Adam Westbrook // ideas on digital storytelling and publishing

Why don’t you set up a journalism collaborative?

Posted in Next Generation Journalist by Adam Westbrook on May 12, 2010

Every day until the 20th of May I’m featuring a creative new way for journalists to exploit the digital age to create new job & business opportunities for themselves. Full details are in Next Generation Journalist: 10 New Ways to Make Money in Journalism available for download on May 20th.

03. launch a journalism collaborative

The internet, and the digital age we live in, is great isn’t it? It means you can create content and publish it fast, cheap and without fear of failure. The same applies to business, which is why setting up your own journalism business is so easy it’s almost stupid not to give it a go yourself.

Launching a journalism collaborative is a really effective way of doing this because it keeps the costs – and the risks – to an absolute minimum. Think of it as your average start-up, except it has no employees, no red tape…it doesn’t even have an office.

Launching your own journalism collaborative…

  • gives you the opportunity to do the type of journalism you love most — for money
  • lets you start a business in a flexible and less-risky way
  • allows you to share the risk of launching a business with others and share the profits
  • is easy to bootstrap

Collaboratives aren’t anything new in one sense. In fact the collaboratives that already exist are known for setting the standard in their fields. Take the most famous one – Magnum Photos: a collaborative of young innovative photojournalists who re-wrote the rules of the game in the mid 20th century.

The industry is crying out for a new Magnum. An agency of talented journalists who are in it to rewrite the rules and produce epic shit. Could that be you and your collaborators?

Find out how to do it.

Noded working – a new way to do journalism?

Posted in Journalism by Adam Westbrook on July 18, 2009

As the BBC’s  top journalists wrote in a newly published “Future of Journalism” document [PDF], the age of closed cup journalism is over. “…the fortresses are crumbling and courtly jousts with fellow journalists are no longer impressing the crowds” writes Director of BBC World Service Peter Horrocks.

People like Charlie Beckett have been promoting the idea of Networked Journalism for some time now, encouraging an openness throughout the entire journalism process.

Well, I was introduced recently to the idea of Noded working, by marketing consultant Jon Moss. It’s  about connecting and working with people across the world, and it’s becoming more popular among other digital creatives,  so I wondered – what could journalists do with it?

What is Noded working?

Here’s how Noded‘s creators Andreas Carlsson and Jaan Orvet describe it:

Noded is a new and better way of working. It is based on logical and natural ways of interacting with people, nurturing ideas, and simply doing a better job without the constraints of everything that comes with traditional ‘business life’. The Noded philosophy is also about flexibility and efficiency in collaboration, especially among people who are geographically far apart.

It runs off the idea that working in offices (or newsrooms) is rubbish. We’re tied to our desks, forced into ways of working which suit management, and forced to work with people we don’t like. We’ve all heard of “office politics” – now imagine a world without that.

The main characteristic of us Noded type professionals is our desire to set our own goals, and build businesses based on our own values.

So you start-up a new project – say, you’ve got funding to report on the increase in electrical waste in sub-saharan Africa. You’ve been given a grant to go out and film there, but you need a researcher. So you look around and find a good one, in New Zealand.

In a Noded network each member is an individual professional, running his or her own business. We come together to work on projects, as and when a project calls for it. Sometimes we all work together, some times only a few of us. It’s up to who ever brings the project in to choose who, and when, someone contributes.

And our only obligation is to ourselves; if we don’t want to participate in a project we don’t have to. No hard feelings.

Then you need a web designer, and know a good one in India. Noded working lets the three of you collaborate no matter where you are.

The project a success, you then return to your freelance ways…until another journalist approaches you: they’re in America, but need a good shooter to help them on a documentary project. Great! Noded working would let you get involved – this time, not as the project leader, but as an assistant:

This way of working ensures that we can take on different roles in different projects. From Project Manager in one project, to developer in another, to Account Manager in a third.

It’s about what skills match what project. There’s no newsroom politics (“oh, she got to go to Afghanistan last time”) – in fact no newsroom. And that’s the thing Noded can’t help with-established newsrooms. Carlsson and Orvet admit themselves:

In traditional employment this is not an option; company policies dictate how and when employees can further their careers and what if any impact they can have on the companies direction.

But for the burgeoning new brand of ‘creative freelancers’ emerging from the decline of traditional journalism, this presents a really exciting new way of working on stories. Why be limited to people in your own newsroom?

And the forms of Video Journalism startups eschewed by Michael Rosenblum et al, are in a way, already doing this.

I haven’t tried this out yet, but would be interested to hear from anyone (journalist, or otherwise) who has.

And some links for you:

An interview with Jaan and Andreas on Social Media Club

37Signals: a site with tools for noded workers