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News Associates trainees cover 2022 local elections

Patricia Cruz

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This year’s local elections were a key test of the national political mood, and trainees were on the frontline of reporting crucial vote counts in London and Greater Manchester.

The local elections on 5 May were a great chance for our trainees to put their reporting and public affairs lessons into practice, and in London, where every borough council was being contested, we had a trainee covering every single count.

Trainees across undergraduate and postgraduate courses interviewed candidates and wrote articles and social media posts which appeared across online publications South West Londoner, South East Londoner, North East Londoner, North West Londoner and Mancunian Matters.

Fast-track trainee Charlotte Alt and sports journalism trainee Stefan Frost covered the key vote counts in Westminster and Wandsworth, both battlegrounds where the Conservatives lost majority control to Labour.

Charlotte said:The thing I probably enjoyed the most was meeting other journalists and getting a glimpse behind the scenes of some of the biggest British news producers.

“I met someone working for the BBC who produced clips for social media and the live blog as well as Jonathan Swain from ITV’s Good Morning Britain who broadcasted live from the election count.

“It was fascinating to see how they worked and talk to them about the historic night.”

Undergraduate trainee Holly Nichols interviewing a councillor in Kingston

As the results started to stream in, Charlotte was under pressure to relay information back to her editor in the newsroom.

She said: “My NCTJ training helped me especially at the end of the night when I was required to write a piece detailing the reactions to the Westminster results after having been up for around 12 hours.”

Stefan found the elections were a chance to step out of his comfort zone.

He said: “Being a sports journalist trainee, I felt pretty out of place standing amongst political reporters from Good Morning Britain and the BBC, but I tried my best to lean into the experience and chat to as many people as I could.

“Just being in the room with there being such a buzz around the count, was probably the best part of the entire thing.”

While attempting to get reactions from different party members, Stefan said his training came in handy.

He said: “Having gone through interview training during the NCTJ course, where we were taught how to probe without intruding and offending, I was able to connect with a couple of people I spoke to.

“Studying public affairs also helped contextualise what was going on in relation to the count and meant I had a much better grasp of the wider story threads at play during the night.”

First year undergraduate trainee Holly Nichols covered the count in Kingston.

She said: “The opportunity to cover the local elections was one of the best experiences I have had since beginning my course at .

“At the beginning of the day I was a bundle of nerves and excitement, but I soon found my flow when I realised that every journalist in the press room was working together and willing to help each other.

“It was a perfect opportunity for me to gain confidence, network with other members of the press and grow my journalistic skill set. I had an amazing day!”

Holly described how she faced challenges when having to improvise and come up with interview questions on the spot.

Part-time trainee Simran Johal covered the overnight vote count in Hillingdon.

She said: “I enjoyed speaking to the councillors, especially when they won. It just showed me how much local democracy matters, and the passion some of them had for the places they live was really inspiring. 

“The most challenging thing was the speed. One minute you’re sat waiting with nothing coming in and the next, you’re back and forth as the results start pouring in.”

Simran had to juggle live tweeting the results with sharing information with reporters back in the office, but said she enjoyed the experience of having to multitask.

Tom Holmes, deputy editor of South West Londoner and its sister sites, said: “Covering any set of elections, whether local or general, is always a fantastic experience for any trainee.

“They are thrown in the deep end and get to practice a lot of different and valuable skills in a high-pressure environment.

“The trainees did unbelievably well, producing lots of brilliant social media content and written stories and we’ve had fantastic feedback from them on the experience.”

Tom also gave his number one top tip for trainee journalists covering an election.

He said: “Think like a journalist – if you do all the journalistic basics right, be that interviewing, finding the right line or just generally showing off your social skills, then you’ll be absolutely fine.”

The best way to learn how to become a journalist is by doing it. Have a go at being a journalist with our free journalism workshops, which you can sign up for here.

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Article: Trust and Journalistic Transparency Online

Patricia Cruz

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The study “Trust and Journalistic Transparency Online” by Michael Koliska from Georgetown University experimented on news consumers’ trust as brought on by transparency, and further, in the second experiment, explored the reasons for the findings in the first.

Transparency in journalism is defined as opening up the journalistic processes (production, decision making) to outsiders, i.e. making journalism more transparent. Karlsson (2010, 2020) further divides transparency into disclosure, participatory, and ambient transparency. 

Defining trust, on the other hand, in journalism has been tricky, as it has been associated with credibility. Kohring and Matthes (2007) define the four elements of trust: 1. trust in topic selectivity; 2. trust in fact selectivity; 3. trust in accuracy of descriptions, and 4. trust in journalistic assessment. 

This study recruited its participants from Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (MTurk) platform. There were a total of 1092 participants. They were presented with a news story about nanoparticles – a topic that was unfamiliar to most and therefore had a low risk of partisan opinions. The article was presented in six different webpages that had differing transparency items in them.

There were 11 different trust items in the first experiment. Based on the results, the hypotheses were rejected. They were H1: A a) production transparency news item and a b) producer transparency news item will be trusted more than a non-transparent item. H2: A full transparency (both production and producer transparency) news item will be trusted more than a) a non-transparent article, b) a production transparency article, and c) a producer transparency article. And H3a: A full transparency news item will be trusted more than a full transparent article that includes biased information about the producer. H3b: A producer transparency news item with neutral personal information will be trusted more than a producer transparency article with biased information.

Nevertheless, the participants agreed that the journalist was trustworthy and that they sometimes trusted the news media. On results, it was speculated that the participants did not recognize the transparency features as cognitive heuristics and did not interact much with the transparency items. 

The second experiment was similar. There were a total of 379 participants, who were not the same as in the first one. They were assigned to read the same article as in the first about nanoparticles, placed again on five different webpages with varying transparency features.  

Further on, the participants were asked to recall the transparency features (such as hyperlinks, author bio, editorial explanations etc.) and to recall specific information from the article and the transparency features. 

The participants recalled items such as the photo (84% of the ones assigned to the webpage with a photo) only 34% could correctly identify the journalist. Similarly, 53% of those who had seen an editorial explanation recalled it, but only 26% could recall a detail from it. Participants also had trouble recalling the individual transparency features they were exposed to.

It was noted that the participants had better recall on items that were part of the actual story than the ‘digitally outsourced’ transparency items. It is possible that this information is not adequately processed or they failed to acknowledge the utility of this information. 

In conclusion, it still remains unclear how the link between transparency and audience’s trust is created. The question remains on whether news consumers recognize transparency features as markers of journalistic quality.

The article “Trust and Journalistic Transparency Online” by Michael Koliska is in Journalism Studies. (open access). 

Picture: scrabble tiles spelling trust by Ronda Dorsey.

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News ideology and media storms in France and Israel

Patricia Cruz

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The article “What Happens in the Eye of the Storm? News Ideology During Media Storms” by Doron Shultziner from Hadassah Academic College looked at the nexus of news ideology and media storms using two media storms to analyze the topic: the Yellow Vests Movement (2018) in France and the Occupy Movement (2011) in Israel.

Media storms are defined as events or topics that take up a substantial part of the coverage for a period of time. They typically peak after few weeks in the beginning and then begin to fade. They have been studied widely with various terms being applied to them like “media event” or “media hypes”.

In the past 15 years, there has been an increase in the amount of studies on media ideology. Measured against the hypothetical gold standard of pure objectivity, media bias can be seen when coverage varies from source to another in different weighings and so on, with professional considerations having been overtaken by ideological ones.

The ideology is often seen in framing – as in this case, left-wing media tends to frame the protests positively and right-wing negatively. This was one of the topics in this study.
There were two data sets for the study: the Israeli one and the French one. The Israeli dataset consisted of coverage from Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel Hayom, Maariv, Haaretz, Makor Rishon (a national-religious newspaper), and Yated Neeman (an ultra-religious newspaper). Israel Hayom, Makor Rishon, and Yated Neeman are right-wing, the rest are left wing.

The French dataset consisted of coverage from Le Figaro, Le Monde, Libération, and L’Obs – listed here from right to left ideologically. The articles from both datasets were coded either positive, negative, or neutral based on several criteria.

The results show that media storms are a multi-media phenomenon, affecting a number of newspapers at once. The findings also demonstrate a media bias: if professional considerations were the only thing that mattered, the coverage in left- and right-wing media would have resembled each other.

Instead, there was a trend of negative coverage in right-wing media and positive in left – and what is more, the lines of coverage moved to opposite directions, showing increased polarization. There were differences between the storms: in the Israel case the newspapers chose their sides early and there was no significant move, but in France the lines diverged as the media storm went on.

News ideology also operated through production bias mechanisms, such as sizing of articles or their placement in the newspaper (front page or somewhere else). Due to the differences of the two cases, the hypotheses regarding the decline stage of the storm were hard to assess.

The author notes that the study has implications for future research. It proposes that media storms may be high-risk events that even challenge the ideology and interests of the news organizations. As important, politically charged events become media storms, they may become political storms instead.

The article “What Happens in the Eye of the Storm? News Ideology During Media Storms” by Doron Shultziner is in International Journal of Communication. (free access).

Picture: Storm Approaching by Johannes Plenio @jplenio.
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Covering women’s sport: My sports journalism career highlights

Patricia Cruz

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There has never been a better time to work in women’s sport and for early-career sports reporters, the opportunities are endless.

Here, multimedia sports reporter Milly McEvoy shares how she has covered everything from the Olympics and Paralympics to international women’s cricket and football tournaments, only a year after finishing her sports journalism course.

In June 2021, fresh off finishing my Multimedia Sports Journalism qualification with in Manchester, I made the move down to London to join Sportsbeat as a reporter.

It feels like a lifetime ago, but what has come in between also feels like a blur – it has involved international rugby and football, the British Athletics Championships and domestic cricket and netball (and lots more) in person. 

I have also covered the Summer Olympics and Paralympics, Wimbledon, the Commonwealth Games, remotely and I have had the opportunity to interview sportspeople involved from the grassroots to the top of the game. 

On top of all that, I spent two months covering the Women’s Cricket World Cup in New Zealand. 

As I came to the end of my history degree in 2020, I already knew I wanted to be a sports journalist, but I started thinking about what form that would take. 

I quickly settled on women’s sport. 

I had always kept an eye on women’s sport, and proudly say the first sporting event I ever attended was a Women’s Euros football match in 2005, but my interest in sport came from what was easily available – and even two years ago most women’s sport wasn’t. 

2020 was a slippery slope to full-on obsession including listening to the 2020 Women’s T20 World Cup final on 8 March in the early morning on the radio. 

Even across the airwaves, the sound of 86,174 people packing into the MCG showed to me that there was plenty of appetite for women’s sport, people just need to be able to see it – and read about it. 

Fast forward two years and Australia were winning another World Cup, but this time, I was there to see it with my own eyes before heading to the press conference to speak with captain Meg Lanning. 

What had led to that point at around 9pm on 3 April 2022 was two months covering one of the most exciting tournaments cricket has ever seen, and I’m luckily not yet jaded enough to have cursed having to rewrite my match reports as momentum swung wildly in several games. 

I learnt so much from covering that World Cup producing over 120 previews, reports, reaction pieces and features, but my favourite one was the last thing I did in Aotearoa, speaking with a slightly hungover Grace Harris the day after she had won the World Cup. 

Having returned to the UK, I enjoyed a full circle moment in July as I covered the Women’s Euros, and just like the 2020 T20 World Cup, I watched from afar as 87,192 fans cheered the home team to victory. 

Except, this time I was writing the match report for the Lionesses and I couldn’t get into the Wembley press box because there were so many people eager to cover women’s sports. 

It feels like England’s win will be a turning point for women’s sport, one that is long overdue, and I am excited to be part of what is to come and grateful and proud to have been a small part of what has already been. 

You can find out more about our multimedia sports journalism course here.

For a taster of our award-winning journalism training, sign up for one of our free workshops here.

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