04 May 2022
One of the special features of the British Library’s Breaking the News exhibition is a large-scale panorama, created by designers Northover&Brown. Objects and graphics have been placed into flowing pictures of networks, places and people, tracing the changing ways in which we have discovered the news over five centuries, from town squares to what Elon Musk calls ‘the digital town square’. This post complements the panorama.
Interior of a London coffee-house (c.1690), British Museum
Thence to the Coffee-house … where all the newes is of the Dutch being gone out, and of the plague growing upon us in this towne; and of remedies against it: some saying one thing, some another.
On 24 May 1665 Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary of his quest for news. Pepys visited one of London coffee houses two or three times a week over 1663-1664, the habit falling away in 1665 as plague took its grip on the city. He seems not to have cared that much for coffee, but yearned for the companionship, good business contacts and information to be found at a coffee house. Here one discovered the world.
The news one gleaned from a 1660s London coffee house came as much from discussion and talks as it did from printed news. Coffee houses had long tables on which the latest newsbooks and newsletters would be laid out. In 1665 there were only two print newsbooks available (from one publisher), both mostly restricted to overseas news: The Intelligencer and The Newes. The news Pepys discovered was an amalgam of publication, rumour and opinion. Such it was then; such it has remained.
The news has to seek us out. Just as much as it is shaped by those who are able to publish it and those who choose to consume it, news is shaped by where it is found. News publications in Britain in the seventeenth-century were found in print shops, coffee houses, taverns, and in the homes of those in business, officialdom and the church served by private news services that provided handwritten newsletters. Tight publication regulations prevented coverage of anything except overseas events, but the Civil War (1642-1651) created an audience hungry for information and opinion. Mostly confined to London, it was circulated, at some risk to publishers and sellers, as newsbooks, newsletters and proto-newspapers, news from the streets that was sold on the streets.
In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries newspapers gradually grew in numbers, geographical range, and habit. News was carried across the country by mail coaches along ever-improving roads to homes and public spaces such as taverns and workplaces. Copies passed from hand to many other hands. Such news could be shared verbally, reaching out to the illiterate or those priced out of purchasing a newspaper by taxes designed to suppress radical thought. Working class memoirist Thomas Carter recalled passing on the news in 1815:
I every morning gave them an account of what I had just been reading in the yesterday's newspaper ... My shopmates were much pleased at the extent and variety of the intelligence which I was able to give them about public affairs, and they were the more pleased because I often told them about the contents of Mr. Cobbett's "Political Register", as they were warm admirers of that clever and very intelligible writer. (T. Carter, Memoirs of a Working Man, London, 1845)
In the nineteenth century the newspaper flourished, aided by rapid growth in readers and advertising money that freed newspapers from political control. Coffee houses remained a popular location, but from the 1830s newspaper reading rooms emerged, followed later by newspaper sections of public libraries, greatly widening access to local and international affairs to those who had previously been priced out of such knowledge. The rapid spread of a rail network not only boosted the distribution of newspapers but created a new kind of space for news, the commuting space, private consumption in a public environment. Newspapers could be organised to last for the duration of a rail journey. Truly national newspaper titles came to the fore – The Times, The Morning Chronicle, The Daily Telegraph (few other countries have so dominant a national newspaper culture as the UK). Sunday titles such as The Observer and The Sunday Times fitted into the weekend pattern of lives with greater leisure time. All culminated in the great game-changer, The Daily Mail, launched in 1896, a million-seller by 1901.
In the twentieth century different news forms arose to compete for public attention in both private and public spaces. From the 1910s through to the 1960s cinemas usually featured news in their programmes, in the shape of short newsreels, with dedicated news cinemas proliferating across cities from the 1930s. Radio news started in December 1922, delivering its messages exclusively for domestic consumption, building up its reputation so that for the Second World War it was the essential means by which the general public anchored itself to the daily progression of the conflict. BBC television in the 1930s showed only cinema newsreels, introducing its own newsreel in January 1948. It introduced newsreaders in the format that endures to this day in 1955, just ahead of its new commercial rival, ITV. It proved to be the perfect domestic, communal medium, gradually supplanting radio, pressurising the newspapers and crushing cinema newsreels, which could not compete with so frequent a service.
Newspapers were still read on trains and in libraries, but the contest for news supremacy lay in the domestic space. News was something that came to us, that occupied our homes. It tied us constantly to the turn of events happening outside our protective four walls. Local radio and television arose, following newspapers in serving audiences who understood themselves as much regionally as nationally.
The multi-format, domestic model began to be overturned at the turn of the century. The Internet has become a platform for all established news media (press, television, radio) and has led to the creation of new news media forms. Social media combines personal and general information, serves as a distribution platform for stories from the other news media while delivering original content as well, and supplies content on which all news media now depend.
The Internet has not only broken up traditional news forms, but has changed the relationship between news and space. The news no longer needs to seek us out: it is everywhere. Amy, aged 25-30, in a 2019 Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism report on news habits of the young, describes how she occupies this world:
I’m on Instagram, for example, and there are videos on there, that could send me to a link to somewhere else… It depends what I’m looking for, but if I’m scrolling that could be anything from a post on Facebook to a video on Instagram to an article on BBC News or something. So, it sort of depends where I am and what I’m looking for.
Part of the ‘Where do we find the news?’ panorama, Breaking the News exhibition, British Library
For 400 years, since the publication of the first newspaper in Britain, the established news media have been defined by regularity. As C. John Sommerville argues, they built an economic model around news as something shaped in a particular form, forever replaced by new content, an idea of news that fed off assured spaces and a regularity of habit. Pepys went to the coffee house when his morning’s office work was done. Newspapers arrived when the mail coach was due, or were read on the daily train commute, or were delivered to the doorstep each day. They called themselves dailies or weeklies, naming themselves after their dependability. News reading rooms were open for when workers had leisure time, a weekly luxury. Newsreels were released twice a week because, in its heyday, that was how often the average person went to the cinema. Radio news established itself around daily bulletins – the six o’clock news, the nine o’clock news. Television followed the same model until it devised 24-hour news, though even that was built around regularity, with headlines on the hour. News has been defined by, indeed has helped shape, the daily round.
The Internet knows no regularity and demands no physical space. It ignores all confines (at least in those societies that permit such freedoms). The Internet is therefore changing the news. We still measure our time in days, but the network through which we communicate across the globe does not. Many, of course, still cling to the daily newspaper, or to the early evening TV news, or a radio report at midnight, signing things off for another day – but these are habits, no longer certainties. What once could be defined by a physical space must now be defined by its absence. The news today is determined not by where we are but by who we are, or who we want to be. This is the unsettling, but exciting, world of news that the twenty-first century is now delivering to us.
Lead Curator, News & Moving Image
Richard D. Altick, The English Common Reader: A Social History of the Mass Reading Public, 1800-1900 (Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press, 1957)
Markman Ellis, The Coffee House: A Cultural History (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2004)
Matthew Engel, Tickle the Public: One Hundred Years of the Popular Press (London: Victor Gollancz, 1996)
Andrew Hobbs, A Fleet Street in Every Town: The Provincial Press in England, 1855-1900 (Cambridge: Open Book Publishers, 2018)
Anthony Smith, The Newspaper: An International History (London: Thames & Hudson, 1979)
John Sommerville, The News Revolution in England: Cultural Dynamics of Daily Information (New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996)
21 May 2019
In Spring 2021 the British Library will be hosting a major exhibition on the history of news in Britain.
The aim of the exhibition is to explore the history, present and future of news in Britain over 400 years since the first newspaper was published in this country, asking what makes the news what it is, and what this means for us.
The exhibition will trace how news for the diverse audiences of this country has been produced, distributed and read over four centuries, through news sheets, news books, broadsides, newspapers, newsreels, radio, television, the internet and social media. The exhibition will encourage questions about the role of news in society. It will look at the ways in which news is changing as we ourselves change. It will invite to us to consider vital issues of choice, interpretation, truth and trust.
Planning for the exhibition, provisionally entitled Making the News, has got underway. To help us put it together, we are advertising for a two-year exhibition project curator.
Working with a curatorial team and the Library’s exhibition team, the post-holder will contribute to the development and delivery of the exhibition. They will contribute to the administration of the curatorial content of the exhibition; will prepare external visits and show-and-tells; will promote the exhibition on social media and to visitors; and will apply research expertise in one or more areas of British news history in support of the selection and curation of content for the exhibition.
Details of the vacancy and how to apply can be found on the British Library's careers site. The deadline for applications is 23 June 2019.
04 January 2017
The incoming US president, Donald Trump, is rewriting the book on the political process. However, despite the apparent creation of policy via social media, the real impact Trump has made since the presidential election process began has been through the more traditional media, particularly television. His statements made through Twitter have been picked up by newspapers, television and radio, and it is here that the seismic realignment of American political priorities is being digested and disseminated. Twitter has been used to ignite a media process. Social media remains for Donald Trump a means of being on TV, where his mass audience lies (Trump has 18.6m Twitter followers, but there are 114m television sets in the USA alone).
From the Sky News coverage of the US presidential election result, 09/11/2016
Trump's impact on television in Britain can be traced through the news and current affairs programmes recorded for the British Library's Broadcast News service. As well as recording regular television and radio news programmes each day from 22 UK and international channels, we have recorded numerous special programmes on Trump and the US election. On 8/9 November we recorded the election night programmes of BBC One, ITV1, Sky News, Al Jazeera English, CNN, RT (Russia Today), Channels 24 (Nigerian television) and CCTV (China). All of these can be found on our Explore catalogue with links to the playable programmes, which for copyright reasons can only be played on terminals at our London or Yorkshire sites. For ease of searching it is best, if you are onsite and using a British Library terminal, to go to the Broadcast News service itself (http://videoserver.bl.uk) and use the Advanced Search facility to select all recordings for 8/9 November 2016.
We also have many individual television programmes produced through 2016. of which the titles below are only a selection. They document not only the events of recent history, but the struggle that the often incredulous traditional media have had in trying to come to terms with the Trump phenomenon. The links are to our catalogue records, but again please note the programmes will only be playable on a British Library terminal. Descriptions in inverted commas are those provided for the programmes as part of the EPG (Electronic Programme Guide).
- The Mad World of Donald Trump (Channel 4, tx. 26/01/2016): "Matt Frei enters the colourful and mad world of presidential hopeful Donald Trump, whose meteoric political rise comes amid one of the most controversial political campaigns America's seen."
- Piers: The Trump Interview (ITV1, tx. 23/03/2016): "Piers Morgan's full, uncensored interview with controversial US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump."
- President Trump: Can He Really Win? (Channel 4, tx. 30/03/2016): "Donald Trump has emerged as the clear front runner for the Republican Presidential nomination. Matt Frei investigates whether 'the Donald' could make it to the White House."
- Republican Presidential Town Hall (CNN, tx. 30/03/2016): Anderson Cooper hosts a Republican Presidential Town Hall with Ted Cruz, John Kasich and Donald Trump.
- Listening Post (Al Jazeera English, tx. 23/04/2016): "Trump and Clinton win the New York Primaries but what part have the media played in their victories?"
- United States of Hate: Muslims Under Attack (BBC One, tx. 05/07/2016): "Examining America's recent upsurge in Islamophobia and the reasons it has come about."
- Panorama: Trump's Angry America (BBC One, tx. 18/07/2016): "Hilary Andersson visits the racially divided town of Bakersfield to meet Donald Trump supporters as well as those who fear Trump becoming president."
- Republican National Convention 2016 (BBC Parliament, tx. 22/07/2016): Recorded coverage of the 2016 Republican National Convention, from Thursday 21 July. Including speeches from Reince Priebus, Peter Thiel, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump.
- Republican National Convention 2016 (CNN, tx. 22/07/2016): Live coverage of Republican National Convention for 21 July 2016, including acceptance speech by Donald Trump.
- President Trump: Can He Really Win? (Channel 4, tx. 23/08/2016): "Matt Frei explores how the US presidential contest is shaping up to be one of the most brutal in living memory, and asks if Donald Trump can make it all the way to the White House."
- Trump vs Clinton Live (Channel 4, tx. 27/09/2016): "US Presidential Debate: Channel 4 presents live coverage of the first of three US presidential debates, as Donald Trump goes head to head with Hillary Clinton."
- Tonight: Trump's America - Will It Happen? (ITV1, tx. 06/10/2016): "Robert Moore explores why many Americans feel so angry ahead of one of the most bitterly-fought and divisive presidential campaigns in history."
- Clinton v Trump: The Second Debate (Sky News, tx. 10/10/2016): "We join Sky News for coverage of the second presidential debate of the 2016 US Election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump."
- Paxman on Trump v Clinton: Divided America (BBC One, tx. 17/10/2016): "Jeremy Paxman travels to Washington and beyond to understand how Americans came to face such unpopular choices in its candidates for the presidency."
- US Presidential Debate (BBC News, tx. 20/1/2016): "Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump face each other in the final 2016 presidential debate at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas."
- This World: Conspiracy Files - The Trump Dossier (BBC Two, tx. 03/11/2016): "Investigative documentary looking into how Donald Trump has used conspiracy theories to further his bid for the presidency."
- Trump's Unlikely Superfans (BBC One, tx. 07/11/2016): "Angela Scanlon meets with the passionate and unlikely people stumping for Donald Trump to find out why they support his controversial campaign."
- Rich Hall's Presidential Grudge Match (BBC Four, tx. 07/11/2016): "An examination of the sordid machinations involved in becoming US president."
- Newsnight: Trump's America - A Newsnight Special (BBC Two, tx. 11/11/2016): "With reporting from across the United States, Newsnight explores the ramifications of the election of Donald Trump as president."
- The World According to President Trump (Channel 4, tx. 12/11/2016): "What will a President Trump really do? Will he really ban all Muslims? Build a wall? Pal up to Putin? Smash Isis? Matt Frei speaks to the people who know."
- Panorama: Trump's New America (BBC One, tx. 14/11/2-16): "Hilary Andersson meets angry Americans on both sides of the electoral race who feel disillusioned and disenfranchised by the electoral process."
- Listening Post (Al Jazeera English, tx. 19/11/2016): "How the US media begins the process of 'normalising' Donald Trump"
- Frankie Boyle's American Autopsy (BBC Two, tx. 20/11/2016): "Frankie attempts to make sense of the US election through stand-up and debate."
We will of course continue to record the television news throughout 2017 and beyond. For discussion of the impact of Donald Trump's tweets on the news agenda, see What really happens when Donald Trump goes on a Twitter rampage (Quartz, 11/12/2016), If Trump Tweets It, Is It News? A Quandary for the News Media (New York Times, 29 November 2016), How Trump Took Over the Media By Fighting It (Politico, 5/11/2016), or Why the establishment was blindsided by Donald Trump (Washington Post, 28 October 2016).
Or you can check every Trump tweet, the deleted and the active, with telling categorisation, at the admirable Trump Twitter Archive.
01 June 2016
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.
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.
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.
27 February 2015
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...
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...
24 September 2014
Over the past few years a quiet revolution has been taking place in the production of news in the UK. The people are making the news for themselves. Inspired by blogging platforms, forums, Facebook and other social media, and the rise in mobile devices, but all the more by an urge to report on local issues that matter to them, people have been producing news-based online services - occasionally in print form as well - that operate on a local level. They have been given the name hyperlocal media, and there are hundreds of them out there. Many are reading them, some academics are studying them, and here at the British Library we want to archive them.
Port Talbot Magnet, http://www.lnpt.org
The term 'hyperlocal' comes from the USA and in general means local news and information sources online which are not produced by traditional media owners, but are instead created by communities themselves. As a phenomenon in the UK it seems to date back to 2007, though with some roots stretching back further than that. Just how many hyperlocal sites are out there in the UK no one knows. In 2012 the Openly Local site attempted to list them all and found 700 of them, but the data has not been updated for some while now, and without a system of registration it is hard to see how it would be possible ever to document them all with any certainty.
Part of the challenge lies in definition - some of the sites cover villages or corners of one town, others stretch over a whole city. Some are news sites, some information or arts and culture sites. Some are simply message forums; others look just like online newspapers from traditional media owners. Here is a selection of titles to demonstrate the range:
- Alston Moor
- The Ambler (Amble, Northumberland)
- Brixton Blog
- The City Talking (Leeds)
- The Lincolnite
- More Canals than Venice (Birmingham)
- Papur Dre (Caernarfon)
- The Peckham Peculiar
- Port Talbot Magnet
- Shetland News
- The Yam Yam (Black Country)
There has been growing interest from policy makers and academics in the hyperlocal phenomenon. in 2012 NESTA ( National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts) produced a report, Here and Now: UK hyperlocal media today which looked at the growth of the media, their sustainability, funding and visibility. Two AHRC-funded projects at Cardiff, Birmingham and Westminster universities have been studying hyperlocal media and combined this year to produce a report: The State of Hyperlocal Community News in the UK.
The report finds that three-quarters of hyperlocal producers have been producing news for over three years and nearly a third for more than five years. Intriguingly, almost half of those surveyed had some sort of journalistic training or media experience, much higher than one might have suspected.
The connection with habitual news media practice is shown by three-quarters of respondents having covered local campaigns instigated by others, with well over a third have instigated their own. Most of those behind such sites work part-time on them: 57% work up to 10 hours per week, 26% work between 11 and 30 hours per week. The impact generated by all this effort is relatively low, as one would expect for local sites: a small group of high-performing community news sites reach audiences between 10,000 and 100,000 unique visits per month but most reach quite modest audiences of around 5,000 per month.
Community news producers tend do it for love and dedication to the cause. Most fund the running costs from their own pockets, but around one in four raise enough money to cover their costs, with advertising being the dominant form of income generation. 12% make less than £100 a month; 13% generate more than £500 per month. Yet nine out of ten believe they can sustain, or increase, current levels of output for the coming year, and eight out of then have ambitions to expand their sites. Hyperlocals may eventually fall in number as some lose the drive to continue what they have started up, but a core looks like to become a fixed part of the news media landscape.
The Peckham Peculiar, http://peckhampeculiar.tumblr.com
Hyperlocalism is turning anyone who wants to be into a journalist or a media producer. Fancy having a go for yourself? Cardiff University's Centre for Community Journalism has produced a handy guide: Community Engagement and Hyperlocal News: a practical guide. This provides instruction on how to identify, listen to and engage with the community you wish to serve, how to make best use of social media, what online tools can help you, how to produce engaging content, how to cover local causes and campaigns, how to manage your time most effectively (a key issue mentioned by practitioners is how they never seem to have enough time achieve what they want to achieve) and how to monitor your impact.
We are witnessing a grassroots news revolution, and it is instructive to look at the parallels with the early history of newspaper production in this country. Newspapers and newsbooks arose in Britain from the early seventeenth century. Building on what had previously been private news services or occasional leaflets and broadsides, newspapers grew rapidly to serve an audience thirst for current information and the exercise of opinion. The civil war encouraged this demand to know, and though news production was constrained for a time by censorship and licensing restrictions, and then taxation, titles spread across the country until by the mid-eighteenth century few corners of the country were without a newspaper of some kind. Newspapers became a signifier of local identity. Their variousness demonstrated that news changes according to the needs of its consumers. What is news to someone in one area is not news to another. News is made by its communities. This is what the hyperlocal revolution has rediscovered.
Alston Moor, http://www.cybermoor.org
Another parallel with early newspapers needs to halted. Thousands of newspaper issues produced in Britain from the 17th to the mid-19th century have been lost because there was no system in place for collecting them and no library to hold them. It is only thanks to collectors such as George Thomason and Charles Burney that we have the early British newspaper collection that we do, now part of the British Library's collection (since 1869 a copy of every newspaper published in Britain and Ireland has been acquired under legal deposit, originally by the British Museum and now by the British Library).
We do not intend to lose this new flowering of news production in the same way. In April 2013 non-print legal deposit legislation was passed which has enabled the Library to capture electronic publications on top of the print publications traditionally collected under legal deposit. We began by crawling the entire .uk domain (some 3.5 million websites); subsequent crawls will cover all websites published in the United Kingdom, so far as we are able to identify them. Eventually all British hyperlocal sites will be included, but how to find them thereafter, and what about those who currently may be slipping through the net?
So it is that we have a tool which enables curators to identify particular sites for retention, and to tag these so that they can be gathered into collections. In September we identified an initial 500 news websites - mostly newspaper sites - which we would archive on a regular and frequent basis, some weekly, some daily (the main web archiving crawl is annual). We will now be adding a further 500 or so sites for regular web archiving, most of them hyperlocal news sites, largely based on a list kindly provided by Dave Harte of Birmingham City University, one of the collaborators behind the Cardiff/Birmingham 'Media, Community and the Creative Citizen' project.
Some of these sites will be short-lived. Some will change their name, or web address. Who knows, some may merge or otherwise morph, as the community news sector matures. The important thing is that we capture what we can now. We need also to do more to acquire the print versions of hyperlocals, where these exist, only a few of which are currently being picked up through legal deposit. Then we need to keep a watchful eye on what new sites emerge, and which ones die, and review our selection on an annual basis at least. It's important to note that the Legal Deposit UK Web Archive may only be accessed onsite via Reading Room computers at the British Library and other legal deposit libraries (i.e. the national libraries of Scotland and Wales, the Bodleian, Cambridge University library and Trinity College Dublin). Interested researchers can come to the British Library's Newsroom, and any search result on the Web Archive can be filtered by the term 'news'. We haven't started archiving the hyperlocals yet, but plan to start doing so within the next few weeks.
Last week the Royal College of Art hosted the Creative Citizens conference, on creative citizenship and its value to the community. There was a panel on hyperlocal news media, at which I was fortunate to speak, demonstrating the links between news media of the past and this emerging news medium, and calling for the sites to be identified, archived, and then used. We need researchers to start using this new research resource, as part of the broadening news media world of which newspapers, television and radio news now form only a part. Most of these sites are still findable online, of course, but that's unlikely always to be the case, and being able to search across them all (or at least a good many of them) will tell us a lot about what this new world of community news is telling us about our communities. It will also show how news power is changing. Anyone can be a journalist. Anyone can be a media producer. So could you.
- The Centre for Community Journalism has resources and training events for those interested in community journalism, and a directory of hyperlocal sites
- Openly Local is a resource for accessing local government information, with a directory of hyperlocal sites
- Talk About Local is an organisation supporting the online connecting up of communities
- Anyone interested in researching hyperlocal news media, or who wants to check if their hyperlocal site is included on our archiving list should please get in touch
19 September 2014
Your blogger has been away on his holidays, now returned refreshed, so this edition of the St Pancras Intelligencer is a leisurely look back at some of the news items about news that caught our eye over the past three weeks.
Newspaper front pages show a divided Scotland: Mashable collects the memorable newspaper front pages from Thursday 18 September 2014, the day of the Scottish independence referendum.
Yes comes out on top amid more than 7 million tweets on #indyref, Twitter reveals: And demonstrating the limited value of using Twitter as a gauge of overall public opinion, The Drum reveals that pro-Scottish Independence came out on top according to social media.
Source confidentiality is 'in peril' and needs 'urgent action' to combat state spying: Alan Rusbridger, editor of The Guardian, came to the British Library and spoke on the urgent need to protect journalists' sources:
This whole thing that's supposedly sacred to journalists about confidentiality of sources is in peril. And that requires urgent action by journalists to make sure they understand the technologies that will enable them to communicate.
Press Gazette reports.
Accuracy, independence and impartiality: A Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism report on how editorial standards are maintained in a digital age, focussing on three 'legacy organisations' (the Guardian, the New York Times, and the BBC) and three digital outlets (Quartz, BuzzFeed, and Vice News).
Designer or journalist: Who shapes the news you read in your favorite apps?: Really interesting piece from Nieman Journalism Lab on who has influence over how news apps look.
Can news literacy grow up?: Thoughts from Linday Beyerstein at Columbia Journalism Review on the "critical-thinking skills necessary to discern what is trustworthy in this churning informational stew".
Here comes the papers: After a year, while we closed down our former newspaper library at colindale and began populating the new store at Boston Spa, the British Library is ready to make print newspapers available again for researchers. Some will be available from end of September; the remainder in November. Our blog post has the details.
Yep, BuzzFeed is building a games team: BuzzFeed is getting into games development, as Techcrunch reports.
How robots consumed journalism: An intriguing short history of the involvement of robots in news production, starting in the 1770s with Swiss watchmaker Pierre Jaquet-Droz who built “The Writer,” a 6,000-part automated doll that could be mechanically programmed to write with a quill. And for robots writing the news now (they're growing in number), there's this sobering Guardian piece: The journalists who never sleep (and one of the programme covered is called Quill).
The newsonomics of the Washington Post and New York Times network wars: Ken Doctor at Nieman Journalism Lab reviews the competition between the two titles through digital networks and niche print produts.
Sir Alan Moses says IPSO is not Leveson-compliant but insists that it will be independent: The Press Complaint Commission closed on 8 September, to be replaced with the (ndependent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO). The head of the new regulator tells Press Gazette that it will live up to the first word in its name.
NewsCorp: Google is a 'platform for piracy': NewsCorp has written to the European Commission to complain that Google's huge scale puts newspapers and news sites at a disadvantage.
The death of the political interview: Newsnight editor Ian Katz writes for the Financial Times on how the political interview has gone wrong and what might be done to change things:
The dizzying decline of Britain’s local newspapers: do you want the bad news, or the good news?: Ian Burrell at The Independent says print circulation figures for regional newspapers suggest they are facing imminent extinction, but sees some reasons for optimism in the rise on online audiences and associated revenues.
How to download bulk newspaper articles from Papers Past: One for the techies out there - software developer Conal Tuohy shows how to extra bulk data for the excellent Papers Past site of New Zealand historical newspapers, and to apply data mining tools to uncover patterns in the articles.
Do people remember news better if they read it in print?: Thought-provoking piece on news consumption, from The Atlantic.
Guardian building Guardian Space at King's Cross: The Guardian is renovating a 30,000 square foot space - Guardian Space - to host live activities at King's Cross. So, just around the corner for the British Library and its Newsroom. Hello there.
29 August 2014
Your humble blogger is taking a rest from Newsroom duties for a couple of weeks while he heads off on vacation, so there will be no St Pancras Intelligencer next Friday, nor the next. So make the most of this week's select gathering of news about news, and look out for plenty more from the Newsroom blog on our return.
GDELT comparison of 'conflict events' in Germany 7/8/2009 – 9/6/2009 (green left of black line) and 9/6/2009 – 11/5/2009 (green right of black line) compared with Egypt (red) - see http://blog.gdeltproject.org/towards-psychohistory-uncovering-the-patterns-of-world-history-with-google-bigquery/
Can computers replace historians?: Rory Cellan-Jones at BBC News notes the work of the GDELT project ('a global database of society'), which has collected has collected media reports of events from sources in more than 100 languages covering a period of 35 years. It is using the data to draw out the pattern of world events with the sort of analysis that would have taken historians years to compile in the traditional manner. News looks like it is the first draft of history after all.
'Daily Mail' solves Internet paradox: Michael Wolff at USA Today looks admiringly on how the Daily Mail created the separate beast of Mail Online and created the world's 'most-trafficked' English-language newspaper website.
Open journalism also means opening up your data, so others can use and improve it: Gigaom's Mathew Ingram (never a week goes by but we don't find ourselves recommending his writings) calls for journalists to free up their data - because it's good for journalism.
How the news upstarts covered ISIS: DigiDay examines how news' new kids on the block, including Vice, BuzzFeed, Mashable, International Business Times and Vocativ have been beating newspapers at their traditional game when it comes to coverage of the rise of ISIS.
Gun Safety, Self Defense, and Road Marches – Finding an ISIS Training Camp: Talking of which, news coup of the week was undoubtedly Elliott Higgins' kickstarter-funded citizen journalism site, Bellingcat, which showed how to identify the location of an ISIS training camp using Google Earth and Bing Maps.
Can the UK’s broadcast news providers keep doing more for less?: Former ITN chief turned journalism academic Stewart Purvis looks at the struggles broadcasters have, caught between the demans of innovation and tradition:
At the opposite ends of the scale are the traditional TV news audience, predominantly over 55 years of age, and the 16-34 audience which is converting to or adopting online news use at a startling rate, especially since the arrival of smart phones and tablets ... whereas daily average TV viewing is currently three times higher among adults aged 55-plus than among adults age 16-34, the ratio is more like five or six to one when it comes to news. In the middle is the 35-54 audience which currently has a foot in both camps but whose future allegiance to TV news cannot be taken for granted.
Vice News sparks debate on engaging younger viewers: On the same theme, The Guardian looks at how traditional broadcasters such as the BBC and Channel 4 News are aiming to attract a generation at home on YouTube and social media.
Is local TV vanity over sanity?:Media Week looks at how the plans are going for the launch of local television stations across the UK, and doesn't think that things are going too well.
New Orleans newspaper page, from www.noladna.com
Old newspapers, new value: Printmaker J.S. Makkos writes a beautifully-illustrated piece for The Atlantic about making new products out of old New Orleans newspapers, and reminds us of old controversies about the disposal of surplus newspaper archives and the dangers of keeping only the grey images of microfilm. For more, see the New Orleans Digital Newspaper Archive.
The Times' newsroom set to ring with the sounds of typewriters once more: What fun - a speaker has been introduced into The Times newsroom at London Bridge, which relays the sounds of typewriters, recalling the newsroom of old. The intention is apparently to boost energy levels and encourage journalists to meet deadlines as the sounds of the typewriters rises to a crescendo. Ian Burrell at The Independent looks on, with not a little bemusement.
22 August 2014
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.
James Foley, via http://www.globalpost.com
Here's some of James Foley's finest reporting for GlobalPost: American journalist James Foley was murdered in Syria in an act that has revolted the world. The American online news site for which he did most of his work, GlobalPost, has published this tribute along with examples of some of his work.
View of #Ferguson Thrust Michael Brown Shooting to National Attention: David Carr at the New York Times looks at how the story of the shooting of Michael Brown spread through Twitter to national consciousness.
BBC’s long struggle to present the facts without fear or favour: An excellent, thought-provoking historical overview of the BBC's striving to remain independent and impartial as a news provider, part of a nine-part series by Charlotte Higgins, 'The BBC Report', for The Guardian.
In depth: The 64 UK journalists arrested and/or charged following the News of the World hacking scandal: An astonishing line-up provided by Press Gazette.
Last call: Clay Shirky writes the obituary of the printed newspaper, and what it means for journalism, for Medium.
Contrary to the contrived ignorance of media reporters, the future of the daily newspaper is one of the few certainties in the current landscape: Most of them are going away, in this decade. (If you work at a paper and you don’t know what’s happened to your own circulation or revenue in the last few years, now might be a good time to ask.) We’re late enough in the process that we can even predict the likely circumstance of its demise.
Bulgarians and Romanians in the British National Press: The Migration Observatory has produced a report on how British newspaper reported Bulgarians and Romanians leading up to the lifting of temporary restrictions on the right to work in the UK in January 2014.
Over 4,000 BuzzFeed posts have completely disappears: Gawker reports with alarm that BuzzFeed has deleted many post from its site. In an interview with Slate, BuzzFeed boss Jonah Peretti explains why (they were "technically broken, not sourced to our current standards, not worth improving or saving because the content isn’t very good") and says it's because they were originally a tech company not a journalistic one, though they are a journalistic one now.
The weird new future of news: New York-based discussion site The Awl reports that NowThisNews is looking to place its fleeting news reports to the apps of others. It reproduces some alarming examples of what a 90-second news briefing from NowThis News on Snapchat, the messaging service which deletes messages once they have been read, looks like. On the same subject, the Wall Street Journal reports News and ads to debut on Snapchat:
The product would let users read daily editions of publications as well as watch video clips of TV shows or movies by holding down a finger on the screen, like they do with photos and other messages on the app before disappearing.
Mathew Ingram at Gigaom reviews this trend towards publishing on apps rather than a brand's own website, arguing that News needs to go where the people are, not the other way around.
The future of mobile apps for news: More on the mobile future for news in this useful summary of the technical issues by Frederic Filloux at Monday Note.
Teenagers and the news game: The BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones looks at how teenagers get their news and the challenge this presents for journalists.
Using Oculus Rift to build immersive news experiences: Wired reports on Nonny de la Peña from USC School of Cinematic Arts, who is creating immersive journalism experience using gaming platforms and virtual reality.
The Illustrated First World War: Illustrated London News Ltd has launched a handsomely-designed website featuring 1914-1918 archive material from the Illustrated London News, with other titles in its collection (such as The Graphic, The Sketch and The Sphere) in due course - all free, thanks to a £96K Heritage Lottery Fund grant.
The Guardian view of the Cliff Richard search: The controversial reporting by the BBC of a search of Cliff Richard's house is viewed by The Guardian as something that could could reopen issues about the police and the press that troubled Lord Justice Leveson.
Google removes 12 BBC News links in 'right to be forgotten: Fascinatingly this includes a 2009 item on the merits of hummus.
15 August 2014
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.
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.
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.