Sunday, August 24, 2008

What are your most useful online tools?

I've looked at a number of tools in this series, often very new with potential applications for journalism that haven't been realised. This time I want to turn the spotlight onto tools that you're using every day, which may not be flashy, but which do a simple job very well - for example:

  • in managing or filtering information,
  • identifying leads, ideas and contacts,
  • producing news itself,
  • distributing it,
  • or allowing users to get involved.

What have been the most useful online tools you've used?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Journalism made simpler by Internet?

By:Veronica Commey, Ghana News Agency (GNA) Sports

The usage of Internet keeps soaring with opinions split on the exact effects and benefits of the technology that has brought so much to the fore in all areas of life. Today, the Internet is seen as a vital ingredient of the everyday activity of professionals and non-professionals, the journalist inclusive.

It is not just by chance that one can no longer claim ownership of any piece of information as long as it can be located on the Internet - something that could make anyone say journalism could have been made simpler by this great technology.

In the life of the Ghanaian Sports journalist today, knowing less about the usage of Internet means resigning oneself to the noticeable truth that others would forever break the news whiles you continually stay in their shadows.

For the sports journalist, whether it is the search for a new coach or past record of an athlete, all one must do is to enter the particular item in the commonest search engine, "google," and one can bet enriching facts will pop up to drive a story.

It cannot be accidental that radio stations often mimic each other because they source their information from the same Internet portal. The noticeable difference in what they churn out is perhaps their presentation.

Recently when the search for a replacement of Black Stars Claude Le Roy began after the French had left Ghana in the cold citing personal reasons, the consistency with which the media named prospective successors via the power of Internet brought to the fore the fact that reliance on this grand technology in the day to day activity of the journalist is a growing trend.

Through it all, one is tempted to ask if the Internet has positively or otherwise affected the work of the journalist and reduced one to a desk reporter in this noble art of news dissemination. Long gone are the days where local stories remained dominant in both newspapers and on radio.

The craze for foreign information for sports has grown overboard; little wonder that one can sit through an entire Television or Radio programme and can barely count the number of issues that are local. Amazingly, an entire programme is sometimes dedicated to Internet-related stories with phone lines opened for the public to air their views with passion and vigour.

It has become common occurrence for the journalist today to depend on internet stories instead of the usual hard work injected into moving through the various associations in search of scoops to produce stories that seek to build on the development of the discipline. Information gathering may have been made simpler, but the effect it has registered on the thorough journalist cannot be underemphasized. Hard work has been diluted in every sense of the word and it is partly the reason why many sporting disciplines are marking time instead of catching up with the passion of the nation - soccer.

A whole newspaper can afford to fill space with information on foreign footballers or stars and their wives, girlfriends, mansions, wealth, lifestyle etc and one can bet sales will soar. Be as it may, the allure of sales is a big draw but how often have we been truthful enough to ask ourselves what we have done as journalists to ensure people are held accountable for their failure to promote their various disciplines instead of continually finding excuses as to why discipline cannot be represented at a continental or global event?

The painful truth is many media personnel believe it is enough to once in a while chip in a story or two on the so called less-endowed sports whiles the greater part of space and time is dedicated to internet-searched stories.

Ghana presented the smallest contingent ever (six boxers and three athletes) at the Beijing Olympic Games underway in China partly because whilst the media stayed busy furnishing the public with internet made stories, most of the associations and the men at the helm of affairs lost sight of their duty to ensure that their disciplines were given the maximum attention to produce the right athletes to represent the nation. We must be seen, as taking major interest in issues that will bring holistic development into sports instead of hiding behind an invented "passion of the nation" that realistically is producing results only at the senior level.

It is easier to advance the argument that the masses are offered what they want, but isn't it a truism that until something was offered, one could not even tell what recipients wanted anyway? It is natural to want to stay glued to one's comfort zone, but not when you have a glaring responsibility to inform, educate, entertain and develop!

The Internet stories we duel on today, is a fine product of someone's decision to travel the extra mile to bring to the forefront issues that have only been developed through hard work, dedication and the will to make a difference.

It is imperative that as journalists we set a proper agenda for our target listeners and readers alike. That role is a tough one but it is a contract we signed with those who consume our produce the day we chose this profession and is about time we abide by our side of the agreement.

The 1st Broadcast & Film Africa Conference & Exhibition

The 1st Broadcast & Film Africa Conference & Exhibition

Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi

23-25 September 2008

The conference is aimed at senior and middle managers in:
  • National television stations.
  • National radio stations.
  • Pay TV companies using cable, IP-TV or satellite.
  • Film-makers, producers and distributors from throughout Africa.
  • International Broadcasting Stations like CNN, BBC, NBC, VOA, China Radio, Al Jazeera, Radio Japan, Radio Moscow and Radio Netherlands.
  • Television and film production companies.
  • Facilities providers including production equipment hire, post-production and outside broadcast.
  • Organisations like donors and faith-based organisations that run their own broadcast organisations for development purposes.
  • Television and film equipment vendors and satellite capacity suppliers.
  • Advertising and marketing agencies.
  • Mobile and fixed telephone operations looking at convergence opportunities.
  • Library Facilities for music, commercials and programmes.

go to

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Communication experts endorse alternative media

About 120 communication experts, meeting in Accra, have endorsed a blend of modern information and communication technologies with traditional and other alternative media forms to disseminate information for development in the globalised world.

The participants, from Africa, the Caribbeans and the Americas, served with spring water in calabash, had sat enthralled as Professor Kofi Anyidoho, a Ghanaian poet, welcomed to them into the country with a traditional poetic performance.

The six-day conference, dubbed; "OURMedia 7, on the theme: 7"Identity, Inclusion, Innovation- Alternative Communication in a Globalised World" is developing the key that alternative communication which involves a diversity of actors, voices, themes and discourses needs to flourish and take hold to create alternative worlds.

The participants, made up of academics, activists, writers, journalists and other communication practitioners from around the globe are discussing the topic through the presentation of relevant research papers, innovative workshops and various media forms including story telling, drumming and beating of gong-gongs and street art and other traditional forms of communication.

Founded in 2001, OURMedia is a global networks whose goal is to facilitate a long-term dialogue between academics, activists, writers, journalists and other communication practitioners and policy experts around citizens media initiatives, with focus on the grassroots level.

The underlining principle behind the OURMedia concept is that various forms of traditional communication with emerging communication technologies to let voices that had been drowned over years be heard.

Speaking in a video presentation, Prof John Downing, co-founder of OURMedia, observed that it was necessary to create an atmosphere of participatory media in the national development process, arguing there was no need for any further in developing appropriate communication skills and technology based on a nation's identity and its communication education system.

Prof. Downing underscored the connection between media and social movement of people who had the same interests and values which they could define openly without apology.

The challenge for communicators was to use communication to help society to diminish evil and do good, Prof Downing said, adding it was important that organisations had people who were deeply culturally sensitive, to provide solutions to crisis.

Prof Downing, who is also of the Southern Illinois based Global Media Research Centre, called for the gap between educators and communicators to be bridged.

Prof Alfred Opubor, of a leading Communication Education Expert in Africa in a discussion called for a change in the communication that was taught in the African universities.

He said there was a crisis of confidence in the use of gender which he said should mutually edify the other in the communication business.

"No matter the depth of a particular thing, and despite issues of hierarchy and experience being different, they can be can be complementary and shared." Prof Opubor said.

Dr Audrey Gadzekpo. Acting Director of the School of Communication Studies, referring the role of alternative media and the OURMedia project, said a variety of communication forms would not intimidate free expression and speech.

An integral part of our OURMedia 7 is a Community Radio Symposium at Radio in Ada, in the Dangme East District of the Greater Accra Region, which also marks the 10th Anniversary of the station, which was Ghana's pioneer Community Radio Station.


Sunday, August 10, 2008

Landmark International Communication Conference, OURMedia 7, Opens in Accra

OURMedia 7
Ghana Coordinating Committee

Landmark International Communication Conference, OURMedia 7, Opens in Accra

A landmark international communication conference, OURMedia 7, opens at the Kofi Annan Centre for ICT Excellence on Monday, 11 August 2008 at 9:30 a.m.  The highlight of the Opening Ceremony is a new creative piece by Ghanaian Poet Professor Professor Kofi Anyidoho, Director of the African Humanities Programme at the University of Ghana. 

The theme of OURMedia 7 is: Identity, Inclusion, Innovation – Alternative Communication in a Globalized World.  

OURMedia 7 itself runs from 11 August to 15 August 2008, also at the Kofi Annan Centre for ICT Excellence. 

It brings together international communication experts and practitioners and grassroots activists and their Ghanaian counterparts.

Approximately 120 international and national participants are attending OURMedia 7.
Founded in 2001, OURMedia is a global network whose goal is to facilitate a long-term dialogue between academics, activists, practitioners and policy experts around citizens' media initiatives.  The main forum for the dialogue is an annual conference. 

OURMedia 7 is the first time the conference is being held in Africa.  The previous six conferences were held in Washington, D.C., USA; Barcelona, Spain; Barranquilla, Colombia; Porto Alegre, Brazil; Bangalore, India; and Sydney, Australia.

The theme of OURMedia 7 develops the key principle that alternative communication – a diversity of actors, voices, themes and discourses - needs to flourish and take hold to create alternative worlds.  Participants from around the globe are discussing this topic through the presentation of relevant research papers, innovative workshops and various media.

The international communication experts include OURMedia co-founder, Professor Clemencia Rodriguez of the University of Oklahoma, author of Fissures in the Mediascape: An International Study of Citizens' Media.  Another is filmmaker and participatory communication specialist Alfonso Gumucio-Dagron, Managing Director of the Communication Social Change Consortium and author of Making Waves: Stories of Participatory Communication for Social Change.   Among the academics to feature for the first time at an OURMedia conference are Professor Bu Wei of the Institute of Journalism & Communication at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, China.
African academics include an eminent pioneer of communication education in Africa, Professor Alfred Opubor of the Centre for Media Education and Development and founding Director of the Department of Mass Communication at the University of Lagos in Nigeria.  Another is Visiting New York University Professor Balufu Bakupa-Kanyinda of the Democratic Republic of Congo, who is showing his new documentary Afro@Digital, on the Digital Revolution and Africa.   

An integral part of OURMedia 7 is a Community Radio Symposium at Radio Ada, in Ada, on Wednesday 13 August.  The Symposium marks the 10th anniversary of Radio Ada, Ghana's pioneer Community Radio station.

AMARC, the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters, is also holding the Africa Region observance of its 25th anniversary within the framework of OURMedia 7.

A Mini-Festival of crafts, exhibits and performances on Thursday 14 August is another special feature of OURMedia 7.

The event in Ghana is being organized by the Ghana Coordinating Committee (GCC).  Institutional members of the committee comprise the University of Ghana through the School of Communication Studies and the Institute of African Studies; Media Foundation for West Africa, Participatory Development Associates, PenPlusBytes (International Institute of ICT Journalism) and the Ghana Community Radio Network.

OURMedia 7 is being supported by the Institute of Development Studies in Sussex, UK (IDS) with support from the Swiss International Development Cooperation and the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida); the Open Society Institute of West Africa (OSIWA) based in Dakar, Senegal; the Panos Institute West Africa (PIWA), also in Dakar; and the African Farm Radio Research Initiative (AFRRI), based in Ottawa, Canada.

For more information, please contact the undersigned or the OURMedia 7 Event Organizer, Mr Akunu Dake (CEO, Heritage Development)


Dr Audrey Gadzekpo, Acting Director
School of Communication Studies, University of Ghana

Friday, August 08, 2008

Online journalism projects named as finalists for Knight-Batten Awards

A project mapping violence in Kenya, a political 'Truth-o-Meter', a one-woman citizen media campaign and a device tracking edits to Wikipedia by companies, have been named as finalists for a journalism innovation award.

The winner of the grand prize in the Knight-Batten Awards for Innovations in Journalism, which are funded by the John S. and James L. Knight foundation, will receive $10,000.

Kenyan website Ushahidi: Crowdsourcing Crisis Information, which was set up to help bloggers and citizen journalists share information about political violence in the country, has been nominated., a citizen media project documenting real estate development in a Washington DC neighbourhood, and presidential campaign database are also in the running.

The fourth finalist is's use of WikiScanner, a tool for tracking edits to Wikipedia. The magazine used the scanner and its readers to expose companies, who were making edits to their own entries on the site.

"The examples we are heralding show the power of a single person, the power of politics, the power of community," said Jody Brannon, a member of the awards' board and national director of the Carnegie-Knight News21 initiative, in a press release.

Two awards for 'special distinctions' and a citizen media award, each of $2,000, will also be handed out at an event at the National Press Club on September 10.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

UK questioned on online ad system

The UK government has until the end of August to respond to a letter from the European Union about a controversial system which monitors web traffic.

EU commissioner Viviane Reding has asked the UK government to clarify whether the Phorm system is in breach of European data laws.

Phorm tracks users' web habits in order to better target ads at them and three UK ISPs are so far signed up to it.

BT is due to begin a widescale trial of the service imminently.

No action

Revelations that the telco conducted secret trials without seeking the consent of customers have led opponents of the scheme to call for it to be prosecuted.

They believe BT's two earlier trials were illegal because users were not informed that their web habits were under surveillance.

But the Information Commission ruled in May that no action would be taken against the telco due to the difficult nature of explaining to consumers what it was doing.

It said anyone using Phorm must ask for the consent of users before going ahead with any further trials.

Virgin Media and TalkTalk are also signed up to use the system.


The letter from Mrs Reding, the details of which are not publicly known, was sent in mid-July and the UK government has until the end of August to respond.

According to a spokesman for Reding's information society and media commission, there is already a "dialogue" with the UK government although no details of this have been revealed.

"We are working with a number of departments on a response," said a spokeswoman for the Department of Business.

The Foundation for Information Policy Research (Fipr) has been one of the more outspoken critics of Phorm.

Fipr's general counsel Nicholas Bohm believes ISPs implementing the system could find website owners objecting.

"There is going to be increased focus on the rights of website owners and their right to prevent material being used to the advantage of their competitors," he said.

He believes pressure from the EU may force the Information Commissioner to re-examine the system when BT rolls it out.

"BT will persuade themselves to do it because they see a lot of money in it but it is unlikely that it will be compliant," he said.

An e-petition on the Downing Street website calling for Phorm to be dropped has so far attracted over 16,000 signatures.

An in-depth look at Phorm - the controversial ad-serving system
Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2008/08/06 08:16:32 GMT