One of the most enjoyable aspects of my digital world is the transformative creative possibilities it constantly presents. I love the fact that when it comes to creativity, there are no rules. You can try anything, and be anything.
Which is how, I suppose, I came to find myself at a WePublish event on the topic of what the digital revolution has done for journalism.
Journalist? Moi? Well, not on any traditional definition of the term, but in this new universe all things are possible. I write, I blog, I review, I comment… So maybe, just maybe, I fall occasionally into the category of citizen journalist. I have certainly made a serious commitment to blogging, and as panelist Emma Bearman (founder of The Culture Vulture) commented, when taken seriously, such activity does carry with it a moral responsibility to be honest, truthful, and generally maintain integrity. That’s how I see it too.
Anyway, if you leave me out of it, there were other real, indisputable journalistic presences there at the event, and so it was a good opportunity for those of us with more tenuous claims to hear how the professionals have responded to the digital revolution. On the panel alongside Emma were Sarah Hartley, editor of Guardian Local, and Nigel Varley, co-founder of Inside the M60, a local Manchester news and politics blog. It was all efficiently chaired by Adam Westbrook, a freelance multimedia journalist.
There seemed general agreement with Sarah Hartley’s comment that the digital age has opened up great opportunities along with the tools for citizen journalists; it has facilitated a ‘real time ‘ journalism; and not least, it has created “social journalism” with interaction between journalist and reader.
This of course is all exciting stuff for both the aspiring citizen journalist and the creative entrepreneurial journalist. But to make the most of it, the world of journalism has to experiment, innovate and take risks. The recent announcement of the closure of the local Leeds Guardian blog (along with those of Edinburgh and Cardiff) is a more than a shame in this respect. Guardian Local has been a great venture which has accomplished a lot, and it would be a pity if its closure were to be touted as a reason for not attempting further experiments of this sort.
For me this is the essence of what the digital revolution challenges and opportunities are all about. Great innovation and paradigm shifts do not happen without taking risks, and I have commented regularly about the need to recognise failure as a valuable and concomitant part of eventual success. As Sarah Hartley said, if you want big media to experiment and take risks, you have to expect some failures. Quite. But it would be disappointing if no one else tries.
The trouble is that the new generation of young journalists may not have the mindset required to meet the challenge. For me, the most depressing comment of the evening was from the young journalism student who felt what they needed were courses on entrepreneurialism.
Hmmmm. I would be inclined to say less teaching and spoon-feeding required, and more just jumping in there.