THE BRITISH LIBRARY

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32 posts categorized "Web"

16 December 2018

Collecting news

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In two years’ time, it will be the four hundredth anniversary of the newspaper in this country. The first known newspaper in English, Corrant out of Italy, Germany, &c. was published on 2 December 1620, in Amsterdam. A year later, on 24 September 1621, the first newspaper was published in this country, the Corante, or, Newes from Italy, Germany, Hungarie, Spaine and France.

Corante

Corante, or, Newes from Italy, Germany, Hungarie, Spaine and France (September 1621), British Library

These newspapers survive at the British Library, and, looking at them, they are remarkably close to the newspapers of today. What we see is a sheet of paper: portable, foldable, shareable. There is a masthead with the title of the news publication. There is a date – strictly speaking, a date for the first story. There are stories, arranged in columns, with a shared currency. It gives a shape to the news, with the promise of more to follow.

The newspaper has been a remarkably successful publishing model, sustained in this country, after an unsteady start, for nearly 400 years. The newspaper and its prints variants flourished, with the inhibitions of censorship, taxation or regulation failing to halt their progress. The newspaper informed, entertained and helped define the nations and regions that it served.

The newspaper went largely unchallenged as a medium of news for nearly three hundred years. Certainly there were variations on the form, from periodicals to broadsides, and changes were brought about in size, illustration, distribution patterns and so forth, but essentially the news meant the newspaper.

Pathe

Title image of a 1911 edition of Pathe’s Animated Gazette, British Pathe

That changed in June 1910, when a wholly new news form was published – the newsreel. One can argue over the significant date, for newsfilms of a kind preceded newsreels just as there were news sheets and other news publications before there were newspapers. But with Pathé’s Animated Gazette, issue one of which was shown in cinemas in June 1910 and weekly, then bi-weekly thereafter, something changed. This was news on a new medium, that not only communicated the news in a different way but had to be consumed differently, by an audience sitting in a cinema, unable to control the order of stories in which they appeared nor the time they might want to spend on each one.

The newsreel did another revolutionary thing. It invited the audience to widen its understanding of the news, even to have a measure of control over it. Owing to the complexities of film processing, newsreels could not be published daily. They were published bi-weekly, matching the common pattern of cinema attendance (i.e. most people were going to the cinema twice a week), and deliberately chose news stories which had featured in the newspapers previously. You had read the story, now you could see it in motion. You the audience could combine these media together to enrich your understanding of the news, if you so wished.

Newspaper owners were swift to react to this. In the USA, William Randolph Hearst rapidly bought into the newspaper market, creating Hearst-Selig News Pictorial in 1914. In the UK, Edward Hulton, owner of The Daily Sketch newspaper, bought the Topical Budget newsreel in 1919. Lord Beaverbrook of The Daily Express became co-owner of Pathé Gazette in the 1920s. Hulton and Beaverbrook wanted to own the totality of the news.

But the news was spreading, increasing audience power while making it much harder for the news barons to control every manifestation of the phenomenon of news. The BBC introduced news bulletins on 23 December 1922, under government licence. It lay outside any possible control of the newspapers (though originally the BBC was restricted to using news agency copy only), and swiftly challenged them through daily publication and command of the public space. Radio added a new dimension: live reporting, collapsing the time difference between news event and news consumption. 

Radio also offered sound, of course, which the newsreels adopted around 1930. News could now be read, or seen, or listened to, and with each innovation the newspaper lost that much more of its claim to the totality of news, while audience power grew with the increase in choice.

Kendall

BBC newsreader Kenneth Kendall, 1950s, BBC

Next came television. The first BBC television news programme, in January 1948, was a newsreel in form and name – Television Newsreel, while the new medium owed much in its early years to its parent medium, radio. As with radio in the UK, it originally owed its existence to government licence, and added to the trump cards of frequency, domestic space and live reporting the particular power of the newsreader.

News now had a human face, that spoke to you the viewer as an individual as well as to the mass. It added to that sense of reassurance that news publications existed to provide. Danger and calamity were what was happening to other people. The fact that you were there to read the news, or to have it read to you, implied that you were safe.

Then came news on the web. Traditional news organisations were extraordinarily slow to grasp the implications of the Internet. Confident in their well-established models, in the audiences that were assumed to be loyal to them, and in the advertising revenue that sustained them, they were profoundly shocked – and continue to be shocked – by this mode of distribution and communication which upturned their every expectation. A fierce rearguard action is being fought, defending traditional newspaper values against the freewheeling digital behemoths Facebook and Google, but the balance of power has shifted irrevocably.

News stories now filter through a myriad of networks; the advertising money has moved to search; choice has expanded beyond any reckoning; the timetables around which had traditionally structured itself have gone; and the audience has become all powerful. The traditional news world has been disaggregated, and we are all – producers, readers, advertisers, regulators, legislators – trying to work out how to put the pieces back together again. All that is certain is that the Internet makes the news, because it has become the lifeline on which all news production and news communication now depend.

News in the UK has changed greatly over the past 100 years, in medium, range, extent and ownership. Today much of the understanding on which news has been based, the contract between publisher and reader, is being challenged. Political upheaval combined with the mushrooming of digital outlets, combined with growing audience power on what is accepted as news, has made collecting the news all the more challenging – and imperative. What is the news now, and how do we collect it?

The British Library, until recently, has not collected the news – it has collected newspapers. As part of its function as the national research library, and as an outcome of Legal Deposit legislation, the Library (or the British Museum before it) has had the power since 1869 to request one copy of every newspaper issue published in the UK or Ireland. Just the one edition is taken where there are multiple editions of a title, usually the latest edition.

Between roughly 1822 and 1869 copies of newspapers were supposed to be sent to the Stamp Office for reasons of taxation, and these copies subsequently made their way to the British Museum. Consequently the collection is comprehensive from 1869 onwards, and nearly so for 1822 to 1869, though comprehensive is, in our case, a relative term.

Prior to 1820, the Library has been dependent on acquisitions and donations, mostly notably the newspapers, news sheets and news books from the Civil War period collected by bookseller George Thomason, and the Burney Collection of newspapers 1603-1818, collected by the Reverend Charles Burney. As a result of Legal Deposit, donation and acquisition, the collection amounts to some 60 million issues, or 450 million pages, though that is a figure derived from counting the number of volumes held, and in truth no one can really say exactly how many newspapers the British Library holds.

Bostonspa

New newspapers received under Legal Deposit awaiting processing at British Library, Boston Spa

We do know how many are coming in, however – currently we take in 1,200 titles every week – that is, a combination of dailies and weeklies received under Legal Deposit. The figure is down from the 1,400 or so we were taking in only a couple of years ago, but, for the time being at least, this is remains a country with a remarkable appetite for newspapers.

Around a third of the titles in the collection are from overseas. Relatively few foreign newspapers are now collected, owing to storage issues and the availability of electronic newspaper resources, but historically there was collecting from many countries, notably from Empire and then Commonwealth countries which were received through colonial copyright deposit.

But what of the other news media? There is no Legal Deposit for sound or moving image in the UK. The Library incorporated the National Sound Archive in 1983, but its collection has been created through acquisition, special arrangements with publishers, off-air recordings and the recording of live performances and interviews by the Library itself. News, until recently, was not part of its collecting remit, though its radio collections did include some news broadcasts.

For television, the British Library deferred to the British Film Institute (BFI), which has collected the medium selectively since the late 1950s. The Broadcasting Act of 1990 brought in statutory provision for a national television archive, paid for by the television companies, driven by off-air recordings of programmes as they were broadcast. This archive is maintained by the BFI, and since the mid-80s it has been recording on a daily basis television news programmes from the main terrestrial channels.

In 2010 the British Library re-introduced off-air recording, taking advantage of an exception in UK copyright which enabled it to record broadcast programmes for the purposes of maintaining an archive. It had previously recorded radio and TV programmes up to 2000, mostly on musical themes. Now the emphasis was on news. This was driven by a wish for the Library to build up its moving image capability, and in response to a gap in archival provision. Although the BFI was recording the main terrestrial television news programmes, most news programmes from the 24-hour news channels were not being archived by any public body. There was an opportunity to become a television news specialist, adding radio news as well to the mix, to provide a service to researchers not available elsewhere. It was also recognition that television and radio news made for a logical extension of the Library’s news collection. Newspapers were no longer enough.

In 2013 the Non-Print Legal Deposit Act was passed, permitting the British Library, in partnership with the other Legal Deposit libraries of the UK and Ireland, to collect electronic publications, including websites, the same as for print. This has been a complex and gigantic undertaking, with the number of files now archived running into the billions, dwarfing in size the Library’s physical collection. 

Most of the websites on the UK Legal Deposit web archive are captured once a year. That is, a snapshot record of a website is made as it appears at one point in time, with all pages linked to a root URL. This is not suitable for news, where so much can disappear quickly, and where there is a research imperative to see the news as it was made available, at regular points in time. We need web news to be archived like print newspapers, because print newspapers have established the model. So, from 2014, we have been capturing news websites on a regular basis, usually weekly, but daily for the national daily newspaper sites and news broadcaster sites.

It has taken a while to build up, but we are currently capturing some 2,000 web news titles on a regular basis, in collaboration with the other Legal Deposit libraries. This has included perhaps the most radical shift yet in our news collecting strategy, because as well as archiving the websites of the recognised news publications, around half of what we are archiving has been hyperlocal news sites. Hyperlocalism, a local publishing movement which began in the USA and has taken off greatly in the UK in the past four years, means that anyone can be a news publisher. Anyone with a bee in their bonnet or a feeling that the news in their street is being overlooked can sign up for free to a Wordpress site, give it a newsy title, and start publishing. And, if the British Library gets to hear of them, we will start archiving them. We do not discriminate.

Stone

A Little Bit of Stone, hyperlocal news site for Stone, Staffordshire, established in 2010

There is no definitive list of hyperlocal sites in the UK (though there are two directories that list many: Local List, and Cardiff University’s Centre for Community Journalism’s directory of hyperlocals). Nor is there any comprehensive listing available of standard UK news websites. Consequently we do not know what percentage of the UK’s news websites we are archiving, though we are confident at least that it is a good majority. 

There are many problems with the archiving of web news, however. Firstly, there is the sheer vastness of the web. No one can say what the true size is of a phenomenon which is in a continual process of change, but in a recent talk web archivist Ed Summers calculates that the Internet Archive, which said in 2016 that it has saved 510 billion web captures, might by this have collected just 0.39% of the web. We can see something of the mania of trying to capture the ever-changing web in the Internet Archive’s hourly captures of the dailymail.co.uk (known as Mail Online in the UK). It is too much to comprehend, certainly too much to archive. The comprehensive archive of what is published can no longer exist.

Dailymail

Internet Archive captures of dailymail.co.uk, highlighting one day’s captures for 26 March 2018

Secondly, owing to purely technical reasons, the Library is not always able to capture the audio and video elements of news sites, and even if it can capture them it is not always able to play back the results. Next, there used to be a simple correlation between a printed newspaper and the website that shared its name, and often its content. Increasingly the two are diverging, not just in content, but in title and scope. Single websites increasingly represent several regional newspapers where costs need to be cut. Newspapers are also being replaced by web versions, most prominently The Independent, which exists no longer in print but continues its digital existence as a facsimile version of the print title, as well as the independent.co.uk website and the indy100 spin-off site.

A few years ago, many newspapers made a PDF of their newspaper available on the website, but now a far more complicated picture exists, with a combination of digital outputs and many newspapers turning to aggregators such as PageSuite to provide digital access for them. Collecting newspapers digitally, which the Library does not currently do but is investigating, will not be a simple case of matching like for like. Whatever future collecting model the Library may pursue is bound to include a measure of print newspapers, not least because we will want to continue to collect a core of newspapers as print out of respect for a 400-year-old medium, for as long as there continue to be print newspapers. But one thing is certain – the world of digital news is different to that of physical news, and we will have to obey the rules of digital.

The current collection comprises the following: 60 million newspapers, 2,000 websites captured a total of 400,000 times, 85,000 television news programmes and 40,000 radio news programmes. Each week we take in 3,500 UK news publications of one kind or another. The news publications are collected through a combination of Legal Deposit, copyright exception and licence.

All of this is expressed in the key principles underpinning our news content strategy:

  • The Library’s news offering incorporates the full range of news media – newspapers, news websites, television news, radio news, and other media
  • The Library's news content comprises primarily news most relevant to UK users, meaning news produced in the UK or which has had an impact on the UK
  • The Library also collects or connects to selected overseas newspapers, now primarily on microfilm or digital, according to availability and with focus on areas of research interest
  • The content strategy for news media is underpinned by Legal Deposit collecting, both print and non-print, but includes audiovisual media that lie outside Legal Deposit

The challenge for the Library will be how to bring these different news media together. That is why our news strategy focusses strongly on data. Commonalities of data – particularly date, time and place – will be essential for linking together different news stories. Other libraries are already experimenting with this, the Royal Danish Library for example, with its Mediestream service that brings together newspapers, television and radio.

To achieve such integration it will be essential to link up not only by date but keyword. We already capture subtitles for television news programmes where these are available; we are now experimenting with speech-to-text transcriptions of radio programmes. We will eventually be able to offer full text searching across each of the news media. The quality of such transcriptions will vary according to source, so an essential next step will be to extract entities, or themes, from these transcripts, using a shared set of terms.

So I will be able to aske of a future resource discovery system, show me everything you have relating to Brexit between 1st and 31st December 2018, and there will be there newspaper stories, the television news stories, the radio stories and the web stories, all of them indexed automatically, as well as books, papers or other media produced at that time which will enrich the picture of what the news was on this one topic at that particular time. All those objects must be born digital or to have been digitised, so our collecting policy must be digital.

There are other news media. The Library is looking at podcasts, which certainly fall under its sound and news collecting remits, not least because all the major newspaper titles and news broadcasters are producing podcasts. No commitment has been made as yet, but we have started capturing some sample news-based podcasts.

The area of current news that we get asked about most is social media. We are not archiving Twitter, firstly because it is an American company and so falls outside our UK web archiving remit. The Library of Congress took on the task of archiving Twitter, though a year ago it announced that the task was proving too great and that it would only be archiving Twitter selectively from now on. The British Library archives some Twitter feeds where these have a British focus, a number of which are news-related, but it is a tiny drop in a vast ocean.

Twitter highlights the challenge we now face in trying to collect the news. It is not just about the vast scale of the archives, but about their meaning. As I wrote earlier this year:

The archiving of Twitter is a logical impossibility. There is no single Twitter out there that might be consulted equally by any of us. There are over 300 million Twitters in existence. Each person signed up to the service selects who they will follow and what topics interest them. No one person sees the same Twitter as the next. It is universal and absolutely personal at the same time, which is the key to its particular power. No archive can replicate this, because it must convert the subjective into the objective.

The subjectivity or personalisation of news is going to present us with the greatest collecting challenge. If everyone sees the news differently, how do we collect it? Once it was understood that a news object such as a newspaper was read in the same way by the same set of people for whom it was intended, usually defined by geographical location or political persuasion. But does that apply in a wholly digital world?

Those who once saw themselves as newspaper publishers now view themselves as news publishers. News is gathered and composed digitally, and then transmitted through a variety of media, one of which - for the time being - remains the print newspaper. To get at the heart of news, to collect it fully, one might want to collect not the published forms but the individual digital elements and the content management systems that hold them. Then one could recreate the news in the various forms in which it was be distributed at any given point in time – as print, website, mobile and so on. Collecting news as publications has been fine for 1620 through to, maybe 2020. But what after then?

Nnb

Inside the British Library’s National Newspaper Building, Boston Spa

John Carey, in his introduction to the Faber Book of Reportage, makes an intriguing argument about the nature of news. Firstly, he says:

The advent of mass communications represents the greatest change in human consciousness that has taken place in recorded history. The development, within a few decades, from a situation where most of the inhabitants of the globe would have no day-to-day knowledge of or curiosity about how most of the others were faring, to a situation where the ordinary person’s mental space is filled (and must be filled daily or hourly, unless a feeling of disorientation is to ensue) with accurate reports about the doings of complete strangers, represents a revolution in mental activity which is incalculable in its effects.

Carey considers what it was in the mindset of pre-communication age humans that reportage replaced, and he suggests that the answer is religion. He continues:

Religion was the permanent backdrop to [man’s] existence, as reportage is for his modern counterpart. Reportage supplies modern man with a constant and reassuring sense of events going on beyond his immediate horizon … Reportage provides modern man, too, with a release from his trivial routines, and a habitual daily illusion of communication with a reality greater than himself … When we view reportage as the natural successor to religion, it helps us to understand why it should be so profoundly taken up with the subject of death … Reportage, taking religion’s place, endlessly feeds it reader with accounts of the deaths of other people, and therefore places him continually in the position of a survivor … [R]eportage, like religion, gives the individual a comforting sense of his own immortality.

There is plenty to challenge in Carey’s suggestion of reportage as being the natural successor to religion. There are different religions out there, and religion did not disappear with the emergence of public news forms. He also blends mass communications, reportage and news, though they are not the same as one another. But his theory is richly suggestive. One thinks of John Donne, writing in 1611 in his poem ‘An Anatomy of the World – The First Anniversary’ of changing ideas of the universe, “'Tis all in pieces, all coherence gone / All just supply, and all relation”. Ten years later the country’s first newspaper would appear.

Carey’s insight also provides an interesting mechanism for considering the nature of news today. 

Published, public news has fed curiosity, helped to solidify our sense of belonging, and has provide a sense of reassurance. It has profoundly influenced our sense of time. The question is whether our new world of news will continue to do the same. News is a constant, but the forms in which it is transmitted must change, and they could be in the process of changing quite radically. The trust in the definable news publication to tell us who we are by relaying what we want to know, could be disappearing. The need for assurance will remain, however, so what will provide it? The increase in the personalisation of news, the logical extension of which is to make everyone their own news editor, hardly seems a recipe for the sort of assurance that leads to a settled society.

Or maybe we are entering a post-news era, with a changed sense of reality, an age without reassurance. My personal definition of news is that it is “information of current interest for a specific audience”. It’s a flexible construction, but what happens when I no longer feel certain to what audience I belong? Maybe an age of supreme individuality is underway, in which I no longer feel a part of any audience, or else there are so many audiences to which I could be said to belong that the concept becomes meaningless. It is a world lived in a continuous now, where the past is losing its meaning, and where everyone thinks themselves immortal, now. That could be the end logic of an entirely interconnected world.

Despite the alarmist cries from some quarters about disinformation and the undermining of the news media as we have known them, these remain fringe concerns. The vast majority of people trust the established news media. They like their local newspaper, or at least the idea of there being one. They watch the same TV news programmes in their usual slots, they listen to the familiar radio news summaries. The urge for local identity is driving our politics, so there is little evidence for saying that we no longer know who we are or where we belong. We still need the reassurance of news. The post-news era is still some way off. Perhaps it will always be some way off.

Meanwhile the British Library’s collecting policy must be to collect what it can, by the mechanisms that are available to it. It wants to collect across the different news media, through a combination of Legal Deposit, copyright exception and licence, augmenting what is still its core news collection, newspapers. Everything must be built around the newspaper, for the time being. Our revised news content strategy, currently in development, has the subtitle, “moving from a newspaper collection to a news collection”. It sounds reasonable enough. We must do what we must. But the world of news may be moving beyond us; beyond the British Library, or any of us.

 

This a shortened version of a talk I gave at the Media History Seminar, Senate House, on 4 December 2018. A PDF copy of the full text, with footnotes, is available here.

 

14 February 2016

From print to digital

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The news that The Independent and The Independent on Sunday are to close down, and the spin-off newspaper i to be sold off to Johnston Press, has led to much discussion about the future of newspapers. Is the decision to cease print and develop the independent.co.uk website a sign of the death of print newspapers? Was The Independent squeezed out of the market and hence a failure, or is the shift to web-only a timely strategic move, supported by growing use of what is apparently a profitable website, which other newspapers will inevitably follow in turn? Can a newspaper brand survive when it no longer has a newspaper?

Independent

The Independent in print, via Independent.co.uk

Here at the British Library we have seen many newspapers come and go. We take in 1,400 newspaper publications of one sort or another every week, but we have some 35,000 newspaper titles listed on our catalogue. A lot of newspapers have ceased publication over the past 400 years, and The Independent is merely the latest. But the gradual transference of a news industry from print to digital has major implications for what we collect in this area, and how. It is something that we are studying closely.

At present we acquire newspapers in print form. We would like to acquire more newspapers digitally, and newspapers today are produced in digital form (PDF usually) from which the print copy is then generated. But these digital copies are not published as such, consequently they do not qualify as 'publications' and cannot be collected under Legal Deposit. Of course some newspapers are available in digital facsimile form on their websites, which we could collect via our web archiving operation, but the PDFs that are available are of lower image quality (less suitable for preservation), and there is a shrinking number of these, as newspapers turn instead to aggregation services such as PageSuite to deliver their digital copies for them.

So why not just archive the websites? They have the same content as the newspapers, don't they? Well, no they don't. We recently  conducted a study in regional newspapers and their web equivalents, to see how similar content was between the two forms. We found that the typical UK regional newspaper, in any one week, had roughly 40% of stories unique to print, 15% unique to online, and 45% that the forms shared (we looked only at news editorial, not advertising, arts coverage or sport). Some newspapers are closer to their web equivalents than others, but in general the two forms are not the same, and are diverging all the more.

Title

Print issue date

No. of news stories

% unique to print

% unique to online

%  shared by both

Edgware & Mill Hill Press

30/7/2015

30

46

26

26

Hertfordshire Mercury

13/8/2015

90

49

34

16

Herts Advertiser

23/7/2015

72

30

33

36

Luton News + Herald & Post

12/8/2015

42

55

0

43

Medway Messenger

3/8/2015

75

73

13

13

Redditch & Alcester Standard

21/8/2015

51

19

13

66

Watford Observer

7/8/2015

65

4

3

92

The Wharf

20/8/2015

31

32

3

64

 Analysis of stories published by selected UK regional weekly newspapers

Nevertheless, we are archiving the websites. Since 2013, when non-print Legal Deposit legislation was introduced, enabling the British Library and the other Legal Deposit libraries in the UK and Ireland to start archiving the UK Web, we have been gathering in UK news sites. And whereas we archive most UK sites once a year, for news sites we are archiving them on an either daily or weekly basis. It's not just newspaper sites, however - we are capturing web-only news sites, community journalism sites (hyperlocals), news broadcasters' sites, news parody sites and more. We have 1,800 on our list so far, and we are still adding titles. It's not easy to keep track of all of the UK news sites, because there is no definitive list. The numbers keep shifting. Publications such as Benn's Media Directory keep a track of registered news publications on an annual basis, and the handy Local Web List database tries to identify all of the self-produced community journalism sites out there, but, frankly, trying to keep the Web in bibliographic order is like herding ants.

All newspapers and other serial publications in the UK are assigned a unique identifier, the ISSN (similar to the ISBN for books). The ISSN underpins the collecting of newspapers under Legal Deposit in this country, not least because it is key to issuing barcodes. So it is that we manage to keep track with nearly every UK newspaper as it is published.

The problem is that websites don't need barcodes. There is no operational ID system for pinpointing a news site, beyond knowing the URL, and that doesn't help when it comes to keeping track of all different variants, spin-offs (blogs, microsites etc) and other changes that a news site and its digital family may go through. And how do you define what a news website is in any case, if you start to include blogs, hyperlocals, forums and so on? 

Then there is the problem of referring to 'news websites', as though capturing these through archiving would be the answer. Newspapers were once the sole form in which printed journalism appeared. Today, newspapers have become apps. News is produced by publishers across diverse platforms which draw their material from content management systems. A newspaper is one such output; a website another; a mobile application another. To build the news archive of the future, we might need to think less of capturing print or digital publications, and more about preserving the engines that have generated them (and the digital content fed into such engines). Then we could generate how the news looked to anyone at a particular place and point in time, according to the applications and devices that would have been available to them.

Guardian

From print to digital, via Guardian

And that highlights another problem for the future archiving of news. A newspaper is predicated on the understanding that all who purchase it will share in the same news. They might have differing opinions about that news, yet they still share in it.

But news is not like that anymore. News is tailored to the individual, who has increasing editorial control over what news matters to them, as our news content strategy notes. Twitter feeds, Facebook news aggregation, multiple TV news channels, all put the selection of news in the hands of the consumer (even if the algorithms of Facebook and Google do much of that tailoring for us). No one sees the same news any more. This is why the archiving of Twitter is such a conundrum. There is no one Twitter out there - everyone's experience of it is different. How are we to recreate such an experience, to make our future news archives valid?

Theorising over the nature of news is all very interesting, but we have to make practical decisions to ensure that we archive newspapers, their digital derivatives and competitors in a multimedia news market, as thoroughly and efficiently as we can. We continue to take in most UK newspapers in print, and we are close to doing the same with news websites. We archive TV and radio news, albeit selectively. It would help a lot if we knew if and when newspapers are to disappear, but no one does.

Or maybe one person does. Speaking to the Leveson enquiry on 25 April 2012, Rupert Murdoch gave his thoughts on the future of print newspapers.

Every newspaper has had a very good run ... It's coming to an end as a result of these disruptive technologies ... I think we will have both [internet and print news] for quite a while, certainly ten years, some people say five. I'd be more inclined to say 20, but 20 means very small circulations.

And that could be it. Newspapers will last a generation. It may not be an even decline, because what applies to the nationals is not necessarily the same as the regionals. The UK's national newspapers, of which there are around 30, attract a particular kind of advertiser and have the potential to reach out internationally (which is what The Independent's owners are pinning their hopes upon). For regional newspapers, of which there are around 100 dailies and 1,200 weeklies, there seems to be a different model operating, one where local advertising combined with consumer loyalty may keep some titles in print for a good while yet, even as the same titles increase their digital foothold (the recent ranking of UK media publications for 2015 by SimilarWeb shows regional publisher like Kentonline, Birmingham Mail and Liverpool Echo among those titles with the highest percentage of mobile traffic share).

Top-mobile

The UK's top 10 publications ranked on mobile traffic share, via SimilarWeb

However long it takes, time is running out for print newspapers. It will be our job to ensure that we continue to serve the needs of UK research by increasingly gathering news in its digital forms. We need a smooth transition, with consistency of representation. The challenge is that the mechanisms to do so are not fully in place as yet. The technologies are; the means to ensure capture, identification and continuity are not. But we're working on it. 

11 August 2015

Web newspapers workshop

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Since April 2013 the British Library has been archiving millions of UK websites for the Legal Deposit UK Web Archive. Most of these sites are archived on an annual basis, but around 1,000 news-based websites are being archived on a weekly or monthly basis. These include newspaper title websites, news broadcaster sites, web-only news sites, and ‘hyperlocal’ community journalism sites.

We continue to add more news sites to the archive, and to review the frequency with which they are archived. All of the archives are made available in our Reading Rooms in London (St Pancras) and Yorkshire (Boston Spa), as well as the other Legal Deposit libraries in the UK and Ireland.

Newspages

We are undertaking a review of our digital news intake, and we would like to take in the views of researchers. The aim of this workshop is to introduce the Web news collection, to ask the participants to test out some of the archived news sites, and to discuss how best Web news sites can be used for research. We will be looking at the archived sites versus their live Web equivalents, and comparing Web news with newspapers.

The workshop will take place 2 September 2015, 15:00-16:00, at the Business & IP Centre, Floor 1, British Library (St Pancras). The workshop is free, but spaces are limited. If you are interested in taking part, please contact us at newspaper@bl.uk to book a place.

 To find out more about our Web news collections, visit http://www.bl.uk/collection-guides/web-news.

19 June 2015

The news from Waterloo

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The bicentenary of the battle of Waterloo is upon us, and of the many books, programmes and articles currently published about the event, one of the most novel and fasincating is Brian Cathcart's history The News from Waterloo. This tells not the story of the battle but of the race to report the news in Britain, and in doing so it tells us a lot about the transmission and understanding of news in the past, and the world of news we enjoy today.

Timeswaterloo

The 11:00 am 'Waterloo' edition of The Times, 22 June 1815.

The battle itself took place on Sunday 18 June 1815, ending somewhere between 9 and 10 that evening. The British public, however, did not start to receive certain news of the outcome of the battle (nor indeed confirmation that any such battle had taken place) until the very end of Wednesday 21 June, with the London newspapers reporting the story from the morning of the 22nd.

The reasons for this delay were several, and in describing them Cathcart gives an excellent and accessible account of how newspapers operated in the early nineteenth century. To begin with, there were no journalists at Waterloo. Newspapers in Britain at that time did not have journalists as we would understand them; there were parliamentary reporters (a recent innovation after government had finally conceded to the reporting of its affairs), there was an editor who would write the editorial, and there was much gathering of content from other sources, such as official sources - foreign news was generally channeled through the Post Office, as a means of exercising governmental control over reporting such dangerous information.

Government exercised control over newspapers through law (particularly libel laws) and through taxation, which had the effect of narrowing down the number of people who might read a newspaper because of the cost, and hopefully keeping the news out of the hands of the masses. This only worked so far, because newspapers were nevertheless distributed widely, borrowed, made available in reading rooms, inns and coffee houses, and read aloud in groups. But the high cost meant a restricted buying public, and together with the mechanical limitations of newspaper production of the time kept down the number of copies published - The Times sold around 7,000 copies a day in 1815.

News travelled slowly, though it was speeding up. The mechanical or optical telegraph, which worked by replaying signals from high vantage points, meant that messages could travel quickly over long distances, and it awakened in people a sense of news being able to be communicated to them far more quickly. However, the telegraph was expensive to maintain and it didn't work in the dark. Extraordinarily such problems led to the British closing down their telegraph operation shortly before Waterloo, so the only way to get the news to the British public was by road and water.

Cathcart's book entertainingly describes how news false and true made its way to London from Waterloo, causing much confusion among a public desperate to know if Napoleon had been defeated, as accounts of the battles that took place the day before Waterloo were muddled up with the battle on the 28th, communicated by private individuals who brought over scraps of information on what they thought had happened.  (See his blog post for the British Newspaper Archive for a summary of these unofficial reports.) The official dispatch, which Wellington completed writing around noon on June 23, was mysteriously delayed while its bearer, Major Henry Percy, was travelling through the Netherlands. It then got held up crossing the Channel when the wind dropped, so that Percy ended up having to get into a rowing boat, before completing his journey by post-chaise. Finally the official dispatch was delivered in London around 11:15 pm on Wednesday 21 June, not a moment too soon for the newspapers laboriously to remake some type and to publish an account for the morning editions.

MorningPost22jun1815

The Morning Post, 22 June 1815, via British Newspaper Archive (note that it is the second edition)

There were an estimated 56 newspapers published in London at this time, from dailies to weeklies. The leading titles were The Times, The CourierThe Morning Post and The Morning Chronicle. This was a time before there were press directories with lists of all newspaper titles published, but in the British Library collection we have just under 300 British newspaper titles from 1815, with some 40 of them published in London. So it is not every newspaper that was published. Cathcart has done a remarkable job piecing together the complex narrative of what was published when over 18-22 June 1815, noting where a newspaper issued more than one edition with more war information, but bemoaning the fact (on his website) that "Superb though it is, the British Library collection is nothing like complete for 1815." Well, there's a reason for that.

In 1815 there was no national newspaper collection. The Stamp Office took in a copy of every newspaper published (part of the taxation regime designed to keep the newspapers in line), retaining these for a period of two years before disposing of them. It was only in 1823 that copies published in London started to be transferred to the British Museum, with regional newspapers following after 1832, and not until 1869 were newspaper deposited directly with the Museum.

So for newspapers in 1815 we are dependent on private collections acquired subsequently, and inevitably there are gaps in the surviving record. Moreover, the British Museum and then the British Library have always collected just one edition of a newspaper per day, for practical reasons of space. We do not have, and cannot have, everything. Different editions of an historical newspaper on a single day are therefore quite a rarity (indeed most titles in 1815 only produced a single edition), existing usually on the few occasions where the same title was acquired from different collectors.

Times22jun1815

From page 3 of The Times, 22 June 1815, via The Times Digital Archive, summarising information on Waterloo learned from the official dispatch.

Fortunately 22 June 1815 is one date when there are some different timed editions available. The early edition of The Times for that day had the above notice, noting that the official dispatch had been received and summarising its contents. It is this version of the newspaper that can be found online via the Times Digital Archive (subscription access only, freely available in British Library reading rooms). The copy in the British Library is of the second edition, issued at 11:00 am that day. For this the second page of the 4-page newspaper had been entirely remade to accommodate the Duke of Wellington's complete dispatch. The full two pages are illustrated at the top of this post; the start of dispatch on page 2 is below, alongside the earlier page 2 from the version on the Times Digital Archive:

Times22jun1815p2

From page 2 of the The Times, 22 June 1815, early morning edition on left (via Times Digital Archive), 11:00 am edition on the right (from British Library collection), with the official dispatch from Waterloo reproduced on the right-hand column.

The dispatch had first been published in The London Gazette, which was a government publication issuing official information, and which is still in operation today (as The Gazette). The Waterloo 'extraordinary' edition of The London Gazette is freely available online, and this is the front page:

 

Londongazette22jun1815

The London Gazette, 22 June 1815, via www.thegazette.co.uk. Wellington's official dispatch did not reveal the information that the battle had been won until halfway down the second column of the second page.

Once The London Gazette had been published, the other London newspapers plundered the official text for their own editions, and then gradually the information spread over the nation as mail coaches carried the news to every corner over the next few days (Edinburgh, for example, received the information on Saturday 24 June).

Today we may marvel at a time when the news of a major battle took three days to get from Waterloo to London, with part of the journey undertaken by rowing boat. We live in a world of constantly breaking news, where tweets or other electronic alerts informs us of news happening even before it is news (if we define news as something which has been composed after a period of time with an understanding of the context of the story, and with checks made to verify it). News has become instantaneous. Moreover news is cheap, for the most part free (in the UK) from governmental interference, and created by legions of journalists.

Yet in some ways the news archive we are creating for 2015 will be as problematic for future historians as 1815 is for us today. We are not keeping every edition of every newspaper published on any one day. More than that the news has now spread over so many different media and platforms that it lies beyond anyone's ability to capture it all. Still more problematically, we are failing to capture the experience of news today. Increasingly we are finding our news online, but web archives can only operate as snapshots, capturing how a web pages looked at a particular point in time.

Most of the websites that we archive are crawled just once a year, but for news websites we archive these on a daily or weekly basis. Yet not only will stories fall between the cracks (i.e. they may disappear from a site between one archive capture and the next), but the experience of the flow of news is lost. There is nothing in web archiving - as yet - that can capture the experience of seeing news being reported as it happens, as we experience through ever-changing Twitter feeds or through the increasingly-popular live blogs on news websites (and the British Library does not currently archive social media, except on a very selective basis). News is increasingly tailored to our individual interests - we may each of us see a different news. News is now an endless succession of ever-changing editions; but as archivists we still capture it as a single instance, as though it were still a thing on paper, to be published just once a day.

Waterloo200

The endless flow of news - the live #Waterloo200 Twitter feed at 18:36, 18 June 2015

In 1815 we see the news almost overwhelming the mechanisms that were put in place to communicate it. The need to know outstripped the means to satisfy it. That led to new technologies. In 1814 The Times had introduced a steam-driven press, which would transform the rate at which newspapers could be printed. The arrival of the railways greatly spread how newspapers could be distributed, and the electric telegraph (the first working system of which was demonstrated in 1816) collapsed the distances between places worldwide. The invention of steam ships put an end to becalmed sailing ships holding up the news from overseas.

In 2015 we again see the overwhelming nature of the news. There is so much news available that services like Facebook must now filter it for us, telling us what they think we need to know. We cannot capture everything, yet we must strive always to capture something, and trust in the ingenuity of historians such as Brian Cathcart to fill in the gaps in the archive as they find it. History is not made by the evidence; it is a product of the reasoned imagination.

Where to find British newspapers from 1815:

  • British Library - most surviving British newspapers for 1815 are held by the British Library and can be accessed by anyone with a Reader's pass at either of our sites (St Pancras, London and Boston Spa, Yorkshire)
  • British Newspaper Archive - the subscription website based on digitised newspapers from the British Library's collection has 48 titles for 1815, four of them London titles (Morning Chronicle, Morning Post, The Examiner, Cobbett's Weekly Political Register)
  • The Gazette - the full run of the London Gazette from 1665 (when it was the Oxford Gazette) to the present day can be found for free on its site
  • Guardian and Observer Digital Archive - subscription site  - only The Observer was published in 1815
  • Newspaperarchive.com - American subscription site with some British titles covering the 1810s
  • Times Digital Archive - subscription site for The Times, from 1785 to 2009

24 September 2014

News from the community

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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.

Porttalbotmagnet

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:

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.

Peckham

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.

Cybermoor

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

29 August 2014

St Pancras Intelligencer no. 33

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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

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.

Bellingcat

https://bellingcat.com/resources/case-studies/2014/08/22/gun-safety-self-defense-and-road-marches-finding-an-isis-training-camp/

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.

Latestfashions

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

St Pancras Intelligencer no. 32

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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. 

Jamesfoley

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.

Ferguson

Snapnews

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.

 

01 August 2014

St Pancras Intelligencer no. 29

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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.

 

Jon Snow has opinions, and they’re fit for TV: Channel 4 News presenter Jon Snow's heartfelt account of the child victims in Gaza went viral this week. James Ball at The Guardian praises its sentiments, notes that such partiality would have probably breached Ofcom guidelines (the video was not shown on Channel 4 News itself, only its YouTube channel), and calls for more opinion to be allowed for broadcast journalists:

What then is gained by making people who have opinions withhold them? Journalists’ views shape the questions they ask, the people they interview, the images they choose to show, and more. The current system requires those judgments, and the reasons behind them, to be hidden from the audience in a pretence of impartiality.

The conflict in Gaza has generated impassionated debate among academics and media practitioners around questions of bias, partiality and media control. Among these are Michael Chanan's Behind the news at Gaza at his Putney Debater blog, Justin Schlosberg's Media wars over Gaza at Open Democracy.net, Paul Mason's Why Israel is losing the social media war over Gaza for Channel 4 News, Surabhi Vaya at First Post, Gaza: How bias affects coverage of Israel-Palestine conflict, and Glenn Greenwald at Intercept, Terrorism in the Israeli Attack on Gaza. Some of the fiercest debate has been around the perceived role of the BBC. Ian Burrell at The Independent surveys this in With Charter Renewal on the horizon, complaints over Gaza are dangerous for BBC.

Net roots of BuzzFeed plagiarism: BuzzFeed apologised this week that one of its writers, Benny Johnson (now sacked) had been guilty of plagiarism - and provided links to all the affected stories. Dylan Byers at POLITICO puts the blame on the Internet, presssure of production and lack of journalism training (though in the same week The Times's tennis correspondent has been suspended after plagiarising work for a tennis yearbook and a reporter at the New York Times accused of copying from Wikipedia).

MH17: how Storyful’s ‘social sleuthing’ helped verify evidence: Ben Carter at The Guardian on how News Corp-owned Storyful has been verifying content from Twitter and YouTube to get to the truth behind the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17.

Social media has changed the way that war reporting works - and that's a good thing: Mathew Ingram at Gigaom finds that the influence of social media on war reporting has made the news more personal, more chaotic, and more democratic.

Spain likely to pass 'Google Tax': Spain has approved a bill giving newspaper publishers the right to seek payment from any site that links to their content. TechDirt is sceptical, pointing out that a similar case in Belgium led to Google simply removing the affected newspapers from the local Google news, the result of which was the newspapers ended up asking to be let back in after they suffered a drop in revenue.

Palin

sarahpalinchannel.com

Sarah Palin's low-budget TV channel is pricier than Netflix: Sarah Palin has launched an online news channel, to widespread mockery. "We'll go beyond the sound bites and the media's politically correct filter to get to the truth," she promises. 

The newsonomics of how and why: Ken Doctor at Nieman Journalism Lab asks whether explanatory or data journalism (exciting much interest in the USA) can expand to cover news on a more local level.

Welcome to Storyline: Talking of which, though we're a bit late in reporting this, Washington Post has launched its own explanatory journalism site, Storyline.

At front lines, bearing witness in real time: David Carr at New York Times ponders what the impact is on us now that we can follow wars in real time, and the impact that it is having on journalists (including Anne Barnard at the New York Times, criticised by some for not tweeting from Gaza.

Drama in Crimea: From the days when war reports would take weeks to reach their public, but had a seismic effect once they did so, Roy Greenslade reviews a new collection, Battles in the Crimea, which gathers together William H. Russell's renowned reports for The Times on the Crimean war of 1854.

In 1858, people said the telegraph was 'too fast for the truth': Also on the theme of the speed by which information reaches us, Adrienne LaFrance at The Atlantic uncovers an 1858 New York Times article which complained that the telegraph brought the news too quickly too it public.

Superficial, sudden, unsifted, too fast for the truth, must be all telegraphic intelligence. Does it not render the popular mind too fast for the truth? Ten days bring us the mails from Europe. What need is there for the scraps of news in ten minutes? How trivial and paltry is the telegraphic column?

LaFrance points out how new technologies invariably upset our sense of time and control.

Boy, 4, has mark of devil: The Sun's bizarre choice of a front page story for 29 July 1914 ("A sinister Satan sign that mysteriously appeared on a four-year-old boy is proving a devil to explain") has generated reactions from bafflement to rage.

25 July 2014

St Pancras Intelligencer no. 28

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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.

Bukmap

 

Map showing evidence of Buk surface-to-air missile position in Donetsk region of Ukraine, with geo-located links, created by Storyful

How social sleuthing uncovered evidence of surface-to-air missile systems in eastern Ukraine: News about news has been dominated this week by the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine. This powerful blog post from the NewsCorp-owned verification service Storyful shows how effective it has been at analysing information from social networks, YouTube and other sources to get at the truth behind the claims and counter-claims.

There have been a number of other pieces this week which focus on the verification of information, particularly images and videos, with a focus on Ukraine. The title of Julie Posetti's piece for PBS MediashiftWhen Good People Share Bad Things: The Basics of Social Media Verification picks up on the worry people have about sharing false information and explains the verifcation process, which involves the source of a piece of content, and the content itself. Jihii Jolly at Columbia Journalism Review offers help  on How to check if that viral video is true, steessing that the rise in user-generated contents makes it imperative for journalists to question before using. Kevin Loker at American Press Institute gives us How to find out if a photo your friend posted online is fake, and at Gigaom Mathew Ingram says Want to help fact-check breaking news like the Malaysian airplane disaster? Here's how and where you can do it, providing a handy a guide to verification communities and tools.

Graphic content: when photographs of carnage are too upsetting to publish: Roger Tooth, The Guardian's Head of Photography, explains the decision-making process behind selection or otherwise of news images from stories such as Gaza and MH17. (Warning: graphic content).

RT “Covers” the Shooting Down of MH17: Adam Holland at The Interpreter (an online journal presented translated material from the Russian press and blogosphere) offers a scathing analysis of how RT, aka Russia Today, the state-owned TV channel, reacted to the downing of MH17.

Russia Today London correspondent resigns in protest at 'disrespect for facts' over Malaysian plane crash: Press Gazette piece on Sarah Firth who declared that RT's coverage of the air crash was the last straw. "[I]t’s the level of disrespect for the facts that really bugs me." she says. RT commented:

Sara has declared that she chooses the truth; apparently we have different definitions of truth. We believe that truth is what our reporters see on the ground, with their own eyes, and not what’s printed in the morning London newspaper. In our coverage, RT, unlike the rest of the media, did not draw conclusions before the official investigation has even begun. We show all sides of the story, even if everyone else has already decided which side is to blame.

From outrage to recrimination: How the media covered the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash: Chris Boffey at The Drum looks at how the British news media reacted to the immediate news of the MH17 crash.

MH17, my error of judgment: Sky News' Colin Brazier has been roundly condemned for a live news broadcast, lunchimte July 20th, when he briefly looked through the content of the luggage of one of the victims of MH17. Here he apologies via The Guardian in a sincere and interesting piece of how a journalist faces up to horror, while live on air.

South Sudan humanitarian crisis: The poor media coverage highlights the flaws in news gathering: Perhaps the most powerful piece about news production this week has come from Ian Burrell at The Independent, looking at how the absence of media coverage in South Sudan has had a tragic impact on people's lives:

The tragedy of South Sudan highlights a number of basic flaws in modern news. Despite the breadth of online information, the major news providers still play an essential role in bringing humanitarian stories to the public’s attention. It is the misfortune of the starving and homeless in South Sudan that their agony coincides with the appalling turmoil in Syria, Gaza and Ukraine.

Minus proper archives, news outlets risk losing years of backstories forever: Another essential read, this time from Columbia Journalism Review, looking at the possibility and dangers of losing news archives in the digital area.

The 'Fake Sheikh' Mazher Mahmood’s extraordinary career: The career of The Sun and The News of the World's notorious entrapment specialist, Mazeer Mahmood - the 'fake Sheikh' - may have come to an end after the collapse of the trial of singer Tulisa Contostavlos. Ian Burrell tells his story.

High value, low income: report reveals trends in hyperlocal publishing: A handy summary from Journalism.co.uk of the key points from the recent academic report The State of Hyperlocal Community News in the UK.

Readers, viewers, browsers: it's time to count them all and unify the ratings: Peter Preston at The Observer calls for the unification of audience research.

Ashley Highfield - interview: InPublishing interviews Ashley Highfield, CEO of regional newspaper publisher Johnson Press, on the digital revolution he is bringing about.

I don’t want cannabilisation of what is our biggest source of revenue (print). The great thing about the regional press is it’s not like the Guardian where people stop buying print and consume online. Actually we have pretty much created a new audience online who never bought us in print.

Newspapers begin to challenge broadcasters in video storytelling: Douglas Grant at World News Publishing Focus explains how newspapers are marking their mark with online video.

Reddit Live is now official, lets anyone create their own breaking news live blog: This could could be a major step in the growth of alternative news publishing. The hugely popular social networking and news service Reddit has launched Reddit Live, which lets anyone create their own breaking news service (including tweets, videos etc).

The Sun says farewell to Wapping with special souvenir staff issue: The staff of The Sun left Wapping on 18 July, as they set up home in London Bridge. Roy Greenslade looks at the souvenir issue produced for staff to mark the momentous occasion.

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.