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…
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:
Here’s hoping for a revolution in data manipulation in the weeks and months ahead.
12 October 2010
They may not have the vote, but the good folks of Paris are more interested in what our government is up to than are the people of Hull.
Let me explain.
Earlier this afternoon I received an answer to a Freedom of Information request made a couple of weeks ago, to the Cabinet Office.
Unsatisfied with the bald figures occasionally promoted on the site (eg.) I wanted to know what has been the total web traffic to number10.gov.uk over the past year, broken down by UK region, and including metrics for; visits, unique visits, bounce rate, time on site, and % of new visits.
The data has been scanned and is presented as a data-unfriendly PDF, rather than the spreadsheet file I asked for, but you can’t have everything.
And so here it is: Traffic to number10.gov.uk
And what does it tell us? Nothing that translates into a general critique of political engagement throughout the country, sadly. This is due in large part to the inconsistencies between the cities and towns represented in the data, and the ways in which population figures are arrived at via our census and estimates – see here, for example. But the figures are undoubtedly interesting, and they raise a number of questions about different parts of the country in isolation.
Some of those questions would include:
- How can Wembley (with a population of around 57,000) account for more unique visits to number10 than the city of Liverpool?
- Is the lower than average engagement of the Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish a function of devolution, or evidence of lower engagement in online politics than is the case in England?
- Why do Reading and Salford have such high visitor numbers relative to their population – could it be something to do with the BBC’s presence in these areas? And moreover, does the heavy concentration of media in London have a significant role in (inner) London’s figures?
And then of course, we get to the headline comparison I started with. Politics really has come to something in this country when the government’s principal means of communicating directly with the public receives more traffic from a foreign city (even a capital) than from its 12th largest settlement.
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)…