World Cup bid undone by British media?

3 December 2010

Latest reports suggest that our free media are to blame for England’s failed World Cup bids.

But some feel FIFA may be playing the man rather than the ball here.

Simon Jenkins at the Guardian has a refreshing take on this rather circular meme.

And yet some of our press are a little shy in coming forward for praise.  The Mail’s splash today features a box which asks in a rather shouty way, ‘WILL BRITAIN’S MEDIA BE BLAMED FOR MISSING VOTES?’   The Panorama and Sunday Times investigations are mentioned prominently, but the Mail fails to mention that its’ stable-mate The Sunday Mail got the ball rolling with a well-aimed sting on Lord Triesman. Strange…

But FIFA may be getting their own back on the UK’s unruly press if their decisions are anything to go by.

Russia and Qatar came 140th and 121st respectively (out of 178) in RSF’s Press Freedom Index 2010.

That should keep things nice and quite for a while…


Introduction to Computer Assisted Reporting

1 December 2010

On Monday I introduced our MAs to Computer Assisted Reporting.

My job was made easier given Wikileaks latest release dominating Sunday’s (and Monday’s) papers.  This story (indeed all of the major Wikileaks stories this year) are a testament to the power of Computer Assisted Reporting.

For many years we have lagged far behind the US (and to a lesser extent some continental European countries), but in Wikileaks, CAR in the UK has truly come of age.

However, it would be wrong to assume that CAR is only helpful when looking for needles in haystacks in big, international stories.

CAR is just as useful in a local context.

For that reason (and partly because our course is NCTJ-accredited), I’ve drawn my examples from local news issues; crime in London, and Hillingdon Council’s incomings and outgoings.  The second example in particular, is intended to be taught in conjunction with local Public Affairs.

The files are here:

CAR script_2010_Murray_Dick_2010

CAR_examples_with working_Murray_Dick

Here’s hoping for a revolution in data manipulation in the weeks and months ahead.

Vanishing Point: on the consequences of lost online news in the UK

28 October 2010

Here are my slides for the Institute of Communications Ethics annual conference tomorrow.

Google Reader no longer offers screen scraping

5 October 2010

In class yesterday I was trumpeting the virtues of Google Reader in newsgathering.

But when it came to creating a feed for static pages (of which there are many when it comes to tracking local news sources) it didn’t seem to be working.

That would be because Google switched this feature off at the end of last month.   Elsewhere, on an unofficial site, it is claimed Google have said not many people used the function.  Once again (as with the recent demise of Bloglines) it just goes to show how vulnerable specialist research tools can be.

Fortunately there are plenty of alternatives out there, including:





That said, the only way to avoid the inconvenience of other (mostly free) services going belly up, is to get your sleeves rolled up, learn a bit of programming, and do your own scraping.  There are no shortages of tutorials on how to use  iMacros or Python for screen scraping.  It’s just a matter of how much time you have to put words into practice (I keep telling myself)…