Sky reporter uses mobile and social media tools to cover Heathrow protest

Sky News reporter Derek Tedder reported from the demonstrations at Heathrow Airport on Monday using only his mobile phone and freely-available online social media tools.

In an experiment in applying consumer-level social media tools to newsgathering, Teddler used his Blackberry to send 140-character text-message updates to the microblogging site Twitter and emailed pictures taken using the phone’s camera to the photo-sharing site Flickr.

Both the rolling news updates and the images where then fed into the main Sky news website using RSS-based widgets.

‘The attraction is that a reporter can update his story or his page directly from his mobile phone without having to go through the CMS or someone who has access to the CMS back at base,’said executive producer Julian March, the site’s editor.

‘The best thing about it is the whole kind of immediacy and there is very little editing, which I would anticipate that web users would quite like – that web-type transparency.”

Tedder’s short updates are not like a finished news story, but March said users would understand that “it’s much more of an iterative thing”.

March said Sky’s experiment was inspired by similar efforts at the BBC, where reporter Ben Hammersley recently reported on the Turkish elections using Twitter and YouTube.

Sky News has also been experimenting with using external social media tools to reach audiences in new ways.

Twitter users can subscribe to various feeds of headlines and links to Sky News stories, and the channel last week launched a Facebook application that allows users of the social networking site receive Sky News headlines from within their profile pages.

‘The majority of our traffic from London based office workers,’said March.

‘If people meant to working are spending all their time on Facebook, we need to be there, too.”

Last week, the rolling news channel launched an online-only video news bulletin. Sky’s 17-member web team is hoping to develop it into a daily feature of the site.

‘The online-only web bulletin plays by the rules of the web rather than the rules of telly,’said March.

The running order on the online bulletin dictated by site traffic analytics from the web site rather than editors’ choices.

March said: ‘Foot and mouth featured nowhere on the Wednesday because it wasn’t doing anything on the site. But gratifiyingly, it wasn’t just tits and arse that was getting the clicks. There were plenty of good hard-news stories getting traffic on the web.”

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