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Notes from Cardiff Tomorrow’s Journalists Conference: Blogging love-in, lobby reform, local gloom and blond bombshells

Tomorrow's journalists conference at Cardiff University

Yesterday Cardiff School of Journalism alumni and current students gathered in the Bute Building in Cardiff to hear a broad spectrum of industry professionals give their views on the future of journalism at the Tomorrow’s Journalists Conference 2010.

I was there to take part in the final talk along with the fabulous Hattie Brett from Grazia and Sally Rourke from ITV.

Throughout the rest of the day we were treated to the latest ideas and views from journalists from all fields – looking at all topics from the relationship between Google and the BBC, to political spin, and the uncertain future of S4C. Here are my notes from the day.

Session 1: The challenge of convergence

Convergence is a word often bandied around journalism schools but little talked about on a day to day basis in the industry.

Pete Clifton, head of editorial development in multimedia journalism at the BBC, admitted while there was also much talk of ‘multimedia newsrooms’ few were in fact so.

“You go to many news rooms who talk the multimedia game but there’s actually nobody responsible for it.”

He advised today’s budding journos to get as many skills as they could o the course – because he’s more likely to employ someone who is more flexible across all platforms.

Concerning ‘citizen journalism’ Clifton said editors are still needed to ‘sort through what’s online’.

Clifton highlighted mobile and liveblogging breaking news events – such as this week’s Chilean miners updated page – as future developments and also talked about the new expansion of the BBC’s office in London (the size of two double decker buses).

Next up was Peter Barron from Google – former editor of newsnight.

“We are right in the middle of the biggest media revolution, but you ain’t seen nothing yet,” he began.

The web-enabled phone is about to change everything, he said. He spoke of Google News and its ability to refer searchers to news websites – explaining Google are in talks with Murdoch on how to make this work for news which goes behind a paywall, not wanting to exclude any news operations making money in different ways.

Barron highlighted David Cohn from Spot.us and Lauren Luke’s vlogging makeup videos as sprouting online ventures making money.

Finally Barron introduced the idea of Google TV – moving from the phenomenon of watching programmes on your laptop to having a special Google set box which allows you to search programmes and watch them with the quality of a tv experience.

Nick Brett from BBC Magazines spoke positively about the future of magazines – so often branded the dying trade.

Again he expressed the need for journalism students to be flexible but still pressed a need for editors to ‘sift through the internet’.

Analysis:

During questions, Andrew Marr’s damning review of bloggers (spotty, angry people) was brought up. Clifton, quite frankly, said many of the BBCs blogs weren’t well written or properly maintained by staff – and therefore weren’t worth the effort – with the writers not following up comments or engaging. ‘If you never go back to look at comments you are selling the audience short,’ he said.

All in all, however, like ‘multimedia newsrooms’ there was a lot of talk of engaging with readers online and ‘love for bloggers and citizen journalists’ with no real substance and examples of doing so. Brett said he ‘loved the idea everyone is a journalist and a publisher’ but in his talk he impressed the need for editors to ‘sift through the internet’ and later said he didn’t blog or use Twitter. The telltale signs of an underlying reluctance to fully engage with readers and the tone of speech behind talk of ‘citizen journalists’ said it all.

Session Two: Digital spin and the 2010 election

BBC senior correspondent Ben Brown interviewed Simon Lewis, the ‘suave and slinky’ former spokesman for Gordon Brown.

Lewis’s main point, agreed with by old lobby chairs in the audience, is that it is dated and in dire need of reform.

“As an institution it’s out of date,” he said. “There’s such a wide difference between the way politics is reported and the mind set of Westminster, I just wonder that the system has not caught up.”

Lewis described the blame culture in Westminster as being ‘quite toxic,’ and defended Gordon Brown amidst the ‘personalised attacks from the Sun’. He said: “That personalised nature of reporting cannot be helpful.”

Overall the feeling was the lobby needs to catch up with journalism – there were no women nor pure bloggers in the morning press conferences at Westminster and it’s shocking this hasn’t moved with the times.

Session Three: Does regional news have a future?

Speakers at Journalism conference 2010

This session should’ve been called ‘the past of local journalism’ for its nostalgic melancholy feel.

The only man giving a positive slant on the future of local journalism was Alan Edmunds, editor of the Western Mail and publishing director at Media Wales. Edmunds was keen to signify the future was ‘multimedia’.

He also said the only way newspapers were to survive was to continue the love-in with advertisers by selling a very focused and targeted audience. And yet, in contradiction, he pressed the importance of expanding the paper’s reach via social media. How he will manage to find a more focused and geographically targeted audience while expanding on the web, where demographics and geographical targets are blown out of the water, he didn’t explain.

“We love our website as much as our newspapers,” Edmunds said. “We are responding to what the readers and users say they want, and it’s just as important that we respond to advertisers in the same way and we need a very targeted audience.”

Edmunds also said he would be willing to guide readers to content from hyperlocal publishers through curation of content – and offered students to have their own future hyperlocal content taken for free. Regarding local reporters being more and more tied to their desk, Edmunds replied:

“I think it’s very true to say the nature of the job has changed. We do go to court and council less, The ways councils are reported, people don’t want that now.”

Ron Jones from Tinopolis brought a gloomy cloud over the conference, telling students: “The entire industry you are moving into is under long term threat,” – thanks Ron, very helpful stuff.

Blond bombshell brigade

The final session – ‘Tomorrow’s Journalists Today’ was a complete contrast to its forerunner. But before the session began Rodney Pinder – director of the International News Safety Institute announced a new online initiative to record the data of all journalists attacked abroad – read more here.

Myself, Hattie Brett from Grazia and Sally Rourke from ITV, gave enthusiastic and exciting talks on the ways which the ‘future of journalism’ is playing out actually in the real world today. I didn’t take notes on this session as I was speaking. But I’d fully recommend you to check out a bit more about Sally and Hattie.

Overall students seemed to leave the conference feeling inspired and uplifted – as did Alex Thompson who chaired our session. See a Tweetdoc from the event here. My final word might be ‘the futures bright, the futures blond…’🙂

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  1. […] Journalists Conference in Cardiff – see the conference tweet doc. (I got this link from Hannah’s blog – which has a nice summary of the day’s events […]


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