New media demands more than ‘robo-journalists’

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Twitter was once again the topic of choice in my online journalism lecture today.  Of slightly more interest this week was the ‘star-studded’ discussion panel (my lecturer Chris Brauer‘s own words) who were chipping in their well-received thoughts on the topic and on new media in general.

Talking and tweeting: the discussion panel at City University

Talking and tweeting: the discussion panel at City University

Blogger and new media expert Jemima Kiss (@jemimakiss) and director of POLIS, Charlie Beckett (@charliebeckett) were speaking, along with BBC’s Pete Clifton, writer Anthony Thornton and internet entrepreneur Matteo Berlucchi. One point of interest, on a brief vacation from the topic of twitter, was that of the concept of the ‘robojournalist’ and in particular how the role of the journalist is changing.

Charlie Beckett made reference to what can be seen as ‘old media’ and a time when television channels and newspapers set themselves up as the foundations of  society proclaiming, “we are the world!”.

Well, now that world has opened up, in a way we are only just beginning to realise. New media has transformed that out of date mode of thought and allows each and every one of us to engage with an entirely new range of audiences. It is time therefore for the next generation of reporters to step up to the plate.

In this world of new media one arrives, hopefully, multi-skilled and laden with gadgets. Armed and ready to capture every nugget and nano-second of news in order to throw it out to the world via the internet.

But Jemima Kiss,  now affectionately labelled ‘mistress of multi-skilling’ by Charlie Beckett, issued a warning. It simply isn’t enough to carry the tools around but to learn to use them effectively. Obvious, no?

Perhaps not, it seems many people think that by simply using the newest gadgets or latest medium they are, by default, successful journalists. Unfortunately not. It is now about learning the appropriate way of utilising each medium to communicate successfully.

Peter Thornton warned against a generation of journalists who are so multi-skilled they would simply be “crap at everything”. Instead, he urged, it is about learning about and selecting the tools you are good at using.

On a more general note, as old practice and new media grate alongside each other, it is clear to me that you cannot push new concepts into an old model. Charlie Beckett agrees, saying that this has been happening for too long, as new media is still not being taken seriously as a stand-alone idea.

I would be lying if, yet again, I didn’t feel a little overwhelmed on the topic of (here it comes again) new media. It is a tough job to balance both the innovative and traditional elements of journalism, but I really think this should be looked at as a positive challenge.

The fact that the boundaries of communication have been blown wide open should be seen as an exciting opportunity for budding reporters to approach journalism and engage with the world on a completely new level.

5 responses to “New media demands more than ‘robo-journalists’

  1. Thanks for the post! It’s good to admit that the prospect of getting your head around everything ‘new media’ can be quite overwhelming.

    But it probably helps to acknowledge that that’s how most people in the industry feel, and it’s probably only those in the tech industry who have that extra bit of warning on trends that keeps them ahead.

    The advantage you have is that you’re not an established media exec with a massive, expensive legacy business that has to pay its way. You’re right at the beginning of your career and in the privileged position of being able to learn as much as possible, so take full advantage of that! By the time you’re 50, the industry will be a very different place, so you should see that as a very exciting opportunity to get stuck in.

    And there are no big secrets to digital (we don’t call it ‘new media’ anymore, because it really isn’t new!) – just make sure you keep reading about trends and try things out – it’s that essential journalistic curiosity that will put you in good stead. You really don’t have to be a techie to understand communication tools, which is essentially what they are.

    Good luck!

    • I am definitely excited at the prospect of starting my career now, despite all the doom-mongering. Do feel a little silly about my massive overuse of the phrase ‘new media’ – obviously i’m already out of touch!

  2. Hi Nicole,
    Great post. I have a slightly different perspective from Jemima. It’s only that she revels in all things techie because that’s her subject. Most people in news don’t have the time to play with these things or get trained up, so they do feel a bit intimidated by all the new platforms and gadgets. I still struggle with video (odd for an ex TV-hack) for example, and my blog is still rather one-dimensional. But Jemima is 100% right to say that the trick is to think about all these skills and gadgets as communication tools not technology in their own right.
    As Jemima says, you are lucky because you don’t have to un-learn old skills. However, I am also lucky because I am a bloody good journalist with a fair bit of experience who has suddenly been given all these fab news ways to communicate. So we all win!
    Good luck and keep in touch,

  3. The trouble with market corrections – an unexpected event wreaking havoc which eventually is steered back – is there are casualties. A lot of equity is lost, some written off altogether.

    In effect, albeit not in the classic case, this is another market correction and they’ll be another one, and another.

    From 1994, satellite, then cable, then the Net, news has had to buffet a series of disruptions. And if you trend extrapolate with more robust tech networks in the offing, we’re only at the tip of this flux.

    News orgs might just have to transform themselves, not only as daily providers, but with in-house (on campus preferably) teams working in tandem and tighter with academia/techs addressing in many ways what are driven – phenomenologies impacting news.

    Ok that’s not what News does, yes! But these are changing times, and it:

    1. affords a (likely) integral stream of students into this metamorphosing industry.
    2. affords (not always) a potential canary effect of the latest disruptive events.
    3. allows for a genuine rolling debate between groups about changing semiotics to be addressed.

    Slightly to the side of this argument what Miami University and the Knight Foundation are doing is very impressive. It’s worth looking into.

    Cheers david
    Snr Lecturer, University of Westminter
    Artist in Residence, South Bank Centre

  4. p.s oops nicely captured btw, Nicole.

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