Adam Westbrook // ideas on digital storytelling and publishing

Best of the blogs: 2009

Posted in Adam, Journalism by Adam Westbrook on December 18, 2009

My Google Reader probably trebled in size in 2009. It’s where I get at least 50% of information, gossip, inspiration and ideas on multimedia,  journalism and the future of news. As a Christmas treat, I thought I’d share some of the best blogs of 2009 with you….

Digital Journalism

10,000 words: Mark Luckie’s site is a goldmine of beautifully presented practical advice for digital journalists. His posts have become less frequent since he became re-employed, but each one is still as valuable.

Journalism 2.0: Mark Briggs is bringing out a new book for digital journalists in 2010 – expect it to become a core text on all journalism course reading lists.

Video Journalism

Advancing the Story: Deborah Potter’s blog on video journalism serves the local American market best of all, but it still has useful advice on shooting video and interviews.

Rosenblum TV: Michael Rosenblum’s blog isn’t your standard VJ fare. As the father of the medium, he is determined to see it revolutionised, and is a vocal herald of the death of traditional TV news. He has pitched for funding on an ambitious plan to give out 1,000 Flipcams in New Jersey, and launches a new video academy in New York in 2010.

The Outernet: David Dunkley-Gyimah’s single handedly pioneered the space between video journalism and cinema; his work resembles multi-million dollar Hollywood flicks. As artist-in-residence at the South Bank Centre in London, expect more news/art mashups in 2010.

Video Journalist: Glen Canning’s site offers some great practical tips for video journalists.

Bob Kaplitz: Bob Kaplitz’s blog is a must for anyone trying to get to grips with the basics of video journalism. He’s done what no-one’s really thought to do up until now – use video to teach video journalism. Clever, huh?

Radio

David Stone: a young news editor by anyone’s standards, David’s posts on practical radio journalism are useful for any radio journalist, especially in the UK.

NewsLeader: Justin King has used Twitter very effectively this year to share advice and tips for radio journalists in the UK and elsewhere. There’s more good stuff on his blog.

James Cridland: just returned from a round-the-world tour of radio, Radio Futurologist James has posted from Canada and the US, where he’s been meeting radio producers everywhere and sharing the future of radio with the rest of us.

Photojournalism

RESOLVE, Livebooks: not just a blog, RESOLVE, managed by Miki Johnson, is also a community of photojournalists all seeking the future for their craft. The After Staff series from summer 2009 is a superb library for anyone who’s been laid off and wants to make it in the scary new freelance world.

The Travel Photographer: Tewfic El- Sawy niftily picks up the best photojournalism from around the world and showcases it. A forward thinking blog, the Travel Photographer also presents new multimedia from photogs.

Lens Blog: The New York Times’ home for photojournalism is a beautiful resource of the best images from the around the world, plus occasional advice from the experts. Great for inspiration.

Writing, Blogging & Thinking

CopyBlogger: possibly the most famous blogger in the world, Brian Clark’s Copyblogger is vital for anyone who wants to understand how to build an audience and avoid boring them with dull words.

Steven Pressfield: a recent discovery for me, Steven’s Wednesday Writing tips not only cover the art of storytelling, but also shares advice on dealing with your own mental resistance and the limiting mind.

Freelance Switch: the ultimate resource for freelancers in all disciplines,  this site has regular articles on writing, getting and keeping clients.

Lateral Action: I have referred to Mark McGuinness’ work several times in the last year, not least because it’s so damn inspiring. If you’re a creative entrepreneur, and want help staying motivated, managing your time or pushing creative boundaries head to Mark. Lateral Action is particularly special because he’s teamed up with Brian Clark from Copyblogger (above) – a dynamic duo if ever there was one.

Career Renegade: also high up on the inspiration chart is Jonathan Fields site Career Renegade. If you’re a journalist thinking of launching your own startup, and creating your own “renegade career”, for Gods sake, read his book first.

The News Business & entrepreneurship

Directors Blog: since setting up POLIS at the London School of Economics, Charlie Beckett has held conferences and given countless conferences on the future of journalism. He has also influenced the future with his ideas of “networked journalism”; his blog today provides academic insight into journalism in the brave new world.

Headlines and Deadlines: blogging from the frontline of regional press in the UK Alison Gow’s blog has insight surrounded by lots of good links.

Killer Startups: every day 15 new internet startups are posted and critiqued. You won’t find any news ones on here, at least not yet, but it’s a fantastic inspiring resource for anyone thinking of going entrepreneurial.

News Innovation: with the banner “new business models for news” you know this blog is asking the right questions; follow it and you might get the answer. In the meantime, its posted some excellent videos of Jeff Jarvis (see below) explaining why the future of news is entrepreneurship.

BuzzMachine: Jeff Jarvis has emerged as the key proponent of “entrepreneurial journalism” and is leading the way in the classroom with his work at CUNY. His blog explains with passion why the future of news is entrepreneurship. Expect more pioneering ideas from Jeff in 2010.

Online Journalism Blog: one of the best sites for analysis on all things digital, Paul Bradshaw’s blog leans towards the often ignored arena of uncovering, analysing and producing data.

Paul Balcerak: from the US, Paul Balcerak sees the future, and then writes about. He shared some of the most creative uses of video journalism earlier this year, and expertly slams down anyone who is stupid enough to resist the future.

Mashable: in the TechCrunch v Mashable war, I am (after trialling both) firmly with the latter. Techcrunchers slate Mashable for just sharing funny Youtube videos, but it covers the revolution in journalism far better and with a much more positive outlook.

The Media Business: Richard G Picard’s blogs are more like essays, but their insight into business models for journalism is profound, and should be on the reading list of anyone thinking of going entrepreneurial. His articles  in 2009 have been shared on countless blogs.

Design

Design Reviver: unless you’re solely a radio journalist you should really exploit the internet’s fantastic resources for visual inspiration. Design Reviver is one of them, featuring among other things, great wordpress themes and photoshop tutorials.

ISO50: Scott Hansen is not only a talented musician but an exceptional graphic designer who shares his own work and those that inspire him. His retro colours and collages are perfect inspiration, and his taste in music is on the ball.

FFFFound: a must for visual journalists of any kind seeking inspiration. A warning though – you’ll struggle to click through the 100+ marvelous designs and photographs from around the world which will filter into your reader.

Multimedia

4iP: it’s always worth following the latest developments from 4iP towers; they are one of the major funders of public service startups in the UK, and their blog provides a good idea of what the latest developments are – and what they fund.

Duckrabbit’s Blog: Ben Chesterton and David White have shown the rest of us how to do multimedia, especially for non-profit clients. When not producing powerful stories for those without a voice, Ben and David passionately blog about the good, the bad and the ugly of multimedia journalism.

Bombay Flying Club: meanwhile in warmer climes, the three talents of Poul Madsen, Henrik Kastenskov and Brent Foster are producing equally gorgeous content for non-profits all over the world. Their blog acts as a showcase of their beautiful work, and is a great inspiration for anyone.

Innovative Interactivity: Tracy Boyer’s seriously on the ball when it comes to using multimedia and interactivity to tell news stories. Subscribe to her blog and you’ll get thoughtful critiques of some quite amazing work which is paving the way towards the future.

A daily dose of all these blogs have filled my mind with things I never thought possible, and work of superb quality. And there’s already room for more…what blogs do you recommend?

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Journalism’s “fame academy” gets blogging

Posted in Adam, Broadcasting and Media, Journalism by Adam Westbrook on January 15, 2009

It’s good to see a whole raft of postgraduate journalism students at City University now with their own blogs.

City – or the “fame academy of journalism” as it was once described – is  recognised as Britain’s leading school of journalism, a nudge ahead of  Cardiff, Westminster and Leeds Trinity All Saints.

It’s got top names, like Adrian Monck, Stewart Purvis and Roy Greenslade on its books, and more household names in its alumni than you can mention here.

But when I was there just two years ago, there was just one student blogging: me.  In fact the internet – although recognised as a valuable research tool – was somewhat sidelined in the curriculum.

city-uni

Instead we focussed on getting the skills and the art of traditional TV and radio nailed.

But over the road at Westminster, almost every student was blogging, and under the tuition of David Dunkley-Gyimah producing TV and radio content online. Learning how to produce a single story three ways, not to mention the valuable art of Video Journalism.

Now I don’t think any students in my year suffered from that, but you couldn’t help but feel City might suddenly find itself out of date.

However, the numbers of student blogs of this years intake, including:  Shona Ghosh, Ali Plumb, Beth Mellor (all of whom I’ve met in various places), Abigail Edge, Claire Dickinson, James Bray, Lara King, Tommy Stubbington…suggests the internet has moved up the agenda in EC1. And rightly so.

I’d be interested to know what any of the above, or any other current City hacks think about the courses online credentials: get in touch!

Book titles I never thought I’d see #87

Posted in News and that by Adam Westbrook on August 31, 2008

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“Why don’t we promote the positive?”

Posted in Broadcasting and Media, International Development by Adam Westbrook on May 6, 2007

Here’s a really interesting statistic, you probably didn’t know: 60% of all the people who access the BBC News Africa page via their mobile phones…do so from Nigeria.

Frontline logoIt’s just one of a whole host of interesting points to come out of a debate on how the media cover Africa at London’s Frontline Club this week.

And the big question that came out of it was: “why don’t we promote the positive?

Here’s another fact that proves the point: Zimbabwe has the continent’s worst economy. Inflation was at 1600% last time we all checked. And it get’s argubly the most coverage in the western media, alongside the conflicts in Somalia and Sudan.

And the country with the continent’s best economy? Angola – it’s growing massively. But when was the last time you saw an article on Angola in the western media? Well I’ll help you out a bit: June 16th 2006 was last time a specific article was published in the New York Times.  When was the last time you saw it on a TV news bulletin?

The debate was handed to an audience of journalists working from Africa and they raised some interesting points – here’s a summary:

  • Western media has a “soft touch” with Africa, born out of colonial guilt.
  • Most African newspapers are now online, so there’s no excuse for not knowing what’s going on.
  • Is there an Africa fatigue?
  • Western editors follow the news agenda like a flock of sheep – courageous editors and reporters are needed to break away and cover the uncovered.
  • We are failing because we’re not making African stories interesting to western audiences.
  • Is it time to help normal people in Africa tell their own stories?
  • And the most worrying point: “Nobody cares – editors don’t care.”

And the one thing I’d add to that myself is money. A problem in the eyes of coin counting editors is that it just costs too much to report on Africa. Maybe the answer might come from enterprising young multiskilled journalists going out with cheap kit and reporting it at a lower price? Who knows.
So is all news out of Africa bad news? For the most part yes – but then most news out of anywhere tends to be bad news. I definitely agree with the point that we’re not making it interesting enough and we’re not connecting stories from Africa to our own lives.

And with hundreds of western corporations investing in Africa, we are most definitely having an impact on the shaping of the continent. And not always for good.

There are many journalists and bloggers freelancing in Africa at the moment – I’d be interested to see what they think…

A sad ending to one of the internet’s weirdest stories

Posted in News and that by Adam Westbrook on May 3, 2007

It was one of the world wide web’s first true love stories. A love between the public and a story. The love between one man – and his goat.

a goatYes, in what I once described as a reason never to get rid of news editors ever, way back in September, the story of a Sudanese man marrying a goat after being caught doing a little more than milking it, became a big internet hit.

Sudanese man ‘forced to marry’ goat was published on BBC News Online well over a year ago. And naturally it became a regular feature on the site’s “most read” and “most emailed” section – an argument, in my eyes, that people shouldn’t really be allowed to decide the news.

And today, rather sadly, the news broke that the newly married goat has died, apparently after choking on a plastic bag.

In recent weeks the original story had shot back onto the “most read” section in what I thought was maybe a spamming website trying to piss the beeb off. But apparently not – it’s genuinely been a popular story. What impression people take away of Sudan, God only knows.

But suitably, to end this bizarre tale, todays news has held steady on the “most read” and “most emailed” chart. I think it will be there for a long time come.

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Call in the lawyers

Posted in Broadcasting and Media by Adam Westbrook on April 27, 2007

I’m in the early stages of revising for my upcoming Media Law exam. It’s a vital element of becoming a qualified journalist because a knowledge of the law is vital when covering many stories, mainly to stop you getting into trouble for libel or contempt of court.

Right now, I can’t remember enough to solve this “media law issue of the week” as our lecturer likes to coin it – maybe a reader with a bit more know-how can help out.

Check out these pictures, printed in papers, websites and broadcast on television yesterday:

Hugh Grant in the Star

It accompanied the story that Hugh Grant had been arrested for allegedly throwing a tin of baked beans at a photographer. The photograph (taken by the photographer) shows the actor apparently throwing the beans.

Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but the photograph is evidence. With Hugh Grant arrested, the case is technically “active” which means contempt of court rules apply.

And publishing/broadcasting these images could affect the decision of a potential juror in the case.

So why are they allowed to print them? Or are they not – and am I also in Contempt for linking to one of the images?

Answers on a postcard!

“That’s what we do”

Posted in Broadcasting and Media by Adam Westbrook on April 20, 2007

“It’s our job to make television that people want to watch, that’s what we do” I heard a CNN producer say today in a heated debate in the gallery about whether the world’s had enough of Virginia Tech.

That certainly has an element of truth to it; whether you agree with the idea or not.

Whatever you think of the on-screen coverage of Monday’s shootings, Sue Turton from Channel 4 News in the UK has some pretty revealing insights into the media’s behaviour off-screen:

Compared to my ultra efficient but ever polite producer, Sarah Corp, her US equivalent were under immense pressure to deliver the student or parent with the most heart-wrenching story as soon as physically possible.

Sadly this manifested itself in abrupt and sometimes aggressive approaches to people who had already been through so much.

It does not make pretty reading.

Maybe letter writing does work…

Posted in Adam, Broadcasting and Media by Adam Westbrook on April 16, 2007

Today’s Media Guardian has a spread announcing the launch of the 2007 Student Media Awards – the annual parade of student journalism talent in the UK.

And for the first time, there’s a category for Student Broadcaster of the Year.

It’s taken 12 months exactly…but maybe letter writing does work:

Letter to the Media Guardian

Shame all three of us are no longer elible to enter though.

[Cheers to Doidge for the tip off]

The jubilee is here!

Posted in International Development by Adam Westbrook on March 4, 2007

Woman with ghana flagThis week marks fifty years since Ghana gained it’s independence from Britain. There’s celebrations going on all over the place in Ghana and the UK.

I’ll be writing as much as possible about it all this week, as well as trying to munch down on my first Ghanaian meal in four years.

And if you want to read all about it on the ground, check out EK Bensah’s brilliant blog.

Ochina!

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The toughest degree there is

Posted in International Development by Adam Westbrook on February 25, 2007

Students like to moan a fair bit. The course is too expensive, the work’s too hard, the lectures are too boring, the exams are badly organised…it goes on.

But imagine trying to study in Baghdad.

Having been a student since the Iraq conflict began I’m ashamed I haven’t even considered what it’s like to study in one of the most dangerous country’s on earth. Perhaps it’s because I just assumed education has been cancelled amid the daily carnage of market bombings and kidnappings.

But it goes on. And for Iraqi students this week is the start of their mid term exams.

According to Correspondent Sahar, writing for the fascinating Inside Iraq blog, the scariest part of the exams for the students is not the pressure of the exams, the last minute revision or the panic of a topic overlooked…it’s the fact that the exams have to have a fixed timetable.

That means they’re effectively “sitting ducks” for the next ten days.

Usually, lecturers are forced to adopt a random timetable that’s never the same for more than a week, to avoid the kidnappers, the snipers and the bombers.

As Sahar says, it’s something the students are sadly used to as an unimaginable addition to the stress of study:

Snipers pick inhabitants and students walking from college to hospital or back. One car stops in front of the entrance, lets out one handcuffed young man, waits for him to take a few steps away … and then he is shot, bait, it turned out. Naïve students run to his aid only to be shot at by snipers on a rooftop of a high building in Haifa Street.

I say tomato, you say Tomato?

Posted in News and that by Adam Westbrook on February 13, 2007

There are plenty of differences between British English and American English. Tomato/toma(y)to…trousers/pants…petrol/gas.

But reading the latest blog from the Current TV producers across the lingual pond has produced this humdinger:

In December of last year, just before the Christmas holiday, my father’s home was burglarized in broad daylight.

Burglarized?!

Reading the comments, it doesn’t look like I’m the only pedant on the block.

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Pinochet and Manchester United

Posted in News and that by Adam Westbrook on February 6, 2007

Apparently my flat is a very political one. We spend our evenings ranking dictators into our own football premiership.

Well that’s what my flatmate Ryan says in an article on the Conservative Home blog.

I’m not sure whether that’s true, but his blog – saying Pinochet wasn’t all that bad – has caused a bit of a storm. Check it out if you dare.

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