Archive for December 2008

We’ve Come a Long Way (Baby)

December 17, 2008

It was either a fluke or a very clever choice on Glyn’s behalf to put Rory Cellan Jones’s ‘From Typewriter to Twitter’ lecture as the last of the online lectures.

I feel that in my first term at Cardiff University, this phrase sums up my progress exactly. Obviously I was slightly more advanced than the typewriter stage when I walked in the doors of the Bute building way back in September, but when I look at what I’ve learned and experienced since then, I feel this symbolises the online breakthrough I have (just about) achieved.

Rory compared the news of the eighties with the news we get now. We watched as a very lovely woman with very dodgy hair read her story. The breaking news of the morning was accompanied by a photograph from the scene and a voiceover relaying the facts. What a long way we have come.

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We now get our news, not only from reporters, but from ordinary people. People who are there at the scene as we witness, second by second, what is happening right in front of them, more or less direct to our TV screens.

Yesterday, I was listening to the audio of one of our past lectures, when we were shown a clip from 9/11. From the first seconds of the audio, I recognised it without having to see the images. My hair stood on end and shivers went down my spine. All of this was before the plane even hit the tower, but in my head, the scene played through my mind, the way it has done thousands of time since that epic moment when the world changed forever.

This is how iconic the sounds and images of these events have become and how important these eyewitness accounts are for delivering news. Before, the question was – “How soon can we get a reporter out there?” Now it’s – “Who is already there that can send us footage?”

Moments after the Mumbai terrorist attacks, Twitter suddenly exploded with messages, and for most of us, these were the first reports we recieved.

As Jeff Jarvis reported in MediaGuardian on Dec 1: “The witnesses are taking over the news. That will fundamentally change our experience of news…Such will be our new view of news: urgent, live, direct, emotional, personal.”

We are getting first-hand reactions to what people are seeing, hearing and feeling through platforms like Twitter. I remember back in the good old innocent and ignorant days of ‘techno wenchdom’ (see blog, ‘Would All Citizen Journalists Please Stand Up‘), I thought Twitter was nothing more than a souped-up version of a Facebook status bar. How wrong I was.

I had a look back at my very first Twitter feed. This is what it said:

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This was pretty much my mindset when I started this course. “I’m just here to write,” I protested to Glyn week after week, until slowly but surely what he was saying started to sink in and make sense.

I started following more and more people on Twitter and even started Twittering myself from time to time. I even tweeted from the Society of Editors conference in Bristol and started reading my news via Twitter. The fact that the verb ‘tweet’ is even part of my vocabulary speaks volumes. Next time I am home I shall definitely inform my parents I am going upstairs to tweet, just to see their reaction.

A perfect example of how far I’ve come over this first semester is what my Twitter says today:

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Yesterday, I interviewed someone using an N95. When I post this blog I will start to edit this interview using iMovies. At the beginning of this course I thought an N95 was a motorway.

Rory Cellan Jones talked about the convergence of media and how we are using more and more platforms to get our news across. Again he compared the eighties with the present day and the differences were clear. Print journalists must now be more than print journalists. They must be able to shoot and edit video and audio and use these to compliment their stories. Newsrooms aren’t just producing newspapers, they are producing online versions. Newspaper offices have to cope with that by moving into new newsrooms. ‘New Newsrooms for Old’,  is what they called it at the Society of Editors conference.

This week the Guardian moved into their new offices in Kings Place.

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The Daily Telegraph has long been hailed for its ‘hub and spokes’ office, and, at a closer level, Media Wales moved their offices to follow in this trend of a more converged and interactive newsroom, where everyone can work together across all platforms.

To go back to what Alan Rusbridger and Peter Preston said: “It’s the beating heart of the journalism that counts, not the bricks and mortar.”

It doesn’t matter what way news is delivered – be it through Twitter, a newspaper, a website, a blog, a TV screen – or where it has been produced. It’s the story, what is written, the journalism that counts.  I protested so wholeheartedly at the beginning that I was just here to write, and fundamentally I am. But now I will be complimenting and expanding my words with images, video and audio.

I do like to Twitter, and I will shoot and edit a video, as long as it produces a good story that speaks to my audience. And that, for me, is what journalism is all about. See, I have come a long way.