Guardian offers insight into journalism

I couldn’t have picked a more interesting day to attend a workshop at the Guardian Newspaper than last Friday.

The day was designed for teachers and lecturers to meet Guardian journalists and find out more about ‘how a national news media organisation works’. However the previous night the News of the World was closed by Rupert Murdoch as a result of the investigative journalism of Nick Davis of the Guardian. This provided both a very dramatic backdrop to the day, and an illustration of the fundamental shifts taking place in the UK media landscape. Print journalism is in some trouble and web based news is becoming an increasingly important channel for reporting ranging from mainstream newspapers, to independent blog based organisations such as the Huffington post through to individual bloggers.

We met many journalists throughout the day who were very generous with their time on such a dramatic news day and the overwhelming impression was of a set of people who were incredibly enthusiastic and committed to their work. We were introduced to investigative journalism, feature writing and the editing of newspaper sections and magazines, and we conducted an interview and wrote a feature.

The existing business models for newspapers based on sales and advertising are no longer delivering good enough results, and it is unclear as yet what the new business models are going to be. Some papers, mainly specialist, are erecting paywalls, but many don’t want to move in this direction.

The advent of social networking has challenged traditional models of journalism which saw the journalist as a skilled professional whose role was to provide information and interpretation for the reader. The idea of user-generated content has now become a significant part of the news landscape generating many difficult questions about accountability, authority, etc. Tracy McVeigh, Chief Reporter from the Observer talked about the need for a journalist to be an authoritative and professional source whilst the Head of Culture at the Guardian, Georgina Henry, talked about the need to build engagement with readers and users and the challenge this presented to journalists. David Leigh, Executive Editor, Investigations for the Guardian described the task of coping with the vast amount of information that became available to them through Wikileaks, and how the flow of information is now ‘unstoppable’ and we need to learn to live with that. This has led to the Guardian developing the capacity and tools to derive meaningful narratives from these enormous flows of information and data.

The Guardian is about to engage in a ‘major transformation’ called ‘Digital first’. ‘The Guardian’s editor-in-chief, Alan Rusbridger, has said that the newspaper needed ‘to embrace an “open” digital philosophy in which it embraced contributions from beyond the ranks of its own journalists…’

The journalists gave us insights into their previous experience and advice for budding journalists, and they have produced a useful set of resources for journalistic writing. The day helped clarify some of the issues faced by those of us in the world of education when we are trying to disseminate work and engage readers.

Whilst we have already developed some innovative approaches to journalism in the specialist world of educational technology, I felt the workshop confirmed my thinking about how online journalism can enable us to reach a wider and more diverse audience, and help us to make sense of the huge volume of work that has been done in this area.

It was a really great and thought provoking day.

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