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jade butcher

my thoughts about all things media

Media sensitivity, suicide and the guidelines

Tyler Boyco created a touching tribute to Robin Williams after his suicide in 2014. (Photo via Huffington Post)
Tyler Boyco created a touching tribute to Robin Williams after his suicide in 2014. (Photo via Huffington Post)

When Robin Williams took his own life in August 2014, the world was shocked by the report. Each year, around 6000 people take their own life through suicide, with a further 10,000 plus attempts across the UK. In some cases, suicide can attracts media attention, throwing up a unique set of challenges to any reporter. The need to decide what is public interest without risk of encouraging imitative behaviour as well as not to intrude the lives of the bereaved and applying the industry regulation and codes of practice are just a few of the considerations needed to produce ethical and truthful articles.

Suicide is an issue of public health and social inequality, it is more common in specific groups like men, lower socio-economic groups and the ages of 30-50 and it accounts for more deaths than road collisions. Research shows that the inappropriate reporting of suicide can initiate copycat behaviour in vulnerable groups, but help groups and organisations such as The Samaritans have worked closely with the media to outline a set of guidelines when reporting on sensitive cases. In 2013, The Samaritans issued the 5th edition of their guidelines to the media when reporting on suicide. With the intention of advising and guiding journalists into making responsible and ethical decisions when writing their articles, here are a few of the main points:

  • Thinking about the impact on an audience

When writing a report on sensitive media, it is imperative for a journalist to consider the impact of their article on the audience. Stories that are particularly upsetting and sensitive call for a different approach than hard hitting journalism. Journalists must consider the impact of their content on vulnerable groups and individuals, the family or anyone connected to the victim and anyone impacted by suicide in particular. This calls for a journalist to seek accurate information about both the victim and the death, then filtering anything that could be seen as influential and emphasising the help that is available.

  • Take caution when referring to the methods and context of a suicide

Research has shown that the way that suicide is reported in the media can directly influence others to imitate the behaviour of the suicide. Journalists are encouraged to limit the detail in the methods of suicide, especially when the case is unusual, using only umbrella terms such as hanged or overdosed but not detailing the violence or quantity of tablets for example. This both reduces the possibility for copycats and respects the grief of those affected. When reporting, journalists are also encouraged to not include references to the reasons for the suicide, especially if they are life circumstances. Alluding the suicide to financial problems or divorce runs the risk of others who are in that situation to identify with the problems and potentially copy. The Samaritans advise the media against using phrases like ‘quick, easy and painless’ or ‘certain to result in death’ as this can be seen to glorify suicide as a method of coping, again which could encourage the vulnerable.

  • Avoid over-simplifying the case

Around 90% of suicide victims have been diagnosed or undiagnosed with a mental health problem at the time of death. The over-simplification of these causes can be misleading and do not reflect the complexity of the reasons for suicide. It is important to not to skim past the complexities of a suicide as attributing it to one particular event can have devastating impacts on anyone affected. For example, if a journalist generalises the cause to a divorce, an ex-partner could feel completely responsible for a victim’s death, it is advised to journalists to maintain a professional distance from the personal side to the case as it is too easily misinterpreted.

  • Don’t over dramatise suicide

When reporting about the response to a suicide, The Samaritans encourage journalists not to sensationalise a community expression of grief. Although the impact of suicide affects a great number of people, suggesting so could make it sound as though they are honouring the suicidal behaviour instead of mourning the loss of someone. A professional piece on suicide should explore the emotional and physical impact that suicide has on family and friends, without being too intrusive into their grief. Explaining this devastation could prompt someone with suicidal thoughts to seek help. However, this simple way of reporting is not always the best way, if a celebrity commits suicide, a report is more so an account of how the world has been shocked and moved as we were when Robin Williams passed away, this community grief is more of a paying of respect than sensationalising suicide.

  • Aim for sensitive coverage

It is important for journalists to maintain a professional tone throughout the piece, as well as writing in a sensitive style. It is advised to refrain from labelling geographical locations as ‘hot spots’, links between suicide cases cannot be concretised without proof, speculating this kind of information can put vulnerable people in that area at greater risk. Again when thinking about the audience, suicide should not be reported as if it achieves results, for example, if a bully was made to apologise for having a role in a suicide, it should not be reported as if that is a positive outcome for the case, anyone affected by suicide can be under immense pressure and guilt, journalists should not add to that. Journalists are also encouraged to respect the privacy of a family affected by suicide, if a note is left, the contents should not be reported as this could be devastating for a family to have to share a loved ones last words with the public.

  • Finally, aim to educate the audience

It is hoped that the media will begin to play a more positive role in the awareness of suicide as a public health issue. Journalists should aim to inform the public about suicide, the warning signs and raising the awareness of the help available to anyone suffering with suicidal thought, this could potentially lead to the decrease in deaths by suicide. When it is possible, it is advised that journalists mention the wider issues that are associated with suicide such as alcohol misuse, mental health problems and depression. By discussing these issues, it can help to encourage a better understanding about suicide, as well as the help that is available to anyone who is suffering with the symptoms of depression or suicidal thoughts.

Although reporting on suicide is both a difficult and upsetting task for journalists, following simple guidelines make writing the article more simple and professional. Help groups such as The Samaritans working together with the media have created a way for journalists to make ethical and responsible decisions when writing about sensitive media, which still allow them to do their job correctly.

 

Sources

http://www.samaritans.org/sites/default/files/kcfinder/branches/branch-96/files/Samaritans%20Media%20Guidelines%20UK%202013%20ARTWORK%20v2%20web.pdf
http://www.samaritans.org/media-centre/media-guidelines-reporting-suicide
http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/08/16/tyler-boyco-robin-williams_n_5684388.html

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Tweet-Twoo: Is microblogging taking over?

Statistics of each social media platform in 2014 (via: https://leveragenewagemedia.com/blog/social-media-infographic/)
Statistics of each social media platform in 2014 (via: https://leveragenewagemedia.com/blog/social-media-infographic/)

The act of microblogging mainly consists of posting short and immediate posts onto a platform as few or many times you want to. Many platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr have taken over the blogging scene, eliminating the need for lengthy research, writing time and audience attraction by adapting the same chatty style, unifying hundreds of updates into one timeline and reducing the need to promote your work to gain traffic. Blogging platforms such as Blogger, WordPress and Blogspot have always been free blogger favourites, but the up rise of microblogging has taken over much of the blogshpere world.

Although many of Twitter’s 316m users will embrace the platform for its cathartic ranting benefits, the social media platform has also seen a rise in the journalistic world and news sharing. On a personal level, I would use Twitter as an easy method to record my thoughts and views, achievements and downfalls, but on a work and professional level, the use of Twitter and the sites that are linked to it, has broadened both my knowledge and reach when looking at the news.

With a quick look at Twitter and Facebook followers in comparison to newspaper readerships, it is easy to see that online popularity is on the rise.

Graph via infogr.am

As a microblogging platform, Twitter has many advantages:

  1. The reach

In my experience on Twitter, it is more often the content of your tweet that brings in traffic than your actual following. Some tweets published can gain high numbers of impressions (how many people have read or seen the tweet) and low engagements (how many people have clicked on, retweeted, voted, liked the tweet), whereas others can have low impressions and high engagements. Having a high number of engagement suggests that the update reached a large audience, a great feature of the platform. As there is very little restriction as to who can see and share your updates, tweets allow anyone to openly voice their opinions on specific matters and have them read by a wide audience. The analytics tool created by Twitter also helped me to tailor my tweets so I could reach the biggest audience by posting them at the right times throughout the day.

A series of analytics from the feature on Twitter.
A series of analytics from the feature on Twitter.
  1. The extra features

When using Twitter in my work, I have found its extra features set the platform apart from other sites. The ability to hashtag in a tweet, or search for specific information through hashtags is one of the best ways to narrow down the information available to you. Not only does it do this, but it also allows others with similar interests to see your updates and be involved in what you say. The retweet function of Twitter has also been of great importance in my work. The feature allowed me to share with my followers, tweets and information which I deemed interesting and important, as well as being able to share my opinion whilst doing so. I was also able to retweet information that was key to my Storify articles, allowing me to easily find and source the updates when coming to curation. Finally, the poll feature (which was recently added in September 2015) allowed me to gain important opinions and trends for my work. I asked my followers to answer questions which directly linked to my articles, which helped me to gain insight and an accurate angle for my work.

An example poll that I ran on my Twitter.
An example poll that I ran on my Twitter.
  1. The diversity

Because of its easy to use concept, the diversity of the updates that can be published on Twitter is endless. Its immediacy allows users and journalists to create fast, snippets of information that can contain images, videos, sounds, links, hashtags, mentions, other articles or polls, as well as mixing up the content that they create every day. By producing diverse updates, an audience are more likely to stay interested in the news, instead of reading the same words every time, they are attracted by images and videos that can now be added. This versatility also helps journalists to produce their story quickly. I found that when I was tweeting about a story that had just broken, Twitter was the easiest way to get my updates across without having to wait for the full story, this couldn’t be done on a blogging platform as it would look incomplete and probably messy.

trends
Trends are a great way to see what is happening globally and locally.

Although Twitter is a great tool for microblogging, it does come with its drawbacks. As discussed in my other posts about Twitter, obviously a main disadvantage is the limit on characters when writing updates. It’s short snippet way of working can become easily restrictive if you add mentions, videos, hashtags or photos, which all take up characters when writing tweets, but it is also this restriction which makes it different from other platforms. I personally never found a problem with keeping my updates under 140 characters, but if I did, I would add in a link to contextual information in order to help condense it. There is also the risk that your update will not even be seen. With the constant publishing of updates, tweets can be easily lost in the noise of the timeline- this is why I would include hashtags and mentions in my tweets, so even if it was lost, it could easily be seen when making a specific search.

Through my personal experiences on Twitter, I have definitely found that the platform works well as a standalone, but also goes hand in hand with other news sites and blogging platforms too. Because of the vast world of online content that is being produced constantly, Twitter is the perfect place for people to express their views in a succinct way, without necessarily needing to expand on their thoughts. Although I love Twitter as a site and a tool, I still hope that microblogging does not overtake blogging as a form, as from experience, I have found that there is still a need for blogging that can’t be fulfilled by 140 characters.

Curation nation: streamlining the news

Storify is one of the easiest content curation sites around. (@jadebutcher_)
Storify is one of the easiest content curation sites around. (@jadebutcher_)

Content Curation is a term that describes the act of finding, grouping, organising or sharing the best and most relevant content on a specific issue. Curation does not focus on adding more content to the current information overload on social media, but instead helps an audience to focus on and make sense of the most important information out there. A curator can be either an individual or an organisation and they use their skills to create new meaning by combining content and context to make sense of information and in 2011, Bhargava outlined five models of curation, as explained here:

Aggregation- is the act of curating the most relevant information about a specific topic in one location.

Distillation- is the act of curating information into a simple format where only the most important and relevant ideas are shared.

Elevation- refers to the curation with the aim to identify the larger trends or insights from smaller daily posts that are published online.

Mashup- this form of curation uses juxtapositioning, merging existing content in order to create a point of view.

Chronology- curation of this form allows a curator to bring together historical information together with recent information in an organised way to reflect the evolving understanding of a particular topic.

As a curator myself, I used Storify to gather, annotate and recirculate content into my own article. I was mainly used content found on Twitter and Facebook, with the backup of online news articles and videos from YouTube to add further context.

In my first article “How did UK MP’s react to the #SyriaVote” I used aggregation curation to source the most relevant information about the specific topic into one article. With so many different political opinions, controversy, protesting and views surrounding the topic, I found it increasingly difficult to decipher the relevant information from the bias opinions over social media. I found that looking at the updates of MP’s and leaders was not enough when trying to convey a point, I had to undertake more research into the background and context of the debate, how much it would cost, how it would affect both us and Syria and which MP’s voted for and against the decision before even looking at the social media that I wanted to include. I found that when using aggregation curation, it is important to form an impartial opinion before choosing content to include. This also helped me to gain a deeper understanding of the debate and the issues surrounding the vote, which in turn changed my opinion altogether. By forming an impartial view of the issue, my content was more equally represented, with both sides of the argument fairly reported within. Aggregation curation also battles the notion of homophily as it gives a range of impartial views and opinions, this restricts the reader from associating with views that are only similar to their own.

When collecting information for my second article “Has the force really awoken?” I used elevation curation. In my article, I intended to portray the way in which the media can cause frenzy around a certain event, using the Star Wars premieres as an example. My compilation of news stories, YouTube videos, tweets and Facebook updates showed the whole world going wild for the film, but also the lack of variety when it came to the information shared. Elevation curation proved that it is the deeper analysis of social media updates that help to prove the point. I found myself looking at articles that had used aggregation curation for more inspiration and information that showed the real obscurities of the Star Wars mania, which in turn allowed me to find more detailed and unusual information sources to use in other articles. Twitter and hashtagging was of great importance to me in this article, as I was easily able to find masses of information about one topic through one trend. This also helped me to identify which parts of the event were the most popular on Twitter, again helping me to focus my content on those topics with the biggest media frenzy surrounding them

In my other two stories, “No way Jose! Mourinho sacked by Chelsea” and “News infinity and beyond! Astro-Tim makes the ISS”, I again used aggregation curation. In the former, I bought together the opinions and thoughts of many sources to give an impartial depiction of the decision as well as lengthier, analytical reactions which included important facts for context. Because I curated the article a day after the decision was made, the volume of content that I searched through was huge. I used hashtags on Twitter, advanced searches on Google, specific page searches on Facebook and other Storify stories to filter the topical information from the useless. I used Kelly’s adaptation of Jarche’s Network Learning Model ‘Seek, Sense, Share’ to find only the most relevant content: Seek- I filtered the relevant content, Sense- I made sense of the information by including longer articles for appropriate context, Share- I used social media to deliver my view to others. This model helped me to streamline my content search into the very simplest form, which in turn, helped me to save time and effort when looking for valuable content to include.

The volume of digital information is expanding daily, and with more news, content, updates and stories being added every second, it can be difficult to filter the important information through the noise. Curation showed me that it is easy to find relevant content, add your own spin and then share it with others to help them understand it too. This streamlining helps readers and journalists turn stories with too much information, into stories with only vital information quickly and easily- a great tool in this digital age.

 

 

Sources:

http://www.bethkanter.org/seek-sense-share/
https://storify.com/hbailie/curation-as-a-tool-for-teaching-and-learning-1

Legal challenges and Louis Van Gaal- How journalists cope with libel claims

Stoke fans rip into Louis Van Gaal at this weekend's clash between Manchester United and Stoke City. (Picture credit: Sky News)
Stoke fans rip into Louis Van Gaal at this weekend’s clash between Manchester United and Stoke City. (Picture credit: Sky News)

It has been a disastrous month for Manchester United manager Louis Van Gaal, who has recently ‘cracked under the pressure’ of negative press after going seven games without victory, crashing out of the Champion’s League and slipping from 1st to 6th in the Premier League. His frustration came to a head in a pre-boxing day match press conference, calling out journalists on their continual bad press surrounding his performance. He called for an apology from the media, claiming he didn’t want to speak to them under the circumstances, then left after five minutes. Watch the full press conference here-

Of course, it did not take journalists long to hit back at Van Gaal. The Christmas Eve papers were crawling with insults, comments and jibes at the manager, mostly going against the festive spirit.

Here are a couple of examples include this back page story from leading tabloid The Sun:

1

The Mirror also got involved:

2

The Guardian managed a Christmas jibe too:

3

Whereas The Daily Telegraph gave a more honest depiction of the press conference:

4

Although journalists of all kinds got involved with the story, it was the tabloid’s which focused on the negativity. According to an article on hosbeg.com, tabloid newspapers are more likely to contain scandalous stories about celebrities and use sensational language in a colloquial way. Because the majority of tabloid newspapers have a readership made up of the working class, a colourful and exaggerated tone ensure that readers are more engaged in the story than a typical broadsheet would be. This can incite many legal issues for journalists, one of the most common being The Defamation Act and potentially libellous content.

The Defamation Act 2013 says that a statement is not defamatory unless it has caused or is likely to cause serious harm to the reputation of the claimant. Defamation can include comments that make the general public think less of a claimant as a person, makes the claimant the object of public ridicule or makes people think that they cannot do their job properly. When published in permanent form, such as in print or on the web, a defamatory statement becomes libel. In order to make a successful claim in libel, a claimant must be able to prove that the comments that were made have damaged them in some way, that the statements were not fair comment and that the comments made against them were not in the public interest.

Claimants who are looking to sue a journalist for libel must do so within a year of the material being published, after this time, you cannot file a law suit. Also, it is impossible to libel the dead, as in theory, they no longer have a reputation to be harmed.

Returning to the story from The Sun about Van Gaal, although it may look like the comments made were libellous, he would have little chance if trying to sue them under the defamation act. There are plenty of defences that journalists can use against the claimant to prove that their content was not libellous, and using the example story from The Sun, I will demonstrate how they may have been explained.

Truth defence

If the journalist can prove that the defamatory statement made is the truth, a claim will not be passed. If there is more than one statement made in a claim, but not all of the statements can be proved to be true, the defence will not fail if the false accusations can be proved to have had little impact on the claimant’s reputation. In the story from The Sun, the truth defence would stand, as the majority of their claims about Van Gaal can be proved as the truth.

Honest opinion defence

The honest opinion defence generally covers opinion and review pieces, however it can be used by a journalist if they can prove that the defamatory statements they made could be an opinion held by an honest person. If the defendant meets the conditions including- being able to prove the statement was an opinion, the statement was formed on an opinion and that the statement could be the opinion of an honest person at the time of publishing- the defence would stand. However if a claimant can prove that the defendant does not hold that opinion, the defence will fail, unless the defendant can show that the opinion was not their own, but formed by another (“the author”). The journalist who apologised to Van Gaal for ‘boring his fans to tears’ could use the honest opinion defence to defend his case, as it may be his personal opinion of the manager.

Other defences for libel include ‘the publication on a matter of public interest’. For this defence to succeed, the defendant must prove that the statement was, or former part of, a statement on a matter of public interest or reasonably believe that it is in the interest of the public to publish the defamatory information. The ‘Operators of websites’ defence can also be used against libel cases, where the defendant would need to prove that it was not the operator which posted the statement on the website. The defence can be defeated if the claimant can show that it isn’t possible to identify the person who made the defamatory statement or if the claimant gave the website a notice of complaint in relation to the statement and the operator failed to respond with provision. The Defamation Act also protects journalists by privilege, which allows them to report fairly and accurately on public interest events such as court cases, Parliamentary debates, public meetings, council meetings and police statements.

If the defence of the journalist does not stand and the claimant wins, they are entitled to an award of damages. Although there is no fixed rate of damages, there are factors that determine how much a claimant is given. Circumstances include the seriousness of the defamatory statement, the size and influence of the publications circulation, whether or not the claimant has suffered financial loss, if the claimant has suffered actual injury to reputation, the behaviour and conduct of the defendant and if there is an element of truth to the defamatory statement or not.

Although it may sound like a light hearted joke at the expense of a celebrity, many tabloid newspapers have been under fire for libel and defamation in the last few years. This has caused journalists to check their facts more rigorously before publishing a story, adapt their writing style to a more tongue in cheek and innuendo-esc tone and become more cautious when making claims about public figures. It doesn’t seem like Louis Van Gaal will sue for libel, but if the media continue the way they have been going with him, they could find themselves in hot water soon enough.

Sources

http://www.101greatgoals.com/blog/lvgs-presser-walk-out-mirror-spin-im-out-sun-ask-for-apologies-telegraph-say-united-boss-cracks/
http://hosbeg.com/difference-between-a-tabloid-and-a-broadsheet/
http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2013/26/crossheading/requirement-of-serious-harm/enacted
https://www.contactlaw.co.uk/claiming-for-libel.html
https://www.dpsa.uk/a-guide-to-media-law/defamation/if-the-claimant-wins-2/

 

Astro-Tim, is this the Peake of user generated content?

On December 15th, British astronaut Tim Peake was launched on his first mission into space, visiting the International Space Station for a 6 month period. As seen in my Storify article, millions of tweets containing the hashtag #GoodLuckTim and #TimPeake were sent over the day, as well as a whole host of celebrities, political figureheads and communities coming together to experience the flight and wish him the best.

The emergence of participatory journalism, or user generated content, has been tossed around more frequently since the uprising of social media journalism. Because Twitter has allowed users to freely communicate with other users, exchange, distribute and receive content and reach a world-wide audience quickly, it is now easier than ever to participate in citizen journalism. Breaking news no longer has to go through the process of gate watching, where news gathering would be done by journalists, processed by an editorial team who would choose the stories to run and finally published into print and disseminated via circulation. Thanks to social media and its rapid nature, news now goes straight from breaking to the world stage with very little filter, removing the responsibility from journalists for breaking news and putting it in the hands of the everyday user.

When looking at Tim Peake’s Twitter feed, it is easy to see that the first British astronaut is daily updating the world about his adventures in space. Although not all of his news is breaking or shocking, each update is something that the world would have never known unless it was posted. So can we call him a journalist? Well, a journalist’s role is to educate the public about events and issues that would be unknown to them otherwise, in a truthful, informative and interesting manner. In essence, he has been doing this since first alighting the ISS, posting insightful snippets of the life of an astronaut.

Although many of his tweets are everyday thoughts and doings, some of his updates are breaking news stories; sharing his roles and responsibilities within the ISS crew, live photos of missions that journalists down here would never be able to capture and videos of the everyday tasks on board the ISS. It is this user generated content that could not be produced by anyone else. The content that the world craves to see, pictures of the Earth slipping into the darkness, updates about the recent space-walk that the other crew members took part in, content that isn’t accessible by other journalists and is broken by Tim Peake.

An amazing view shared with everyone in the picture. (Courtesy of https://twitter.com/astro_timpeake)
An amazing view shared with everyone in the picture. (Courtesy of https://twitter.com/astro_timpeake)

So where does this leave a journalist? Like any form of participatory journalism, although the story is broken by someone else, it does not put a journalist out of their job. News that is broken over twitter has very little content, with the restriction of 140 characters per update it leaves almost no room for anything other than the key information. Also, many people who break news over Twitter will not possess the time or skill to write an accurate report of the story that is being broken. This leaves the journalist to take the information known, research it further, expand on it, make comment, explain, analyse, find out opinions and give context to using their skills as a writer. The removal of the gatekeeping of news through social media is not always a bad thing, although a journalist may not be the one to break the news, it opens many doors for content creation. If a journalist in London sees a story break on Twitter in Delhi, they can then contact a connection closer to the story to source more information- without them seeing it on Twitter, they may not have ever known about the story in the first place. It is this accessibility that is leading to the globalisation of our news, with UGC giving the opportunity for anyone to update the world with their story. News has to start somewhere, whether that be with journalists or with everyday people.

Back to Tim Peake, who is further expanding the reach of journalists all over the world. It could be said that journalists are thankful for user generated content like this, allowing them an insight to a world that they would have not been able to access otherwise. His pictures and updates are information that they wouldn’t be able to discover themselves, so by working together with Peake, they can both get their job done. In terms of UCG, the International Space Station is clearly leading the way at the moment, so Congratulations Tim Peake, you can now add astronaut and citizen journalist to your CV!

Sports journalism and Twitter- the perfect pair

AFCB on Twitter live tweet each game with media inclusion, is Twitter the best way to follow football?
AFCB on Twitter live tweet each game with media inclusion, is Twitter the best way to follow football?

Twitter’s speed and briefness makes it the perfect platform to deliver breaking news as it happens. In sport, specifically football, there is never a shortage in new developments. Whether that be transfers, suspensions, injuries, team line-ups or match action, Twitter is the ideal place to deliver news quickly to a direct, active audience. For many sports fans, following their club or favourite player is a way of life and Spezia (2011) argues that Twitter allows them to track the latest news, scores and gossip in real time, making it one of the easiest ways to develop a niche audience.

As a platform, newspapers and broadcast journalism cannot compete with the speed in which Twitter operates. Because of this, many news outlets have now moved online and see Twitter as an easy tool to break news and attract an audience to their stories. Publications no longer need to have every detail of the story before breaking it, Twitter allows them to tweet the bare minimum plus a link to the full story, which can then be updated as and when details are released. Not only does this speed up the news cycle, but it removes the barrier between a news publication and the audience, with social media living up to its name by giving users the opportunity to share their stories and opinions with a worldwide audience.

This brings us onto gatekeeping- the process in which the media decides which information should and shouldn’t be delivered to the public. Has Twitter abolished this process? Although many journalists will still class themselves as the elite group who deliver the news to the public, if an athlete sends a tweet carrying important information about themselves or a game, they are directly addressing the public without the need for a journalist to do it for them. Even more so for print journalists, as the gate is continually open, they have often found that their money-maker story is already old news by the time it is printed, they can now be completely bypassed by Twitter with their story trending for hours before being printed. But it is not all doom and gloom for sports journalists, although stars and clubs may bypass them when breaking their news, many do not have the writing skills to fully deliver a report on what has really happened, nor can they live tweet their games from the pitch.

Before the so called ‘Twitter explosion’ many football journalists admit to failing to see the point in the platform, calling it ‘self-indulgent’ and ‘egotistical’, as well as wondering why someone with such a broad writing skill would want to sum up their work in 140 characters. Yet when they joined the network, they all realised that this was the way forward for news reporting. They found that Twitter was a great tool when it came to news-gathering, self-promotion, building an audience and pushing traffic towards their work online as it was quick, easy to use and unrestricted in geographical terms unlike print journalism.

So when it comes to reporting on football in particular, the relationship between a journalist and Twitter has developed rapidly over the last couple of years. So lets discuss some of the benefits of Twitter for sports journalists. To begin with, fans are always eager to find out new information about their favourite team or players, especially the obscure facts that probably wouldn’t make the space restricted newspapers and it is these snippets of information that are perfect for Twitter and help journalists find a wide audience. By detailing parts of a match that audiences may not have seen, such as chants by the fans or the body language of the manager, a journalist can attract a wide reach who look for information. This excess information also drives the Twitter traffic to reading their online story too, as fans may find the finer details more interesting.

It is this interest that can also help journalists find the angle of their story. When starting to write a difficult story, many journalists will post a contentious tweet to provoke the reaction of fans, helping them to see the most popular angle to a story which will lead to the biggest audience readership. Because users can openly respond to, criticise and post their opinions in reply to journalists, it is easy for them to get a feel for the ‘nation’s voice’. This can be both positive and negative however, as it can lead to both an increase in trust and respect between an audience and a reporter, but also lead to monotonous abusive comments from users who don’t agree with their opinion.

Twitter allows journalists, whether they use the platform or not, to gather and monitor the breaking news that may not be seen anywhere else. Having an online presence in modern day sports journalism is seen as one of the most important traits of a journalist. Not only can it help them attract information, but it can also put journalists in a stronger position for attracting freelance work. If a company or news outlet can see that a journalist has gathered a strong following, they are automatically seen as an asset for attracting online traffic, as not only are you gaining the work of a strong writer, but also the attention of 100,000 strong following. It has also allowed journalists to become increasingly mobile, reporting from wherever they are in the world without fear of losing the scoop.

Unlike any other platform, Twitter has caused football journalism to erupt online. Because there are hundreds of journalists reporting on the same story, each one will take a unique angle, meaning that the variety of information out there in comparison to print journalism is tenfold. Again, developing a specialist angle in each story, whether that be tactical, psychological or analytical, it is easy to develop a niche audience very quickly. This faster news cycle that Twitter has created, has inspired many users desire to learn more information about the backgrounds of the main stories they read, this opens up avenues for journalists to write extended comment and feature pieces on topics that they are passionate about, instead of only writing for news.

Finally, Twitter allows sports journalists to break their news quickly, to a specific audience. Unlike other media platforms, the rapid dissemination of information on Twitter is a key way for a journalist to get their work out there. This mass circulation, teamed with the increase in media availability has now pushed tweeting as one of the most popular ways to keep up with sports. When reporting on a football match, many journalists will live tweet a rapid commentary of the key events within a game, as well as including all types of media within. A goal is a great opportunity to include a short vine clip of the action, allowing an audience to experience the game in real time, a bad reaction can be an opportunity to include photographs of players and managers to achieve the same feel, or a specific chant may inspire a journalist to add in a sound clip to attract the audience. It is these extra add-ons that other platforms simply can’t deliver, that attract the following on thousands of people when it comes to Twitter sport.

But there are downsides to using Twitter for journalists as each platform runs their own risks. If a journalist includes too much information in their tweets, they are not going to push traffic through to their online posts, essentially ‘scooping themselves’. There is always the risk that information found on Twitter can be untrue, it takes seconds for something to trend on Twitter, whether it true or not, and without the credible validation of sources, it is difficult to separate the truth from the false. Also, the rapid distribution of news can be one of the most useful ways to spread information, but everyone on Twitter is working that way too, meaning that information and tweets are easily missed and pushed down the timeline by other users.

Although there are many other reasons as to why Twitter is important for sports journalism, it is easy to say that the impact that it has had on the industry is huge. Just think about the next time you see a headline and think- “I’ve already seen that on Twitter.”

Online and print journalism- is there a difference?

Is there a difference between print and online journalism?
Is there a difference between print and online journalism?

Many people think that there are few journalistic differences between writing for print and writing online. By starting with defining journalism as ‘the communication of current issues and events to the public in a way that is structured and governed by principles such as accuracy and fairness’, both online and print journalists work by writing and publishing content to inform society about issues that would have otherwise been hidden.

Print journalism categorises work published in newspapers and magazines. Usually consisting of reports, stories and reviews, this form has many strict characteristics that journalists abide by. On the other hand, online journalism is the production of journalistic content on the internet, which also has its own set of characteristics. In an article on hosbeg.com, the differences between print and online journalism are looked at, included are some of the following:

  • Journalists who work in print are restricted by the amount of white space they are given for their story. Each newspaper will allot a specific amount of a page to each report, which must be accurately filled by the journalist. Online journalism does not have this problem, meaning that stories can be infinitely detailed and as lengthy as the journalist wishes.
  • Print journalism comes with tight deadlines to meet to make the editing and printing times throughout the day. Each story must be written, edited and compiled at the same time for the edition to be printed and distributed. Online journalism usually does not work to deadlines as it can quickly produce content as a story breaks. Features and other timeless stories can be uploaded periodically throughout the day, meaning that once a story is written, the journalist can move straight on to their next piece.
  • Online journalism is the quickest way to report on breaking news. Its content can be easily written and updated as a story breaks and evolves. Print journalism on the other hand struggles to distribute ‘breaking news’ as quickly as it is only released at certain times in the day.
  • Journalism which is produced online can be viewed anywhere by anyone who has access to the internet. This means that the audience is much broader than print journalism, which is usually restricted by geographical boundaries. Whether it be a nationwide newspaper like The Times, or a regional newspaper like The Dorset Echo, the audience reach is restricted by accessibility which creates boundaries.
  • In terms of cost, running a print business is expensive and requires many components for production, but running an online business is relatively cheap and simple to set up. Buying a newspaper has recently become more expensive to bridge the gap between shortfalls due to diminishing circulation numbers. Usually, online content is free for readers.
  • Online journalism often encourages interaction from the reader, with the inclusion of comment boxes, videos, images, GIF’s and votes, it is easy for an audience to immediately share their views on the article. Print journalism cannot offer this directly, only through a ‘letters to the editor’ page, which still doesn’t guarantee that the opinion will be published.
  • Finally, print journalism needs to be edited and checked thoroughly before being printed as mistakes cannot be edited and the articles cannot be deleted. Once printed, the article is concretised forever, meaning journalists need to be extremely careful when quoting sources and interviewees. Online journalism on the other hand can be easily changed, rearranged or deleted from a webpage. Also online journalists tend to lean less on interview sources and more on hyperlinks to other pages which provide better context and background to their stories.

With the fundamental differences between the two forms addressed, where does a journalist stand when writing for each form? Are there similarities between online and print journalism or are they just as different as their forms.

In an article written by Farhad Manjoo explaining reader habits, he claims that many online readers do not make it half way down the page and most not even making it past one full scroll. This has greatly affected the way that online journalists write in comparison to print writers. Online journalists are constantly fighting against other links, advertisements, videos and media for the attention of their readers. This means that the hook used in their story must be direct, informative and interesting from the get go and they must give the most important information in the opening lines. In contrast, readers of print journalism have invested time and effort into buying the publication and presumably give more attention to the article. Although the inverted pyramid form is used by both online and print journalists, online writers will often cram as much information into the first line as possible, therefore if the reader is lost, they have still done their job.

The second difference between the two styles is the article length. The length of a print article is dictated by the amount of space that is allocated to their story, meaning that the style of a print journalist is often concise, factual and direct. Online journalists on the other hand are not restricted by this, meaning that their articles can be much more detailed and lengthy if needed. This, however, does not mean that the online articles are always longer by nature, as said before, the vast majority of work written online is still kept under 1000 words to maintain the attention of the reader. Both print and online journalists work to include the vital information within the first paragraph and secondary information towards the end.

Sourcing requirements for print journalists are often so stringent that it can feel as though nothing can be said in print without a reliable source quote. Online journalists on the other hand are often allowed to exert their own authority and include their opinion into their articles. This difference comes down to the speed of publishing work- online journalists can include hyperlinks to other source material to generate a better background and context, whereas print journalists are expected to quote professional and reliable sources in their work to make their articles credible. This means that print journalists need to work harder to gain interviews, sources and quotes whereas online journalists can rely more loosely on the work of others and their opinions.

Because of the availability for interaction with online journalists in comment boxes, social media and ‘vote’ systems, digital writers can often come quickly under fire by their readers. Unlike print journalists, who can still be contacted over social media and through editor letters, but are less likely to be directly criticised for their work. Online journalists are often encouraged to read the comments of their readers and sometimes participate and respond to the criticism that they receive, whereas print journalists are less likely to hear about their criticism even if it is still around.

Finally, because online content is easier to produce and access, it will be no surprise that online journalists are often paid less than print journalists. But, because of the time saved in pitching ideas and meeting deadlines for print, often online journalists have the opportunity to make more money per hour than print journalists. With online outlets producing significantly more content than print outlets, online journalists often compensate the difference by producing a higher volume of work.

So to anyone who still thinks that online and print journalism is the same thing, or that online journalists and print journalists do the same job, I hope that this article has outlined some of the major differences between the two to convince you otherwise.

Are newspapers really dead?

Are newspapers dying out or is it just an online driven myth?
Are newspapers dying out or is it just an online driven myth?

Over the last decade, society has seen a rapid rise in the popularity of social media platforms as well as the development of constant access to the internet anytime anyplace, which have apparently propelled news into the ‘digital age’. Alongside the online venture, news producers have seen a marked decline in the popularity of their print newspapers with the two being inextricably linked- but are they really so connected?

Yes, there is solid evidence to support the fact that the number of print newspapers being sold yearly across the UK has been continually on the decline for the last five years.

But to automatically presume that this is because of the rising popularity in social media and online journalism would be wrong, as this would be to presume that everyone who is not buying the print edition is reading the edition online, or to presume that there are no other reasons for the decline in buying print editions. There are many reasons as to why print journalism is losing ground, but also many reasons to show that it is not going down without a fight.

So let’s take a look at both sides of the argument-

Point one: newspapers are dying.
Sale numbers are dropping, circulation is diminishing, advertising revenue is drying up and the industry as a whole has seen a large number of cuts and layoffs in recent times. The rise of new media and the digital age should essentially bring the death of newspapers because the internet can offer so much more than words on a page.

This is all the truth, but many seem to forget that newspapers have been around now for hundreds of years, since the 17th century in fact. This is not the first time that the death of print news has been predicted, when radio was introduced, newspapers were supposed to go out of fashion, when TV was introduced, newspapers were supposed to go out of fashion, a trend has emerged where that differing media platforms do no take over each other but work alongside each other to create a wider experience of distribution.

Point two: newspapers aren’t dying.
In an article written by The Guardian back in 2014, journalist Tien Tzuo outlined several ways to prove that newspapers are definitely not dying. He believes that newspapers do not have a consistent political slant, but instead, focus on offering concise, informed and entertaining pieces that can’t be found in other media. By recognising that they can’t compete with the reach of online publications, newspapers opt for quality not quantity. Print newspapers also guarantee the full attention of a reader, someone who has chosen to spend money in order to gain information from the source, unlike online news, where Twitter and Facebook users can scroll past, ignore or even miss updates that are posted. Working in a leaner fashion and cutting out unnecessary features has allowed print publications to streamline their costings and even continue to make profits.

He also offers other suggestions such as newspapers offering additional services only where necessary, instead of continuously including videos, pictures and links as novelties instead of extensions. Also, the fact that many newspapers have now linked with other companies to offer joint business, such as The Financial Times offering subscriptions to TED events and News UK teaming up with Spotify to boost readership.

So from both sides of the fence there are many arguments to be considered, but it can be said that print news and online news are not as closely linked as first thought. There are parallels between the two and mostly, online and print work in a symbiotic fashion, but to say that the rise of one is causing the fall of the other would be wrong. Although newspapers will inevitably die out at some point, it does not look like it will be any time soon.

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