19 November 2009

How new technology creates "conversational journalism"

A discussion into how much the average journalist’s working day has changed has been highlighted by the Freelance Unbound blog.

It has provided excerpts and a video of Reed Business Information editorial development director Karl Schneider’s (pictured) talk to journalism students at UCA Farnham where he compares the daily work of a “cutting edge, web-aware” journalist to one of five years ago.

Taking a typical type of story, for example a crime, he talked about how, back then, most of the work involved - calling contacts, news conferences, web browsing - was never seen by the audience, likening it to an iceberg – you only see the tip.

Now, not only are journalists working in a different way, the audience is able to read and respond to news items much more quickly. Schneider points out how journalists communicate more, particularly through the use of Twitter.

The website quotes Schneider as saying: “As [journalists] come across pieces of information, if they think it would be useful for the audience to hear it, it’s trivially easy – you can do it in seconds. If they’ve got a bit of information, why hold on to it – why wait until they’ve got five more bits and constructed it into a complete story? Why not publish the bit of information now?”

He uses the case study of Farmers Weekly which used its user forum to confirm a story of a recent outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease, providing further information and gaining feedback from the readers, creating what he calls a “conversational journalism”.

The journalist’s day, the report says, is now a continuous conversation with the audience – with some lumps of more structured forms. What looks like a lot of extra work, is actually less because of the speed of social media.

The journalistic work you would do anyway, says the blog, is now exposed to public view allowing feedback and interaction.

Says Schneider: “Imagine you’ve got your reader on your shoulder – think about what they want to know. With the web you virtually have. You can ask them what they want to know; they can tell you what information they need.”

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