WordPress as a cms for journalists

Alf Hermida has a great post on how he beat a tight budget by using WordPress as a CMS system to create a news site for the UBC Graduate School of Journalism.

The site [TheThunderbird.ca ] is run on an installation of WordPress MU, the multiple user version of this versatile software. WordPress offers an easy to use content management system, making it simple for the students to learn how to post stories. WordPress MU can be a little temperamental, meaning that some plugins won’t work with it.

Over the past few years I’ve tried a number of CMS systems to run the online newsdays. Everything from Mambo to a neat piece of software called PROPS. Anything free that would save the students doing too much hard coding of webpages. But it hasn’t been an easy journey.

Looking for a solution

This year we just finished an installation of Avid’s Active Content Manager so we should soon have a pretty hefty CMS but I still needed something quick and easy to fill the gap. I had braced myself for a long hard battle with Joomla. Like othes I was not looking forward to the template work – my experience with joomla forerunner mambo had burned me there. So I bit the bullet and thought that WordPress couldn’t be that hard to tweak. It wasn’t and I know run newsday exercises using wordpress as the cms.


Like Hermida I came across the excellent Revolution News theme. There are other premium news themes out there as well but thought that $99 would have to come out of my pocket if I wanted to get it done quick. So before taking the plunge I did a bit of searching around.

There are some pretty good free themes around well suited to newspaper/magazine style work. I ended up using the Mimbo theme by Darren Hoyt. I liked the layout and it seemed like a flexible template



Of course there are number of plugins I use as well.

I’m also planning in using the Role Manager plugin to add an extra layer of control for users.

It needs some tweaking and I got a little more equated with WordPress template tags than I would have liked (oh, okay, I got a perverse geeky pleasure from making it work). The process for putting up thumbnails images isnt as neat as it could be, but it’s simple and it works. It also seems to be the standard way of doing it in these templates.

So, overall its a success.

If anyone wants to try the version of the template I ended up with, drop me a line and I’ll share.

The photographers eye or the digital mirror?

The video survey got me thinking about what defines us in journalism. Is it our skills, our job description or where our desk is in the office? Or is it something more than that?

Have a read this meditation on why being ‘brain damaged’ separates the pro from the mo photographers.

I couldn’t understand why people were putting these pictures[pictures of friends and family] on flickr, because I have a particular type of brain damage which caused me to forget that the second picture exists. The type of brain damage I’m referring to is “the photographer’s eye”.

Is the guy talking out of his proverbial or is he right?

Now if you asked me to put a cross and touch the pen I’d be voting for the ‘out of his arse’ option here.

 I know that he isn’t talking about journalism and I’m certainly not saying that all photographers are imbued with such views. But (and this may just be me) a lot of the conversation about journalism seems perilously close to using the “brain damaged” defence.

What separates the pro from the amateur becomes almost metaphysical: Journalism can not exist outside of journalism and that is only defined within a newsroom.

As Gavin O’Reilly from Independent News & Media, told the Society of Editors meeting this week:

“The USP of the newspaper of the future [will be] built upon journalistic skills that are not simply a God-given right of someone with attitude sitting in a garage in front of a computer, but rather is a skill that is learned and earned.”

So it needs to be a God-given right and then sanctioned by an even higher power then!

The digital mirror

Digital, in all its forms, is becoming the tipping point. The internet, Bloggers , UGC, video, community and CJ’s have tested the definition of journalism and journalist to breaking point.  It’s put it out of reach of the paradigm repair approach journalism has got in to (and still indulges in)

There has never been a harsher mirror held up to the industry and rather than holding others up to it we need to bite the bullet and look in it ourselves

Thanks to the venerable Batman for the photogrpahy link

Video survey: More meat on the bones

As I said in my last post, my little survey has kicked up quite a bit of comment.  My 1 hour of edit for 1 minute of video was especially vexing for some who feared that this may create unrealistic demands from ‘managers’.

Although I do have some figures from the survey about who is doing what I thought I needed to get a bit more depth.

So, I’m asking people to take another survey.

It’s similar to the last in that there is no personal data collected and it’s 20 multiple choice questions that I hope are short and sweet.

If you do have a spare five minutes it would be really useful. If nothing else to stop ‘managers’ making stupid decisions based on basic data.

Click Here to take survey

Interesting events for Digital Journalists

A few work related  events have come across my desk in one way or another that may be of interest.

 First up is the 7th Journalism leaders forum at Uclan on the 16th October. The event, Local Turf Wars Notes from the digital news frontline, includes contributions from:

Andy Mitten, a graduate of the department who, at 15, founded the hugely popular fanzine, United We Stand (which he still edits). Andy is now also the author of a string of books about United, as well as a sports  correspondent for The Independent, GQ and others.

Joining Andy is Trinity Mirror Regional’s editorial director Neil Benson,  Press Think blogger community media advocate and scholar Jay Rosen and BBC Local TV researcher Emma Hemmingway. Mike Ward will chair the panel entitled, ‘Local Turf Wars- notes from the digital news frontier.’

The open event, which also marks 45 years of Journalism at Preston, starts with a networking reception at 5:15pm in Greenbank foyer. The panel discussion is at 6pm in Greenbank Lecture Theatre.

More details about the Forum, which will also be webcast live, is at: http://journalismleadersforum.blogspot.com. RSVP to: leaders@ukjournalism.org

Associated with that is an event from the Digital Editors Network (join the facebook group as well) who are also meeting on the 16th October.

[they] will be focussing on what works in online publishing, getting the best out of video and how blogs and the established media can work together.

The three discussions will form part of the 7th Journalism Leaders Forum, on October 16, featuring the regional editorial director of Trinity Mirror Neil Benson, who is amongst the panelists considering the global impact of the local news business.

There will be a number of ‘seminars’ on digital things ( including one from me)

very much in the style of an open discussion, with the use of an internet connection to highlight features and examples and so letting people share their own insights and observations.

Read more about it over at Craig McGinty’s Blog.


Paul Bradshaw is doing some great work including an in depth look at using wikis as part of the journalistic process.

In September I will be presenting a paper on Wiki Journalism at the Future of Newspapers conference in Cardiff (it looks set to be a very good two days). And of course the best way to write a paper on wiki journalism is to publish it as a wiki…

And he wants your help. So if you know about or want to inform the debate around wikis and journalism then give Paul your support.