How Channel 4 News harnessed the power of the crowd with its No Go Britain campaign

Credit: By James Cridland on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

The winners of the Royal Television Society awards were announced last night. Winners included ITV's documentary The Other Side of Jimmy Savile.

Channel 4 News's 'No Go Britain' campaign, an investigation into transport for the disabled, took the 'innovative news' award.

Here we take a look at how the Channel 4 News team at ITN, used crowdsourcing via social media to provide stories. Anna Doble, head of online, shares the lessons learnt.

How it all began
No Go Britain was inspired by a Channel 4 News story on Paralympian Baroness Grey-Thompson. The article explains how she had been "forced to throw her wheelchair from a train and then crawl off because no one was on the platform to offer assistance".

Doble said the team at Channel 4 News asked themselves "if this happens to Tanni Grey-Thompson, who at the time was probably the most famous disabled athlete, maybe this is happening to others?"

The idea to progress the investigation was taken to Louise Turner at the Film Fund, the long-form investigative part of Channel 4 News.

Engaging existing social media communities

The team at Channel 4 News then started tweeting to gather reactions and find disabled people who had stories to tell of difficulties when travelling on public transport.

Doble said one of the key lessons the team learnt was to find existing communities who are already active on social media. In that way the lone voices together form a powerful voice.

"There was a very vocal community that had been trying to talk about it, in local newspapers," Doble said. "So we thought 'let's get this community engaged with us and engaged with one another'.

"What we now know from No Go Britain is that we live in a social media age, and there are many groups already out there, tweeting, on Facebook and sharing videos on YouTube.

"We were able to tap into highly active, digitally-engaged communituies. You just need to find them, and then you can build not one story but a whole campaign."

A day in No Go Britain

Doble said the part of the campaign that she is most proud of is a day in April when disabled people were encouraged to tweet about their transport experiences.

The idea was that people were not encouraged to go on unnecessary journeys, but to tweet and share their experiences during that 24-hour period.

The team set up a @nogobritain Twitter account and around 1,000 people used the #nogobritain hashtag to share their transport experiences.

People tweeted about the challenges of minding the gap on the tube, and problems encountering pushchairs on buses.

"Little issues on their own seem quite small," Doble said, "but if something happens five times a week, it really affects your quality of life."

Work out who is talking, who has a story to tell, join the dots and use social media in the very best wayAnna Doble
Doble said: "Many journeys were fine, but by about lunchtime, we realised there were about five people who had had a Tanni Grey-Thompson-esque experience – where they had had to get out of the chair and drag it or a severe problem that had delayed them or hampered a day in their life".

You can see a collection of the tweets in this post, collated byChannel 4 News reporter Katie Razzall.

Three people were invited to appear on Channel 4 News that evening to discuss their experiences. "At breakfast we hadn't heard of them, by the evening they were in the Channel 4 News studio," Doble said.

Three weeks later Channel 4 News invited in three transport bosses to go "face-to-face" with a few of the people who had suffered transport problems. "There was a great moment when one of the transport bosses said 'by 2017 we will have more ramps'. And the response was of course 'I can't wait until 2017'."

Bringing together TV, online and social media

Doble said the campaign was not only successful as it brought together people from all over the country who were digitally active, but it was an example of best practice in a multimedia newsroom.

"If you join up the skills you already have in the newsroom, you can really make a much bigger impact, it's much more special. If it was just TV it wouldn't have had the momentum."

Stepping back

No Go Britain inspired news stories throughout 2012. "The community has really done us proud and we can step back now," Doble said, explaining that together they raised the issues with transport bosses and the conversations can now continue between the groups they helped connect.

And having learnt lessons via the campaign, Doble said her key piece of advice to others considering a crowdsourced campaign would be to "work out who is talking, who has a story to tell, join the dots and use social media in the very best way".

"What journalism is all about is getting the parts of the story all into one picture – and it's amazing how social media allowed us to do that."

Judges at the RTS Television Journalism Awards issued a statement explaining why No Go Britain was awarded the accolade, saying the winning entry "stood out for the novel way in which it helped to give a new look at one of the year's big stories". You can watch YouTube footage of the entry here.

Other award winners

ITN took a total of eight awards across Channel 4 News, ITV News and ITV News London. John Hardie, chief executive at ITN, said in a statement: "With our industry under scrutiny like never before, I'm delighted that the talent, courage and hard work across ITN has been recognised on this prestigious RTS awards night. On what must be an unprecedented haul for ITN with eight coveted individual and team awards, we are rightly proud of the power and impact of our journalism."

Here is a list of the RTS Television Journalism Awards winners:
  • Young Journalist of the Year: Ciaran Jenkins – Channel 4 News, ITN for Channel 4 News
  • Nations and Regions Current Affairs and News Event:  BBC Scotland Investigates: Rangers – The Men Who Sold The Jerseys, BBC Scotland
  • Nations and Regions News Programme: London Tonight, ITN for ITV News
  • Regional Presenter of the Year: Stewart White – BBC Look East, BBC East
  • News Coverage - International: Syria, BBC News
  • News Coverage - Home: Savile, ITN for ITV News
  • Current Affairs – Home: Exposure: The Other Side of Jimmy Savile, ITV Studios for ITV1
  • Current Affairs – International: This World: Inside the Meltdown, Quicksilver Media in association with Mongoose Pictures for BBC and WGBH
  • Innovative News: No Go Britain, ITN for Channel 4 News
  • Camera Operator of the Year: Darren Conway (DC) – Newsgathering, BBC News

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