Sarah Booker

19/02/2015

Ten key lessons from inspiring and terrifying Fleet Street Fox

Fleet Street Fox at Journalist Works

Fleet Street Fox at Journalist Works

I always enjoy a talk from Fleet Street Fox aka Susie Boniface.

When I first came along to Journalist Works to hear her speak I was packing for my honeymoon, but was such a fan of her blog I had to hear what she said.

It inspired me to sell myself a better for online journalism sessions.

Rather than “I’ve been on the internet since 1995″, I led with a list of my exciting deeds.

Unlike Fleet Street Fox I have never driven a nuclear submarine but I covered Sir John Mills’ funeral and interviewed Rolf Harris (that’s a different blog post).

She always starts off with the hard truths of journalism.

People do think you’re going to turn every conversation you’ve ever had into a news story.

People will stop trusting you as soon as you say what you do for a living.

People will treat you like scum.

You will see and hear horrific things.

But it also is such great fun.

Tweeting and Instagramming Fleet Street Fox's visit to Brighton Journalist Works.

Me (right) Instagramming Fleet Street Fox for Journalist Works, Brighton. Picture by student William Axtell

Here are a ten key lessons for journalists from her talk today (February 19):

  1. Want to work online? You’ll have a career in 20 years
  2. Your objectivity is not enough, it is the reader and source who must believe your ethical objectivity
  3. What you need is a level of enthusiasm bordering on mental illness
  4. Scotch eggs are a complete meal in a ball when you’re waiting on a doorstep
  5. You are not the story. Write for readers not for you
  6. Reporters do not say what they think. If you think someone is a scumbag you can’t tell them
  7. Understanding your analytics means knowing when people are reading. Target your tweets when your readers are online
  8. You get a knee-jerk reaction on Twitter from the headline alone. Facebook readers tend to read the article before sharing and commenting.
  9. Writing online is like writing for the regional press. Readers will tell you when you’ve messed up very quickly
  10. Don’t be a twat

01/01/2015

Drone photographer Eddie Mitchell right to stand his ground

Filed under: journalism,Law — Sarah Booker Lewis @ 2:08 pm
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Photographer Eddie Mitchell made news headlines after being arrested for breach of the peace while filming a fire for the BBC.

His arrest by Surrey Police is mind boggling as it goes against ACPO guidelines.

Apparently people in the area had complained about him flying his drone over a mobile home fire, but this may not be true.

Press coverage of tragedies may annoy people but it is not against the law.

Some online commenters have said he should have stopped when asked, but journalists will not leave incidents when they know they are doing nothing wrong or illegal, just reporting what is happening.

Police guidelines are to assist the press but some officers are overzealous and unfamiliar with good practice.

There are also comments from people saying he should not have filmed the burning mobile home as it was in bad taste.

This is what journalists do, show what is happening both good and bad.

Undoubtedly the same complainers would moan if there weren’t any pictures as people always want to see and read more bad news even if they say otherwise.

Police officers need reminding they should not obstruct journalists and photographers going about their business.

These situations happen too often.

Eddie is well-known across Sussex and beyond to journalists and professionals in the emergency services as an excellent photographer.

He is often the first journalist at the scene of fires and accidents, day or night.

Now his big selling point is his skill as a camera drone pilot.

His photographs and video of the Eastbourne Pier fire captured the tragedy better than any land-based snapper.

Early in 2014 he promoted his business with a series of images over Brighton.

17/11/2014

Cutting through social noise at Buzzfeed

Filed under: journalism,Web journalism — Sarah Booker Lewis @ 8:39 pm
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Buzzfeed finds the news people want to share by keeping its fingers on the social media pulse.

One of the key places its journalists find news is on Tumblr, UK news editor Richard James told students at Brighton Journalist Works

“Tumblr interesting because there is so much stuff,” he said.

“It has quite a young demographic but it is miles ahead of everyone, breaking news and stories.”

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Buzzfeed has a young audience because it is writing about what interests them in an informative and shareable way.

As Richard pointed out, traditional media does not know how to deal with or categorise social media stars.

He said: “The Sam Pepper saga was a story the mainstream press would not know what to deal with.

“He’s a YouTube star, so knowing what was being discussed meant we could reach out to people.

“There is huge gap in the market for someone like us as the mainstream press don’t appreciate the fame of these people.”

Buzzfeed also informs with what Richard described as explainer pieces to give people an introduction and wider understand of a story.

These often end up trending on Facebook or Twitter as they share well.

Richard said: “We want to be one stop shop for people wanting to find out more about Hong Kong protests.

“We try to do something different rather than blocks of text for example using an image of a poppy for every soldier killed in the First World War or Following Russian soldiers on Instagram in Ukraine. You can tell a story in a thousand different ways.”

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The amount of stories Buzzfeed is covering is growing and reporters are recruited every as the site is building a good reputation for news.

Richard said: “Our reporters are on the ground around the world from Liberia, Syria and Ukraine, this not what people assume Buzzfeed is doing.

“We are getting great exclusives and hard hitting pieces.

“It is a case of looking at what people are talking about, but not in the mainstream press, we see what people are talking about on Facebook.

“Reporters are spending the time properly investigating stuff.

“There is so much noise on social media I am pleased and proud at how we look at what is trending and then give you the full back story as sometimes online the wider context gets lost.”

His advice to Journalist Works students is to be all over social media, watching and monitoring the trending subjects.

It is the best way to find news and the buzz of what is going on in the world.

04/07/2014

My own Rolf Harris experience

Filed under: journalism — Sarah Booker Lewis @ 1:04 pm
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Back in 1993 I interviewed Rolf Harris at the Glastonbury festival.

He had just performed a storming set on the Pyramid stage and signed autographs for fans at the side gate.

I felt lucky to have the opportunity to interview one of my childhood heroes.

Rolf answered my questions, telling me how much he enjoyed the experience.

Afterwards I told friends how weird it felt to have him staring at my chest the entire time.

It was a hot summer day and I wore a vest with a crochet top over it.

“Nice shirt,” he said at the end of the interview.

He’d obviously enjoyed looking at my 22-year-old boobs.

I felt disappointed but thought he’s a man, that’s how some men are.

Since his conviction other journalists have told how he touched them inappropriately.

Now I feel fortunate for nothing more than a look and sleazy comment.

Picture above from Glastonbury 2010 by DG Jones licensed by Creative Commons on Flickr.

Bravo to Oxford Mail tackling “right to be forgotten” ruling

I admire Oxford Mail editor Simon O’Neill’s stand against Google removing a story about a theft.

By writing about the move he keeps the story alive.

It is a prime example of the Streisand effect. You want it to go away but the noise gets louder.

During my eight years as a web editor with the Worthing Herald series and The Argus I lost count of the number of times people asked me to remove stories about convictions.

Invariably news stories came up on search engines causing problems for the individual.

Usually the person had kept quiet about the conviction and ended up losing a job, occasionally it caused problems with their family and friends.

This was always the newspapers’ fault for publishing, not theirs for committing a crime.

When the European Court of Justice ruled Google (PDF) should remove articles from search engines at user request I wondered what publishers would do to counteract it.

The message to people who want to hide their misdeeds is to be honest with the people you know.

Admit to your crime, however minor, and get on with what life throws at you.

Better still, keep within the law.

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12/06/2014

Student journalists scoop Brighton traveller stand-off

Last night (June 11-12) I burnt the midnight oil with three Journalist Works students who went into a hostile situation for a breaking news story.

Travellers evicted from Wild Park in Lewes Road, Brighton, had moved onto a community playing field in at he suburb of Patcham.

Angry neighbours blocked the field with a car and a four-hour stand off with travellers began.

Walking into a hostile situation takes gumption but Georgina Townshend, Lisa Meakin and Federica Bedendo did just that.

The story they put together had strong quotes from both sides.

People in Patcham and across Brighton and Hove are frustrated at repeated incursions on public parks and playing fields.

Equally travellers need to park up for the night and lack transit camps.

Their article gave a voice to both sides of the argument.

As a nursing mum I’m often up at unearthly hours so could advise on a copy edit to tighten up the story and keep it in Argus style.

The stand off finished at 10.30pm and the first draft was completed at 1.30am with pictures.

It was an excellent piece of work and read for The Argus website first thing in the morning.

27/05/2014

Reasons why no journalist should dismiss social media

Filed under: Social media,Storify — Sarah Booker Lewis @ 10:31 am
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Social media image by Jason Howie, licence by Creative Commons

Social media image by Jason Howie, licence by Creative Commons

Years ago colleagues used to say I was wasting my time joining discussions in the online forums for towns and villages in our patch.

Even when I tracked down someone who was evacuated from a building next to Buncefield Oil Depo as it exploded, they were still sceptical.

Time and technology move on. When I created My Space then Facebook and Twitter accounts for the Worthing Herald colleagues dismissed them as pointless.

I introduced Twitter in 2008. By the time I left the Herald in 2011 everyone in the newsroom asked my advice as they set up their own accounts.

Both Twitter and Facebook have proved useful tools for news gathering as well as distribution.

Facebook community pages and groups help reporters keep up with people’s concerns from cashpoint card cloning to inconsiderate parking and potential child abductions.

Twitter is a great way to keep track of politicians, community groups, local government and events.

Even though the internet isn’t a new thing and social media is an established tool.

Reporters of all ages and experience embrace or resist.

When I asked journalists how they would encourage resisters, there was an assumption the nay sayers were old.

I have taught online journalism skills to NCTJ students in 2009 and in every group I’ve had at least one person say, “I’m not interested in this”, “I don’t want to do online journalism”.

One student who didn’t turn up to my first class in 2009, but ended up working with later summed up the situation very well when I spoke with him at an event in 2013.

“You were the first person I knew talking about Twitter and bit.ly.

“You are right, we need to know this stuff, it’s essential for journalists.”

Below is a link to a Storify explaining why journalists should use social media.

28/09/2011

Following Hacks/Hackers London

Filed under: journalism,Storify — Sarah Booker Lewis @ 8:15 pm
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As I couldn’t make it tonight I created a Storify from Hacks/Hackers London.

Brilliant #HHLdn opening from @timesjoanna about why the event helps newsroom journalists get digital training they might not get elsewhere
currybet
September 28, 2011
Impressed that ten people in #HHLdn just put their hands up to say they were online in 1993
currybet
September 28, 2011
Here is the original article about Scientology that Wendy M. Grossman is talking about at #HHLdn *cough* with link http://t.co/GgbLWUaw
currybet
September 28, 2011
At #HHLdn, @wendyg is talking about “astroturfing” – 1995 style – http://t.co/1uJFZLh5
currybet
September 28, 2011
Great to hear a story about a journalist trying to get to grips with computers, anonymity & the interwebs in the early 90s #HHLdn – @wendyg
currybet
September 28, 2011
Fabulous trip down memory lane at the hacks/ hackers event. Early days of internet hacking – and I was there :-)
joannejacobs
September 28, 2011
Chris Sumner starts by saying that Maltego is great if you’re in to stalking :-) #hacks/hackers
joannejacobs
September 28, 2011
At #HHLdn @TheSuggmeister is showing Maltego – http://t.co/AzSySuK7 – a way of visualising Twitter networks
currybet
September 28, 2011
Another great #HHLdn phrase from @TheSuggmeister – “I’m willing to share the code for free”
currybet
September 28, 2011
At #HHLdn, @TheSuggmeister is suggesting that it has become a lot harder to search the archives of Twitter. He also just said Perl & STDOUT
currybet
September 28, 2011
Also pitched at #HHLdn, some great looking courses from the centre for investigative journalism – http://t.co/DbGThENi
currybet
September 28, 2011

26/09/2011

links for 2011-09-26

Filed under: Links — Sarah Booker Lewis @ 4:10 pm

11/09/2011

Remembering 9/11

Filed under: journalism — Sarah Booker Lewis @ 11:00 am
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It is one of those days when you remember where you were. I was sitting at my desk at the Buckinghamshire Advertiser office in Chalfont St Peter. We had just put the latest edition to bed, and were planning the next one, when the editor walked out of his office. I’ll never forget his words:

My wife’s just phoned and said a plane has crashed into one of the World Trade Centre buildings.

It was such a different time. We had no television, no radio and just a dial-up internet connection on one machine in the office. It was jealously guarded by the deputy editor, but he fired it up.

When the editor came out of his office a few minutes later and told us his wife had called to say another plane had flown into the second tower. we knew it was an attack. I grabbed the phone and called Heathrow and kept hitting redial as the deputy editor asked for someone to call. “Already on it,” I said.

Once we established there was no immediate local link we knew we didn’t have to ‘hold the front page’. The one radio we had didn’t work without earphones, so I listened as we worked on. Then the horror hit.

I’ll never forget the terror in the voice of the correspondent, I think we were listening to Radio 4, as they started to describe the first tower falling. I relayed her words and I remember seeing the shocked looks on my colleagues faces. A few minutes later the editor returned, we hadn’t noticed he’d gone. He had a small TV and indoor aerial.

We gathered around the TV when it was set up and saw the second tower go. Again I’ll never forget the editor’s words:

We have just watched thousands of people die, and we’re going to know some of them.

We did.

Six months later I went to Oli Bennett‘s memorial service. I had interviewed his mother Joy Bennett before it and a few times afterwards. She was against the Iraq war and featured in Roger Graef’s film September Mourning.

It was a moving memorial. One of Oli’s colleagues spoke about the many friends he had lost that day, his voice breaking with the emotion.

I don’t think they’ve found any trace of Oli. The Bennetts buried an urn of ash from Ground Zero in the churchyard at Penn Street, near their home. Even though I didn’t know Oli, I always think of him and particularly the loving parents he left behind every September 11 and whenever I hear the ELO song Mr Blue Sky which was played at his memorial.

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