A freelance journalist with an international outlook. I have worked for the likes of the BBC, Sunday Times and Bloomberg.
Posted in Citizen Journalism on April 1, 2011
Not always you, it seems. CNN iReport, while being one of the best sites in terms of the user-generated content it publishes, also has some of the least favourable terms and conditions for those who submit their work to it. Look at this excerpt:
“By submitting your material, for good and valuable consideration, the sufficiency and receipt of which you hereby acknowledge, you hereby grant to CNN and its affiliates a non-exclusive, perpetual, worldwide license to edit, telecast, rerun, reproduce, use, create derivative works from, syndicate, license, print, sublicense, distribute and otherwise exhibit the materials you submit, or any portion thereof in any manner and in any medium or forum, whether now known or hereafter devised, without payment to you or any third party.”
If they sell content to other outlets, you will get a slice of the dough, but only a slice. Otherwise, you won’t see a bean, even if video footage you shot runs as headline news.
The other major citizen journalism hub, Demotix, has a far fairer remit. They say:
“Upload your news stories, images and video to Demotix, and we’ll broker your work to over 200 media buyers around the world”
This could go for anything between $50 and $3,000 for non-exclusive content, and for hundreds of thousands for exclusive content, they claim. Win.
So the moral is, if you’re a citizen journalist, be careful where you submit your content. CNN might have great cache, but your wallet will be no fatter at the end of a hard day’s reporting.
Posted in Mainstream Media on March 30, 2011
By Alex Webb
Following the survey I launched yesterday, here is a bubble diagram of where people last commented on news. Most people who took part were journalism students and the sample was small, but it gives an interesting snapshop of how people comment online. I asked participants where they had commented on a news story in the past six months, if at all.
Posted in Mainstream Media on March 29, 2011
By Alex Webb
It started with a wave, which became a torrent, and the effects still haven’t been fully measured. The colossal tsunami that hit Japan earlier this month has had untold consequences, and another burgeoning wave of Twitter and internet users is seeking to recount them.
Twitter has really started to take off with the hashtag #quakebook, a project entirely generated by the online community to produce a book, all profits from which will go to the Japanese Red Cross. The 2:46 Quakebook project (so-named after the time the earthquake happened) is the brainchild of Twitter user @ourmaninabiko, a longtime British expat in Japan, and is conceived as a collection of images, personal accounts and reflections on the catastrophe.
“I’m not looking for windy poetic stuff, just honest stuff,” he wrote in a blogpost on 18 March. “Aim to write 250-300 words or so – equivalent to a short blog post (or one page of a book).”
From that initial seed, the idea grew into an online-coordinated, edited and produced book, which is currently in the final stages of editing.
The online process the project has implemented can be summarised thus:
1. Initial idea from a blogpost;
2. Pieces submitted by gmail, Twitter or blogpost;
3. Edited and translated by contributors around the world;
4. Marketed online via Twitter and other social networks.
The publishing industry surely takes advantage of the information superhighway to edit and produce its books, but this project has simply been so quick from concept to realization. Although it was initially proposed to have the project completed within a week, that so much has been achieved within just eleven days is remarkable.
The clincher, however, will be to see how good the book actually is. To produce it within a brief timeframe is impressive. To produce something exceptional in that time would be simply miraculous, and a testament to what user generated content can really achieve.
Posted in Citizen Journalism on March 13, 2011
The term “news agenda” is frequently bandied around: “Such-and-such is driving the news agenda”, “So-and-so contributed to today’s news agenda”.
It suggests there is some sort of coherence to the way news is reported, that what hits our television screens or fills our newspapers is considered before it reaches us; not that it is censored or an opinion imposed upon it, although that might sometimes be the case, but that it is not arbitrarily presented to us. There is a reason we refer to news outlets as the media: each one is a medium through which we can access the day’s news.
This is where online citizen journalism falls short. It is not that the standard of reporting is inherently inferior, or that a lack of professionalism means naïveté is unavoidable. It is a question of coherence. The very best user-generated news sites have a professional staff: those at CNN’s iReport, surely the market leader, not only decide which stories will lead on the website, but also vet stories, checking for accuracy and veracity. Of the 544,883 ‘iReports’ posted since the its launch in 2006, 38,382 have been vetted, a ticker on the site purports. Without such work, iReport would be garbled, as reddit (the news aggregator) can often seem to be.
That it needs editorial vetting raises a question mark over the extent to which it can really be called user-generated, but this is surely the only model which is feasible. In order to prevent news simply becoming a constantly tumbling waterfall which drowns consumers, moderation is necessary, and the professional journalist will therefore always be essential.
Also worth checking out:
Le Post (France’s answer to the iReport)
Posted in Video on March 6, 2011
Although the clips clearly undergo some editing at the hands of the Telegraph, they are otherwise entirely shot by three men from the ranks: Corporal Donald McMaster, Sergeant Billy Carnegie and Private Peter McQuaid.
The insight they provide into the daily lives of troops on the ground is superb; because it is the soldiers themselves shooting the footage, the conversations witnessed are those between mates – bantering and larking around, bereft of the sanitised PR conversations normal journalists might elicit. The viewer has a real sense of what daily life is like, of how they get through the day.
Televised by the protagonists
If Vietnam was the first televised war, then the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are surely the first conflicts to be televised by the protagonists themselves. Although not all videos are as interesting or coherent as those from the Scots, a quick search on YouTube turns up hundreds of videos of IED explosions, firefights and tributes to fallen comrades. Typing Afghanistan gives you 485,000 results, while Iraq gives you 779,000.
The videos seem to fit the formula of any other YouTube clip: unexpected things happening to ordinary people. Except you are not watching a teenager from the Midwest falling off his skateboard, but a booby trap which might have taken countless lives.
The voices in these videos – often disembodied, off-camera – are not those of sanitised war heroes, but of young men, pumped with mutual machismo and adrenaline. It is clear that some get a kick out of the precarious situation in which they find themselves, but it is clear that the bravado evident in many clips is a way of coping with such extremes. Many videos posted, particularly the tributes, are an effort both to come to terms with and provide a snapshot of the realities of war; its mundanity, its camaraderie and its brutality.
From a journalistic perspective, no one video can provide you with a complete, coherent sense of what life is like on the frontline, but taking the legion of them together reminds you that war is not really about strategy or death tolls, it is about the squaddies at the sharp end of the action. It would be wrong to assume that an ordinary soldier posts a video without any agenda, but the video he uploads makes the wars about people and personalities, not politics.
Posted in Blogs on November 17, 2010
As someone who made his name by creating characters whose painful self-awareness led to often uncomfortable hilarity, it is perhaps unsurprising that Ricky Gervais is a giant of the blogosphere.
According to trafficestimate.com his blog got some 256,000 hits in the past month, although Gervais himself claims to get over a million.
Posting wittily more or less every day, he gives readers a peak into his daily life without actually telling us much at all.
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