Sited –

14 February 2011

Written by: Lawrie Zion

Alfred Hermida

Alfred Hermida is a journalism educator whose work is informed by a rich and varied career as a journalist. In his 16 years with the BBC he did everything from serving as a correspondent in the Middle East to setting up the BBC’s first live news blog in 1996 to becoming the founding news editor of the BBC News website a year later.

These days he heads the Integrated Journalism program at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, and publishes a blog on media, society and technology called

The site, which won the best blog gong at last year’s Canadian Online Publishing Awards, consists mostly of Hermida’s posts on a range of topics, including social media, journalism education, newspapers, broadcast, the BBC, and citizen journalism. regularly weighs in on the relationship between media and current events, whether by using Web 2.0 approaches to dramatise media content (see his recent word cloud of Hosni Mubarak’s 10 February speech) or through examining the real impact of new media.

‘Much of the discussion about the role of social media in the unrest in Egypt and in Tunisia has been polarized,’ he states at the beginning of a recent post about networked technologies in Egypt. ‘But arguing over whether something was a Twitter, Facebook or Wikileaks revolution is a dead end. Instead there is a need to understand how digital networked technologies have affected political protests and flows of information.’

It’s this kind of analysis that can benefit both journalism students and practitioners, especially at a time when so many knee-jerk claims are made about the impact of social media.

Hermida founded the blog after he started working at UBC in 2006. ‘As a new media scholar, I felt it was important to not just study new media, but also be active in it,’ he explains to upstart. ‘Blogging provided an ideal platform to share and discuss ideas and research with the wider journalism community. The blog also lends itself to a more conversational tone, helping to make academic research more accessible and increase its reach and impact.’

Hermida adds that he also sees as a ‘live’ notebook, ‘a way of recording ideas and thoughts to create a searchable archive of trends in journalism’.

The site also chronicles Hermida’s reflections and conversations on the mission of journalism education. Having myself spent the best part of two decades working full-time in the media, I especially appreciate the perspectives that inform his contributions to this topic. As he recently put it:

‘Our role in journalism schools should be to prepare students for the media of tomorrow, rather than simply the newsrooms of today. At the core of this is how we think about journalism.’

And as so frequently and eloquently reminds us, there’s certainly plenty to think about.

Alfred Hermida will be a guest of the Screen Futures symposium to be held in Melbourne from July 9 to 13. You can follow him on Twitter on @hermida.

Lawrie Zion is a co-founder of upstart and a Senior Lecturer in Journalism at La Trobe University.


This is the second instalment of our ‘Sited’ series that has been launched to profile essential sites for journalists.  Check out last week’s profile of the Columbia Journalism Review site here. And if you want to suggest a site we should include in this column, please drop up a line.