Friday, 29 January 2010

Twitter, journalists and journalism students' dissertation questions

It must be dissertation time of year again; requests for help from journalism students are winging their way to my inbox like swallows. They're pretty varied too, ranging from considered requests for assistance, with specific questions and an explanation of the focus of the student's work, to broad-brush "what you think the future holds for newspapers?" queries.

Now, I don't like to be unhelpful, especially as some of these bright young things may one day end up being my boss, but it's very time-consuming writing considered, lengthy responses each time someone asks me stuff; so I thought I might get proactive and blog about it. Because most of the questions that come to be are currently related to how journalists and newsrooms can use Twitter, I've done a little round-up, with some links.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Updated with Irish Mail on Sunday response: A sad tale of a deleted blog

UPDATED 28/01/10... see additions in bold, and the statement from Irish Mail on Sunday reproduced in full at the bottom of the original post. See also's latest article.
I read a blog post today that made me sa d and angry in equal measures. Blogger Melanie Dawn - an air traffic controller in Ireland - appears to have been comprehensively turned over by the Irish Mail on Sunday. If her story is true - I can't find the relevant article online but there are plenty of Irish tweeters discussing the subject [UPDATED - thanks to Harriet who posted a link to the article in the comments sectioin below] - then it's a horrible example of lazy, selfish, uncaring, ignorant, arrogant journalism.
[UPDATED: A statement from editor Sebastian Hamilton received today 28/01/10 states - "It is simply untrue to say that the paper did not contact Mrs Schregardus before publication. On Thursday, January 21, Luke Byrne attempted to contact Mrs Schregardus by Twitter (the only contact details he had) and asked her for an interview. On Friday, January 22, Mrs Schregardus replied. She informed Mr Byrne that she had sought permission from her trade union to speak to us. He awaited further contact from her, but he did not hear from Mrs Schregardus again. Either she chose not to speak to him or her union refused her permission to do so." >>> So, for me, how does the above statement change things? Looking back to my news editor days, and asking myself what would I have done, I've thought long and hard about it.And I can say, in all honesty, I would not have run the story as it stood at that time. If the reporter told me he hadn't managed to get a comment from the person who originally wrote the blog post I just cannot see a circumstance where I would let it go. I'm sorry if that sounds like I've overdosed on Hindsight but there are some things that are worth taking a chance on, and some that aren't. I've made some howlers in my time but I don't think anyone has ever accused me of being cavalier.  However, even with the blogger not co-operating, it could possibly have used (although obviously not for that week's publication) by the reporter used this post as a springboard to crowdsource the industry and find out if the wider picture. Crowdsourcing is a gamble - you very rarely end up having your pre-crowdsource story being confirmed but it can lead to deeper, better investigations. I'm thinking of David Higgerson's investigation into Flyglobespan's late flights. That ended up being a very different story indeed]