Twitter’s 280-characters just too many? Here’s a way to cope…

Twitter logo

Twitter logo: Picture: Pixabay

I am in two minds about Twitter’s decision to allow 280-character tweets.
One the one hand, when only 140 characters were allowed, I often felt that I could do with just an extra few characters to get in an extra hashtag, or a telling phrase.

And I think that the imposed brevity meant people often substituted a short hashtag for actual meaning, as seen here:

Looking for inspiration during #NaNoWriMo2017? These classic authors have you covered.

What is #NaNoWriMo2017 anyway? Turns out it is National Novel Writing Month. That tweet would be better like this:

Looking for inspiration during National Novel Writing Month? These classic authors have you covered. #NaNoWriMo2017

The extra characters which Twitter now allows mean that it is now possible to put in just a little extra background, where needed, without resorting to mysterious and irritating hashtags.

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Curation: How to find shareable content for your readers

I have a Safe Hands Facebook page on which I share my own writing, as and when I do any writing. I also use it to share links about topics that interest me: editing, writing, journalism, business models for journalism, health and so on. I try to share one article a day on Facebook, and another on Twitter as part of promoting my business.

All this takes some time so I was gratified when a friend recently thanked me for the links, calling them: “Curation at its best.”

Which made me think that it might be useful to write a little about curation, and to share where I find my links. Continue reading

Why some tragedies get a lot of coverage and others don’t

Globe superimposed over newsprint

Picture by Geralt

More than 350 people died in a truck bomb in Somalia on October 14. Earlier in October almost 60 people died in a mass shooting in Las Vegas.
Media coverage of the two events followed a long-established and regrettable pattern in journalism: wall-to-wall coverage of the Las Vegas shootings, patchy and incomplete reports from Mogadishu.
Al-Jazeera noticed what its headline called “double standards”:

Commentator and law professor Khaled Beydoun noted that a bomb attack in Manchester, a northern British city, was covered more widely. “The # of people killed in Somalia yesterday was 10x more than the # killed in Manchester in May (230 to 22). But it got 100x less coverage,” he tweeted.

In simple terms: Western city, big response. African city: small response.
I (and many other journalists) have pondered the reasons for these imbalances for many years. Continue reading

Why people (even journalists) don’t pay for news – and what to do about it

A newsstand in London

A newsstand in London. Picture by Duncan Harris, Wikimedia Commons

It’s no secret that journalism is going through cataclysmic change.

It’s as if we are trying to sell horse-and-cart combos at the same time that Henry Ford is rolling the Model-T off the production line. As pointed out here by Eric Beecher, the “unconventional business model” which saw public interest, independent journalism being subsidised by the sale of cars, jobs and furniture (classifieds – remember them?) is deader than the dodo.

In the place of classifieds are a variety of “business models” where news organisations try to figure out how to make money when people won’t actually pay for the pure product (journalism) and have gone elsewhere for the cars, jobs and furniture.

I have sat around over many a glass of wine with journalist friends, bemoaning this state of affairs. But I don’t think any of us have ever spent much time on really thinking through WHY it is that people won’t pay for news (assuming they were ever willing to pay, of course – many saw the news as a wrapper to the real stuff: horse racing results, crosswords, horoscopes and classifieds). And here’s another question to ponder: Do journalists themselves pay for news? Do I pay for news? Continue reading

Who cares about award ceremonies? I do

Renee Moodie SEO certificate

My certificate

I recently completed a course in search engine optimisation through GetSmarter, which offers an online platform for short-course training from the University of Cape Town.

My statement of results is in, and so is my certificate.

My pieces of paper made me happy. As did the 10 weeks of being a student again (one of my most recurring dreams is that of returning to university). I’m a serial over-achiever in exams, motivated to learn and driven to do well. I know that this kind of marks-driven learning is only one way in which knowledge is gained and shared – but it still matters to me, as one part of the lovely process involved in learning something new. Continue reading

What I learned at the MMX17 Conference

Iman Rappetti

Iman Rappetti was MC at the conference

In mid-August I spent two days at the Menell Media Exchange Conference in Johannesburg. The meeting, organised by Duke University, aims “to create and support a sustainable and robust media community in South Africa and beyond, through programs, fellowships and conferences”.

This year’s event was around the theme of Truth & Trust and is well-documented in stories, videos and podcasts by student journalists covering the event (Friday and Saturday), and I am not going to attempt to duplicate their excellent coverage. Rather – and somewhat belatedly – here is a set of my impressions, thoughts and observations. Continue reading

Could you ever write something in a library book?

Rows of books in Stockholm Public Library

Stockholm Public Library: Picture: Marcus Hansson, Göteborg, Sweden

When I was in Grade 2, I had a teacher called Miss Reynolds. She was outwardly terrifying and children in Grade 1 spent a lot of time hoping they would not be placed in her class.
But there I was, stuck with Miss Reynolds for a whole year. And it turned out she was lovely – my first life lesson in the uselessness of worrying about things that haven’t happened yet.
My memories are hazy, but in a clear indication of how good it was, I do remember clearly that we had a big tin of dog biscuits kept ready for the daily visit of a big golden neighbourhood dog called Shannon and we all took turns to give him a biscuit.
But one day, in a fit of six-year-oldness, I took a book and hit my desk mate on the head with it. I don’t remember why, and I don’t think I hit the child all that hard. But Miss Reynolds was mightily displeased. I can’t remember the punishment (being made to sit in a corner, probably) but I remember very clearly what she said: you don’t do that to a book. (In retrospect, it’s a little odd that she cared more about the book than the other kid.)

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