The impact of Multimedia on the gathering and dissemination of news.

Developments in digital multimedia continue to impact on societies across the world. This influence is wide ranging – from public news media, through marketing,  entertainment and education to hobbies like photography and the way we create, edit  and share information.

In this session we will concentrate on the influence of multimedia on the process of news gathering and dissemination, highlighting the changes in the way in which  ‘news’ is gathered, collated and shared.

There are three main issues.  The first is the way that digital technologies have changed ‘traditional’ practice. The second is the way in which these technologies have led to a proliferation of information creation and dissemination via the rise of what some call ‘citizen journalism’.  The third is the way in which the balance of power, in the context of the way information is gathered and controlled, is changing.*

Looking at ‘traditional practice’, one and two dimensional media systems (radio and the traditional paper based press) have benefited from digitisation, in spite of the systems remaining largely unchanged with respect to the way we consume them. The main advantage for them are systems which add value by providing electronic archives which make the creation, dissemination and storage of media more efficient. Traditional newspapers continue, side by side with new (normally) free electronic versions available online and increasingly as ‘apps’ for mobile devices like the iPad. Changes continue as the number of papers sold continues to dwindle and new electronic interfaces develop. The Guardian has already indicated that it will stop its loss making print edition in the future.

In the case of radio, storerooms housing vinyl records / CDs have been replaced by personal computers managing the broadcasting of digital music and other sound formats. Any radio station worth its salt has a website, providing information about its policies, personnel and programmes to radio aficionados, some of whom tune in via the internet.

Computerisation has changed both the way that newspapers are produced, and the way they are managed. The printers union, The National Graphical Association, once powerful enough to to dictate to management with respect to how many printers were required on each daily and to bleed profits by using out-of-date piece rate systems which enabled them to claim extra compensation for working with irregular sized typefaces, heavily edited copy, in languages other than English and even for work done by others ‘out of house’, suffered heavily when DTP systems made hot metal compositing a redundant skill.

(See Bryson, B. (1995) Notes From a Small Island. Black Swan, London, pages 47-62, for a description of the changes in the world of newspapers since the 1980s). See also this site for info on hot metal and hand compositing

Digital photography has also revolutionised the way that newspapers work. The traditional world of photographic film has disappeared, together with darkrooms, enlargers and the chemistry of developing and printing. Professional digital still cameras can now shoot and upload images to editors via wireless ftp immediately, cutting time margins to seconds rather than hours. Online editions of newspapers often include video footage.

But the biggest impact has been provided by applications that make it possible for the world to go online. Blogs, once the preserve of computer geeks, have become respectable and are used by professional journalists, essayists, political and social commentators and academics, to name but a few.


Blogging is not a revolution. It is a pan-generation group of people clearing its collective throat…announcing that it has a voice – regardless of how it chooses to use it.
Stuart, New York. BBC News.

Blogging is now a well known and respected internet activity. A blog is simply a series of updated posts on the web, usually in a diary or journal format. Posts are generally chronological. The usual array of multimedia – links to other sites, text, images, music, and streamed video, are common.

According to Raynsford (2003), a possible attraction of blogging lies in its “unmediated and dynamic quality. Without an agenda, editorial stance or pedantic sub-editor standing between the writer and reader, blogging can provide reportage in a raw and exciting form.” (Accessed 26/4/05). Furthermore, a growing dissatisfaction or distrust of news provided by large media conglomerates makes blogs an attractive alternative. In spite of often being being raw and subjective, blogs “provide information that will never see the light of day in the print or TV media realm,” (Belichick, in Raynsford 2003, accessed 26/4/05). By way of illustration, Raynsford (2003) mentions that “not one major media outlet in the US reported that the US excised over 8,000 pages from the Iraq declaration since it contained information about the US companies that supplied all of the biological and chemical ‘weapons’ to [Saddam].” A blog did. Similarly, the recent smear campaign orchestrated by Labour insiders in the UK was brought into the public domain largely due to the Order,Order! blog.

Blogs have also been used as emancipatory tools, providing information to the world about tyrants like Saddam, Mugabe the military junta in Burma and more recently, providing up-to-date ‘alternate’ information on revolutions in Egypt Libya and across the Middle East – the so-called Arab Spring.  Social networking has played a large part in these protests, enabling people to form online revolutionary movements and to communicate quickly and freely. Mobile multimedia devices capable of capturing and uploading digital still and video images, together with blogs and other applications through which they are shared with the world,  make it impossible for tyrants to control information.  Because the information is stored on servers outside of these country, and because the posts are available from anywhere (home, home of a friend, internet cafe, office) the source of the blog is relatively difficult (but not impossible) to find. In essence, applications like blogs and wikis provide a realistic challenge to the control of information that powerful press barons, governments and businessmen once enjoyed.

But it is not only in these countries that digital tools are making a change. Today, a number of articles appeared in the British press about the inquest into the death of Ian Tomlinson, after his was hit with a baton and pushed by a policeman during the G20 protests in London last year. Without effective portable technologies, in this case a video taken by a passer by, this case would not have been brought to court, nor would the inquest ever have happened. More importantly, it now seems that there will be a great deal more scrutiny of policing and especially police brutality, which has led to the deaths of a number of people with little in the way of accountability on the part of the policemen  involved. Whether Harwood will be prosecuted is still not clear. Whatever the case, this is a great day for democracy.
Zapiro, Mail and Guardian, 6 May 2011

Microblogging platforms like Twitter play an important role in providing breaking news. The main reason for this is that the platforms are mobile, enabling tweets to be created and posted off as the action is taking place, even from space. Twitter has been much in the news in the UK recently, with some calling for a ban on its use in meetings and others requesting rapid updates of information on current debates. In some cases, tweeters have been prosecuted for the content of tweets. The most famous of these is perhaps the misrepresented ‘menacing’ joke tweet by Paul Chambers regarding Robin Hood airport. Twitter users are working hard to get the sentence overturned. This week, a twitter account was set up revealing the identities of the alleged rich and famous behind a series of superinjunctions granted by UK judges, getting around the limitations placed on the traditional press, in spite of the superinjunctions supposedly being applicable world wide. This is another example of the emancipatory power of new media, in this case providing the spur for us to challenge archaic privacy laws. Twitter has proved to be a powerful tool for protesters, providing rapid communication between activists.

Many supporting apps have been developed to enhance Twitter. These include applications like Twitpics and an ever increasing number of Twitter clients.

Professional journalists have also been attracted to blogging. In an interview with dotJournalism, JD Lasica, senior editor of the Online Journalism Review mentioned that some reporters in the Gulf region were using weblogs “to provide fuller, more personal and colourful reporting of what they are witnessing first-hand.” (in Raynsford, 2003, accessed 26/4/05). This trend has grown and today, blogs, Twitter and other social media like Facebook are all part of a journalist’s life, according to Wired’s Matthew Lasar, who sees the internet as a tool which has led to the ‘hamsterization of journalism‘.

Whether blogging is the new journalism remains unclear. However, the increased number of blogs, many by webloggers who are careful with their reportage, makes them a real alternative to traditional forms of news, providing some measure of reaction to the danger of large corporations taking control of the public’s right to know. What is clear is that the traditional media (The Times, The Guardian), has embraced blogging, seeing it as complementary to if not an  alternative to traditional reportage. However, Matthew Ingram reflects that the social media aspect of some ‘professional’ blogs in newspapers can be limited by organisational rules which limit the use of comments.

This article from BBC News is an indication to me that blogging is no longer a quaint sideline. Blogging is influential and has come of age. I remember when this was ‘cranky’ – Dave Gilbert, BBC News. See also The State of the News Media 2007. This report raises questions about the influence of blogs and the responsibility of bloggers. Blogging has come of age, recognised as an effective way of writing even by conservative educational organisations. Blogs, video blogs, podcasts and wikis have great potential as educational tools which can be used effectively by imaginative teachers. Young people are used to and comfortable working with digital technologies and are keen to use these in their educational settings. The bloggosphere recognises everyone equally with respect to gender, age and race and provides a level of immediacy (posting, editing, responses, responding to responses) which supports the demands of the age.


  • How can educational institutions use social media effectively? See Johnson’s comments on using blogs as part of a writing course and Wheeler’s comments on the rapid sharing of information.
  • Is the increased use of social media platforms inevitable in education?  See Times article on using Facebook in class.
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of using social media in schools?
  • Other issues.


Links to articles showing the development of  blogs and blogging.

Blogging Today   :  Blog reading explodes  : Top 15 blogs today  : Meeting the bloggers face to faceSo what is the point of blogging?citizen journalismAcademics, students turning to blogs :

Careful what you say

EFF Guide to safe blogging Don’t blog about work : Civil Serf blog closed down avoiding identification :

Blogging and politics

Blair backs regulation of online journalism : Wikileaks information (Wikipedia) : About Wikileaks wiki (Wikipedia) Dangers of blogging in Iran : Dangers of blogging in Eqypt  : Chinese bloggers must register   : This is Zimbabwe – Sokwanele Civic Action Support Group blog : Lords of the Blog – a collaborative blog from members of the House of Lords : Bryan Appleyard. The Real Twitter Revolution. Sunday Times News Review, 29/5/2011

About blog design

Donnely, P. (2009) Death of the boring blog post.


Articles about Twitter from Monty’s Delicious site : Blogging stats from Mashable, June 2010 : Peter Jackson’s video blog on the making of  The Hobbit (Facebook)

Nieman Journalism Lab – The Guardian goes digital first. Accessed 18/6/2011

Conference papers

Ryan Y. Sit, James D. Hollan, William G. Griswold. (2005) Digital Photos as Conversational Anchors. Proceedings of the 38th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences – 2005

Susan C. Herring, Lois Ann Scheidt, Sabrina Bonus and  Elijah Wright. (2004) Bridging the Gap: A Genre Analysis of Weblogs. Proceedings of the 37th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences – 2004

Lilia Efimova and Aldo de Moor. (2005) Beyond personal webpublishing: An exploratory study of conversational blogging practices. Proceedings of the 38th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences – 2005

Susan C. Herring, Inna Kouper, John C. Paolillo, Lois Ann Scheidt, Michael Tyworth, Peter Welsch, Elijah Wright, and Ning Yu (2005) Conversations in the Blogosphere: An Analysis “From the Bottom Up” Proceedings of the 38th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences – 2005

From the journals

Beale, R. (2007) Blogs, reflective practice and student-centered learning. British Computer Society, Volume 2 Proceedings of the 21st BCS HCI Group Conference, HCI 2007, 3-7 September 2007, Lancaster University, UK
Devina Ramduny-Ellis & Dorothy Rachovides (Editors)

Brescia, W. & Miller, M. (2005) What’s it Worth? The Perceived Benefits of Instructional Blogging. Electronic Journal for the Integration of Technology in Education, Vol. 5

Chandra, V. & Lloyd, M. (2008) The methodological nettle: ICT and student achievement. British Journal of Educational Technology, 39(6) 1087–1098.

Drezner, D. & Farrell, H. (2008). Blogs, politics and power: a special issue of Public Choice. Public Choice 134: 1–13

Ebner, M., Lienhardt, C., Rohs, M. & Meyer, I. (2010) Microblogs in Higher Education – A chance to facilitate informartion  and process-oriented learning? Computers and Education. 55, 92-100.

Gill, K. (2004) How can we measure the influence of the blogosphere?

Hernández-Ramos, P. (2004) Web Logs and Online Discussions as Tools to Promote Reflective Practice. The Journal of Interactive Online Learning, 3 (1).

Kamel Boulos, M., Inocencio Maramba, I. & and Wheeler, S. (2006) Wikis, blogs and podcasts: a new generation of Web-based tools for virtual collaborative clinical practice and education. BMC Medical Education 2006, 6:41.

Karger, D.R. & Quanb, D. (2005) What would it mean to blog on the semantic web? Journal of Web Semantics, 3 (2-3), 147-157.

Kennedy, R. (2004) Weblogs, Social Software, and New Interactivity on the Web. Psychiatric Services, 55(3).

Mortensen, T. & Walker, J.(2004) Blogging thoughts: personal publication as an online research tool.

Parker, C. & Pfeiffer, S. (2005) Videoblogging: Content to the max.
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia. IEEE Multimedia, April-June.

Probert, E. (2009) Information Literacy Skills: Teacher understandings and practice. Computers and Education 53, 24-33.

Schmidt, J. (2007) Blogging practices: An analytical framework. Journal of Computer Mediated Communication. 12, pages 1409-1427.

Williams, J. & Jacobs, J. (2004) Exploring the use of blogs as learning spaces in the higher education sector. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 20(2), 232-247.

Technology and educational blogs

Rory Cellan-Jones Technology Blog : Steve Wheeler’s Learning with ‘e’s blog : Teaching with blogs – Educating Alice blog : The Ed Techie blog : Ollie Bray’s Creativity and Innovation in Education blog : e-Learning Stuff blog :


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