Slow journalism in a real time age

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

James Harding

James Harding on journalism today:

But these new formats are creating exciting competitors to the well-known 2 minute 15 item on a news bulletin or the 450 word article in a newspaper. Look at Now this News, which delivers the news in 6,15 and 30 second videos, easily shareable and chiefly for mobile; or take a look at Geofeedia, which enables you to follow a story on Twitter by the location of the tweeter; or use Touchcast, which creates a Minority Report-style smorgasboard of interactive screens on the iPad, and imagine the possibilities of creating your own multi-media news story; and watch a vlogger such as Philip DeFranco or JacksGap and it is clear that, thanks chiefly to Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Sergei Brin and Larry Page, the modern computer has more or less put the combined power of the TV studio and the newspaper printworks in the hands of any imaginative individual – and to dizzying effect.

So where does the opportunity for the professional journalist lie?

Yes, breaking news channels, websites and tweets need to be fast, but slow, disciplined and meticulous investigations as well as considered and patient analysis mark out the very best newsrooms. Whether it has been The Sunday Times’ long pursuit of Lance Armstrong, Channel 4’s dogged investigation into Plebgate, the Mail’s tireless campaign on Stephen Lawrence, they have excelled thanks not to speed but time. And, in my experience, whether it has been coverage of child sex grooming, the family courts, adoption or tax avoidance at The Times or, more recently, showing first-hand the assault on civilians in northern Syria or exposing the bloody work of the Military Reaction Force in Northern Ireland, these projects have always taken longer than expected and been better for it.

Fascinating. If only there was a clear business model for slow, investigative journalism – but that’s not really something the BBC has to worry about…

The whole speech is well worth reading – the stuff on how the BBC is using social media verification is well worth a look, for example. Anyone come across audio or video of it yet?

BBCJames hardingJournalismsocial media verification

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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.