Adam Westbrook // ideas on digital storytelling and publishing

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.


When Twitter met the Daily Mail

Posted in Broadcasting and Media, News and that by Adam Westbrook on January 11, 2009

A bit of a mini-row developing in the Twitter-sphere over the weekend, one which raises some interesting questions about the behaviour of social networking sites.

Last week, a Twitter username was registered: dailymail_uk.

It wasn’t an official twitter for the right-wing UK newspaper, but a spoof, with tweets like:

“Revealed! Santa’s 3-in-a-bed romp with Tooth Fairy and Jesus. Pictures on Page 42”

“DID MMR JAB KILL DIANA? Prince Philip implicated in cover-up”

As the mysterious person behind it has just written on their new blog, the number of followers shot up to more than 800 pretty quickly.

But then Twitter changed the account name and password…without telling the user.

They write:

“I checked, double checked and – for the hell of it – triple checked all my inboxes, labels, spam folders and deleted items. There was no sign of twitter sending me any notification as to when or wherefore they had disabled my account.”

Twitter’s response:


We did send out the following notification yesterday. Did you check your spam folder?

We received a letter from the Associated Newspapers Limited, part of the Daily Mail & General Trust Plc, legal adviser, regarding Trademark violation and impersonation.”

Twitter then changed the username to “notdailymail_uk

On the outset it looks like Twitter responded pretty sharpish to the complaint from the Associated Newspapers lawyers.  But is it right you can have your name and password changed without being asked first?

Ultimately the control does lie with the websites, and we all agree to that when we register. But somehow it seems there’s something a bit sinister about it.

But then, I do hate the Daily Mail.