Sarah Booker

15/01/2010

General thoughts on News:Rewired

AFTER spending a day a Journalism.co.uk’s News:Rewired conference I’ve come away feeling inspired and armed with examples to present to others – within the news organisation where I work and to students at future online journalism workshops.

In his keynote speech City University’s head of journalism George Brock, former international editor of The Times, described the news industry as throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what will stick – a mixture of chaos and discovery.

He referenced Jeff Jarvis and entrepreneurial journalism, necessity being the mother of invention, and told how Twitter wasn’t the big player in the Iranian counter-revolution, but slogans on bank notes.

It was the sort of upbeat and inspiring speech you want to hear from a person at the forefront of training a new generation of journalists and I needed cheering up.

BBC College of Journalism editor Kevin Marsh made me jealous during his presentation. A fully integrated 24 hour multi-media newsroom staffed by 1,100 journalists tweeting, blogging, writing, filming, Audiobooing, telling stories in the best possible way. Such luxury!

A particularly interesting working concept Kevin explained were the BBC story communities with journalists working as a group, initially using MSN as a communication tool, sharing their specialist skills for stories such as mapping, Facebook, data-mining etc. The community grows and shrinks around a story.

Can be set up by anyone with change from the bottom up and the top down.

“Big news organisations doing better than you think at taking new ideas and adapting,” he said.

The way he described the how the BBC newsroom works as a dynamic evolving beast putting the web and rolling news service BBC New 24 at the centre, and not wait for the bulletin, is just how I believe newspapers should go forward.

In my working environment there are senior members of the editorial and commercial management structure who would like the web to go away. It’s not going to, and the BBC model is the one to embrace.

Print sales were falling before the internet took off as political and social apathy seems to have become endemic. Some people are just not interested in news.

What are we journalists to do?

I would sum Kevin’s presentation up as saying there are many things to learn, we can’t be experts at all of them, but can find new skills to enhance those we have already as journalists.

Journalism is the sourcing and investigation of the story and reporting is the telling of it. This is what we do, there are just more ways to do it now.

I’ll blog my thoughts on the workshops I attended and the news business models discussion separately.

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