Society of Editors unite in one message: Go Digital!
Media giants bustled, twittered, and ate Wurther’s originals at the Society of Editors Conference ’08 which took place in Bristol this week – and one word was on everyone’s lips – digital.
Over breakfast journalists discussed Paul Dacre’s accusatory speech the previous evening, and as the working session began on Monday the BBC’s plans to launch a local online video service as well as the opportunities for collaboration and making money online were all causing heated debate.
At the end of day one Jemima Kiss, new media journalist for Media Guardian, said she was impressed by the coverage of online and digital media this year. She was enthusiastic about new HD video gadget, Flip Mino, and eager to see more women represented in journalism conferences such as these.
But digital journalism itself was well represented in reportage with all the main media news companies spinning out stories straight onto websites throughout the day. Journalism.co.uk, Press Gazette, Paul Bradshaw and Jemima Kiss (as well as MediaGuardian) were all tweeting minute-by-minute updates of what each speaker had to say. Our own team also sent regular messages via Twitter – you can see them on the twitter stream grouped together using hashtags here, or using yahoo pipes here.
The beat-blogging and rapid online reports reflected one hotly debated topic – what Pete Clifton, Head of development for the BBC, called “fast-food” journalism: which is all about getting out news as quickly as possible. Paul Horrocks, editor of Manchester Evening News, suggested that new digital outlets sacrifice quality journalism for the price of breaking news sooner. One of the most successful women in the media business, Carolyn McCall, said we do need to think about what we do and how we progress into the future carefully, but there will be risks and hopefully bodies such as the Scott Trust and BBC trust will mean we don’t fall into the trap Mr Horrocks suggested.
Pete Clifton was attacked by Martin Clarke, of the Daily Mail online, for the BBC’s proposed desicion to go regional. Editors worried that small regional news companies would be outdone by the BBC, and would effectively die out by suffocation from a bigger, better news corporations. (Post-post update – BBC seemed to listen to regional editors fear by backing out of their proposals to go local.)
Another speaker of note was Michael Rosenblum, whose animated oration (see Paul Bradshaw’s upload’s here) hopefully kick-started some editors into taking video/audio/digital news platforms more seriously. He danced vivaciously around the conference room, and in harsh American tones hammered home the fact that we should not be so concerned about the tools we are using, but thinking more about getting news to our consumers the way they want it. In a wake-up call for die-hard traditionalists Rosenblum said:
You are in the business of finding stories. Not in the newspaper business. Have the courage to embrace the technology you will not survive without.
Later, BBC Business Editor, Robert Peston, was questioned breifly about breaking news stories on his blog – particularly concerning Northern Rock. He was equally pro-digital, and promoted the idea of blogging breaking news, and then filling out the picture later, with the help of comments. He said:
One of the great advantages of the blog is that you are constantly getting stuff back which allows you to fill out the picture.
This all amounts to one single message from the Society of Editors conference 2008: the future is bright, the future’s digital.