Ivory tower dispatch: Fast and slow journalism and innovation must die
The Al Jazeera English newsroom – Not available as a google app (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
A diverse range of things in the ivory tower this week.
Balancing personal and professional social media identities was still on the agenda – the mantra was you might not use it but your boss might want you to. Thinking ‘how would I do this if I was doing it for someone else’ when you use social media as a journalist is, in my view, a good discipline.
But it also got me thinking about the perverse way that social media allows a newsroom, even with limited resources, to spread themselves far and wide and then begins to squeeze those resources all the harder in managing that reach.
From a personnel perspective sites like IFTTT and other social media aggregation tools and apis help. But often they strike me a bit like consolidating a debt. You get so many social media outputs that you have to pull them in to one place. The you start to ‘spend’ until you need to consolidate again. Put that in a newsroom setting and the problem can get worse. Imagine the social media debt you could get in to if one person holds all the details of your social media account then leaves!
So I spent some time looking at using things like Google apps to help create shared resources to manage this kind of thing. Simple things like having a spreadsheet that has all of the social media accounts of reporters and journalists in one place and delegation of gmails to share accounts. But on the whole managing a newsroom might not be as easy as it sounds with Google apps as the sharing of resources and the capacity for accessing multiple accounts is not as straightforward as you’d think.
If you’re thinking about using Google apps (like Drive not the enterprise stuff) to manage the newsroom, my advice is to look hard at your newsroom structure first.
Quick, slow ,quick, quick slow
Paul Bradshaw’s 21st Century newsroom redux was a timely and useful addition to my lectures around the idea of digital narratives. That was the rather broad title I set myself as I thought about the two (opposing) views of digital storytelling; The fast and furious, stream driven, exploded pyramid of news Vs more considered long-form journalism.
In principle its easy to contrast the pressures of diving in to the stream with all it’s risks with the apparently more considered and (to some) more journalistic long form. I took a little step back in to the idea of slow journalism. It’s a thoroughly pompous concept in my view, but it’s interesting (and frustrating) to see some of the same discourse applied to support long-form. It was an interesting coincidence that one of ‘slow’ journalism’s early suporters was none other than David “£2 pound tax” Leigh.
Ultimately though it’s a contrived contrast. In practice you can (and often have to) approach the process of journalism wary of both sides of the coin. Paul’s update to the model helps reinforce that – amazing what more arrows can do! – and was required reading this week.
The whole exercise reinforced for me the idea that in a broad context, thinking multimedia is the way to go when approaching digital narratives. Note the word digital there, not online. Yes, online is a unique medium. For journalists, who are mostly dealing with the stock website page, it comes with some very specific requirements for writing and story construction. But** if we are looking to embrace the full opportunity of rebuilding our content across platforms then we still need to address the issue of how we create and curate our multimedia not just our interactions with the audience and their interactions with our content.**
All of that echoed several lectures/conversations I had around more general concepts that I thought where touchstones in digital thinking at the moment:
- Social media
- Curation and real-time curation
- Data journalism
Nothing ground breaking there, but I think there is an increasingly clear narrative to connect them. Think about how long-form relies on curation and an understanding of community to create content that takes advantage of tablets (where much of the time-shifted reading people engage in happens). It’s a narrative I’ve been trying to get straight for a little while. You can ask the students if they think I’m getting there. But if you want to see a first go, this is me at this years Nordic media festival giving it a go (it’s also the first time the Journalism is a diagnosis not a profession idea get’s an airing)
And finally, in discussing this, and perhaps trawling through endless kickstarters brandishing their slow journalism credentials like a battered copy of fear and loathing, made me realise just how much I hate the word innovation and how hollow it is.