On Twitter, Off Twitter, What is Twitter Anyway?

Here’s Edward Snowden’s first tweet, just twenty-four hours ago.  He’s already racked up 1.14m followers at the time of writing, leaving him another 63m to go before he catches up with @BarackObama.  Or 66m more to reach the heights of popularity enjoyed by @justinbieber. Actually they’re all topped by Twitter’s favourite celebrity, @katyperry, who has 75m followers.

Meanwhile, just a couple of days after @lenadunham said she was stopping managing her own twitter account, she appears to be back in the game.

This has sparked a New York Times reflection on how hard it is for celebs to go cold turkey on Twitter.

Prince, Sinead O’Connor, Jaden Smith, John Mayer — all of them Twitter quitters, all of them now busily tweeting once more.

Meanwhile, Twitter itself seems to be tussling with an existential crisis, as we discussed.   This Recode piece on 140 plus lays out some of the arguments.

“People have been very precious at Twitter about what Twitter can be and how much it can be evolved,” said one current senior employee. “Having Jack come in and say it’s okay makes all the difference in the world.”

Reading:1) Why Audio Never Goes Viral (Digg)

2) What can make Audio Go Viral (Nieman)


1) Bring smartphones and laptops to Monday’s class.  Please load the free Audacity software onto your computers.

2) Download the NPR one app, and play for a bit with tagging, sharing and skipping stories so that your stream becomes personalised.  Listen for half an hour to the stream, and write a radio review.   I want you to note down exactly which stories were offered to you and how you rate the customization.  Did you feel it was tailored to you?  Would did you like and dislike about the listening experience?  Would you repeat it?  And what other features would you like to have seen on the app? (for Oct 6th 9pm)

Is there anything algorithms can’t do?


Fanny Scherzer/ Wikimedia commons

Fanny Scherzer/ Wikimedia commons

Can an algorithm help stop the next genocide? That’s the question that researchers in Kenya are asking, according to an article in Motherboard.

Researchers at the iHub Data Lab in Kenya are building an algorithm that has the potential to show early warning signs of violence across the world. Called Umati, or “crowd” in Swahili, the program monitors dangerous speech on Twitter and Facebook. Experts say that inflammatory speech can foreshadow ethnic violence, and even genocide. The algorithm is expected to be released for public use at the beginning of 2016, and the team will first use the algorithm in South Sudan, home to a brutal civil war that has displaced more than 2.2 million people.

Elsewhere, algorithms are being developed to predict Isis’s behaviour and to predict epidemics.   As well as those algorithms that run our lives.   If you want to know what the algorithm says about your communication style, try Crystal here.


1) Should Reddit be blamed for spreading a smear? (NYT)

2) Ten Ways That Journalists Can Use Twitter Before, during and After a Story (Poynter)

3) Digital Media Ethics (Uni of Wisconsin)


Live tweet a news event.  Ideally it would be something local that you are actually present at, though it could be a press conference or some other such event that you are watching live online.  It should be something that relates to your beat.   Paste each tweet into your wordpress site, so that others are able to view your live-tweeting experience. (for Sept 29 9pm)

Please also post the most retweeted and or/favorited tweet.  (for Sept 29)

The Refugee Crisis through Snapchat and Periscope

Interesting piece from journalism.co.uk on how news outlets are using new social media tools to cover the refugee crisis.  It quotes Ravin Sampat, Ravin Sampat, senior audience engagement producer for BBC Digital Current Affairs, as saying:

“The BBC is really keen to reach younger audiences – especially 18-35 year-olds. I went to my editor and said ‘why don’t we try something new?’ I wanted to tell the story differently for a new audience,” Sampat said.

This IJNet piece also has examples of Instagram and other social media tools used.

As for the TV series, Black Mirror, by Charlie Brooker,  you can watch it on Netflix.

READING: 1)The Facebook “It’s not our fault study” (Sandvig)

2) Here’s How Facebook’s News Feed actually works (Time)

3) The Evolving Role of News and Twitter and Facebook (Pew)

4) Facebook Expands in Politics and Finds Much to Like (NY Times)

ASSIGNMENT: Reading Christian Sandvig’s work and preparing three questions for him.  You may be called upon to ask a question so make sure that you have them prepared ahead of time.

**IF you missed Wednesday’s class, please look for the audio in Ctools under resources.  You can listen to the entire class there.  Thanks!**

***ASSIGNMENT: Live-tweet an event, whether it be aspeech, a sports match, a TV show or a demonstration.  Make sure you tweet at least 10 times.  Then post the series of tweets to your wordpress site.  Separately post the most retweeted or favourited tweet (for Sept 29 9pm)***  Please use the #comm439 hashtag!   

Digital disruption, AP and robots

Pic source/ Nieman Lab

Pic source/ Nieman Lab

Nieman Lab has an interesting issue on automation, focussing on how AP is using robots to write company reports.

Today, the AP produces about 3,500 stories per quarter using the automated system, and that number is set to grow to more than 4,500 by the year’s end. Automation is taking off, in large part because of the growing volume of data available to newsrooms, including data about the areas they cover and the audiences they serve.

The guide to robot reporting tools is also interesting.

Our guest on Wednesday’s class will be Kim Gamel, formerly of the AP.   Ahead of her class, please read:

1) Gadhafi, Libya’s Leader for 42 Years, Killed

2) A Gay Girl in Damascus Comes Clean

3) Reinventing the Wire (introduction and conclusion only)

FOR WEDNESDAY’S CLASS:  Make sure you come prepared with three questions for Kim Gamel, after having read her work.  They can be questions about journalism generally, about wire agency work or about working overseas.  Kim Gamel is a veteran foreign correspondent and news editor for The Associated Press. She has spent most of the past decade in conflict zones, including postings in Iraq and Egypt and assignments in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Libya. She has managed top stories ranging from the Nobel Prizes to the Syrian civil war and the Arab Spring. Gamel started her career working for an English language newspaper in Moscow and speaks Russian fluently. She also has served as AP’s Nordic/Baltic news editor based in Sweden. A native of Idaho, she graduated from Bates College in Maine and holds a master’s degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

ASSIGNMENT: Live-tweet an event, whether it be aspeech, a sports match, a TV show or a demonstration.  Make sure you tweet at least 10 times.  Then post the series of tweets to your wordpress site.  Separately post the most retweeted or favourited tweet (for Sept 29 9pm)

Washington Post subscription… free with Amazon Prime?


Picture/ Nieman Lab

Today’s big news announcement was the news that Washington Post subscriptions will be given away free with Amazon Prime membership.  Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post two years ago.

The subscriptions will come free for six months, then at 3.99  per month, which one expert, Ken Doctor, says is a price point that could “shake up wider digital news pricing.”

As Doctor writes in Politico:

“While Amazon has never released the number of its Prime memberships, the latest estimates range from 25 to 40 million. That’s a powerful installed base of customers to expose to the Post offer. The initiative, long in the works, bolsters the Post as a revivified national and global news source, one more competitive to the New York Times, among others. In addition, it opens a new skirmish in the platform wars of 2015, as major platform Amazon puts the Jeff Bezos-owned Post front and center while Facebook Instant Articles, Apple News and Snapchat Discover re-work the mobile presentation of news.”

Meanwhile, news sites seem to be shutting off reader comments, or trying to move them online, according to Justin Ellis at Nieman Lab.


ASSIGNMENT:  Write a 400-word post comparing the treatment of one story in the physical NYT with its online counterpart.   Pick a topic related to the beat that you have chosen.  What are the strengths and weaknesses of each presentation?  Give the New York Times a grade as to the extent to which the online story fulfils the aims laid out in teh Innovation report.   Please ensure you quote from the Innovation report in your blogpost.  How long did you as a consumer spend on each?  (for Sunday 20th Sept 8pm) 

NOTE: Physical newspapers can be found in the library or in the Comm studies foyer (5F North Quad).  Also in Starbucks.

The Year in One Slide

Columbia University is hosting a Mobile News Summit today, but my favourite tweet to emerge from it is above.   2015 is the year that social media companies became publishers, says CNN’s Brian Stelter.    This comes as Nieman Lab reports that Twitter and Google are both reportedly launching their own version of Instant Articles.

One other PSA:  there are some great internship opportunities at Michigan Radio, for anyone who’s interested in learning audio skills.  There’s one vacancy in the interview production unit (12 hours a week), or a work-study position at Stateside (10-15 hours a week).   Get your applications in quickly!

READING: Post-Industrial Journalism (Introduction and Section 1)

ASSIGNMENT: Write a 300-word blogpost introducing yourself and your media consumption habits.  How often do you get the news?  How have your habits changed in the past few years?  How often do you produce the news yourself, whether it be by tweeting, instagramming or periscoping?  Do you comment on news stories on facebook or other online fora?  how do your news consumption habits differ from your parents?  Please include a few lines about the beat that you are going to concentrate upon this semester in your blog.  (by Sept 16 9am)



The latest news on the news

Welcome to Digital Disruption and the Future of Journalism!  So over the summer, the New York Times’s Justin Bieber video has been making news… and the Washington Post has launched eight games and quiz apps.   Meanwhile, the BBC is going local.



Next class will be in the MAC lab in the MLB building.  Before then, set up a wordpress site and think about what beat you want to cover.  Also please read the State of the News Media 2015 Overview  (front page) and 5 Key Takeaways.