Ivory tower dispatch: It's all about the process
If you don’y know Graham (@noodlepie) then I can recommend checking out his work. He’s based in Kigali, Rwanda where he works as a foreign correspondent/photographer/trainer and publishes the KigaliWire
What make Graham such a great example is the way he integrates digital in to what he does. It isn’t because he is a geek or because he has a ‘business model’ for kigaliwire. It’s because it just makes it easier to do his job and it helps build his brand. You can get an insight in to that from the Kigali Back wire
It couldn’t come at a better time for me as most of my contact with students this week has been about process.
After last weeks conclusion that the basic journalism process was not good enough for the new digital landscape, I talked to the second year students about models that might. Under the broad idea of models and process journalism I looked at Paul Bradshaw’s model for the 21st century newsroom and Charlie Beckett’s (and a bit of Jeff Jarvis’) take on networked journalism.
I also touched on some of the issues thrown up by the changing role of the journalist taking a comment by Charlie on Paul’s model along the lines of ‘doesn’t this make journalists editors’. It’s clear that being closer to the process, more transparent and also a conduit for social media content, instantly published, racks up the pressures.
I left them with some more keywords to think about:
The conversation about process continued with the postgraduate and undergraduate newspaper students who found Grahams lecture both interesting and scary in equal measure. Graham had highlighted a number of platforms he used (pixelpipe, yahoo pipes, tube mogul) to make Kigali wire and other parts of his content distribution (distributed journalism) work. It elicted a ‘Whoa, tech overload’ response from many and one or two pointed out that it doesn’t really scale to Preston does it (Graham made a similar point).
I agree with that sentiment, up to a point. We are often presented with great examples of how new media has made for great journalism. Twitter in Iran, collaborative mapping and reporting round the Palestine/Israel even the growth of Data Journalism. But those who ply a more local beat could feel that it’s all a bit too rarefied.
But I made the point that you could look beyond the platforms and see the process he used and that process (along with the concepts at the heart of all the high-profile examples) was scaleable.
In the end it was a great motivation to look at RSS and some of the other great sites out there that could be included in a journalism process, regardless of where you where. Last week they found out what beats (topics) and patches (geography) they were going to cover this year. So I left them thinking about Beatblogging and, I hope, how they could bring a little Holliday in to how they did it.
All of this marks a bit of a turning point in what I teach from the contextual to the more immediately practical. Next week, for example it’s all about audio. But a guest lecture slot in the Journalism Issues module gave me the chance to consider much broader contexts. But networked journalism wasn’t far behind.
The title I was given was the converged newsroom but I didn’t want to go over the ground I had done with the students in other modules. So I picked a few issues, ideas and themes that I thought had been driven by convergence but would directly impact on the students.
Paying for journalism inevitably meant talking about paywalls which led to talking about the changes to media ownership regulation suggested by Jeremy Hunt as part of the local TV agenda. That led to Hyperlocal which in turn led to devolved government. That led to the accountability (we need local TV to enable people to hold those in power accountable) and so to transparency and data.
It struck me that the sudden boom in government data marks a move to use transparency as accountability. In that respect, if you think data journalism is not important then you are wrong. If you want to hold them accountable (as all journalists should) and data is all you have, then you better know how to work with it.
It needs to be part of your process.
All of which highlights the challenge in what I do. Traditional journalism practice comes with a set process. But what if the world you are supposed to be reporting on changes around you? We can’t say that good journalism will always be good journalism (and in that the way we do it is also ‘good’) because the world and those we hold accountable has changed. If journalism, and the process of it, doesn’t change then it isn’t fit for purpose.
Hopefully in Graham the students saw how it can work.