The Blog: A new wave of Journalism

According to WordPress, one of the most popular blog sites available worldwide, over 409 million people view more than 17.6 billion blog pages each month. In other words: blogging is big business.

But, is blogging journalism’s business?

Take this blog for instance. Here I’ve written several posts about the world of journalism, including its debates, and new changes and technologies that surround it. Hopefully its been entertaining, written well, and gets you thinking critically about your views on journalism. But is that enough? Does that make it a professional journalism practice?

Anybody, any age, and from any place can start their own blog now, about literally anything. Music, fashion, make up, travel. You name it, you google it, it’s there. And these blog sites are free and easy to use too, meaning they’re accessible to anyone. So, these bloggers, like Twitter and Storify users, are they citizen journalists too? Where do we make the distinction between professional, topical and informative blogging, versus personal chatting that simply resembles the blabbering diary of an 11-year-old child?

Paul Bradshaw and Liisa Rohumaa, in their book The Online Journalism Handbook, Skills to Survive and Thrive in the Digital Age, tell us that a blog can be a platform for journalism if it contains the right content. They point us in the direction of G. Stuart Adam’s definition of journalism, which tells us that “Journalism is an invention or a form of expression used to report and comment in the public media on the events and ideas of the here and now”. This definition suggests, that if the blog content is an expression used to report or comment, in a published arena, in regards to topical events; its journalism.

And actually, why shouldn’t it be. Like citizen journalism, blogs help us share and connect the news to others.

Plus the use of blogs has positive outcomes for the news organisations too. Here I’ve summed up some of Bradshaw and Rohumaa’s thoughts on the benefits of blogging for journalists;

  1. Getting the story out there – Blogs allow news stories to be published quicker, and in fuller detail than news bulletins. Plus, they often direct their audience to other platforms of theirs to get further information on the story, such as images, video, audio and links.
  2. Getting the story noticed – A news organisation can get more visibility and a wider viewing public when they have a blog that will then be picked up by search engines such as Google, meaning overall they increase their audience. This is known as Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).
  3. Sharing News – Blog sites and posts are often shared by other users, again increasing visibility and building the audience of news stories and news organisations.
  4. Sharing Views – Blogs are a great platform for getting audience views on a story through comments, and also for networking with fellow journalists and people in the industry.
  5. Curating Knowledge – Browsing other blogs can help journalists find other stories and sources, and helps to show how well informed they are on the news.


So, it’s clear to see, that there’s plenty of benefits to blogging, and it can be a huge advantage to news organisations and journalists too. And the content? Well, lots of topics are informative to lots of people. Maybe its golf, animals, or architecture – there’s magazines about these areas of interest, and they’re counted as journalism – so surely blogs on these areas can be counted as journalism too.

WordPress tells us that bloggers produce around 64.8 million new posts and 60.4 million new comments each month. That’s a lot of information right at our fingertips, and a lot of sharing of the news.



Celebrity Culture: Dumbing down Journalism?

One of the UK’s most popular news websites is the Mail Online.

In November 2013, The Guardian reported that it was the most frequently visited media platform in the UK, with an audience of 16.9 million visiting the site in September 2013. At the time of this blog post, the newspaper’s twitter page has in excess of 777 thousand followers.

So what is the appeal of the Mail Online? Unfortunately, it seems to be its infamous “sidebar of shame”. Mainly reporting on celebrities – in particular, as Guardian reporter Andrew Brown tells us, “Women’s breasts and buttocks” – the sidebar is a go-to for celebrity gossip, rumours, and revealing! and sexy! photographs.

A typical example of the type of news stories the website posts can be accessed by just a few clicks on your computer or smart phone. “Jennifer Lopez bares skin and Selena Gomez covers up at the AMAs”; “Katy Perry reveals incredible bikini body”; and “Abbey Clancy enjoys Bond girl moment as she highlights her incredible physique in two-piece bikini shoot in Dubai”, are just three of the posts I can view on the website today.

But the website isn’t always so complimentary; it’s known as the sidebar of shame for a reason. Historical experience of the website tells us that the majority of the stories highlight supposedly “shameful” pictures of celebrities – mainly women – who are apparently not looking their best.

Now I’ll admit this isn’t new. Magazines in particular, but also newspapers, have been obsessing about how a celebrity looks or what they’ve been wearing for years. But the change comes when people are able to access this kind of content 24/7. We have to question how healthy is it to focus and obsess on people in the public eye constantly, if of course you so desire.

We also have to question, whether these “stories” are really news? Is it imperative, or even helpful for me to know that “Gwen Stefani dresses down in checked shirt as she pushes a pram during family day out at Disneyland”? Well, of course it isn’t. I can easily get through my day without knowing what Gwen is wearing.

So, we know the type of information the Mail Online provides us is not important to know. But, the even more important question is, is this obsessive celebrity culture damaging or threatening to journalism, and to us?

One of the most underhand but no doubt harsh “stories” on the website I can see today is as follows; “She’s still got teen spirit! Leslie Mann, 42, looks youthful in trendy Letterman jacket on sweet date with husband Judd Apatow.” Here again, is another commentary on what a celebrity is wearing, but in this case, the Mail can’t help but rudely point out Leslie’s age, when Gwen’s is never mentioned. And just in case you missed the patronising tone they choose to use to point out that she’s an older celebrity, they make sure to include the adjectives “still” and “youthful”.

The potential negative aspects of the sidebar of shame are twofold. First off, they let people think it’s okay to judge celebrities, and therefore people, on their looks, their bikini body, and even their age. To say the website is shallow is an understatement. If this post was an argument on high art versus popular culture, the high art supporters would be having a field day. The Mail Online represents a perfect example of useless and unimportant information that is force fed through computer and mobile screens to a lethargic mass public.

The second negative aspect? It makes people think that this is part of journalism. But the sad fact is; it is. People need to take the soft with the hard, so that means for every devastating, sad, and serious news story people may read in the news, some people may need to read a celebrity gossip story after it.

After all, the facts are figures are the evidence. Celebrity culture may be a threat to journalism, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a really big, popular part of it. The most shameful thing about the Mail’s “sidebar of shame”, is that we read it.


Breaking the story: Live and Breaking News in Online Journalism

With newspapers and broadcasting channels now having their own Twitter, Facebook and Storify pages, it means that the public can be informed on live and breaking news instantly.

Rewind ten years ago, before social media had taken over our lives (a slight exaggeration I know), everyone would hear the news together, either in the morning before school or work, or on the late news at 10pm. If a robbery or a car accident happened on a Tuesday night, it wouldn’t make the news until the Wednesday morning.

Nowadays, in a society where information is at our fingertips, this is unheard of. News can be broadcast on social media, the web, and dedicated news television channels 24 hours a day, meaning the public doesn’t have to wait until the following day to be updated on what’s happening in the world.

So, how much do we really need the morning and evening news broadcasts anymore? If I hear something on the 6pm news, chances are, I already know that it’s happened because of what pops up on my Twitter or Facebook feed. Especially if it concerns a celebrity, or a humanitarian crisis somewhere in the world.

And better yet, if I’m viewing the news story on Twitter or a news website, I can get the latest information, second by second – with many websites offering live coverage of the story, which includes video and image content too – so I can really see what’s happening as its happening.

When a U.S Airways Plane crashed into the Hudson River in New York in January 2009, the news hit the headlines via a Twitter user who made the story public 15 minutes before any news crews knew about it. And the pictures of the crash – yep you guessed it – the first pictures came from public social media users too.

Hudson Plane Crash taken by Twitter user @jkrums in January 2009, and shared by Dennis Crowley on Flickr.

Hudson Plane Crash taken and posted by Twitter user @jkrums in January 2009, ( and shared by Dennis Crowley on Flickr(

It’s fantastic to know that we can now hear about the news as it happens online. But, it is important to watch the traditional news broadcasts too. First off, these programmes ensure that the information we’re getting is correct. With literally anyone and everyone on twitter, how can we be sure that the news that we’re hearing is the stuff we really need to hear? News programmes make sure that we are told the most important and the most accurate parts of the story.

Another thing too, is that we often get expert advice from professionals about what might happen next or what the story might mean for us. These news programmes help us to understand the news story better.

And lastly, watching news programmes helps us to feel connected to and better informed about the world around us. Yes ok, social media does that too, but surely the popularity of online journalism shows how well traditional journalism and digital journalism are working together – after all, they both have the same outcome for their audience; they both let us feel in touch with society.

Journalism and Law: Choose your words wisely.

By Brian Turner (Flickr: My Trusty Gavel) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Brian Turner (Flickr: My Trusty Gavel) [CC-BY-2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Journalism and the Law really came to public’s attention in 2006 when the News of the World newspaper hit the headlines over an accusation of phone hacking. Shockingly, the rumours were true; the editor Andy Coulson took responsibility for the hacking; and the newspaper that sold approximately 2.8 million copies each week was shut down in 2011.

Ok, so this is a pretty extreme example of how dangerous it is to break the law whilst working as a Journalist. Nevertheless, -although most writers would never be silly enough to commit such a terrible and morally wrong crime such as Coulson and co. did – the laws over what journalists can or cannot say or do are pretty tight, and so great attention to detail must be taken to ensure you don’t accidentally have your day in court.

One of the main issues of law Journalists need to be aware of is defamation. Anything that a journalist says about someone that lowers the person’s reputation, makes them an object of ridicule, or makes ‘right thinking’ people think they can’t do their job properly – is defamation; And, that’s right – could get you sued.

There are two types of defamation. Slander, which is the spoken (or simply non permanent) form, and libel (the more permanent form), which is the main culprit that journalists fall foul of.

Libel doesn’t just apply to newspapers and magazines. Libel refers to any content at all that’s published, whether it is a TV programme, radio show, or even the handing out of leaflets in the street. Published work has to make sure it doesn’t print anything that could be defamatory to a person’s character, or even business.

And don’t think as a journalist you can speak badly about someone without naming names. All the person suing has to do is prove that the person the newspaper or published material is referring to can be identified as them. This is often done through what’s known as ‘jigsaw’ identification – where the reader can put the puzzle pieces together and work out who the newspaper is talking about.

If you do find yourself in the dock – the claimant doesn’t even have to prove whether or not the statement is false. All they have to do is prove that the statement refers to them, the statement was published, and that the statement is, simply, defamatory.

So, advice for a journalist? Stick to the law book, play by the codes of conduct, and choose your words carefully.

Microblogging: Micro or no-go?

By Andy Melton from Boise, ID, USA (Twitter) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 ( or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Andy Melton from Boise, ID, USA (Twitter) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 ( or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

140 characters. Now there’s no way you’d expect me to be able to give you a detailed blog post on microblogging in 140 characters. And yet, people around the world are sharing news and information regularly, and successfully, in 140 characters or less.

Launched in 2006, Twitter is one of the world’s leading microblogging sites. The social media platform has 284 million active users that are tweeting monthly, sending 500 million tweets per day. Their mission is “To give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers”.

It’s true. Anyone can use the site free of charge, along as you’ve got a computer or smartphone (let’s face it – who hasn’t nowadays), and your tweets can be posted instantly. You can comment on the news stories you care about right away.

But, the question has to be asked – is 140 characters enough? Are we getting enough of the information we need on the important news stories of the day?

Richard Craig, in his book Online Journalism. Reporting, Writing and Editing for New Media, highlights how there are strengths and weaknesses to online journalism. Some of the weaknesses he highlights include the problem of novice users getting lost whilst navigating their way through the vast amount of information online; the fact that a newspaper in your hand is easier to scan, with headlines helping to guide you to the stories you want to read; and the computer screen being more uncomfortable to read off.

However, the strengths that Craig points out may well overcome the weaknesses. For instance, just because the tweet you read is limited to 140 characters, the journalism organisation (and sometimes even the public tweeter) will include a link on the tweet to the full news story – so you can choose to read as much of the story as you like. More importantly, tweeted news allows the story to be updated instantly and regularly so you know you’ll always get the latest information. And lastly, Craig even suggests that “The lack of space limitations [online] allow for greater depth in reporting”. So, those 140 characters may be ensuring that the quick sentence or two you’ll be reading on Twitter, will be giving you exactly – and only – the information you need.

Another strength of microblogging is the way it helps you connect with others. You can hear, and see through pictures and videos, first-hand accounts and opinions of news stories, helping you feel closer to the story and helping you to understand better the world around you.

It’s no surprise really how popular sites like Twitter are. With busy lives to lead, people are relying more and more on their smartphones to be updated on news and information; and they want that information quickly and easily. As quickly as, well, 140 characters.


Bringing the News Together: Using Storify as a News Curation Tool

The news brings people together. But nowadays, with so much news content available online, we need a platform to bring the news together, in a coherent and accurate manner; Enter Storify.

Ok, so there are many other ways news stories can be curated, but I’ve had a look at Storify as just one example of a website that is leading the way in news curation.

Launched to the public in April 2011, the webpage proposes it “helps make sense of what people post on social media. Our users curate the most important voices and turn them into stories”.

Well, they’re certainly right about one thing – the excessive amount of news stories, whether it be on a news website, a tweet, or a Facebook post, is pretty damn overwhelming. There is an abundance of information buzzing around the web 24/7, and the worst thing is, you feel like you’re expected to know all about it. All of it. Inside and out.

So, content curation, really, makes sense. A storify post lets you get right to the heart of the news story. It cuts through all the posts, tweets, and feeds that are, basically, full of rubbish, fluff and jokes, and aren’t that important, and lets you read the most important facts and points of the news story.

So, when I composed my storify stories, I took the tweets, YouTube and Facebook posts that I thought were most important and relevant to the heart of the story, and posted them into my story. But hang on – I took the information that I thought was most important. This is potentially the one area of news curation that I could be critical of. The fact that the stories you are reading, are only going to show you what other people think are the most important facts of the story. What in their opinion, is the news you need to know.

So it could be argued that with news curation, it can’t be guaranteed that you’re getting the full picture of the news story. However, there is a way around this, as many official news platforms, such as CNN, The Daily Mirror and The Daily Express, actually have their own Storify pages, so you can make sure the stories you’re reading (should) tell you all you need and want to know.

As summed up beautifully in The Online Journalism Handbook. Skills to survive and thrive in the digital age by Bradshaw and Rohumaa; “Content curation involves summarising, clarifying and verifying the vast amount of information circulating particular issues and stories.” In other words, content curation is a helping hand. It’s someone saying to you on the phone or on the bus; “Hey, have you heard the latest news?” The only difference is now we communicate over the web, and news curation is a form of easy communication in a place bursting with information that’s more often than not hard to take in.

Bradshaw and Rohumaa quote The Guardian’s Social Media approach statement, which highlights some of the most positive aspects of news curation;

“…we want to encourage the world’s voices to come together…Engagement matters.”

So, why not have a little play around on Storify? Let your voice be heard, and engage with the world.



Citizen Journalism: News through Social Media

Nowadays, whether it be on Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr, everyone can air their opinions about the society that they live in, and their voice will be heard. Twitter, in particular, gives the ordinary public the opportunity to connect with the world, and almost anyone in the world, whether it be their best friend who lives down the street; the owner of their favourite restaurant of the city they live in; or, even, the President of the United States.
But with the power of knowing your voice can be heard, comes great responsibility; so it probably isn’t a big surprise to know that people on social media platforms are tweeting and talking about the most important things to them: news.

Let’s face it. There’s a big old hint in the name, with the word “social” defined by the Cambridge dictionary as “relating to society”, so surely it’s no surprise that people are taking to social media platforms to talk about society.
After all, news, ultimately, is about the people, for the people. And along with their mobile phone, IPad or tablet, people can tweet the news instantly. And if they’re right in the heart of the action, they can take photos and videos of the news too, and post them onto their social media accounts, enabling people around the world to see these images mere seconds after they’ve occurred. It’s not uncommon now for amateur photos of the most ground-breaking news stories to become a famous reflection of the event, forever ingrained into a collective world memory. Take the Boston marathon bombings for example – many photos captured here were taken and shared on social media by the public -photos that are not forgotten easily.

“Pretty much everyone now has the means to report what is going on in the world around them”, says Chris Measures on “Consequently citizen journalists – ordinary people doing the job of reporters – are everywhere.”

So, it may be that you or I have been or will be a citizen journalist, now or in the future. But we do need to ask, are citizen journalists really what society needs? How do we know that the information we’re getting on social media platforms, from individuals, is correct? Peter Horrocks from the BBC asks, “How much attention should we pay to people who care strongly enough about an issue to send a message? They might either be typical of a wide part of the audience or perhaps just a tiny vocal minority”.

Measures too says we should be “wary about what citizen journalists write, publish or upload”. Their views may be biased, may not give us the full picture, and there’s a big chance what they’ve tweeted may not adhere to complicated journalism laws.

But there are positives to citizen journalism too. It gives people a voice that may otherwise not be heard, such as locals trapped in countries of conflict, that don’t allow reporters into their towns and cities. And it gives people first-hand accounts and up to date information on important news that society needs, and wants to know about.

But, whether or not you think citizen journalism is a positive or a negative mode of news reporting, it’s clear it isn’t going to be leaving us anytime soon. With 500 million tweets a day being sent on Twitter, its apparent how much of a routine social media has become in our everyday lives. And, like gossip being shared around the water cooler, news will always be shared on social media.


Images such as this one taken of the Boston Marathon bombings are regularly being taken, and shared by twitter users. “Boston Marathon explosions (8652877581)” by Aaron “tango” Tang from cambridge, ma, usa – DSC03156Uploaded by russavia. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons –




Why Journalism?


By Daniel R. Blume from Orange County, California, USA (A stack of newspapers) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Daniel R. Blume from Orange County, California, USA (A stack of newspapers) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Why Journalism? Surely the question we should really be asking is why not journalism?

As an English university student I  love literature, but that doesn’t mean I spend all my day with my nose in a book. (Well, obviously I wish I could but it’s not easy to make a living just doing that – unless you’re a book reviewer. Damn those lucky things.)  Nope, it’s not just Joyce and Conrad that we study. We study all forms of writing, be it creative or factual.

So, us English students may not have opted for the journalism degree but that doesn’t mean we don’t recognise the value of, and of course enjoy writing for journalism. If you think about it, there really is no getting away from it. It’s so ingrained in our everyday lives that we don’t even notice it. It’s on the radio stations every half an hour; it’s on the TV, and not just on a particular TV channel, or at a particular time, but it also pops up in between our favourite TV shows, wedged in between the adverts; and of course its on our laptops, mobiles and tablets.

And there’s a reason we can’t get away from it, or do without it, because, well it’s important. It serves a purpose. Actually, it serves several different purposes, some more interesting than others for some people. Want to know the latest gossip on George Clooney and his new wife? That’s journalism (the location of his wedding was even a feature on the ITV news broadcast). Need to know just how much you’ll be spending on petrol next year? That’s journalism. Want to stay informed about the latest conflict in the Middle East? Of course, that’s journalism too. Where would we be if there weren’t these avenues around us to access this wealth of information in (nowadays) less than an instant? How out of touch , and even alienated would we feel in a world where we just don’t know what’s going on? I’ll wager very.

And there’s really no excuse not to be involved in journalism. In fact many people are. Ok, so a lot of people still only consume journalism. But the number of people creating their own narrative threads in journalism, these people known as the “citizen journalist”, is growing. With the latest news stories being reported, then shared, then commented on, then re-written on social media platforms, journalism is becoming ever more present in our lives. Speaking in 2009, at the Oxford Social Media Convention, as reported by The Guardian, the director of the BBC Global News Division, Richard Sambrook, commented that “organisations don’t own the news anymore”.

So, if journalism is about us, written for us and by us, then why not let’s give this thing a go…