From dino to digi in five days!

I have a job interview on Monday.

It is at The Birmingham Post and the job title is “Development Editor”. It would be overseeing innovation and the development of new platforms for the newspaper.

I wasn’t going to say anything about it, as by telling the world I run the risk of potentially having that toe-curling moment when I have to tell everyone that I didn’t get the job.

But, when I saw the presentation I had to make, I thought it was worth sharing. I have already chatted about it to a few friends, so why not go the whole hog and put it up online?!

I have to outline a training course that would convert traditional print journalists into “fully-equipped and knowledgeable multi-media, multi-platform journalists” in just five days.

Not much then.

Despite my initial reaction being “it’s impossible”, trying to devise such a course is actually a great way to get the brain cells into gear. The last few months I have been immersing myself in all that is new and shiny on the web and, as a result, my way of thinking about the future of journalism has changed.

But do I have the ability to take a step back from that and assess where the industry is at the moment and what skills print journalists will need to have a share in that future? If I can, can I describe that transition in logical steps – as you would have to in a training course.

I hope the answer is yes.

What occurs to me is that the biggest battle is not the training in the use of tools such as Twitter, but the understanding of why you might want, or need, to use them.

It is a horrid thing when someone is told that the skills they have perfected over many years are no longer enough to survive in their industry and that the market and the competition has changed.

I guess the only way to acceptance is understanding, so my training course would start with at least a day investigating trends in the UK newspaper market and the rise in online competition. Perhaps a bit on insight into the best journalism on blogs too – which might open up the issue of the importance of conversation.

All too often the Internet comes across as the bad guy – the place where people read our stories for free and don’t have the decency to buy a paper. So, I think, there has to be a day dedicated to making sure journalists also know how much the web can benefit them in their jobs – that RSS Feeds, searches, alerts, etc. are all ways to make tracking down stories easier.

Then, and only then, would I get down to the business at looking at producing multi-platform content – experimenting with the best ways of communicating a particular message online.

It would be great to do a breaking news story exercise at the beginning and the end of the course to see if thinking had changed.

As you can see, I haven’t fully formed a training course yet but will be spending my weekend pondering! I’ll let you know how it goes…

17 thoughts on “From dino to digi in five days!

  1. It would be good idea to make it a residential course because the why will be argued through and demonstrated most comprehensively in the pub and at meal times. It is then that people will begin to understand the power of the phone in their pocket etc etc.

    So they would need to be 5 pretty immersive days.

  2. Hi Joanna – my 2 cents’ worth is to consider kicking things off with what ISN’T different, or rather, what skills from traditional journalism transfer easily to new platforms.

    That way you will find it much easier to get buy-in – after all, as you rightly say, there is a danger of alienating those folks who have that knee-jerk defensive reaction to being told they have to change. In fact, they do have to adapt, but are very well-placed to do so, since I would argue in journalism the core skills are there whatever platform your comment ends up on. Of course there’s new things to get your head around, but by getting people on-board by feeling their core skills are already in place, you’re more likely to get them excited by the new opportunities for conversation and debate offered by online, rather than risk turning them all off it.

    Good luck!

  3. Well, can I just wish you good luck for Monday! The word on the streets is that you’re in line for a promotion…I guess that’s one up for the old grapevine over social media!

    If the hopefully inevitable move up the ladder takes you away from the media and marketing world, well, thank you for you interest in – and support of – the efforts of a certain institution to do some good for the region’s creative sector. Despite the fact that in theory, we can blog and twitter about such initiatives on our own global platform – it’s still a huge bonus to have the support of others in spreading the word.

    Anyhow – albeit in my different sphere of work, I’ve stumbled into the “old world skills” with “new world tools” issue. For me at least, I can only see opportunity – old hacks are more relevant than ever – quality content is still king wherever. A trash story is a trash story, in print, online or zapped directly into my head by some next gen technology!

    As a listening and research device, the web makes life easy – and as a distribution platform, it’s more powerful than is possible to say without silly superlatives.

    It’s all good! (He says before having his own job interview)

  4. Good luck in your job quest. I’ve been in the radio business for 41 years here in the states and have watched the evolution of the media here in the US and to day it has gotten better would be the furthest thing from the truth. With a last name of “Geary” you’re bound to excel.
    Good luck from a probable relative here in the Colonies.
    Dan Geary
    Captain Dan
    WYNE AM 1530 Radio
    Mercyhurst College
    listen on the web at:

  5. The best training courses I’ve been on during my time on newspapers were crammed full of practical exercises. Get journalists doing what they do they best (whinge – only joking!).
    I think I’ll take a generally cynical standpoint – these are all positives, even if they sound negative.

    1). I think the “residential” suggestion is also a good one. Keep them captive so they don’t get tainted back in the newsroom by those not on the course.
    2). You could make one of their first tasks to write a blog on a subject outside of their comfort zone (maybe have a few examples of posts by bloggers on a similar issue to show them once they’ve done). If they do it badly, all the better, as hopefully it will show the big difference between writing for print and online. Then show them how they can adapt their style through the duration of the course, finishing with a similar blogging exercise.
    3). Point out this is not about changing the way they write. Far from it, this is adding another string to their bow, another style of writing to reach a new audience.
    4). Get some journalists who are blogging successfully to come in (if possible, obviously). You don’t necessarily want a bit of preaching from the converted, rather someone who understands the concerns, the scepticism and knows what to expcet from fellow journalists.
    5). Highlight the quality (also suggested above) they can bring. It isn’t about dumbing down or diluting their talent, training and experience. It is about giving them another platform, one which potentially stretches way beyond the 20k circulation figures they’re used to.

    Make it fun, obviously. More than likely they’ll go into the course thinking the worst, but if you can show them fairly early on how much fun there is to be had out there in the big bad world wide web then it won’t take them long to win them over.

    Oh…good luck 😉

  6. +1 to the residential course idea – somewhere sunny would be nice. With a free bar to encourage discussion of the issues people are learning about.

    All I’d add would be it would be good to see this training take in all the people at the paper, not just the reporters. Perhaps not all of it – maybe newsdesk don’t need to learn specific technical skills – but everyone at the paper needs to understand how things are changing.

    Good luck

  7. This was for a very different class: journalism professors. But here’s what I took them through at the City University of New York, where I teach:

    I think your plan sounds good: Why it matters. Then very, very useful tools to make them better journalists. Then making stuff. Then, I think, it’s important to talk about their new relationship with the public.

    One anecdote: I showed the faculty Twitter and their reaction was, yes, that’s cute and cool but what the hell does it have to do with journalism, Jarvis. I told them about the tweets that became news from the Sichuan earthquake and how the BBC and Reuters are now setting up searches to look for catchwords for news — evacuate, earthquake — on Twitter as early warning systems for news. I told them about news organizations putting out feeds of headlines to get audience. I told them how news folks were using Twitter to cover events. I told them how Sky used to to dynamically outline and comment on the Chancellor’s speech on the budget. OK, the profs said, you pass.

    It turned into a Guardian column:

  8. Also….

    The Telegraph’s training program was, I think, a week long and they put people in groups to go out and produce stories using appropriate media (e.g., a bus strike). They made real news in new media and made — this is the important part — new judgments using all their new choices.

    Another: Michael Rosenblum ( does a great job in 2 to 5 days teaching people how to make TV stories in new ways with small cameras and without the cliches of TV. He gives them very specific instruction on what he wants them to get from a shoot, sends them out to shoot, and when they come back they go through group critique and then they cut and narrate the pieces. The point: They make something fast. Look at what he accomplished at the Star-Ledger, where I brought him, on his blog.

    And I attended a Guardian Media Group offsite in January at which Simon Waldman had tables of execs (with a digital ringer at each) go through a series of tasks in a quick morning to, again, just do it and make online stuff. The moral of the story: It’s easier than you think.

    BTW, I’d say you should get the job just because you asked the question here, of course. Consider me a virtual job reference.

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  10. Wow!

    When I decided to post about this, I never could have imagined this would be the response I would get.

    Thank you all!

    I am writing my presentation up at the moment and will be incorporating many of the ideas that you kind people have put forward.

    Thanks once again, I’ll let you know how it goes…


  11. Best of luck with the interview Joanna. let us know how you gdt on. I am trying to develop a series of training modules to help Australian journos (like me) make the transition from dino to digi and will be really interested in what you come up with

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