Check out what has been twitted over #newsrw
Check out what has been twitted over #newsrw
I must confess i hate conferences. Well, i’ve been hating them, since i’ve never been to so many of them in such a short period of time, and because i’m not making the most of attending to these things. Conferences are not only places of discussion and learning with some of the best minds in a specific field, but mostly a place to interact with them, network with like minded people, make new friends, get into someone else’s list of professional contacts. Lately i’ve been feeling like a teenager avoiding all the cool kids. I’m starting to think i’m losing people’s skills, or my charm doesn’t work around here. I come from a different culture, and you brits sometimes don’t make it easy. But some do, actually, as i found out after the end of the conference, over a few beers.
I was approached by John Thompson, publisher and owner of Journalism.co.uk, so, the man in charge of the operations. He kindly put up with my ranting about what i thought Journalism.co.uk could do when covering the Journiverse, while i thanked him for my (nowadays undeserved) presence in their list of the best journalism blogs. John and his team do some of the best work i see related to the industry, and i’m constantly recommending their work. Another huge mistake i keep doing is not having a camera available to interview people, my Samsung Omnia has terrible video and sound quality, so i didn’t even tried, but my conversation with John could have been registered and posted here, instead of having to describe it using just words. Not much multimedia of me…
Other people that i managed to talk to IRL (in real life) for the first time we’re Laura Oliver, from journalism.co.uk, but i failed to meet Judith Townend. I got to “e-talk” with them a bit in the last two years, so it’s easy to have the “i kinda know you” feeling. Another great moment was when I intercepted Andy Dickinson, whom i must convince to taste some Portuguese wines, I owe him a bottle anyway. But if you’ve ever been to these events, you know it’s all three minute conversations, then change counterparts. After three beers in a nearly empty stomach i was feeling like a pinball (so unprofessional of me…) but i got to talk to Dave Lee, Adam Westbrook, Josh Halliday, and Phillip John that i already knew from Birmingham. But it was nice to get to talk to these guys in person, they are what i thought of them: smart and to be followed in their online presences, there is a lot to be learned from them.
It was a great day anyway, and the bullet points were the following:
– journalists can’t do everything, they need to find what they need to know;
– journalists need to be entrepreneurial;
-journalism is changing faster than we can be aware of that;
-journalism is still the same thing as it was before, but there is a plethora of new ways to do it, monetize it, distribute it, work on it;
You should check these websites to get a better picture of what happened during the conference: news:rewired, of course, with all the profiles of the speakers and some accounts on the sessions; Andy Dickinson talks about one of the sessions he attended; Adam Tinworth also reports on the sessions he attended.
Now i’m working on my assignments for the MA and looking for a place to work for the Labs phase next semester. This was a useful event for me, nonetheless, and i might profit from it in the near future. At least that’s what i hope. And if you see me at one of these things, please approach me, i might not recognize you, be offline, or just too shy that day.
Here are some images of the conference.
The final session of news:rewired was dedicated to the ugly side of the future of journalism: how to make money, why journalists are not making money, law and copyright, audiences and advertising. This was stuff journos never had to think about, but that they should consider in their everyday practice, so they can make it financially sustainable. But the trick to be successful is the same as before: be one of the best.
The first speaker of the panel was James Fryer, one of the founding editors of SoGlos.com, the hyperlocal online magazine for Gloucestershire. I had already met James and his associate Michelle Byrne when they sat next to me during the morning sessions, and we got to talk about we should be networking more during the breaks. They we’re really nice, and as someone who developed an experimental hyperlocal website, i was interested in what they had to say.
Fryer gave us the top do’s and don’ts for a hyperlocal venture, and i’d like to highlight a few of his ideas. He was one of the people who pointed out the obvious characteristic for any successful endeavor: be great. Without being great you’ll never stand out, and gain trust and respect from your audience and your advertisers. Besides that basic principle, you must know where you stand commercially, what is your market and it’s needs, and who could be your allies. But don’t forget to remain true to your starting idea, keep your editorial integrity. I’d like to see some of the major news outlets following some of these principles…
SoGlos was victim of some plagiarism, and the next speaker talked about just that. Caroline Kean is a lawyer, and she adressed some of the problems that affect online journalism, like copyright and privacy. She debunked the myth that if it’s on the web it’s free, and that companies should be careful about the misuse of costumers data. These are relevant questions that would suffice to organize a conference on it’s own. She was followed by Ben Heald, “CEO of Sift Media, a leading business-to-business publisher specialising in online, interactive professional communities.” What i got from Heald’s speech was that pay walls will fail, and that money will come from niche communities that will pay for specific contents. I remember i liked his presentation, but i don’t have many notes about it. Probably it’s because he was stating something that was obvious for me, but that still hasn’t reached some minds.
Maybe me forgetting about Ben Heald’s presentation was Greg Hadfield‘s fault. The man has an incredible life story, and recent events in his professional course still put him in the game changers group. He delivered this simple yet powerful idea: journalists must act as entrepreneurs. This involves passion and vision, and one activity can’t be separated from the other. He said that when he was a journalist he never thought about advertising, it was “the stuff that made your article shorter”. Now it’s time to be entrepreneurial, since the face of the industry has changed forever. Adam Tinworth sums up some of Hadfield’s ideas here.
I must confess i was awfully tired by then, and a bit frustrated because i was looking around and recognizing some people from my twitter timeline and hadn’t networked with them live. Besides, wifi didn’t work for me and i had to sit offline the whole day, which put me in a state of deprivation close to a certified addict. But after this we had the End of Conference Drinks! More about that in the next post.
In the afternoon i was signed in for the Data Mashing session. I kinda expected it to be a bit technical, and i wasn’t wrong. You can’t learn how to create data visualizations and mashups in one hour, but you can get the logic and purpose of some applications to decide in the future if you’re going for this or that type of graph, or just to know that you can do this or that type of correlation between data sets. Data mashing is still a playground for those with a coder’s state of mind, and a nightmare for most of us mere wordsmiths.
So when Tony Hirst started his presentation the room was a bit caught off guard with the complexity of his work. Hirst started to explain that data tells stories, by using data visualizations reporters can look for anomalies, and find if that odd data means a story waiting to be told. He showed us some of the tools he uses in his projects with the Guardian’s Open Platform, like ManyEyes and YahooPipes, and how he geocodes that data with GeoCommons. It wasn’t a lecture for the faint of heart when it comes to coding and data geekery, but i can tell you i found it quite useful. Data mashing is one of the most important ways of getting those boring stories with loads of incomprehensible stats and figures into compelling, eye-catching visualizations. And they can also be a great tool in the research phase, when reporters are trying to look for the exception in the rule.
The next speaker showed us just that with his work with MySociety.org. Francis Irving uses data to make the powerful accountable and in the users reach. He proved that presenting the TheyWorkForYou website and the new WhatDoTheyKnow. Both these enterprises use open data to hold local and national goverment representatives responsible for their actions during their mandates. It was the “why” to the “how” that Tony Hirst showed us before.
David Dunkley Gyimah talks about video
Another speaker that i was looking forward to hear was David Dunkley Gyimah. I‘ve been following his blog since i started my own almost three years ago. He got me looking into multimedia, video journalism and online video narrative in a different way. The fact he is a fan of experimentation and he supports the creation of a unique voice for each professional instead following the exhausted television news model makes his views more interesting to follow. It is always more appealing to me hear about video using terms like cinema verité and documentary, and his style is more related to a more cinematic narrative that i feel more interesting to be used online than the 90 second pieces for night news.
He compared online video to blogs, saying it was a disruptive way to present the news, and that the online video journalist could work between the cracks of broadcast journalism. Either way, with all the visual culture that most internet users have, online video is a good place to experiment, and since it needs to be done fast and effectively, we can use the error in our favor. The weapons of choice are becoming more numerous than before, and go from a pro hd camera to a cell phone. It’s always the story and the skills of the videographer that make the final result good or bad. You can see a hectic David doing his presentation in the video below.
At the news:rewired event we had to choose to attend one of the three sessions about Multimedia Journalism, Social Media for Journalists, and a Troubleshooting Panel on Online Journalism. I went for the most personally appealing and stayed in the lecture theatre for the Multimedia Journalism session. I was curious to see what ideas and pointers the speakers had for an eager-to-learn-about-multimedia crowd. I think some in the audience we’re quite disappointed, but i believe they had the wrong expectations.
The first to take the stand was Adam Westbrook, one of my favorite media bloggers these days, i don’t know how does he do it, but his posts are usually nothing less than brilliant and he has a few ebooks of his own. When i later asked him about his secret he basically told me it was “by being unemployed and having a lot of free time on his hands.” Not unemployed, sorry, freelancing. It’s one of those things i’ll never get, bright people “freelancing”…
Adam, in a fast talking presentation, went through the disparities between both sides of the pond, how the Americans are investing more in multimedia than the British counterpart. I should add the rest of Europe too. There aren’t many examples of sustained investment in multimedia operations and features in the Old Continent. As an example, Westbrook referred the 1 in 8 million series from New York Times, and the several spin offs it had in other outlets.
Since he didn’t have much time, Adam Westbrook decided to show to the audience how AudioSlides work and why: they’re easy, cheap and fast to create and assemble, and if done properly, they can be more compelling than a video. Of course they don’t work every time, but he presented a slideshow that i had already seen at his blog a few weeks ago, that started out to be a video, but worked better as a slideshow. It’s worth watching.
This lightning presentation was followed by Steven Phillips’ from BBC London 94.9fm, that showed how they’re using AudioBoo along with Twitter with @bbctravelalert. I wish i knew about this before, because i was stuck at Whitechappel station in the Hammersmith&City subway train for over half an hour on my way to news:rewired. It seems it’s quite common… As a matter of fact, Phillips presentation wasn’t so much about multimedia, but how he develops his work in the new multimedia/multiplatform environment, using crowdsourcing, social networking, with free apps. Someone asked why was he narrowcasting, since the numbers weren’t that high. The panel quickly found the right answer: they’re developing a conversation, no expenses added. And that’s what these platforms are supposed to do.
And for last we had Justin Kings, who gave us the great list of skills that multimedia journalists should have that you can see at the beginning of this post. Here’s the full presentation.
It was thought provoking, and i believe it raised awareness in the audience about what being a multimedia journalist is all about these days of fast development and uncertainty.
The debate that followed the presentation was also noteworthy, since it was led by two Financial Times reporters who were right when they said that multimedia packages were left out of these presentations, as also data mashups and visualizations. There is a whole world in multimedia besides video and audio slides, and their comment was valuable in the sense that it made me think how we narrow down the multimedia concept to some media, which may not be exactly considered as multimedia. They showed their own work at the newspaper with this interactive chart.
What was left out of this discussion and presentations was that there is more to multimedia than we traditionally defend. It’s not about putting images in motion, or making radio with pictures, but it’s all about using the right tools to tell stories in a non-linear way, with the users in control of the narrative. That is what makes the online journalism different from television, radio and print. Technology is a tool, not an end in itself. And then we went off for lunch, some of us a bit more passionate about the possibilities that lie ahead.
There are accounts about the other sessions. The Troubleshooting panel on Online Journalism was liveblogged, and so did the Social Media for Journalists session.