Adam Westbrook // ideas on digital storytelling and publishing

How to make great stories come to you

Posted in Ideas for the future of news, Journalism by Adam Westbrook on October 23, 2010

Finding & telling a great story is what drives many journalists in what they do.

We put lots of effort into figuring out how to tell the stories, but not enough is ever written, or taught, about where these mystical narrative apparitions appear from. Most stories fall flat, not because of the telling, or the media, or the equipment used – but because the story isn’t good enough.

So, where the hell can we find these stories?

Well, the Brighton Future of News Group, run by Sarah Booker, have come up with a great little scheme to find great stories…by getting them to come to you!

How does it work?

Last week, #bfong held an open ’empty shop’ day in Shoreham-on-Sea, a small seaside town on Britain’s south coast. Anyone could pop in with old photographs, artifacts or just stories of their lives and the town. And on hand were a group of journalists, armed with cameras, laptops and audio recording equipment.

Handily, the press-pack included Judith Townend, Adam Tinworth, Adam Oxford and Sarah Booker, some of the most sharp-eyed Next Generation Journalists around.

The team used a live Tumblr blog as their platform for stories they produced – and collected dozens throughout the day. People wandered in, perhaps attracted or made curious by the sign outside. The team also hit the streets too.

Adam Oxford interviews a resident

Sarah Booker interviews a resident

It seems like a wonderful experiment in doing journalism a little bit differently. If the hacks on the local paper were as enterprising, they’d have gathered enough material to fill an edition. Instead, they were left covering the event as an outsider.

What’s exciting is this approach can be easily mimicked in any community. Pick a day, gather some journalists, find a free public space and open up shop! Judith plans to bring the open-shop approach to the refugee community in London and my mind is spinning with ideas for other settings too.

The irony of this age is there are more stories out there than there ever have been; but too many journalists have paralysed themselves with arguments about who will pay for it.

We just need to get out there, take the #bfong open-shop approach and tell some stories. That’s the future.

Storytelling in the digital age

Posted in Adam, Journalism by Adam Westbrook on March 19, 2010

It’s one of human kinds oldest acts, against the most intense technological revolution in history. How do storytellers adjust in the digital age?


For answers, turn your eye to the Digital Storytelling ’10 conference today in London. I have teamed up with the people from Not On The Wires to put together an afternoon of inspirational speakers and events for journalists, academics, entrepreneurs, digital experts and students.

Fact is, there’s a big need for a conference like this. Why are journalists still telling stories in old ways with new technologies? As Alex Wood will explain in his opening remarks, why do TV journalists put traditional print on their websites, and why do newspapers put mimics of TV news packages on their websites?

Speakers include the multimedia producers SoJournPosse and Duckrabbit, as well as technical pioneers like Demotix, Blinked.TV and UltraKnowledge.

New ideas for the Future of News

The day wraps up with the March edition of the UK Future of News Meetup, where we’ll be using some unusual techniques to drum up lots of new ideas for journalisms big problems.

Follow the hashtag!

To keep up with events today, follow the hashtag #ds10 from 1300 GMT and #fong from  1830 GMT. There’ll also be live streaming, with all the details right here.

More UK Future of News talk

Posted in Ideas for the future of news, Journalism by Adam Westbrook on February 9, 2010

The Future of News Meetup Group continues to grow from strength to strength this week, with the first local branch meetings held in Birmingham and Brighton.

To Brighton first, where the group (hashtag #bfong), organised by Journalism.co.uk‘s Judith Townend included talks from Jo Wadsworth from the Brighton Argus and Simon Willison from the Guardian.

They both spoke about some awesome innovations in journalism, including the Guardian’s successful crowd-sourcing experiment during the MPs expenses scandal.

Laura Oliver provides excellent coverage of both speakers which you can read here and here.

To Birmingham where the group (hashtag #fonwm) heard from Andrew Brightwell from hyperlocal blog Grounds and debated some exciting new business models; hyperlocal star Philip John provides a good write-up here, and student Alex Gamela shares his thoughts too.

Meanwhile the first Welsh event in Cardiff is being planned and there’s plans afoot to set one up in Scotland too.

And back in London, there are still a few places left for February’s event featuring, among others, radio futurologist James Cridland – click here to find out more!

Roundup: UK Future of News Meetup 2

Posted in Journalism by Adam Westbrook on January 25, 2010

Filming has kept me from putting together a write up of the first proper Future of News Meetup in London, which we held last week…but better late than never!

Since I opened the group in November, numbers have swelled to more than 200, and around 50 made it to the London School of Economics on Wednesday where we were kindly put up by the politics and society thinktank POLIS.

We were lucky to have two excellent speakers, both of whom are leading the way on the ground; two people who you won’t see at any conference.

From Data Visualisation…

First up, Cynthia O’Murchu from the Financial Times opened many peoples’ eyes to the power and potential of data visualisation. In the FT’s business of making complicated city statistics digestible, interactive graphics have played a big role.

She explained how they work with reporters across the FT, and how some took a while to understand the potential of data-viz. It’s an awesome branch of multimedia…but how many young journalists today are learning the design or coding skills needed to produce it?

Do they even need design and coding skills, or can it all be outsourced?

…to Berlin

Cynthia was followed by Alex Wood, a City University graduate who, along with four colleagues, is paving the way – simply by actually making stuff happen. He’s one of the names behind the superb Berlin Projectfeatured here in an earlier Ideas For the Future of News post. Although, that might be simplifying it a bit – Alex’s presentation revealed the technical, logistical and journalistic achievement of the  Project, and he revealed plans for a conference – which made the news right here.

We wrapped the evening up with some brainstorming to get everyone thinking of practical ideas for new news businesses – which is what the group is all about. I’m hoping we’ll fit in more of that in future meetups.

Future of News gets local…

And some fantastic news in the last few days, is the creation of not one, but three local off shoots to the London Future of News group. Judith Townend from Journalism.co.uk is working on a Brighton based group – check out the details from Sarah Booker here. Meanwhile in the West Midlands the venerable Philip John is planning a group, with others l0oking to take up the challenge in South Wales.

With four Future of News Groups now in action, the future is looking brighter indeed.