Right off

Posted on February 27th, 2014 by Bernie Russell

I came across this via the LinkedIn Higher Education Academy Group.

It’s a dire (in every sense of the word) warning about “the rapid infiltration of the UK’s education system by those espousing right wing dogma“.

Please … let’s be serious here.

Right-wing infiltration of our education system?

In my dreams.

Academic, hackademic

Posted on February 26th, 2014 by Bernie Russell

One of the key challenges facing journalism students is switching voices and styles for different assignments. At any one time, they can be working on essays, critiques, news stories, features, radio and TV scripts and blog posts. Each of these has a different audience, and each make its own particular demands on the writer. Read the rest of this entry »

The C-word

Posted on December 10th, 2013 by Bernie Russell

I see the university still struggles with the C-word.

Their celebratory seasonal e-card suppresses the season we’re celebrating.

Sigh …

(Merry Christmas to one and all.)

The Lincoln School of Journalism Content Monitoring

Posted on November 24th, 2013 by Bernie Russell

For journalist and editor, read content monitor and content manager.

According to news executive David Montgomery (Press Gazette, 21/11/2013), in the future, most local news will come from “third party contributors”, and not from journalists.

All the journalists will do is  provide “attractive formats for this third party content in the first instance online”, and then monitor the content “to instigate its promotion to a position of prominence”.

Editors will be replaced by “content managers” who may or may not come from a journalistic background.

Session journalism
Shifts will also vanish. On a small weekly newspaper, a single content manager will “skim largely online published content to create the newspaper in a single session or small number of sessions”.


I wonder how we’ll build all this into our employability strategy?

Macked off

Posted on October 1st, 2013 by Bernie Russell

We’re in the throes of trying to make our new attendance monitoring system work at the moment. I was hoping to print my registers off at home, until I saw this message from central admin:

Over the weekend the biggest issue so far has been access externally, one route that can be used is the virtual desktop (apart from Mac users).

Sigh …

Wrong, right? Wrong …

Posted on August 21st, 2013 by Bernie Russell

The British people are wrong about everything. So says Ipsos MORI’s Bobby Duffy in a piece slamming our ignorance about immigration, Muslims, teenage pregnancy, benefit fraud, and foreign aid.

The piece got a mention on our Journalism and PR Facebook page, where we were all warned to ‘think on…’.

So I did.

And I’m not impressed. I don’t like the tone of the article, which is patronizing on an epic scale.

And I don’t like the substance either. Duffy’s problem is that he doesn’t believe us, but he does believe official statistics. Which are rubbish. As in …

Duffy says we believe 31% of the population are immigrants, while ‘the official figure is 13%’.
But the official figure is meaningless.
Tony Smith, former chief executive of the UK Border Agency admitted in April 2013 that “we just don’t know who’s here and who isn’t“.
And MPs recently issued a warning saying that our immigration statistics are “unfit for purpose”.

Foreign aid
Duffy says we think we spend more than we do. But actually, the state says we spend less than we do. Our aid spending (£8.6bn) should hit 0.7% of gross national income this year, making us the first the G8 country to hit that target.
But private donations added another £1.1bn last year. For some reason, this figure isn’t included in our aid spending. The official figures just tell us how much of our money the state spends.

Your number’s up
But the real point is that politicians and policy wonks see stats as the big story. And they’re not. They’re just part of the story. And an unreliable part at that.
So think on this:

  • There are lies, damned lies and official statistics;
  • If you torture your statistics for long enough, they’ll tell you anything;
  • 89.3% of all statistics are made up on the spot.

And finally …
The best way to handle statistics is to follow the example of the late Sir John James Cowperthwaite, a British civil servant.

As Financial Secretary of Hong Kong from 1961 to 1971, Sir John was tasked with finding ways the government could boost the then colony’s economy.

He rightly decided that the best thing the government could do was nothing. So he refused to allow his bureaucrats to collect economic statistics in case it encouraged them to meddle in the economy.

The result? Hong Kong became one of the most powerful financial centres in the world.

Sir John is my favourite civil servant, by some considerable distance.

I’d trade him for a hundred Duffys.

Information gathering vs information processing

Posted on August 19th, 2013 by Bernie Russell

I’m looking for a starting point for some sessions on data-driven journalism – one that’s based on scepticism, rather than one that just launches us into the technology and the tools.

This is an interesting quote from the Data Journalism Handbook:

When information was scarce, most of our efforts were devoted to hunting and gathering. Now that information is abundant, processing is more important.

The key to the quote is the conflation of data and information. Yet it’s a truism of knowledge management that these aren’t the same thing. Information is data that have been processed.

So an abundance of information merely means that there’s more data-processing going on. This might be for a variety of reasons: easier tools; cheaper kit with more processing power; more people to do the processing …

In this context, of course, by more people, I mean more journalists.

So is the growth in data-driven journalism based merely on a (per)version of Parkinson’s law – the more people there are to process data, the more information there is?

And, if so, so what?

Here’s what: a key assumption behind data-driven journalism is that it has a value-free source as its basis: raw data.

But does it?

Maths questions

Posted on April 29th, 2013 by Bernie Russell

US journalism professor Mindy McAdams asked this question on Twitter yesterday (28/04/2013):

How is it okay that journalism students are able to graduate without ever taking a real statistics or mathematics class?

She was quoting from this post by Katie Zhu, who’s studying computer science and journalism at Northwestern University. Zhu has an equally good follow-up question:

Why is there not more room in the curriculum for computer science or statistics specialities?

… and a pointer:

the bigger issue is leveraging the existing resources (outside of the j-school) at universities to supplement journalism curriculums.

Any thoughts?

OJ3: log blog

Posted on January 28th, 2013 by Bernie Russell

We talked about the reflective logs last week. The aim was to get some sort of shape and structure, and to identify some headings we’d expect to see in any log.

Headings for the log
This is what we came up with in the lesson. It’s not an exhaustive list, of course, which means we might want to look again at the notion of ‘required elements’ mentioned in the marking cover sheet. (See below.) The log should include reflection on:

  • a clear development path if the site goes live;
  • design ideas covering accessibility, usability, typography, design theory;
  • interactivity and social media, user-generated content;
  • management issues and group work;
  • your own learning;
  • your audience and users;
  • quotes from appropriate literature and web sites, properly referenced and listed in a bibliography.

I’d aso expect to see some reflection on the wider context of online journalism; how it has developed in your own sector; and your thoughts on the sector itself.

It’s worth reminding ourselves of the university marking criteria. They map fairly well onto the reflective log. (At least, they seem to. We can discuss this tomorrow.)

Marking cover sheet
We might also have a look at a marking_sheet to see whether you’d find this helpful as a marking tool. It would deliver some consistency across the group, though you might find it too restrictive.If you agree, Joss and I will use this when we mark your logs.

The weekly blogs
We should also look at the weekly blogs and how they can feed your final submission. I’ll have a look at these in the class tomorrow. (29/1/2013)


Hand-in date
We can chat about the hand-in date in the class tomorrow.

LSJ social media survey

Posted on November 8th, 2012 by Bernie Russell

LSJ colleagues will know I’m doing a survey of how we all use social media in our teaching. I thought I’d start this survey via my blog.

Just us
This survey isn’t about how students use social media themselves. I know that in my production modules, for example, they mostly use Facebook for project management, scheduling meetings, etc.

And they use Twitter for finding sources and stories. I imagine this is true across the school.

It’s really about our using social media as a teaching aid.

What are we talking about here?
I’d think we need a fairly broad range. I’d want to know how we use:

And anything else you can think of that I’ve missed?

Owning up
And I’ll start off my admitting that, aside from blogging, I don’t use social media at all for teaching purposes. I don’t even tweet about my classes.

I already know I should be doing more, but I stuck to Blackboard this term.

This has obvious advantages for management and admin purposes (easy to contact students, set up groups, accept hand-ins, etc.).

But we all know its disadvantages: it’s not that intuitive, and while it’s fine for distributing basic documents (handbooks, etc.), it’s a bit clunky for things like sharing URLs, or quick notes.

Next term
I’m planning to set up Facebook groups for all my modules next term and next year, and to work more systematically with social bookmarking and archive services.

Any thoughts?
So … what’s everyone else doing, or planning to do?