Tag Archives: University of Lincoln

Tips for blogging and tweeting

I recently delivered a lecture to first year journalism students at the University of Lincoln. Here’s a round-up of what I told the students.

Blogging recently celebrated it’s 20th birthday, and in the passing two decades it has become a huge part of the internet. In that time blogs have evolved from online diaries to also include journalism, fanclubs, pretty much anything you can think of. It’s easy to start too — just head to WordPress, Blogger or Tumblr and start finding out for yourself.

It isn’t helpful that blogging and social media are essentially platforms open to be used in any way and by anyone, it becomes a bit daunting. However, there are plenty of great parts about blogging it allows you to practice writing and playing with online tools without any pressure. The hard work you put into your blog can then be used to help you get some work experience or a job.

What should I blog about?

When it comes to writing a blog think about what interests you and how you would like to approach that topic. Avoid rewriting what other people have already reported and think about what you can add to a story that someone else has already told. This could include personal stories, people you can interview or looking at the story from a local perspective.

Don’t try to write about something which you know other people are already covering and are capable of doing it better than you. For instance if you are interested in football then BBC Sport and Sky Sports will already be covering the general news and have a lot more resources than a single blogger will have access to. This doesn’t mean you need to dismiss talking about this subject completely just think what you can bring to it. That might be looking at football on a local level or writing about a specific part of the sport.

A knowledge of law will help you too — mainly as a precaution. You might one day publish something that someone disagrees with so make sure you know about libel and defamation. If you would like to know more information McNae’s essential law for journalists is a really helpful guide. Copyright is an important issue too — make sure you don’t use someone else’s words or pictures without permission. If people are happy for their photographs to be used then they will be called creative commons.

Writing for online

In comparison to newspapers and magazine blogging gives you a great amount of freedom — you can write articles as long or as short as you like, use pictures, videos, audio and design a page to look however you like.

There are plenty of resources online to help, there are tools within blogging platforms that help to embed photos and videos. Other options consist of Flickr, embedding YouTube videos or SoundCloud uploads, or even embedding tweets and Facebook posts. You can also link to other websites to back up your research, and open up your blog to the rest of internet.

There are simple ways to design what your posts look like using different fonts or sub headings. There are some more technical ways to change the way your posts look and for those you would need to learn some code. There are plenty of tools to help you online, a good way to understand code and what it does is Code Academy.

Although you can use all these techniques think about which of these would be the best way to tell your story. You can write a blog which consists of thousands of words but other people might not be interested to read it all. Don’t distract from telling your story. Spelling is also really important, read some style guides if you are struggling.

Accuracy online

Working in a newsroom means you have more time and training to be able to fact check stories, in comparison blogs are usually run by one person but that doesn’t excuse you from writing accurately. People won’t want to read your blog if they know your reporting isn’t accurate or truthful, and it won’t help to showcase your writing skills either.

Reporters also aren’t helped by the fact that there’s lots of ways for people online to start false rumours with spoof Twitter accounts and photoshopped images. There’s some great examples of this on the blog Is Twitter Wrong?

A helpful guide is the Verification Handbook with contributions from BBC, ABC, Storyful and other verification experts and it details ways to make sure the information you find on social media is true.

The basics though are check if a Twitter account looks reliable, things to check include:

  • Do they tweet regularly?
  • Are they an expert in what they are tweeting about?
  • Is it a spoof account?

Also work on the idea that something is only true if you have two reliable sources.

What about Twitter?

Twitter is similar to blogging but you only have a 140 characters to say it. Twitter works by you following other people and creating your own newsfeed, and if other people enjoy what you tweet about others will follow you and also retweet you.

Some people have very strict rules about how to tweet (a regular one is don’t tweet about what you’ve had for lunch) but in general write about things you find interesting. You can share articles you like, write about your opinions on news or exciting things you are doing.

Twitter is a good resource to find out what’s happening by searching what other people are saying on the site. Hashtags are a good way to follow what’s happening and events or certain news stories will have their own.

For more information Twitter has a detailed section of their website explaining the basics and best practises.

Just start

The best way to understand blogs and Twitter is to just start doing it. Your first posts might not be perfect and it might take time to develop readers and followers on Twitter but take it as an opportunity to perfect and to experiment. And remember to enjoy it.

As government voted to raise the cap on tuition fees, Lincoln reacts

Listen to the interview with Karl McCartney in full:

Lincoln’s MP Karl McCartney said he did not fear a student backlash when he decided to vote with the government to raise the cap on tuition fees to £9,000.

Even though the MP represents a city with two universities, he says he did not worry about voting against the views of students – saying that he would not “be scared in to voting a different way”.

He added: “I would hope [by the next general election] they would see that I’ve voted in the best interest of the city that I represent.

“I represent all the people in Lincoln… It’s not right that students should expect taxpayers who are taking the economic hits [to pay for their education].”

The vote, which took place in parliament on December 9th, saw 323 MPs vote in favour of raising fees to a maximum of £9,000 and 302 MPs voted against.

McCartney says that he is confident that Lincoln will not be affected by changed to the funding of higher education: “I know how important the university and the college is to Lincoln and the city and to the wellbeing of the city… I’m well aware of the benefits that Lincoln as a city has through having the educational institutions in the city and I wouldn’t like to see that harmed in any way and I don’t think this is.”

However, a report in to the funding changes by the University and College Union (UCU) highlighted the University of Lincoln as being “high risk” and Bishop Grosseteste as “very high risk” saying they would “struggle to survive” along with 47 other universities across England.

Professor Scott Davidson, Deputy Vice Chancellor at the University of Lincoln, rejected this view and declared the report “inaccurate and unhelpful”, saying that the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) have said “Lincoln was doing everything right and that we are one of the sounder institutions they are working with”.

Listen to the interview with Professor Scott Davidson in full:

Professor Davidson said that the University of Lincoln has had a “consistent stance” about not being in agreement with a rise in tuition fees and is disappointed “that this is a step that the government has seen fit to take”.

Professor Davidson stressed that the University would continue to provide a teaching and learning experience for students, continue to be good employers for our staff, as well continue their commitment to research and keep the investors happy.

The Deputy Vice Chancellor was pleased that McCartney had hope for the future of the university and said that the local MP voting for the rise in tuition fees was a matter of “personal determination” and he recognised that “to be a government rebel is not particularly healthy if you’ve got ambitions within a particular party”.

There have been a number of protests from students and union members which culminated in around 20 people deciding to occupy a room in the University of Lincoln’s Main Admin Building on Wednesday, December 8th.

After hearing the result the group were shocked and have decided to occupy the seminar room indefinitely.

The University has been supportive of their decision to protest and just want to make sure that timetables for other students are not disrupted.

Professor Davidson has sympathises with the protesting students saying: “I’ll think you’ll find quite a lot of the staff at the University were themselves in the 60s and 70s involved in similar kinds of activities.

“We are quite happy to see students exercise their democratic right to protest in this way and I have to say the students who have been in occupation in the Main Administration Building have behaved in an exemplary way, they are making their point extremely well and we are very happy for them to be able to do that.”

These interviews were part of a newsday for the Siren FM show City Vibe and were also reproduced on The Linc and LSJ News