Adam Westbrook // ideas on digital storytelling and publishing

Journalism: what are you best at?

Posted in Next Generation Journalist by Adam Westbrook on May 10, 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.

02. specialise in a single journalistic skill

The news production machine is a complicated beast with dozens of cogs needed to turn a story around; as well as reporters, subs, producers and editors, there’s increasing demand for data experts, infographic designers, fact checkers, and investigators.

For the Next Generation Journalist, this isn’t about becoming a cog in a bigger machine, but exploiting one of those cogs by becoming really good at it, and then using that as a basis for a business.

It’s not even a new idea if you consider how companies like Reuters and the Press Association have specialised in the gathering of information for more than a century; court reporters can be viewed in the same way, building a speciality in covering legal cases.

But the digital age has led to the creation of new skills, all of which can be turned into businesses for the forward thinking journalist.

Specialising in a particular journalism process…

  • allows you to focus in on your real passion in news & eliminate the things you’re less interested in
  • means you can build yourself a reputation as an expert in a profitable part of the news machine
  • lets you work as a self-employed freelancer for a range of clients, letting you be your own boss

There are plenty of business models you can build around this idea – from being a data miner (think Michelle Minkoff), or a data artist (think Drawnalism and NewsInfographics) to an expert in Freedom of Information requests (think HelpMeInvestigate) and investigations (think the Investigative Journalism Bureau).

Don Foley went freelance as a news graphic designer in the 1990s and is now sought by editorial and corporate clients for his work.

“The biggest benefit is freedom” he says, “I walk on the beach every day I ride my bike to my boat and fit my work into my life. I once too my family cruising on our boat for a year, working the whole time and many clients didn’t know unless I told them.”

The difficult part here is burrowing down to what really gets you going in journalism. Is it writing? Filming? Editing? Subbing? You need to know this about yourself before you continue.

Interested? Find out how to do it!

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Ideas 003: event based reporting

Posted in Ideas for the future of news by Adam Westbrook on December 4, 2009

I’ve opened up a new category on the blog. It’s called Ideas for the future of news and here I’m  collating good, tangible, positive, innovative ideas on how journalism can move forward.

Previous articles:

Ideas 002: students as investigators

Ideas 001: the news aggregator

Idea: The Berlin Project

By: Alex Wood, Sheena Rossiter, Marcus Gilroy-Ware, Dominique Van Heerden, Marco Woldt

The five people behind the Berlin Project are the perfect example of young journalists refusing to be battered by economic storms, or waiting for journalism to sort itself out. When many recent graduates would have been preparing themselves for another 3-week unpaid internship at some dodgy music mag, or scouring the papers for PR jobs, these guys decided to go do some journalism instead.

It takes a fair bit of chutzpah to fly yourself out to Germany to cover the Berlin Wall anniversary with no real audience and not much financial backing. But they did, and you can see the results on their website.

Under the banner “journalism like you never thought possible” they went into Berlin under the radar covering the unofficial story. The site is a real multimedia mash too with audio, video packages, mobile video and photographs rolled into one.

Something lots of the big boys talk about all the time, but rarely produce themselves.

This aside, I’ve labelled the Berlin Project as an example of event-based reporting, a different angle on journalism, and one perhaps with commercial possibilities?

The Berlin Project was about one event, and offering in-depth coverage of that time defined moment. It is nothing new of course, we’re all used to ‘special coverage’ of the Olympics, elections, and remembrance services in the mainstream media.

But until now, they’ve been an extension of larger broadcasters or papers.

I think the advantage of the Berlin Project is its size (small, nimble) and therefore flexibility. They were also able to work cheaply, getting footage on iPhones and editing it quickly with iMovie. All told, a valuable alternative to mainstream coverage.

And I wonder for a second whether there’s a business model here too? Imagine being commissioned to cover all sorts of awesome events, because its what you do really well. It’s not a traditional niche, but hey- a niche is a niche right?

The Berlin Project team were able to get backing from Reuters  and do some business with smaller sites and Alex reckons they’ll break even, all told. Not bad for a pilot project. And there could be plans for more events coverage in 2010.

And even if you don’t like the idea, these guys have shown what’s possible when you just get off your ass and do something.

Call centre journalism

Posted in Uncategorized by Adam Westbrook on February 4, 2007

For some, there’s nothing more frustrating than calling a UK helpline only to find the call directed to India. It’s something we’ve all come to expect from the big banks and insurance companies.

But the news agencies? Surely not.

So I was surprised to read an article on BBC News Online about the internationally respected Reuters news agency outsourcing it’s Wall Street financial coverage…to Bangalore.

The latest financial information from the trading floors in New York will now get to the business people who need it in New York (and London, Paris, Berlin etc) via India.

Like our beloved call centres, the sub continent outsourcing is for financial reasons. So is the largest financial news agency in the world becoming a cheap skate?

David Schlesinger, Editor-in-Chief of Reuters says he could hire a hundred Indian journalists without firing a single one in his New York office. He told the BBC:

“Now we can send our New York journalists out to do more interesting stories. This is good for our business and good for journalism.”

Maybe so; if the journalists in Bangalore are trained to the same standards then there’s no worry. Perhaps its another example of the ever shrinking world that this information can go out before it comes back in.

“I encourage them to read the NY Times and Wall St Journal online every day.”

And if it allows more quality journalism to go ahead then I ain’t complaining. I just won’t be calling the Reuters helpline anytime soon.  

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Somalia: state of emergency

Posted in Uncategorized by Adam Westbrook on January 13, 2007

Interesting snap just in from Reuters:

BAIDOA, Somalia, Jan 13 (Reuters) – Somalia’s parliament on Saturday declared a state of emergency for three months in order to restore security in the country after several weeks of open warfare ousted rival Islamists, an official said.

“A three-month state of emergency has been passed. If need arises for the government to extend the period then the president will have to ask parliament for approval,” second deputy speaker Osman Elmi Boqore told parliament.

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