Day one: Storify

Newspapers aren’t dead. But whether weekly or daily, they’re often out of date before they’ve hit the newsstands. The Guardian recently announced its plans to go ‘digital first‘, meaning the website will continue to feature breaking news, while the paper will lean more towards in-depth analysis and maybe even long-form journalism. I’m not certain, but I reckon they’ll start using online story-telling tools in their reporting.

There are plenty of good reasons to use online tools. Chiefly, more voices often means more sides to a story, which, for most reporters, is a key aim of journalism.

So how can journalists report breaking news, other than write up the report as quickly as possible? There are lots of free online tools available to help us tell stories without having to write and constantly update a single news piece. Over the next month I’ll touch on live blogs, audio, ways to use Twitter and hopefully some get some guest contributions highlighting tools I didn’t know about either.

I’m not claiming any of this is brand spanking new. But if you’ve only ever typed things up as text, maybe you’ll find something here to save you time or bring in other voices to your stories.


I’ll kick this project blog off with a quote from Claire Armitstead, the Guardian’s books editor, who I was lucky enough to work alongside during our coverage of the Edinburgh International Book Festival. During a public debate on The Future of Culture, she said:

“We’re broadcasting this festival to the world and Michael has developed ways of reporting that I am incredibly excited about and we’ve never done before.”

She was referring to this report, in which I saved myself a heck of a lot of typing by including a Storify embed of tweets. I take no credit for Storify though! It is someone else’s idea and it ain’t that new. It’s a website that lets you compile people’s updates and pictures from Twitter to tell a story. So long as your site lets you embed Javascript, you can embed from Storify.

My job with the Guardian during the book festival was to pull in user-generated content, engage with people and convey the atmosphere for people who couldn’t make it to Edinburgh for the event – the biggest of its kind in the world.

It only took about 10 minutes’ work to find the relevant tweets, because myself and the book festival’s social media chap had agreed to use a hashtag. Once people saw our tweets, they were replying using the same hashtag. Result! It also helped that somebody as opinionated as Robert Levine got involved.

If you know you’re not going to be the only person live-tweeting from an event, it’s good practice to try to agree on a hashtag. That way anyone who searches for the hashtag can find a neat list of everything on that topic. Of course, search for the hashtag before you start using it, in case it’s already being used for something else!

It doesn’t replace a news story or feature, and I highly doubt we’ll ever see it in the paper, but putting a Storify into the online report got across a flavour of what was said at the event and freed me up to go and cover something else.

Personally I’ve been using Storify for more than a year having been encouraged to use it on the Guardian Edinburgh blog. So, it’s not that new! But it’s interesting that the Guardian Books team were so enthusiastic about its use on their site too.

Once you publish your Storify, there’s an option to let the people you’ve quoted know that they’re in a story. It’s always a nice surprise to get that tweet saying “I’ve quoted you in my story, check it out! LINK…

Journalists aren’t the only ones using Storify. At this link, you’ll see Walall Council using it to highlight just how busy their staff were on 30 August. It’s a good way to dispel any feeling that taxpayers aren’t getting good value for money.

Storify is best when there’s more than one person speaking. Tomorrow I’ll highlight a way of reporting online when you’re all on your own.

Which online story-telling tools should I highlight on here? Share your favourites or examples in the comment box below, or email me:

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