Adam Westbrook // ideas on digital storytelling and publishing

Four reasons you need to pursue the future of journalism NOW

Posted in Journalism, Next Generation Journalist by Adam Westbrook on July 21, 2010

If you’re aged between 21 and, say, 40 and you’re in journalism (or want to get into journalism) you need to read this post.

It’s an optimistic one – but it carries a warning…and a call to action.

Yesterday I blogged how Jon Snow and Andrew Marr are excited by the possibilities the internet holds for journalism in the future. So ahead of us that’s two of the most established and traditionalist of British journalists getting excited about what we could all make happen.

Now look behind you

Because here’s the warning. If you’re going to do something about the future of journalism, you haven’t got long.

Right behind us, there’s an army – a whole generation – who already get it and are already better at it than you. Here are four examples.

Jamie Keiles

Jamie Keiles is 18 and a high school senior from Pennsylvania. This year she gave herself a project: to live according to the gospel of Seventeen Magazine for a whole month. She collected the experiences together on a blog, and created the Seventeen Magazine Project. Her articles include text and photographs and now she’s wrapping it up with a crowdsourcing project called ‘Dear Mainstream Media’ which has had scores of entries.

Yes, an 18 year old who’s already created her own (albeit temporary) magazine, and built an impressive following. It caught the eye of Paul Bradshaw’s Online Journalism Blog this month too.

Oh, and she has her own website, facebook and twitter profile too. How’s yours coming along?

Rebecca Younge

Rebecca Younge is 14 and from Ealing in West London. As part of a school science project she made a three-minute film about pollution and recycling, which she shot on a FlipCam and edited on iMovie on her dad’s laptop. She put it on Youtube and it caught the eye of Video Journalism pioneer Michael Rosenblum, who admits it’s raggedy, but says

She’s never had a day of formal filming or editing tuition, she just worked it out for herself….There is a whole generation coming up who have no fear of video. In fact, they think of it as second nature.

You might think you’re going to do multimedia one day. You might get that it’s the future. But have you picked up your camera and filmed much yet? Is it as second nature to you as it is to Rebecca?

Rahayu

Rahayu is (I think) 20, and from Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. I’m not sure who she is, or what she does, because she doesn’t write much about herself. But what she does do is run a Tumblr Blog called On a High Note. Now, this is nothing to do with journalism, I’m going to be honest with you. In fact, it’s just a collection of quirky photographs, retro truisms and quotes which she collects and shares. But: she’s built up a community of nearly 90,000 followers all addicted to her way of seeing the world. 20,000 of them are in the US alone. Each photo she posts gets retweeted and reblogged more than 500 times.

And I won’t lie to you – it’s one of my own favourite things in my Google Reader every day. A perfect, inspirational break from the usual stuff.

Image: Wikipedia

Alex Day

Alex Day is 21 and from Essex in the UK. As a teenager in 2006 he started video blogging on Youtube. He used the internet to launch several bands and has just started fronting a major Channel 4 campaign called Battlefront about young people changing the world.  His youtube channel Nerimon has got 202,000 subscribers and has had more than 3,000,000 views.

So, we have two people who are shooting and editing video on their own without batting an eyelid, one person who has run their own online magazine, and one who has created a community of nearly 100,ooo people from all over the world.

None of them are over 21. But they’re already digital natives. This is all second nature to them. As soon as they hit the big wide world they’re going to take this and make some serious money out of it. And if we’re not careful, they’ll leave the rest of us chewing their dust.

So here’s the rub

The future of journalism is amazing, exciting and out there to be had right now. But you’ve got to go out there and get it yourself. There’s no guidebook on how to do this, there is no step-by-step guide. There’s no-one to take you by the hand and guarantee your idea will make money one day.

Thing is, there are plenty of people out there willing to sit back and be consumers in this world, instead of creators. There’s no shortage of people like that. And so there’s no value in them.

People who are willing to take the lead, to beat a path for others to follow, to make mistakes…now they’re scarce. And as we all know, where there’s scarcity, there’s value.