Author Archives: linzikinghorn

How the BBC uses UGC: part Two. An interview with Matthew Eltringham

Matthew Eltringham is assistant Editor of Interactivity and Social Media Development at the BBC. I did an article about how he developed the UGC hub at the BBC and how the line of verification is a way of understanding which information the BBC will and will not use and how it is verified.

Matthew describes the different ways of incorporating UGC into newsgathering and more importantly, how we as fellow journalists can learn from the BBC how to verify that UGC is correct.

I asked Matthew if he could explain to me and GeneratedByUsers‘ fellow journalists exactly what the line of verification is in his own words.


I then asked him: If something comes up from the dark side, the dark side of the line of verification, how do you go about checking that it is okay to use it  and what influences you to use it?


And finally, I asked him what are the consequences of using wrong information from the dark side and is it worth using?


Although Matthew and his team experienced some skepticism from the BBC when the UGC hub was created, he claims it is merely another form of journalism and must be used alongside conventional journalism in the 21st century to keep up with breaking news.
By Linzi Kinghorn

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Comment is Free…but is it the best way to generate your content?

Is CommentIsFree on the Guardian the best place to get your work submitted? Although it is open for anyone to contribute opinions, the articles that are submitted are carefully selected by the editor and therefore must be of a very high standard to be posted on the website.

George Monbiot is a well-known author. Click here to see the full article on the Guardian’s website.

Richard Seymour is also an author and political activist. Click here to see the full article.

What they both have in common is that they can both write and are well-known for their ability to write well. For our fellow journalists out there desperate to publish your own content, perhaps this isn’t the best way to get your ideas across to other journalists. I have picked out some of the best comments from which the articles have prompted to show that perhaps this is the way forward – to get involved in commenting and contributing that way.

You can see the comment here.

You can see the comment here.

. Here is where you can see the comment.

These are both informative and detailed responses that could easily be contributed and generated by any journalist and will be seen by many.

Here are what two journalists said about CommentIsFree:

Jess Parker @markerjparker- “I think Guardian Comment is Free is quite a regulated form of user generated content. I believe you have to submit articles to the editor, meaning it’s not a ‘freeforall’ like youtube or photbucket or flickr. Also I think people often use it to perhaps pursue journalistic ambitions so in a way it’s a top down run and a slightly niche form of user generated content. I submitted one about a year and a half ago, and recieved good feebback from the editor but it wasn’t topical enough to publish at that time.  i think its impressive if young journalists can get work published on there but the quality is not as high as those articles published in the Guardian and the Observer.”

Emily Lingard @EmilyLingard- “I think it would be naive to assume that having an editorial presence contradicts the fact that CommentisFree is User generated. Whenever anyone posts anything online, they either edit it themselves or someone else will look over it or retweet it or comment on it. These are all forms of editing in their own right. I think the kind of articles they select are usually people who have invested interests in the written word and therefore the content is more manufactured but at the end of the day it offers a wide range of opinions.”

And remember,

Comment Is Free …but facts are sacred – CP Scott 1921

By Linzi Kinghorn

The search for Japan’s loved ones is on…thanks to social media

The issue

An 8.9 magnitude earthquake. Over 4164 people dead. Fears of radiation poisoning growing. 450,000 people displaced from their homes. These are the result of an earthquake that shook Japan last week.

The aid of User Generated Content

The only thing that has remained largely intact is the internet and has played a pivotal role in helping families find their loved ones since the disaster struck. It must be a horrific time for people who are desperately searching for family and friends, who have no idea of their whereabouts or even whether they are alive or dead.

The best advice is “to continue your efforts to be in contact with your loved one(s) using SMS texting and other social media (e.g., FaceBook, MySpace, Twitter, etc.) that your loved one(s) may use.”

This was the advice given by the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo to U.S. citizens in Japan in the search for loved ones. In the message from the U.S Embassy, people were also encouraged to use the Google Person Finder, Youtube Person Finder and the Red Cross’s Family Links website to try and find people.

Less than an hour after the quake, the number of tweets coming from people in Tokyo amounted to more than 1,200 per minute, according to Tweet-o-Meter. Click here to see people exchanging stories about their searches and experiences.

Person Finder is often created by Google during emergencies because it allows people to leave information about their whereabouts or information about a missing person. At the time of writing, there were about 158,700 records for Japan — more than 140,000 more records than were submitted to the last such site it set up for the victims of the Christchurch earthquake in February.

The Red Cross Family Links site operates in a similar manner, publishing a list of names with contact information of people who want to make it known that they are alive and people whose relatives have indicated they are missing.

Many of these status’ allowed people to get in touch very quickly. There were 4.5 million status updates from 3.8 million users across the world on March 11 that mentioned “Japan,” “earthquake” or “tsunami.”

The latest

Fellow journalists, you may be interested to know that the Japanese Prime Minister’s Office has created an English twitter page for people around the world (and of course beneficial for journalists!) The twitter account @JPN_PMO is translating from the disaster information account @Kantei_Saigai.

Is anyone following @JPN_PMO?
By Linzi Kinghorn

Why UGC is not a cheap alternative to real journalism – an in depth interview with Trushar Barot

Trushar Barot is a senior Broadcast Journalist from the User Generated Content hub at the BBC. I managed to catch up with him to find out what he does on a daily basis, which social media site the BBC benefits from using the most and whether he thinks UGC is a cheap alternative to real journalism.

The future of journalism is going to be much more about journalists who work with social media becoming trusted editors of UGC, according to Trushar.

The department at the BBC finds Twitter “essential” in newsgathering and are confident in using it to source stories. He says there has been a huge shift in the way people use sources such as Facebook, Youtube and Flickr.

It is particularly helpful when sourcing information in the Middle East fot the recent crisis. He says there has been an intense pressure for the BBC to keep up with the most current information and pictures.

He says he trys to maintain a good relationship with users who contribute information and makes sure they know they own the copyright of their information. The BBC also has a policy of never paying for information they obtain.


By Linzi Kinghorn

Army Recruitment app adds new dimension to UGC

On Monday, the US army launched a new iPhone App to recruite soldiers.

The app is free and takes content from the website Army Strong Stories and allows people to access more than 600 soldier bloggers’ content as well as allowing users to share their own “Army Strong” stories, photos and videos.

A spokeperson from the U.S. Army Accessions Command called the app and a mobile website that also launched on Monday “a natural extension of the Army’s ongoing commitment to engage potential recruits via social media channels.”

When the blog first started in 2008, it was a blog platform only allowing soldiers to tell their stories. Now, anyone with an army story is invited to tell it. I wonder if this may cause any difficulty if people start accusing others of misbehaving and particularly when the army provokes a lot of emotion for many people.

Not only that, but isn’t it a security risk if soldiers start saying things they aren’t meant to…Or perhaps it is a very good thing and will replace psychological therapy by allowing people to talk to each other and share memories rather than an exploitation tool.

Army Accessions Lt. Gen. Benjamin Freakley told the Belvoir Eagle, “Soldiers should join Army Strong Stories for a number of reasons. … Online and in the media, the negative stories are always given a platform. Soldiers, every one of us, have some of the best stories to tell.”

I agree that it is a great place for soldiers to tell their stories and therefore give a rounded view of life in the army, but what if they say something bad? Are their blogs vetted?

And the idea of recruiting people through it makes it seem like their recruits are in decline. This says quite a lot about the wars that the US are currently fighting. I’d love to hear what anyone who uses it has to say.
By Linzi Kinghorn

How Simon Rogers from the Guardian views UGC

I spoke to the Guardian’s Simon Rogers about User Generated Content, how to source a story from different social media platforms and what the Guardian will be offering in terms of UGC in the future.

Here is a little bit of information about Simon: Simon edits the Guardian Datablog and Datastore and is also an editor for the newspaper. Simon won the annual award for statistical excellence in journalism with his work with the Datablog. His journalism career began on trade magazines The Lawyer and Brand Strategy followed by four years at the Big Issue in the mid 1990s, when this paper was running interviews with leading opinion formers and politicians, including Tony Blair. Rogers joined The Guardian in 1999 and was launch editor of Guardian Unlimited News, and other roles at the paper have included editing the science section.

I asked him how he goes about collecting user generated information and which is the richest social media platform for the Guardian. I also asked what’s in store in the future for UGC at The Guardian.

According to Simon, half the traffic generated for the Guardian’s stories come from Twitter and therefore it is one of the best social media platforms to use. It is also extremely useful when it comes to generating data for interactive maps – a good example of this being when it the weather was unpredictable back in 2010.

By Linzi Kinghorn

Happy 5th birthday Twitter

For those of you who are just getting to grips with Twitter or those of you who have long been an avid tweeter, it might be time to feel concerned about the internet phenomenon. In an article by Viv Groskop in the Evening Standard this week, an important issue was raised about whether its 5th birthday is a make or break moment for the Twitterati…

Myspace came and went….as did Bebo….and who remembers Friendster?! Point made. So could Twitter follow in the same footsteps? When it began, it’s first users were “exhibitionists” according to Grodkop, everyone’s time-waste of choice. Author Hari Kunzru calls it his “work avoidance tool” and Jemima Khan remarked last week, “it revolutionises the way I procrastinate”. So is Twitter merely an avoidance tool?

Nowadays, it seems as though people have completely stopped using it for this method and are instead using it to communicate important information and implementing it into news just as much as television and radio. For example, Laura Kuennsberg and Georgie Thompson, both broadcasters, tweet constantly, updating me with news. There is much talk of revolution, politics, environment and anything else that is of interest.

Aside from that, people enjoy using it because you can post fun things that pop into your head and things that may sound silly when you say them out loud but are kind of acceptable on Twitter, like, “I’m just making a lovely cup of tea.” Ridiculous when said out loud. But on Twitter, they seem to work. It’s not just A-listers that use it any more – politicians and public figures tweet which adds to its authenticity but obviously you should take care because you are liable for anything you say on a Tweet.

Is Twitter destined to become part of our social existence that we cannot live without? Is it so ingrained into our lives now that it would be too hard not to tweet about your new handbag or the latest suicide bombs in the Middle East? Can we live without it? In order to maintain Twitter’s phenomenen, it may need to consider making some money. Dick Costolo, Twitter’s chief executive, didn’t mention anything about revenue projections or growth targets at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week so experts are worried the company may flop.

David Cameron said, “too many tweets make a twat”. Do you agree? Will it suddenly disappear into the stratosphere or will we get to a point where we regard it as useful and as important as email and question how we ever lived without it? Will it peak soon to a point where everyone is using it? Some argue this is a make or break time for Twitter. Watch this (my)space….oh dear….
By Linzi Kinghorn