Daily Archives: July 6, 2009

Spies, Facebook, Daily Mail, Nazis

The Mail on Sunday‘s Facebook/MI6 revelations are something of a digital media wet dream, combining espionage, social networking and Nazi historians in a way that is almost the highbrow version of Friday’s midget/wrestling/hooker fest.

There’s a lot going on here of interest – and it’s worth coming back to. But for now, though, it’s enough to point out the Mail on Sunday is almost certainly fudging the facts.

The headline says:

MI6 chief blows his cover as wife’s Facebook account reveals family holidays, showbiz friends and links to David Irving

But at no point does the article really back up the claim that the link to David Irving was revealed through Facebook.

Yes, it says: “Lady Shelley Sawers’ extraordinary lapse […] revealed that the intelligence chief’s brother-in-law – who holidayed with him last month – is an associate of the controversial Right-wing historian David Irving.”

But actually it doesn’t substantiate this. When it comes to the TV and radio actors they know, Facebook photos are reproduced. But the Irving link seems second-hand. 

The Mail’s chain of association is this:

Among those featured in family photographs on the website is Lady Sawers’ half-brother Hugo Haig-Thomas, a former diplomat. 

So far, so good. Well, he’s a family member, so you’d kind of expect that.

Here’s the next link in the chain:

Mr Haig-Thomas is an associate and researcher for revisionist historian David Irving, who was jailed for three years in Austria in 2006 for ‘glorifying the Nazi Party’ because he questioned whether the Holocaust took place.

But the photo of Haig-Thomas at a garden party held by Irving actually comes from David Irving’s site (the Mail credits this in the story); while a quote about Haig-Thomas’s research work for Irving comes from Irving himself – which I doubt is featured on Lady Sawers’ Facebook Wall. 

So what’s going on here? 

I think it’s a bit of careless subbing coupled with wishful thinking. Sure, some material linking Lady Sawers’ half-brother with David Irving might have been on her Facebook page. But is it was, why wasn’t it reproduced? 

I suspect this is the usual Mail-style mix-up that conflates one story (careless management of sensitive digital personal information) with another (Nazi link to top UK spy boss) in a kind of journalistic mash-up.

Which is probably about as close as the Mail on Sunday will get to really grasping the world of social networking and web 2.0. 

More to come, probably – if anyone has any more details about the whole Facebook/Irving link, do share…

[HT: Jessica]


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The five pillars of blog longevity, part 1

Part 1;    Part 2;    Part 3;    Part 4;    Part 5

I’ve posted before on the usefulness of blogging as a tool for journalism graduates, and journalists trying to make the move from print to online.

But a key challenge is how to keep going, day after day, week after week, month after grinding month.

As noted by the New York Times, some 95% of the blogs catalogued by Technorati have been left to die, unmourned and unloved. The upside of this is that it frees up the field for committed bloggers to build up a profile and an audience online.

But how do you stay committed? Over the course of this week I’ll be talking about five key strategies that will help newish bloggers to stay the course. Here’s number one…

1) Have a reason

First ask yourself, why are you doing this?

It may seem obvious, but a lot of bloggers are a bit vague about blogging. They think it’s kind of a good idea, or they want to be creative – or a journalism lecturer like me tells them to. But they don’t really have a compelling rationale for setting up and maintaining their blog.

This is death to consistent output. Set very clear goals and you’re much better off. It will also help you keep your blog on track creatively too.

Some possible goals:

  • To get a job: Perhaps the most important. For students, building up a blog for their portfolio can be fantastically helpful in showcasing your ability to [a] deliver work consistently and [b] know the ropes of the internet. Crucially – focus on the job you are hoping to get when you get stuck for inspiration or motivation. The blog is just a tool to get you an interview, a work placement, or real paid work.
  • To learn about blogging: As I’ve got involved with teaching online journalism, it’s important that I understand how it works at the sharp end. So it’s important that I maintain a blog and learn how everything works – from embedding video to web statistics. Again – this is a great learning tool and it helps to think of your blog in this way.
  • To build your profile: As the recession deepened and I started getting involved in teaching, I decided to use the blog to develop a higher profile in both journalism and academia. A blog can be a useful tool to do this – as long as you update consistently.
  • To develop discipline: It’s tough to write quickly and well, but there’s no room for writer’s block if you want to be a journalist – especially if you are freelance. Forcing yourself to keep a blog is a big help for developing the discipline to write with no external deadline.

There are bound to be others depending on your situation. Spending some time before you start thinking about what you are trying to achieve is very valuable.

Focusing on why you are blogging can help you keep you plugging away when you are tempted to quit. And understanding why your blog is important to you is the key to that.

There’s a good post on the changing face of the blogosphere on Laura McKenna’s Apt. 11d blog [HT: Megan McArdle]. It may not be a route to fame and riches in itself, but it has valuable uses. She says, rightly:

Use your blogs to target particular audiences and have a clear mission, and you’ll get a following

Crucially, your reason for blogging is not the same as what you are blogging about. And you can find out all about that tomorrow in part two…

Part 1;    Part 2;    Part 3;    Part 4;    Part 5

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