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#FollowJourn – Todd Nash

5 Oct

I was quite chuffed to find that journalism.co.uk had named me as their #FollowJourn for the day, a recommendation of journalists to follow online, with a link to this site in the post. It made my Monday morning in fact.

All in all, the perfect time to have ‘Fo’ shizzle, ma nizzle, it’s Krizzle Akabizzle’ as the headline to my latest blog post then…

Journalists need to start taking more notice of their communities

13 Mar

During Meg Pickard’s Social Media briefing today, she discussed how journalists could use the comments posted on newspaper websites as a potential source for new stories or interesting angles on a current story and it made me wonder, why is this practice so underused in journalism? Having spent the time and effort to build up a community filled with intelligent people with local knowledge and often specific expertise, why do newspapers seem not to make the most of this easily accessible, cheap and willing resource?

It took me back to my studies, where I would often use local messageboards and comment sections to look for potential leads, with mixed success. Often, I would find little of use, but occasionally I would find an interesting comment that I could follow up. I was once able to scoop the Birmingham Mail with a story about how police were failing to crack down on the trading of illegal goods across the region. I discovered this story in a forum post on the Birmingham Mail’s own website.

So it would seem that there is potential for news stories to come out of user activity on newspaper websites. Yet, as far as I know, it is not a particularly well-utlised area. Time is clearly an issue here. How many journalists have time to scroll through all of their comments to search for something that could well resemble a needle in a haystack? It was commented that, ironically, freelancers may make better use of this resource as their need for that next story is greater than their staff member counterparts.

If time is the issue, then why not have other staff members do it for you? As commented before, the moderation team at guardian.co.uk now has a Twitter feed @GuardianVoices which highlights good individual comments and interesting debate. Could they be used as a tool to collect potential leads? After all, moderators will already be reading the majority of content of the publication they work for. However, it would require a rather different mindset to look out for story leads compared to the more usual role of finding and removing offensive content.

The idea, I think, is a good one, but requires a more concerted effort than merely scrolling through comments. ‘What do you want to talk about?’ threads are often used to garner ideas and often work quite well. They certainly aid interactivity, giving the user the opportunity to present their ideas and, potentially, have them reported by a professional journalist. Also, a number of blog posts ask for user opinions about a particular subject, or for ideas to fill a new series, which is a semi-effective of utilising the community.

I can’t help but feel though, that lots of potential ideas are being missed. Increased interactivity with users builds trust, which in turn produces a higher class of debate and, with it, more opportunities for follow-up articles. Since commenting became the norm on newspaper websites, community conversations have been inspired by the journalists articles. Perhaps it is now time for the journalists to take inspiration from their communities as well.

Journalism Today back after long absence

16 Feb

After a ridiculously long break of almost a year, my other blog, Journalism Today, has a new post. I’ll try to blog there at slightly more regular intervals from now on, I promise. Just six months until the next one now!

Media graduates stuggle to find employment

6 Jan

With the new year settling in and the graduation ceremony for my Media and Communications degree looming, it is striking how many of my colleagues have failed to find careers in the industry that they have trained for. Many, of course, have made the decision to pursue other avenues upon completing their degrees, but some have just struggled the make the transition from obtaining their degree to working in the media.

In 2006, it was reported that whilst the number of people choosing to study the media was going up, fewer and fewer of those completing degrees were managing to find an opportunity in the industry. In the five years between 2001-06, the number of students studying the subject infamously referred to as “Mickey Mouse degrees” by Margaret Hodge, the former Higher Education Minister, doubled. Although this trend has slowed down, in the past five years it has still grown by over 20%.

Meanwhile, job opportunities are shortening and, following a wave of redundancies at organisations including The Daily Telegraph and Trinity Mirror, competition is fierce with a number of experienced media professionals seeking to get back in the game. It would seem that there has never been a more difficult time to break through.

Some graduates, like Azeem Ahmad, the winner of Birmingham City University Student of the Year, sponsored by Trinity Mirror, have struggled to find media work and told journalism.co.uk that “journalistically, I wouldn’t really say I’m surviving.” Despite sending off numerous applications and having had interviews with media organisations, Ahmad still finds himself working in a non-media temporary job to survive as he attempts to win a dream role.

Having decided to focus on online journalism, Ahmad found that the competition for interesting positions was fierce and the qualities that he hoped would set him apart, did not stand him in such good stead. “I believed that achieving my award would set me apart the competition and make potential employers take more notice of me, but I’m still finding myself just as unsuccessful in getting my foot on the ladder as I did before.”

Others have given up on the industry completely, using their degrees to try and lever themselves into higher positions in the industries that they worked whilst at university. Heera Singh specialised in radio, but despite harbouring dreams to present his own show, he decided to take the role of Assistant Manager in the mobile phone retailer where he had worked for the past three years.

It isn’t all doom and gloom though. Some graduates have been successful in their seach for employment, including Tapi Nyoni, who grabbed the role of Broadcast Graduate Trainee with Mediaedge:cia, a sister company of MediaCom. Asked about the difference between his experiences and that of his less fortunate former contemporaries, Nyoni said: “It’s all about dedication, you have to just keep trying, although it helps if, like me, you manage to get in there quick.”

Also among the lucky ones is Lee Goddard, who won a place at magazine company, Moda Media, as a Junior Designer. If you were feeling generous, you could add me to the list too, working as I am as a Community Moderator for guardian.co.uk. Nyoni’s advice certainly applied in my case, with this role being the third I was interviewed for, having applied for many more.

Perhaps the upturn in students coincided with that well-versed quotation from Hodge, fooling potential students into believing that the media would give them an easy ride. Perhaps those same students were happy enough without their media career at the end of three years of studying (and partying). Does the cream always rise to the top? In the media, it seems that that is the process. It has just become more difficult to brand yourself as cream.