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Online journalism

  • 24.com steps into the SAPA void, launches news agency

    24.com, the digital arm of Media 24, has announced the launch of its own news agency. The new service, which is set to launch in April, will be called News24Wire. And if the press release marking the announcement is to be believed, its aim is to fill the void left by the South African Press Agency (SAPA), which closed down in early February. The agency will comprise a 16-strong, national reporting team being built by veteran editor and News24 editor-in-chief Andrew Trench. Leading the team however will be Sapa’s news editor Fienie Grobler. While News24Wire's goals are certainly lofty,...

  • Drones, maps and social networks: how SA’s media has used tech to report on the #CapeFire

    The fire sweeping across Cape Town's Southern peninsula has dominated South African headlines for three days now. A number of factors, including the scale of the blaze and limited access to the areas affected by it, have seen the country's media houses bring together a number of technologies and tools in their reporting efforts. While none of the technologies used are alien to South African media, the way they're being used suggests that newsrooms are reaching a turning point. Whereas before these tools might have been viewed as novelties to be used just for the sake of it, in...

  • How EWN used data journalism to give context to Soweto attacks

    Xenophobic attacks broke out in Soweto last week spreading to other areas around Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and Khayelitsha in the Western Cape. News organisations were quick to report on the killings as tension was still brewing between local and foreign business owners. But beyond the headlines and live crossings, it was easy to think the violence was isolated to a few hot spots. Context and the sheer geography of the attacks were hard to grasp, even if you read all you could find about the violence. A small in-house team at Primedia’s EWN saw the opportunity to explain what was unfolding across South Africa...

  • Vice Media lands $500-million in investments: what’s it doing right?

    Vice, the once free indie punk mag from Montreal, Canada is today valued at more than US$2.5-billion. While everyone's looking at what the young tech company BuzzFeed is doing right with its massive 40-million monthly users and US$50-million investment, Vice Media is cropping up over 150-million users and just got a fresh injection of US$500-million. Silicon Valley based Technology Crossover Ventures recently pumped in US$250-million (and is also a big backer of Netflix and Facebook) while the other half of the Vice's new investment pie comes from the massive US television group A&E Networks. According to The New York Times, Vice...

  • 5 compelling arguments for using R in data journalism

    Data journalists generally use Microsoft Excel for analysing data. Why? Well when you run Windows on your machine, Word will most likely be your text editor and Excel is just there bundled along with it in Microsoft Office. You don't have to install anything; and it works for making a top-ten, calculating an average or percentages or making a (pivot) table out of your variables. For deeper statistical analysis, SPSS (Statistical Package Social Sciences) is popular, especially when working at universities who have a license for use of the package. There are 5 good reasons for data journalists to...

  • Data journalism is changing the way we report elections: here’s how

    Whenever there's an election in any democratic country, its -- and sometimes the world's media -- goes tends to be put on full alert. That said, traditional reporting is generally limited to the political issues in the campaign and to winners and losers. Data journalism tools open a new perspective, offering the possibility for in-depth reporting and analysis. As renowned professor of journalism Stephen Doig notes, data journalism is something like “social science done on deadline”. As is the case with social sciences, the tools of online journalism are generally freely available online and aren't so difficult to use. While...

  • What a Californian earthquake can teach us about the future of journalism

    Writing a one column news story using the five Ws and one H -- Who, What, Where, When, Why and How -- is pretty routine for most journalists. These news stories are not long and are written using a fixed template. You could use this template again; just replace the data for a new story. Can you teach this trick to a computer? Writing by the computer is a matter of using a good algorithm; using certain words in sentences in the paragraph order of the news article. However you have add the data yourself, unless these data come...

  • Untangling the future of PR: Q&A with Press Friendly founder Joel Andren

    Press Friendly is the startup du jour that is being heralded by both PR Flacks and Journos as the future of PR. Dodging the "does PR have a future/what is the future of PR" debate for a second, this back to basics approach of "who, what, when, where and why" approach might just do more than ruffle a few feathers. It might just find and launch the next big thing. I sat down with Co-Founder and CEO, Joel Andren, and grilled him for a bit about the service that aims to "...empower entrepreneurs to build and manage their...

  • Online news outlets, the Twitter mob and Justine Sacco: who’s the real villain?

    When Justine Sacco boarded an international flight in Heathrow this past weekend, she was a relative nobody. By the time she landed in Cape Town, South Africa, 11 hours later she was the internet's number one villain. By now, you most likely know what happened. Just prior to boarding her flight, Sacco sent out a tweet saying: "Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” It was obviously ill-advised and the uproar it caused ended up costing Sacco, a PR executive at US-based media giant IAC, her job. But is she really the villain here? After...

  • The 5 minute guide to scraping data from PDFs

    Every data journalist knows the feeling: you're working on a massive project, you've finally found the data... but it is in PDF format. Last month I had a crime reporter from Cape Town in one of my data journalism training sessions, who had managed to get around 60 PDF pages worth of stats out the relevant authorities. She explored and analyzed them by hand, which took days. That set me thinking. The problem can't be all that uncommon and there must be a good few data journalists out there who could use a quick guide to scraping spreadsheets from...

  • Meet Crowdynews: the social media news wire every journo should use

    Twitter frequently works as a kind of alarm bell for journalists. Many reporters, for example, follow hashtags like #disaster or #breaking, and receive tweets about an earthquake, a plane crash or riots in a certain city. These tweets mean it can be easier for them to be on a story as it breaks. Additionally, most newspapers and media outlets are already crowdsourcing, that is, using content from the public. That for example is what's happening when they ask the public to submit photographs or story ideas. The Guardian even has an app for that: the Guardian eyewitness app, currently available...

  • Honey badgers, empty categories and Gareth Cliff’s tweets: Bookmarks 2013

    Digital matters. And even in a country like South Africa, where people in the advertising industries have been a bit slower to adopt to new trends, it's becoming increasingly difficult to imagine any campaign that doesn't have a digital component. It makes sense too. In a world where Google makes more money than all US magazines combined, failing to be on a digital platform means you're pretty much signing your own death warrant. In South Africa meanwhile, digital is drawing an increasingly large slice of the advertising pie, especially as newspaper and magazine circulations fall. One other thing that...

  • Paywalls, aggregation and the ‘third metric': Memeburn interviews Arianna Huffington

    If you know anything about online publishing, chances are you know about The Huffington Post. The online news aggregator and blog, after all, overtook the New York Times in terms of unique visits in mid 2011 and in 2012 it became the first commercially run US digital media enterprise to win a Pulitzer Prize. Memeburn recently got the chance to sit down with the site's eponymous founder Arianna Huffington. The daughter of a Greek journalist and management consultant, Huffington has been in the public eye since the early 1990s when her then husband the Michael Huffington made an unsuccessful...

  • Giving it away for free: advertising, content and the paywall debate [T4A]

    Mail & Guardian editor-in-chief Chris Roper is standing in front of a graph predicting newspaper circulation figures -- and it’s not good. You may be used to the hockey-stick shaped growth curves of tech darlings like Pinterest and Instagram, but the chart forecasting the future of information provided in newsprint and ink is gradually headed towards zero. The editor of one of South Africa’s most prominent investigative titles glances at the graph behind him and summarises the prospects of newspapers bluntly: “Generally, you’re screwed.” With more and more readers ditching paper for pixels, how to make money from a medium...

  • 5 ways tech is changing the face of journalism (but not the internal organs)

    From tablets to Twitter and smartphones to social media, the way we produce and consume news will never be the same. As with almost part of our lives, technology has interrupted and disrupted the way we used to do things, and journalism is no exception. When the hairs on our head are a little greyer we will look back at this period and hold it alongside that of the time of the printing press, when a revolution took place. And even though the face of journalism is being radically altered, the internal organs, the principles that guide the production...