I’ve been away this week doing family stuff, and joining in the ceremonial half term madness of touring round relatives that will define my life for the next 14 years. Shots like this make it worthwhile though.
Also, slowly realising that my daughter’s hair is just too damn blonde to ever get a really well exposed shot that doesn’t look blown out in daylight. Where did she get that from?
Another great write up of last week’s BFONG experiment, this time by the incomparable Adam Westbrook. Glad I read it, because he picked up on something I missed in Judith’s post – the idea of extending Empty Shops/journalism collaborations beyond hyperlocal experiments, and working with targetted communities instead. Can’t believe I didn’t make that association before (I’ve been busy, that’s my excuse) but it’s brilliant – and gives me a great idea for something else in the Shoreham area…
I don’t quite know why it’s taken me so long to become a regular reader of duckrabbit’s blog, because it’s a wonderful place to hang out. Everything from wonderful photo-documentaries to this. A picture of a dog in a bun. Barking.
It takes, you know, quite a pair to publish the most drastic cuts in government spending since the end of the Second World War, when demand for Spitfires and tanks fell through the floor, and suffix it with a table that basically says the poor will be hit hardest. But that’s just what happened today. This is from page 99 of the 106 page spending review.
This graph is designed to show how badly affected sections of society will be as a percentage of their income level. It’s split into deciles by income level. The poorest tenth is the bar on the far left, by the way, the bar on the far right is the overall average.
This is according to treasury calculations and there are a lot of caveats. It’s worth pointing out that the bar second on the right is mostly made up of tax changes, as opposed to service withdrawal, which as we all know the very rich are good at avoiding.
There’s lot of debate about what Demotix does. Is it the news-gathering model for the future, or is it undermining traditional income streams for journalists? I’ve been a big fan for a while, even if I’ve never contributed anything yet.
If you haven’t come across it before, Demotix is a portal for anyone, anywhere to upload pictures and stories (but mainly pictures) and share their news with the world. Demotix isn’t just an information heavy Facebook or Twitter, though, it’s a professional news service, staffed by experienced photographers and writers, with thousands of independent, full time journalists on their books. Every story and image passes through the hands of at least two editors, is fact checked and then marketed to news organisations around the world.
The ultimate aim is to become a news agency for freelance stringers. By being more inclusive, agile and cheaper than PA or Reuters, the founders believe, they can get better content, and more of it, in front of desk editors and at the same time become a pretty powerful global community news site off their own back.
I’ve often looked at Demotix and thought about uploading stuff, you know, just to see if it works, and never quite got round to it. As much as I applaud their endeavour, I can’t shake the feeling in the back of my head that I’d probably never get paid and wouldn’t I be better touting a feature round editors I know.
Last night I went along to a Demotix-sponsored evening at The Frontline Club, and it’s really changed my mind. Apart from the fact that Demotix is clearly A Good Thing to get involved with and support, even if you don’t get paid for it, there are three things that stood out.
- They may be best known for hard news stories, like getting information out of Iran during the elections last year or covering the current Kyrgyz crisis after all the other reporters have gone home, but it’s off the beat features that sell best. Which is good, because that’s more or less what I do. As Steve, a publisher there, put it: “Everyone’s chasing the main news stories and you’re competing with photographers and journalists on staff. With features, there are hundreds of smaller publications who might be interested in the background to an event”.
- They’re global. They have connections with news media in virtually every country. This was the thing I hadn’t really thought about. Their cut is quite steep – 50% for any stories or images sold – but they aren’t just selling to one place or country, in the way a single freelance operator usually is.
- They’re going to be huge. They aren’t just an agency. There’s talk of expanding the written feature side of the site and even – eventually – running ads, so that more people can get paid.
What last night – and meeting the founders – convinced me is that this isn’t just another social media experiment or an occasionally successful portal for ‘citizen journalism’. It’s a viable business model that you’d be stupid not to get involved with, if you can. At some point in the not too distant, I’m going to be rummaging through my archives for good stories that didn’t quite make it to print for one reason or another. I’d encourage anyone else to do the same.
One thing I love about being freelance is the diversity of projects I get involved with. The thing I like less is that I often go through phases where I’m just too busy to write about them all. In the last week, I’ve reviewed laptops and headphones, produced a video and magazine feature about multithreading technology in game engines, edited a report into violence against children in Africa, interviewed a load of telecoms folk about the next 12 months in phone lines, written up an interview with headmaster George from Simakakata and taken part in an interesting local news/storytelling project with the Brighton Future of News Group.
When I was at university, I worked on the student radio station. The news editor – a very talented chap who went on to work for the BBC – told us we should enjoy our time there, because we’d never get chance to do stuff as creative and varied once we were out in the real world. I’m glad he was wrong.
Over in Agora taking part in the Brighton Future of News group’s experimental live blog talking to people in Shoreham-by-Sea. Peter is one of my favourite interviewees of the day so far.
Journalism.co.uk has an interesting story up about this man, Michalis Pantelouris, a freelance journalist who had that very familiar problem of knowing he had a good story on his hands, but wasn’t quite sure what to do with it. So he crowdsourced his article about a German singer’s death in Athens, publishing 110 pages of research via his website until he came to the kernel of truth that he needed to sell it into an editor. Brilliant, different and very much the future of journalism many of us are hoping for.
Very happy to see that Craig Murray has returned to updating his blog after a house-renovating haitus. His first post in a couple of months is a blistering attack on the incredibly well paid head of the government’s review of university funding, based on his experience as a Rector at Dundee University and familiarity with Lord Browne’s past. A Poisoned Consensus on Higher Education is essential reading for anyone who’s not entirely convinced by the coalition line on tuition fees.
In another of many updates over the last couple of days, Murray explains why he isn’t handing in his LibDem membership card just yet. I’m not so sure I agree with his sentiments there. I feel pretty much the same about Clegg and Cable as I did about Blair by this stage in 1997.