Brand identifiers – or what’s important about how you get your news?

On my last post a mini-debate has broken out about whether our exisiting news organisations really need journalists to investigate stories.

A debate also broke out on Twitter between myself and Bobbie “I probably have one of the coolest jobs in the world and get to live in San Fransciso” Johnson of The Guardian.

He was arguing that having investigative journalism was, in a way, a form of marketing for a news brand – a way to identify the product as being better than its competition.

An interesting point that got me thinking.

Russell Brand & Jonanathan Ross, the US elections, the Congo, Gordon Brown shaking hands with Al Qaida suspects – all of these are news stories and all of them have been covered by the UK’s media outlets in one form or another over the last week.

So, what are the things that make you choose to get your news from one organisation rather than another? I tried to make a list: Continue reading

Quick, incoherent thought #2: Why most news doesn’t need journos

The world does not need journalists to communicate the vast majority of information that is defined as news.

Most of the news that comes out of media organisations on a daily basis is information that others either WANT people to know or HAVE to admit to. It is just re-written or re-presented in a format that fits that platform.

So, instead of journos, the world needs the generators of this information to communicate it better and to allow for redress to what they say.

So is there somewhere the paid journalist can fit into all this then? Well, I guess journalists should be doing what they’re supposed to do – find out the information that organisations don’t want people to know.

But they can’t do that until they are freed up from the current information processing that they have to do, and that means those that provide information start doing so in formats that are usuable and on a platform that allows redress.

The day of the long blog comments

That’s how today is going to be marked in this little corner of the blogosphere.

I have been lucky to get some fantastic comments today on two of my posts.

David wrote a very insightful comment about the difference between audiences taking a reactive and a proactive stance towards privacy issues on my post about Facebook. He also gave the best justification for the “death knock” (when a journalist calls on a recently bereaved family) that I’ve seen yet.

Jon Walker and Markmedia also left fantastic comments on the post discussing the lack of business knowledge amongst many journalists. 

Jon argues that journalists have very little impact on business decisions and is concerned the production of good content might not be enough to save the industry. Mark argues collective union action to focus on business strategy would empower journalists.

Both have also turned their comments into blog posts (Jon | Mark), which are also worth a look.

Journalists don’t know their own business

“The most surprising thing about journalists is how little they know about the businesses or industry in which they work,” said an NUJ staff member who happened to be sitting opposite me at lunch.

It made me want to scream.

I prompted the comment by admitting I wasn’t au fait with all of Trinity Mirror’s digital acquisitions in the last three years.

I am all too painfully aware of my ignorance in this area and it is something I’m working hard to change.

A lack of business knowledge is, I think, one of the greatest threats to local and regional journalists, especially in this tough economic climate.

After all, if we don’t understand how our market is created, nor how we best make money out of it, then I would argue we know little about serving it properly

Despite having been told in the past that my arts and journalistic background may offer me a “creative” or “unusual” take on the fortunes of the industry, I don’t really buy it. You don’t understand anything unless you understand how the money works.

Continue reading

Big changes for The Birmingham Post – reaction round-up

We’re just come back from a big announcement about the future of Trinity Mirror Midlands, part of that was a major announcement about the future of The Birmingham Post.

I think I want some of the dust to settle before blogging my own thought (and don’t want to gazump my Editor!), but I thought I’d provide a bundle of links to other people talking about what is happening.

I will post my thoughts a bit later, so if you want to leave some questions in the comments, I’ll try and answer them. Suffice to say there are some very interesting times ahead.

A “dangerous question”: Why don’t reporters write headlines?

It’s the question I asked on Twitter yesterday.

Some people found it a perfectly comfortable question to debate, others seemed to find it irritating.

If I am being naive then I would dearly love someone to fill me in.

So far, my thinking is that reporters do not write headlines because of the nature of print production i.e. because they are not the ones that lay the story out on a page and therefore do not know what space they have/what other articles are on there.

It surely can’t be because reporters are not expected to grasp spelling, punctuation and grammar?!

The public responses to my question (or the ones that I could find on Twitter Search) are copied and pasted below in reverse chronological order. (Wouldn’t it be lovely to have an app that collated responses to you on Twitter over a specified period of time.)

What every regional journalist needs to hear about their industry…

In this Seesmic post Kevin Anderson, Blog Editor for The Guardian and co-author of Strange Attractor, pretty much covers many of the things I’ve wanted to say, but better:

Kevin Anderson on Seesmic

Kevin Anderson on Seesmic

He is answering a question posed by Birmingham City University’s Paul Bradshaw – with recent job freezes/cuts at UK newspapers, is there any point in universities running journalism degrees training students for the newspaper and broadcasting industries?

“The Collaborator”? Naming Newspapers 2.0

This evening I had that very rare and precious of things: time on my hands. But, unfortunately, it appears that when given space to think I don’t always use it that wisely.

As I was pounding on the cross-trainer in the gym my mind definitely wandered.

Ignoring some of the more fundemental historical reasons for their being, it occurred to me that many newspaper names in this country might be accused of reinforcing the “we shout, you listen” mentality.

The Post, although I hope developing a reputation to the contrary, is a case in point.

Then there’s The Mail, The Mercury (the winged messenger of the Gods no less!), The Standard, The Telegraph… even The Guardian seems a little paternalistic.

So, I mused, in this brave new world of crowd-sourcing, participation and reader inclusion what should a news publicaton be called?

The Consult? The Listener?

The we-try-and-take-your-opinions-into-account-but sometimes-we-run-out-of-time-er?

I plumped for “The Collaborator”.

It did, however, occur to me that this didn’t sound very Web 2.0 in comparison to the many new social media applications springing up across the interwebs.

Perhaps it would be better to design a cute little mascot-cum-logo and give the publication a title such as “Storeez” or “Gnewz” (oddly gnewz.com goes to the campaign website of Douglas Geiss, Democratic candidate for State Representative Committee in Michigan).

Job interview – the presentation

When I decided to post about my impending job interview, I would not have guessed I would get the response that I did. I have received some fantastic feedback. I am lucky indeed.

So, to continue the thread, this is a version of the presentation I’m going to give today (edited to remove commercially sensitive info and stuff that might get me sacked).

Yes, I know it’s a pretty cruddy Powerpoint… perhaps I should have added presentation skills to my training list.

The interview is not until 15:30 GMT, so if I’ve mucked up please let me know – I might still have time to change it! :)

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…