It was an interesting insight to see how Rick Waghorn had created a business model to suit his predictions of where journalism is heading.
Rick is a football reporter for Norwich City, who decided to use his own brand and go at it alone on myfootballwriter.com when he was laid off from his newspaper, The Evening News. He believes this could be a whole new model for local news reporting.
Rick believes in the importance of journalists securing and developing their own individual brand, which is completely independent to news organisations they work for- Robert Peston‘s reporting of the credit crunch, Jeremy Clarkson for motoring news, Rick Waghorn as Norwich City FC expert.
On his blog, Shane Richmond comments:
“In many ways, Rick is an example of what can happen when you build personalities. As I said yesterday, journalists become powerful when they develop into brands and it’s that power that Rick is now exploiting.”
This seems slightly egotistical and very alien to the typical team environment in a newsroom. I cringe when I think of Tara as a brand. I don’t want to be a celebrity or a self marketing expert- journalism should be about the audience, not me- the journalist.
And surely without trusted and valued big media brands like the BBC and regional newspapers, these people wouldn’t have built up a name for themselves or got the address book full of contacts to be able to go solo.
If I got the right end of the stick, Rick seemed to believe in doing what you do best- focus on a niche you know inside out and if you’re a newspaper journalist, stick to print. And if you don’t know? Well, link of course.
Linking to other sites, other pictures and other videos exists because lack of money means we are down to a barter economy.
“As long as you’re swapping ‘live’ links and driving traffic to and fro, I don’t see an issue.
Other than pride.
And I’m not sure any of us can afford that any more.”
To an extent I believe in this link economy. The main thing that has come out of these online lectures is the importance of engaging the reader and if by, just for the sake of it, putting up a crap quality video with your report, which sends the reader to sleep, why not link to one that doesn’t?
On the other hand, the idea of barter economy did seem to go against a lot of what I had previously been told. I thought the ideal journalist in 2008 had to be willing to write about anything. In our recent Sunday supplement exercise, we picked article ideas out of a hat at random because we were told it would be beneficial for us to write an article on something we haven’t got the foggiest about. I also thought we had to have the ability to tell the story on a variety of media platforms. I’m a trainee print journalist but am learning to create podcasts, digital narratives and video.
But looking at his model on a deeper level, I think it could work.
Shepherding the herd
Rick believes we are stood on the threshold of an ‘Age of Participation’ and that the future lies in journalists participating in someone else’s conversation.
“That part of our new thinking may well be mingling with the masses; rubbing shoulders with what was once our audience and getting down and dirty with them – in their new worlds as our old one implodes beneath our feet.
The test may well be whether or not we can still hold our own in said company; whether whatever ‘brand’ recognition and trust we still enjoy as a passionate niche journalist will then allow us to if not command a conversation then to guide and influence one – particularly if when we enter the conversational fray we can come ‘badged’ up; like a steward at a mass rally; like a shepherd with his crook; like a cinema usher with her torch.”
This hosting, curating and moderating of online conversations can only be a good thing for journalism. It enables people to be the eyes and ears of the community and for them to have a voice.
Rather than just picking up the newspaper and chucking it away at the end of the day, people are able to take part in the discussion.
“Do we still pay £50 per restaurant review? Or do we encourage our community of readers to have a conversation about where they ate last night… do we ‘listen in’ to their opinion on the new Indian at the end of the High Street? Or do we shove our own opinion down their throats… and cough £50 in the process.”
Speed played a big part in Rick’s model and another reason for breaking away from newspapers. Myfootballwriter.com is about getting news out to people as quickly as possible and to where readers want it. A positive part of going solo means Rick doesn’t have to wait a day or more for a paper to go to print but instead he can deliver it to readers’ mobile phones and laptops within the hour.
Is this the future?
Rick’s model has some very positive elements about it such as the speedy delivery of news and the way he wants to bring communities together and for this reason maybe this will be where journalism is heading in the future. But I can’t help but think if newspapers no longer existed and journalists worked on their own covering their niche areas off separate websites, surely it would take half a day to click from the crime correspondent to the education reporter to the sports writer. The great thing about newspapers is everything is all in one place.