25 July 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.
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 Mediashift, When 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
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.
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.
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.
04 July 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.
Forgotten, but not gone
Google Removes Robert Peston's BBC Article Because Someone Wanted It 'Forgotten': The European court decision allowing individual to request that Google remove links to historical articles which have personal information that they would rather was forgotten may have backfired in this case. The request to have a 2007 BBC News article on former Merrill Lynch boss Stan O' Neal by economics editor Robert Peston taken down has caused the article in question to go viral, as Huffington Post reports. On the same subject, David Meyer at Gigaom looks at other examples of news stories that have been taken down and asks Why is Google really removing links to news articles in Europe?
Former Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan named most influential UK journalist on social media: Press Gazette's Social Media Awards have named @PiersMorgan as the most influential UK journalist on social media. The former Daily Mirror editor was hotly followed in the top 50 names by @CaitlinMoran, @PaulWaugh, @JohnRentoul and @fleetstreetfox.
How to build a healthy news diet: Columbia Journalism Review draws an intriguing parallel between food consumption and news consumption. There's too much to eat so we get overweight; there's too much information out there so we get overwhelmed and fail to show discrimination. But what is a 'healthy' news item?
Welcome: our website is now open to the world: Good news for international journalism students - the BBC's College of Journalism site is now free to use for anyone worldwide (previously there was a paywall for non-UK users), at least for a trial 12-month period.
Once humbled, but now risen: the Murdochs march ahead: How badly do you think things have been going for the Murdochs recently. Peter Preston looks at the numbers - three years ago News Corps' value was $35Bn. Today it is $88Bn.
Attorney General backs down on plan to censor news archives to avoid contempt risk: Attorney General Dominic Grieve has withdrawn clauses in the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill that would have given him powers to order the removal of online archive news stories in the run-up to a criminal trial, reports Press Gazette.
AP will use robots to write some business stories: The future is now. Poynter reports that AP is to start using automation technology to produce stories about earnings reports. "Instead of providing 300 stories manually, we can provide up to 4,400 automatically for companies throughout the United States each quarter", says the managing editor.
Source: Ofcom data, Guardian visualisation
How popular are the internet and apps for news consumption?: Guardian DataBlog looks behind the figures from the recent Ofcom report into news consumption in the UK, whose headline finding was that 41% of UK adults get their news from the internet or apps, just ahead of those who do so through newspapers (40%). Where is Mail Online on the above graphic? Is it not viewed as a news source?
In Philadelphia, the Internet Archive is assembling a new way to monitor campaigns on TV: The Internet Archive is documenting congressional elections in Philadelphia through the mass capture of television broadcasts and web sites. Nieman Journalism Lab reports:
The goal: to provide data for journalists and researchers interested in tracking the media landscape and understanding how political messages — and dollars — move through the system. Using text from closed captioning as well as metadata organized by volunteer viewers, the Philadelphia archive will be searchable by region, station, and date, as well as by campaign issue or ad sponsor.
Citizen journalism pioneer Brown Moses is launching a site for crowdsourced reporting: Brown Moses (aka British blogger Elliot Higgins) has built up great expertise and reputation through his sifting of social media and YouTube to concover information on the war in Syria. Now he's planning a site to be called Bellingcat which will be a home for other citizen journalists, with tools to teach them his trade.
News reference workshops: The British Library is setting up a series of regular workshops for anyone who wants to know how to use our news research services. They're free, and we hope useful.
Why is this lying bastard lying to me?: This blog traces the history of the news interview from the mid-19th century through to Twitter.
'A concrete box full of stories...a building packed with life' - Yorkshire Post's Leeds HQ is razed to the ground: Jill Parkin, a former Yorkshire Post writer, writes wistfully about the demolishing of the newspaper's old home and a lost era of newspaper production.
On-the-run prisoner contacts newspaper over ‘mistake’: We all want our newspapers to tell the truth, even if we are a prisoner on the run contacting the Sheffield Star to tell them they have got details of our home area wrong. Hold the Front Page has the heartening story.
04 June 2014
The Newsroom is the British Library's new dedicated reading room for researching its news collections. It is located on the second floor of the Library's site at St Pancras in London. This post is an overall guide to what researchers can expect to find in the Newsroom.
The Newsroom is in two sections: the main reading room, which delivers access to the news collections and is open to anyone with a British Library reader's pass; and the networking area, a research space open to anyone which displays live news on screens from a variety of sources.
You can find most of our news collections through the British Library's main catalogue, http://explore.bl.uk. News items can be searched for by title, any word from a title, place name, or word in the catalogue record. Some of our television and radio news records can be found on Explore, but we are still adding records. The full collection can be found via Broadcast News (see below). Our web news collection needs to be searched separately (see below).
To access anything from our news collections you will need a free Reader Pass - guidelines on how to obtain a pass are available here.
You can order items before your visit using http://explore.bl.uk.
The main room has 110 desks, of which 58 are clear Reader desks, 40 have microfilm viewers plus access to electronic resources, and 8 have dedicated electronic resources terminals.
We offer self-service facilities for making copies from print, microfilm and digital newspapers, subject to preservation and copyright restrictions. There are 3 printers in the Newsroom, and 1 print release station. We have a wide range of news media reference works available on open access, including such titles as Willing's Press Guide and the Times Index.
We collect nearly all newspapers published in the United Kingdom and Ireland, with some 60 million issues going back to the early 1600s. We currently receive around 1,500 newspaper titles on a daily or weekly basis, and nearly 100 titles from overseas. Because the main print newspaper collection is currently in transit from its former home in Colindale to our Newspaper Storage Building in Boston Spa, Yorkshire, the newspapers will not become available in the Newsroom until autumn 2014.
There are 15 microfilmed newspaper titles available immediately via open access, while anything from our main collection of 625,000 reels of microfilmed newspapers is available for delivery within 70 minutes, or can be ordered in advance by using http://explore.bl.uk. Appropxiately one third of our newspaper collection is available on microfilm. The 15 titles available for immediate access are:
- Daily Mail 1896-2009
- Daily Telegraph 1855-2009
- Daily Worker 1930-1960
- Evening Standard 1860-June 2010
- Financial Times 1888 onwards
- Guardian 1821 onwards
- Independent 1986 onwards
- Independent on Sunday 1989 onwards
- Mail on Sunday 1982-2009
- Morning Star 1966-2009
- News of the World 1843-2011
- Observer 1791 onwards
- Sun 1964-2009
- Sunday Telegraph 1961-2009
- The Times 1785 onwards
Our specialist microfilm readers enable the microfilmed images to be viewed on a digital screen, and can be rotated to suit the shape on a newspaper if required. They offer the ability to zoom in and out, crop, adjust focus, brightness, contrast, and de-skew the image.
We provide access to a wide range of digitised newspapers and other electronic news collections, both those derived from our own holdings and the digital collections of third parties. This includes:
- British Newspaper Archive
- British Newspapers 1600-1950
- Gale News Vault
- Readex World Newspaper Archive
- ProQuest Historial Newspapers
All of our electronic news resources are listed at http://www.bl.uk/eresources/main.shtml and all can be seen for free in the Newsroom.
Television and radio news
We have almost 50,000 television and radio news programmes recorded since May 2010 available onsite via the Broadcast News service. This can be accessed by using the link to Sound and Moving Image collections given on the home page of the Library terminals. There are recordings taken from 22 channels:
- Al Jazeera English
- BBC One
- BBC News
- BBC Parliament
- BBC Two
- BBC Four
- CCTV News
- Channel 4
- France 24
- NHK World
- Sky News
- BBC London
- BBC Radio 1
- BBC Radio 4
- BBC 5 Live
- BBC World Service
Most programmes are available in the Newsroom from the day of broadcast. We only record news and news-related programmes.
Separately we provide access to BBC programmes via the BBC Catalogue service. This has some 2 million BBC catalogue records from the 1950s to 2012, with around 200,000 playable television and radio programmes broadcast 2007-2012. This can be accessed by using the link to Sound and Moving Image collections given on the home page of the Library terminals.
We provide access to over 4.8 million UK websites archived since 2013 as part of the Legal Deposit Web Archive. This archive can be accessed by using the link to Web Archives collections given on the home page of the Library terminals. The collection includes over 500 news-based websites archived on a frequent basis, including most UK national newspaper sites and many regional sites, which can be searched as a discrete collection.
The networking area is open to anyone. It has seating for over 30, with cubicles, and many charging points. The area's Video Wall features live television news, a rotating display of live news websites (all sites archived by the Library) and the Newsmap news aggregator site. We refresh the content on the Video Wall periodically.
Above the cubicles we project live tweets from around 100 news websites that we archive, including international, national and regional titles.
9.30-17.00 Fri - Sat
We are organising a series of regular workshops on using the news collections, both general guides and introductions to particular parts of the collection. See http://www.bl.uk/reader-workshops.
Finding out more
The Newsroom has leaflets aavailable on the news collections and their use.
Our newspaper reference team can give help on using the Newsroom and finding items, though we cannot undertaken in-depth research requests. You can contact us online via http://www.bl.uk/reference-contacts.
Guide to the collection and its use are given on our web pages at http://www.bl.uk/subjects/news-media.
You can follow discussion about news and news collections via the Newsroom blog at http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/thenewsroom.
Don't forget to follow us on Twitter too: @BL_newsroom
16 May 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 Reykjavik Confessions: The creative strategies that have been applied to some recent immersive fictional web narratives have now been employed by BBC News for this visually-impressive and engrossing account of some Icleandic real-life murders, written by Simon Cox. The news is changing.
Celebrating local newspapers: It's been Local Newspaper Week, and this blog published a piece on how the British Library supports research using local newspapers, while the Newspaper Society's Making a Difference campaign highlighted a showcase of 30 of the strongest editorial campaigns across the UK, inviting anyone to vote for the best.
The perils of 'hashtag activism': The #bringbackourgirls campaign on the plight of the kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls has generated much comment. Jill Filipovic of Cosmopolitan magazine discusses the issues raised on MSNBC's The Cycle. By contrast, the Media Blog makes a strong argument in defence of #hashtag activism. Meanwhile RT (Russia Today) mischievously reports on how anti-drone campaigners have subverted Michelle Obama's much-tweeted picture holding up the hashtag.
Welcome to #UkraineDesk: And there's more on Twitter hashtags, with this interesting development - cutting edge digital media organisations Mashable, Digg, Mother Jones, Quartz, Breaking News Online, and VICE News have formed a collective to collaborate on reporting news from Ukraine. So far it's just a shared hashtag, but might it go further?
Why Jill Abramson Was Fired: The firing of New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson has been hotly debated. Ken Auletta at The New Yorker aims to get to the bottom of why, discovering that she was being paid less than her male predecessor. Needless so say, the publisher denies that this was the reason (while not really saying why she was removed from her post so abruptly).
Exclusive: New York Times Internal Report Painted Dire Digital Picture: A Buzzfeed scoop is news of this 96-page internal report commissioned by Abramson before her dismissal. It is withering in its assessment of the venerable paper's apparent struggles to keep up with the digital age, despite how things might appear on the surface.
'The government does not attack us physically because they are afraid of what the world will say': Award-wining Nigerian journalist Musikilu Mojeed interviewed by Press Gazette on the difficulties of reporting in his country.
Comics unmasked: Closely allied to newspapers (and previously housed by the British Library alongside newspapers at Colindale), comics are the subject of the British Library's new exhibition. Those expecting Desperate Dan or Biffo the Bear are likely to be surprised...
300,000 newspaper pages added, including the Daily Mirror: Our partners in digitisation, DC Thomson Family History, have added 300,000 pages to the British Newspaper Archive in April alone - including the Daily Mirror for 1915, as part of an increased focus on World War One newspapers. DC Thomson have also been busy working with the Imperial War Museums on the Lives of the First World War project (just think of it as 'Facebook for the Fallen'), announced this week.
Q&A with newspaper researchers: Kārlis Vērdiņš: Interesting interview on the Europeana Newspapers blog with a Latvian researcher looking at researching topics of gender and sexuality in Latvia at the turn of 20th century.
Madeleine McCann: is it time for the press regulator to step in?: Roy Greenslade is torn between defending the press and defending the subjects of the obsessional interest of the press.
The best and worst things about journalists: Tony Harcup, editor of the Oxford Dictionary of Journalism, lists nine best ("Our default position is healthy scepticism") and nine worst ("Our scepticism can sometimes become cynicism") things about journalists.
The state journalism is in: Julian Petley, influential Professor of Screen Media at Brunel University, has written three posts for the Informm blog on the UK press treatment of the Edward Snowden story, taken from the journal Ethical Space. Part two is here, part three here. Roy Greenslade helpfully summarises the arguments made here. Broadly Petley asserts that "the overarching theme in the press campaign against The Guardian was national security."
Robot reporter: Journalism in the Age of Automation and Big Data: We have published a podcast of the excellent W.T. Stead lecture given at the British Library by Emily Bell, where she considers how new technologies will affect journalism and the role of reporters and editors. Look out for a particularly strong question and answer session at the end.
CNN Taps Google Glass For Citizen Journalism: Two of the sort of thing Emily Bell highlights in her talk - using Google Glass to report the news, and media organisations challenging the US government's ban on the use of drones by journalists. The news is changing.
02 May 2014
Robert Peston speaking at the launch of the Newsroom
Open for business: Well, we've been busy this week. The British Library's Newsroom was officially launched by the Secretary of State for Culture, Sajid Javid, on Monday 28 April, with a star turn from the BBC's Robert Peston, before a gathering of journalists, media commentators, educationalists, British Library staff and ordinary users of our newspaper collection and other news services. There was a promotional video, a TV news package that appeared on many regional newspaper sites, and widespread media coverage (I think my favourite was Us vs Th3m's breathless 'The British Library is now improved with ARCHIVE ROBOTS'). The Newsroom's own blog post looks behind the scenes at the manufacutring of our own news event.
A strategy for news: On the day of the Newsroom launch we published a summary of our news content strategy for 2014-2017. It points the way for turning a world-class newspaper service into a world-class news service, by collecting (or connecting to) not only newspapers, but television news, radio news and web news.
Sajid Javid: Hacking down to 'bad apples' - press freedom 'cornerstone of democracy': The new Culture Secretary says it is up to press industry to decide how to proceed with regulation following the phone hacking scandal, reports Press Gazette.
Announcing FB Newswire, Powered by Storyful: Facebook and social news agency Storyful (owned by News Corp) have launched FB Newswire, which describes itself as "a resource for journalists that aggregates newsworthy social content shared publicly on Facebook by individuals and organizations" and could be a significant development in (social) news gathering. Facebook's Newsroom explains the background.
Local TV plan on the rocks as funding frozen, while London Live head quits: Oh dear. Plans for a network of local TV stations appear to have hit the rocks, while the chief programmer of London Live (which shares an owner with the Evening Standard, which has liberally promoted the channel) quit following terrible viewing figures, including near zero for some news programmes.
Nate Silver’s advice to young journalists: Learn to code now: Emily Bell gave a scintiallating lecture at the British Library on automated journalism, which we'll be blogging about in due course. One of the themes she raised was the advantages of journalists being able to code, and others have raised the same issue this week. US news media star Nate Silver tells Geekwire that “If you’re an aspiring journalist who knows how to code really well, you are in a very hot market”, and Richard Sambrook argues that "journalists can learn lessons from coders in developing the creative future".
Ofcom should be looking again at Putin's TV news channel: Steve Bloomfield at The Guardian is appalled by the news coverage from RT (formerly Russia Today), which is readily available to UK viewers (and programmes from which are recorded daily for the British Library's Broadcast News service).
Anyone who has tired of Sky News's endless reporting of the Oscar Pistorius trial or CNN's down-the-rabbit-hole coverage of the hunt for Flight MH370 would accept that the world of 24-hour TV news could do with an alternative voice. But propaganda for an autocratic government and conspiracy theories linked to antisemitism are not an alternative anyone should be comfortable with.
Paying for online news: Dominic Ponsford at Press Gazette considers the mixed lessons to be learned from the Telegraph's metered paywall, one year on from its introduction.
Journalists' sources are no longer safe in Australia: Paul Farrell at The Guardian worries how Australia's Telecommunications Interception and Access Act 1979 could permit government agencies instantaneously to track down journalists’ sources.
ITV’s new breakfast show divides opinion: Four presenters at a single desk (plus weather reporter standing awkwardly by), fast pace, US feel, and star acquisition in Susanna Reid: ITV's Good Morning Britain launched on Monday and has had mixed reviews so far, as in this Metro report. But no one is saying bring back Daybreak.
Print is not the future, but it's not the past either: Peter Preston at The Observer thinks print's not dead yet - not while the industry has yet to work out how to make money from digital.
Revealed: The top 10 regional papers on Twitter: interesting list from Hold the Front Page of the top ten UK regional newspapers with the largest number of followers on Twitter. The Liverpool Echo's @LivEchonews comes out top with 136K followers. But what do they mean by saying that 77 newspapers in the UK are using Twitter? Our figures here suggest well over 350 do so...
Fears grow that the BBC News Channel could become online only: Could the BBC News 24-hour channel go online-only (as has been suggested will happen to BBC30 as part of BBC cost-cutting plans. Ian Burrell at The Independent asks the questions.
The Onion sets its sights on BuzzFeed, Upworthy: At last, The Onion is to set its sights on the listmania of quasi-news sites like Buzzfeed and Upworthy with a new site to mock the whole concept called Clickhole (launches in June). Unless the news about this is a spoof itself...
Max Clifford has finally got some of his own medicine: Max Clifford has been found guilty of eight counts of indecent assault, and schadenfraude reigns in the media world. At The Drum one "master of spin" Richard Hillgrove considers the downfall of another.
An incomplete list of things which are going to shape the next journalism: George Brock's latest wise overview of how journalism is changing, with seven issues that all in the industry need to be asking themselves.
BBC hacks – tweet the crap out of the news, cries tech-dazzled Trust: You can trust The Register to have taken a less than deferential apporoach to the BBC Trust's report Getting the best out of the BBC for licence fee payers: BBC Trust Review, BBC Network News and Current Affairs.
Once the BBC was un-ignorable, whatever age you might be. Today, half of under-25s and two thirds of under-20s ignore it completely. And even online, apathy reigns: the corporation's digital share has increased from only 24 per cent of adults in 2012 to 26 per cent today.
We haven’t even scratched surface of explainer journalism: Adam Tinworth at journalism.co.uk looks at the US phenomenon of explainer/exploratory/data/call-it-what-you-will journalism and argues that we need to "rethink our content models to make our journalism relevant for a digital age".
Jeremy Paxman to step down as presenter of Newsnight: The nation's favourite torturer of politicians is standing down in June.
30 April 2014
On Monday April 28th the British Library officially launched the Newsroom, its new reading room for news. It was a long day, the fruition of much organisation to ensure everything went just right (the British Library strives very hard to make sure that everything always goes just right), as well as the culmination of seven years of planning for the proper preservation of the UK's newspaper collection. Here's a record of some of what happened over the day, from your blogger's perspective.
An empty Newsroom
07.15 - A bleary-eyed news curator stumbles into the Library, heads up to the Newsroom on the second floor, and joins the head of press (a man who may not actually sleep at all) whose job it is to manage our messages. We set up two of the 40 digital microfilm readers that we have installed. We choose The Times from the late 19th century and a News of the World from the 1920s, one displayed 'landscape', the other 'portrait', to show off how the screens can be manipulated to fit the shape of the newspapers they show. Before the TV company comes in, I take a quick phone snap of the empty room.
07.30 - A camera operator and a journalist from TNR, a Press Association off-shoot, arrive to film a short piece about the Newsroom, to be sold on as a package to TV news providers. They work out camera angles, position me by a wall with a long display of newspaper front pages, pin a microphone to my lapel and get me to give my name and so forth to check sound levels. They shine a bright light in my face. I have a crib sheet telling me all of the messages that I have to get across. I stutter my way through the interview, surviving somehow. Try as I might I cannot say the words "Secretary of State for Culture" without stumbling. They say nice things, which means that my gloomy assessment of how I appear on camera is probably spot on. They go off to shoot some background shots, and I head for my desk.
09:00 - I publish a blog post (written two days beforehand) on the British Library's news content strategy. It seemed timely to do so.
10:00 - Checking through the advance news coverage of the launch. An excellent, thoughtful piece in The Independent by Ian Burrell, that gets where we are coming from and going to, lifts the spirits. The Guardian has a shorter piece full of all the facts and figures we sent to them - the online version unfortunately states that the reading room itself cost £33M. It's very hard for anyone to spend that amount of money on a room (the money was mostly spent on the preservation store for newspapers that we have built at Boston Spa in Yorkshire). I review my list of newspaper collection facts and worry about what our earliest, still published newspaper title might be. Is it the Stamford Mercury or Berrow's Worcester Journal? The London Gazette (first published 1665) trumps them both, but is it strictly speaking a newspaper?
11:00 - Another TV crew, this time from ITV London. They are much quicker about things, letting me talk more freely about things. I show off the microfilm readers, the Broadcast News television service, the archive of web sites, throw in mentions of the preservation centre and say how pleased we all are. The interviewer is somewhat smaller than me and I wonder how it will look on screen with me looming over him. Odd, is the answer. Odder is the near-empty Newsroom. Where are they all? The place has been packed for days, and the moment we bring in cameras, everyone disappears. He-who-never-sleeps boldly invites a researcher sitting blamelessly at one of the microfilm readers if he would be willing to be interviewed for the news piece. Certainly, he says. It turns out he has no TV but he talks to camera like a trouper.
12:00 - Lunch, then coffee while reading The Independent piece.
13:00 - He-who-never-sleeps has been in touch with Newsnight. They have a great idea for when the programme signs off by showing tomorrow's papers - why not do so with tomorrow's news from 1914, 1814, maybe even 1714? It's going to be a bit pot luck, but I scour the British Newspaper Archive and find some uninspiring front pages. Our friends at DC Thomson Family History join in and do rather better at finding good stories. I redeem myself by looking at our Burney collection of early newspapers and finding a couple of good items for 29 April 1714. Fingers crossed.
13:30 - BBC London want to do a radio interview with me. It will be on my home phone, but at 06:25 tomorrow morning. I agree to this, somehow cheerfully.
14:00 - News about the launch has spread all over Twitter, or at least the bits of Twitter that I know. There is some confusion out there (no, the room did not cost £33M; no, we haven't digitised all 750 million newspaper and magazine pages in the collection) but huge enthusiasm. It's a good news story.
14:30 - We have the final project board meeting for the Newsroom. Nothing gets done at the British Library without a project team, project plan, work packages, risk register, budget, lessons learned log and such like. Everything is meticulously thought through, though we all have issues that we don't think have been properly resolved as yet. But we are pleased with the reaction there has been from researchers so far (we actually opened the room on April 7th), both new and the old hands who used the Colindale newspaper library that we closed down in November.
15:30 - I fret over the slow loading of videos in the Newsroom and check the display for live TV and live web sites in the networking area of the Newsroom. Everyone is bothered by the archive videos that we show there because they aren't captioned as such, and people have been spooked by seeing footage of London riots and not realising it's 2011. I say that making adjustments to the display is not as straightforward as they might think. This is true, but doesn't sound convincing.
16:30 - We have a team meeting in the Library foyer to make sure everyone knows what they have to do for the evening. Screens have been put up (two show newspaper pages, one for video), there is a platform for the speakers that looks amusingly like a trampoline, and there is an extraordinarily large amount of audio equipment for what will be three speeches at one microphone and a video.
17:00 - The Newsroom is closed early. The newspaper curator and I carry newspaper volumes into the Newsroom and display them on rests or lecterns. We have chosen four titles from four centuries that are each all still in print - The London Gazette (17thC), Stamford Mercury (18thC), Manchester Guardian (19thC) and Daily Mail (20thC). The Manchester Guardian does not sit steadily on its lectern so wisely we lie it flat instead. The print copies of the newspapers won't start to become available in the Newsroom until Autumn, but we had to display some. I test the videos - they are still taking an age to load. I make contingency plans.
17:30 - I put on a tie. It looks terrible. I take it off then put it on again. It looks worse. I repeat this action several times. I resign myself to my fate.
18:15 - The first guests arrive for the launch of the Newsroom. The party is taking place in the foyer. The great, the good, former Colindale users and staff past and present have their names ticked off the list and pick up coloured cards which say which of the tours of the Newsroom we have organised with our elegantly-attired newspaper reference team they will be going on. Despite some chaos behind the scenes, the visitors all enjoy their tours, not knowing that they might have enjoyed them even more had we been able to organise them as we have dreamed we would do.
18:25 - The ITV London piece is broadcast. The TNR team are here for the party, to film the event and the minister's tour of the Newsroom.
18:30 - The place is packed and we humans do what humans do best and talk animatedly at one another. The canapés include fish and chips in newspaper - just the one chip and a sliver of fish in a newspaper-ish cone, but a neat idea all the same. I say hello to many friends.
Robert Peston in full flow
19:15 - The minister has arrived, and the speeches begin. The Chief Executive of the British Library thanks everyone for coming and praises the achievements of the Newspaper Programme which has worked so had to ensure the long-term preservation of the newspaper collection. The recently-appointed Secretary of State for Culture, Sajid Javid, then gives his first speech in his new role. He talks engagingly about his nerdish adolescent fondness for newspapers at his local library and says all the right things. Then the BBC's Robert Peston gives a most charming speech, keen in tone and theme, with a most touching reference to his late wife's great fondness for the Colindale library where she researched regularly.
The Newsroom launch video
19:30 - We play a promo video that we shot a couple of weeks ago which introduces the Newsroom and the Boston Spa store. The conceit of having the opening images move up and down as though being viewed on a microfilm reader is probably lost on most (I didn't get it until a third viewing), but it has cheery music, says what it needed to say, and the Newsroom looks great, if populated by some familiar faces from our press office (filming mostly took place before the room opened to the public, and you have to get your 'users' from somewhere). I cringe as the video ends with me giving the cheesy pay-off line - "We're open for business". They clap anyway.
Roly Keating, chief executive of the British Library, Sajid Javid, Culture Secretary, and a curator inspecting the Stamford Mercury
19:45 - The CE, the minister and I go up to the Newsroom (it's on the second floor) to show him round. I explain the idea of the networking area is to encourage collaborative research and to show current news, so that we're as much about news today as the news of yesterday. We show him the newspaper volumes, the microfilm readers (ably demonstrated by one of our newspaper reference team), Broadcast News (everything works - oh happy day), showing off our recording from that morning of ITV's new breakfast show Good Morning Britain (he hasn't heard of it). He is interested in everything, particularly in our web archives, then goes off script by searching for his own name rather than the subject terms I had prepared. Sure enough the link he selects doesn't work. We move on quickly. TNR films him and he comes up with perfect short quotes. It's a gift.
The minister is interviewed
20:00 - The party continues, though the numbers have thinned as various people decide they would rather get home now before the Tube strike starts at 9pm. I make plans, arrange meetings, smile constantly, then escape. Other remains behind to clean it all up as if the event had never been.
21:00 - I answer some of the many Tweets and emails that have appeared through the day. Enthusiasm still reigns. @BL_newsroom has many more Twitter followers than it did.
22:00 - Home. The other news out there - a schoolteacher has been stabbed to death in her classroom. A special report from ruined Aleppo. Max Clifford has been found guilty of indecent assaults. Pfizer is confident of a takeover of AstraZeneca. Arsenal have beaten Newcastle 3-0. ITV London shows its Newsroom piece again, in re-edited form.
A look at tomorrow's papers...
23:20 - Newsnight closes with the tomorrow's headlines from three past centuries. Jeremy Paxman says that we have 7.5 million pages instead of 750 million, but the conceit works well. He stumbles over his words more than I do, which I find reassuring. They subsequently publish the clip on YouTube.
23:30 - End of a long day in which we played our part in manufacturing the news while showing how well we are archiving it and making it available again. News is not what happens, it is what is mediated through accepted news channels and consumed by us as clients of those channels. Likewise with history, which is not what happened but what we select and re-tell from what once happened (often found through news archives such as ours). All we ever do is tell stories to one another.
24:00 - TNR delivers its completed video package of the day. He-who-never-sleeps takes receipt of it and starts work for another day....
Update: The TNR video package has appeared on several news websites, for example the Yorkshire Post.
28 April 2014
The British Library is close to completing its £33M, seven-year Newspaper Programme, designed to ensure the long-term preservation of the UK's collection of newspapers by building a dedicated store in Boston Spa, Yorkshire, closing down the former Newspaper Library at Colindale and opening a new reading room for newspapers at its St Pancras site, the Newsroom. It has also partnered with DC Thomson Family History to digitise 40 million newspaper pages over a period of ten years (2010-2020).
Recently we have been looking to the future and developing a news content strategy to guide collection development over the next four years. Simply put, at a time when the production and consumption of news are changing radically, the strategy points the way for turning a world-class newspaper service into a world-class news service. On the day of the official launch of the Newsroom, this is an overview of our strategy for news 2014-2017.
Newspaper volumes for various national titles from the British Library collection. We have over 660,000 bound and boxed volumes of newspapers, a third of which are also available on microfilm, while 2% has been digitised. Our policy is that users should consult microfilm or digital alternatives to the print copy where these are available.
The news media are undergoing significant change, with a move from print to digital and news organisations increasingly viewing themselves as being news providers rather than simply newspaper publishers. The Guardian's shift in strategy from 'from a print-based organisation to one that is digital-first in philosophy and practice' is symptomatic of changes impacting across the industry. News is gathered and composed digitally, and then transmitted through a variety of media, one of which – for the time being – remains the print newspaper. Moreover, the idea itself of who produces the news is being challenged by the rise in ‘citizen journalism’ and the way social media can be used by anyone to break a news story.
This model applies equally to the past. News does not exist, and probably never has existed, through one medium. It is we, the readers, who construct the news by selecting from the variety of forms on offer. Users should be able to discover and comprehend whatever the news choices were at whatever point in time that they choose.
NHK World TV coverage of the tsunami of 11 March 2011, from the British Library's Broadcast News collection. Though NHK World is a Japanese station, it is available in English free-to-air in the UK via Freesat and so falls within our definition of 'news produced in the UK or which has had an impact on the UK'.
Our news content strategy has been developed in the context of the Library's overall 2012-2015 Content Strategy, which sets out the Library’s three-fold role: to develop the national published archive through legal deposit; to support UK research through collecting and connecting to contemporary content; and to support research and culture through developing world-class primary research collections.
The news content strategy keeps within this framework, and has these key objectives:
The Library’s news offering should incorporate the full range of news media – newspapers, news websites, television news, radio news, and other media – through a combination of legal deposit, purchase and voluntary deposit, capture through copyright exception, and connecting to both licensed content and content shared with strategic partners.
The Library should view news as part of the broader media landscape, finding the news content it requires by collecting or connecting to the UK media world (print, web, audiovisual), of which news forms a fundamental part.
The Library's news content should comprise primarily news most relevant to UK users, meaning news produced in the UK or which has had an impact on the UK.
News content that falls outside the definition of news produced in the UK or which has impacted upon the UK should be covered by other subject-led areas of the content strategy.
The content strategy for news media is underpinned by legal deposit collecting, both print and non-print, but incorporates audiovisual media that lie outside legal deposit.
The Library must be a champion of regional news, including regional newspapers, hyperlocal websites, community radio and regional television news.
The Library primarily collects and connects to published news, not raw news data.
The Library's news content (or news data) should be made as widely available as possible to UK audiences, offering content online through licence, subscription, copyright exception and partnership arrangements, as well as maintaining physical research centres in London and Boston Spa.
The Library recognises that the concept of ‘news’ can be expanded to embrace anything of relevance to a particular community at a particular point in time, which long-term could have considerable impact on how it describes content and the services that it offers.
The Library's radio news collections including daily recordings made of LBC programmes. We are seeking ways of making radio (and television) programmes as word-searchable as printed sources, to create equality of searching across the different news media.
News today and yesterday
The British Library's news collection needs to be considered in two ways: the cumulative historical corpus, and the current and ongoing collection. Stressing news currency will be an important element of the Library’s position as a news centre, capturing the world’s matters today while illustrating that behind every such story lies a history that the Library can help uncover. The Newsroom is an expression of this intention, offering the best possible service for the researcher of yesterday's news while highlighting the news we are collecting today.
We already have 60 million newspaper issues (from the 1600s onwards), 25,000 news-based websites (archived since 2013) and over 40,000 television and radio programmes (mostly recorded since 2010). The collection grows by over 2,400 news publications each week - 1,500 newspapers, 500 news websites, 280 television news programmes and 140 news radio programmes. Our task will then be not simply to collect, preserve and make accessible these different news forms, but to facilitate the connections between them.
Our overall aims for the individual news media are:
Newspapers: To continue to collect UK and Irish newspapers under legal deposit, with a managed transition from print to digital collecting, but with the default position remaining print.
Television: To record and deliver access to representative content from all television news channels available free-to-air in UK from 2010 onwards, while connecting to historical television news archives.
Radio: To capture through off-air recording a substantial proportion of the UK’s radio news output as part of an emerging national radio archive offering, while continuing to preserve and make accessible heritage radio collections.
Web: To capture selected news-based sites crawled on a high-frequency basis, as well as an annual UK web crawl, including multimedia content as far as possible; to capture selected examples of news-based social media.
Other media: To collect and connect to a range of content beyond the traditional understanding of what constitutes news, testing the viability of such an extension of service through pilot projects.
By 2017 we will aim to have achieved the following main goals:
The acquisition of 400,000 additional newspapers (individual issues), for which the annual intake in 2017 will be 25% digital, with an ‘iconic’ 5% collected in both print and digital forms.
A 5% fall in newspaper intake by reducing the number of heavily advertising-based titles.
A critical mass of digital news content across different media, including 30M digitised newspaper pages, 100,000 television news recordings, 100,000 radio news recordings, 1.5M news web pages, and connection to 3M news records from external sources.
An increased number of partners (and content made available through partners).
New research outputs based on interlinked news media resources.
Increased citations of audio-visual news media in scholarly publications.
Recognition by academic researchers, creatives, family historians and the news industry of the Newsroom as essential to the discovery, understanding and reuse of news content.
Over 500 UK news websites are being archived on a daily or weekly basis under the new non-print Legal Deposit regulations introduced in 2013, including online-only news publications such as the Exeter Daily.
A sense of the now
These four statements represent our overall vision for news at the British Library - the world of news research that we want to encourage.
A British Library news collection and service that is not constrained by one form but embraces all the different news media, created through a combination of legal deposit, voluntary deposit and connecting to content both licensed and shared with strategic partners.
The British Library becomes a news centre, serving scholarly, commercial and personal researchers, both onsite and remote.
A resource discovery mechanism that opens up the Library's news and news-related digital content through cross-media searching, encourages searching across other news collections, and has a set of tools to encourage innovative thinking and creative re-use, leading to new kinds of research questions.
A model for the presentation of current and historical news media that transmits to users a sense of the 'now' at any time in the past, expressed in the research experience, exhibitions, publications and in public understanding of the Library itself as playing a fundamental role in the understanding of British society.
That 'sense of the now' is key. It represents the urge we all feel to keep up with the news every day, if we want to belong. But it is also what makes yesterday's news so compelling to anyone seeking a connection with the past - from the academic to the family history researcher, from the journalist to the creative artist in search of inspiration. That is what is so exciting about news archives. We turn to a record of the past, and because we have chosen to look at it, it comes back to life - it is news once more.
This post summarises our news content strategy for 2014-2017. We welcome any comments you may have about it.
25 April 2014
Graphic accompanying The Upshot's post 'Who will win the Senate? from its first issue
Here comes The Upshot, the new explanatory journalism effort from the New York Times: Exploratory journalism is the great craze among America's chattering classes, and this week the New York Times produced its rival to Vox and FiveThirtyEight. Mathew Ingram at Gigaom investigates.
The Upshot vs. Vox vs. FiveThirtyEight: A hands-on review of explanatory journalism: And from the source hand and the same source, a handy guide to the exploratory journalism phenomenon.
BuzzFeed: Cute cats and hard news? Ian Burrell at The Independent looks at Buzzfeed's ambitions to become a serious news providers (while still having a space in its New York offices called the NoNoNoNo Cat Room).
8 Digital Tools Every Journalist Should Try: A fascinating selection from Eric Newton of the Knight Foundation, including Creativist, Videolicious and Wickr.
FT favours one rule for itself, and another for everyone else, when it comes to press regulation: The Financial Times has decided to regulate itself rather than join the new Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO). Press Gazette asks why.
Ukrainian newspaper office burned down after threats: It has been a sorry week for respecting the rights of journalists and the press. The Newsroom of Ukraine's Provintsiya was burned down with Molotov cocktails, Pakistani news anchor Hamid Mir was shot and wounded, the trial in Egypt of the three al-Jazeera journalists continues, and American journalist Simon Ostrovsky from Vice was taken by militia in Eastern Ukraine. Happily he has now been released, as have been the four French journalists held captive in Syria for nearly a year.
Risk and Reporting: The Dangers of Freelance Journalism in Syria: Freelance journalist José Gonzalez provides a useful overview of the operations of freelancers in Syria: the risks, the questions and the imperatives.
Happy Bard Day: Among the many newspaper tributes to William Shakespeare on his 450th, none matched The Sun for wit, or surprise factor, with a classic spread containing potted summaries of all of the plays and spoof front pages: " "Massacre at the palace: Claudius killed, Queen poisoned. Hamlet and Laertes dead too ... Alas poor Yorick - skull found."
Four out of ten Britons think it was right to give Guardian a Pulitzer: Some might query whether four out of ten Britons have actually heard of the Pulitzer prize (or Edward Snowden for that matter), but a YouGov poll asked this question:
It was recently announced that The Guardian and US newspaper The Washington Post would receive the Pulitzer Prize, the biggest prize in US journalism, for their coverage of the NSA surveillance programmes as revealed by ex-CIA contractor Edward Snowden. Do you think it is right or wrong for the prize to be given to papers that publish stories like this?
and got these results: Right: 37 per cent; Wrong: 22 per cent; Don’t know: 41 per cent.
Pathé goes to YouTube: There has been much rejoicing at the news that the British Pathé newsreel archive has been made available on YouTube. The Newsroom blog is pleased too, but asks some questions about how useful it is to historians in this form.
Blendle: Dutch news platform offers money-back guarantee: Not a week seems to go by without a new form of payment for online news being tried. Dutch government-funded news site Blendle asks you to pay for stories, giving you your money back if you are not completely satisfied.
How is user-generated content used in TV news?: A Tow Center report examines the ways television news organisations and online media companies employ user-generated content and finds much inconcistency of crediting, and use.
23 April 2014
The news that the entire British Pathé newsreel archive has been published on YouTube has made a huge impact. There have been news broadcasts, web news and newspaper reports, and the story has spread widely across social media, which is very much was British Pathé wanted. 85,000 videos, or 3,500 hours of film ranging from the 1890s to the 1970s has been made freely available on YouTube via http://www.youtube.com/user/britishpathe. This is very good news, of course, but for researchers it is good to know some of the background history, and to ask some questions about what we have in the form in which we have it.
The Pathé Frères company was formed in France in 1896 by the brother Charles and Émile Pathé. Initially marketing sound and motion picture products, the company gradually became dominant in the world film business before the First World War. It set up many subsidiaries, including a British office established in 1902, which turned to newsreel production in 1910. Pathé in France had come up with the idea of a reel of news stories, issued on a regular basis, much like a newspaper, in 1908. The British version was called Pathé's Animated Gazette, then Pathé Gazette, continuing under that title until 1946 when it became Pathé News, under which name it continued until its demise in 1970.
Newsreels were a common feature of cinema programmes in Britain from the 1910s to the 1950s, when they started to die out on account of the competition from television. Alongside Pathé, there were British Movietone News, Gaumont-British News, Universal News and British Paramount News, as well as several other, shorter-lived newsreels. They served up British and world news, with a strong emphasis on entertainment through subjects such as sport, celebrity, royalty and the quirly side of life, though they could treat politics and social issues with a deft populist touch. They were hugely influential in how the twentieth-century mass audience understood its changing world.
The newsreels were issued twice a week, so between 1910 and 1970 Pathé produced over 6,000 issues of its main newsreel, as well as several ancillary magazine series such as Pathé Pictorial and Pathétone Weekly. It also served as a distributor for films made by other companies, and all of these films ended up in its archive. There were other branches of Pathé, involved in feature film production and distribution, but they were separate from the newsreel operation, and their films are not held in the archive.
When the newsreels ceased to be a viable concern in the cinemas, they turned into footage libraries, serving the television market, in particular history programmes. This is a precarious business, particularly for a company no longer producing new films, and with a shrinking market for black-and-white footage. The archive was bought and sold several times, being owned by EMI for a time, then by the Daily Mail and General Trust, acquiring the name British Pathé in the process. It is now owned by an indepedent media company operating under the name British Pathé.
Review of the Year (Pathé News, issue 46/104, release date 30 December 1946. Pathé issued annual reviews of the year. This one for 1946 gives a good idea of the newsreel's typical content and has the added bonus of a sequence showing British newspaper editors who helped make the selection of stories for the review.
In 2002 the British Pathé archive was digitised and made available online for free thanks to a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, which supplied half the funding necessary. The deal was that the archive would remain freely available online for three years (including the facility to download low resolution copies), before the company could decide to charge if its wished, but in practice that didn't happen and its has remained free ever since. The entire archive has been available online to all for the past fourteen years, via http://www.britishpathe.com, so although the YouTube announcement is great news, there is nothing new that it being offered in terms of content. It is simply British Pathé opening up its existing online collection through a new platform.
British Pathé has been imaginative in how it has kept interest alive in its collection and ensured its relevance. It has done a special deal with the BBC for use of its footage, so that Pathé clips have become a regular occurence on BBC news and magazine programmes, and BBC4 produced a much-repeated four-part series The Story of British Pathé, which explored the history revealed by the British Pathé archive. Most recently it has made dynamic use of social media, with a strong Facebook and Twitter presence. The YouTube development will further spread their brand and use of the collection, making Pathé shareable, embeddable, relevant and fun. What was viewed as a quaint medium from cinema's past towards the end of the twentieth century now finds itself at the heart of communications in the twenty-first. There has been some very smart thinking going on.
However, there are some problems. The British Pathé collection has been around for over one hundred years, and has seen many changes. Its footage has been re-used, reissued, re-edited at times. Films have been lost. Films have been acquired which had nothing to do with Pathé but ended up in the collection anyway. Catalogue records have not always been kept, and where re-cataloguing has taken place (British Pathé had a major re-cataloguing programme in the early 2000s) the results have been variable, and not always historically informative. In short, the archive has been developed as a film library, not as a resource for historians or other academics.
World Cup Final - England v West Germany (Pathé News, issue 66/61, release date 31 July 1966)
It is therefore necessary for the serious researcher to treat the British Pathé archive with some caution. Every newsreel was issued on a particular date, with an issue number, and that is how to identify a Pathé newsreel. Individual stories always came with a title (which appeared on screen), so one might identify a typical newsreel story as, for example, World Cup Final - England v West Germany (Pathé News, issue 66/61, release date 31 July 1966).
But not all films in the British Pathé archive come with such details, particularly for the First World War period, for which records of issues of the newsreels do not survive. So while many of the films from 1914-18 exists, it is often difficult to put a precise date to them, which dilutes their value as historical record. Then there are the many films from this early period which are in the British Pathé archive but which were never produced by Pathé. How can one judge the provenance of these? Often British Pathé itself has no idea where the footage came from. It is in their archive, so they use it.
Take this clip for example. It is a compilation of First World War films. Some of it may have been filmed by Pathé at the time, but not much of it. There are clips from the 1916 documentary feature The Battle of the Somme (certainly not produced by Pathé) mixed with dramatised recreations of trench warfare filmed in the 1920s for films which Pathé may have distributed. The films are all silent, so they have added music and a commentary by John Humphrys, further altering the films from their original context. It has some value as an emotive depiction of the horrors of war, but for the historian its provenance has been shot to pieces, and its use is nil.
Of course British Pathé is a business, not a resource built for historians, and the tools for the serious researcher do exist to help them pinpoint Pathé's archive in time and place. The News on Screen database of the British Universities Film & Video Council lists most Pathé news stories 1910-1970 with correct titles, dates and issue numbers, crucially linking the stories to others released inthe same issue (the British Pathé site itself often has the release data but doesn't bring together the separate stories into the form in which they were released). News on Screen also links the records to digitised production documents (such as commentary scripts) and to the films themselves on the British Pathé site. Regretably the same links are not available for the YouTube versions, and there is no link back from the YouTube versions to the British Pathe site (the YouTube description merely reproduce the British Pathé catalogue description without further identifiers).
So the British Pathé archive is going to enjoy a much higher profile, and its films will be discovered and enjoyed by many more people now that they are on YouTube. But the link with their historical reality is being diminished, as they are separated from their catalogue, and indeed are not easily searchable as a discrete archive unless one leaves YouTube and goes to News on Screen or the British Pathé website. Historians must therefore look that little bit further and make use of the tools and data available. These will demonstrate that the British Pathé archive is of great and illuminating historical value, even if questions must be asked about the veracity of some of what is on display. It is as relevant now as ever it was when it played in cinemas across the land to an audience of millions, when its news was not history but news.
- Ian Aitken (ed.), Encyclopedia of the Documentary Film (Routledge, 2006)
- Anthony Aldgate, Cinema and History: British Newsreels and the Spanish Civil War (Scolar Press, 1979)
- Jenny Hammerton, For Ladies Only? Eve's Film Review: Pathé Cinemagazine 1921-1933 (Projection Box, 2001)
- Rachael Low, Films of Comment and Persuasion of the 1930s (George Allen & Unwin, 1979)
- Luke McKernan (ed.), Yesterday's News: The British Cinema Newsreel Reader (BUFVC, 2002)