Hacks/Hackers London liveblog: Peter Jukes tweets and Al Brown videos

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

Liveblogging so be warned: typos, inaccuracies and vile, vile abuse of grammar and syntax ahead.

Peter Jukes: Livetweeting the Phone Hacking Trial

Peter Jukes

Peter is better known as a dramatist, but has always been interested in technology and journalism. He’s fascinated by dynasties, power and corruption, as his books show. So, he started going to the pre-trial hearings on the hacking allegations.

And he realised he could tweet it. And he found it a more interesting process than writing conventional articles about it. He knew some of the things coming – but couldn’t tweet them until they were told to the jury. That’s contempt of court.

He built an audience rapidly – but he couldn’t afford the tickets the loss of earnings from attending the trial to live-tweet the whole thing. He gave up for a few days, and there was a clamour for him to return. Someone suggested that he crowd-fund he tickets. He was initially resistant to this – despite the fact that his book has been crowd-funded. He was funded in 8 hours when he actually capitulated. Why? Because he was providing a service that people wanted.

With great crowd-funding comes great responsibility

The financial support came with emotional strings and he found he felt an enormous responsibility to his funders. He generally goes in the annex downstairs rather than the gallery, as he finds you have more freedom to work there, watching the streams, than in the gallery itself. But it’s a grim, difficult environment for a writer. Over time, the trial became an incredible drama, unfolding as the trial went on. Why? Both the British justice system and the British media are on trial. That’s a precarious situation.

People are following him, including court officials – and they’re alert to any prejudicial statement he makes. What British journalism does is mix fact and opinion. That’s a completely different situation to court reporting. If you comment, you’re in contempt of court – so sticking to just the facts is an incredible discipline. Of course, you can’t tweet everything. So he targets every salient fact or date – and the best of the quotes. The only editorial decisions he makes are compressing quotes.

Why did people fund him? Because he’s independent – he doesn’t work for any of the media organisations.

All his tweets are being archived to be made available as a searchable database on his blog after the event.

Put to the Question

Questions from the audience:

  • Did he do any media law training first? No. He wished he did. But he learnt from other journalist, and from getting it wrong.
  • He tweets from an iPad with a Logitech keyboard.
  • Did he pay tax on the crondfunded money? He needs to talk to his accountant about that…
  • What’s the difference between what he does and lifestream of video or audio? How do you database or search or video? The internet is the revenge of words.

Al Brown, Vice News

Al Brown from Vice News

The most popular videos they did were the hard-hitting news and documentary work – the one about being in the middle of stories. So, they started building Vice News to focus on that, and launched about a month ago.

The documentary film-making they were doing was labelled news long before they started it calling that. They find the news cycle quite boring – and so do many of their readers. “The News” as it exists now is something you have to be plugging into all the time to understand what is going on.

They wouldn’t cover the missing plane, for example, because there’s nothing to film, and nothing they can add. They’re quite opinionated in their reporting. They want journalists on site, saying what they see in front of them – and what it means. Henru Langston’s tweets from the Ukraine racked up 20m impressions. But he followed that up with long-form work, and the camera team were using Instagram and Vine as they worked, which was followed by a documentary. That final result si something that can be looked back on in a year.

They’re trying to use as many forms as possible – short form, long form. Whatever it takes to tell the story. Length isn’t something they’re hugely pre-occupied with. On YouTube they get people watching on average 20 minutes of video. The idea of the short video is beginning to be dispelled – because people are watching on mobile at tablets.

Money and People

He’s not allowed to talk about revenue split with YouTube – but it’s easier for content makers to make revenue from their own platforms than YouTube. YouTube is about audience growth for them. They have so many different ways of monetising on their own platforms, that they want to bring people there.

He’s always looking for hungry young journalists with access and a desire to tell stories. There’s lots of tattooed 22 year olds – and some older heads who stop everyone getting killed. They like growing their own talent. People start by writing for the, and then transition to film-making if they’re interested.

Equipment? A lot of it is very conventional. They’re not citizen journalists. They use phone for live streaming – and high end cameras with DoP for their serious filming. They spend quite a lot of money per minute you see on screen. What makes it feel “rough” is what they choose to show.

They’re always been a counter-culture kind of brand. How will they build news? Do more of it. But they won’t chase the news cycle, or cover things they don’t think they have anything new to offer.

Over half of their audience arrive via social media.

They’re safety compliance is pretty much that the same as traditional broadcasters. Their stuff just feels more dangerous because ether show journalists freaking out which other media outlets would cut.

legal reportingLegal systemlivetweetingphone hacking trialX (Twitter)

Adam Tinworth Twitter

Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.