Are data journalism and online engagement coming of age?

It’s more complicated than a one-word answer, of course, but data and online community work (developing communities and engaging users) seem to be moving from niche ‘extras’ to core essentials in much of journalism.

The word ‘data’ has been creeping into advertisements for reporters. “Experience of data journalism” in a vacancy on Health Service Journal and Nursing Times, for example. A reporting role at Times Higher Education asked for “skills to handle large data sets to identify trends and spot stories, and the ability to use the data to create news graphics”.

Data journalism and social media are not only for specialists

My point is that these are not specialist “data journalist” roles: breaking news stories lies at the core of both jobs. My colleague Paul Bradshaw offers two reasons why every journalist should know about web-scraping, a key part of data journalism.

Similarly, using social media in reporting — to find stories and sources, for example — is now an accepted part of the skill-set for most journalists, I hope. At least for those now entering journalism.

It’s no surprise that The Huffington Post UK, online-only of course, expects that applicants “will already be utilising and fully understand the power of social media to promote content” for a blogs assistant editor role. But — as with data — social media and engaging users online seem increasingly to be an explicit element.

Channel 4 News advertised for a political correspondent who would “use social media to maximise the impact of your stories and engage with our audience”, for example. A junior writer on The Sun’s Fabulous Magazine online will be “helping to manage our strong community of Facebook and Twitter followers”. A reporter on Farmers Weekly will be “using social media, such as Twitter, Facebook and forums, to engage with readers”.

Again, these are not specialist social media or community roles – but jobs that require skills and experience in these areas.

Specialist jobs growing alongside ‘integrated’ roles

Fortunately for those coming into journalism, specialised roles appear to be thriving alongside those in which online community, social media (and/or data journalism) are ‘integrated’ into reporting or other roles. Engaging communities and building networks lie at the heart of a new Thomson Reuters project — with *nine* new jobs — for example. Metro has been recruiting for a social media executive as well as a head of insight and social.

This picture of specialised plus ‘integrated’ roles is reinforced by two other sources. First, discussions at the news:rewired event last month, where data journalism and online communities were key themes. Many people were there to learn how to do things better, and/or to benchmark their (or their publication’s) own activities.

Jobs in interactive journalism and online

Second, it’s an impression consistent with the jobs gained by students from the first year of our MA Interactive Journalism (at City University London). One is working as a data journalist at The Guardian, for example – while two others there are in content coordinator roles in which community and social media are part of a broader brief that includes writing, editing and commissioning. Others again have gone on to more specialised web analytics and social media work – as well as more ‘traditional’ journalism jobs, reporting on a regional paper and sub-editing for a national newspaper.

PS: Anyone unconvinced by the importance of mastering online/digital skills should look at some current job advertisements. A business reporter at The Telegraph will be managing the flow and placement of web content. An assistant features editor at The Sun will be “keen to adapt to digital platforms”. “An interest in digital publishing/social media would be an advantage” for a senior editor at The Economist group. And so on. [NB The job ads on Gorkana will to be taken down at some point.]

It is also worth noting that data, multimedia and technology topped the list of skills in a survey about journalism training, undertaken by the Poynter Institute.

PPS: I have resisted expanding this post to take in another key area, mobile platforms (also a focus at news:rewired), where news organisations are expanding their activities. Nor have I mentioned the demand beyond journalism for people with a good grasp of data, social media engagement and online/digital skills more generally…

How young people use social networks for news, particularly on Facebook

Some edited highlights from a BBC focus group of 19-39-year-olds:

*very clear understanding of what they wanted from Facebook (Twitter barely mentioned)

*sophisticated appreciation of the image they projected through FB… most used it for both personal and professional reasons

*used it on both their mobiles and their PCs, but to do different things. Mobile usage is about need; PCs about choice and pleasure

*all saw comment and discussion as a key component of enjoying news on FB

*very mixed view too on what kind of news should be posted by news organisations on FB (light vs serious). Most accepted that it was probably a good idea for media organisations to ‘put it all out there’ and let people pick and choose for themselves.

Having said that, nobody really believed what they read on Facebook, even if it had mainstream media branding all over it. If they wanted to know about a particular story, they would go directly to a mainstream media website either first, or via FB

Read more here [link]

Students suffer media withdrawal: clue to future of journalism?

Regina McCombs reports: “Students use the language of addiction and withdrawal in talking about their experiences going without technology for 24 hours during a study at the University of Maryland’s Phillip Merrill College of Journalism.

‘I clearly am addicted and the dependency is sickening,’ said one student. ‘Although I started the day feeling good, I noticed my mood started to change around noon. I started to feel isolated and lonely,’ said another. […]??Students equated technology with media — the phones, iPods, computers, laptops and televisions were just a means to get to information, whether that information was about the world around them, or about their friends. And much of that technology is mobile. Phones in particular […] ‘A truer mapping of those pathways could provide direction to journalists in their search for relevance in the century ahead’. ”

Read more here [link]

How news organisations are using Google Wave to engage their audience

The Chicago Tribune’s RedEye has a live public Wave on news every weekday morning. Hilary Fosdal writes:
“With each Daily Wave, RedEye connects with their readers and builds a sense of community. The RedEye is also demonstrating that is sees itself as more than a newspaper and more than a blog by embracing innovative technology that encourages a continuous and dynamic discussion about the news.

Robert Quigley, social media editor of the Austin American-Statesman has also held public waves with his readers.

“The challenge right now is keeping public waves on topic. If they get more than 50 blips discussion grinds to a halt […] for Google Wave to work during a news event, there needs to be the ability to moderate and/or easily spin something into another wave and link to it in the first wave to keep it on topic.” ”

Read more here [link]

How social networks can help save media (Jim Brady, True/Slant)

Social networks have created an under-exploited advantage for media companies, suggests Jim Brady:

"…news consumption has now become seamlessly blended into the daily lives of so many consumers. Twenty years ago, if you wanted to read the newspaper, you completely dedicated yourself to it at the breakfast table or dinner table or den for some fixed period of time. When you were done, you went off to work, paid bills or went shopping, and news wasn’t a part of the equation.[…]

Now, think about media consumption in the social media era. Today, content from media companies lives in the same stream as so much other information in a consumer’s life. […] Now, if you’re using e-mail, Facebook or Twitter — three pretty big chunks of time for most Web-savvy consumers — you can, at any moment, be pulled back into news and information. This is a massive opportunity, and one that requires news organizations become fuller participants in those venues."

Read more here [link]

Four factors critical to journalism and publishing

Adam Tinworth flags up social, mobile, real-time, and location-aware technology:

"I think it [this graphic] neatly encapsulated the four issues that will effect the web, and which the publishing business needs to get its head around. I talk a lot about social on here, and the whole hyper-local journalism movement is, to some degree, predicated on the idea of geo-centric technology, even if the potential benefits of geocoding information haven't really been discussed.

The whole mobile environment has been changed by the new breed of smart phones, led by the iPhone, which are turning users into voracious data consumers on the move, and the Real Time web is becoming, in a technological sense, a very real proposition (and, if fact, I should write a post about that).

This graphic is the sort of thing every publisher and journalist should be looking at and thinking "what does this mean for what I do?" "

Read more here [link]

An editor reflects on her use of Twitter

"Cara Ellen Modisett, editor of Blue Ridge Country, tweets. With two Twitter accounts for business and one for personal use, she tweets with purpose and with creativity.

“The basis of Twitter is conversation,” says Modisett. “Each individual Twitter account has its own voice. When I tweet as an editor, it's more about relationships; when tweeting about the magazine, it's to promote the content of the magazine. I find my instantaneous voice on the web.”

Twitter also serves as her reporter's notebook. “My tweets become my notes. I go back to my Twitter feed to put the story together. Sometimes a tweet becomes a kernel of an idea which can lead to something larger creatively and journalistically.” Recently, Modisett tweeted events and observations live during the Virginia Press Women's conference."

Interesting discussion about professional branding online follows in the comments on the post on Handshake 2.0.

Read more here [link]

BusinessWeek sinks $16m on social media project

Sounds like a spectacularly large spend for a social networking site, even for a large publishing company. Makes me wonder if there's more to be told. From Brand Republic:

"As the bid deadline for ailing BusinessWeek magazine approaches the McGraw-Hill title is revealed to have spent $16m on creating its social networking site, which is generating little cash.

BusinessWeek launched its social networking venture Business Exchange in 2007. By 2008 it had spent $16m on the site, which is estimated by the New York Time to have generated just $600,000 in revenues."

Read more here [link]

Welcome To 2007: Johnston Press Bans Facebook | paidContent:UK

"Can any modern news publishing business justify banning its staff from accessing social networking sites? While many national and regional newspapers have now reversed earlier decisions to ban workplace access to time-sapping Facebook—Johnston Press has set the clock back to 2007 and informed staff at The Scotsman and its other Edinburgh papers that Facebook is banned except in special cases. In a memo, (via Allmediascotland), JP management warn reporters that “a recent review” found more than half of the company’s entire outbound traffic is to Facebook so it has no choice but it stop people visiting. the Memo reads: “Journalists who require access should seek approval from their departmental head, who should contact the Group Helpdesk to have the permission restored.”

Just like Friends Reunited before it, Facebook has become a standard reporting tool for many local and regional reporters—one JP journalist told me recently they couldn’t imagine working without it.

Read more here [link]

A twitterable Twitter policy (Gruntled Employees)

Jay Shepherd’s commonsense approach to corporate policy for use of social media. Includes 140-character policy for Twitter:
“I generally advocate a simpler approach that involves treating employees as grown-ups who have judgment. See, for example, “A two-word corporate blogging policy” and “The world’s shortest employee handbook.”

With that said, here is my take at a corporate Twitter policy that has the extra added benefit of being itself twitterable:

Our Twitter policy: Be professional, kind, discreet, authentic. Represent us well. Remember that you can’t control it once you hit ‘update.’ ”

Read more here [link]