Beat it


Something Adam Tinworth, head of blogging at RBI, said during his lecture left me thinking about the direction I would like journalism to take in the future.

When I say “beat it”, I’m not talking about one of Michael Jackson’s hits- I refer to beat blogging.

For many journalists, the smell of coffee from the newsroom canteen, the sound of telephones ringing in the background and the sight of press releases and shorthand scribbled paperwork sprawled across the desk is a scene experienced too often. But is this good journalism?

I found this quote on Mindy McAdams’s blog:

“Ultimately, stories come from people. They come from the collective experiences, social contexts and relevance of communities. To find a story and know why it’s a story, you have to be part of or active in those communities. That’s something that ‘traditional’ journalism is supposed to be good at. Understanding the communities/audience they serve. Being relevant through the intimate knowledge of a patch. Having the ‘in’ at the ground floor of a story.”

So why are so many journalists obsessed with being tethered to their phone, constantly waiting for e-mails in the newsroom rather than getting out there and having an active presence amongst the community they are writing for?

With developments in technology and web 2.0, this needn’t be the case anymore. Adam said: “you should be out there, going back to basics with new tools available to you.” He referred to our laptops as our desks- a valuable tool to upload stories straight from our patches to the web.

Adam said: “Get out of the office. You have a laptop and a mobile phone. That’s all you need to do journalism. Get out there, amongst your readers and your market, and talk, network, record and report. We spend too much time talking to our colleagues and not enough to our contacts. The first technological shift journalism has been through – the arrival of computers – tied us to our desks. The second shift – the pervasive internet – should free us from them once more.”

I was very interested when Martin Booth, of the Bristol Evening Post told me that Watford Observer reporters are now all based out in their patches, filing straight to the net. This can only be a good thing for journalism. It enables reporters to have a constant presence in their patch, in order to truly understand the community, as well as being able to post their copy in record timing.

Traditionally, newspapers have restrictions on content and time constraints. Adam said that perhaps only 20/30 per cent of articles make it into the newspaper and there is usually only one deadline per day meaning a lot of material is wasted or left until the following day.

The internet has no restrictions at all meaning journalists can post their articles as soon as the news comes in beating competition and then allow the reporter to change and develop the stories in more detail later.

The proof was staring at me on Martin Stabe’s twitter profile:

Grrr. Beaten on a story by 20 minutes- exactly as long as it took to drag our copy through the bloody system. Oh to be running a blog… (4.35am Nov 11)

This tweet by Martin Stabe proves all journalists should have blogs as well as posting to the main news website. Blogs allow stories to be developed and elaborated on rather than being printed and then forgotten about. Also, due to space restrictions in newspapers, not all the in depth research of an article will be included. But blogs allow the journalist to describe their findings in finer detail, give behind the scenes information and most importantly strike up a conversation to connect with the readers. Comments left on an online article or a blog are firstly extremely valuable in order to give you a personal insight into that particular story- perhaps somebody has said something, which the journalist hadn’t thought about. Secondly, comments make the news interactive- something a newspaper can’t do.

As Adam started his lecture, blogs aren’t just endless rants from lonely weirdos couped up in their bedrooms and if, even my favourite chocolate bar has twigged on to the power of blogging, I don’t see any reason for me or any other journalist not to.


2 responses to “Beat it

  1. I think you need to be quoting Martin Booth from the Bristol Evening Post, formally of the Watford Observer, more often. Obviously a font of useless knowledge

    An interesting addition that we’ve started doing on the Evening Pose website is including a hyper-local section, so readers can log on and see exactly what news we’ve published about where they live. This only works if the reporter who writes the story tags it with one or more geographical locations. Seems to be working reasonably well so far.

  2. Just checked that out-
    Looks like a really interesting idea. I really like how the reader can chose exactly what they want to read.

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