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.


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Journalism =

Posted in Journalism by Adam Westbrook on May 4, 2010

Journalism = ?

We’re at a stage where we’re fortunate enough to be able redefine what journalism is. Earlier this year I interviewed an entrepreneur and coach Nick Williams (who has absolutely nothing to do with journalism) for my new e-book (details here).

He suggested journalists need to redefine what they do and be prepared to be flexible with how we define the trade; he makes his living selling information & inspiration…why can’t journalists do the same?

Journalism = access

Last week I had the pleasure of spending the day mentoring MA journalism students at Birmingham City University on Video & Photo Journalism. We talked about visual storytelling, developing a narrative arc, and the potential of video and audio slideshows as tools for journalism.

One of the things we watched was a film, first posted by Cliff Etzel, called Last Minutes with Oden. (Warning: distressing scenes if you don’t like animals being upset, or, err, dead.)

If we choose we can marvel at the technical elements, the beautiful shots taken on a Canon 7D; but more importantly we can dig into what is a fantastically well told story. The narrative arc here is spellbinding, and masterfully handled.

But most of all this is about the access.

This is a personal, intimate story – one man in grief, and he has agreed to let the film makers join him and share it with the rest of us. That is what journalism–no matter what platform–is: we as journalists must have access to something the rest of the world does not have access too, whether that’s a person, facts or media; and we must have the storytelling nouse not to blow that access on a crap narrative.

  • Business journalism is in profit because journalists have access to financial/market data the rest of us can’t get.
  • Sport journalism will always be strong because journalists can speak to Alex Ferguson every week, when the rest of us can’t.
  • Celebrity news will always have value because the journalists have access to the premieres, press pools and parties the rest of us don’t get to go to.
  • Breaking news is value-less because once something goes online we can all share it.

What do you have access too?

Best of the blogs: 2009

Posted in Adam, Journalism by Adam Westbrook on December 18, 2009

My Google Reader probably trebled in size in 2009. It’s where I get at least 50% of information, gossip, inspiration and ideas on multimedia,  journalism and the future of news. As a Christmas treat, I thought I’d share some of the best blogs of 2009 with you….

Digital Journalism

10,000 words: Mark Luckie’s site is a goldmine of beautifully presented practical advice for digital journalists. His posts have become less frequent since he became re-employed, but each one is still as valuable.

Journalism 2.0: Mark Briggs is bringing out a new book for digital journalists in 2010 – expect it to become a core text on all journalism course reading lists.

Video Journalism

Advancing the Story: Deborah Potter’s blog on video journalism serves the local American market best of all, but it still has useful advice on shooting video and interviews.

Rosenblum TV: Michael Rosenblum’s blog isn’t your standard VJ fare. As the father of the medium, he is determined to see it revolutionised, and is a vocal herald of the death of traditional TV news. He has pitched for funding on an ambitious plan to give out 1,000 Flipcams in New Jersey, and launches a new video academy in New York in 2010.

The Outernet: David Dunkley-Gyimah’s single handedly pioneered the space between video journalism and cinema; his work resembles multi-million dollar Hollywood flicks. As artist-in-residence at the South Bank Centre in London, expect more news/art mashups in 2010.

Video Journalist: Glen Canning’s site offers some great practical tips for video journalists.

Bob Kaplitz: Bob Kaplitz’s blog is a must for anyone trying to get to grips with the basics of video journalism. He’s done what no-one’s really thought to do up until now – use video to teach video journalism. Clever, huh?

Radio

David Stone: a young news editor by anyone’s standards, David’s posts on practical radio journalism are useful for any radio journalist, especially in the UK.

NewsLeader: Justin King has used Twitter very effectively this year to share advice and tips for radio journalists in the UK and elsewhere. There’s more good stuff on his blog.

James Cridland: just returned from a round-the-world tour of radio, Radio Futurologist James has posted from Canada and the US, where he’s been meeting radio producers everywhere and sharing the future of radio with the rest of us.

Photojournalism

RESOLVE, Livebooks: not just a blog, RESOLVE, managed by Miki Johnson, is also a community of photojournalists all seeking the future for their craft. The After Staff series from summer 2009 is a superb library for anyone who’s been laid off and wants to make it in the scary new freelance world.

The Travel Photographer: Tewfic El- Sawy niftily picks up the best photojournalism from around the world and showcases it. A forward thinking blog, the Travel Photographer also presents new multimedia from photogs.

Lens Blog: The New York Times’ home for photojournalism is a beautiful resource of the best images from the around the world, plus occasional advice from the experts. Great for inspiration.

Writing, Blogging & Thinking

CopyBlogger: possibly the most famous blogger in the world, Brian Clark’s Copyblogger is vital for anyone who wants to understand how to build an audience and avoid boring them with dull words.

Steven Pressfield: a recent discovery for me, Steven’s Wednesday Writing tips not only cover the art of storytelling, but also shares advice on dealing with your own mental resistance and the limiting mind.

Freelance Switch: the ultimate resource for freelancers in all disciplines,  this site has regular articles on writing, getting and keeping clients.

Lateral Action: I have referred to Mark McGuinness’ work several times in the last year, not least because it’s so damn inspiring. If you’re a creative entrepreneur, and want help staying motivated, managing your time or pushing creative boundaries head to Mark. Lateral Action is particularly special because he’s teamed up with Brian Clark from Copyblogger (above) – a dynamic duo if ever there was one.

Career Renegade: also high up on the inspiration chart is Jonathan Fields site Career Renegade. If you’re a journalist thinking of launching your own startup, and creating your own “renegade career”, for Gods sake, read his book first.

The News Business & entrepreneurship

Directors Blog: since setting up POLIS at the London School of Economics, Charlie Beckett has held conferences and given countless conferences on the future of journalism. He has also influenced the future with his ideas of “networked journalism”; his blog today provides academic insight into journalism in the brave new world.

Headlines and Deadlines: blogging from the frontline of regional press in the UK Alison Gow’s blog has insight surrounded by lots of good links.

Killer Startups: every day 15 new internet startups are posted and critiqued. You won’t find any news ones on here, at least not yet, but it’s a fantastic inspiring resource for anyone thinking of going entrepreneurial.

News Innovation: with the banner “new business models for news” you know this blog is asking the right questions; follow it and you might get the answer. In the meantime, its posted some excellent videos of Jeff Jarvis (see below) explaining why the future of news is entrepreneurship.

BuzzMachine: Jeff Jarvis has emerged as the key proponent of “entrepreneurial journalism” and is leading the way in the classroom with his work at CUNY. His blog explains with passion why the future of news is entrepreneurship. Expect more pioneering ideas from Jeff in 2010.

Online Journalism Blog: one of the best sites for analysis on all things digital, Paul Bradshaw’s blog leans towards the often ignored arena of uncovering, analysing and producing data.

Paul Balcerak: from the US, Paul Balcerak sees the future, and then writes about. He shared some of the most creative uses of video journalism earlier this year, and expertly slams down anyone who is stupid enough to resist the future.

Mashable: in the TechCrunch v Mashable war, I am (after trialling both) firmly with the latter. Techcrunchers slate Mashable for just sharing funny Youtube videos, but it covers the revolution in journalism far better and with a much more positive outlook.

The Media Business: Richard G Picard’s blogs are more like essays, but their insight into business models for journalism is profound, and should be on the reading list of anyone thinking of going entrepreneurial. His articles  in 2009 have been shared on countless blogs.

Design

Design Reviver: unless you’re solely a radio journalist you should really exploit the internet’s fantastic resources for visual inspiration. Design Reviver is one of them, featuring among other things, great wordpress themes and photoshop tutorials.

ISO50: Scott Hansen is not only a talented musician but an exceptional graphic designer who shares his own work and those that inspire him. His retro colours and collages are perfect inspiration, and his taste in music is on the ball.

FFFFound: a must for visual journalists of any kind seeking inspiration. A warning though – you’ll struggle to click through the 100+ marvelous designs and photographs from around the world which will filter into your reader.

Multimedia

4iP: it’s always worth following the latest developments from 4iP towers; they are one of the major funders of public service startups in the UK, and their blog provides a good idea of what the latest developments are – and what they fund.

Duckrabbit’s Blog: Ben Chesterton and David White have shown the rest of us how to do multimedia, especially for non-profit clients. When not producing powerful stories for those without a voice, Ben and David passionately blog about the good, the bad and the ugly of multimedia journalism.

Bombay Flying Club: meanwhile in warmer climes, the three talents of Poul Madsen, Henrik Kastenskov and Brent Foster are producing equally gorgeous content for non-profits all over the world. Their blog acts as a showcase of their beautiful work, and is a great inspiration for anyone.

Innovative Interactivity: Tracy Boyer’s seriously on the ball when it comes to using multimedia and interactivity to tell news stories. Subscribe to her blog and you’ll get thoughtful critiques of some quite amazing work which is paving the way towards the future.

A daily dose of all these blogs have filled my mind with things I never thought possible, and work of superb quality. And there’s already room for more…what blogs do you recommend?

The future of journalism: IN vs OUT

Posted in Journalism by Adam Westbrook on August 5, 2009

The news production process has pretty much always been divided into two parts: input (newsgathering) and output (news production). In the debate about the future of news, is this being forgotton?

For example, my blog post Introducing: the Journalist of the Future focussed, unwittingly, entirely on news output – the way the content will be produced. It mentioned nothing of news gathering. It may be that in the future, these two sides of the coin will be completely separated.

And while the editors and managers engage in a bout of synchronized-head-scratching over how to get us to pay for the output side of news, the input side appears to be generating itself a nice bit of revenue potential.

It’s time to give that area some attention.

new media news gathering

These operations could succeed not because they offer the audience a pre-packaged, scripted and editorialised view of the world; quite the opposite. Their value is in allowing the audience easy access to the raw data. The police statistics, the council decisions, the official documents.

Of course, these are (or should be) accessible to the public anyway, but are often too time consuming to get hold of.  Another characteristic of these operations is they often (although not always) involve some form of crowdsourcing for their success

Three (potentially) successful new-media newsgathering operations

01. Everyblock

Everyblock (in the US only) currently covers a dozen or so cities. It works by providing its audience with critical official data by geographical area. When when I say critical official data, some of it is hard to believe. Residents, and even casual visitors, can see how many 911 calls were made for any particular street and what they were about. They can see every restaurant inspection carried out in Boston, and details of every building permit in Seattle.

Sadly the appalling lack of public information available in the UK means this type of site may not make it to the UK.

02. Help Me Investigate

Just launched in the UK in July, Help Me Investigate is effectively crowd-sourced reporting. Members of the public can suggest issues they want investigated, and other members of the public can help uncover the details; each person does their own little bit. It’s already had a couple big hits in the Birmingham local press.

Again, Help Me Investigate isn’t about sexy audio slideshows or a great package, it’s about public access to raw data.

03. Spot.US

Working along the same theme, Spot.US allows the public to get access to the answers they want. Members of the public suggest stories they want covered, and then a fundraising effort gets underway to pay a professional reporter to get to work. I like this idea because it still gives some currency to the trained journalist and their abilities to uncover the truth.

So what makes these sites different?

They’re all about the information, the data, the evidence. It’s not about finding a new way to produce content; no new ways of shooting video, or unique storytelling device.

And while they might not resemble a newspaper or anything like that, they still provide the same vital public service. These news input projects are one of the first tangibly positive things to emerge from this media revolution.