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November 2009
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January 2010

The funniest news story illustration of 2009

I bet there are lots of contenders for this category that I missed, but, seeing that my summary of the media year gone by has yet to be published, and I didn't touch on this there, here's my favourite:

Why would anyone do this to a horse? Well, the horse in the photo had nothing to do with the story it was used to illustrate, about horse smuggling, so the editor thought it best to make sure nobody recognised the horse in the photo...  Something to chew on for die hard ethicists? Full story in Norweigan here.

The 7hr+ documentary smash hit

About 1.4 million people watched Bergensbanen, a 7hr+ documentary about the 126-year-old rail line, when it was first aired late November. With the re-runs this Christmas, and the option to download it free of charge under a Creative Commons license, I imagine that number will be much higher by now (see Wired's recent story about the documentary here).

For my part, I thought it was a spectacular show, even if it "clocks is at almost 7.5hrs", as Wired put it. There was a lot of buzz on Twitter about it when it first ran, but I only had a chance to see it this Christmas. It is a long trainraide, but it must be one of my favourite trainroutes ever, and it's fascinating to see how much the landscape change from the jagged mountains surrounding Bergen on the Westcoast, travelling over the mountain moorlands of Hardangervidda, so often covered in snow, to the soft rolling hills as you go further east and eventually end up in the citiscape of Oslo. And it's all filmed in HD, which these few shots from my most recent trip on Bergensbanen definently are not. On second thoughts: better go to Wired and download the whole documentary there, my Netbook is so slow now I won't attempt any more uploads than this, which is not really what I planned to upload.


Once upon a blue moon

Well this isn't really a blue moon, only a recent winter day with a bluish cast - but the full moon on New Year's eve will be blue, at least metaphorically speaking. However, my only reason for stating that is to have a timely excuse to post this picture: I'm all buried in deadlines right now, but had I the time I would really have loved to go exploring the wonderful winter light with a better camera than this (my Nokia N79). It's really freezing outside though, -15 degrees Celsius today and they say it'll only go colder, so perhaps it's for the better that I am holed up inside:

Update 30.12.2009, 10:33 CET: Actually, I am corrected in the comments below: this is supposedly a blue moon as the photo is captured on Boxing day. With that in mind, perhaps I'll make an extra effort to get a shot of the moon tonight and tomorrow as well...


Happy Holidays!

I was dead set on getting those Christmas cards in the post this year, then along came a nasty spell of flu and aborted most of my Christmas preparations.

Ah well, Christmas, or Yule, is upon us tonight, and I guess I'll just have to save those cards for next year's snail mail - if I haven't given up on snail mail alltogether by then (last year I had very serious plans of getting those very same cards to the post office, but ended up sending my seasonal greetings via email by way of a picture card not dissimilar to the one below). 

And now Christmas dinner is being served here, so time to wish you all a very happy season filled with joyful celebrations!!!


Photo by me from Stavern's naval base Fredriksvern.

Hyperlocal journalism: live in N1 or N2? Then I'm your journalist

Jay Rosen's tweet about the other day reminded me of this interesting concept from Norwegian local newspaper Budstikka.

The paper is running ads like the one below, telling their readers which journalists to contact if they live in such and such postcode areas. The text of the ad (my hasty translation):

"Even Closer: If you live in postcodes 1380 - 1389, then I'm your journalist - get in touch with me if you have a news tip" (picture and Budstikka story tip via Anders Brenna). UK equivalent would be if you e.g live in N1 or N2 (those are just the first UK postcodes that springs to mind, there's little comparison between North-London and the area where Budstikka is based).

Update 16/12-09 11:20 CET: more on Budstikka here (in English), what the Wikipedia entry doesn't say is that the daily local, part owned by Edda Media, Mecom's Norwegian arm, has a well-deserved reputation for savy editorial innovation, particularly online. I've written more on this for here. I do hope that saying computer programming is journalism is a real no-brainer by now (the article is from April 2008), but the last five paragraphs describes a few of Budstikka's innovative projects using mashups, databases and involving readers to create hyperlocal journalism that was an instant public hit.


Peace prize winner Obama meets the press

Much of the media speculation ahead of Obama's flying visit to Norway today has centered on what the one question he has said he will take from Norwegian press will be. And the question is:

Annette Groth, The Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK): "Giving the peace prize to you has been described as premature, how can you use the prize to fulfill its intentions and counter that criticism?"

Obama reminds us that, as he said when he received it, the prize came as a complete surprise to him and others might have deserved it better, but says he will use the prize to address climate change, terrorism and a whole host of initiatives. The goal is not to win a popularity contest, but to help further America's goals, he asserts. He concludes that if he's successful the criticism will die down, if he's not successful in those tasks no awards can hide it.

The one question US press was allowed to ask, of course, turned out to really be three in one...

Much has been made of how Obama has cut his visit to Norway very short, snubbed a lunch invitation from the Norwegian king and declined to attend some of the functions the peace prize winner traditionally attends, but I'm not too surprised given how contentious, and in some respects awkward, this year's prize is - not at least in the US. In a talk after meeting the Norwegian prime minister Obama blamed all the work he had to do back in DC before the year comes to an end for having to cut his Oslo-visit so short.

Still, it's been rather amusing to follow the speculation among Norwegian journalists and Twitterati on Twitter as to what the one question would and should be...

Update 10/12-09 15:30 CET: See also John Einar Sandvand: How Norwegian news sites covered the Nobel peace prize cermony

Daily newsmagazines and the future of print journalism

Reporting is now a commdity, but journalism isn't - what implications does that have for print?

In the excellent post I mention in the intro, George F. Snell concludes: "If newspapers and magazines want to survive they should focus on journalism and leave the reporting to the web." He draws a sharp distinction between journalism and reporting and argues that the web has made reporting into a commodity (do check out the full post).

I think this is a very useful prism to see the strenghts and weaknesses of print and web through. I don't agree that bloggers can't do journalism though. If we are to use Snell's definitions of journalism and reporting, I think some bloggers at times do better journalism than paid journalists because mainstream media, and especially news sites, focus too much of their resources on reporting (update 10/12: for more on bloggers and journalism, see e.g  my contribution to "Playing Footsie with the FTS?").

But today's overcrowded marketplace and tough financial conditions challenges media organisations to look very closely at how they can add unique value, and Snell offers an excellent prism to see recent print innovations through. 

A few days ago Norwegian tabloid Dagbladet relaunched its Sunday edition in what can best be described as magazine format:


I wasn't too impressed because it read like a smaller and thinner version of the same old Dagbladet. I'll probably still buy it from time to time, weekends being just about the only time of the week I still buy newspapers (that and when I'm travelling and short on laptop battery-time), but I would have been much more impressed if it came out looking something like this:


I must admit I shamelessly nicked this photo of Portugees daily newsmagazine I from Mark Hamilton post about it. This is a post I've been wanting to blog about for some time as Mark offers a really interesting review of "I". It's not so much the format that captures my imagination, though it seems to fit the content well, as the fact that it promises serious journalism that would satisfy Snell's definition - and it is def. something I would consider an attractive buy.

Not every day though. There's no way I could fit a daily newsmagazine into my daily routine, I've got more than enough with keeping up with my hundreds of RSS-feeds during the week, but it would be perfect for the slower pace of the weekend.

Incidentally, the newsmagazine might also be the direction Mecom is considering to take its newspapers in. The company is launching a pilot project in two of its Norwegian regional newspapers where these are to focus on stories rather than channels, and resources are to be divided 50/50 between print and online. The pilot-project is inspired by Danish media company Nordjydske Medier's "fully integrated" multimedia model, and we could see Mecom's pilot newspapers focus more on storytelling and analysis in print and more on news reporting online. It will be interesting to see how it works out...

Six pages of editorial content per week or you're out

Mecom-owned regional Sandefjord's Blad is not the only media organisation currently searching for ways to grade its journalists. Media site Kampanje reports today that Norwegian magazine group Hjemmet Mortensen is about to embark upon a new project for measuring staff productivity.

Under the new scheme, journalists and subs will be expected to produce at least six pages of editorial content per week each. Now, I don't know it only producing five pages or less will be a firing offense, that just sounds to me like a logical conclusion.

The father of the journalist union's Hjemmet Mortensen chapel is quoted in the article (in Norwegian) saying that it's obviously much easier to measure productivity in a food factory, and that it would be a shame if this new regime will lead to journalists opting for "easier" stories to satisfy the new productivity demands. In contrast to Sandefjord's Blad though, I am told the magazine group already has a regime in place to measure quality.