Category Archives: braindump

Point and shoot will dominate but you still need a quality strategy: New Year convictions

The third of my recent new year convictions was Point-and-shoot, mojo video is the predominant form for newspaper video but organisations will still need to develop a quality video strategy

Not sure what point-and shoot is here’s my not so serious definition

Looking back over the year I’ve realised that I haven’t blogged about video very much.  Given that I started the year predicting newspaper video would die in 2008, you would be forgiven for thinking that I believe that had come true and there was nothing to write about.

The truth is that video is stronger than ever just not in newspapers. It’s fallen off the agenda and I think that’s for a number of reasons:

  • The development of social media and community strategies

The development of social media has stolen videos star. Where video was once the defining mode of a forward thinking digital newspaper, now it’s social media and community. Investing in facebook apps, twitter, linked in forums etc is seen as an investment closer to the core business of a newspaper – linking with communities.

This focus on the dialogue is interesting for me. On the one hand I think it’s massively positive and, looking back over the year, that’s something that’s engaged me a lot. But I’m wary that some organisations have replaced one apparently effective technology with another. Just because you are doing it, doesn’t mean you are using it.

  • The Immediacy of twitter

I’m using twitter as an example here of the return to the concept of immediacy in newsrooms. The take-up of cover it live, for example, shows how the idea of first is still an important factor. Video, especially the quality approach just doesn’t fit that style any more.

  • The development of content management systems

I’ve spent a good deal of time (and you, bless you, have read a good deal of the drivel I’ve written) moaning about the way that video was effectively channeled by content management systems. We where always going to get video that was ‘too much like TV’ because it was in its own little part of the website, with no context, so it had to be packaged and TV like.

Now a most orgs have woken up to the fact that video should be embedded in the story. It should be another content element on the page that tells the part of the story it does best. The video of the crashed car, next to the story of Ronaldo’s accident for example.

Add a map showing the loacation of the crash and you have a near perfect example of mojo journalism
Add a map showing the loacation of the crash and you have a near perfect example of mojo journalism
  • The economic downturn

Video is time consuming and expensive. It takes a lot of people to do it (even badly) and in this climate some types of video are not cost effective anymore.

Fit for purpose

Put all those things together and the only viable strategy for getting video in your newsroom now is point-and-shoot. It’s responsive, cheap and easy to implement and the kind of video produced – short clip content, illustrative video and vignettes of action – is best suited to the embedded style we see on news sites.

That doesn’t mean I’m ditching the idea that a quality video strategy has lost.  It isn’t a betamax Vs. VHS type thing. Those that invested in the training and development of that strategy will always get good results from it.  Those who just bought lots of kit and left the newsroom to it will have already put the camera in a cupboard.

But to ignore the quality strategy all together will be a mistake. When Laura at Journalism.co.uk asked me for new years prediction via  twitter here’s what I said:

jpeg-image-502x66-pixelsI said much the same thing in my predictions last year and I still believe it.

It will not be long before video finds itself back in the commercial sector. Video ads, advertorial content, wedding vids, video house guides, video production, whatever you like, would be fair game for an ad department looking to expand it’s repertoire. The investment in the distribution technology has been made. What the ad departments need to do is start behaving like broadcast ad sales.

Newspapers as commercial broadcasters

Here in the UK I think we will see some very interesting changes to the broadcasting landscape after a general election (maybe sooner if the credit crunch really bites) with local media really starting to define itself as something more than the weak, territorial battleground it is at the moment. A commercial production capacity will be a head-start in building the capacity to commercially exploit that.

A point-and-shoot strategy won’t help develop that. The skills will be geared more to the newsroom not to the more structured video that a commercial strategy will need. One will suit the newsroom, the other the commercial imperitive. A division that will warm the hearts of many a journalist who’s been asked to knock out a quick video of the local furniture shop.

So have I finnaly come down on the side of p&s? No. I was never for or against either strategy. But the truth is we now have a convention. A way of making and using video on non-broadcast news websites and I’d be a fool to advocate doing anything different.

But to lose the capacity to “high-quality” video is, I think a mistake. How orgs make it fit will be the best indicator of how they are approaching the next year or so.  If you do video and you have no quality stratgey then you are not thinking about the future. All you have done is adopted the P&S strategy because it’s cheap and that’s no strategy at all.

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Interesting stuff for Tuesday

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I thought I would start with a “guess the object” comp. Answer at the end.

Wendy Parker has some good advice about getting started with blogging -Beginning blogging for journalists: Get started, already!

On the geek side of things JVC Pro debuts solid state camcorders for Final Cut Pro editors which could solve the problem of intermediate timelines ( a common affliction of FCP users)

Less geeky but still video related is a post by Chrys Wu outlining 10 golden rules for video journalists. These come from Washington Post video journalist Travis Fox at a recent “Creating Video Narratives” workshop at Beyond Bootcamp. Solid stuff.

From the sublime to the ridiculous.  Joe the plumber is going to ‘report’ from Gaza. Old news I know but, honestly, you couldn’t make stuff like that up could you. Next Obama will send Hillary Clinton over and they will do battle like Mothra and Godzilla over Jerusalem. What makes me more mad about that, and in a more serious tone is that journalists are being hacked to death. Much as I hate to question Joe’s motives. Man, journalism has to be taken a bit more seriously than ‘joe the plumber’.

Maybe that re-inforces Bob Steele’s point as he worries about Ethics Crashes on the Digital Media Highway over at Poynter. It’s a thoughtful piece but the tone doesn’t recover from “Too often we give unjustified credibility to bloggers who are, at best, practicing amateur journalism or simplistic punditry.” Recent events in Mumbai and now Nepal, plus the countless other incidences of violence against journalists and bloggers reporting the world around them should be making this kind of them and us redundant.

On a lighter, but no less interesting, note though is Mark Hamilton who explains how he could get behind some of Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s recent rambles about journalism

The ever brilliant Martin Belam continues to pick apart media sites and their web presences by looking at  how the sites appear when people search for them in Google

And more UK goodness from Lindsay Bruce giving more valuable lessons in community in part 9 of an invaluable series on Paul Bradshaws Online journalism blog

Meanwhile Pat Thornton calls for more innovation in the user interface of news sites. I think he is right but it may be a difficult balance between convention – already established – more depth which you could deliver as effectivly with a better relationship with the print product. But that takes us multi-platform and away from Pat’s point. Worth a read

Read/Write web’s How to: Build a Social Media Cheat Sheet for Any Topic has been popping up across the place with glowing recomendations. Well worth a look. As is their article on Mobile TV.

Aspiring web journos can get a glimpse of life as it could be as the NYtimes profiles the renegade cybergeeks who may just save the paper. (wasn’t that the plotline of the last Die Hard?)  It feels a bit 90210 to me. By which I mean, this is how the beutiful people do journalism. But read it with a less cynical eye and there is some nice insight.

And the picture? It’s one of several arty shots of Fabian Mohr’s new FlipHD. He has more nice pics and some test movies on his site. Go and have a look.

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New Year convictions

From Flickr by Guerrilla Futures = Jason Tester
From Flickr by Guerrilla Futures = Jason Tester

I don’t really have any new years predictions this year over and above the one or two that I’ve been asked to give.  Even then, the reaction to those has shown me that the current climate, predictions are a bit of a hostage to fortune.

In my positive predictions post for the recent carnival of journalism I threw together a quick graph to show the decline of traditional media brand over individual journalistic brand. One commentator, following the curves on the graph, had the trad-brands gone by 2012.  Of course what I should have added, in the positive vein of the post, is the upturn the trad-brands would get if they were more savvy about the way they work with their journos.

That’s off the cuff graphs for you.

Still, that gave me pause for thought in terms of the way my thinking has changed over the last year or so and how things will develop in the coming year an rather than predict I thought I share some things that I’m convinced of; things that need to change.

  • Broadcast thinking will be the heart of successful print models this year.
  • Print organisations will need to open source some or all of their content management system if they want to stick with corporate templates
  • Point-and-shoot, mojo video is the predominant form for newspaper video but organisations will still need to develop a quality video strategy
  • Any journalist who hasn’t tried Twitter should re-think their career

I’ll expand on those this week.

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Interesting stuff for Monday

More marking today and I’m finding interesting things about Preston and the people there. I’m also learning a lot about what I need to teach people before they leave us for the uncertain “real-world”. We all learn from assignments in ivorytowerville.

So, whilst I digest tails of dogging (no, I’m not adding that to my tags), Chess, parks, boxing, teen pregnancy and the credit crunch here is the stuff that I’ve been distracting myself with.

Most of what I’ve been marking is stuff online so I was interested in a post from Sam Shepherd commenting on why subs are still vital(maybe more so) on the web in light of Press complaints commission ruling on the coverage of a mans suicide.“Standards, codes, ethics, quality; these rules still apply” I agree but perhaps that’s one of the tough pills to swallow in these leaner times. Perhaps we let the responsibility for that stuff slide. Time for individual journos to take back that skill?

Also pondering (or pontificating) on those leaner times is Paul Mason, economics editor of the BBC’s Newsnight programme and NUJ rep gives his views (on video) on the uncertain times ahead. Comment about this video has been sharp, particularly for his “pyjama bloggers” comment. But if you listen to the first 3 minutes that seems unfair .

Despite continuous goading by Tim Gopsil, Paul keeps his line. But 3 minutes in and Paul loses it. I think the question was worse than the rant that comes next “what’s the difference between the stuff that trained journalists produce and the poor stuff that badly trained people produce” What kind of a question is that!

Paul thinks that the union can be the gel that helps inform organisations going multimedia when the models are still not there. This does little to convince me that they can. Worse still it seems that the only way they can see to sustain the ‘craft of journalism’ is to help support the models that no longer work. Oooh, me blood is boiling just thinking about it.

A much better bet to get a handle on what we should be thinking about is Zac Echola’s Cutting the cords, bridging the gaps. Getting this online stuff is a journey not a destination and we have a while before industry aligns itself with the new audiences out there let alone those of us immersed in this stuff. Zac strikes a nice balance on this front and adds to the mix nicely. As does this post by Alex Gamela where he asks the media industry to think about whether this whole thing is about The vehicle, the road or the voyage

More intelligence on where we go next can be found at the Guardian who feature Clay Shirky’s predictions for the future of print and broadcast in the Guardian. For Print? Well “The 500-year-old accident of economics occasioned by the printing press – high upfront cost and filtering happening at the source of publication – is over.” and it don’t get much better for TV “The question is who figures out the business model that says it’s better to have 6 million passionate fans than 7 million bored ones?” Ouch.

In  a similar vein Telegraph digital editor Ed Rousell gives a dose of reality “For decades now, newspaper newsrooms have centered on “going to press,” which has meant pointing all efforts towards a single deadline that culminates in the publishing of a definitive version of a story.” And yet we still build the model round it. Shades of my mon0media funnel of despair come to haunt me.

By the way both of those links came via Mark Hamilton’s Daily Squibs -one of the most consistently useful things I read. Go see. It’s good pickings.

Go on! Shoo!

Interesting things for Saturday

sheeeeeetHere is today’s collection of links and things that have come my way in between marking.

First off is something that makes me feel less guilty about giving you lots of links to work with. Gina Chen at Save the Media notes that linking was missing from list of 10 Tips for Journalists Who Blog, and posts about why it’s so important. It is, it really is. One thing I’m asked A LOT by journalists that I meet is ‘How do i get my blog more popular/visible/in search engines?’ I say “link”.

It’s still a surprise that so many ‘blogs’ published on MSM sites continue to appear without one link in the posts. THAT’S NOT BLOGGING. A link is about recognizing/being part of a bigger discussion. As Kirk Lapointe points out in his reflection on his first year blogging ” Giving credit where it’s due is a virtue online because your community feels respected, encouraged and understood.”

Tim Windsor muses on Don Tapscott’s take on the new digital audiences in his book  Grown Up Digital and asks Who are the digital natives? And what do they want? He then asks you “How are your sites changing to meet the increased expectation of Gen Net?” Do you need to ask that question? Are all young people Gen Net? What about Gen Off-Net? And doesn’t the media depend on the fact that a good deal of young people turn in to the same kind of old people their folks are?  Almost like having a demographic band that people move in to rather than defined by peoples behavior. Anyway, it’s an interesting read.

Picking up on yesterdays theme of recommendation (hello to today’s new twitter followers) Elaine Helm has some recommendations for Journo blogs to follow at Wired Journalists. One in particular that I hadn’t seen before was Brian Boyer’s Sixth W. What’s the sixth w? who, what, where, when, why and web.  I like that. I also hadn’t seen Matt McAlister’s Inside Online media. Posting is light, but good. I particularly like his post on Why the open strategy is a good idea.

Another source that gets a mention in the comments on Helm’s post is Delicious’ popular posts tagged with journalism. If you don’t use Delicious I would highly recommend you give it a whirl. Think of it like Digg but without the viral videos. Before you do, you might want to check out Jason Falls’ The Practical Guide To Content Tagging In Social Bookmarking which talks about tagging. I think delicious is a great place to learn/try tagging as it shows how it can work personally and then that experience can transfer across to the way you tag for an audience. It’s the future you know.

Talking of new discoveries and useful things, my new glut of twitter followers has included a number with non-English language blogs that are rather spiffing. These include the French espritblog.com by Fabrice Gontier, who’s all over multimedia at the wonderfully titled Centre de formation et de perfectionnement des journaliste. The perfectionnement des journaliste, I love that.  Another new follower is Antonio Granad whose blog Ponto Media I’ve been following for a while.  Of course there are plenty of other great foreign language blogs out there including: onlinejournalismus.de, r73.net and the wonderful Alex Gamela’s O Lago.

Alex blogs in English and Portuguese which makes me think the best language for a journalist to learn this year may not be Java or php etc. but an actual foreign language. But as my grasp of a foreign language (to my shame)  doesn’t stretch far beyond what’s on the back of a wine label, I rely on Mloovi to translate foreign language sites in to English RSS feeds so I can get lots of their loveliness in my reader. I use Google reader which picks up the post is a translation and automatically feeds any post you click to through its translator. Cool.

Speaking of useful online tools. It seems that the macworld rumour mill has kicked in with news that imovie may be going in to the cloud. Crunch gear have speculated that macs low-end, iwork video app may be moving online as Apple get to grips with online applications.  Computerworld notes the rumour and wonders if Apple is truly ready to go online after the ‘fiasco’ with MobileMe.

And finally the picture. Yes, its Clay Davis from the pure genius that is The Wire from Toffutibreak via Ben Hammersley’s Other Blog. And if that’s your thing then this may be as well.

Interesting things for the day

Much as I hate my first post for the new year to be a link list I’m elbow deep in marking at the moment. So here is what I’ve found interesting today.

Business Models for news online - Paul Bradshaw shares a recent presentation and jolly good it is to.

Amani Channel has decided to focus his Urban Report podcast on media production. I like the cut of his jib. And if tech is something on your list to engage with this year then you could do worse then look at Chris Amico’s wiki-like Tools for news

Ten questions for journalists in the era of overload – Matt Thompson poses some interesting questions to ask as we move in to a tough year. Think of them as self-diagnosis

George Hopkin pointed me a the announcement from Nintendo that they are starting a TV channel for the Wii. Considering the broad appeal of the platform this could be the trendsetter moment.

From games platforms to blogging platforms. Over at ZDNet Zack Whittaker seems a little behind the curve with Journalism vs. blogging: the present and the future but there are some interesting asides in Zack’s interview.

If WordPress is your blogging platform of choice, then how about a facelift? Try this list of  wordpress themes. But if you’ve moved to the new version of WordPress over Christmas then Mindy McAdams has a nice post on dealing with the new dashboard. The post also touches on students blogging which gives me chance to point out a nice post from Alf Hermida, guesting at media shift, about the value of blogging in Journalism education

Talking of Journalism education, Mark Hamilton has a great post offering “A few thoughts for my students before heading back to the classroom”. All my students will be seeing this when they get back along with the widely circulated ( Resolutions for journalism students from Suzanne Yada.

Mark Luckie over at 10,000words kept me busy this afternoon following a raft of new people as he updated his 10 Journalists you should follow on Twitter which I feature in at No 5, which is wrong for so many reasons, not least because of those who aren’t. But I’ll bask in the kudos and say hello to all those new followers who have made it this far. The post is worth a look for the comments where the decidedly male bias has started an interesting discussion. My wife would say it’s the slightly obsessive/compulsive nature of the male of the species that means there are more of us online.

Still, male or female,  there are more and more of us online as we enter the new year and in the Andy Burnham, our Minister for Culture, has stirred a little mumbling with his idea of ratings for the web. Steve Bowbrick has a great take on this as he focuses on the idea of filters  “What we should do in response to Burnham’s reflex rejection of the net’s openness and permissiveness is get on and provide the filters people need”. He is right and, as many have already said,  it should be one of the things journos look to add to their tool belt.

Of course journos have a lot to think about in the coming year. Over in the US the amount of good news seems in short supply as Jeff Jarvis (and the inneviatable comment discussion afterwards) proves. In the UK, blogger Fleet Street blues has some comparably dire predictions for 2009 including the prediction of a Mea culpa moment.

You can’t keep cutting journalists and demand ever more from them without something cracking. Yes, reporters make mistakes all the time. But expect something spectacular to emerge next year, a mistake, accidental or otherwise, so unavoidable that news editors the length and breadth of the country will have to sit up and take notice. Britain’s Jayson Blair, if you like.

Scary but it has a ring of inevitability about it. But finally, and more positively, Shawn Smith has a great post (and a kind of companion for Suzanne Yada’s post) Forget Survival: The Journalist’s Guide to Owning 2009 and Beyond. I love his starting point

Journalism is NOT dependent on the fate of your employer, newspapers or mass media. Rather, YOU can help decide journalism’s future.

There are no stories on the web

I‘ve been pondering that titular mantra for while now. I’ve got to the point where I’m wondering whether my focus on the idea that the web will not just simply cough up a story is really about a broader shift in mindset that journalists need to make or more about me getting my head around the process.

So I’m posting this to get it out of my head.

It got in my head again at the end of last week as I found myself eavesdropping on a group of students sat at their computers.

“I need to do a search for a story for my portfolio assignment” says one student who then proceeds to fire up a collection of news sites including the BBC and a number of different local news providers.

Frustrating as I find this behaviour sometimes, I know it’s not limited to students.

Reverse engineering stories – finding an article online and then unpicking the threads – is more common than I think any of us a prepared to admit. Is that a bad thing? Maybe not, but it happens. But that’s not finding a story, it’s just (re)reporting the story for your audience. It’s also a mono-media approach to the journalistic process. Everything is geared towards servicing an article at a publication point.

Web 2.0 journalism

Working the ‘Web 2.0′ way approaches the story from a different direction. It builds a critical mass of content through the appropriate application of digital technologies. Web searches, crowdsourcing, alerts and all the other good stuff can be weaved in to the ‘traditional‘ journalistic process to serve the increasingly voracious content machine.

But does that process really address where stories come from?

What you will find on the web is data and information. But they are not stories. They can help develop and support a story but they are meaningless without context. You need to know the story you are trying to tell before they become useful. You still need the story.

People make stories

Ultimately, stories come from people. They come from the collective experiences, social contexts and relevence of communities. To find a story and know why it’s a astory, you have to be part of or active in those communities. That’s something that ‘traditional’ journalism is supposed to be good at. Understanding the communities/audience they serve. Being relevant through the intimate knowledge of a patch. Having the ‘in’ at the ground floor of a story.

Of course the web will get you next to people, sometimes in the most direct and immediate way. But the web still won’t give up that story unless you approach those people in the same way you would in real life. That means going to the places where people gather and inhabiting them.

The thing to remember is that people don’t gather in the same place and, more importantly, you cannot force them to.  So even though RSS feeds and alerts will allow you to monitor the conversations effectivley (and if you arent using these tools then you should be) you need to get out there.

Platforms are places for conversation

Web 2.0 is all about platforms. Sites that enable people to do things are real honeypots. But the really successful web2.0 sites are the ones that encourage conversation between users.  We have thise platforms in real life. People will go to the post office to send a letter or the pub to get a drink.  But the conversation in those places could be about anything. The same thing happens online.

Take a look at Pistonheads – a site about motoring. The site has some very popular forums

Over 2 million posts in the general area
Over 2 million posts in the online 'pub'

Lots of good stuff about cars (in minute detail) but take a look at the Pie and Piston (general chat areas in forums are often called the pub, bar or take pub names). 2,401,820 posts. Over 2 million posts and the majority are not about motoring.

Push not pull

The thing I recognise more and more is that’s a challenge in a journalistic environment where strategy and staffing is defined by pull rather than push; the idea that you can bring everything to your desktop could be one of the reasons more journalist find themeselve effectivly desk bound.

But we can still exhibit a bit of that push behaviour when it comes to communities even if it is just virtual. Think of the platform as a place – a shop, a pub or a street corner.

Hang around long enough and someone will give you a story.

Transparency: Don’t look at me…

A number of browser tabs to consume already today – damn the reader. But rather than tag them all to delicious I thought I would give them a bit more discussion (a la Mark and his Daily squibs)

Speaking of things ‘a la’. Richard Titus over at the BBC internet blog has been thinking flattery rather than theft as a number sites pop up bearing an uncanny resemblance to the new BBC web design. The post has a boat load of useful information about some of the thought processes behind the page design and is a pretty mature response to the issue. There is also a great link to the BBC’s open source project with some nifty flash libs amongst other things.

Whilst I’m on the BBC blogs site I would recommend a quick scan of Steve Herrmanns blog about the physical shifting of journalists to their ‘new’ multimedia newsroom. A nice level of transparency.

And transparency (see what I did there) is a word that pops up in newspaper land. A nifty bit of video from the The Spokesman Review about their efforts at transparency gives the US perspective and, in the UK, the recent efforts by the Liverpool Echo Daily Post,(sorry Alison) and now one or two others, has given pause for thought. Joanna Geary asks just how open should newspapers get and gets some interesting comments back.

A lot of the discussion seems to be around trust and image. Or let’s put it another way, if we look like idiots (as you do on camera) then people will trust us less. Others worry about nutters – plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose. And others worry about placing the journalist at the heart of a story – erm, isn’t that where they should be in a community focused local newsroom.

Inching to success

Maybe another reason for not liking an all-seeing-eye in the newsroom is to avoid the bosses being able to get a handle on the amount of content you are creating. A number of pixel/inches have been given over to Sam Zells 50/50 equation for editorial and ads. A good Fortune article outlines the broader issue. But it’s an article in Slate that extrapolates the equation and applies it to Zell’s plans to measure productivity based in word count.

The Slate article picks up on a Editor and Publisher article by Jennifer Saba which highlights just what an accountants wet dream this policy seems to be. Worse still just how preriously close to ‘never mind the quality, feel the width” this is. Saba quotes Tribune Chief Operating Officer Randy Michaels:

Chicago Tribune is typically 80 pages per edition, and then compared that count with the Wall Street Journal — which is around 48 pages on average. “If we take the Los Angeles Times to a 50/50 ratio eliminating 82 pages a week, the smallest papers would be Monday and Tuesday at 56 pages. It’s still larger than the Wall Street Journal. … We can save a lot of money by producing the right size newspapers.”

You might say, Oh, those crazy yanks. But I guarentee there are some UK newspaper execs looking at the logic, and thinking hard.

And finally, whilst some might see measuring word-counts as a step backwards, transparency as too brave a brave new world, Ryan Sholin reminds us that the good old day’s and the past are different things.

If you can’t be bothered to post a breaking news story online after your print deadline, try yelling “Stop the press!” sometime. (Good luck with that one.)

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Beware the digital native.

Here is a little quote to start the post.

“If I had ten divisions of those men, then our troubles here would be over very quickly.”

Responding to the general discussion about who is working the digital news vein, Pat Thornton has posted another take on the problems with management pointing out that Management should reflect demographics (AKA management can’t be just a bunch of old white guys)

The only way to expand into new demographics (mostly younger) is to have people in those demographics in management and actively consult younger staffers about what they want. No more guessing.

Honestly, how else are newspapers going to expand their audience if they don’t have people they are trying to court making decisions?

It’s a good post and I have swapped a couple of comments with Pat about the problems I have with his point. OK, I say problems. In the main, there isn’t a lot to disagree with. News organisations don’t look like the community they serve and that is a problem. Who could argue with that?

The transparency that digital platforms create means that people look directly at us and if they don’t recognise what is looking back then they leave. That’s tied directly to the thorny issue of diversity in the newsroom.

Can you only (afford to) be a journalist if you are a privately educated graduate with the resources to take the salary hit? Why are there not more black and female journalists and managers and influencers in our news organisations? All serious and systemic problems to chew over and try to resolve.

But I don’t think this is the nub of what Pat is saying and what he finds frustrating. This isn’t about diversity, it’s about innovation.

Young and smart or old and predictable?

In the main he seems to be suggesting that only young people (30 – 40) are really innovating online citing the creators of Amazon and Google as examples of young ‘Web titans’. Lets have more of them in decision making positions:

Let’s say you have 10 top editors. At least one should be a digital native. How many newspapers can honestly say that?

Can’t argue with that. Some bright people, young or not, wouldn’t go a miss. But I do have a problem with the term Digital Native. Why?  There is no such thing as a digital native. And it’s dangerous to assume there is.

The natives are restless

In the past it’s been easy to see the move of the mainstream media to the web as some kind of land rush. Hell, I’ve even referred to the move in negative terms as a form of Rachmanism. The logic would follow that there was an indigenous people or sitting tenant of the web that was somehow deposed. Now that would be a digital native.

Of course the logic doesn’t follow. Yes, there where early pioneers – even a founder – but no incumbent population

So what is this digital native thing all about? Who are digital natives?

According to the alleged inventor of the phrase Marc Prensky:

They are native speakers of technology, fluent in the digital language of computers, video games, and the Internet. I refer to those of us who were not born into the digital world as digital immigrants. We have adopted many aspects of the technology, but just like those who learn another language later in life, we retain an “accent” because we still have one foot in the past.

He was using this in an academic framework talking about the need to embrace new technology in teaching as kids do in life. Of course the big flaw in this is that in journalism, as in education, not all kids/young people are fluent in that way especially when it comes to J-students. As Mark Comerford points out.

My j-students are often rigidly locked in to an analogue vision of the industry, see print as their future and do not easily understand the principals of conversation contra lecturing that many of us propagate as the (only) future for journalism. The have some degree of technical knowledge (though that is often over-estimated) but no great conceptual grasp of the shift from analogue to digital.

And the diverse, dynamic and fast changing nature of that conceptual change means that the landscape is too fluid to sustain any long standing definition that could sustain anyone being called a native.

Going native

So what we need to talk about here are not digital natives but people who have gone native (or better still the enthisiastic adoptor that Sarah Hartley talks about.) Picking up on Pat’s theme, I want to see enthusiastic adoptors of any age get a chance to change the way things are done and make newsrooms look more like the community they serve.  It is essential that we get more of that diversity that is so vital both commercially and socially.

But I don’t want a tribe of digital natives springing up creating digital divides – old/young, get it/don’t  – because rather than having the keys to the digital kingdom, all that the attitude really tells me is that they have gone really native. And when that comes with claims that having more of them is just what you need to get the job done…

‘Ten divisions of those men’ might sound tempting but that was a quote from Colonel Walter E. Kurtz.

Perhaps the best example of what can happen if you go too native