Monday, October 13, 2014

10 things I have just learned about journalism

I HAVE now finished a seven-week romp around Ireland, both north and south, helping nearly 70 journalists come to terms with the latest way of working.
I reminded them that I started work in the days of hot metal - "Hot, smelly, dangerous - and that was just the newsroom!" - which now looks like a museum exhibit, and that far from being wary and suspicious they should embrace the latest technology and concentrate on what they do best.
And what they do is journalism at its best: find stories, talk to people, write quickly and clearly. It's the message rather than the medium, as Marshall McLuhan famously didn’t say, so don't worry about pressing the right keys on the computer but concentrate on asking the right questions.
Here are my Top 10 takeaways:
  1. Journalism is still fun: From chasing stories with headline-grabbing national significance to crafting a brief from submitted mumbo-jumbo most people loved most of it most of the time.
  2. Journalists are still fun: They laughed, they cried, they took the mickey, they lunched, they drank, they worked hard…and they had fun.
  3. Editors still inspire, lead, defend and challenge: I met some wonderful people performing courageously as the increasingly thin filling in a sandwich between the journalists and management/advertising. Didn’t always get the recognition or support they deserved but never flinched from doing things the right way.
  4. There's life in the old dogs: A good proportion of the ‘trainees’ were of more mature years. Yes, folks, from my generation. But after chuckling at my hot metal memories they threw themselves at the digital era task in hand and often turned in better work than the so-called computer generation.
  5. Journalism education and training is valued: While I can sign up to a certain amount of “Journalists are born, not made” it was interesting to see that those with some exposure to teaching and training generally fared better.
  6. Integrity is alive and well: get a bunch of journalists in a room in 2014 and it’s not long before the conversation strays into ethical considerations or more likely: Would you do that? And mostly, the answer was: No
  7. We have headline acts: I love teaching headlines; it brings out the best in people and gives instant gratification to those who listen to the simple instructions.
  8. Upstairs…: The ‘Management’, however you care to define that, were largely caring, committed people doing a difficult job in trying circumstances with compassion and consideration.
  9. Downstairs…: The support staff we have all grown to know and love, from Ernie the cleaner to Sid on security, are disappearing faster than the journalists. Now we’re all our own secretary/cleaner/security.
  10. And on the Tenth Day God begat digital… 

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