The piece also has views from The Sun’s Graham Dudman and offers a nice insight in to the way they handle the digital transition in the newsroom.
As an extra bonus, it runs alongside a story about the Lancashire Evening Post newsroom – fast becoming the poster child for digital integration.
Here’s what I said to Graham in full:
Without fail, the overriding concern of people engaging with digital stuff is time. But a lot of that concern comes less from the realities of the job and more from badly managed expectations.
There seems to be a general feeling in the industry that anything new equates to ‘just one more thing’. It’s piled on top of the existing stuff. Part of the problem here is that there often isn’t that expectation. Managers don’t really know what it is that they want and are simply tooling the journos up with the skills to be able to tell them. Its the industries emotionally stunted way of inviting everyone in for a conversation on where it goes with this stuff.
Of course there is always the problem that, for many, digital means more for less. So I’m not dismissing the legitimate concerns that journos have about doing more for less. But if it is going to work more kit or training needs to go hand-in-hand with a change of cultures.
The places that digital has worked as a new strand to the newsroom are those that did a lot of hearts and minds stuff before the kit landed or the training started.
Communicate clearly about what is expected and what will happen in return. Sounds simplistic I know but a lot of people both journo’s and managers are just falling back on those time honored traditions of them and us.
On a more practical note I would suggest play time. Everyone in the office gets a few hours – even if that’s once every month – to experiment. Say to them: ‘here is a list of how-to’s and self-paced stuff on starting a blog, using rss or creating a slideshow. Go and have a go’.
I’ve yet to see that as a coherent approach in the industry but I am seeing an effort to give people some space to try new stuff work on an individual level. That’s going to be to everyones benefit.
We’ve seen that work at an editor level. We take groups of editors and over the week look at the impact of digital across the range of what they do. Marketing, editorial, multimedia. The works. After that week they go back enthused. They have tasted what’s possible. And often thats all it takes. A little time to see the possibilities and put some shape on the unknowns. I suppose in the model of a training course it falls in to the definition of ‘structured play’ but it’s playtime none the less.It’s a week where they get that free time to think – it makes all the difference.
That’s how I’m trying to approach teaching this new stuff.
I was once asked at a conference that if I was going to teach basic video editing all journo students ‘what was going to go’. I was genuinely at a loss to answer that question. The improvements in technology means that you can spend a small amount of time teaching students how to use the kit and more enthusing them about the form of journalism. Not just digital journalism but journalism full stop. Storytelling. The nice thing about education is that everyone has time to study on their own. Playtime is almost built in.
I want the students to look at a digital camera in the same way that they look at a pen and pad. I want them to see a video editing or slideshow app as the same thing as microsoft word – just a tool.
So for me nothing has to go for the student other than the expectation that it will all happen in the dedicated class time. My job is to make them feel like it is worth investing in in personal study time. An ivory tower version of that hearts and minds stuff. All that has to go is that old expectation that we cannot do it any other way.
Kudos to Graham for finding something useful in there.