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Archive for the ‘Journalism’ Category

Why do journalists make such great fiction writers? The answer lies in five simple words – principles really – the 5Ws. Who? What? Why? Where? When? The most brilliant recent example of this is the best-selling Millennium Trilogy by Swedish journalist-turned-fiction- writer Stieg Larsson, now deceased. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The Girl Who Played with Fire. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest. Intrigued?


Larsson’s unlikely heroine – a tiny, tattooed, techno geek called Lisbeth Salendar –immediately piques one’s curiosity. Mix in an intense investigative journalist, Carl Mikael Blomkvist (himself?), who knows no boundaries in turning over stones. Blend in criminals, spies and gangs in plots that twist and turn, and you are hooked.

by Stieg Larsson

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The Trilogy sees the unlikely duo working in tandem, often virtually, to unravel murder mysteries, political plots and subversive Swedish authorities. The parallels to the decades-old unsolved murder of Swedish Prime Minister Olaf Palme make it hard to see a clear divide between fact and fiction. This blurring is a big draw; I read all three back-to-back.


The trilogy begins with ‘Tattoo, where Blomkvist and Salendar meet to solve a decades-old missing girl story. One mystery gives birth to another, and in ‘Fire, Salendar’s disappearance leads the ever-inquisitive journalist down another path. It all comes to a head in ‘Hornet’s Nest. Or does it? Each one begins with you asking why and then ends with another unanswered question, leaving you craving more.


The story behind the stories is just as intriguing. Stieg Larsson, Swedish journalist-turned- fiction-writer, died without a will shortly after giving manuscripts to his publisher. His family is now preventing his long-time partner from publishing the fourth novel, which she possesses on his computer. Sweden is now firmly on the minds of millions of readers and on the literary global map.


Sadly, Larsson’s mysteries will remain unsolved – despite an insatiable global appetite. The prolonged publishing rights battle means we will have to be satisfied with movie versions – for the time being.

KeyCast – video and podcast on Key Advice – Showreel.

The Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson
Originally published in Sweden by Norstedt Agency and translated by Reg Keeland

Translated versions

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The Girl Who Played with Fire
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest

Published in GB 2008, 2009, 2010 by MacLehose Press

Award winning

*Title spellings change with publishers.

Open data was the focal point of yesterday’s Digital Editors Network (DEN) meeting at North West Vision and Media in Manchester. Some open data mavericks are lobbying  for this to become the rule rather than the exception. With David Cameron and Nick Clegg leading a more open style of collaborative government, the time to push for more open data is here.

Francois Nel, DEN co-convener and director of UCLan’s Journalism Leaders Programme, opened the discussion challenging all to re-think what data means to online communications – particularly for the news industry – and our culture.

Julian Tate, one of the organisers of FutureEverything conference (May 12 -15) in Manchester, is lobbying for the city to become the UK’s first OpenData city. He used Vancouver, Canada’s open city initiative as a benchmark. Take a look at and to get a glimpse of where this may be  heading in the UK.

Paul Bradshaw, onlinejournalismblog and convener of the HelpMeInvestigate project, gave examples of how data management revealed key issues for such stories as the MPs’ expenses fiasco. He said data is the place where journalists and publishers meet with citizens and IT. Think of it as freedom of information without having to fill in a form. Journalism students are exploring this concept, and will bring their new talents to the workplace.  Is corporate media ready?

The Guardian’s information architect Martin Belam and New York’s Propublica reporter Olga Pierce and Jeff Larson highlighted how news gathers working closely with data manipulators can create new interpretations of news and information that are more powerful, more insightful and more inclusive than one-dimensional news gathering. Although, like our current leaders, they may seem like strange bedfellows, such cooperation is thinking outside the box. And, never has there been  a time – economically, socially, politically – when some fresh ideas were desperately needed.

Sweden’s University of Gothenburg Journalism, Media and Communication Ph.D candidate Oscar Westland used a mixed martial arts metaphor to compare the traditional approaches with the new media world. Looking at how print and online news reporting are being driven to change by new and mobile technology, Oscar pointed out the importance of redefining our methods. It appears the answers to the current media problems may not lie in familiar places.

“We need to plan for trial and error,” he said. “This is moving fast.”

Nick Turner DEN co-convener and head of Digital Media for CN Group closed the meeting leading a discussion on where this can go next. DEN will look at what role they can play in taking this to the next level. The next DEN meeting will take place in the autumn.

Mobile information, open data and interactive, geo-based apps may seem an arm’s length from our news and information creation centres, but if our blog and news readers are embracing them, surely we also need to embrace this change with open arms – and minds.

Despite all the promotions of the importance of website content being accessible, usable and understandable, it still rates low in web planning commitment. A study by Next Communications, website teams are still rating design, SEO and development as top priorities (over 50%) and content at the bottom of the web planning chain at 10% importance.

Yet, users continue to report their frustration at not being able to find, understand or use information on websites. So how do we bridge this gap?

First get a clear picture of your audience, readers, site visitors. Who are they? Where are they coming from? How old are they? What is your relationship with them? What do they want?

Then adopt these three top web writing guidelines:

1. Use headlines to help lead your readers through the text. Newspapers are popular for a reason. Ease of finding information is one of them.

2. Write in a concise style to meet the scanning style web readers use, which is different from print readers. People often know what they want before going to a website – so make it easy for them to move through your content to find it.

3. Use language that is understandable by your readers. Avoid lingo, tech terms and abbreviations they may not be familiar with. If you have to use unfamiliar words define them, or pre-empt problems with a FAQ section.

Content is still king. But don’t turn it into a pauper by ignoring tried and tested website content guidelines.


Plain Language Websites

Jacob Nielson’s Writing for the Web vs Print

Website Tips

I invited Ben Tyson, job searching journalism graduate, to do a guest blog here to help him out. His message is strong and clear – and his strategy is paying off. Best of luck Ben! Kate


I used to have it drummed into me that working hard at school, heading off to university, and gaining a degree, enabled you to walk into the job of your dreams. Employers would fall at the feet of graduates; throwing projects and salaries at them in whichever direction they turned. Reality, however, is an altogether different story.

As the recession deepens, and unemployment rates soar to nearly 3 million; the job market is swamped with graduates – all vying for the same few positions available. That’s the biggest problem most graduates are faced with right now: for every job they apply for, 500 others are doing the same. And when every one of those 500 has a degree, no one stands out from the crowd.

Graduate schemes are a popular way of finding employment after university. Websites such as and advertise these in abundance – each one offering a fast-track route to management, or a high-up, important role. But again, with so many graduates fighting it out for the same position, it’s difficult to get noticed and remembered by the human resource team sifting through the stacks of application forms. The fact is; work experience is counting for a lot more these days, often more so than the degree itself.

I can’t begin to explain the amount of reply’s I have had which claim I “lack experience”. It’s about having that little bit extra on your CV that others don’t have. It makes it all the more difficult, however, to gain experience if no one is offering it! So how do you survive this period of uncertainty? This article on, offers some advice – some relevant, some not. The stand-out point for me is number 7 – Learn.

When a job opportunity does eventually present itself to you, an employer can only be impressed to see that although you haven’t been able to find employment, you have shown your passion and work ethic. Show them you want to be involved in this line of work – even if it is on your own time, and without being paid or thanked.

Another thing I have learned as a valuable importance is the value of having contacts. Keep in touch with old university colleagues. You leave university in exactly the same boat as them – find out what they are doing now. Have they found work? How did they go about finding it? Ask them to keep you updated if anything comes up in their company. Networking, and having plenty of contacts can be a very valuable source. My philosophy has been to keep my eyes and ears open.

I’ve applied for roles I never thought I would see myself doing – but I simply can’t afford to be picky at the moment. If I am offered a job doing something completely different to my degree, I believe it would be foolish not to take it. I always think it is easier to find a job when you are already in one. This doesn’t mean to say I’ll wave goodbye to my dream of being a writer. If I find myself doing something completely different to what I originally intended; I’ll still pursue that dream job I set out for when I set off for university.

And one final utterance: you wait months for a bus to come along, and then two come at once. This will probably be the case for a lot of graduates. You apply for so many jobs, hear nothing for so long, and before you know it – you’ll probably have to choose between two of them. But if one thing is for sure – a job isn’t going to knock on your front door, offering itself to you – you have to go out and find it.

My persistence may well be starting to pay off. Through a series of contacts, emails, and telephone conversations, I have been introduced to the Ulverston Business Alliance, and its Chairman, Paul Jarvis. I have been given the honour of helping to write a few articles and blogs, as well as apply some media to theUBA website. This is precisely what I have been hunting for: work, experience, invaluable contacts, and a professional-looking portfolio to show potential future employers.

With the expertise and guidance of Kate Harrison Whiteside, and the help and assistance of everyone associated with Ulverston Business Alliance, this could well be my first step on the path to success. This is a valuable message that all unemployed graduates should be aware of – that you must persist in chasing roots into your chosen career, and an opportunity could well arise when you least expect it.

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