Friday, 23 August 2013

Content package #UPdigital

Another assignment, this time for the module I am doing in digital journalism. I had to take a poor piece of digital journalism, explain why it has been badly presented, and then put together a plan for how I would have covered the story online.

I chose to take a closer look at how the elections in Zimbabwe were covered this year as it was a significant story for both local and international media, allowing me to compare the two. The 89-year-ol Robert Mugabe was recently elected for a seventh term as Zimbabwe's leader after winning 61% of the votes. His main rival, Morgan Tsvangirai, filed a court petition over allegations of widespread electoral fraud. The Constitutional Court, however, dismissed the case, saying that Mugabe's re-election was free and fair. 

Examples of poor digital journalism: 

I have selected number of examples of poor digital journalism. The first is Independent Newspapers' website, IOL. It provides a standard write-up of an article with the occasional photo gallery or video clip. It also relies heavily on sourcing articles from the wires, which means that because the site doesn’t offer anything extra to it’s audience, they will most likely go find the same news elsewhere. Essentially, it provides the facts, but little more in terms of value.

Article on IOL's website. 

Radio station Jacaranda  has a website ( which also relies on the wires for content. It does to some extent publish voice clips of interviews that have appeared on air, but it’s a rather odd selection, for example “Cats make the best alarms!” Few of them have any significance when it comes to being newsworthy. Besides a galleries tab and a selection of music videos, there is no other form of multimedia on the site. In this way, Jacaranda has not quite found a way to converge radio and online yet.

Article from Sapa-AFP on Jacaranda's website. 
The audio clips on Jacaranda's website. 



Create a special report tab

The elections in Zimbabwe are a widely-covered event, so it is more than likely that there will be numerous articles about it. At the same time, people who are interested in the elections will want to follow what happens as it unfolds. In this way, a separate tab that aggregates all the coverage on Zimbabwe will be useful. It will also ensure that people who browse through it will click on other content that is linked to the subject.

Examples of sites that have a special tab coverage of events in Zimbabwe:

Publish story on website

The first step would be to produce the anchor text from which will be used as a springboard for the rest of the digital content strategy. This is where the above examples generally stop in terms of how they represent a story online. This series of articles will include thorough reporting and research. A benefit of online is that it is not limited by space or time, as it is with print, radio or television. Links to other articles or media on the subject can also be embedded within the article, ensuring that the user doesn’t have to leave the site to find any background information or other content relating to the subject.

While there are no constraints on an article’s length, it should at the same time not be text-heavy as this will scare a large number of users away immediately. A site can make use of lists, subheadings and multimedia to ensure that the reader doesn’t get bored and leave the site. It is also useful to give users the option to share the article they have just read on various social media sites like Facebook or Twitter. This gives the audience the chance to attract additional users to the site without the media organisation have to do so. Users can also comment on an article, which allows them to participate in debates and discussions about the topic. This allows readers to interact with the news itself as well as the people who are producing it. This, in turn, allows people to be in charge of the type of news they engage with.


Anchor article on Times LIVE. 

Article on The New York Times' website with an embedded link to another article on the subject.

Anchor article on City Press' website. 

Comment and analysis:

Comment and analysis provides a more comprehensive understanding of an issue, whereas a hard news article provides merely the facts. Articles such are great as a springboard for discussion and debate about a news item. They will include links to the article that prompted a response and any other media that the site may have included on the subject. Experts, thought leaders and journalists usually write comment pieces and because they are well-known, their opinion is respected. This will in turn drive traffic to a site.

Opinion piece by City Press' Carien du Plessis. 

Opinion piece on The Telegraph's website. 

Social media:


A link to the anchor articles that appear on the site should be tweeted from the publication’s Twitter account. A hashtag can also be created for the story. In this instance, something like #zimelections or #zimelections2013 will be appropriate. Anyone who wants to find all the tweets that link to the story can click on the hashtag and they will all appear on a timeline. Twitter users can also retweet links, which is as if social media users are selling the content for the publication.  
Twitter is a good way to build a brand that is accessible and in touch with its audience because it allows a site to interact with its users in real-time.  Connecting with the audience on this level also makes you more aware of what people want and what they don't want in terms of news content, based on their reactions to the story and how many times the story gets retweeted.

Live tweeting is also something that adds another dimension to the way a story is told in the digital age. A journalist will tweet what is happening at an event as it unfolds in real-time. People can follow these tweets and feel as if they are there.

City Press' Carien du Plessis live tweeting from Zimbabwe as the elections are taking place. 

Like Twitter, a link to the anchor article should be provided on the publication's Facebook page. Readers can comment on the link, or share it with their friends if they like. A group which discussesthe elections in Zimbabwe can be created so that people who feel strongly about the topic can engage with one another in discussion and debate. Facebook also provides the opportunity to upload photo albums which can provide more of a visual aspect, as well as more context for a story.

Link to article on Mail & Guardian's Facebook page. 

Mail & Guardian using Facebook as a crowd-sourcing method. 
Example of comments from users on Times LIVE's Facebook page. 


The photo-sharing service can be used to strengthen a publication's brand and engage with the audience on yet another platform. Publications can have their own Instagram which journalists can post from at events. Like Twitter, it provides real-time updates for users. These photos can later be turned into an article. Instagram can also be used by citizens to provide the media with information and access they wouldn’t necessarily have. Publications can then use these Instagrammed photos to add yet another dimension to the story. Additionally, a publication can also Instagram screen shots that pose questions that users can answer, or to promote an event. This creates another way for a publication to communicate with its audience.

Example of story on the Mail & Guardian's website where Instagrammed photos are used to tell a story. 

A Zimbabwean citizen's Instagrammed photo after voting in the elections. 


Digital pinboard site Pinterest is another way that publications can engage with their audience via social media. They can use it to find out what is popular on Pinterest and then create a board that features stories published on the topic.  It can also be used to include the audience in a collaborate way by asking people to create a board relating to a specific topic and then feature the best ones on the site. This ensures that the audience gets more involved in the news production process and also extends the shelf life of a story. Additionally, it’s a good way to showcase a site’s multimedia and photo galleries.  Pinterest is vital in reaching new audiences which wouldn’t necessarily have been interested in following hard news stories.

Example of Times LIVE using Pinterest as part of their coverage of the Zimbabwe elections. 

The New Delhi Times also making use of Pinterest. 



Storify allows journalists to curate content from various social media platforms in a clear, logical way, while connecting it all with reporting in between that provides context and perspective. It also allows for the audience to get involved in the storytelling process and is especially unique as it allows for an abundance of opinion. The service also lets people know when their tweets are being used. This helps people feel rewarded for contributing to the news, and it also helps spread the story. Another way that Storify could be used would be to capture a debate between two prominent individuals on the topic.

Examples of news organisations that have used Storify to cover the Zimbabwe elections:


The use of multimedia is vital as it provides the audience with a multi-sensorial experience of the news. It is user-friendly and can also be interactive should the audience choose to comment on it. People are more likely to engage in multimedia than text-laden articles as it provides a different, more interesting way of understanding information. Multimedia has broken the barriers of storytelling as it broadens the scope of what can be available in print.

Photos taken at an event can be published in the form of a gallery or a slideshow. It is not limited to a specific number of photos that be published as is the case with print media. Photojournalists can also produce online photo essays, which there is often not space for in a newspaper. It provides another visual element for the audience that can inform them without them having to wade through a lot of text.


Cartoons are a tongue-in-cheek look at current events. They are able to capture what is happening in the news with just a few words. Depending on the nature of the cartoon, it might be difficult to establish context if you are not aware of the full story. For this reason, it is essential to embed the cartoon between text, or make it part of a content package so that that context can be established. The presence of something visual immediately attract the reader's attention in amongst a lot of text. Cartoons are often controversial, which allows for discussion and debate on the topic. Cartoonists such as Zapiro have a great following, automatically directing a large audience to a website.

A cartoon by Zapiro. 


Online audio distribution platforms like Soundcloud can be used to create audio packages that can be embedded into an article. Users can share them with other people on Soundcloud or on social media sites, which drives more traffic to a site. It also gives people the opportunity to engage with a story with yet another sense, which in turn adds value to that person’s experience of consuming news.

Data journalism:

Data journalism is a way of telling a story in a compelling way by making use of digital information. It can be used during a journalist’s reporting process, where programming is used to gather and combine information. Software can also be used to find connections between a number of documents. Infographics are a way of making sense and presenting all this data to an audience as they makes sense of a story that has many layers to it. They have a visual aspect to them that attracts the audience but also make use of text in order to provide context.

Inforgraphic on Al Jazeera's 

Live blogging:

Ideally, live blogging would be used to chronicle live events for a specific period, providing the audience with real-time content. Information can be shared and distributed through a variety of tools and resources like photo sharing, social media, video blogs etc.


Google + Hangout:

Google + Hangout is a group video chat feature. It can be used to create a forum for discussion which would include reporters, experts and the audience engaging in discussion about the story. It is an innovative way of combining the benefits of broadcast with the social web and, most importantly, it allows for viewer participation.


Analytics is the use of a variety of tools, techniques and process that are used to make sense of data by providing statistics that can be applied to fact-based information. In journalism, analytics can be used to tell you what content users are visiting and sharing, how many people visit your site, and whether they like it or not. Most importantly, analytics is used to help you make sense of what to do with these results.


HTML5 is a way of structuring and presenting content for the web. It looks like an app, feels like  one, but is actually a website that can be resized and reformatted according to whatever device a page is being viewed on. Essentially, a site can be viewed on any kind of phone or tablet.This means that users can access a site without downloading an app from the iTunes store, allowing publications to avoid giving Apple the subscription fee. It also means that the audience has more of a choice when it comes to the medium they would like to use to consume their news.


Brazilian magazine Superinterressante has started combining journalism and video games to tell a story in a different, interactive way. For example, the magazine’s website has a game which can help users understand the mafia better. They do this by becoming an undercover cop posing as a drug-trafficker. Although still in its early stages, news games are a novel way of bringing information about news events to audiences.  

Superinteressante's Mafia newsgame.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Woodlane Village photo story

I'm taking a module in photojournalism this semester. This is one of my assignments, a 5-image photo story about Woodlane Village, an informal settlement in Pretoria East. 


Woodlane Village is an informal settlement nestled between the afluent homes of Mooikloof and Woodlands in Pretoria East.

Nicknamed "Plastic View", it is home to about 3000 residents from Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Mozambique and neighbouring provinces in South Africa.

It was initially started when 500 homeless people staying in a nearby field came together to form the village, which is adjacent to the Moreleta Park NG Church and close to the Pretoria East Hospital and shopping centre, Woodlands Boulevard.

The community has been embroiled in several court cases since its inception six years ago, the latest in which sees homeowners in the surrounding suburbs taking the Tshwane Metro Council to court for not controlling access to the village.

A 2009 court ruling ordered the council to maintain the fence surrounding the village and to ensure that security guards are placed at both entrances. Homeowners are claiming that the council is not doing this properly.

While the court battle questioning these residents' right to live in the settlement continues, the people of Woodlane Village go on with their daily lives, trying to find employment by selling fresh fruit and vegetables, running colour spaza shops, barbers and other small makeshift businesses.

A young boy who resides in Woodlane Village.

A father and his son sitting outside their home in the Zimbabwean section of Woodlane Village.

A student from Lyttleton Manor, a high school in Centurion, plays soccer with residents of Woodlane Village.

Two young boys drag branches through the sand as the sun goes down.

Two young boys observing something in the distance while playing.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Music for the waist down

This interview was published in Perdeby on 29 July 2013.

                                                                                                                                                 PHOTO: Christelle Duvenage

Taxi Violence’s fourth studio album Soul Shake sees the Cape Town quartet cranking up the noise to produce unadulterated, raucous rock ‘n’ roll, a feverish ode to what made the band so popular when they started out almost a decade ago.

Perdeby sat down with George van der Spuy (vocals), Rian Zietsman (guitar), Jason Ling (bass guitar) and Louis Nel (drums) to chat about their rip-roaring fourth release.

At the beginning of the year you guys came up with 30 new songs for the second half of Soul Shake. How do you go about choosing which ones make it onto the album in the end?Rian: We kind of jam it out.
George: And do pre-production.
Rian: Ja, pre-production is a very vital part of making an album, I think. You check which ideas work and which don’t, but then on the other hand, we have one song which is a combination of a whole bunch of things that didn’t work together. Now I think it’s my favourite song on the album.
George: It’s weird. You listen back to it during pre-production and you can hear what other people hear because when you play it, it’s very different. You’re enjoying the jam and you’re in the vibe but when you listen back to it, it doesn’t come across in the same way as you feel it. We found a balance between what we really enjoy and what sounds good on CD.

How did writing an acoustic album before this influence the writing of Soul Shake?Louis: I wouldn’t say “influence”, but I would say it definitely helped during the songwriting process, because in the past we used to write songs in the rehearsal room with very loud amps and loud drum kits and stuff. They came out well but for the acoustic album we wrote on acoustic instruments and the majority of this new album was also written on acoustic instruments in a basement, so you have to kind of like pay attention to the quieter side of the song. You can’t hide it behind just bashing drums and lots of distorted guitar. It’s a very cool way of writing because if your song translates on an acoustic instrument, it will definitely translate being played loud and brash but not necessarily the other way round. In terms of songwriting, our acoustic album helped us a lot.

You guys have opted for songs with a simpler arrangement this time around. What brought this on?Rian: Simple is always best. Once you start overthinking something, I find that it loses the essence of what you’re trying to do in the first place. Although we did spend a lot of time honing the songs, there were certain aspects of it that we weren’t that familiar [with] or sure of when we went into the studio and jammed it out there and took some guidance from Rusti, who was recording it with us. I suppose that’s where the simplicity comes from, the fact that it was new to us as well. When I listen back to some of the stuff, I couldn’t even remember playing it or doing it and not because I was drunk.
Jason: I think for us, we’ve been around for a while. We’ve learned what works and what doesn’t work. I think that that’s something that we’ve learned now.
George: We kind of took a lead from our influences like The Stones and The Beatles and [those bands] are really simple. There’s no real complicated stuff and if you can write a simple song that translates well, then you’ve done your job instead of trying to complicate things.
Jason: You don’t need to be different for the sake of being different.
Rian: At the end of the day, if you want to make a living out of this, you can’t be a musician’s band. You kind of have to challenge your audience in a certain regard but you still need to show them a good time without going to class when they come to your shows. They’re coming to rock out.

Jason, you were a lot more involved in the writing of Soul Shake. What was that like?Jason: It was cool, but it’s like ...
Louis: Don’t be modest.
                                                                          PHOTO: Christelle Duvenage
Jason: Louis and Rian were doing Beast and George took time off for Wembley. I don’t have a side project so I’m always writing music. I brought a lot of ideas to the band and the songs wouldn’t be the same without them but I mean, instead of just jamming them out, we started with the basics of structures and chords. Louis brought some ideas and Rian as well.
George: And George.

                                                                        PHOTO: Christelle Duvenage
Jason: And George. Sorry George. Just checking if you’re awake. When I joined the band, a lot of the songs were still from the previous bass player and a lot of the songs were carried over to the unplugged album, so as a band, these 11 songs are pretty much us. Except for one, it’s a cover but it has pretty much our flavour to it.

George, you write your lyrics in studio. Am I right?George: I don’t write them in studio. I write them during the recording process because as Rian said earlier, sometimes there’s little things that change in the studio. “Brainmash” for instance. He [Rian] did something different on the guitars and it was a totally different chorus and once I heard that, it inspired me to write a different chorus that’s a lot more catchy. It helps to write with stuff that sounds a little bit more proper but you always have a basic melody down and sort of an idea of what the ideas are going to be like. I just refine it during the recording process.

Is there any significance behind the album title, Soul Shake?George: When we set out to do this album, we wanted to do a party-rock album, get back to our original roots of just rocking out because our unplugged album was chilled out. That’s where the whole “soul shake” thing comes from. We want to move you from the inside and the outside. Music for the waist down. You don’t have to think about it too much but it hits you [there].

There’s a little story behind “Singing Monkey” – something about a smashed-up guitar. Can you tell me a bit more about that?Rian: A mate of ours was on some film set and one of the props was some cheap-ass Fender Strat copy. One of the things they had to do with it was to smash a guitar while filming, but whoever did it didn’t do it properly – it was still working. It had one of the tune knobs missing and that string had to be on a certain pitch so I tuned the rest of it so that it would fit in with that string and it ended up being an open tuning so you could strum it easily. I think [Jason] Ling and Louis had left one night after rehearsal and George and I were still hanging around. He was jamming this little lick on the thing and I saw what he was doing and took that and he started singing over it and that’s how it came about.