news:rewired - Future of the Niche - #newsrw

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

Hannah Waldram

Graduated from Cardiff just as the recession hit – so went home and set up Bournville Village, a local blog. Worked with Podnosh. Is now The Guardian’s beat blogger in Cardiff. No office, just her and her laptop. Teamed up with mysociety to provide information which encourages civic engagement.

Kit: laptop, smartphone, handheld cameras and a gorillapod. Uses Google Reader, and Twitter trends, tags and saves in delicious. WordPress for blogging, ScribbleLive for liveblogging. Bambuser for live video, Vimeo for uploads. Just started using AudioBoo. Has a great Flickr community, and also uses TwitPic. Accesses open data sources, like mysociety, Help Me Investigate. Many Eyes and ZeeMaps aren’t very user-friendly but are useful. Scribd great for letters or documents.

Philip Trippenbach

Challenged the assumption that stories are everything. They impose a false narrative with characters, plotline, etc that doesn’t suit everything. People learn more when they engage with things rather than just read them – Civilization (a game) is being used to teach history. Maybe games are the future of journalism?

Kevin Anderson

The story as the atomic unit of journalism is denying us commercial opportunities. There are no easy answers – if anyone tells you that, fire them. In 2000 there was an IndyMedia guy live streaming police from a black MacBook. We’re too slow to take advantage of new tools.

There’s a project to publish a newspaper just using free and open source tools. That’s what we need to be doing. In 2008 he ran social media coverage across America during the elections from his mobile phone. People are running a newspaper purely using free or open source tools.

However, the lack of innovation spreads further than just the newsroom. The commercial side is as bad. The FT is doing good commercial innovation in the UK – but how about the News Room – a combine newsroom and coffee shop?

Suzanne Kavanagh

She’s talking about the significant changes in journalist skillsets – Core journalistic skills, surrounded by degrees of specialisation is different platforms and tools for spreading news. People need to play to their own strengths – don’t try to be everything, specialise and train in what you’re inclined towards.

It’s no longe enough to have the core skills – you need to pick’n’mix in the digital space, too.

Basic Skills

SK: The core skills are the same, but there’s also a need for basic skills, say, filming with a Flip cam

PT:  Everyone needs the ability to connect, to work together, to use collective intelligence.

KA: Not some much skillset as mindset. If I had a pound for every time I’ve heard “it’s not my job”, I’d be rich. It’s the art of the possible. I can’t code, but I know when an Interactive might be appropriate.

HW: Shorthand, chatting to contacts are still core to what I do. Not everyone has to learn how to use audio, but you can learn to use a Flip in 10 minutes – you turn a red button on and off.

KA: There’s a disenchantment with the everyone does everything approach. Move to playing to strengths, and a multi-skilled team.

Karl Schneiderfrom the audience: There’s still an instinct to go “what shall I write about this?” That mindset needs to be broken.

General agreement that it’s about choosing the appropriate medium for the story, rather than forcing the story into the medium.

Just got sucked in, when someone said that we have standards that set us apart from the amateurs. Yes, we do. And sometimes they’re lower, more abusive and more exploitative than the amateurs. There’s plenty of great, high principled amateurs out there.

PT: If I was (through some huge error) in a position to hire journalists, I’d ask where they blog. If they didn’t, goodbye. iPhones now have 720p HD video, soon it’ll be on every crappy mobile phone. There’s no excuse.

KA: We take data and structure it into a particular story. There’s nothing you can do with it after that. There are businesses who are built on adding back in the metadata that we take out of the story.

PT: You can convey the function basis of an activity through interaction without any narrative. That’s the link with games. A game like Budget Hero – where you had to cut the deficit – could teach the situation.

**Audience Member: **That’s not journalism: that’s education. Your teaching people someone, but are you informing them? (Me: how can you teach without informing someone…?)

KA: There’s a problem with the value of writing over the value of reporting, and they’re not the same thing.

If you were starting today, would you join a big company, or go entrepeneurial?

SK: I’d go small and go netrepeneurual

PT: I used to think that the BBC is like an aircraft carrier, really hard to turn around. I know now it’s like a planet, it creates its own gravitation effect. Your plugged into something huge and powerful, but you’re a tiny part of it.

KA: I’ve seen it all from a tiny newspaper in Kansas to the BBC. Some of the things I want to do require a level of autonomy you can’t get in a large audience. I’m an autonomy freak. WHen I joined the BBC website, I was part of a very well-funded, very collegiate start-up.

PT: It’s not like that any more.

KA: Now there’s just as much risk in a big company as there are in a startup.

HW: I’ve done both. I’m being paid to do something local for a big company.

And we’re done – can I have a beer now, please?

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.