What problems did you encounter producing the main assignments and how did you solve them?
The main problem for me has been coming up with ideas. Since I’m not from Leeds or the UK, I felt a bit lost living in a new country and being expected to find local stories here. Karls lecture on proper use of sources really helped with that, since he included a list of tips on how to find sources. That list included Leeds City Council News, where I actually found the information about the Small Business Saturday tour coming to Leeds – which I later wrote my first article about.
With my second article, the curation piece, the problem was instead finding primary sources. Initially I wanted to write about a different topic, but after unsuccessfully trying to get sources for it for a week I had to give up. I then switched topic, and used another technique Karl had showed us: using social media to find sources. My main primary source for that article was a woman I found on Twitter, who I contacted via private message to ask if she wanted to do an interview with me.
What new skills did you acquire?
I have learnt more about adapting my writing for the web. Before this module I did not really reflect on the differences between writing for the web and for print, but figured it would more or less be the same. I now have a deeper understanding of the importance of knowing your audience, and adjusting to the way they read and use different types of media. I have also learnt how to work with curation and how to make news stories on instagram, which I had never done before.
How has the feedback you’ve had in workshops changed your approach to the main assignments you’re producing?
It has mainly changed my approach to the topics I chose to write about. From wanting to write about something student-related and “safe”, Karl convinced me to write about something more newsworthy which would actually challenge me to step out of my comfort zone.
How well do you feel you’ve managed your time over the last nine weeks?
I feel like I’ve managed my time well. I have attended almost all of the workshops, and when I missed some I made sure to follow the instructions online and complete the tasks before the next week. That way I made sure that I was always up to speed and wouldn’t fall behind in the workshops.
If you could go back to week one and give yourself some advice to help you out with the module, what would you tell yourself?
I would tell myself to relax and not be so stressed out. Since English isn’t my first language, I was feeling very nervous about writing and producing articles in English – and especially about doing interviews and talk to people. But after going to the workshops and doing the assignments, I feel a lot more confident. So I would tell myself to pay attention to the lectures, and to trust myself.
Why is curation useful in the age of digital journalism?
In our digital age, there is a never ending flow of content on the internet and social media. It is too much to take in and process for one person, and that is why we need journalists to do it. To decide what is important, and to make sure we get a balanced and accurate view of the situation. Curation is also a useful tool for journalists to introduce new perspectives and voices in articles.
How do you feel you are progressing with the development of your first articles? What problems have you encountered and solved so far?
I am more or less finished with the first two assignments, and will start working on the third one soon. So I feel like I am progressing quite good. One problem that I encountered was that I didn’t get any replies from my preferred primary sources for one of the articles, so I ended up switching subjects entirely and writing about something else. Other than that I haven’t really had any problems;
Have the workshop tasks helped you to develop the portfolio articles? How?
Yes, they have definitely helped. Mainly to learn the practical aspects, like how to put tweets in WordPress posts and how to use photoshop to create pictures for the instagram slides. These are all things I didn’t knew before.
The main difference between primary and secondary sources is how you collect it. Primary sources is material you gather yourself, for example quotes from interviews that you conducted in person or quotes you have gotten directly via social media or email. Secondary sources on the other hand is something you have not gathered yourself, for example quotes from other articles, background information from social media or reports.
Primary sources are important because they are the essence of journalism. Without primary sources, no one would ever write something new but only copy each other. When you use primary sources in your articles, you introduce new points of view to the reader. Also, primary sources is more reliable than secondary sources. When using secondary sources, it is harder to check the facts and verify the information, and the risk of spreading false information is higher.
The best practice is to use a mix of both primary and secondary sources, but to try and keep secondary sources to a minimum. You should mostly use them as background information, and always make sure to get your own quotes and check the information before publishing.
The main difference I’ve noticed between printed content and online content is that online articles are so much shorter. This actually surprised me. I always figured that you would use the same article you had for print and just adapt it to online, for example by adding multimedia content and more cross headings to break up the text. Something else that surprised me is that you treat the language differently as well; when writing for online you use shorter sentences and simpler words. However it does make sense when I think about it, since people are more easily distracted when reading online.
Web users simply scan content, more than actually read it. Instead of reading the page from top to bottom, they use it as they use social media: scroll quickly and look for something to catch their interest. That is why we need to adapt our content to online: we need to add pictures, break up paragraphs and try to add as many elements as possible that will catch the readers interest while scanning and make them stay and read.
It does leave me with a question: if more and more people get their news from online sources, and journalists adapting their writing to online publishing – will the “traditional” way of writing completely cease to exist?
I did not have any major difficulties setting up my site. Probably because I have worked both with WordPress and other blog sites before, so I am used to it. However I found it tricky to add my introduction page to the navigation bar at first, but with a bit of googling and help from Karls handy guide I managed to solve it. Other than that I think that WordPress is fairly easy to work with once you have gotten used to it, it is clearly structured and logically organised.
Regarding the appearance of my site, I will admit it could be better. It would be more fun if I would add a picture for example, but after working at a few bigger newspapers and getting a lot of less friendly emails I am very careful about what i post online. I realised how easy it is for people to track you down and therefore I don’t want to post any pictures or too personal information. So my site is pretty anonymous, but since that is what I want I am happy with it. To improve it I have changed the theme, the colour of the background and the font.
My view of the journalism industry has been confirmed over the last week. I knew that printed newspapers are dying and that digital is growing, and I also knew that niched magazines and sites are growing since the readers are becoming more fragmented. However, since I’m mostly familiar with the Swedish journalism industry, it was still somewhat of an eyeopener that the situation is so similar in the different countries. For example: the fact that The MailOnline is the most popular website in the world. That was both surprising to me, as I didn’t expect it to be THAT big, but at the same time I knew that Swedish tabloids are doing very well online. So that was both the most surprising information I learned this week, but at the same time it confirmed what I already knew.
In the next 10 weeks I look forward to the lectures and workshops about curation, since it’s a concept I’m not familiar with. But most importantly I’m looking forward to the assignments and actually writing the articles. Both because that’s what I enjoy doing the most, and also because I’m eager to practice and learn how to do it well in English.