BBC uses Facebook to get around Thai military censors

BBC | The Telegraph

The BBC launched a Facebook news stream in Thailand on Thursday. The initiative “follows the military coup in May after which international channels, including BBC World News TV, were taken off air temporarily,” the Beeb reports.

The news org says it plans to run the “pop-up” service for three months. Stories will be in Thai and English.

The news stream “is targeting Thailand’s 24 million Facebook users, among a population of 67 million Thais,” Damien McElroy writes for The Telegraph. “There are over 13 million in Bangkok alone, a figure that has quadrupled in just 12 months.”

(function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); = id; js.src = "//"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); }(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));

In June, Poynter wrote about police in Thailand posing as journalists. In May, Poynter wrote about news outlets getting shut down after the military took over. Also in May, Poynter wrote about the military taking BBC, CNN and other networks off the air. Read more


Google removes Guardian, BBC search results; Facebook drives 25% of Hearst’s traffic

— Google has notified The Guardian and BBC that certain articles will no longer appear in European searches, Mark Scott writes at The New York Times Bits blog. A European court ruling allows people “to ask for links to information about themselves to be removed from search results.”

— As news organizations fail to take advantage of the surge in mobile ad spending, Poynter’s Rick Edmonds says his hunch “is that getting video right and getting stronger mobile ad performance will go hand in hand for news sites.”

— Facebook drives 25 percent of traffic to Hearst magazines, up from 4 percent last year. Lucia Moses explains the publisher’s new focus on Facebook at Digiday.

— Vice Media will move to a larger Brooklyn headquarters, Laura Kusisto reports in The Wall Street Journal. The company’s $6.5 million in state tax credits will be tied to the creation of 525 new jobs in the next five years.

— Slate’s Will Oremus takes Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg to task for a “non-apology apology” that’s “as incoherent as it is disingenuous.” Sandberg said the company’s emotion-manipulation study was “poorly communicated.”

!function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src=p+'://';fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document, 'script', 'twitter-wjs'); Read more


BBC journalists will hold strike ballot

The Guardian

Journalists with the BBC will vote on whether or not to strike, Mark Sweney reported Tuesday in The Guardian.

Members of the National Union of Journalists are to be balloted over industrial action after passing a motion calling for an overhaul of the pay gap with programme-makers and senior management.

BBC Radio also announced today that 65 jobs will be cut, Jason Deans reported in The Guardian. Last week, Neil Midgley reported in Forbes that the BBC would cut 500 jobs from the news division. Meanwhile, members of the National Union of Journalists cite a 1 percent pay raise granted to some employees this year and perks and pay for those at the top.

The motion also called for a “radical overhaul of executive pay and perks”, such as the “generous” expense accounts and car allowances that senior managers enjoy.

“There are structural changes that can be made that would result in fair pay, and free up cash for programming,” said Stanistreet. “Our calculations show that if pay was capped at £150,000, this would free [up] £20m which could be spent on journalism and programming. This would be to the benefit of the staff and licence payers.”

Read more

Newspapers in Myanmar print black front pages

A vender sits by local weekly news journals with their front pages printed black with letters saying “By opposing recent arrest and sentencing of journalists including a video journalist of DVB (Democratic Voice of Burma)” at a roadside shop Friday, April.11, 2014, in Yangon, Myanmar. Several private newspapers in Myanmar printed black front pages on Friday to protest the recent arrests and sentencing of journalists, in the latest sign the country’s media climate is worsening. (AP Photo/Khin Maung Win)

BBC | Associated Press

Newspapers in Myanmar ran blacked-out front pages on Friday, the BBC and the Associated Press reported.

Several private newspapers in Myanmar printed black front pages on Friday to protest the recent arrests and sentencing of journalists, in the latest sign the country’s media climate is worsening.

The black front pages — which included a protest message — in the influential Daily Eleven newspaper, its Sports journal and other papers follow a court decision Monday in which a video journalist for Democratic Voice of Burma was sentenced to one year imprisonment for trespassing and obstructing a civil servant while doing a story on education.

According to the BBC, several journalists have been arrested in recent months. Read more

Happy april fools' day stamp

Hoax earthquake letter rings in April Fools’ Day

Los Angeles Times | The Guardian | BBC

No, California, the U.S. Geological Survey is not warning people that a large quake is on its way.

It’s early yet in the U.S., but by now, April Fools’ jokes are pretty much all played out in the UK. The Guardian collected the best jokes of the day, including their own, reporting that Scotland might switch to driving on the right, (which I did see on my Twitter feed this morning and remember thinking, hmmm, wonder how that’s gonna work.)

“It sends out an explicit signal: we are part of Europe,” said one of the brains behind the scheme. “The little Englanders who want out of Europe are the only ones driving on the left-hand side. We’ve been the smaller relative dominated and having to copy their ridiculous ways for too long. No more. Just think, this will be an indignity for little England – isolated in Europe and pootling along in the slow lane on the left,” he added.

They are concerned, however, that opponents of the move to the right might mobilise under the emotive slogan: “Proud to be left.” Some fear that when the plans go public, the charismatic MP George Galloway would not be prepared to stand on the sidelines but would launch his own appeal: “Stay left, hard left.”

The BBC took the day to remember their best April Fools’ prank ever — the annual spaghetti harvest.

Read more

1 Comment

Why TV journalists ‘test the system’ with stunt reporting: It sometimes works

New York Post | BBC | The New York Times

On Tuesday, two CNN producers tried to sneak into the World Trade Center site. Several times. They were arrested, Larry Celona, Kevin Fasick and Bruce Golding reported for the New York Post.

Connor Boals, 26, and Yon Pomrenze, 35, made multiple attempts to get onto Ground Zero before being arrested shortly after 2 p.m., law enforcement sources said.

The pair initially tried to get through a gate at Vesey and Washington streets, with a source saying they told the cop who stopped them that “if a 16-year-old could get on the site, they should be able to get in.”

Yon Pomrenze, left, and Connor Fieldman Boals, are shown after their arrests on Tuesday, March 25. Both men were been charged with criminal trespass, obstruction of governmental administration and disorderly conduct after trying to forcibly push their way through a controlled gate at the World Trade Center Construction site in New York City. A spokeswoman for CNN said the men were in the area to do a story about the recent security breaches and were not asked to sneak onto the site. (AP Photo/Port Authority of New York and New Jersey)

They weren’t, and both have been charged with trespassing, Celona, Fasick and Golding reported, as well as disorderly conduct and obstructing governmental administration. Read more


You can use Getty Images for free, sort of

The Wall Street Journal | The Verge | BBC | Nieman Lab

The “sort of” is you’re using Twitter, Tumblr or “non-commercial WordPress blogs,” Georgia Wells reported in The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday after Getty Images announced they’d make a whole lot of images available for free.

On Wednesday, the company unveiled the embed tool, which will allow users to include images on websites, such as non-commercial WordPress blogs. The eligible images also come with buttons for Tumblr and Twitter, where a link to the image can be shared. (The image itself doesn’t appear on Twitter, however.)

Poynter is a nonprofit, and we do use WordPress. But we do sell ads against our content. So I think it’s OK that I pulled this shot this morning, because, well, look at that guy.

Read more


In a lecture at the British Library Monday, BBC Director of News and Current Affairs James Harding said journalists upset by the changes to their industry are “missing the point.” Not only is Harding “extremely optimistic about the future of journalism,” he said, “I think this is the most exciting time to be a journalist since the advent of television.”

Professional journalists cannot expect to have the influence we once did, but, if we’re clever, if we’re innovative and if we’re trustworthy, we can earn it. This is because we live at a time when there is an unprecedented hunger for information and ideas, because the proliferation of new news providers means the number of working journalists is, actually, rising, because the tools available for story telling and story getting are more powerful than ever and because, as I hope to make clear, the new technologies have unexpectedly revealed the enduring value of some old principles in journalism.

The tools of technology also make it an exceptionally exciting time to be going after a story. Of course, a journalist is a fool to rely solely on Google or Wikipedia for information. But they are just as stupid to ignore them: the modern search engine has given us all a running start at any story. Citizen journalism is not just a competitor to established news media, but a streaming source of information and ideas for it. And the internet has turned our audience into a giant fact-checking machine: journalists are more directly and immediately accountable; our viewers, listeners and readers do not need simply to throw a shoe at the TV or put their foot through the paper, they can promptly e-mail or tweet us to point out our mistakes. This can be embarrassing, no doubt, but surely makes it more likely we will get it right.



BBC Global News will produce original videos for Twitter followers


BBC Global News will produce original short videos to be carried in paid tweets starting this fall, Jeanine Poggi reports in AdAge. The videos, called “#BBCTrending,” will cover “trending news on social media that day” and go out to the followers of the @BBCWorld account.

Twitter in May announced a program called Amplify that lets partners put preroll ads in videos they share. “Twitter’s media partners in the Amplify program have typically tweeted clips from existing TV programming thus far, not original content created with the platform in mind,” Poggi writes.

Here’s a sample #BBCTrending video. It features a controversial talking goat.
Read more

Screen Shot 2013-08-30 at 8.05.51 AM

How taxonomies help news organizations understand and categorize their content

News organizations such as the Associated Press, The New York Times and Thomson Reuters are teaching computers to categorize text and images by building robust taxonomies that their systems use to tag news content.

Adding digital information under the hood in this way helps link stories together and serve up relevant content to news audiences.

In a recent interview with Poynter, Associated Press staffers talked about the AP’s News Taxonomy and why a news organization might consider using it.

What’s taxonomy?

Taxonomy is the practice of classifying information. News organizations do this already: putting articles in the sports section instead of the business section is a way of classifying them. What’s different today is organizations are classifying articles using computers instead of human judgment.

Stuart Myles, director of information management at the AP, led the team that built the AP News Taxonomy with machine-learning and natural-language-processing tools to teach computers how to make decisions instead of having a person read every article or look up a caption on every photo. Once the computer decides the appropriate tags to add, those tags are attached to the article’s or photo’s metadata.

“We’ve created a system of rules that evaluate every single bit of English text we handle,” Myles told Poynter by phone.

AP News Taxonomy contains more than:

  • 4,200 subjects,
  • 2,200 geographic locations,
  • 2,400 organizations,
  • 106,000 people
  • and 50,000 publicly-traded companies.
This word cloud represents the most commonly found terms in the AP News Taxonomy. (Image: Stuart Myles / AP)

In 2006, the AP developed its taxonomy for internal use. Automated tagging began the following year to categorize content coming through the “pipeline” from AP journalists, AP members and third parties. Each day the AP receives approximately 100,000 pieces of content — articles, photos and captions — and automatically applies and publishes metadata directly to every item.

“That’s partly because there’s so much content and partly because we want to get the content out there as fast as possible,” Myles said. “We don’t want to burden editorial with having to approve every single metadata we apply.”

The News Taxonomy makes up one of two parts of the AP Metadata Services. About 18 months ago, the AP began to make an external News Taxonomy service commercially available through the AP Tagging Service when it realized other news organizations could benefit from tagging their articles. Myles said the price list isn’t publicly available.

Users of the Tagging Service feed it news articles through an API, or application programming interface, that allows those users to access the AP’s databases and notifies AP that they’re calling for metadata. Users then get back the relevant metadata based on the AP News Taxonomy.

News organizations can decide how they want to use the metadata. Some use it for archives, others for tagging news articles.

The AP offers the taxonomy and tagging services separately. “We’ve found quite a few people who are interested in building their own tagging system. But they don’t want to build their own taxonomy because that’s a bigger effort,” Myles said. Such organizations can choose to use the AP News Taxonomy and “build their own rules or use someone else’s software to apply it.”

This sample output from the AP Metadata Services Developer Guide displays examples of categories and their IDs for the Geography hierarchy. (Image: AP)

Why use a classification system?

Taxonomies are different across organizations and have varying degrees of human control. But the main reason why companies such as the AP invest in taxonomies is because “metadata is a great way to link things together,” Myles said.

Reasons for using a taxonomy include:

  • Making it easy to recommend stories to users because your system has identified and sorted those stories into categories. Surfacing this content to users encourages them to stay on your website.
  • Taking the subjectivity and human error out of classifying information by automating the system.
  • Eliminating the need for editors to memorize extensive categories and risk forgetting to apply them.
  • Improving search-engine results. “Search engines can only index what’s in the text unless you give them additional synonyms,” Myles said. “We can do that through the taxonomy.” Moreover, if users don’t use the exact keywords to search, related articles can still appear because of metadata.
  • Making categories flexible. Taxonomies can generally link categories with alternative names, name variations and references to a subject that change over time. For example, a sports player can be linked to her team and jersey number — terms that might not be explicit in the story but are directly related to her.

The AP isn’t the only news organization investing in taxonomy. Thomson Reuters runs OpenCalais, which began as a way for finance companies, law firms and investment banks to process tens of thousands of articles per day so their traders could quickly scan through the day’s news. The service is free except for commercial users that look at large numbers of articles per day. OpenCalais has expanded to general news and is a competitor to the AP’s taxonomy.

The New York Times has “news vocabularies” available under the creative commons license, which outlines its taxonomic hierarchy. The BBC also developed a “sports ontology” (which debuted during BBC coverage of the 2010 World Cup) that describes a hierarchy of terms related to soccer teams and players.

The BBC explained the ontology was for internal use to organize its site and manage content dynamically; it had already worked on its taxonomy “for some time” and discussed the benefits with other news organizations at the 2010 News Linked Data Summit, according to BBC Internet Blog.

How does the AP check for accuracy?

Maintaining an up-to-date taxonomy is labor-intensive. Myles, who began his career as a programmer and has also worked for Dow Jones, leads the search-and-classification team under the information-management department, which is made up of 10 people with backgrounds in linguistics and library science.

Every day, they monitor the taxonomy by staying updated on news, determining how to classify new information in helpful ways, updating the rules and making sure those rules are as accurate as possible.

Heather Edwards, manager of the special-projects team at the AP and former taxonomy developer, offered an example to illustrate the accuracy checks built into the testing interface:

She pointed to a story about former Greco-Roman national champion wrestler Dallas Seavey, who became the youngest Iditarod champion in 2012 when the 25-year-old crossed the finish line in Nome, Alaska, after 9 days, 4 hours, 29 minutes on the trail with his sled dogs.

When the AP received this story, the system correctly tagged the article with “Greco-Roman wrestling” and “sled dog racing” but incorrectly tagged it with the term “dogs” in the pets hierarchy, which is used only for domestic pets, not working dogs. Because Seavey was the youngest person to win the Iditarod, the article should have been tagged with “record-setting event,” but wasn’t.

Accuracy is calculated by two measures: precision and recall.

Precision is the percentage of those documents tagged with “Greco-Roman wrestling” that are actually about Greco-Roman wrestling. Take 100 documents tagged with “Greco-Roman wrestling.” If 90 of them are about Greco-Roman wrestling but 10 are not, the precision is 90 percent. Because the “dogs” tag was incorrectly applied, the precision for the “dogs” rule decreased.

Accuracy is mission-critical for many of the AP’s customers. “All terms that are in production need to be operating minimum at 85 percent precision and recall,” Edwards said. Most terms are operating at above 90 percent.

For “Greco-Roman wrestling” and “sled dog racing,” Edwards said, “we have one more example of good content which improved the precision and recall for both of them.”

Recall is the percentage of tagged articles compared to all the relevant documents in the collection. Edwards noted that recall is a “tricky” concept that’s “really hard to calculate” because “by definition you don’t know how many relevant documents are in the corpus. If you knew that, then your rule would be perfect.”

Since the “record-setting event” tag was missing from the Seavey article, the recall for that rule decreased — the rule missed the article even though it was relevant to “record-setting event.”

This diagram shows an example of how the AP News Taxonomy creates a hierarchy of subjects nested within each other. (Image: AP)

The team runs reports daily and weekly to monitor precision and recall. Mindful of external users concerned about privacy or protecting their content, Myles said the AP keeps only a small amount of data for fixing problems.

“We’re not looking at their content, so it’s confidential in that sense,” he said.

If a mistake occurs, customers, editors, and representatives from sales and customer service usually provide the team with feedback to improve the rules, Edwards said.

Whenever the team makes a new rule to classify stories, Myles said there’s a “gold set of articles” against which the team members “rerun all of the content and make sure that we’re still getting the same results so we haven’t introduced some problem by mistake.”

Then, the team compares the results to the taxonomy that was previously applied. They also run the top news of the day through the taxonomy to see if the metadata is applied as expected. The team tests the new rule for up to two weeks before it goes into production, said Edwards. They then monitor it and get feedback from editors and customers.

Although we haven’t yet developed the means to teach computers to read, understand and explain information, taxonomies get us closer to the promise of the Semantic Web.

Some skeptics have concluded the idea of the Semantic Web was a fad, with the concept too difficult to turn into reality. But the money that news organizations are pouring into developing classification tools to better cut through vast amounts of published content suggests otherwise. Once taxonomies become more established, we may see small-to-medium-sized news organizations also adopt them to help organize their content. Read more


Get the latest media news delivered to your inbox.

Select the newsletter(s) you'd like to receive:
Page 2 of 41234