Posts Tagged ‘United Kingdom’


Twitter and the truth

Two tube stations within London’s Underground were reopened after reports emerged that shots were fired on Oxford Street in central London. In a message on Twitter, British Transport Police, which looks after trains and the subway network, said there was no such evidence of gunfire.

Transport Police responded alongside officers with the Metropolitan Police. According to a statement from the Met, they responded as if the incident was terrorism related. The cause of what happened is under investigation.

News organizations in Britain and internationally began reporting on the incident, as Oxford Circus’ tube station is known to be one of the busiest in the system, and central to much of London’s shopping areas and cultural life. As that news was reported, many saw the information disseminated on Twitter.

Twitter has become a way for audiences to get information quickly and to stay informed in a fast paced news environment. Yet, while there have been pros for journalists in using Twitter, there also have been cons – particularly on whether or not its credible, whether the tweet comes from a civilian or a British pop star known for a song in which his heart skipped a beat.

No matter who the person is receiving (or trying to disseminate) news, getting the right information out is essential. SPJ’s Code of Ethics encourages journalists to seek truth and report it, to cross every t and dot every i, and advises that neither speed nor format excuses inaccuracy. This applies to all platforms, including and especially social media outlets like Twitter.

If you’re reporting a breaking news story on Twitter, here are some tips to remember:

  • Verify everything: If its a photo or testimonial, try to contact the user behind that to verify what happened. Vet the material before you use it, whether in an article or on the air.
  • Cite with caution: If you come across a report about a story you’re covering, consider if it will be helpful to you in your coverage. If you cite it, mention the report as you try to confirm information.
  • Be transparent: A forthright journalist is a credible journalist. If you get something wrong, correct it. If you’re not running with something because of uncertainty, explain why. Even if you’re retweeting a report, add a note at the top of the tweet for clarity and explain why its important.
  • Don’t tweet for tweeting’s sake: As mentioned above, if you find a report, consider if it will be helpful to you in your coverage. Will it help more than harm? Will it help the public as you tell the story? Would it benefit your friends, family or neighbors if you were telling them? Think twice before retweeting.
  • Verify everything: It’s so nice it’s worth saying twice! You have an obligation to get the most accurate information out to the public possible. Remember, it is better to be right than be first.

In the world where the news cycle has become fast paced, the goal of getting accurate information out to the public has not. So when you take to Twitter, and bear these tips in mind, you can show anyone, even that pop star, why the need to seek truth and report accurately is crucial.

You’ll also reduce the amount of skipping heartbeats along the way.

Alex Veeneman is a freelance journalist in Minneapolis and a member of SPJ’s Ethics and FOI Committees. You can interact with him on Twitter @alex_veeneman.

The views expressed are that of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Digital Community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

A global need for an equal industry

Today in the UK is Equal Pay Day, where The Fawcett Society, a campaign group promoting gender equality and women’s rights, says that both genders will be paid equal only by 2117.

According to the Office for National Statistics, the UK’s equivalent to the US Census Bureau, women are paid 7.2 percent less than men. Their median earnings are £16.30 ($21.51) an hour, while men’s median earnings are £17.57 ($23.18) an hour.

In the United States, women are paid 86 percent of their male counterparts, according to data from the US Census Bureau. Their median earnings are $48,597, compared to men whose median earnings are $56,430.

In both Britain and the US, the subject of the gender pay gap has been at the center of conversation, especially in journalism. The BBC recently made headlines for the differences in how they pay male and female journalists and personalities. Female journalists at the broadcaster took to Twitter to advocate for equal pay for men and women.

It also sparked this tweet from Greg James, a DJ on Radio 1, the BBC’s popular music network, which also airs Newsbeat, designed for younger audiences.

In the US, The Wall Street Journal was one of the publications which was part of the debate on journalism’s gender pay gap, where they pay women 85 percent of their male colleagues – which had raised concerns especially with a lack of women in the publication’s management.

Men and women enter journalism and the media for the same reasons – to inform, engage and educate, and to make a difference in their communities. Women play just as equal of a role as men, and their work has an impact not just on the communities themselves, but for journalism as a profession.

The debate may go beyond the shores of the United States, but the goals remain the same. We owe it to ourselves, to quote James, to shout about it. We owe it to ourselves to fight for equal pay for men and women, and for the opportunities that come with it. We owe it to ourselves to not take for granted the contributions made by women in journalism. We owe it to ourselves to emphasize every day why women are needed in this industry, and how they make journalism stronger with all they do.

We can do this, and we must – not just for our sake, but for journalism’s.

Alex Veeneman is a freelance journalist in Minneapolis and a member of SPJ’s Ethics and FOI Committees. You can interact with him on Twitter @alex_veeneman.

The views expressed are that of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Digital Community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

The pros of verifying

Twitter has become important for disseminating information, but you need to make sure its accurate before publishing. (Photo: Pixabay)

Last Thursday, the UK held a general election which saw a hung parliament. It also saw negotiations begin on a minority government between Prime Minister Theresa May and the Conservatives, and the Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland.

But as the news of the election results came down, so did a statistic on youth voter turnout – which indicated that 72 percent of voters between 18 and 24 voted.

There was widespread praise as the statistic was tweeted near and far, as the issue of young people participating in elections had been raised over the course of the campaign.

There was one problem though – it wasn’t proven to be true. As a result, it raised many questions by journalists and from other observers as to its origins, which began from a voting organization that supports the youth vote, and later tweeted by MPs, political advocates and others.

When all was said and done, it was a talking point on Twitter, and it got the attention of many news organizations, as attempts to verify the claim were made.

Twitter has its pros and cons when it comes to journalism, but one of the issues is that of the quality of information. The Society’s Code of Ethics encourages journalists to seek truth and report it, but most of all, neither speed nor format excuses inaccuracy.

What happened on Twitter that election night serves as a reminder that verifying information is important, even more so in this digital age where anyone can publish anything, whether its true or not.

Here is a guide when it comes to publishing verified information, especially on Twitter.

Don’t run on first instinct: If you’re aware of reports of something, be it politics, business or otherwise, don’t assume its right. Just because Twitter and other platforms are new doesn’t mean the rules surrounding ethics change.

Be honest and forthright: Tell your audience you are trying to confirm the information. Then make inquiries and try to figure out what is going on. Being forthright allows you to be a more credible journalist to your followers and beyond.

Don’t be afraid to cite: Be specific about the reports – you can either quote the tweet or cite the user. Explain to audiences how you’ve spotted the claim and anything you’ve been able to find. Yet, don’t cite endlessly, cite when you feel it is warranted.

Once you’ve confirmed it, tweet it: You have sought the truth, and you now know it is true. Now report it.

Disseminating information on social media is a part of journalism today – ensuring its verified helps ethical journalism thrive on social media. Credibility on the platform is important more than ever, and if you take the time to ensure everything is accurate, people will come back to you for the truth.

When faced with dealing with information that may not be true, remember – it is better to be right than be first. You’ll be a better journalist as a result of it.

Alex Veeneman is a freelance journalist who writes for publications in the US and the UK. He also serves on SPJ’s Ethics Committee. You can interact with him on Twitter @alex_veeneman.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital Community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Why we must support women in journalism

At a meeting at the United Nations in New York earlier this year on gender equality, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declared to the world that he was a proud feminist, and would keep repeating it “until it was met with a shrug.”

Trudeau, who had only been in office for a few months, had already received global attention for his appointment of a gender-neutral cabinet – 50 percent women, 50 percent men. His declaration went viral, circulating through global Facebook and Twitter feeds, and made headlines in publications internationally.

I, like many, saw the clip through YouTube. I then opened up the Word Processor on my computer and began typing. The final article for Kettle Magazine in the UK had this declaration.

“My name is Alex Veeneman. I’m a journalist, and I’m a feminist.”

I had not said publicly that I was a feminist – a few of my close friends and family members knew of my thoughts, but it was not public knowledge until I had submitted that article for publication.

Indeed, there was another reason why that article was written – to show support for women in journalism, whether they were working in the industry, or studying it at university.

A study from the University of Oxford showed more women studying journalism than men. Above: University College, Oxford. (Image: Ozeye/Wikimedia Commons)

A study from the University of Oxford showed more women studying journalism than men. Above: University College, Oxford. (Image: Ozeye/Wikimedia Commons)

Recent studies, most notably from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford, have shown that there are more women studying journalism at university.

Yet, this was not just the case in the US and Britain. Indeed, the trend was prevalent in other countries, including Australia and Germany. However, despite this, there is still difficulty for women to advance in the industry, as it continues to be heavily male-dominated.

As journalism continues to evolve in the digital age, thanks to the rise of social media platforms and consumption on mobiles, it is trying to reinvent itself to ensure it remains viable. At the core of this is women, for their ideas are detrimental to the future of this industry.

Many of my colleagues at Kettle are women. The majority of our section editors are women, and the number of women who have recently written for the site outnumber men.

Indeed, of the four managing editors currently working at Kettle, I am the only male managing editor, something that I welcome and champion. They got to where they were today because of the work they put in, the time they invested, and the shared goal of quality work.

At SPJ, where in addition to writing these blogs I work on their network of communities, all but one of the five active communities have women as a chair or co-chair. In its 9 active committees, 6 of them have women as a chair or co-chair.

In addition, more women than men hold positions on the Board of Directors. Of the 23 positions on the Board, 14 of them are held by women.

I want to support my friends and colleagues and see them advance in the industry, and have them not be deterred by the systematic treatment and oppression based on their gender.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who says we should embrace equality. (Image: Alex Guibord/Flickr)

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who says we should embrace equality. (Image: Alex Guibord/Flickr)

We collectively must champion women in journalism, encourage them to raise their voices and share their ideas, and support their efforts by mentoring them and helping them excel towards their career goals. We must support the women who are leading the evolution in digital media, and whose ideas will help shape journalism’s future.

We must also especially champion the women who want to have careers in this industry by supporting them in their work, encouraging them in their studies at universities, mentor them, and to instill confidence in them amid current industry trends.

As Trudeau himself put it in an article for Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper, feminism is a word we should not be afraid of, but embrace.

“Feminism is about equal rights and opportunities for men and women, about everyone having the same choices without facing discrimination based on gender,” Trudeau wrote. “Equality is not a threat, it is an opportunity.”

Women must be equal in journalism, and though the equality issues currently at hand will not be solved overnight, we must champion their role in this industry.

After all, especially as journalism continues to evolve, what remains key are the ideas that come to help make it stronger, no matter who they are or what their background is.

It is something we all must embrace, today and every day, now and in the years ahead.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

One experience can change everything

The SPA member badge, which is displayed on my web site. (Photo: SPA)

The SPA member badge, which is displayed on my web site. (Photo: SPA)

This weekend, in Loughborough in the English Midlands, a few of my colleagues and their peers are getting together for the Student Publication Association‘s annual conference.

At the helm of the conference are sessions on honing the journalistic craft, alongside awards, networking and the ability to celebrate the work of these student publications up and down the UK.

The timing of their meeting comes at an interesting time for media in Britain, as The Independent, once the UK’s youngest newspaper, ended a 30 year run in print to become a digital only publication.

In addition, there are continued talks in Parliament about the future of the BBC, as its Royal Charter comes up for renewal next year, as the publications owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation continue to make headlines ahead of Part 2 of the Leveson Inquiry into phone hacking.

Indeed, student media in the UK too has not had it easy recently, something observed in my writing and coverage of British media, from censorship of The Badger, the student newspaper of The Badger at the University of Sussex in southern England in the beginning of the academic year, to the threat of expulsion raised by University College London against one of its students, Rebecca Pinnington, for something she wrote for Pi Media, the university’s student media hub.

Yet, aside from the questions surrounding the future of media in the UK, and the issues surrounding student media, there is a common thread between my colleagues and their peers. Indeed, it is the reason why people the world over go into journalism — they do it not to seek fame or fortune, but to do a service for their communities, large or small, irrespective of beat.

Many of those in attendance at that conference are either journalism students, or students studying a variety of subjects, including English Literature, History, Politics and Economics, hoping to either pursue an MA in journalism or go to a training course to obtain an NCTJ (National Council for the Training of Journalists) qualification. They’ve done work placements at broadcasters, newspapers or web sites, and also worked in student media.

But irrespective of what they study, and the route they plan to take, they all have one thing in common — they believe in journalism and the Fourth Estate, the role it has in a democracy, and the role it can have to help millions of people cope better with the world around them. All they want to do is tell stories and make a difference. They want to be a part of journalism’s future, even as the industry itself around the world goes through changes.

I think of this as this week marks four years since I joined Kettle Magazine, a fellow SPA member (I also, for the record, hold a personal membership with the Association). Even though I am working 3,000 miles away from the UK, I have been able to receive a unique education.

The people I have met, who have become my friends, and the ability to help the next generation of journalists ignited the passion for why I wanted to go into journalism, and the sort of work I want to do. Its a reason why I signed up to be an SPA member, and why recently I renewed my membership with SPJ for another year. Its an education I am deeply grateful for, an education I hope to continue receiving, and an education I hope I can experience on the ground in due course.

They’ve also reinforced one other thing — irrespective of platform, and where the industry goes, there is always going to be a need for journalists. Indeed, even in this digital age, no matter what country your from, it takes one experience to remind you why you sought to enter this profession, and the rewards that come from it.

And that is worth celebrating, not just today, but every day.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is Long Form Editor and a contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

The art of live tweeting

As Twitter prepares to celebrate its tenth birthday, its influence on journalism is significant. As part of a series leading up to its tenth birthday, SPJ Digital is looking at Twitter’s influence, as well as best practices and advice.

Here, SPJ’s Alex Veeneman revisits Britain’s general election to highlight the best practices of live tweeting and credible reporting on the platform.

British Prime Minister David Cameron won a majority in Britain's general election, something that drew a lot of attention on Twitter. (Photo: russavia/Wikimedia Commons)

British Prime Minister David Cameron won a majority in Britain’s recent general election, something that drew a lot of attention on Twitter.
(Photo: russavia/Wikimedia Commons)

May 7, 2015. As the clock struck 5pm on the East Coast, over in the UK, polls closed in the general election, and a predicted exit poll result no one had predicted appeared. David Cameron, whose Conservatives shared a coalition government with the Liberal Democrat party for the last five years, was set to receive almost a majority of seats in the House of Commons.

At 7pm ET, as the ballots continued to be counted and results came in through constituencies up and down the UK, my colleague, Current Affairs Editor Kirstie Keate, and I took to Twitter for Kettle Magazine to live tweet election results, as well as examine the implications the results would have on voters, as well as British politics itself.

Live tweeting during a developing story or breaking news event consists of the delicate balance of engaging audiences but also informing and adding something of value, something that they can’t get with another platform. In the digital age, the balance of curating a story on Twitter whilst reporting for another platform is something that is trying to be perfected.

That being said, here are some things to consider when live tweeting, and to allow your coverage to stand out:

Monitor sources: In breaking or developing stories, reporting accurate information is crucial. Monitor sources to see the root of information. Try to confirm it, and report on Twitter citing the sources. An honest reporter is a forthright reporter.

Plan ahead: Have conversations with the team you’re working with before the night of a live tweeting to develop ideas. What stands out? What can help create value? Bounce ideas off of each other. Not everything has to be set before the coverage develops — you can even bounce ideas while you’re in coverage mode. Kirstie and I had conversations before election night and spoke during, exchanging ideas and discussing angles. Again, not everything has to be set, but its better to have an idea and be ready to adapt that idea for what is ahead.

Alex Veeneman of Kettle Magazine says live tweeting says honesty with your audience on Twitter will keep them coming back. (Photo via Twitter)

Alex Veeneman of Kettle Magazine says honesty with your audience on Twitter will keep them coming back. (Photo via Twitter)

Look at key story elements: Consider key points in a story to evaluate and follow up on. For example, in our general election coverage, Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats struggled with the issue of university tuition fees, something they promised to repeal, but instead were raised when they were in a coalition.

As they targeted the student vote, the party’s response to fees was something students considered, so their views on election night helped develop an interesting part of the narrative, and helped audience engagement.

Be careful when you post: When you are live tweeting, you need to consider the importance of what is posted. Is there value in what you are going to post, or are you posting for the sake of posting? Will that post truly help your audience understand the story better? Consider before you compose.

Be honest: You may be working on a different platform, but its still reporting. Be honest with your audience. If you don’t know something, mention the reports and try to confirm it. Report what you know. As I said earlier, an honest reporter is a forthright reporter, and audiences appreciate forthright reporters, for they will come back to you after your coverage is over.

By the time our coverage concluded, a small number of constituencies remained, but it was clear — the political landscape in Britain would be changing. The Conservatives would get their majority in the Commons while the Liberal Democrats lost a majority of their seats. In addition, the Labour Party had to figure out their next steps, and the Scottish National Party made significant gains, becoming a force to be reckoned with.

One other thing was clear as well. We engaged with our audience in new ways, showing how important Twitter is in not just communicating with audiences, but also in reporting a story, showing the power the social network can have in major events. Though no story is alike, these tips hopefully will allow news organizations and reporters to do one common thing — inform, educate and enlighten audiences, no matter where they are.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is Long Form Editor and a contributing writer on journalism and media issues for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Editor’s note: This piece was amended on March 22, 2016 at 9:13pm CT to correct a caption.

Can Facebook be a successful breaking news platform?

Recent weeks have seen a debate as to whether Facebook can catch up with Twitter and breaking news through its algorithms. (Vicipaedianus x / Wikimedia Commons under CC license)

Recent weeks have seen a debate as to whether Facebook can catch up with Twitter and breaking news through its algorithms. (Vicipaedianus x / Wikimedia Commons under CC license)

Within the last few weeks, there has been much debate on social media’s effect as a platform of journalism. The news coming out of Ferguson, Missouri in particular with the protests in light of the death of Michael Brown, has seen much reflection on what Facebook and Twitter can become for journalists.

What has come to focus is on the matter of the algorithm, how it should be written, and if it should be redone, as much of the news on Ferguson came on Twitter rather than Facebook, where much of the focus this past month was on the ice bucket challenge for the ALS Foundation. As Mathew Ingram noted on GigaOM, the tone on Facebook is set by the powerful ranking algorithms.

Indeed, because of this, some are suggesting that Twitter has become the go-to source to keep up with real time trends, news and conversations, including John Naughton of The Open University in the UK, writing in the British Sunday newspaper The Observer, noting statistics that saw higher Facebook referrals for articles related to the ice bucket challenge rather than the events in Ferguson.

Naughton then wrote this conclusion.

“What you see on Twitter is determined by who you follow,” Naughton said. “In contrast, what you see in your Facebook newsfeed is “curated” by the company’s algorithms, which try to guess what will interest you (and induce you to buy something, perhaps). Having a frank discussion about the racism that disfigures America might not fit that bill. Which is why Facebook is for ice-bucket memes and Twitter is for what’s actually going on.”

In a telephone interview with this blog, Gina Cole of the Seattle Times said Ferguson conveyed a tone for Twitter and the reaction afterward, including coverage.

It’s interesting to see how this was more nationally covered on Twitter and how many were on the ground because of Twitter,” Cole said. “You can turn Ferguson into #Ferguson and everybody knows where to go to get information.”

Cole added that at the time it was an excellent source for breaking news and discussion on the subject, compared to Facebook. Cole said the algorithms caused a difference in how the story was seen on both platforms. Cole notes the follow function on Facebook, which allows users to follow users’ posts that are public, including journalists, however was not sure how much of a role it had.

It’s odd to watch these two platforms try to become more like each other, when really as a user I think of them differently and use them differently,” Cole said, adding that you may not want to see multiple postings by one person. “If something is happening, you want a live stream of event. Twitter’s platform is more suited to that.”

But can Facebook compete with Twitter when it comes to a breaking news platform? Cole says its possible, but significant changes would need to be made.

Algorithms would have to change, posting display would have to change,” Cole said. “Facebook needs to find a way to be differently useful than Twitter. Find a niche. Find a way I can use Facebook that Twitter doesn’t offer.”

Alex Veeneman is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists based in Chicago. Veeneman also serves as Special Projects Editor and writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can tweet him @alex_veeneman.

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