WAN-IFRA

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Hannah Vinter

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If you want to see an example of the media working together with its audience to create valuable journalism, you need look no further than the Quién es Quién section of the digital Colombian publication La Silla Vacía.

Quién es Quién is a digital database of “who is who” in Colombia. Many of the country’s powerful and influential figures are listed here, from politicians to journalists, to members of the private sector. Quién es Quién contains profiles of these figures, featuring detailed biographical information and links to stories about them. Users are invited to send in information to add to the database, and they do so in significant numbers. La Silla’s editor in chief, Juanita León, says that the paper receives between three and five pieces of material from readers who wish to contribute to Quién es Quién every day. But this is more than a simple Wikipedia of the great and the good of Colombia. Quién es Quién can be filtered so that you can see important connections between these figures. Who went to the same university? Who used to work with whom? Which individuals are related to one another? Results aren’t always complete, but the way that the database has been constructed helps users to get to grips with where power really lies in Colombia and contribute their own knowledge at the same time. Imagine if Britain had something similar for all the participants of the Leveson inquiry.

Quién es Quién is typical of La Silla Vacía for the way that it promotes transparency about those who are in power, shakes up traditional story forms, and invites user participation. La Silla was founded in 2009 with a grant from Open Society Foundations (formerly Open Society Institute) by León, a former Nieman Fellow at Harvard and an ex-journalist for Wall Street Journal Americas, El Tiempo and Semana. Its stated aim is to publish stories that “really describe how power is exercised in Colombia”. Yet to achieve this ambitious goal, the paper does not rely on a large team of journalists. In fact, it has just nine employees. Instead, as Quien es Quien demonstrates, La Silla’s journalism benefits from amplifying the voices of others.

User participation is built into the whole structure of the site on a subtle level: next to the headline of articles, users can see straight away how many times a story has been viewed and commented on. The layout of the site encourages comments, by displaying them in a similar size and font to the articles themselves. León stresses that users “participate in the whole process” of writing stories at La Silla Vacía. “Around a third of our stories are suggested by readers,” she says, “as soon as we publish a story, they “edit” it for us by commenting if we have made a mistake, have chosen the wrong angle or have used an inappropriate title. They distribute the stories they like on Twitter and Facebook.” In the end, says León “they are our focal point and our axis.”

Participation doesn’t always work. One example is the “user” section of La Silla’s site, which was recently overhauled to incorporate a new “circles” feature. Essentially, this functions as a series of chat rooms based around certain key topics affecting Colombia, where users can voice their opinions and propose further subjects for discussion. Despite the fact that they are heavily advertised on La Silla’s own site, participation in the “circles” has been very low, and León admits that they still haven’t achieve what she wanted. “It’s a good idea, but we’re still adjusting it,” she says.

None the less, where participation campaigns do work, the results can be encouraging. On the February 9, La Silla launched its “Super Amigos” fundraising push. The proposal was this: users were asked to donate money to the website within 23 days and, in return, they would become La Silla’s “Super Friends”. Super Amigos would benefit by knowing they were supporting La Silla’s journalism, but also from other special offers that would make them more involved in the paper’s community, such as being given preferential access to La Silla’s public events, being offered discounts on products sold by La Silla and being publically marked out as a “Super Amigo” on La Silla’s website. “The campaign was a complete success,” says León, particularly given that Colombia is a country where many people are suspicious of digital money transfers. Through the campaign, La Silla raised $21,102,000 Pesos (US$11,456) in less than a month.

La Silla also does high-profile work: during Colombia’s 2010 presidential elections it collaborated with NTN24 and MSN to organise “the first great digital presidential debate”. Following the example of YouTube and CNN in the run up to the US 2008 presidential elections, the feature allowed users to contribute with questions via YouTube and other social media platforms, which were then put to two presidential candidates in a debate that was streamed live by both La Silla and MSN.

Accomplishments like this aren’t bad for the work of just nine people. But, of course, this is precisely the point: there are not just nine of them, there’s a whole network of super amigos to help out.

A longer version of this article will be published in SFN’s report on Open Journalism, to be published shortly.

Juanita León has published her full responses to WAN-IFRA’s questions on the “Preguntas frecuentes” section of La Silla’s site.

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Hannah Vinter

Date

2012-05-28 12:43

The UK Supreme Court is preparing to decide next Wednesday whether Julian Assange should be deported to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over allegations of sexual assault, reports the Guardian. The paper writes that the verdict is likely to hinge on the judges’ decision over whether the European Arrest Warrant issued for Assange is valid.

El Pais has posted a video interview with John Paton, CEO of Digital First Media, who explains the “digital first” philosophy that underpins his company. “Technology is 100% of the future,” he says.

Press Gazette reports that the Sun’s Fabulous magazine is re-launching its website in a new, blog-style format. The article notes that stories used to be posted on the website just once a week, but now, according to editor Rachel Richardson, it will be edited “literally minute by minute.”

Fabripress, a Spanish press that prints El Mundo and the Financial Times in Spain, among other papers, is preparing to make nearly a third of its workforce redundant, writes PRnoticias. The layoffs may affect 30 out of 94 workers at the plant, suggests the article.

The Guardian’s liveblog of the Leveson inquiry continues today as Jeremy Paxman, Andrew Marr and Lord Reid give evidence. The blog itself now has a new, updated design. 

For more industry news, please see WAN-IFRA's Executive News Service.

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Hannah Vinter

Date

2012-05-23 17:07

NPR announced yesterday that has it hired the Chicago Tribune’s Brian Boyer to direct a new team, dedicated to building news applications. NPR has produced news apps previously, such as this interactive look at the science of “Fracking” to extract gas, and this map of air-polluting facilities in the US. However, the staff who have worked on these types of projects haven’t been coordinated in a single department, and Boyer’s appointment will bring them together.

Mark Stencel, NPR’s Managing Editor for digital news, who will be in charge of Boyer and his team, tells Poynter; “what I’m hoping is that, by taking these positions and putting them together as a team, we’ll be able to do a higher level of [work] than we’ve been able to do with scattered design, database and development resources.”

The news app division will help NPR adapt to the digital age, implies NPR’s Chief Content Officer Kinsey Wilson, quoted by Poynter. “I would say radio is at the forefront of our digital strategy, but … we’re entering a world of multimedia audio, if you will, in which radio will be complemented by other storytelling forms,” he says.

It’s not too hard to see why NPR wants to expand in this area; these interactive pieces of data journalism have been a big hit for other news organisations in the past. The BBC’s app “The world at 7 billion: What’s your number?”, which allowed users to see where they fit in to the world’s booming population, was the most shared link of Facebook in 2011.

For more on this story, please see our sister publication, www.sfnblog.com.

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Hannah Vinter

Date

2012-05-23 10:37

Capital New York writes that the Huffington Post is pushing ahead with its plans to launch a live video streaming network. The new product, which has been named HuffPost Live, aims to feature 12 hours of original programming every weekday, produced by a staff of around 100, says the article.

As Erik Wemple at the Washington Post reported yesterday, The New York Times Public Editor Arthur Brisbane will be stepping down at the beginning on September. Now Craig Silverman at Poynter suggests five qualities that The Times should look for as it tries to find a new person to fill the roll.

AFP reports that the Iranian government has begun legal proceedings against the news agency Reuters, following a dispute over a video report about female Ninjas training in the city of Karaj. Reuters' Tehran bureau was suspended after controversy over the story’s headline, “Thousands of female Ninjas train as Iran's assassins.”

The Verge describes a new web app named Readlists, which allows users to create their own ebooks from articles they find online.  

For more industry news, please see WAN-IFRA's Executive News Service.

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Hannah Vinter

Date

2012-05-22 17:30

The Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas reports that a journalist has been kidnapped by three armed men in the northeastern Mexican state of Sonora. Marcos Ávila covers crime for the paper El Regional de Sonora.

The European Journalism Centre has posted a video interview with Dimitri Muratov, Editor-in-Chief of the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, about social media’s role in investigative journalism.

Paul Egglestone, digital coordinator at the University of Central Lancashire's School of Journalism, writes in a blog post for the BBC College of Journalism that his department is developing a new platform for community news, which fuses newsprint and digital technology.

Press Gazette reports that Johnston Press is preparing to switch two of its broadsheet weeklies to tabloid format later this month.

For more industry news, please see WAN-IFRA's Executive News Service.

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Hannah Vinter

Date

2012-05-18 18:56

Gawker Media’s director of editorial operations Scott Kidder was not impressed whenAdWeek’s website prompted him to share a story before he had read it. "Is there anything more desperate a publisher can do? Gross,” he wrote on his blog. But Nieman Lab now explains that this request to share the story was the result of a bug with Google Consumer Surveys, rather than a policy by AdWeek.

Nieman Lab also reports that MTV has partnered with a group of news organisations to create a news game, intended to interest young people in the upcoming US presidential elections. MTV has launched a beta version of the game, named Fantasy Election ’12, with the help of a grant from Knight Foundation, the article states.

The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple compares the way that different news outlets retracted a bogus story about a jilted dentist in Poland pulling out her ex-boyfriend’s teeth. He ranks the results from most to least transparent.

Sir Michael Lyons, former chairman of the BBC Trust, has said that the BBC should widen its search for a new director general to look beyond the internal candidates that have already applied, reports the Guardian.

For more industry news, please see WAN-IFRA's Executive News Service.

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Hannah Vinter

Date

2012-05-16 17:28

Former News International CEO and News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks is to be charged with three counts of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. The Guardian reports that Brooks is one of six individuals who will be charged over allegations that they tried to hide documents and computers from police officers who were investigating phone hacking.

The Huffington Post, CNN and Mediaite all reported on a Tweet sent from a account in the name of North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue, without realising that it was a spoof, reports Poynter. The article links to Poynter’s own advice on best practices for verifying information from social media.

Mathew Ingram argues in an article for GigaOm that Twitter is edging closer to becoming a media company, after it announced on Monday that it will be launching a weekly curated email, and released a job advert last week for the role of “sports producer”.

ProPublica has announced a reshuffle of its staff, which will take effect next year. Current Editor-in-Chief Paul Steiger will become executive chairman of the organisation, Stephen Engelberg will take over as editor-in-chief and General Manager Richard Tofel will become president.

For more industry news, please see WAN-IFRA's Executive News Service.

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Hannah Vinter

Date

2012-05-15 16:47

The Big Issue, a magazine founded to help the homeless, publishes its 1,000th issue today, reports Journalism.co.uk. The article quotes John Bird, one of the publication’s founders, who says that this milestone makes him feel “ a mix of joy and discomfort, largely because we've achieved a lot, but we've still got more work to do."

Poynter provides some handy tips about using audio more effectively in multimedia stories. Among other things, the article advises journalists to use sound to provide extra detail for stories, and suggests that they use layers of audio to create a richer listening experience.

Nieman Lab’s Adrienne LaFrance compares the video games industry and the journalism industry – and looks at how the growth of the internet has disrupted both. LaFrance argues that he way that the games industry has adapted to the change has a lot to teach publishers.

Enrique Peña Nieto, one of Mexico’s presidential candidates is said to have paid journalists for coverage, writes Roy Greenslade for The Guardian. Greenslade states that, according to two recent articles in the Mexican press, Peña Nieto is said to have paid journalists around £1.5m for “mentions”.  

For more industry news, please see WAN-IFRA's Executive News Service.

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Hannah Vinter

Date

2012-05-14 18:27

Have front covers lost their edge? As more and more news migrates online, it would be easy to think they might have.

When it comes to online news, not only is there no fixed “front cover” on most newspaper websites - which are updated throughout the day. The news that goes on a newspaper’s homepage is also not necessarily what pulls in the audience.

“Seventy-five percent of uniques are coming from external sources, only 25 percent are coming to the homepage,” said Google’s head of news products Richard Gingras, in a recent discussion about online journalism at the Paley Center’s international council of media executives, quoted by paidContent

As a consequence, the virility of certain stories on social media, rather than their appearance on the front page of the paper, is arguably what is determining the news agenda. A recent infographic feature on Mashable implied that traffic to news sites from social media platforms has increased by 57% since 2009, and suggested that over 50% of American’s have learned about breaking news through social media, rather than from a traditional news source. Of course there is a difference between spreading breaking news, and determining which news is important, but arguably, social media is now becoming the forum for both. Do these changes mean that page 1 has lost its role in setting the news agenda?

Perhaps this is true for daily newspapers. But a few recent stories have shown that magazine front covers are still very much capable of making a splash. The first is the cover of Time Magazine, which shows a 26-year-old mother breast-feeding her almost four-year-old son. The image, which as Poynter points out was only loosely connected to the content of the lead story, has generated a massive response. Actress Alyssa Milano tweeted to more than 2 million followers that the cover was “exploitive and extreme." Financial Times columnist Gillian Tett called the cover “a really cheap shot” when she appeared on the talk show “Morning Joe”, as the New York Post reports. Forbes published an article asking “Will Time's Breastfeeding Cover Be Bad For Business?” And Gawker, choosing not to beat around the bush, published a story titled “Mom Puts Boob in Preschooler’s Mouth on Cover of Time”. All of this discussion is despite the fact that the article itself is behind a paywall, and is presumably not accessible to plenty of the people who are talking about it. 

Newsweek magazine’s latest cover has also generated coverage. Leading into an article about the US President’s endorsement of gay marriage, written by political blogger Andrew Sullivan, the cover shows Obama wearing with a rainbow-colour halo with the headline “The First Gay President”. The image prompted comments from The Huffington Post, The Hill, Gawker, Politico and NYDailyNews, which discuss Sullivan’s writing and compare the headline to Toni Morrison’s famous description of Bill Clinton as “the first black president”.

Both covers show that, although the way we access the news has changed, magazine covers still have an important role to play in sparking debate and conversation. Keith Kelly at the New York Post quotes Time’s Editor-In-Chief Rick Stengel, who says, “you want people to be having that conversation. The idea of all magazine covers is to get people to pay attention to what is inside.” When it comes to this week's magazine covers, it looks like it's mission accomplished.

Sources: PaidContent, Mashable, Time, Gawker (1) (2), Forbes, The Huffington Post, Politico, The Hill, New York Post

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Hannah Vinter

Date

2012-05-14 16:35

Journalism.co.uk reports that News Corp has seen its net profit jump by 47% for the first three months of 2012, compared to the same period the previous year, in spite of having spent $167m on its legal response to the phone hacking scandal. Although the company saw its total operating profit grow by 23% year-on-year, operating profit at the company’s publishing division fell by 19%, says the article.

The publisher of Mail Online, Martin Clarke, has appeared before the Leveson inquiry and has warned that over-regulation would damage the UK newspaper business, writes Press Gazette. “If we don’t allow UK newspapers to compete effectively in this online world then we aren’t going to have much of an industry left to regulate,” said Clarke, according to the article.

Nieman Lab has published an story about the unprecedented success of the Brazilian Newspaper O Globo’s new weekday evening edition for the iPad. After introducing the new edition, which targets readers using their iPads after work with well-designed content in a magazine-like format, the time that readers spent with the app rose from 26 minutes to 77 minutes per day, says the article.

The Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas blog reports that the Washington Office on Latin American has awarded one of its 2012 Human Rights Awards to El Faro, a digital newspaper from El Salvador. WOLA praised the site’s investigative journalism for shining “a spotlight on corruption and organized crime," states the article.

For more industry news, please see WAN-IFRA's Executive News Service.

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Hannah Vinter

Date

2012-05-10 17:59

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