Tag Archives: journalism

Comment is free, adding value is hard

When I was training journalists from one of the biggest media groups in Portugal in the wonders of online media, my favorite strategy to take a break during sessions was to launch debate. And none was so prolific as the discussion about article comments.

The divide was strong, and the general feeling was of frustration: all publications were understaffed, so there were no real comment moderators; most of the comments were nothing but personal disputes between commentators, agressive rants towards journalists, personal opinions on unrelated issues; grammar was a nightmare, the language was fowl; they complained about the usual patrons that tried to pass as experts but were far from it. Hell, they even had poetry posted in the comment box. And it was awful.

So, why have open comment boxes? Most agreed it drove audience numbers up: when one of the group’s websites decided to shut down the comments, visit numbers slumped. The comment box was the poor man’s social network, fed by negativity, stupidity and hatred. Management decided to profit from it by making the feature available again, even though it casted an ugly shadow below the byline. Freedom of speech was also debated.

While I was catching wind for the next bit, I listened to their personal frustrations towards this or that specific commentator. I started this game called “who’s commenting”, in which – with the available data – we would find who they really were. Shock and awe ensued, since the people that were harassing them for months -even years – were not quite what they expected.

Journalists and commentators had little respect for each other.

I said that in a everyway communication environment there are risks, and they should be handled to steer away from damage and into added value. They replied :”How?”

How to find value in the free manifestation of the common citizen, perched on his device delivering his two cents of personal spew, mostly uninformed, irreflected and useless? No wonder we love social networks, those personally crafted echo boxes where we can hide dissent with a click of a button.

This question is raised again in this Journalism.co.uk’s post that starts off with the decision of Reuters shutting down comments throughout their website. And they’re not alone:

Other news organisations have done the same, including the Chicago Sun-Times which described comments as “an embarrassing mishmash of fringe ranting and ill-informed, shrill bomb-throwing”

There are arguments in favor, though:

“It’s a very contentious issue. It’s something people feel very strongly about. My argument is if you have a website at all, why wouldn’t you give people the ability to comment on your content?”

The ecosystem has changed: opinon shifted from comment boxes to social media posts. The engagement arithmetic of links from external blogs or users replies to the articles became derisive. And publishers are no longer in control, either by this new logic or by negligence. Understaffed, remember?

We can never hope all our readers are smart, engaged people. But we shouldn’t dismiss most of them as solitary loons that use the comment feature as a soapbox for their diatribes. Thus, it’s up to publishers, and must be weighed section by section of their websites.

My non biliary two cents on this is if you don’t have a system – and the people to implement it – that doesn’t monitor and reward the best commentators, forget about open comment boxes. They are distracting and useless, and make intelligent readers nauseous.

If you do, allow (restricted) time for the article to be commented on and let the author join the discussion. Many don’t, and they should participate in the same way they write their stories: based on facts and in a impartial, non personal fashion, ignoring the trolls. No fight is worth picking in a comment box.

Get those pesky commentators out of the online anonimity and offer them a tour to your newsroom, enact live forums where they can be face to face with their targets. Make them show up or shut up.

Of course, this last suggestion is a bit idealistic, not to say impossible. But leave your comments below.

Zapaday: your open news agenda

Here’s a fancy open tool: Zapaday is a crowd supported  news calendar. Regular users can learn about upcoming events like big newsrooms did, and for free, while contributing with new events themselves. In their own words:

While news agendas drive almost half of your daily news, they are either closed or prohibitively expensive. We believe an open democracy needs free and open press resources. Can’t have closed, paid news agendas driving so much of our daily news, can we?

Start now, set your regional and topic preferences  and discover about the events that will for sure define the headlines in the near future.

ObCiber 2011: Online Journalism Awards Nominees | Nomeados dos Prémios de Jornalismo Online

It’s that time of the year again, when the best online journalism made in Portugal is awarded by ObCiber.

This time the nominees list isn’t that different from previous editions, there are names credited in different projects that have been regularly present. This means the best are still the same, and they are few.  I expected a bit more variety, but since I know some of these talented people I’m happy for them. The question is: why there isn’t more competition?

There are also differences in the projects running: more multimedia and interactivity, using more screen real estate, and better design and UX. 

For those of you who want to risk it and navigate through online Portuguese news projects, here’s the list below, and if you like, vote on your favorites.

Estamos outra vez naquela altura do ano, quando os melhores trabalhos do jornalismo online em Portugal são premiados pelo ObCiber.

A lista de nomeados não é muito diferente das  edições anteriores, e os nomes presentes nos créditos dos trabalhos repetem-se. Isto significa que os melhores são os mesmos e são poucos. Esperava maior variedade, mas como conheço algumas destas pessoas talentosas fico contente por eles. A pergunta que se impõe é porque é que não há mais concorrência?

Há também algumas diferenças nos trabalhos a concurso: mais multimédia e interactividade, a ocupar mais área no ecrã, e com melhor design e usabilidade.

Vejam a lista abaixo e votem nos vossos  projectos favoritos.

Overall Excellence in Online Journalism | Excelência geral em ciberjornalismo:


Jornal de Notícias

Rádio Renascença


Breaking News | Última hora:

Minuto a minuto: “O Egipto está livre” – Público

Milhões exigem queda de Mubarak – Jornal de Notícias

Acordo fechado – Rádio Renascença

José Sócrates demite-se – Rádio Renascença


Multimedia Reports | Reportagem multimédia:

Órfãos de Pátria – Jornal de Notícias

João Paulo II: As dimensões de um santo – Rádio Renascença

Cimeira da NATO – Rádio Renascença

“24 Horas de Porto” – Porto24

A crise bateu à porta – TVI24

11 de Setembro – 10 anos depois SAPO.pt

Reconstituição da tragédia de Entre-os-Rios Jornal de Notícias


Online Video | Videojornalismo online

Os búlgaros nas vindimas – Jornal de Notícias

Fábricas Fantasma – Rádio Renascença

Egipto: Geração Revolução – Rádio Renascença


Infographics | Infografia Digital

OE2012: Como vamos ser afectados no dia-a-dia – Público

SCUT vs alternativas – Jornal de Notícias

O mundo a cada mil milhões – Público

Guia das Legislativas 2011Rádio Renascença


School Journalism | Ciberjornalismo académico

Mercado do Bom Sucesso: As vidas do mercado – JPN

No mundo das mulheres – JPN

Dossiê “Jornalismo de Guerra” – JPN

“Subterrâneos de Arca D’Água escondem galerias extensas” – JPN



Bundlr is a new curation tool and can it be better than Storify?

I wrote this article about Bundlr, a new curation tool ready to be launched created by two young Portuguese developers. In their words:

Bundlr is a new and free tool for online curation: clipping, aggregation and sharing web content easily.

We’re afoot with an information overload. New sources and mediums are emerging and each specialist is finding his way through all being published online. But we’re lacking the tools to quickly select the best we find on the web, organize and share it.

With Bundlr you can create bundles of any kind of content: articles, photos, videos, tweets and links. Cover real-time breaking news from your sources. Wrap up an event with a collection of online feedback. Build a page where you pick the most relevant content on your area of expertise.

Using Bundlr browser button, you can clip content while you browse the Internet. Just press the button to save the content you want, and the meta-data around it, to the bundle you pick. Each bundle will have its own public webpage you can share freely. In later features you’ll be able to filter clips, create visualizations and embed bundles on any website.

Reminds you of Storify? Check both videos and spot the differences. I prefer Bundlr in many ways (i had a sneak preview) and besides being more attractive visually, it brings more interesting features. It can be used by journalists or any one else who wants to aggregate online content in one single page (in their terms, bundle).

Visit their website and subscribe for a beta invitation.

What do you think? Can Bundlr compete with Storify?

Bundlr teaser

Storify video

Read also this Poynter article about the best uses for Storify in media. Are these tools valuable to you as a journalist and a user?