Adam Westbrook // ideas on digital storytelling and publishing

The future of journalism is out there (what’s stopping you?)

Posted in Journalism by Adam Westbrook on November 9, 2009

Journalism has a lot of hurdles to overcome if it’s to not only survive, but thrive for the next 100 years.

Money is a big one. So is citizen journalism. And yes, the decline of audience and the death of print are pretty massive too.

But the biggest hurdle, the one we must all overcome; the one which will guarantee a great future for news, has nothing to do with ink and paper.

I’m talking about attitude. Journalism is not going anywhere because hardly anyone’s got the right attitude.

And what attitude is that, I hear you cry?

It hasn’t got a name, but we know Mark Zuckerberg and Larry Page have it. And Evan Williams has it to. Jonathan Fields and Jonathan Mead definitely have it. By the looks of things journalists like David Dunkley-Gyimah, Michael Rosenblum and Jeff Jarvis possess it too.

There are some bloggers, like Lisa Williams, Hannah Waldram and Hermione Way who got some.

It’s obvious William Kamkwamba from Malawi is bursting with it.

Important people at the Times, Independent, New York Times, Telegraph, ITN, Sky and the Boston Globe don’t have it, which is why they’ll eventually fail. And across the West, in Britain, the US, Canada and Australia, not enough journalists have it. It’s why we’re getting busy going nowhere.

It can be summed up in truisms like these:

Some truisms about attitude

And pretty much boils down to:

It’s the attitude which gets inventors, artists…and yes, even entrepreneurs out of bed in the morning.

And it is the attitude which delivers the key to the future of journalism.

If we’re not careful the future of news, belongs to them, and not the journalists...no wait, hang on. If we ARE careful, it belongs to them. The whole point is we have to stop being careful! Take someĀ  risks, get your hands dirty!

What should we teach tomorrow’s Journalism students?

Posted in Journalism by Adam Westbrook on November 4, 2009

I was invited yesterday to join other journalism lecturers from Kingston University and advise them about the future of journalism.

Wisely, they’re getting together now to think about what the media landscape might look like in five years time, and working out how to adjust their teaching accordingly.

We went through lots of different scenarios, and I highlighted some of the following, which I think will be important skills for the J-students of the future:

Entrepreneurial skills

Jeff Jarvis, Hannah Waldram and others have already written much more about this, and I put myself firmly in this camp. Jarvis says it plainly: “The future of news is entrepreneurial.”

The monetisation of journalism will come from journalists, young or otherwise, launching their own enterprises serving a demand from a specific audience. It might be hyperlocal, or it might be niche.

But to achieve this, students will need to be taught these business basics: how to launch a start-up, how to manage money, where to get investment. And even: what is a good business idea?

The future media landscape won’t consist of a few big giants, but many, far smaller, enterprises. And tomorrow’s journalists must be prepared for this.

Social-network skills

Next, I pushed journalism students need to be social-media mavens. It is not good enough to be aware of blogs and Twitter. Or even to have a rarely used account. Journalism students must be fully immersed in these platforms (and what follows them).

They need to understand how they can create a community around a specific topic.

They must have experienced the exhilarating feeling of getting a spike in blog readers when they publish good content.

And they must know how social media markets their work.

New technical skills

I’m talking video shooting and editing, basic photography and photo editing and website design. HTML and CSS would be ideal. Simply because other journalists will have these skills – and you can’t afford to be left behind.

Old journo skills

And here I mean good writing, good storytelling. We talked a lot about what separates a journalist from a citizen journalist. I think the answer is the ability to identify news, to source it, to find people…and to publish it into good content.

…and the drive

You can’t teach this to kids, but you can try to instill some enthusiasm. It is no longer good enough (in any walk of life, save I dunno, chemistry, engineering etc) to walk into a degree and hope to walk into a job. That attitude will earn you a McDonald’s badge and not much else. Students themselves must crave success, and as Hannah Waldram puts it: “get-up-and-go to take them through the difficulties and pressures of doing something on their own…”

The fact journalism course are looking to the future now is a small, but important step in the right direction. What skills would you put on the curriculum?

Disclaimer: I am a part-time lecturer in Video & Photojournalism at Kingston University.