Should Silicon Valley resist Donald Trump?

On this week’s Data Day, Luke Barratt and Bridie Pearson-Jones discuss what relationship tech companies in Silicon Valley can or should be doing to resist Donald Trump. Such companies overwhelmingly supported Clinton in the US election, and have in the past been outspokenly progressive on social issues.

However, the Intercept reported that of nine tech companies they asked, only Twitter said it wouldn’t help Trump create a database of American Muslims. Will tech companies adapt to a new Trump presidency?

There is a wider discussion to be had around the place of the far right on the Internet. We discuss Jonathan Albright’s research, which threw up some interesting results regarding the way in which far-right websites used internal links to game Google’s algorithm.

Moreover, some have put forward specific steps they feel should be taken by tech companies in Silicon Valley if they are to follow through on their consistent criticism of Donald Trump.

Sonia Katyal, Chancellor’s Professor of Law, Berkeley Center for Law & Technology codirector, wrote on Berkeley blogs about how the tech industry can resist Trump.

Follow Luke on Twitter at @lukewbarratt, follow Bridie at @bridiepjones, and follow Interhacktives at @Interhacktives.

You can also find this podcast and previous episodes on iTunes and on Soundcloud.

How to win a Data Journalism Award

Correction: In the podcast, we refer to the organisation running the Data Journalism Awards (GEN) as the General Editors’ Network. It is in fact the Global Editors’ Network.

Entries are now open for the Data Journalism Awards 2017, as of 28 November. Interhacktives are the media partners of this year’s awards, and on this episode of Data Day, Luke Barratt and Ryan Watts give them an introduction.

Past winners have included the Panama Papers, but this year for the first time, there is a category for students and young data journalists! With that in mind, we discuss some of the things that impressed us about last year’s winners, and what strategies might help you to win one this time around.

Simon Rogers, Data Editor at Google News Lab, is the director of the DJA, and the president is Paul Steiger, Executive Chairman of ProPublica’s board of directors.

This is the second year that Interhacktives have been involved with the Data Journalism Awards as media partners, and this podcast is the first in a series of content we will be running as we approach the deadline. Interhacktives will be your guide to the different categories, and a vital source of information on creating a winning entry. We will also be renewing last year’s series focusing on past winners.

The deadline for submission to the Data Journalism Awards 2017 is 7 April 2017. Winners will be announced on 22 June at the DJA 2017 Ceremony & Gala Dinner in Vienna.

More details can be found on the Data Journalism Awards website.

Süddeutsche Zeitung’s award-winning Panama Papers investigation.

Al-Jazeera America’s successful entry into the Breaking News category, using data to chart the process of an Amtrak train’s derailment.

Enter the Data Journalism Awards

17 ways to use Facebook Live

Facebook is putting cash in your hands for using its new live streaming service. Not only is this a sign the social media giant is wholeheartedly backing Facebook Live to the hilt, but it also presents huge opportunities for digital journalists.

As word spreads that Buzzfeed is set to earn $3.05 million from facebook Live before March 2017, Newsrooms and media companies will be looking for people with the skills to capitalize and a journalist who know’s how to work with Facebook Live will likely be an asset.

It won’t be a surprise to anyone who has visited the Facebook Live video map, however, that a decent stream can often be a diamond in the rough. Live anything has always been something of an art form, and when the format doesn’t work – it really doesn’t work.

Our Interhacktives team have collated 17 different types of Facebook Live video to make sure budding journalists don’t poison the well. We’ll show you what we think works, and what we think is borderline animal abuse.

1) The Political Broadcast.

“What really took me by surprise was the comment stream: it was unintelligible. A live video has no real time moderation.” – Ryan Watts

At one point before the election, four of the top ten Facebook Live videos of all time are Donald Trump related. The Donald brings in the views because of the salience of the US election, but it’s not just doing him a favour. A political speech like this one being broadcast, for free, to thousands across the world is good for democracy – and a perfect use of Facebook Live. It’s relevant, but don’t read the comments.

2) The Alternative Political Broadcast.

“500,000 people watching one hour of snaps of Joe Biden with a funny caption every now and then, too long and boring, not interesting at all.” – Matteo Moschella.

Popularised by the likes of Charlie Brooker and Channel 4, content that provides an alternative to mainstream politics is a good use of both the internet and Facebook’s streaming platform. When a Vice Presidential debate isn’t that appealing, physically-printed pictures of Joe Biden, softly presented in a (seemingly) endless expression of admiration is a natural alternative. Just learn from BuzzFeed and don’t let the joke run stale. People didn’t stay for long, but you only need to watch for 3 seconds to count as a view.

3) The Interview.

“The video is highly visual, with closeups of beautiful dresses and various accessories. Despite this, it relies on sound – the curator tells us all of the background context” – Harriet Pavey

Sure – interviews are good fun. Do they work on the interactive Facebook Live? Yes! The live element means no checking the copy, no “scratch that, I meant to say…” It works as far as live TV does, but there’s a way to make it better for your audience.

4) The Interactive Interview.

With this one in particular, rather than just doing a Q+A with the subject, it’s sort of ‘gamified’ so that it becomes more interesting for the subject and the people who are watching.” – Jasper Pickering

Gamification can make the news far more palatable for some younger consumers, so Dan Wooton is capitalising by 1) interviewing an Instagram celebrity and 2) Making his humble viewers do the heavy lifting, by pitching questions and responding with intent. This is a use of Facebook Live that is sure to gain traction in a major way.

5) The Web Cam.

“This got a bit dull at one point, no viewer interaction. I wanted to see more expert info on the hurricane and a point to all those high-tech screens” – Mimi Lauder

Ever since a couple of Cambridge caffeine nuts lifehacked their way to a perfectly observed brew, the live webcam has been something of a mainstay online – and it works with Facebook Live too. Watching a condor hatch its eggs, or paint dry, might not be the most fascinating feeds but by allowing people to simply check up on something interesting, at this raw level, is a sure to be both therapeutic and popular.

6) The TV Show.

“A compilation of interviews with Leave and Remain campaigners before the EU Referendum. Buzzfeed did really well with this afterwards too, as they made it into a series of vines, articles and shareable content.” – Bridie Pearson-Jones

“Hey, you know what should basically be Channel 5? The internet.” No one has ever said this, yet perhaps content creators are so capable that they can go beyond the production value of your typical TV show. Buzzfeed smothered proceedings with their own branding, made little twists to make a political grilling internet ready, and built something interactive and sharable that they could feed into vines, articles and more. Your move, TV.

7) The Reality TV Show.

“Kind of ridiculous but funny and clever way of engaging commenters – something that I think would benefit Buzzfeed in Facebook’s algorithms for generating newsfeeds” – Megan Gurney

Another of those pesky TV formats, but with a Buzzfeed twist. Crowdsourcing dance moves made for interesting viewing, and when combine it with a self-deprecating and awkward sense of humour – you have a decent Facebook Live post.

8) The Experiment.

“Gets pretty repetitive after a while,  we just want to see the watermelon explode.” – Alexandra Ma

Buzzfeed seem to be throwing everything at the wall and hoping something is as sticky as listicles. Facebook Live is showing us that you can take one of the most viewed YouTube videos of all time, stream it live, and still be providing decent content. The suspense, the simplicity, the fact you can’t predict how long the video will take to conclude – all preventing the user closing the tab. Just one more band…

9) The Simple Long Form.

“To be honest, I’m not sure the puppy is really enjoying it by the end.” – Luke Barratt

People watch ‘boring’ things on the internet. Case in point, an intersection in Jackson, Wyoming. Perhaps boring is a disservice, as people find entertainment in the discussions that surround these simple viewing experiences. Controversy struck when Buzzfeed massaged a puppy for an hour and a half – with arguments surrounding whether the dog was enjoying himself dominating the feed. Facebook Live benefits from a simple script, and a little bit of controversy will attract some fleeting views (or the RSPCA) for sure, just make sure you’re getting the attention you want.

10) The Complicated Long Form.

“It was curious enough to attract more than 400 thousand viewers, but the fact that AI couldn’t learn the game nearly as fast as a human being started to annoy most of the viewers, who started to criticize the transmission and argue amongst themselves about the point of the whole experiment as Mario died over and over again.” – Francisco Mares

Twitch played Pokemon, and it was a global phenomenon, in part because people love an underdog. Watching Mario dive off cliff faces is heartbreaking, but the tech behind this display captured people’s imaginations and, while the Facebook live stream set the stage, people stayed to debate Asimov’s laws of robotics. The lesson here is to think about your audience, and the commenters you wish to host.

11) The Good Information Piece.

“This video got more than 60,000 views which shows its significance in the social media sphere. I personally thought this video was quite descriptive and helped me understand the situation better than what I understood after reading a piece on NYtimes” – Ayushman Basu

On the odd occasion, a bit of Journalism can sneak onto a Facebook Live feed. Taking to the streets and simply interviewing people, as this reporter did, worked to an extent because the subject he was reporting on was important, divisive and, most importantly, happening now and happening around him. Take the streets and just film yourself doing your work, at the very least the Journalists will be watching.

12) The Bad Information Piece.

“It didn’t really work as a live video, however. The FT essentially tried to translate directly the television format (a bunch of people sitting down and talking) onto Facebook Live, which I think is the wrong strategy.” – Luke Mintz

Sit everyone down in a Newsroom and talk finance for 50 minutes, however, and you won’t be letting Facebook Live be all it can be. Formats that once defined news are no longer so relevant. Roosterteeth are (bluntly) heralding the death of the local anchor, whilst delivering tech news with a show that emphasises community interaction. Facebook Live is a different beast and the FT will need to adapt. The number of views these videos consistently have does not reflect the true reach of the publication.

13) The No Information Whatsoever.

“Just a big advert. It was dull because it never led to anything.” – Ella Wilks-Harper

A hypeman for local weather reports, this presenter never actually said anything of substance. NBC are treating live streaming on your facebook feed as a novelty, almost as a marketing tool. With a tool such as this, Journalists are hoping to be able to play the long game, and we won’t know exactly how Facebook Live matures until it does. Until then, tips on how to use the platform shouldn’t be seen as scripture (says the guy writing an article on how to use Facebook Live.)

14) The High Production Value.

“It’s basically a TV show. The problem with this video is that it looks like a TV package which ignores the facets of a social-only product” – Matteo Moschella 

Omnidirectional camerawork from a world famous media institution, presenters with such high pay it’s at risk of being publicised, the kind of stable camera work you’d find effortlessly tracking leaping Salmon on an esoteric nature documentary – 100k views. Eh. If you can keep the production value high, then all the better. We feel doing this to the detriment of audience engagement/innovative content – is best avoided.

15) The Medium Production Value.

“Pros: capitalises well on the behind-the-scenes element of Facebook Live, giving people a first glimpse of the new gallery before it was open to the public. It’s basically like getting a private gallery tour. Cons: It’s appeal is to a specific section of facebook users.” Niamh McIntyre

Facebook Live can be used to give us access to behind the scenes in ways we never expected. It’s a way of sneaking backstage, a way of rewarding those genuinely interested in a certain subject, of paying service to the fans. Keeping that authenticity is the name of the game, however, and as one of the world’s greatest businessmen always says, keep it simple stupid (hurts my feelings every time.)

16) The Raw and the Viral

“Pros: Candice’s loveable, down-to-earth nature invites us to explore the Chewbacca mask with her. We want to keep watching because the noise that the mask makes is so weird and unfamiliar we want to listen to it over and over again. Cons: I literally cannot think of any” – Alexandra Ma

Recommended by two interhacktives, and a firm favourite for most of the rest of us, Chewbacca mom tops our list. This type of video is effortless, genuine and caught fire. Facebook can capture personality in a way other platforms can’t, by combining the culture of a social behemoth like Facebook – with such an instant medium

17) The “Who says polling data is wrong?”

“I used a smiley face to tell the world my favourite Disney movie, an angry face to show my appreciation for cats (over dogs) and endorsed a candidate in the US election with a heart. Welcome to 2016.” – Jasper Pickering

Now that electoral polling doesn’t seem to work anymore, some sites have jumped at the opportunity of hosting their own. Using Facebook Live and cleverly demarcated emojis, news sites are holding their own public polls. They may have a humorous spin, with many people voting for Harambe in the majority of polls, but with official polling as unhelpful as ever – could this be a more effective method?

What works for you? Do you agree with our typology? Horrified at the idea of ‘chewbacca mom’ being future-proof entertainment? Let us know in the comments below and please share your Facebook Live videos – we’re always looking for inspiration.

Social Media for Journalists: Making a case for Facebook

There is one clear fact about journalism and social media, i.e. Twitter is the ‘Holy Grail’ for journalists.
The 140 characters in a tweet are used by a majority of journalists for breaking news and microblogging. Almost every journalist has a twitter account.

Facebook on the other hand is what I call a ‘potential’ which is waiting to be discovered by journalists. Facebook is a larger platform than that of Twitter and much more varied. In the following points I will make a case for Facebook and why it should be used more by journalists.

Here we go.

1. Number of users

This is the modus operandi and source of pride for any social media site. More users will generate more content. In the second quarter of 2016, Facebook had 1.71 billion monthly users while Twitter had just 313 million in the same time period.

This is a massive difference. More importantly, a difference which can have major consequences on what is being shared and created. Facebook has already become a source of news, with almost every major news agency sharing content on their official Facebook pages.

Contrastingly, individual journalists are not that active on Facebook. Click on a journalist’s profile, and you get a Wikipedia-esque introduction, with few irregular posts.

To reach a bigger audience, journalists who already have a Facebook profile can use their profiles professionally or even make a separate page if they want to keep their professional and personal profiles separate.

Journalists will get a much larger audience to cater to on Facebook.

2. Extensive engagement with audience

Facebook’s comments section is a platform for opinions, frustrations, and friendly banter. Activity over Facebook has become so relevant in recent times, that governments in certain countries (India and Pakistan) track such activities and curb them. Like the press, Facebook provides a platform for public opinion, forming and shaping it.

Granted that Twitter is good source for breaking news, but if a story is broken on Facebook, the public can actively engage in debate through the comments section.

Facebook’s reactions is a great tool for journalists. It can help them to understand what shared content resonates with the public’s emotions. Before reactions, it was impossible to tell from a “like” whether the reader was angry, sad, or happy about what they had seen.

On Twitter, although you can engage with audiences through replies, the scope of debate is limited to 140 characters.

Engaging with Facebook comments may seem like a daunting task. Twitter is more favoured because journalists are short on time and sending a tweet is easier than commenting on Facebook.

But, if they can spare time to engage with their audience on Facebook, they will be be able to understand public opinion.

3. The multi-platform format on Facebook facebooklive_marquee3
Facebook can influence public opinion because it provides a wide range of platforms on its site through which users can share content.

News agencies are making extensive use of Facebook live to break news and report on stories. If you compare breaking a story on Twitter with just a one line tweet and breaking the same news with a live video, you can understand the huge differences between the two. Video always has a more lasting effect on the viewer than words have on the reader. 

Facebook Live video has revolutionised reporting: where anyone can record live videos of any event through their mobile phone cameras.

Twitter is not so accessible when it comes to multimedia reporting. Short videos, GIFs and pictures are about all there is on offer.

Interview with Peter Yeung

Peter Yeung: Society will gain greater benefit from just having open data.

Fresh from his time as an ‘interhacktive’, the eyes of the data journalism community are already looking towards Peter Yeung at The Times. With several front page exclusives already under his belt, Peter has already caused quite a stir with his innovative work on mental health and the proposed 3rd runway at Heathrow. Dedicated, pioneering and oozing coolness, he spoke to James Somper about data, secrecy and vine.

Why did you choose data journalism?

I didn’t originally start in data journalism. I did some work in culture journalism before actually- visual arts, film and music. Only fairly recently did I start doing data journalism in the last year or so.

Why did you make the transition?

It’s been a growing niche. I studied anthropology before where you can specialise about specialising. Likewise, with data journalism you can cover almost anything. You have a lot freedom even though in some ways it is sort of a specialism to an extent now.

What do you think the difference is between a data journalist and a data analyst who works for a think-tank?

Data journalism works in the classic tenants of journalism in analysing and contextualising and providing information in a context that’s understandable for readers, whatever publication that might be.

How do you think Brexit will impact upon data journalism?

Well, not necessarily in an obvious way. I suppose if you take a broader approach and say it’ll have a negative impact like it may have on the rest of society, data journalism is a community that relies on the sharing of information and an open ethos more generally. If there are more limits on that then it could be pretty tricky. There’s a big Irish data journalism contingent in the UK which could be affected and that’d be a real shame.

As a data journalist, would you say you’re being hindered by the amount of data that the government releases or do you not think it’s a problem?

Like every data journalist, I like the idea of open data and that all data should be collated and collected, as much as possible. Freedom of Information requests are useful. Essentially society will gain greater benefit from just having open data so yes, the government is hindering journalism and society by releasing all data that it collects.

Would you say as a country we are becoming more secretive?

Data literacy and the quality of data output is increasing. I know the ONS recently had quite a scathing self-assessment about the quality of statistics they were putting out. Over the years it has improved quite dramatically and now it’s pretty good quality. With that being said, there are circumstances where it might be a very political thing in terms of which government is incumbent but there is a lot of difficulty in some cases about getting hold of data, whether that be through Freedom of Information requests. Certain government departments are very difficult to release data that should be released publicly. For example the Department for Education have become a lot more stringent on the way that you are able to access the data that they produce and they have also introduced a stipulation a couple of weeks ago that you have to give the government at least 2 days notice that you’ll be publishing data that they’ve released. That’s quite damaging to analytical newspaper journalism. In terms of secrecy, it depends on which angle you want to approach that from, whether it’s in terms of secrecy on the part of users who are now more suspicious about the way there data is being dealt with. There is a much greater awareness with Edward Snowden about the way our data is being used, but actually, news practices use huge amounts of data to check companies like Facebook.

What advice would you have for wannabe data journalists?

There is a lot of negativity about the journalism industry. It’s always been difficult to find your dream job where you could have loads of time to do what you wanted and have a lot of luxury. It’s more about finding your way in and using the spare time that you have to focus on the topics that interest you and what you want to write about. In terms of data journalism jobs, there’s quite a lot.

Finally, why did Vine fail?

I think the main reason it’s been shut down is because of the conflicting situation of Twitter and also how in a way it was also a competitor to Twitter’s ambitions in video. I think if it had continued to go as an independent, individual company, it would still be around. All the tributes that have flooded since it’s closed show how popular it was. It was probably the purchase by Twitter that killed it.

Data day: The rise of fake news on Facebook

Did Pope Francis endorse Donald Trump? Did Hillary Clinton sell weapons to Isis? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, you may have been the victim of fake news. In the first episode of a new podcast from Interhacktives – Data Day – Ella Wilks-Harper and Luke Barratt discuss the rise of fake news, question whether the crisis has been overstated, and examine some possible solutions to the problem.

Fake news on Facebook has been the subject of a frenzied debate recently, especially around a US election that has seen a country divided bitterly. As Americans – and Brits – retreat into online echo chambers of their own making, filling their Facebook feeds with people who agree with them, is it any wonder that ideology might start to trump fact? Some consider fake news the logical conclusion of the filter bubble. Will it be a wake-up call for Facebook to recognise editorial responsibility and abandon the utopian dream of its impersonal, all-ruling algorithm?

Mark Zuckerburg’s initial response to the fake news scandal:

Buzzfeed’s story about Macedonian teenagers using fake news to garner ad revenue:

A letter from the editor of Aftenposten attacking Zuckerburg over the censoring of a picture from the Vietnam War:

Buzzfeed’s analysis of engagement with fake news on Facebook in the last few months before the US election:

11 ways digital publishers covered Election Night

All eyes were on the United States two short weeks ago when it elected its next president. Many digital publishers used the opportunity to explore some creative new ways to cover the event as election and polling results rolled in throughout the night.

The Interhacktives team tuned into some live online coverage intently across the pond. Here were some that stood out:

Vox’s Election Day emotion tracker

(Screenshot: Vox)
Vox’s audience were excited and unhappy at the time this screenshot was taken. (Screenshot: Vox)

Vox’s Election Day emotion tracker is a perfect example of finding human stories from data. The site encouraged its audience to input their emotions throughout polling day, so that they could see how many other Vox readers were feeling the same way.

You can now see how emotions varied over the course of the day, filtered by the respondent’s preferred candidate.

Luke Barratt

CNN’s Politics app

A screenshot of the CNN Politics app on 8 November. (Screenshot: CNN Politics)
The CNN Politics app on 8 November. (Screenshot: CNN Politics)

CNN worked hard throughout the election cycle with an entire section of its website dedicated to election-related news, pushing out interactive series on its website such as “Global Headaches,” which invited readers to vote on the 45th president’s biggest foreign policy issues, and so on.

Throughout Election Night, CNN updated “CNN Politics,” its iOS app dedicated to data-driven election news released earlier this year, in real time. Whenever a candidate won a state, the app published a graphic of the winning candidate superimposed on a map of the state, along with the number of EC votes each candidate had tallied up, and exit/opinion poll results if available.

The app is divided into three main sections: “Insights,” featuring short stories driven by polling data; “Latest News,” with election-related CNN stories loaded directly on the app; and “Who’s Winning” (later renamed “How He Won”, and then “The Transition”) containing the results of national and state polls when possible. Since 8 November the app has continued to update with data and news-driven stories reflecting on the election’s outcome.

CNN also published updates to its Kik, Snapchat Discover channel and Amazon Echo channels throughout the night.

AJ Plus’ Facebook Messenger bot

A screenshot of the author's "conversation" with Mila. (Screenshot: AJ+/Facebook)
Part of the author’s “conversation” with Mila. (Screenshot: AJ+/Facebook)

AJ+, Al Jazeera’s social publishing arm, created a Facebook Messenger bot on 5 November that would act as the subscriber’s’ “guide” over the course of Election Night. The bot, named Mila, provided graphical visualisations, gifs and articles of the candidates’ positions and election outcomes, depending on what the reader asked to see. Here’s how AJ+ managed the interaction between the bot and readers, per

If they [readers] typed in “immigration” or “abortion”, Mila would return a fact card, profiles of the candidates, or an AJ+ video that could be watched inside Messenger. They could also send AJ+ photos reflecting their experiences on voting day.

Some of these reader reactions also made it onto AJ+’s social media channels.

AJ+ also hosted a Facebook Live video, and posted graphics and gifs on Twitter throughout the night.

Alexandra Ma

Quartz’s Slack channel

A screenshot of Quartz's public Slack channel. (Screenshot: Quartz/Slack)
An emoji- and link-fuelled conversation Quartz’s public Slack channel. (Screenshot: Quartz/Slack)

As Quartz’s coverage pays attention to, but doesn’t typically break news, the publisher forwent a standard live feed and elected instead to promote its Slack channel.

Editorial staff sent content to the Slack channel fairly regularly, but the conversation that ensued wasn’t exactly sparkling.

It was fun to see emojis feature heavily in the conversation, and to take part in a journalist-heavy Slack channel, but the conversation as a whole read like an unmoderated Facebook comment thread — fast-paced and repetitive.

A redeeming moment, however, was when a fellow user uploaded an entire spreadsheet featuring historical and current election outcomes of every single state:

Ryan Watts

Google’s Electionland

The Google Trends team gathered data from Google searches, released in real time, to see what people were asking about the US election throughout the night. It combined search terms around five main topics and charted spikes in searches for these topics across the US:

  • Provisional ballots status
  • Long wait times at polling stations
  • Inactive voter status
  • Voting machine issues
  • Voter intimidation at polling places

The geolocated search terms hinted at election trends that we should have perhaps picked up on sooner. For example, markers for long wait times at polling stations, which began to spring up across the map, suggested that the long-ignored white working class was turning out en masse for this election.

Luke Barratt

BuzzFeed/Twitter’s Election Night live show

BuzzFeed teamed up with Twitter to live-stream an Election Night show, which took on the style of a TV broadcast — so much so that the digital outlet had hired a TV producer to oversee the production.

The video was clearly aimed at millennials as it featured BuzzFeed’s classic “WTF” yellow stickers, emoji reactions and special appearances including Tony Goldwyn, the actor who plays President Fitzgerald Grant in Scandal, Ken Bone, and even a pre-recorded interview with President Obama.

The livestream wasn’t shy of political analysis, either, with BuzzFeed News journalists reporting live at locations across New York and London.

Some 6.8 million unique viewers, 83 percent of whom were under 35, tuned in to the special livestream, per Twitter statistics. BuzzFeed’s live blog, however, was disappointingly simple compared to their previous Election and Referendum coverage.

Bridie Pearson-Jones

The Washington Post’s live map

The Washington Post's live map. (Screenshot: The Washington Post)
The Washington Post’s live map. (Screenshot: The Washington Post)

WashPost debuted a map that showed the number of electoral colleges won in each state and changed colours as results came out throughout the night. In most cases, WashPost seemed to update its map faster than many other news publishers like the Guardian and some Indian publications.

WashPost also launched a geo-targeted “live email newsletter” containing content that changed according to the time the reader opened it.

Ayushman Basu

The Huffington Post’s electoral live tracker

HuffPost's live electoral map. (Source: The Huffington Post)
The Huffington Post’s live electoral map. (Source: The Huffington Post)

HuffPost created a descriptive electoral live tracker that was easy to follow. The map was divided into ‘Electoral Votes’ and ‘Geography’. Hovering over each state gave an idea of who was winning. There was an additional index beside the map which stated who won/led and the percentage of votes counted.

Trump is melting. (Source: The Huffington Post/Facebook)
Trump is melting. (Source: The Huffington Post/Facebook)

On Election Day, HuffPost also launched a live blog with short news updates, videos and UGC updated regularly. It posted a Facebook Live video featuring a lit wax candle shaped as Donald Trump, inviting viewers to watch the candle melt. Some people might have felt a bit odd watching the Trump candle melt and then see him win the election…

Ayushman Basu

The New York Times’ live updates

A zoom into The New York Times' live electoral map. (Screenshot: The New York Times)
A zoom into the New York Times’ live electoral map. (Screenshot: The New York Times)

While the New York Times Upshot’s election tracker has now become infamous for swinging its prediction from a 80+ percent chance of a Clinton victory to a 95 percent likelihood of a Trump win, its live blog was fantastic.

Live updates on the website included statistics on the number of Electoral College votes each candidate had gained, and the candidate’s chances of winning each state and the country overall.

The blog also had a great user interface, with colour-coded maps and ticks next to the winning candidate’s name whenever he/she won a state. It was a fantastic example of how to break down information-heavy issues in an accessible way.

Bridie Pearson-Jones


The BBC used colours and size — and its iconic election hexagons — to present its coverage. (Screenshot: BBC)
The BBC used colours and size — and its iconic election hexagons — to present its coverage. (Screenshot: BBC)

The BBC, who dedicated an entire landing page to the elections coverage, experimented with a range of different ways to tell the story, including breakdowns of voter demographics and explainers for its predominantly British audience of how the election worked. BBC presenters, including Andrew Neil, Emily Maitlis and Jeremy Vine, also reported live from New York.

On a night that was saturated with coverage, one of the most useful things was the BBC’s live Electoral College vote counter, which was a searchable interactive map that allowed users to find the results of each state easily.

The landing page has continued to update with news and analysis on the election’s aftermath.

Helen Chandler-Wilde, Alexandra Ma

The Guardian’s app

Pixellated Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump pop up on the Guardian's push alerts. (Source: The Guardian)
Pixellated Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump appear on the Guardian’s push alerts. (Source: The Guardian)

The Guardian’s app sent out push notifications after every development, which anchored its alerts to many lock screens, but the content it loaded was the same live blog featured on its website.

The app’s 8-bit depictions of mini pixelated Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump guarding the app’s live blog were a great touch, though.

Being able to access the number of states called, the popular vote toll, percentage of precincts reporting, and electoral college votes counted with one swipe was also useful.

Ryan Watts

The New York Times’ coverage of Trump’s visit shows Twitter can still be great

Donald Trump visited the New York Times at its Manhattan office on Tuesday. The on-the-record meeting was highly anticipated and publicised after the president-elect cancelled the meeting via Twitter — but, allegedly, not in person — earlier that day.

The Times live-reported the meeting and disseminated the coverage on various channels. Its app sent out a push alert at the beginning of the meeting, and maintained a live blog on its website and posted on Facebook twice during the event. (At time of writing — 15:15 ET, or one hour after the meeting ended — the Times has also published at least one story reflecting on the president-elect’s visit.)

But out of all the ways the Times covered the event, Twitter was by far the most effective.

The Times’ social media strategy editor, Michael Gold, created a public Twitter list of the journalists who had attended so people could follow — and instantly react to — direct quotes from the president-elect.

(Source: Michael Gold/Twitter)
A screen shot of the New York Times’ Twitter list of journalists who covered Donald Trump’s visit. (Source: Michael Gold/Twitter)

The newspaper also curated a story on Twitter moments, but this only featured some of the tweets on the live feed. (Twitter Moments does not allow users to add text in between tweet embeds, so the publication was unable to add commentary or context as it did in its live blog.)

It is important to note, however, that relying only on Twitter for live coverage of the story — or any story — is insufficient. The Times’ journalists mostly tweeted direct quotes from Trump, some of which — such as his suggestion that Stephen Bannon, his chief strategist and former editor of Breitbart News, was neither racist nor alt-right — seemed factually dubious and would be best accompanied with fact checking after the event.

Investor confidence in Twitter has recently fallen dramatically with its struggle to monetise its user base, shuttering of short-form video network Vine and companies previously interested in buying the social network — including Salesforce, Google and Disney — pulling out one by one. But at moments like these, it’s clear that Twitter has a unique power to create narratives and engage users in a way that other media simply cannot do.

(TOP IMAGE: Gage Skidmore)

12 easy tricks to help find your voice on social media

No one – not even Instagram queens, national newspaper editors or that weird guy from school who inexplicably has thousands of Twitter followers – fully understands social media. And isn’t that exciting?

Journalists increasingly value the analytics and audience connection offered by Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and who-knows-what-next. Together, we’re learning how best to use each platform to build our brand, reach new audiences and make our content the best it can be. 

So how are journalists tackling the modern mystery of social media? To find out, we’ve rounded up the most helpful social media must-dos and must-don’ts we could find, each from a different website. Spoiler: social media is a mixed bag.

  1. Vox: Make ‘em want more

Luke Barratt: “The tone of their tweets is similar to the headline voice on the website, focusing on explanation. However, there is also an elliptical quality to it: a question is usually implied but left unanswered. For example, ‘The timing of our current Election Day shows how antiquated our voting system is.’ How?”

It seems obvious, but it is easy to forget: if you give your audience too much information, they have no reason to click and add to your sweet, sweet page views. But nor do you want to incense your audience with a tantalising tweet leading to a mind-draining article. Only if your content is quality is teasingly holding back information deserved. Thankfully, Vox has quality on its side.

  1. The Telegraph: Know your audience

Harriet Pavey: “Their Twitter feed doesn’t get much engagement at all, despite having 700k followers. It seems to be still figuring out who it is…. Their Instagram uses lot of hashtags on every picture, suggesting that the likers are probably not avid Telegraph readers, and are likely just to be browsing Instagram. Despite the high engagement rate, the account has about 51K followers.”

‘Audience’ may be a generic, beige term but they are a varied, colourful spectrum. While millennials tend to lap up #hashtags, GIFs and a chummy writing style, the middle class, middle-aged audience of The Telegraph might be more inclined to think ‘GIF’ is a made-up word.

Even The Telegraph’s comparably brilliant audience engagement on Instagram might be problematic. It seems likely that most of the love is from people who just enjoy photos of dormice, instead of the more helpful and likely intended audience of potential and existing subscribers.

  1. The Financial Times: Forget the rules of print

Luke Mintz: “The FT uses the common Facebook tactic of making each post’s caption different from the headline. Often the captions will display an interesting, quirky quote from the article, or a nugget of insight which might not be conveyed by the headline.”

How would you sum up the story if you were talking to a, you know, normal person rather than a newspeak-infested, formal editor? The Financial Times are not going all Buzzfeed on their readers. They keep their serious style, but draw your eye just as you would in normal conversation – starting with the most interesting bit of the story. In the example above, the caption is a direct, personal quote with attention-grabbing emotion.

  1. The Daily Mail: A picture is worth a thousand words

Francisco de Souza: “Very bad use of images, mostly montages that are very hard to see in smaller screens, not attractive at all…. Daily Mail stories with good images tended to fare better than those with bad images.”

We’re journalists – and therefore all freakishly obsessed with words. But an image does the same job in a fraction of the time, which is key in the fast-paced world of social media. What makes the choosing the best picture even trickier is that our social media scrolling takes place on screens of hugely varying sizes, from the heftiest desktop to the most minuscule phone.

  1. Breitbart: Stick to your beat

Ryan Watts: “They’ve built a specific audience. They’re active and they don’t want to be distracted. This Facebook post demonstrates that, of the 1,200 people who liked this fairly innocuous article, 1/4 as many as people liked the top comment. A more ‘on-brand’ comment too.”

Viral content – check. Fun – check. Image-based – check. Relevant? Oh.

If you spam your readers with irrelevant content they did not sign up for, they may not stay signed up.

  1. VICE: Take advantage of loopholes

Niamh McIntyre: “VICE take a strategy I’ve seen used by lots of other places to get round the difficulty of hyperlinking in Instagram. They choose one piece to push, and link to it in their bio, which is updated on a daily basis. This seems to work reasonably well for them, as their like:follower ratio is much better than on other platforms.”

Instagram’s quirk of not letting you hyperlink in the caption forces publications to find other ways to promote an article.

This way, though, your audience must go all the way to your bio to find the link. That’s a lot of exercise for the internet. Concentrating on one image-rich article and pushing it intensely must be a great traffic-booster for VICE – and using different social platforms is innovative,  reminding its readers that its journalism is up-to-the-minute.

  1. Bloomberg @Brexit: Embrace niche topics (carefully)

Matteo Moschella: “Hourly tweets, live retweeting…No Clickbaiting… Few hashtags but effective.”

Bloomberg acquiring the @Brexit Twitter handle is key to their Brexit-only Twitter feed: it is clear, will do well on search and, of course, is right on-topic. The account was only launched on 22 October, yet 6 November sees it at 12k followers. Separating its Brexit analysis from its main account means an influx of new readers, who are particularly interested in Brexit, without alienating its usual audience.

  1. The Hindu: Followers are not everything

Ayushman Basu: “Has 4 million page likes. But, contrastingly not many likes and shares on individual articles. Quite odd as Indians are more active on Facebook than Twitter… With that big a population, they should definitely be getting more people engaged with their content.”

A serious look at analytics can reveal the – probably multiple – reasons why The Hindu is struggling on social media. Analytics, though, can be overwhelming. To simplify seemingly endless figures, pick a few key metrics to look at week-in-week-out and determine what you want to discover.

  1. The Independent: Bad journalism gets clicks too

Alexandra Ma: “On Facebook, The Independent posts old articles as if they were new, even though they’re not stock articles. MYSTERY: still gets a ton of shares, comments and reactions.”

The story shown above is from June 2016. Posting stock articles that remain relevant helps the reader; posting old news as if it is happening now does not, even if it rakes in the likes. Digital journalism has not veered away from print so much that good journalism does not matter – and, at its most basic, good journalism means not misleading your audience.

  1. Quartz: Everyone likes to laugh

Ella Wilks-Harper: “Quartz’s Twitter is very picture-heavy and tends to use funny photos that draw quite a few likes.”

Almost everyone is interested in humour, which cannot be said for many beats. And, given the positive outlook, light-hearted laughs are also highly shareable in comparison to hard, often downbeat and depressing news.

  1. The Sunday Times: Readers want attention

Helen Chandler-Wilde: “The Sunday Times doesn’t engage on Twitter with readers. Their engagement is low for 370,000 followers.”

Ask questions, engage in intelligent debate and don’t be scared to have a chat. Social media offers an admittedly terrifying – but simultaneously wonderful – new world of discussion that print could not. If you are not trying to promote buzz in the comments and shares surrounding your content, you are missing a trick to better your brand and audience understanding.

  1. Buzzfeed: Build your brand

Bridie Pearson-Jones: “Buzzfeed is really interesting because it has so many sections and accounts. Its language on social media reflects its editorial content: conversational and easy to read. Interestingly, their writers have much higher engagement than their official accounts.”

Multiple accounts mean social feeds can be curated with more care. And – from Buzzfeed News to Buzzfeed Food Buzzfeed has every topic covered. Even if posts do not directly lead to page views, the Buzzfeed name is always very visible. Likewise, Buzzfeed journalists are often big names with a following of their own. Just by tweeting about the brand, they promote it (shown above).

Now speak!

With these 12 easy tricks, you can now go out into the virtual world, and speak with confidence and (if you’re lucky) insight.

6 tips from Google on making compelling visualisations

Journalists aren’t used to taking advice from tech companies. Indeed, the row between Facebook and the journalism industry has intensified over the last two months. A Vox article published earlier this month attacked Mark Zuckerberg, who has been called “the world’s most powerful editor” for abandoning his editorial responsibilities.

Recently, Facebook fired the human editors on its ‘Trending’ team, prompting a flurry of clearly fake news stories from its automated algorithm.

Meanwhile, Google seems to have been moving in the opposite direction. Its News Lab has now been around for over a year, and has the explicit intention of collaborating with and empowering journalists. The Lab, which is run by former Boston Globe reporter Steve Grove, frequently works alongside journalists.

News Lab hosts a monthly Data Visualisation Round-Up in the form of a live YouTube discussion between Simon Rogers, the Google Trends Data Editor and former Guardian journalist, and Alberto Cairo, the Knight Chair in Visual Journalism at the School of Communication of the University of Miami.

From their 31 October discussion, here are some key points:

1. Graphics need a human side

Data journalism sometimes gets a reputation for being cold and calculating, as a place where statistics matter more than humanity. But data journalists are more than just automated counting machines, who often bring their emotions and convictions to bear on their work, and it is vital for data journalism to reflect that.

In the video, Simon Rogers recommends the September 2016 book Dear Data, by Giorgia Lupi and Stefanie Posavec. These two information designers, physically separated by the Atlantic, spent a year befriending each other by sending weekly hand-drawn data visualizations on postcards back and forth.

The cards contain many examples of innovative ways of displaying data, but the project was about more than that. Rogers calls it “a reminder that graphics should feel human and warm”.

2. Imprecision is fine

The era of Big DataTM has encouraged the growth of imprecise data analysis. In days gone by, sampling was the only game in town, and it was necessary for data to be incredibly precise, since datasets were relatively small. Now that data analysis and data journalism is starting to use big data, the sheer sizes of today’s datasets eliminate any problems that might arise from occasionally imprecise points.

This image, for example, illustrates the relative interest around the world in Hillary Clinton and Brexit.

Google News Lab teamed up with Accurat, a data research firm, to create World Potus, a project that uses Google Trends to look at how people in countries around the world were discussing the US election, by analysing their Google Searches.

Naturally, when using data from every single Google Search, some data points will be unhelpful. Someone might misspell ‘Clinton’ in an unpredictable way, or search while on holiday, making their geographical data misleading.

But since Google Trends uses big data, this doesn’t matter. There are so many points in this dataset that imprecision pales into irrelevance.

3. Data journalism should be collaborative

While more traditional journalists jealously guard their scoops, and are full of stories about the ruthless methods they’ve had to employ to get to the scene of a story first, data journalists can often be seen asking for (and receiving) help on Twitter from their colleagues. What’s more, articles often come complete with a link to the original data, so that other data journalists can dig for their own stories.

This is why all the code used in projects like World Potus is available on the Google Trends Github page.

4. We have to think more about our audience

Data visualisation is no longer the insurgent force it once was in the journalism industry. These days, infographics are pretty much par for the course, so much so that Giorgia Lupi has described our current period as “post-peak infographic”.

Sure enough, the New York Times has announced that it will now be producing fewer huge visuals. Does this mean that we’ve got over our initial enthusiasm for data visualization?

Rogers has a more nuanced view: “People are fussier about what they’ll love.” In other words, because of the recent glut of infographics, there is more importance on ensuring that the visualization serves the story and serves the audience.

5. Print can be more powerful than online

It is often assumed that data visualization is native to the Internet. While it is true that the online medium brings with it huge potential for interactive features, print can still play a vital role in visualization.

Alberto Cairo explains that he still buys print newspapers, and enthuses about the New York Times’ double page spread listing people who have been insulted by Donald Trump. The online version  is impressive, and gives the reader the ability to click through to specific insults, but the size and physical presence of a double page spread in the New York Times really brings home the extent of Trump’s vituperative qualities.

Cairo also cites the National Geographic magazine as a perfect example, specifically highlighting sketches by the artist Fernando Baptista, made for a large pictorial illustrated infographic about the Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona.

“It’s gonna be like people listening to music on vinyl.” This remark from Simon Rogers perhaps betrays nostalgia stemming from his journalistic background, but probably chimes with the views of many modern journalists.

6. Data journalists must think about posterity

Excitingly, Rogers and Cairo seem to be planning some kind of grand archive for data journalism. One pitfall for visualization is the expiration of online programmes. For this reason, when Google starts a new initiative, it always has a plan for making sure that projects made using that programme will survive even if Google discontinues it.

As with much online journalism, data visualizations can be ephemeral, fading away after their first publication. Data journalists need to think about preserving their work, much of which will remain relevant for long periods of time.

Watch the full discussion here:

BBC Pop Up and CNN Digital: Local reporting vs reporting locally


Every journalist of the future will be dependent on technology and social media to tell and share their stories, whether they like it or not.

Gone are the days when readers read the news by solely picking up a newspaper on the way to work. In fact, chances are that we get our news from push notifications and Snap stories that we receive before getting out of bed every morning.

Newsrooms like the New York Times and Independent are investing more — if not all — of their time and resources in expanding their digital and social-led storytelling capabilities, and rightly so. Such investments have brought about fascinating new changes into the way stories are told and shared. Through swipes and taps on their devices, readers in London or New York can easily get real-time information on what’s happening in places like Rio de Janeiro or Aleppo.

One theme at HacksHackers London’s (HHLdn) October meetup was how journalists can use technology to make local stories available to a global audience. Two presenters that stood out in particular were CNN’s digital team and BBC Pop Up, a self-defined “mobile bureau” that crowdsources and reports stories at a “hyper-local” level.

Both CNN and BBC Pop Up rely heavily on digital tools and social media to tell and share their stories. CNN, for example, used Facebook Live to report a rally on Hong Kong’s Establishment Day, Kik to take readers on a walking tour of Rio de Janeiro during the 2016 Olympics and a bot to ask readers what they consider to be the next US president’s biggest foreign policy obstacle. BBC Pop Up, primarily makes videos ranging in length from Vine loops to long-form documentaries for TV, and share them on social media and their live blog.

These outlets have devised incredibly innovative ways to use emerging technology and social media platforms to make underreported local reporting accessible to a global audience. In a time of  shrinking newsrooms and tightened budgets, having a team like BBC Pop Up — which consists of just a handful of people — that sources, reports, shoots, edits and social video stories— makes sense. (BBC Pop Up’s model, admittedly, does set a terrifyingly high bar for journalists who may interpret this portfolio of skills as a new job requirement for working in digital video.)

Local reporting gone global or global reporting done locally?

One challenge that CNN and BBC Pop Up may face in its work, however, is how to make what they call their “local reporting”, truly local.

The idea of globalising local journalism — and journalists’ calling themselves mobile local reporters, as BBC Pop Up does — is unique and incredibly ambitious. BBC Pop Up does a great job at crowdsourcing ideas from locals at town hall meetings and callouts on social media. Their website has received thousands of story suggestions since it was established in 2014, per editor Benjamin Zand.

What I found odd, however, was the fact that the pop up bureau spends just four to five weeks in a given area.

Four to five weeks seems barely enough time for an intern to understand the layout of a new office, let alone for a group of journalists to understand and find balanced stories in a new community. Given the fact that BBC Pop Up does much of its news-gathering, reporting and editing on the ground, how can its journalists get to know the lay of the land — literally and figuratively — when there is limited time?

Peter Yeung, an interactive journalist at the London Times and former Interhacktive, also alluded to this issue in his analysis of BBC Pop Up on Medium:

By its very nomadic nature, BBC Pop Up has little capacity for super-users or influencers, nor indeed for languages, cultures, rules and practices to emerge.

These news-gathering and reporting practices sound dangerously similar to those of parachute journalism, where reporters go to an area already with a general idea of what they want to cover and meet a limited pool of people (contacts of contacts, as opposed to literally everyone). BBC Pop Up, as mentioned above, calls itself a champion of “hyperlocal” journalism.

Whatever the benefits and challenges that face digital-first outlets like CNN and BBC Pop Up, it will be interesting to see how new digital tools and social media trends influence the way we report the news in the future, particularly with the advent of virtual reality and 360 video.

Outlets like CNN and BBC Pop Up are ahead of the curve in the way that they tell and share stories online, and I’m excited to see what comes next in their innovative and experimental news-gathering and storytelling strategies.

Technology and social media are not spelling the end of journalism — as many people have feared — but are marking a beginning of a new era of it.

Should we kill the homepage?

Two years ago, Buzzfeed leaked a graph showing a steep decline in visitors to the New York Times’ homepage. Almost immediately, Quartz and the Atlantic pronounced the homepage dead.

This leaked graph shows a two year decline in Home Page Visitors at the

In 2014, The Columbia Journalism Review noted, “Less than half of visits to start on the homepage.” Poynter described the flatlining frontpage as “a previously dominant force” which had lost influence. Forbes were a little more optimistic, yet still issued a warning to publishers who ignored change.  

Look here though, and what do you see? Why, It’s a rather traditional-looking, not-even-slightly dead homepage.

Did this sharp rise in criticism from Poynter et al, bury the homepage alive?

Martin Belam, the social and new formats editor at the Guardian, offered a more nuanced explanation on his personal blog. He said:

“It seems to me that what we’ve been saying for years is that homepage traffic is going down as a proportion of your overall traffic. Sadly it seems to me, it looks like this leaked graph is going to be taken for evidence that ‘the homepage is dead’ – but for the wrong reasons.”

So, has the homepage been clawing at the doors of its tomb for two years? What do the figures say now, in 2016?

The digital marketing company Quantcast offers a slight insight into how people access Buzzfeed, with a storming 80% of unique visits coming from mobile. Homepage traffic, however, is kept behind closed doors. Of course, at Interhacktives we have access to our own stats – and we have nothing to hide.

The peaks and troughs of our most popular article, as unpredictable as they may be, are a world away from the slow hum of our homepage traffic – it’s a different class.

Over the course of that month, 38% of our traffic came from our top article. It’s encouraging that it’s the content of our site that people are reading, but people aren’t using the homepage to get there. Facebook shares, the power of search and the nefarious rhythms of dark social form a complicated union, and a new gateway to Interhacktives articles.

So what do we do?

Interhacktives are at a crossroads. Our fledgling new website, and the contents of our home.php file, are up for debate – debate that has seen choice words launched like barbs and oranges used as missiles.

On the one hand, if the two years since Quartz sounded the death knell haven’t marked the end of the homepage, why get rid of it now? On the other, we have the shifting sands of analytic trends driving us to make dramatic changes, in an arena where social drives more traffic than ever before.

We took the leap, and the homepage is dead. For now.


7 ways to make your Twitter bio stand out as a journalist

It’s only 150 characters, but it’s the first thing people will see when they come to your profile, and it’s a great way to pop up in people’s searches. Here’s how to make it as good as it can be:

  1.      Keep your audience in mind

Yes, your mates are on Twitter. But potential employers, networkers, and new followers are too. You need to impress by being professional. The real trick is doing this without lapsing into the tone of a corporate droid. Keep it polished, but let your personality shine through.

  1.       Mention your interests

Everyone is interested in something. If nothing comes to mind, look at your recent tweets. What have you been tweeting about? Politics? Feminism? Moths? No matter how broad or how niche, be sure to include something to indicate that you are a human being. For inspiration, look at LinkedIn’s list of causes you might care about. What makes you different to every other tweeter?

  1.       Hashtag them

When mentioning your interests, include the hashtag in your bio. For example, if you’re a keen birdwatcher, say it with a hashtag: #twitcher. When users search the hashtag, your profile will pop up at the top of the page.

  1.       Use Twitter handles

State who you work for/which university you go to, using their handle, e.g. @cityjournalism. This gives your audience the chance to get to know your organisation, just by clicking on your bio.

  1.       Include contact details

People can only direct message you if you follow them back, so it’s worth including your email address as a fallback. It makes you seem approachable.

  1.       Include your website

It goes without saying, but linking to your website in your bio will automatically get you more hits. Do this in Twitter’s specific ‘website’ box – this appears when you edit your profile.

  1.       Keep your picture smart

Your picture should be of you, preferably a clear photograph without any other people. Selfies are fine, but it’s better to have a smile than a Kylie Jenner pout, if you want to seem friendly.

What WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption means for journalism and how to use app

The last time I checked, WhatsApp was not one of the most popular social media apps among journalists.

It was trailing Twitter, Facebook, Messenger, and Line by far.


Many a journalist have written off this chat app with a disputed 800 million monthly active users after efforts to broadcast through it proved to be a herculean task— adding phone numbers to chat groups and broadcast lists.

Yes, pushing out information through hard-to-make and limited WhatsApp broadcast lists is neither efficient nor economical but this world’s most popular messaging application is still useful in journalism.

It unleashes its power when you reverse the newsroom-audience information flow— from broadcasting to newsgathering.


What’s more, WhatsApp’s latest addition of end-to-end encryption (above) has made it safe for internal newsroom communication— including managers’ top-secret chats, planning, story assignment to reporters and content filing, including scoops.

“When you and your contacts use the latest version of the app, every call you make, and every message, photo, video, file and voice message you send, is end-to-end encrypted by default, including group chats,” WhatsApp co-founders Jan Koum and Brian Acton said in their announcement of the new privacy features.

Unlike Telegram where users have to start a secret chat to enable encryption, WhatsApp’s new security feature, Signal Protocol designed by Open Whisper Systems,  is enabled by default in the app’s latest version.


“Once the session is established, clients do not need to rebuild a new session with each other until the existing session state is lost through an external event such as an app reinstall or device change,” Koum and Acton said.

However, there are concerns that the encryption fails in chats between Android and iPhone phones. It should also be noted that the Big Brother may be able to snoop on encrypted messages if the security  of your gadget is compromised.


So, how can you effectively use WhatsApp for internal newsroom communication, content-generation and newsgathering?

The app that was acquired by Facebook at $16 billion (£10.6 billion) in 2014 uses standard cellular mobile numbers to send information— photos, texts, audio, videos and user location — over the internet, across platforms.

Its web feature, WhatsApp Web, which is installed by scanning a QR reader, makes it easier to type and download information onto a computer for processing.


Once this system is set up, WhatsApp is not only fast in breaking news but also more reliable in receiving and verifying eyewitness media and User Generated Content (UGC).

To begin, it is advisable to set up a WhatsApp group for your reporters and correspondents, with editors as admins who issue instructions and plan day-to-day business

As the newsgatherers post content on the platform, editors have to monitor updates, download, process, package and publish the information.

El Taller del Bit

The app’s chat function allows conversations between the senders and receivers, including clarifications and requests for more information in real time.

Kenya’s Daily Nation has successfully used WhatsApp to receive breaking stories from its reporters and correspondents around the world in the last two years.

It runs a closed group where newsgatherers, online subs and editors are ever conversing— gathering and publishing information as part of the newspaper’s digital strategy.


The BBC has expanded beyond closed newsroom groups and now uses WhatsApp to receive eyewitness media and general UGC, according to

Its Have Your Say programme has been particularly successful at this— breaking the Alton Towers rollercoaster crash, covering Nepal earthquake, India and South Africa elections.

The Wall Street Journal and the Guardian, reports also run successful crowd-sourcing projects using WhatsApp.


While Facebook, Twitter, Line, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, WeChat and Viber are equally reliable in delivering UGC, verification of content delivered via WhatsApp is quicker, courtesy of country phone codes.

For instance, if a user claims to be a resident of Garissa in Kenya where Al-Shabaab killed 148 students last year and their phone number’s country code reads +27, you have every reason to be skeptical because +27 is the country code for South Africa. Kenya’s is +254.

Mark you, it is not impossible for people to download content from the internet and pass it as their own on this ‘dark end’ of the internet.

Syed Ikhwan_edited

As such, content delivered via WhatsApp should treated with the scepticism all UGC deserves and passed through the normal verification process.

The success of WhatsApp in delivering UGC is solely dependent on the popularity of the app in the targeted region.

It can work wonders in a country such as  India that has over 65 million active users but may not be as successful in the United States where WhatsApp is still struggling to get users’ attention.

Photo credits: — Harry Misiko, El Taller del Bit, iphonedigital, Microsiervos and Syed Ikhwan | Creative Commons.

How to use Snapchat as a journalist

As most digital journalists know, Snapchat is a vast and in some ways underutilised tool. Snapchat claims to have over 8 billion users per day – an eye watering number compared to the 2 billion they had only last May.

Snapchat has created the Discover channel on their app. These are the snapchats that show up automatically on everyone’s phones. The channel is only open to partners of snapchat, meaning you have to be invited by Snapchat to join.
Snapchat discover

Discover channel includes big names that are trying to tap into the young audience hooked on the app. The Daily Mail in particular has pioneered the way they use this medium by creating their own distinct voice.

Another big newspaper brand that has thrown their weight behind Snapchat is the Wall Street Journal. This was an exciting step for the social media app because the WSJ is the first broadsheet newspaper to look into the potential of Snapchat and reach a more serious readership.

Currently, the Wall Street Journal have 5 people dedicated to developing  Snapchat stories on a daily basis.

However, Snapchat discover is not an option for most newsrooms, firstly because it is extremely competitive to get a channel and secondly hiring up-to 5 new staff members is an expense that most newspapers cannot afford.

But if you want to brand yourself as an innovator in the newsroom you should consider suggesting how Snapchat stories might be used. Stories is the part of the app where anyone can create an account and use it. This could help reach a younger readership, something desperately needed by newspapers with an ever aging audience. If the newspaper creates a Snapchat account, each journalist can produce short Snapchats to support the stories they are writing.

Interhacktives has created a simple guide below on how to report on an event via Snapchat.


Your first snap is your headline, make it simple and clear what this Snapchat story will cover.


It’s a good idea to have a rough plan. For example, if you’re covering a football match, you might want to capture the atmosphere before, the walk to the stadium, the stadium and then subsequent news, eg goals, red cards, half time and full time.

Half time

Top tip

Keep the screen vertical – jumping from horizontal to vertical ruins the experience for your audience.



Be ready to change the angle of the story if a bigger story emerges. However, remember Snapchat works chronologically so once you have added an extra snap it will be on the timeline.

For example with the football example above, at the Birmingham City Vs QPR match I noticed on the journey to the stadium there was an unusually strong police presence.  The police were jumpy and insisted on escorting the away fans. This worked nicely into my story as I wanted to include the journey to the stadium. When the police became more violent, it was easier to flag it up because I had already mentioned it in my Snapchat story. 

So think about the chronology of your snaps, they are important.

Always conclude

Once one incident is over – in this case, the fight between the fans and police, be sure to explain that the incident is over and that you are returning to the initial main story. Also make sure you round off your overall snapchat story, try linking it to the website or newspaper the story will be published.

Snapchat is such a new platform that there is of course no wrong or right way, so share your tips on successes and failures of using Snapchat in the comments section.

Grub’s up! Welcome to the future of food…

The world has a problem with food.

Nine billion mouths will need feeding by 2050.

Double the amount of food currently produced will be needed, the UN predict, as more people in more countries are lifted above the breadline.

But producing this volume of food using current practices is environmentally dangerous.

Nine billion palates reared on a meat addiction means higher COemissions from cattle, pigs, poultry and sheep farming. The livestock industry is already responsible for 15% of global COemissions. We can’t afford to watch this figure increase.

As more people grow more hungry, experts fear the environment may buckle under the pressures of traditional agricultural methods.

Land is scarce, water scarcer.

Humanity needs to fix its food problem, and fast.

Current farming practices are environmentally stressful. From the energy and water needed to make animal feed to the gases produced from animals’ digestive systems, the livestock industry costs the planet dearly.

Figures from the UN suggest that many countries will not change their meat-eating habits any time soon. Although per capita consumption of meat is not projected to change, the increase in population means many more thousand tonnes of meat will be produced.


Beef consumption in the US, China and India in 2024 is projected to be around almost 22 million tonnes, which adds up to 1.5 trillion kg of CO2 emissions, more than three times as much CO2 as the EU produced in 2010.

These eating habits, in a world approaching climate disaster, are environmentally unsustainable.

As climate change means sub-Saharan countries face increasingly unpredictable weather, traditional farming looks like an unstable and insufficient method to feed booming populations.

A solution may be on the horizon, however. Edible insects.

Grub’s up

For the western world, the idea of insects being the next great world food founders on a cultural revulsion (see our video below), but for many in the developing world they already provide a sustainable, nourishing and cheap food source.

edible insect macaroni cheese
Buffalo worm macaroni cheese Photo: Grub

Dr Sunday Ekesi, Principal Scientist at Nairobi’s International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) says that insects are an ideal replacement for traditional livestock.

“The livestock sector is a great contributor to carbon-related problems. We are are hoping that insects should be another way of minimizing greenhouse gas emissions from the sector.”

“Production of insects is not really energy-consuming, as such. When we look at the feed, for instance, to produce 1kg of beef you need 25kg of feed while, for the cricket production system that we’ve established here in Kenya, we need 2.5kg maximum to produce 1 kg of crickets.”

Insects are cheap to rear, easy to prepare and comparably nutritious as meat. For developing countries, they are a useful export. A greater number and variety of insects can be grown and harvested in hot, wet countries compared to the cold of Europe.

Stir fry grasshoppers edible insects
Grasshopper stir fry Photo: Grub/ Marcus Leach

Dr Ekesi says that the entry barriers for new insect producers are low.

“To start a cricket colony,  for instance, especially the domestic one that we have been promoting, you need just between two and five pairs of males and females. That is sufficient. The cost of that is very minimal compared to livestock.

“The momentum that we have, especially with interest from the private sector and the youth and their demand for employment, we see ourselves being overwhelmed by demand.”

We spoke to one man trying to sell insects to the UK

Shami Radia is co-founder of, an online edible insect retailer.

Radia says that British squeamishness is no excuse for not giving insects a try.

“There are cultures that have been eating insects and enjoying insects for a long time, and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be.”

Shami says if westerners are still put off by eating entire grubs, insect flour is always an option.

“People who are reluctant to try a whole insect are more willing to try a product which has cricket flour, so you get all the benefits of the insect but you don’t see them.”

Time to find your insect match?

But what does an insect farm look like? 

A cricket farm can be located anywhere in the home— a closet in your bedroom, or a wooden box in the garage, backyard or a normal room.

However, the right conditions for breeding and growth must be maintained— a temperature of between 20 and 26 degrees Celsius and moisture.

A cricket farm in Thailand
A cricket farm in Thailand Photo: Afton Halloran

Make sure the sides of the high-sided box are well-ventilated and smooth so that the insects cannot climb and escape.

As well as air, put a shallow water tray in the farm for the insects to drink without drowning.

Once set up, put 500 crickets in the farm. These can be bought in a pet store or online shops.

Feed the insects on plants like cucumber, morning glory, and pumpkin for vitamins and chicken for proteins.

A cricket farm in Thailand
A cricket farm in Thailand Photo: Afton Halloran

After 30 day, place a tray with thin top soil where females will lay eggs.  The environment must be kept moist for the insects. Spray water on the soil every after 24 hours.

Once laid, remove the tray and keep it incubated in a hot, humid environment (90 percent relative humidity) until the eggs hatch ( normally within 10 days).

Beware that the eggs will not hatch if they are left in the cold. Keep them warm all the time.

The babies, which will be about the size of a pinhead, need to be kept in a separate container until they are big enough for the main farm.

Feed them protein-rich  foods like chicken, and they’ll grow quickly.  After four weeks, they will reach full size.

A cricket farm in Thailand
A cricket farm in Thailand Photo: Afton Halloran

Feeling peckish? How to cook a grasshopper stir fry… 


Five things we learned from The Times’ Build The News

Build The News - Day 2

Unlike the past few years when Build the News focused on hacky concepts and newsroom tools, last weekend’s event went back to basics— telling a story.

University students, under the guidance of The Times’ journalists, coders, developers and data analysts, set out to build and tell their stories in the most effective ways possible.

Build The News - Day 2

Our City University team (above)’s story “Grub’s up: the future of food” story won, while Cardiff, with an investigative data piece on how government dictates citizens’ love life, was declared runner-up.

Build The News 2016

These are the lessons we learned from the two-day event at The Times’ News Building:

i. Story comes first: Before succumbing to the temptation of fancy tech and visualisations – what’s your story? What’s new and why does it matter?

Build The News 2016

Judges at the event (above) reminded participating student journalists to keep in mind the five Ws and one H questions while telling their stories. Who cares? Why? How?

Journalism, they emphasised, comes first. New technologies only enable us to do it better. Not the reverse.

Build The News 2016

Like other creative arts, build something first – a strong story – then use visualisations and other aesthetic devices to enhance reader experience. Don’t build a decoration— pointless, fancy visualisations.

For instance, in the winning project— Grub’s up: the future of food— we built a case as to why people should eat insects. Using data analysis and visualisations, we established that the world may not be able to feed the projected nine billion-plus mouths by 2050.

Build The News - Day 2

We also showed how insects are a viable source of protein and minerals because they emit less greenhouse gases compared to livestock, and are easy to farm.

ii. How you tell a story matters: It might be with text, video, audio or a chart, but just make sure the reader get the message easily.

Build The News - Day 2

As The Times News Editor Katie Gibbons advises in her post, “be innovative, but not for the sake of it — the simplest, cleanest way of getting your message to your audience is almost always the best”.

Thinking about the medium (print or online), nature of the story, demographic and psychological make-up of the target audience can help you arrive at the best way to tell it.

Build The News - Day 2

iii. Coding and DDJ are essential: Basic knowledge of coding and programming languages such as HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Python, R and Rubi, it became evident, may replace grammar interview tests for journalists in the near future.


During the competition, The Times developers and coders were at hand to help teams because many lacked experienced techies.

The event laid bare the need for journalists to get the hang of web design, content management systems, data scraping and coding.

Build The News - Day 2

In the same vein, the need for journalists to learn how to generate stories hidden in data became an open secret for success. Going forward, we should be able to scrape, analyse, visualise, generate and tell data stories.

iv. Collaborate with coders: Build the News, once again, confirmed the need for writers without technical knowledge to collaborate with developers, coders and programmers in data projects.

Build The News - Day 2

But as we said earlier, there is every need to watch and learn what the techies do, because they may not be there for you all the time. Many media houses in fact don’t hire them, and the onus is on reporters and editors to write code.

v. Innovate, innovate and experiment: While video, text and photos remain the most preferred storytelling methods, experimenting with new forms of journalism is key to going into the future.

Build The News - Day 2

Birmingham City students (above), whose project focused on The Investigatory Powers Bill (Snooper’s Charter), got a honourable mention at the event for their innovative use of bots and virtual reality.

Photos: Matt ‘TK’ Taylor

Congrats to Charlotte Beale, David Knowles and Harry Misiko

David Knowles, Charlotte Beale and Harry Misiko

The Interhacktives team would like to congratulate three of our own for winning The Times’ Build The News competition.

Charlotte Beale, David Knowles and Harry Misiko beat off competition from Birmingham, Cardiff and other universities across the country.

Build The News’ aim? To tell a digital story beautifully.

Charlotte Beale, David Knowles and Harry Misiko’s Bug project

Beale, Knowles and Misiko’s story, “Grub’s up: the future of food”, showed how edible insects can help solve our global food shortage.

Almost nine billion mouths will need feeding by 2050. But the livestock industry already accounts for 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions. By contrast, insects are environmentally friendly, as well as cheap, nutritious, and accessible to the 800m people in the developing world who do not have a secure food source.

To tell the story, the team spoke to UN-backed researchers and showed with data how and why insects offer a solution. They made a Buzzfeed-style taste test video of their peers trying worms, crickets and grasshoppers.

The story also included a Tinder-style function for users to find their edible insect match.

‘Funny, engaging’ journalism

“I’m very proud of what we achieved”, said Knowles.

“This project means a lot to me. We told an important story in a funny, engaging way. I feel like I can share the story with friends and they will feel happy, not obliged, to read it.” (David Knowles on Twitter).

Misiko said: “as a Kenyan, I had only heard about Build The News from my classmates. I took part to learn more about the programme. Winning came as a big surprise.” (Harry Misiko on Twitter).

“Winning was unexpected”, said Beale, “as we were up against teams who had built some great tools, but the judges said they were impressed by our innovative idea, wide reporting and use of data.” (Charlotte Beale on Twitter).

We, as the winning team’s coursemates, are proud that the Interhacktives ethos brought them victory.

We wish to congratulate Beale, Knowles and Misiko and wish them success for the future.

Photo: Matthew ‘TK’ Taylor

The best video live-streaming apps

By 2019, 80% of all internet traffic will be for video – the online world is far from being only about text and images.

One of the most interesting new strands of this video revolution is live-streaming: it offers a unique level of intimacy and immediacy to users.

But what should you use?


Periscope has a number of benefits. It is owned by Twitter, therefore allowing you to benefit from its social graph and it already has 10 million users (the highest out of the competition). A great aspect of it is the geolocation functionality, allowing you to search a map of Periscope streams up to 24 hours after they have been broadcast. It is the fastest growing of the options, and it now auto-plays of Twitter timelines, giving it a leg up against the competition.


Meerkat was once Periscope’s great competitor, and although it has a smaller number of users, it does offer some unique benefits. You are able to schedule a broadcast and generate a URL before it has happened – meaning you can build interest in a live-stream and possibly even SEO ranking ahead of time. Although it’s not possible to re-watch broadcasts, you can – for now – stream to Facebook, which is a significant advantage.

Facebook Live

Facebook Live, however, is catching up quickly. Lot’s of publishers have begun to experiment with it recently, especially as Facebook have given Live posts a big boost in their algorithm – meaning that more users should see it than others posts, and it also sends a notification to your account when a stream begins. But Facebook Live is very much limited to on-platform only viewing.


Blab is the young upstart in the room, and it could be a game-changer. It allows you to have up to four simultaneous streamers as well as unlimited viewers, lending itself well to discussion-based streams or simply those looking for added dynamism. But Mashable have described it as “Periscope for groups of friends”, and with that potential for huge growth in social usage, it could gain a very engaged user base.

Grasshopper stir fry: your first step to an edible insect future

Got an appetite for edible insects? This grasshopper stir fry serves four people and takes a mere 10 minutes to cook.

Recipe courtesy of Grub.


-60 Grub Grasshoppers

-150g pak Choi

-100g tenderstem broccoli

-75g green beans

-75g mangetout

-1 red onion, sliced

-2 cloves of garlic, diced

-2 fresh red chillies, thinly sliced

-1 small piece of ginger, grated

-8g sesame seeds (half black and half white if possible)

-1 teaspoon sesame oil

-1 teaspoon coconut oil

-coriander (to garnish)


  1. Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees before preparing the grasshoppers. To do this take off the wings and legs and place on a baking tray. They will need about eight minutes to turn golden brown, but check on them half way through as they can burn very quickly.
  2. Whilst the grasshoppers are roasting prepare all of your vegetables for the stir fry and add them to a hot wok with the coconut oil. Cook on a high heat for four minutes.
  3. Once the grasshoppers are roasted add to a bowl and mix with the sesame oil and seeds before adding to the wok with the vegetables. Toss all of the ingredients to ensure they are well mixed and serve. Garnish with freshly chopped chili and coriander and serve.

Recipe by Marcus Leach.