by Sally Cameron
A public forum renown for its heated debates and unique political commentary, Speaker’s Corner is the perfect combination of old and new media in the modern world.
On the corner of Hyde Park next to Marble Arch in central London, any member of the public can step on a soapbox and espouse whatever opinion they choose.
For over 150 years, Londoners have been congregating at Speaker’s Corner to discuss everything, be it politics, religion, current events, philosophy or morality.
Nowadays, the forum has moved from the corner to the computer. The public voice makes news accountable, Anna Doble, site editor and online media producer for ITV Channel 4 News, said.
“The lines are starting to blur between the producers and the journalists sitting here, and the people who consume the news, because they’re not blindly consuming it anymore,” Abigail Sawyer, social media editor for the BBC World Service, said. “They’re now starting to play a part in it.”
Back at Hyde Park, notable figures that have been known to speak there include George Orwell, Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin and countless others.
Speaker’s Corner is unique in its ability to defy the ages and stay a significant landmark for debate, protest and the exchange of ideas.
Even in the age of technology, the oral culture still lives.
Channel 4 News: http://www.channel4.com/news/
BBC World Service: http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/programmes/index.shtml
British tabloids draw larger audiences, according to British journalists
By Brittny Goodsell
The majority of Londoners are reading newspapers, says a former journalist in the United Kingdom. But the majority of them aren’t reading the most credible news.
Angie Thomas, former journalist, says too many tabloid-like newspapers are making their way into mainstream reading while more credible papers, such as The Guardian and The Independent, aren’t attracting the bulk of the reading audience.
Thomas, now a city historian in London, says tabloid papers are typically full of topics such as drama about the royal family and celebrity gossip, and they tend to be more obvious in their political slant. People who read these papers tend to have stronger opinions regarding the controversial issues of the day, Thomas says.
“That’s all they believe, that’s all they know,” Thomas says.
In contrast, The Guardian, one of England’s most internationally known and respected news outlets, rarely breaches topics such as the royal family, Thomas says. Because of their coverage of international issues, she says the broadsheet paper tends to attract a more discerning audience. Although the paper leans slightly to a political left, she says it does a better job than the others of remaining closer to the political middle.
Thomas says The Guardian writes more controversial stories than other British papers. There are even times when she’s read a story in The Guardian about a contentious issue, such as genetically-modified crops, and then seen the issue resurface months later in the competing papers.
“They seem to really have good news judgment for what is worthy for our attention,” she says.
Yet, most aren’t paying attention.
According to Anna Doble, social media producer at Channel 4 News in London, the tabloid paper The Daily Mail is almost the most read online news site in the world. The online site is called Mail Online. It stands in second place while The New York Times is first place, according to an April 2011 report by The Guardian.
“There is a huge appetite for news but there’s so much distraction that you can’t take it all in,” says Doble.
Jason Deans, director of The Media Guardian, the newspaper’s section on the media, says he accepts that the newspaper he works for will always have a smaller audience than the British tabloids. It always has, he says. And tabloid readers aren’t planning on switching – they remain loyal to their papers.
“It’s just a fact of life, some people are just like that,” he says.
To complicate readership loyalty, the day of the broadsheet paper is waning in Britain. Some traditional papers have recently switched their printing format so to mirror the layout and size of tabloid papers, such as The Independent.
Tabloids are cheaper to print and easier to read on a morning commute on Underground.
But Dean says the look of more serious papers taking on a tabloid form has some readers wondering if the quality of a paper has gone down, perhaps resulting in less people soaking up real news. The Guardian now publishes in broadsheet and tabloid format.
“I don’t know the stats but newspaper readership has been a pretty dismal story,” he says.
James Walsh and Laura Oliver serve as online Community Coordinators at the Guardian, a new position on the paper’s staff designed to help generate more online reader participation.
And many of the online readers aren’t typical Guardian readers, Walsh says.
“Many wouldn’t give a pound in their life to the Guardian,” he says. But they’re commenting on the Web site.
The Economist: Unaffected by the Downturn in Print Circulation
By Lindsay Welnick
“The Economist is weird. Things that seem to have hurt other people haven’t hurt us,” Tom Standage, digital editor of The Economist.
Standage explains that in the face of a dramatically changing media landscape, “The Economist” remains largely unaffected by the recession and the general decline in print circulation.
Much of this is due to the style in which “The Economist” is written. Standage explains that, “part of the appeal of more opiniated news is helping people make sense of things.” Instead of presenting the facts in an unbiased way, “The Economist” aims to direct thought in a way that might make the facts easier to digest.
Tom Standage said that a friend of his told him, “I used to think, now I just read The Economist.”
According to Mark Johnson, community editor of The Economist, there is a, “sense of self-badging about people who read it.” It seems that the reputation of the magazine as being an intelligent medium for news gathering helps it maintain its readership as well.
Another large part of the magazines appeal is its “finishability.” “You can curl up with it for an hour and half and you feel informed,” Standage said. The Economist wants to maintain a relatively short publication on all of the media outlets that magazine is available on.
Standage says, “I can totally relate to this feeling of overload, that even what we do is too much.” In order to curb this effect, the online version of The Economist is modeled very closely to the print version.
Another change that has yet to affect the magazine’s readership is the institution of a metered pay wall. The Economist is following a formula created by Ken Doctor, a news industry analyst. The formula consists of seven tests designed to make the change from print to digital as seamless as possible.
Standage thinks that a metered pay wall will continue to not affect readership because they are simply, “selling people access to our content,” thereby giving readers a choice as to how they want to consume the information.
In maintaining a relationship with their readers, “The Economist” is constantly trying to innovate the way they deliver their information. Standage says, “We want readers to subscribe to our stuff, and the way we’ll deliver that stuff will change.”
Luckily for “The Economist,” they have fairly price-insensitive readers, which makes it easier for them to transition to different ways of presenting their information.
Standage feels that, “readership aligns with the iPad demographic very well.” While The Economist has the luxury of knowing that a large portion of their audience is able to support them as they move into different media outlets, they also think that, “the print edition will go on certainly for another decade.”
New Media in An Old Broadcast – How the BBC Transfers Old Values to a New Medium
By Jacqueline Gutierrez
My opinions of the BBC come with both sincerity and truthfulness. During our visit in London (June 3- 12) I made observations based on ethical news gathering as I attempted to learn how innovation takes place in a company with a recorded history such as the BBC. Specifically, I was looking at how the transformation to using social media in journalism is changing, or not, the values of a largely trusted outlet. Despite the hospitality of our friends at the BBC, my words are what I would want others who have not had the privilege of meeting members of the company, to know and learn from.
What would John Reith, the founding father of the world’s largest broadcasting company, say about today’s new media and technology used in journalism and entertainment? He would first question the method of keeping at heart the company’s principles– “to inform, educate and entertain”, values that approach nearly 90 years of existence.
Reith would also look to see whether accuracy has remained the objectivity behind BBC’s news outlets.
Most importantly, Reith would do no comparisons with competing outlets that strive to send the first tweet. Instead, he’d demand accuracy over being first.
So how do Reith’s imaginable standards measure-up to the efforts of those presently working for the BBC?
The weight of the large legacy is in good hands, so it seems. Based on the observations made during visits to both the BBC Bush House and BBC Television Center, the ingredient behind the efforts of both staff and reporters in one word is accuracy.
Keeping accuracy and trust at the core of their actions despite the rapidness of competing media, is how the BBC remains loyal to both new and devoted audiences.
Today audiences are able to choose from several BBC Twitter profiles and Facebook pages, adding to the enhancement of connecting and creating trust with the audience, a value the company is devoted to.
Editorial and Social Media manager for the BBC World Service Abbi Sawyer maintains and monitors the site’s social networking image.
Within the past year Sawyer says there’s been transformation in how the BBC is using social media.
“If you want really compelling web content in your journalism, and you tell the story in a really exiting way, the best way is put your web developers who have the skills to build exiting things next to your journalists who are going to provide them with the information because the idea of just a page is kind of quite old, people want info graphics,” Sawyer said.
To keep up with their audience’s behaviors of consuming news, the BBC is integrating more journalistic web content, which in part involves the journalist playing the conductor.
In February of 2010, BBC Global News Director Peter Horrocks gave an interview to the Guardian that sent a shock throughout the company that journalists should be on Twitter. Rumored to be the “Tweet or Die” interview, Sawyer says.
Under the Digital Content Blog on the Guardian UK’s website, a 2010 post titled “BBC tells news staff to embrace social media” details the message Sawyer is referring to. The article mentions that social media is only mentioned once in the BBC’s “2009 editorial guidelines”: “editors are warned to “consider the impact of our re-use” of social media content.”
“What [Horrocks] was saying is that social media is very important as a journalistic source,” Sawyer said in reference to Horrocks’s interview. “When your friend recommends you a piece of news on Facebook, it has more credibility- you’re likely to pay more attention to it.”
Since last year’s shift, BBC journalists have taken a larger stab at social media. The level of impact- good or bad- all goes back to how the audience is responding.
During the Power and Media POLIS Journalism Conference, a topic that comes in the wake of Wiki Leaks and the Middle East Uprisings, Director of News for BBC Helen Boaden spoke of the kind of trust from audience the BBC holds responsible to.
“Some sections of the audience will have a vested interest in how they’re portrayed,” Boaden said. “Their truth will not necessary be the same as the journalists and the balance between the two versions can sometimes be hard to gage.”
How does the BBC come to grips with balance?
“The key is confidence, not arrogance.” Boaden said. “The dividing line can be quite thin.”
With new challenges to maintaining trust and being confident in the age of mass social media consumption, in 2010 the BBC set new guidelines for their presence on social networking.
Under the Editorial Guidelines, last updated in October 2010, the BBC added sections for social media content, specifically how to deal with user-generated content.
“New technology has presented new opportunities for journalists and programme makers, offering an unprecedented ease of access to potential content,” the new edition reads.
Sawyer commented on this type of user-generated content during a conversation with students at Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, saying that the audience is not blindly consuming news. Now [audiences] are commenting on stories and having live conversations with journalists on Facebook and Twitter, Sawyer said.
Taking responsibility in what is exchanged in the conversations between users and journalists is how the BBC maintains loyalty.
“At the end of the day it’s still a BBC space,” Sawyer said. “It still represents our journalism.”