Category Archives: social reporting

John reports from the areas of unconnectedness … when he can get online

Social reporters love nothing better than a fast Internet connection that sucks video up to the cloud in minutes not hours, and delivers instant applause via Twitter by return. Black holes are deeply frustrating.

Consequently I think fellow reporter John Popham deserves special praise for journeying to areas of unconnectedness for the Can’t Get Online Week. As John explains in the Guardian:

Starting on Sunday in the New Forest, I will be traversing the country, via Essex, Norfolk, Shropshire, Lancashire, Cumbria, Durham, Northumberland, and various parts of Yorkshire, meeting farmers, Parish councillors, business people, and school children.

I’ll be listening to, and recording their tales, of the frustrations of poor broadband, showing them some of the things they might do online if they had decent connectivity, and trying to link them up with potential connectivity providers, as well as inspiring them with examples of communities which have connected themselves up.

I’ll be doing this alongside the mainstream Get Online Week, run by Martha Lane Fox and UK Online Centres, which is a great campaign, but which, every year, serves to raise the blood pressure of many people in rural communities whose frustration levels with their current situation is heightened.

read more »

An update on social reporting, including support from BIG

A couple of things came together recently to re-convince me that “social reporting” is a useful banner under which to promote the blending of new and old media and skills for collaboration and social benefit. (Here’s how the idea started, for me.)

The biggest and most thoughtful bottom-up support for the idea, and a big contribution to its practice, has come from the Transition Network, where Charlotte Du Cann and Ed Mitchell are editing and producing a social reporting project.

Twelve writers around the country are compiling a national blog about their real life experiences of being in Transition … moving towards low carbon, lower energy lifestyles and communities. I reported recently from the Transition Network conference.

Charlotte was kind enough to quote me on social reporting, with a definition that Bev Trayner and I developed a couple of years back. read more »

Planning video reporting at an event – or sometime not

There’s increasing interest among event organisers in using short video interviews to capture conversations in workshops, as well as featuring keynote speakers and panelists. Good news for social reporters, if like me you do that sort of thing.

But as the enthusiasm increases – and recording becomes simpler – things can get out of hand. I’ve had organisers suggest that the most democratic way to gather content is to shoot lots of video and then edit out the key points later. I certainly know that can be a nightmare … but I thought I would check my experience and share some ideas on the best approach with Ravinol Chambers of Be Inspired Films when we met up the other day at the Third Sector Social Media Convention.

read more »

More media power-to, less power-over vanities

A day at the excellent POLIS conference about Media and Power, and participation in a panel on DIY Media Democracy, led me to think about two sorts of power in democracy, politics and community action.
One is power-over: who can make decisions or has influence – and the other is power-to. That’s the ability to understand and take action – where terms like capacity building and empowerment crop up. Communication and media is important in both.
Today’s event was about both sorts of power: citizen media power in the Midde East revolutions, campaigners using digital media, local blog sites challenging councils (Pits ‘n Pots), as well as the more traditional issues of journalists holding politicians to account, and politicians using journalists to further their aims. (According to former Labour spinner Lance Price No 10 could pretty much dictate the headlines to sympathetic journalists in the early happy days of Blair government.)
As someone said, it’s less a matter or a vibrant press and more one of a vibrant and rather vain game between politicians and journalists.
Although on reflection, the conference was perhaps mostly about power over …  more about the Citizens UK and Lord Glasman view of change, than the more collaborative community development approach of Locality, as highlighted here. read more »

Open innovation reporters and a Social App store are needed to complement local news hubs

In my last post, on Big Lottery’s investment of some £10 million in five projects to support the People Powered Change programme, I said I would come up with ideas on how to fill what seems to me to be some of the gaps around helping community groups and citizens share experience and get the know-how they need.

On reflection that’s rather presumptuous – so my best idea is a pretty obvious one … look at the assets and skills we have already,  and open the process up to those are already bubbling with suggestions, and create some innovative solutions from there. We might build a Social App Store.

Here’s the backstory: Big Lottery have made grants to the Young Foundation, Unltd’s Big Venture Challenge, NESTA’s Neighbourhood Challenge, and Your Square Mile, announced in March. None of these was competitive. Then last week BIG announced a further non competitive grant, this time to the Media Trust for a network of local community news hubs. read more »

Big Lottery, Media Trust and People Powered Change. Positively.

Update: Caroline Diehl, chief executive of the Media Trust, has provided more detail about their approach in a comment to my earlier post.

The rise of community and citizen reporting and journalism and the critical need in communities for vibrant local media, as revealed by the Goldsmiths Leverhulme research we commissioned last year, is the reason that we feel a UK-wide project to connect, resource and amplify this grass roots activity is needed. It’s also in response to the increasing demand for Media Trust support from local organisations across the UK, which this will help meet.

The news hubs project is about finding and supporting existing activity as much as it is about inspiring new innovation to take place. Our role will be to work with local news platforms – be they hyper-local websites, blogs and twitter feeds or church newsletters, local parish papers or parent-teacher news – to help them meet their own individual aspirations to improve the quality and reach of their journalism. It’s absolutely about local to local news but it’s also about celebrating what’s happening in our communities across the UK and bringing those stories to the widest possible audience – yes on TV but also online and in print.

It’s a similar approach to our Community Voices project, which worked with many local community digital media projects around England to get projects off the ground or to add value to their existing activity. For example, we worked with Vintage Radio in Birkenhead to develop community radio for older people by older people, Meadow Well Residents’ Association on an estate in North Shields to challenge stereotypes with digital photography and on a film project with Club Soda in Croydon to address the isolation that people with learning difficulties experience, amongst many others.

Our experience through our Press Association partnership ‘Community Newswire’ is that there is an appetite for local news stories in the mainstream media, as much as there is an appetite locally to project relevant news from further afield. We hope this project will go some way to make those connections whenever and wherever the local community or mainstream media feel appropriate.

This is about adding infrastructure that local people can use in whatever way suits them and hopefully to play a part in improving the quality and reach of citizen and community journalism that will mean we all have our voices heard and can all create positive change in our own lives and the lives of those around us. We’ll be working with local organisations across the UK. If you want to be involved or kept up to date – let us know.

I wrote what follows before seeing the comment, but I think the main points are valid, and hope the approach Caroline outlines offers some scope for collaboration. What do you think? read more »

Big Lottery funds £1.89 million of citizen journalism. Is that what communities most need?

I can well understand why Gary Copitch is very cross about the Big Lottery grant of £1.89 million to the Media Trust for its three year project “to establish connected news hubs around the UK to support citizen journalism and to help communities and charities get their voices heard.” But it is complicated.

At one level it seems to about be about a big organisation getting funds for work smaller groups have been pioneering for years … and those with London connections picking up opportunities without competition. However, I think it is also about the difficulty funders may face in trying to turn bottom-up innovation into something that scales-up across the country.

Beyond that it is also about what sort of communications is community-friendly, and whether we can hope professional journalists will develop it.

Gary and People’s Voice Media have run an excellent community reporter training programme for some years, and while based in Manchester they work across the UK. They didn’t get a chance to bid. Nor – so far as I can gather – did others who have done so much to promote local blogging, online communities and use of social media to benefit neighbourhoods, towns and villages. The grant was awarded without publicity or competition.

There’s now some 15 years of hard-won experience in the field, and it’s not something that Media Trust have really engaged with in the past, as far as I can see. read more »

The sociable role of social reporters

What are social reporters, and what do they do?

Do you see yourself as one?

A London Net Tuesday event earlier this week gave me confidence that those are questions worth asking, even if the answers are ones we still have to choose for ourselves.

The term socialreporter was one I came up with a few years back, when I got tired to saying I was a sort of old journalist, turned consultant in partnerships and facilitation, who got excited about social technologies some years back.

I haven’t promoted it strongly, because it isn’t meant to be a personal brand or very well-defined, so I’ve been delighted when other think it has some use.

William Wardlaw Rogers thought it interesting enough to make it the theme of this month’s Net Tuesday, so I dug out a Mindmap I started last year, added another, and used that to spark some lively conversation with a group including John Popham, Fiona McElroy, and Mark Barratt. I think we agreed that social reporters should be sociable – as in socially useful. read more »

Connecting Big Society? Bring in the young social reporters.

Reporting from a conference in Cardiff today brought home to me how combining low-cost video, social media, and the skills and versatility of young (and older) people in using these tools could provide a way to develop Big Society … or Good Society … and certainly Our Society. It could also help create some jobs.
Everyone agrees that there’s lots of great projects being developed in local communities, and brilliant people behind them. Case studies are written, activists and social entrepreneurs are invited to speak in conferences … but somehow the stories don’t spread, and policy often evolves uninformed by local reality.
I’m in Cardiff for the Promoting Respectful Relationships on anti-bullying, and you can see on the site a rich mix of streaming video from SwitchNewMedia, live blogging from Tim Davies, and video reporting from a team of young people. I’m adding some too. The communications have been brilliantly organised by Sangeet Bhullar of Wise Kids, who I worked with on this earlier event.
Several things came together to give me some insights into what might be possible in smaller events. Last night over dinner I met up with Tim, and Diarmaid Lynch of SwitchNewMedia (above) and we talked among other things about how difficult it still was to share good stories about local projects.
Diarmaid explained that it was now possible to do low-cost streaming from a village hall or community centre, and by adding some encoding equipment enable a remotely connected professional like himself to connect different events and blend in conversations from Twitter and other media. It can even be done with people just using personal computers and Skype. Events could be staged around particular themes, and content archived and organised to provide learning resources. Maybe this could be one way to develop training for community organisers.
This morning at 8am I turned up at the conference venue, with Sangeet, Tim and Diarmaid to meet a team of six young people who would act as social reporters with a little help from me and Tim. I was slightly anxious, because Sangeet explained that the original team of media students couldn’t make it at the last moment … so we might have to rely to an extent on whatever personal skills the team could muster. A couple of the group knew each other – but they had never met as a group.
Tim had prepared a great briefing on reporting, and together we explained what was involved. We demonstrated a Flip video camera. Then came the hard part. We had to figure out who was going to cover what sessions, who was going to handle uploads, captioning and how to use the equipment. All within 90 minutes before proceedings started. Tim shot a video to show how to do it … but what next?
From a few questions and conversations it was becoming clear who in the group liked organising, interviewing, or doing the more technical stuff. So I just suggested the group work out for themselves how to to cover the event … which they did … as explained here by Bleddyn Perry.

Combining this insight with the conversation with Diarmaid, and discussion with Tim, who specialises in youth engagement and training as well as social media, it seemed to us there could be package.

Why not put together a social reporter kit of low-cost equipment, with some training and professional back up, that could serve several functions. In the Big Society context it could connect communities and policy makers, and help learning between activists. It could also help create jobs, because social reporters could – like Tim and myself – be paid to report from the bigger events, provide training, run social media surgeries. There is certainly plenty of work to be done in helping our public agencies and nonprofit organisations use social media.

Although I’m emphasising the role of young social reporters, I’m sure older folk (like me) could play a part. Sessions to plan and learn about reporting would be a great way to bring together different interests in a community.

Tim, Diarmaid and I will be developing these ideas further, so if they appeal to you too please drop a comment here.

Social innovation reporting for Big/Good Society (I hope)

Summary: how I’ve now joined the Big Society Network team with the idea of becoming their social innovation reporter. First story idea: why we need the Big Society Store as well as the Big Society Bank.

I’ve been writing a lot on the coalition government plans for Big Society over the past couple of months, and the Big Society Network, as you can see from posts here. That’s been mainly through general interest in ideas about supporting neighbourhood groups and social enterprise, developing new cross-sector partnerships, and shifting from consultation to the co-design and co-creation of local services … something I wrote a lot about on my earlier blog Designing for Civil Society.
I met and interviewed Network founders Paul Twivy and Nat (now Lord) Wei at their launch on March 31, before the election, and felt then that something special could emerge. However, as I wrote at the time, I might have been a little less interested if it were not for the involvement of Steve Moore.
I’ve worked with Steve on and off over the past four years, and admired him as someone who is an amazingly generous connector of people across different disciplines and sectors, and the complete antithesis of the sort of top-down, target-driven, project-managed, funding-led, jargon-laden programmes that have in the past done a lot to take the creativity out of civil society organisations.
Anyway, Steve is now a board member of the Network, and I was delighted when he asked if I would work part-time with him,  Paul and others. So I’ve taken the Big Society Shilling.
I’m not quite sure yet how it will work out, but based on past experience the best approach is to join in the flurry of meetings, listen out, join up the conversations, pitch your ideas, and keep moving. read more »