is not as straightforward as it might sound, since few runs of a newspaper title (i.e. from its first date to its last date) exist under one condition status. One volume may be good, another poor, another unfit (e.g. with a broken spine, crumbling pages etc). Therefore, although we want to concentrate on poor or unfit newspapers, we also want to digitise full runs of newspaper titles, because this will make best sense for researchers. In practice, we find that 40% of the volumes we are digitising for Heritage Made Digital are in a poor or unfit state. 

We have set other restrictions for ourselves, with the aim of offering the best result for the widest range of research users. We are only digitising newspapers that are out of copyright, so that we can make the results freely available online - both the digitised pages and the data created by digitisation. Calculating when a newspaper goes out of copyright is complicated, but we are sticking to a 140-year rule - so the run of the newspaper has to have ended by 1878. 

Next, we are primarily digitising newspapers that we published in London but which were distributed outside London as well. So, not newspapers for the areas of London only (i.e. London regionals), but metropolitan newspapers with a wider circulation. Curiously enough, this is a neglected area for newspaper digitisation. The British Newspaper Archive focusses heavily on British regional newspapers, while the main UK national newspapers available digitally are almost entirely those where the title still exists (e.g. The Guardian, The Times). In other words, we have identified a gap, one which we think will make a significant difference to what is available online so far.

We are not in competition with Findmypast, however - in fact, we are working closely with them. Every newspaper that we digitise will be made freely available via the British Library's catalogue, but they will also be made available via the British Newspaper Archive (a subscription site). That means that almost all of our digitised newspapers will be searchable - by title, date and word - in the one place. As things stand, the newspapers will be appearing on the BNA first, and secondly (at a date still to be determined) through the British Library catalogue, using the Universal Viewer display tool (a development project still in progress).

Waiting

Waiting to be digitised

So, what are we digitising?

It will be around 1.3 million pages, 1 million from print and another 300,000 from microfilm. We're still choosing the titles to digitise, even as we start digitising, as we find out more through a process of preservation need and research, but it will be somewhere around 180 newspaper titles, many of them short runs of a year or less. We can't provide a definitive list as yet, but these are some of the titles (with title changes) that have gone to our imaging studios already:

  • Baldwin's London Weekly Journal (1803-1836)
  • The Bee-Hive / The Penny Bee-Hive (1862-1876)
  • The British Liberator (1833)
  • Colored News (1855)
  • Illustrated Sporting News and Theatrical and Music Review / Illustrated Sporting and Theatrical News (1862-1870)
  • The Lady's Newspaper and Pictorial Times (1847-1863)
  • Mirror of the Times (1800-1823)
  • Morning Herald (1801-1869)
  • The News / The News and Sunday Herald / The News and Sunday Globe (1805-1839)
  • People's Weekly Police Gazette (1835-1836)
  • Pictorial Times (1843-1848)
  • The Saint James's Chronicle (1801-1866)
  • The Sun / The Sun & Central Press (1801-1876)

There is a lot more that we have planned. We're exploring academic partnerships (we're already working closely with the recently-announced British Library/Alan Turing Institute data science project Living with Machines). We're aiming to do creative things with the data. We will be publishing blog posts, both about the content and about the decisions we're making on what gets digitised. We will be producing online guides and research tools, aimed at both the specialist and the general user.

We think that we have come up with a model for the digitisation of newspapers, in particular the way in which we are working in partnership with Findmypast, which will be particularly productive. We certainly hope to build on it beyond the life of the project. We can't show you any newspapers digitised through Heritage Made Digital, or offer any free datasets, as yet. But we will do soon.

It's worth remembering that the British Library has 60 million newspapers, from 1619 to the present day. After a decade or more of intensive work, we have digitised just 5%. There is a long, long way to go.

 

11 January 2017

Analysing the past

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There are exciting changes happening in how we use newspapers to study the past. After decades in which the use of newspapers in research meant leafing through volumes or scrolling through microfilms, digitisation made millions of newspapers more readily searchable and far more widely available. But now that digitisation that taken us to the next stage in development, which is using the data generated by the digitisation process to look at history on a grand scale. We are moving into the era of big data newspaper studies.

Peopleinhistory

From the University of Bristol study: People in history. (A)  famous personalities by occupation using all extracted entities associated with a Wikipedia entry; (B)  the probability that a given reference to a person is to a male or a female person

Big data newspaper studies have come about through a combination of large-scale digital resources and a growth in analysis tools. Most will be aware of OCR (optical character recognition), the mechanism by which archival texts can be converted into machine-readable texts by converting what a computer sees as an image (i.e. the arrangement of letters on a page) and matches these to letters that it knows. It is an imperfect science, because OCR can struggle to work with older forms of types and deteriorating page originals, but levels of accuracy continue to improve as new OCR software is developed, and the results are generally satisfactory - that is, most of the time a researcher will find what they are looking for, if it is there to be found.

But added to this are software tools that can extract further sense from the raw data set that generated by OCR. The field of what is called Natural Language Processing, by which computer come to understand human text and speech, includes the extraction of keywords, or named entities, and the matching of these to controlled lists of terms (such as DBpedia), further mapped to geographic areas and time periods, which enables researchers to undertake controlled, thematic analysis of large historical datasets. Our archive of words yields patterns of behaviour with much to tell about our past selves.

This is the theme of a major project undertaken by the Intelligent Systems Laboratory at the university of Bristol, led by Professor Nello Cristianini. As described in their paper 'Content analysis of 150 years of British periodicals', the project worked on a corpus of newspapers digitised from the British Library's collection by family history company Findmypast for the British Newspaper Archive website. The figures involved are huge. The project analysed 28.6 billion words from 35.9 million articles contained in 120 UK regional newspapers over the period 1800-1950, which they calculate forms 14% or all regional newspapers published in the UK over the period.

The project then used this study to explore changes in culture and society, determined by changes in the language. It looks at changes in values, political interests, the rise of 'Britishness' as a concept, the spread of technological innovations, the adoption of new communications technologies (the telegraph, telephone, radio, television etc), changing discussion of the economy, and social changes such as mentions of men and women, the growth in human interest news and the rising importance of popular culture. It is the stuff of multi-volume histories of the past, boiled down to eye-catching graphs.

This does not mean that we thrown away those multi-volume histories, however, The researchers are at pains to point out that such data analysis is an inexact science, with many caveats needed to explain how the entities have been arrived at and with what degree of caution they should be treated. The data derived from such tools can only work where it is supported by traditional studies, to gain the richer understanding of what happened. The machines may have taken the natural language of humans and converted it into data, but the results need to be converted back into human language to offer real understanding.

So it is that some of the results of the project yield results that may seem obvious. We could have guessed beforehand that the newspaper archive would show an increase in discussion of popular culture subjects, that politicians are more likely to achieve notoriety within their lifetimes than scientists, or that there was a rise in coverage of the Labour Party from the 1920s onwards. But the analyses reinforce through data what we have previously inferred through study, while discoveries such as the term 'British' overtaking the term 'English' at the end of the 19th century, or the decline in terms associated with ''Victorian values - such as 'duty', 'courage' and 'endurance' - call for new studies to explore these things further.

The project is at pains to point out the importance of using newspaper archives. Previously we have had big data analyses of millions of historical books, most familiar through the Google Ngram Viewer. This has caused controversy among some scholars, because of the unevenness of coverage of topics in books, and the limitations of merely counting words and making them searchable again. Opening up newspaper archives for comparable analysis widens the amount of content available, arguably with greater reliability overall, and now with tools to make analysis that much more scientific. The use of controlled terms will also enable the analysis across different datasets - so, books and newspapers, but also other news forms, as subtitle extraction and speech-to-text technologies now start to make our television and radio archives available for similar and shared analytical studies. Our big data is only going to get bigger.

There are limitations to this use of newspaper archives. The quality of OCR varies not only according to the original newspaper, but according to the microfilm where this has been used instead of print. Digitisation is quicker and cheaper this way than digitising from print, but older microfilm can be photographically poor, leading to inferior OCR (though there are promising tools appearing for improving poor OCR). The British Newspaper Archive is made up mostly of UK regional newspapers, because the main nationals have often been digitised by their current owners and are available separately. How different was the discourse in newspapers based in London from those around the rest of the country? That has to be the subject of another major study.

Meme

One of the better jokes from the Victorian Meme Machine project

The British Library has been engaged in its own big data analyses of newspaper archives. BL Labs is an initiative designed to support and inspire the public use of the British Library’s digital collections and data in exciting and innovative ways. It has facilitated several studies of British historical topics through the digital newspaper archive. These include Bob Nicholson of Edge Hill University's study of jokes in Victorian newspapers, with the concept of the Victorian Meme Machine (automatically matching jokes to an archive of contemporary images); Katrina Navickas of the University of Hertfordshire's mapping of nineteenth century protest; and Hannah-Rose Murray of University of Nottingham's tracing of black abolitionists in 19th century Britain. A major user of our newspaper data is M.H. Beals of Loughborough University, who is researching how ideas travel across the historical news media, creating new insights through understanding newspaper archives as structured data.

Such projects are just the start. The availability of large-scale newspaper archives in digital form, and the data derived from such archives, enables us both to seek answers to traditional questions more quickly, and to start asking new kinds of questions. The latter is the great challenge that newspaper data offers. We need to come up with new questions, because the technology enables us to do so, and because it may question what we previously thought that we knew. As the data from their archives comes more readily available, and more easily usable by the non-data specialist, so we will find that we have only just started to read the newspapers. We are going to find that they have much more yet to tell us.

Links:

 

01 June 2016

St. Pancras Intelligencer no. 39

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It's time for another edition in our occasional series on news about news, the St Pancras Intelligencer. Here are some of the recent stories on where news and where it might be going which have caught our eye.

Accelerated

Google's Accelerated Mobile Pages Project

Death to the Mass - Jeff Jarvis writes on the death of the traditional idea of the mass media as delivering the same content to everyone. What replaces it will be tailored to the individual, who is now the king over everything:

What has died is the mass-media business model — injuring, perhaps mortally, a host of institutions it symbiotically supported: publishing, broadcasting, mass marketing, mass production, political parties, possibly even our notion of a nation. We are coming at last to the end of the Gutenberg Age.

All well and good, says Roy Greenslade, but how in this brave new world are we to save public interest journalism?

When it comes to social media, news consumers tend to stick with 1 source - Media plurality is all very good, but humans still tend to stick with the familiar. The Pew Research Center and Knight Foundation find that 64 percent of social media news consumers get their news on just one favorite site.

43 percent of social media users don't know where the stories they read originally appeared - Some disheartening news for all news brands, as Digiday reports that 43% of social media users are unaware of them.Why China fakes 488 million social media posts a year - Mind-boggling report from Mashable on how China's government fills its social media with positive social media comments to distract its citizens from bad or politically sensitive news.

Digital archives of British national newspapers - Our own guide to current UK national newspapers available digitally at the British Library (and those which can't be found digitally anywhere).

A neighbor is better than a newspaper - A rather heartening report from Solutions Journalism Network, showing how the oldest form of news distribution - word-of-mouth - operates in rural Western mountain communities in the USA.

Instantarticles

Facebook's Instant Articles

Facebook news selection is in hands of editors not algorithms, documents show - So many stories out there about how Facebook's algorithms are shaping the world's news. The Guardian reports on the humans behind the algorithms making selection decisions much like a traditional media organisation. Quartz has Facebook’s news feed algorithm is so mysterious, users are developing “folk theories” about how it works; Will Cathcart at The Verge has a long talk with Facebook about its role in journalism; Fusion reminds us that the real ‘news curators’ at Facebook are the engineers who write its algorithms; while The Independent reports Facebook denies claims it suppressed conservative and controversial news on its ‘Trending Topics’ sidebar.

Facebook is the new paperboy - And there's more. Matt Carroll at Medium traces the history of news distribution from paperboys to platforms, and how this is changing how newsrooms work.

Social networks could do much more to protect eyewitnesses in breaking news - Josh Stearns at FirstDraftNews calls on Facebook, Twitter and Google to do more to help eyewitnesses supplying on-the-spot news at disasters to protect and understand their rights.

Beware the ‘false consciousness’ theory: newspapers won’t decide this referendum - Charlie Beckett at LSE's Polis blog says that traditional newspapers no longer have the influence over something like the EU Referendum debate that campaigners imagine they have.

How the New York Times plans to conquer the world - Alex Spence at Politico reports on how the New York Times is eyeing Europe for new digital subscribers.

Suddenly, national newspapers are heading for that print cliff fall - The end has been nigh for a while now, but Roy Greenslade is now certain: newspapers "have no future".

A BBC for the future - And finally, among all the stories coming out the BBC White Paper - funding local journalists, cutting back on sections of its News website, no longer running local news index web pages, possibly merging the News and World channels - we were pleased to see this line lurking towards the back of the document: "There should be particular scope to do more to enable access to BBC historic news archive". Let's hope so.

14 April 2016

Using old newspapers

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Denise Bates is a writer on social history whose latest book, Historical Research using British Newspapers, is a guide to using newspaper archives in research, particularly the British Newspaper Archive. In this guest blog post, she describes what led her to write about using digitised newspapers. 

Bates

The inspiration for Historical Research Using British Newspapers was a very modern concept; the blog. I used old newspapers extensively whilst researching my first two books, Pit Lasses and Breach of Promise to Marry. The positive reaction to my blog for the British Newspaper Archive about the differences between national and local newspapers surprised me as I had not expected this to be new learning. After more investigation I realised that twenty-first century historians have an exciting new resource, digitised, on-line newspapers, but little information about using them effectively. The seeds of my next project were planted.

When I first started using old newspapers, like many researchers I was learning on the job and made mistakes along the way. These included not knowing which titles were the best ones to consult first and thus wasting time trying to understand a topic that was well-covered in a different publication. I also made unrealistic assumptions about how much time was needed to locate and study reports. I decided on a book which brought together the many issues that are relevant to users of old newspapers, including the history of the press, how to find good quality information, how to use it productively and the pitfalls to avoid.

Digitised newspapers have a growing fan-base. Their preserved pages contain a rich vein of forgotten material, allowing researchers to broaden their enquiries from the standard sources on many topics and to cite new examples, rather than recycling the same few. Newspapers sometimes offer an unorthodox view of the past, with content which challenges the version that has been handed down in exam syllabuses and popular histories alike. For topics that have not been studied or written about, newspapers are an accessible way of rediscovering aspects of the past that have been forgotten.

Police

Illustrated Police News 29 July 1882. An artist's impression of a breach of promise case and a case of child cruelty.

Unanticipated discoveries have changed my understanding of the nineteenth century. When I used court reports to delve into the archaic world of the jilted women and men who sued a former fiancé for compensation, I found that no-win-no fee lawyers, who I had previously believed to be a product of the late twentieth century, ran flourishing practices as early as the 1820s. When I looked at several cases involving child cruelty or neglect in the 1890s, I entered a world of high-minded social workers who could not comprehend how the people they were trying to help had to live. Amongst some very serious and indisputable instances of ill-treatment, were several shocking but unwarranted accusations of laziness, selfishness and drunkenness made against caring parents whose wages were too low to feed and clothe their children properly, even though they had been instructed about cleanliness and nutrition. Suddenly I knew the roots of the fear that haunted working-class families as I grew up in the 1960s, that if you didn't do as 'they' said, 'they' might take your children away.

Vesuvius

'Eruption of Mount Vesuvius', Penny Illustrated Paper, 17 October 1863. This scene would have been a revelation to most readers of the time.

Every type of material has its drawbacks and old newspapers are far from being the perfect resource. The number of pages that are already on-line can make them unwieldy to handle if a query produces a large number of matches. It is possible to become overwhelmed by detail and miss important information or insight. There are plenty of places in the news chain where error can creep into a report and sometimes they cover a topic in a very superficial way. Occasionally a researcher may strike lucky and quickly locate an editorial or journalist's investigation that provides a complete answer. More usually it will be necessary to find, collate and analyse a number of individual reports in order to uncover the full story or unlock relevant learning.

Almost all sources are affected by bias and newspapers are no exception. They have been subjected to censorship, may have printed propaganda or portrayed opinion as fact. These problems are not insurmountable, but users need to know how to recognise and manage them in order to avoid jumping to false conclusions.  

When newspapers were first published, they opened up a wider world to the literate people of the day. Reproduced digitally, they are now allowing twenty-first century researchers to immerse themselves in the past in a way that no other resource can and make new discoveries.

Denise Bates (www.denisebates.co.uk)

27 February 2015

St Pancras Intelligencer no. 37

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Here's the latest edition of the St Pancras Intelligencer, our now monthly round-up of news about news. So here are the highlights from February 2015. It's been a full month, what with one thing and another - Peter Oborne quitting the Telegraph, NBC's Brian Williams exposed, the Future of the BBC report, 10 million digitised newspaper pages, plunging circulations, and 64 ways t0 make a news homepage. Plus newspapers as poetry. Read on...

Circulations

The UK's biggest newspapers are all dying: Graphic of the month from Dadaviz appears to say it all. As Roy Greenslade noted at The Guardian, regional newspaper titles are also suffering yet more substantial sales declines.

How the New York Times works: Terrific long article by Reeves Wiedeman at Popular Mechanics, with great illustrations, on how the New York Times gets published. Essential reading.

Why I have resigned from the Telegraph: Political commentator Peter Oborne quit the Daily Telegraph with this incendiary post from OpenDemocracy, in which he accuses the paper's owners, the Barclay Brothers, of suppressing reports about the HSBC scandal.

The Telegraph's promise to our readers: After Peter Oborne's explosive denunication of his former employers, the Telegraph came up with this much-commented-upon statement of principles.

Snapchat stories: Nieman Lab looks at how six news organisations are making use of the app whose messages disappear after your've read them. But, asks Mathew Ingram at Gigaom, are media companies building another house of cards on SnapChat?

Someone is handing out hand-drawn copies of The Guardian and no one knows why: Mysterious hand-drawn copies of The Guardian from four years ago were being handed out at London Bridge station. It turned out to be the work of artist Charlotte Mann.

Green Party's Natalie Bennett gives 'excruciating' radio interview: Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green Party, gave an agonisingly awkward radio interview for Nick Ferrari on LBC in which she struggled to answer basic questions about the party's economic policy.

NBC’s Brian Williams recants Iraq story after soldiers protest: Scoop of the month came from American military paper Stars and Stripes, which revealed that NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams was not on board a helicopter hit and forced down by fire during the invasion of Iraq in 2003, as he had long claimed.

Brian Williams has gone, but false news is bigger business than ever: Emily Bell looks at the acceleration of untrue news stories in the web world, following the exposure of Brian Williams.

64 ways to think about a news homepage: Fantastic illustrated post from Melody Joy Kramer on different ways to present the news online - actual, or potential.

 

Cassetteboy remix the news: Irresistible mash-up of BBC news clips from the Cassetteboy remixing duo.

Jon Stewart to leave The Daily Show: Jon Stewart, host of Comedy Central's The Daily Show - an essential news source for many in America (and beyond) - is to step down.

Future of the BBC: The Culture, Media and Sport Committee's report Future of the BBC addresses the hot topic of the broadcaster's relationship with and effect upon regional newspapers, and comes up with these recommendations:

The BBC must not expect to receive others' news content without providing something in return. We are attracted by the idea of exchanges of content and information, where the BBC local websites link to the source of local material they have used, and in return the BBC allows others to use its content and embed BBC clips on their sites, where these would be of local interest, under a licence agreement. There need not be a financial transaction. However, we also see the case for the BBC outsourcing the supply of some local content on a commercial basis, where there is an ongoing requirement for such material, and it is a more cost-effective way of meeting this need. We recommend this be ensured by extending the BBC's independent production quota to cover local news.

Why is the BBC just so bad at TV news?: Meanwhile, a provocative opinion piece from Michael Church at The Independent, comparing the BBC News channel to Al Jazeera.

Fox News site embeds unedited Isis video showing brutal murder of Jordanian pilot: To show or not to show? Fox News chose to; The Guardian, reporting on this, and most other news sites, did not.

10 million newspaper pages are now fully searchable at the British Newspaper Archive: The British Newspaper Archive, which is digitising newspapers from the British Library's collection, has reached the magic milestone of 10 million digitised newspaper pages.

How about a search of only original news reporting on Google?: Hmm, interesting proposal from Jeff Jarvis, writing at Medium.

If UK newspapers wrote unhinged Twitter poetry: And finally, Journalism.co.uk offers us some poetic renditions of British newspapers, taken from their Twitter feeds, using the Poetweet site. Here's @MailOnline expressed in rondel form...

Mail_poem

01 February 2015

St Pancras Intelligencer no. 36

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Times are hard in the news industry, as all will know, and this applies to the news curator's blog as well. It just hasn't proved possible to keep up the weekly production of our St Pancras Intelligencer round-up of the week's news about news which ran for most of 2014. But we're unwilling to see a good title die, so the Intelligencer is making its tentative return as a monthly (or thereabouts). Here's hoping the strategy is a successful one - and let's kick things off again with the news about news in January.

Future

The Future of News -  There have been many reports on the future of news, and the latest comes from BBC head of news James Harding. He argues that

in the internet age, the BBC is more necessary and valuable than ever. The internet is not keeping everyone informed, nor will it: it is, in fact, magnifying problems of information inequality, misinformation, polarisation and disengagement. Our job is keeping everyone informed.

He says the BBC must increase both its local and global coverage and improve its digital services, and it's the increase in local coverage that has excited the most comment from the local newspaper world, which feels threatened by the BBC's reach at a time of shrinking newspaper titles and shrinking revenues.

Future of News: News v Noise - The key points from Harding's report have been published as an "immersive journey" on the BBC news website. 

Emily Bell's 2015 Hugh Cudlipp lecture - Also on the future of news and journalism was this lecture by Emily Bell, the director of Columbia University’s Tow Centre for digital journalism, in which calls for social networks and journalists to work together.

We are seeing unimaginably large new entities, which get their size from publishing not just a selected number of stories but everything in the world. Social networks and search engines are the masters of this universe. As we see the disappearance of print as a significant medium, and the likely decline of broadcast television, the paths our stories and journalism must travel down to reach readers and viewers are being shaped by technologies beyond our control.

The answer, she argues, is for more journalists who a more technically proficient, and for social networks and search engines to hire more technologists who are understand the news.

Because at the moment we have a situation which is not working for either of us. Those of us engaged with what journalism is and will be, who have a direct and vested interest in the protection of free speech and standards for information have a lot to do, and we need to work together, because we are now part of one continuous global information loop.

Newspaper front pages around the world pay tribute to Charlie - The overpowering story of the month has been the murder by two Islamist gunmen of cartoonists and journalists working for French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. The aftermath included the 'survivors' issue' with its front cover cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad, which had a seven million print run (instead of the usual 60,000). Of the many debates triggered by the calamitious events, some of the most interesting have been on the role of cartoonists. George Brock at The Conversation wrote 'In Praise of the Cartoonist - solitary, studios and searing.' Peter Preston wrote sadly at The Guardian that 'Alas for cartoonists, pen and ink don’t wash on the web' while Ricardo Bilton at Digiday argued quite the opposite, reporting that 'Digital publishers turn to cartoons to cover the news'.

'Muslim-controlled' UK city claim mocked by #FoxNewsFacts hashtag - Much joy was brought by the Twitter hashtag #FoxNewsFacts following Fox News terrorism expert Steve Emerson's bold statement that there were no-go zones in Europe where "non-Muslims just simply don’t go", among them Birmingham. Tweets along the lines of "Mecca Bingo, probable proof of the Islamic domination of Birmingham" and "Spaghetti Junction was specifically designed to make sure all roads lead to Mecca" brought some gaiety to dark times. The Poke gathered a selection of the best of them.

Watch out for @Bellingcat - An interview on Columbia Journalism Review with British blogger Eliot Higgins (previously known as Brown Moses), whose citizen investigative journalism website Bellingcat feature closely-analysed evidence from social media, YouTube and data sources of stories such as the MH17 crash.

Timeline launches news app to give you the context behind the day’s headlines - Another day, another news aggregator app, but Timeline wants to bring you the historical context behind the headlines.

Vice News debuts 'virtual reality news broadcast' of US Millions March - Online news broadcaster Vice News demonstrated a possible advance in news broadcasting when it teamed up with digital artist Chris Milk and filmmaker Spike Jonze for a “virtual reality news broadcast” filmed at the Millions March protest rally at the death of Eric Garner in New York. The 360-degree view film followed Vice News correspondent Alice Speri through the march in December. It's available via the VRSE app for iPhone and Android devices.

Introducing Discover - Snapchat, the service that let's you send messages that get deleted after they've been read, has launched Discover, an app promises "a new way to explore Stories from different editorial teams". According to Nieman Lab, Snapchat’s new Discover feature could be a significant moment in the evolution of mobile news.

Beforeandafter

The British Library's newspaper collection as it was little more than a year ago (in Colindale) and as it is now (in Boston Spa)

Into the void - The British Library officially opened the National Newspaper Building, its new home for the UK's newspaper archives at Boston Spa in Yorkshire. Our blog post takes a look inside the building's storage void and traces the journey from Colindale to Boston Spa for the 60 million volumes held in the nation's newspaper archive.

9.5 million newspaper pages now fully searchable on @BNArchive - Talking of which, the British Newspaper Archive is close to the ten million milestone of digitising historic newspaper pages from the British Library. Just another 440 million to go...

After 44 years The Sun stops publishing topless model pics on page three - Well, so said Press Gazette and many others, including The Sun's sister paper The Times, which broke the news, and there was much debate as to whether changing taste, pressure from lobbyists, or financial arguments had forced the change. Three days later, Page 3 returned.

Google is now a more trusted source of news than the websites it aggregates - Quartz reports that online search engines have overtaken traditional media as the most trusted source for general news and information.

 

19 December 2014

2014 - the year's news about news

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2014 has been an extraordinary, sometimes harrowing, year for news. It has also been a highly significant year for the production and use of news itself - hot topics have included the hacking trial, IPSO, Buzzfeed, data journalism, Google and the right to be forgotten, Brown Moses, Ezra Klein, and the New York Times's leaked Innovation report. It's also been a major year for the British Library's news collection, with the opening of our Newsroom and the successful conclusion of our newspaper digitisation programme. Here are some of the highlights from the year's news about news.

NYT

January

The re-design of the New York Times website was much discussed. Telegraph editor Tony Gallagher was sacked. The Birmingham Post's Business Daily Tablet edition, designed to  “reinvent business journalism within the regional press,” closed after seven months. Also owned by Trinity Mirror was The People, a Buzzfeed-style site populated with "native content". It lasted three months.  But Trinity enjoyed rather more success with viral news site UsVsTh3m. Charley Miller at Medium wondered if in the future we might all become personal broadcasters. News UK launched The Academy, to train teenagers to become journalists. James Harding of BBC News gave a key speech, 'Journalism Today' at the British Library (the first of our three WT Stead lectures). Philosopher Alan de Botton's book The News was not reviewed kindly. Facebook announced Paper. Kola Dumor, the BBC World News presenter, and Chris Chataway, athlete, politicians and news reporter for BBC and ITN, died.

Liberation

February

The staff of French left-wing journal Libération took over the front page to protest at the paper's shareholder group's plans to turn it into a social and cultural hub. Richard Sambrook and Sean McGuire argued that 24-hour news has had its day - and got an angry response from Sky News's Adam Boulton. London news radio station LBC went national. Marc Andreessen's optimistic piece, 'The Future of the News Business', was much shared and debated. 

538

March

American data guru Nate Silver launched data journalism site FiveThirtyEight. Getty made 35 million images freely available.  The New York Times issued a correction for an article written 20 January 1853. The Sun's Page 3 v Breast Cancer campaign did not impress the campaign site No More Page 3Susanna Reid left BBC Breakfast for ITV's planned Good Morning Britain programme. Are robots the future of news? Andrew Pettegree's book The Invention of News, on the early history of newspapers, was greatly admired. The Evening Standard-backed London TV Channel, London Live, went live.

Newsroom

April

The British Library opened its new reading room for news, the Newsroom. Emly Bell lectured at the Library on Journalism in the Age of Automation and Big Data. Celebrity news blogger Ezra Klein launched Vox.com, with its user-friendly 'cards' giving background information to stories. News headlines from UK regional newspapers became an Internet cult. Are automated breaking news stories the future of news? But what about how the news archives of tomorrow will look, asked Adrienne LaFrance. 26 searching questions for news organisations from Raju Narisetti about the move to digital. The Mirror's 'crying child' front cover (which turned out to be a stock photo, not a British child in need of food parcels) caused controversy. British Pathé released 85,000 historic newsreels on YouTube. The New York Times joined the explanatory journalism craze with offshoot The Upshot. Dutch government-funded news site Blendle asked you to pay for stories, giving you your money back if you were not completely satisfied

Innovation

May

Most discussed news-about-news subject of the year was probably the leaked copy of the New York Times's 'Innovation' report, making many - and not just in the newspaper world - think if they were doing enough about digital. But just why was the NYT's executive editor Jill Abramson fired? The British Library published a news content strategy (and not a newspaper strategy). Facebook and Storyful launched FB Newswire. London Live's chief programmer quit after terrible audience figures. Nate Silver's advice to young journalists - learn to code. Good Morning Britain launched (to a mixed reception). Max Clifford was found guilty. Journalist of the year? - quite possibly citizen journalist and social media sleuth Eliot Higgins aka Brown Moses. Immersive narratives became all the rage, led by BBC News's The Reykjavik Confessions. The British Newspaper Archive reached 8 million historic newspaper pages online. And the Duchess of Cambridge's rear became front page viewing (elsewhere).

Miliband

June

Ed Miliband's interview for Buzzfeed saw his comments on reading the news being analysed a great deal (he uses RealClearPolitics). Also much devoured was the Reuters Institute's annual Digital News Report. As was Robert Peston's speech on threats to journalism.  Benedict Cumberbatch helped bring BBC radio news scripts of D-Day (from the British Library's collection) back to life. Are drones the future of news? The Sun tried to give a free copy of a version of the paper backing the England football team at the World Cup, which didn't impress everyone. Ed Miliband then apologised for endorsing it. An Egyptian court sentenced two Al Jazeera journalists to seven years in jail and one to ten years in jail. Jeremy Paxman stood down from Newsnight. At the end of the phone hacking trial, News of the World editor Andy Coulson was found guilty of a conspiracy to intercept voicemails, while former News International chief executive Mrs Brooks was found not guilty. Is Fox News more dangerous than ISIS? So Russell Brand claimed in a YouTube video. And the dream headline occured - Man Bites Dog

Ukraine

July

Social sleuthing from Storyful uncovered evidence of surface-to-air missiles in eastern Ukraine following the shooting down of airliner MH17, as verification of online information became the topic of the hour. Sky News' Colin Brazier was condemned for a live news broadcast when he briefly looked through the content of the luggage of one of the victims of MH17, and produced a thoughtful apology. Ian Burrell at The Independent said poor news coverage was exacerbating the humanitarian crisis in South Sudan. A European court decision allowed individuals to request that Google remove links to historical articles which has personal information that they would rather was forgotten. George Clooney forced Mail Online to apologise. Channel 4 News presenter Jon Snow's heartfelt video account of the child victims in Gaza went viral. There was a timely and useful report on the state of hyperlocal community news in the UK. The Independent launched i100. Brown Moses launched the Bellingcat site to train others in crowdsourced reporting. The 'Fake Sheikh' was himself entrapped. Sarah Palin launched a news channel. There was plagiarism at BuzzfeedThe Sun said farewell to Wapping.

Vice

August

Medyan Dairieh of Vice News scooped the world with his insider video report on the Islamic State. Is virtual reality the future of news? Chapman Pincher died, aged 100. Nick Davies published Hack Attack, on the phone hacking saga. Newspapers marked the centenary of the First World War with solemnity. American started to get alarmed about ebola. David Carr pronounced on the imminent death of the print newspaper.  So did Clay Shirky. 4,000 Buzzfeed posts disappeared. The sound of typewriters returned to the newsroom of The Times. American journalist James Foley was murdered in Syria.

Scotland

September

According to Twitter, Scotland won its independence. Alan Rusbridger spoke at the British Library on the urgent need to protect journalists' sources. The Guardian announced the building of Guardian Space (in King's Cross). Do people remember news better if they read it in print? The dizzying decline of Britain's local newspapers. Newsnight's Ian Katz on the death of the political interview. Hannah Storm on how journalists are becoming propaganda. Independent press regulator IPSO was launched - Hacked Off was hacked off about it.

Bradlee

October

Legendary Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee died, aged 93. Ebola coverage - there was the good, the bad and the ugly. Among the good was much-praised single issue site Ebola Deeply. Among the ugly were fake news sites spreading ebola panic. Is Emergent the future of news? We considered how Edward Snowden changed journalism. Was Krishnan Guru-Murthy's interview with Richard Ayoade the greatest ever? Time travel was offered with the New York Times's TimesMachine archive service.

Getreading

November

Many saw the end of times with the news that Trinity Mirror was closing of seven regional print titles, including The Reading Post, and replacing them with a single website (GetReading). But Tien Tzuo said newspapers are not dying (at least, not some of them). The Newspaper Society and the Newspaper Publishers' Association merged to form the News Media Association. The British Newspaper Archive reached 9 million pages online. Print newspapers became available once more to British Library users, after a year's absence. Professor Aled Jones lectured at the BL on newspaper reading rooms and civic engagement.

Syrian

December

The 'Syrian Hero Boy' video (after being seen by millions) was revealed to be a sham. A new national newspaper was launched, the pro-independence Scottish title The National. Emily Bell's lecture 'Silicon Valley and journalism: make up or break up?' led to much thinking about the future of news. Andrew Norfolk was named journalist of the year at the British Journalism Awards for his investigations into child abuse for The Times. The archive of The Independent is to be digitised. A Wikipedia for news? Google News withdrew its service from Spain after a law was passed saying it had to pay royalties on use of news snippets. Now Spanish newspapers are complaining of loss of traffic. There was an Early Day Motion in the UK parliament against the closure of local newspapers. Alan Rusbridger announced he was standing down as Guardian editor-in-chief. Did Al-Jazeera's hackathon uncover the future of news? And finally, why it is bad news to publish only good news.

This blog is one year old today, by the way. See you next year.

15 August 2014

St Pancras Intelligencer no. 31

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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. 

Islamicstate

https://news.vice.com/video/the-islamic-state-full-length

The Islamic State: Medyan Dairieh scooped the world with his inside report on the Islamic State, the fruit of three weeks spent embedded with the group in Syria and Iraq. A notable coup for Vice News, the youth-oriented news service increasingly challenging the methods of the mainstream media companies. Originally released in five parts, linked here to the full forty-minute report (with some disturbing scenes, please note).

Print is down, and now out: David Carr's piece for the New York Times on how media companies are spinning off newpapers, which could be an indication of bad things for the medium, has been much discussed all week.

The persistent financial demands of Wall Street have trumped the informational needs of Main Street. For decades, investors wanted newspaper companies to become bigger and diversify, so they bought more newspapers and developed television divisions. Now print is too much of a drag on earnings, so media companies are dividing back up and print is being kicked to the curb.

See also Columbia Journalism Review's The great newspaper spin-off and Roy Greenslade's Will newsprint-only companies really hasten the demise of newspapers? On the other hand, News Corp's Robert Thomson announced ""We remain firm believers in the power of print", adding ""Print is a concentrated, intense reading experience with unique affinity in our digitally distracted age." So who really knows?

UK press coverage of the death of Robin Williams: The issue of tabloid and social media coverage of the suicide of Robin Williams is sensitively handled by David Banks at his Media Law blog.

Turning a profit in the Netherlands: How a Dutch hyperlocal network has grown: Joseph Lichterman at Nieman Journalism Lab on the success of Dutch hyperlocal website network Dichtbij.

The relentless trauma of covering Gaza: Jared Malsin at Columbia Journalism Reviews on how even seasoned war correspondents are feeling the impacts of witnessing continual civilian casualties.

Ebola

All quiet on the ebola front in Lincolnshire: Quite possibly the news story of the year, brought to the grateful residents of the county by the Lincolnshire Echo and noted by the Media Blog - though China's news agency Xinhua's confident assurance that "There is no evidence that coffee and onions cure Ebola" surely runs it very close.

6 things publishers need to know about UK media consumption, from Ofcom's latest report: They include the bald asertion that newspapers would not be missed by most of us: "just two percent of respondents saying a newspaper would be form of media they would miss the most", notes The Media Briefing.

Behind the BBC's interactive 'The rise of the Islamic State: Journalism.co.uk reports on the production of the BBC's innovative interactive video piece 'The rise of the Islamic State'.

160,000 newspaper pages added from 1787-1954: They continue to go full steam ahead at the British Newspaper Archive, adding 160,000 pages in July, including the London Evening Standard (for some years in the 1860s, please note), Glasgow’s Daily Record and the Surrey Comet.

African American Newspapers, 1827-1998: A great new digital service just introduced into the British Library's Newsroom is this Readex World Newspaper Archive collection of around 270 US newspapers documenting the African American experience over a century and a half.

Graphic content: How media differ on use of Gaza images: BBC Monitoring shows how news organisations in different countries have approached the use of images about Gaza.

11 July 2014

St Pancras Intelligencer no. 26

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Welcome to the latest edition of the St Pancras Intelligencer, our weekly round-up of news about news. It may be summer holiday time, but there is so much going on - George Clooney taking on Mail Online (and winning), the fallout from the phone hacking trial, BBC TV news at 60 (supposedly), the rise of hyperlocal news, and lots of digitised newspapers being added online.

Clooney

Via USA Today

Exclusive: Clooney responds to 'Daily Mail' report: This week's news lesson is that there are some things in this world that wield greater power than Mail Online, and one of those is George Clooney. The American actor reacted furiously to a story about his future mother-in-law via USA Today with a strong critique of its newsgathering ethos. An apology from Mail Online followed swiftly after, and the story was removed  from its website (it still exists, in reduced form, in the separately edited print version).

'Yes journalists have broken the law, and we should be pleased and proud that they did': An impassioned post-Coulson piece from Mick Hume for Press Gazette, on how journalists have broken the law or broken rules in the past to uncover the truth, from John Wilkes in the 18th century, to WT Stead in the 19th, to the Sunday Times investigative team in the 20th.

Of course journalists are "not above the law". But neither should they be subject to special prosecution and persecution, as has happened in the UK over the past three years with the arrest of more than 60 tabloid journalists. Strangely, few of those high-minded media types at the BBC or Channel 4 news now protesting about the jailing of journalists in Egypt have offered a peep of protest about the criminalisation of tabloid journalism in Britain – and not because anybody has taped over their mouths.

BBC TV News reaches 60-year milestone: BBC News celebrates the sixtienth anniversary of its first TV news bulletin  on 5 July 1954., with Richard Baker reading the headlines (he wouldn't be seen on screen for another three years). Strictly speaking, BBC TV news started in January 1948 with Television Newsreel, unmentioned in this anniversary piece, which is otherwise a great summary of how its news has developed into the age of 24-hour channels and the Internet.

Sun on Sunday editor Victoria Newton on Rebekah, Rupert, paywalls and filling the gap left by the News of the World: A great interview in Press Gazette with Victoria Newton, editor of Sun of Sunday, on thriving in a changing world:

Obviously in terms of print it’s a declining market ... A huge chunk of readers went out of the market with the News of the World. About 800,000 readers just went, which is devastating because you find it very hard to get them back – especially in the digital world.

Newspaper industry to review audience count metrics: Interesting. The Drum reports that Newsworks, the marketing body for UK national newspapers is to conduct a review of audience measurement metrics for the industry to reflect the changing ways in which we now read the papers, from print and laptops to tablets and mobile. 

The New Yorker alters its online strategy: and while it does so, the magazine will be making making all the articles it has published since 2007 available free for three months before introducing a paywall for online subscribers. The offer starts 21 July.

Punch Historical Archive goes online: The Punch Historical Archive has gone online, with 7,900 issues (200,000 pages) from all volumes of the satirical magazine published between 1841–1992 now available via the Gale NewsVault to subscribing institutions.

Whitstabletimes

The Whitstable Times, 23 December 1950, Image © Local World Limited

240,000 extra newspaper pages from 1752-1954: Keen-eyed newspaper archive watchers will have noticed that the number of pages being added to the British Newspaper Archive is double or more per month what it used to be. 240,000 extra pages were added in June for the period 1752-1954, including the Lichfield Mercury, Selkirk’s Southern Reporter, the Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald and the Illustrated Times.

Diving into newspaper archives: Chronicling America: We're big on digitised newspaper archives this week, which is great. Here's a really useful Europeana Newspapers interview with Deborah Thomas from the Library of Congress' online newspaper archive Chronicling America.

Newspapers in Europe and the Digital Agenda for Europe: Yet more on digitised newspapers: the British Library is hosting a Europeana Newspapers workshop 29-30 September, which will be in  two parts: What is the value of newspapers? and Barriers to improving access to digitised newspapers.

The state of hyperlocal community news in the UK: Two AHRC-funded projects at the universities of Cardiff, Birmingham City and Westminster have combined to produce this clear, useful and timely report into the state of hyperlocal news (including asking such pertinent questions as How local is hyperlocal?).

Press freedom is being frustrated as privacy becomes new libel: Thought-provoking piece in The Standard from Roy Greenslade on the threats to journalism he sees in the European Court of Justice's 'right to be forgotten' ruling and the UK's Data Protection Act:

Privacy has become the new libel, and the loser in the long run will be the people who misguidedly think of “the media” as some kind of homogeneous evil institution. In fact, it is there for them, not against them.

A $52 million loss, but a good year for The Guardian: Columbia Journalism Review looks admiringly at how The Guardian's ownership by the Scott Trust has enabled it to paper to experiment and expand digitally across the globe. On the same theme, Gideon Spanier at The Independent interviews Andrew Millar, chief executive of the Guardian Media Group in a post strikingly titled The death of the newspaper has been exaggerated (which is not the same thing as the print newspaper, please note). Having an £843M investment fund certainly helps.

Sir Ray Tindle 'totally convinced' of almost complete return to 'full viability' for local press: More from the newspaper optimism corner. Ray Tindle of publishing group Tindle Newspapers sees the turning of the corner for the local press.

Why you can no longer expect that the news will find you: Tom Krazit at Gigaom warns us on how corporations such as Facebook and Google control the flow of news they think we want to see. Talking of which, All Tech Considered looks at searching for news stories on the World Cup and discovers that in Google Newsroom, Brazil defeat is not a headline.

Beacon Reader's crowdfunding platform now lets supporters fund topics as well as journalists: There are crowdfunded journalism startups that let you fund specific journalists; now how about funding individual topics you'd like to see covered? Mathew Ingram at Gigaom looks at one example, Beacon Reader.

Rolf Harris sentencing made Saturday a good day to bury bad news about the jailing of a national newspaper editor: How Rolf helped bury Andy, with Press Gazette asking why.