Thursday, September 17, 2009

Draft manifesto for e-journalism

Here it is, with some trepidation, a draft manifesto for e-journalism, 17 points, just like the other internet manifesto for journalism.  It contains controversial sections, in particular 9-12. There's quite a lot of agreement with the original internet manifesto - we just think if you're doing a manifesto it needs to set out things that can be done. It's now starting to dawn on the world at large that there is a desperate need to sort out the economics of journalism on the web and deal with the twin issues represented currently by Google and the BBC...

1/ News production always costs someone. Good quality news costs the most.

2/ The internet enhances the ability to attribute and link to sources. Linking may not always be feasible but should be part of news writing.

3/ Other web users should respect news-gatherers and link to original reports where possible.

4/ A substantial proportion of users will be educated to a high level and will have, at the least, basic knowledge of probability and statistics. Journalists should show respect for the numeracy of their on-line readers.

5/ The traditional distinction between news and comment must be retained.

6/ Traditional news media have decades of experience of editing, presenting and sifting news that can be brought to the new world.

7/ Human ability to create interesting and readable packages of news and other journalism will not be exceeded by AI devices in the foreseeable future.

8/ Public scrutiny and ability to comment and challenge news reporting enhances news quality.

9/ State or tax-financed news sites should not attempt to be comprehensive and should only contain material directly gathered and produced by the organisation in question.

10/ News and pictures collected by state or tax financed news organisations should be made available to other news organisations with free licence, possibly on a geographical basis.

11/ News organisations reproducing news licensed by state or tax-financed organisations should always identify the source.

12/ News aggregation organisations should be subject to specific monitoring by regulatory authorities for monopolistic power.

13/ Those who provide news stories to journalists are entitled to have embargo times respected. Embargoes continue to be useful devices to allow journalists time to evaluate and balance stories and continued use should be encouraged.

14/  Providers of news, ie press officers and PR organisations, need to look beyond the traditional media outlets, making their source material available to all in a timely and accessible fashion.

15/ The web massively enhances the competition to be first with the news. It should also enhance the competition to be different about the news, both in presentation and content.

16/ The nature of breaking news may lead to reports being up-dated constantly. Changes should be acknowledged so far as possible, and new formats explored, but live reporting should not be hampered by efforts to impose complex technological protocols.

17/ Copyright is essential and should be enforced and enforceable. Law-makers may need, however, to reflect that attribution (and linking) is a defence against plagiarism.

Ideas considered and rejected:
a) RSS feeds should only contain original writing.
b) Journalists should withdraw cooperation from news aggregators that carry advertising.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Our own manifesto for journalism

So disappointed (link to last posting on the subject) by the Internet Manifesto for Journalism that we've started on our own. It's a great deal harder-hitting and suggests some simple ways in which the news business could be kept viable and vibrant in the 21st century.

It's based on more than ten years of experience of running an e-journalism business. We've got 12 points so far and cannot exceed 17.

Add your thoughts here before it's completed....

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The biz!

Just a reminder of what our main business is. The reports on these pages are just a fraction of what we produce. We can provide a specialist news service for your health or medical site. If your site is very specialist, we'll search out the stories that the large news organisations may not bother with.

Long-standing clients include and

All our reports are written to house style by our team of experienced journalists and writers. That includes referencing and good sourcing of stories. We don't recycle press releases or copy other people's work. Our range is global although we are based in the UK and are well-placed to provide feeds that include UK-oriented news.

Yes, a specialist service costs - but we can be very competitive.

On this site we provide a limited selection of general interest news.

Interested? Drop an email to newsroom @ .

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A manifesto for journalism?

A declaration called the Internet Manifesto for Journalism has attracted a lot of interest, partly because, I suspect, of the crisis facing the traditional news business.

It's disappointing - and I can claim a bit of authority on this, as Englemed was one of the pioneers of web-based journalism for well over a decade.

It's primarily, it seems to me, aimed at the traditional media. It doesn't really set out what journalism can and should do on the web. Nor does it offer many clues as to how it will pay for itself.

The manifesto challenges what it calls the "gatekeeper" model of news ie that newspapers and broadcasters select news and that's what the public gets. That's true but one problem with that old model was that the media followed itself round in packs. However it you want to find out about allergy, for instance, you won't get much a range of material if you use Google news. You will get a thousand variations on the same current story. So I do think the micro-sites we are developing - with a selection of news going back over a period (here's allergy) have a role. Time will tell.

The manifesto does not distinguish between news and comment. Normally that's lesson one in journalism school but never mind. Comment and discussion is predominantly going to be free and unpaid in the new world. A very small number of bloggers make a living - but their numbers are nothing compared with the paid columnists in newspapers and pundits on broadcast media. The balance will change - but no significantly.

News, in contrast, is not free to produce and can be very expensive. The best news reporting is usually the most expensive to do. State funding (including license fees), as we've commented before, can pay for good journalism but can also undermine independent journalism in this new economy. The manifesto makes no comment, so far as I can see (some of the language is a little dense) on the ethics of state-funded news reporting.

In my view we're in a phony war at the moment. We enjoy diversity of news provision because the printed media - newspapers - still exist. There will continue to be money around, advertising money, to pay for something. Advertising investment will probably grow but advertisers will increasingly use technology to target users rather than publications. It may be that Google will have to pay directly for diversity by contracting with the main news agencies as well as the BBC, ultimately cutting out the middle person, the newspapers and websites that simply recycle agency copy.

Points 15 and 16 of the manifesto discuss quality, 7 and 8 I think refer to sourcing. Point 16 is dead right:
"The Internet debunks homogenous bulk goods. Only those who are outstanding, credible and exceptional will gain a steady following in the long run." It could have said more, in particular about sourcing. A manifesto could say that news reports should acknowledge, report and link to sources, where possible. With one or two exceptions, many print-to-web sites do very little of this. There isn't the recognition that you can do more with the traditional "reverse triangle" of news reporting. This states that you put catch headlines and summaries at the top of a story and then progressively flesh it out. On the web many readers will simply flick through headlines and summaries - just as newspaper readers do. Others will want to know more - and too often that extra is not provided (a partial exception is the BBC). Bloggers are encouraged to put in links - traditional journalists are not. If you have read this far, there are several links throughout this piece you can follow!

Jon Hunt

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Struck off nurse in line for award

whistleblower nurseA nurse struck off the register for whistleblowing is in line for a major professional award, it was announced today.

Margaret Haywood was struck off by the Nursing and Midwifery Council for helping the BBC Panorama film on her ward - exposing poor standards of care.

Her removal has been challenged by the Royal College of Nursing and now she has been short-listed
by the Nursing Standard for its Patient's Choice award.

The winner of the award is decided by a public vote.

Ms Haywood was a nurse at the Royal Sussex Hospital in Brighton and she was nominated by a Sussex woman.

The nominator, "Janet", said: "Mrs Haywood felt so strongly about the standards of care she was witnessing to put her job on the line…Maybe her decision to approach Panorama was questionable, but no one can deny that it was probably the most effective way to instigate change, which would immediately benefit patients.

"In nominating Mrs Haywood, I would like to help send the message to the NMC that they are out of touch with the wishes of the public they deem to protect."

In removing Mrs Haywood's registration the NMC conceded that conditions on the ward were "dreadful" but said she had jeopardised patient privacy.

Five have been chosen from more than 250 nominations, by an expert panel of judges including Nursing Standard Editor- in-Chief Jean Gray.

Ms Gray said: "Nursing Standard is delighted to give patients and their loved ones the opportunity to nominate the nurse who they believe is the best in the country.

"Reading the testimonies has been a moving experience, demonstrating the real difference that nurses are making every day in their patients' lives. Now it's over to members of the public to choose our ultimate winner."

At a ceremony held at The Dorchester Hotel in London on November 9, the winning nurse will be named and awarded 1,000 UK pounds prize money.

Other finalists include Helena Corcoran, a health visitor based at the Maghull Health Centre in Merseyside, who is nominated for her crucial support during bereavement.

Margo Duffy, a community paediatric nurse at Warren Children's Centre, in Lisburn, Antrim, was put forward by two mothers for her practicality and sense of humour.

Kate Hnurse of the year nomineeendy, a community psychiatric nurse at Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership in Bristol, was chosen for her compassion towards the family of a dementia patient.

And Acosia Opoku, a community mental health nurse at Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust, was nominated as "a rare gem of a nurse".

Votes can be made over the phone, by text, or on the award's website . Voting closes on October 28.

Englemed's nursing news feeds are carried by and

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Criticising Auntie

Criticising the BBC is rather like criticising the Queen or the National Health Service. The British don't like doing it.

Sadly there is a problem - and at last the unthinkable is being said. In the case of the NHS the British chose to marginalise privately run health services and have the state run the service.

You can also argue they made similar choices over radio and television when the BBC was established. Undoubtedly few people have attempted to think through the implications of the BBC using the licence fee - that is levied with the force of law on almost every British household - to create a web presence.

Small operators like Englemed have known about this for a long time. When the BBC started putting news on-line, the market for news collapsed. Now the mainstream British media is waking up as local newspaper after local newspaper folds. And national newspapers are struggling - and there's one simple reason. There is a new generation that will not pay for news and expects everyone to provide it for free.

Although the opposition is inevitably led by the Murdoch family, who have always had a strong anti-BBC viewpoint, others, who might be expected to be sympathetic are joining in. This blog from Peter Preston of the Guardian group says it all.

Where has this left Englemed? Our revenue-earning business now is predominantly providing specialist services for medical and nursing websites. When the business was originally established we thought our own web-site would become like a health magazine. Then other websites came to us and asked for our services - so we parked that idea. The reality is that now we do not provide services to any consumer-oriented website.

So, as discussed previously on this blog, we decided to develop this site again.

For there is one aspect of the BBC news services - and other British media - that is little appreciated. That is that many of their reports come from the main press agencies. This affects the choice of news and the content. It also means that much of the BBC on-line content is not really originated by its own journalists but is bought in from a handful of agencies.

We've always thought there was room for alternatives. Mostly we make our own choice of news from primary sources. We also think an increasingly well-educated readership will want to see news on different levels. Yes, they want headlines and straightforward language to tell them what a story's about. But they may also want to read deeper - study the facts and statistics and check original sources. Even down-page stories don't have to be constrained by the quantity of newsprint or time allotted for broadcasting.

We'd like to do more and over the years have explored different kinds of newsgathering. Unlike other small journalistic ventures we've not veered off into PR or inhouse magazines. We've stayed in the news business. But like most organisations must operate within the funds available. We've developed partnerships with retailers based on an ethical advertising policy. Now we must encourage our visitors to support this and visit our partners!