Journalism: not about you

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

Over the weekend, I headed down to Wiltshire for the kick-off meeting of a new project, and it was a wonderful experience. Over the last few years I’ve been doing a lot of training, and a fair bit of consulting, but I’ve had less and less opportunity to actually do the things I’ve been talking about.

Well, I got to spend Sunday with a bunch of very smart, very experienced and very knowledgeable people, who are about to do something really challenging. And I’m looking forwards to helping tell their story over the next 18 months or so.

It’s not about you

Making an (engineering) proposal
It reminded me of why I’ve come to love journalism so much: the process of finding people doing interesting things, in fields you have to learn about rapidly, while bringing their story to a wider audience is something I love – and find profoundly satisfying.

There’s a fundemental truth to journalism (in the majority of cases, at least) – it’s not about you, the journalist. It’s about the people you’re reporting on and the people you’re reporting for. This is something I see many students struggle with, caught up (as they often are) with notions of columnists and “star” reporters. Being a good journalist requires some degree of self-suppression, as you see yourself as a conduit between people with something interesting to say – and the people who would benefit from hearing that.

Telling Tools

A room full of engineers
That’s not to say that things like gonzo journalism aren’t great and useful techniques. But inserting yourself into the story isn’t quite the same thing as making yourself the story. The characters aren’t the plot.

Tell the story, using the best tools for the job. That’s as true online as it is in print – we just have a winder range of tools.

Oh, and more about the project that triggered these thoughts later in the week, as its online presence starts to go live…

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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.