Sunday, January 14, 2007

The BBC is on to it

This is another Digital Journalism offering. Meet Nigel Paine, the main guy who teaches the BBC's 27,000 employees what they need to know. He's decided they need to know about wikis, podcasting and blogs. Here's a talk from him about how the BBC uses these tools to inform itself internally and externally. This is more about journalists inside an organization using these tools to share information. You'll find it here.

The talk (about 20 minutes) plays on Realplayer or Windows media, but I needed to hit the button that looks like the globe and download it onto my desk top to listen to it. Both in my multimedia reporting class at Berkeley, and now in my digital journalism class at Stanford, the BBC is coming across as basically having its act together, big time. Their drive to share what they know is applauded among multimedia journalists. This goes for their journalism as well as explaining how they get there.

Digital journalists do it differently

Here's an Italian journalist who's started an online news website. In "A New Media Tells Different Stories" Bruno Guissani tries to close the gap between what we used to do, and what the new job is. This appeared in a peer-reviewed journal on the Internet called First Monday and is a current reading in Digital Journalism, a class I'm taking this quarter from Howard Rheingold, author of "Smart Mobs."

Here's a taste from Bruno's piece:
"A journalist with little online experience tends to think in terms of stories, news value, public service, and things that are good to read, points out Melinda McAdams in her excellent account of the making of the Washington Post online venture. But a person with a lot of online experience thinks more about connections, organization, movement within and among sets of information, and communication among different people

"The newspaper is no longer a product. It becomes a place. A place where people from the community stop by, make contacts and come back again to build a common future."
And this:
"The relationship between us and our readers becomes less clear in its definition yet stronger by its need. Answering your readers' e-mail as well as opening forums for debates or chat rooms on Web sites are the first steps in developing what I call a community: a group of people who identify with a certain newspaper not only because it provides news but because it allows connections, a space for sharing ideas and developing solutions. As Katherine Fulton writes, Content is people as well as information, and I fully agree.

"With this in mind, facts and information can circulate without interference and without the journalist acting as a filter. He will have to give up part of the power he used to have - based on his competence as well as on his position. The role of the journalist is changing into a more central figure, a mediator. He directs traffic, explores, becomes a facilitator of discussions. His new power will depend on his ability to animate a group of people, to develop methods and means to enliven the community, to organize information-gathering and use with the participation of the members of the community."

Seth Familian

I spent a week in December at UC Berkeley's multimedia reporting workshop for mid-career journalists. We worked from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. for five days. While building multimedia projects, we listened to speakers. Seth Familian was one, a 2nd year grad student from Berkeley's business school who has worked for Faith Popcorn's BrianReserve. Why point him out? He got the room so fired up that after working all day on our projects, we forced him to have beers with us until the wee hours. I'd describe him as catalytic. His message to us was a talk he's given a few times to newspaper editors. It's "who is the new digital audience." He describes his Web site as "anticipating the future of news in an age of digital connectivity." You will find it here.

Once there, check out [clips] where you can listen to:
  • Make it easy to use. The first is a 6-minute talk telling newspaper editors at the 2006 ASNE conference in Seattle that the ease of use of their Web sites is extremely important. What's Google's 54-word rule? Bottom line, if it isn't seamless for the consumer, she'll click away.
  • Who is the digital audience? The second talk is about 20 minutes and has a little power point you can watch while you listen. This is a talk given to the San Francisco Chronicle staff in 2006 about who the new audience is, and how to get in the game. This is worth viewing because it will introduce you to some sites you may not know.
Next, still on Seth's page, go to [links], where you'll get a tour to some sites organized very visually.
  • Under [content visualization] check out Phylotaxis and wefeelfine and Marumushi Newsmap. Pretty soon you get the feeling that straight and orderly lines of text on an opening Web page don't cut it anymore.
  • The New York Times is paying attention. My Times Reader is still in beta and is a way to view The New York Times online in a modular format, instead of scrolling down (and scrolling and scrolling.) That consumer experience, again.

Maybe this will help

Stomach-churning change. It's everywhere.

I've been out of the line of fire, down here at the John S. Knight Fellowship at Stanford since September. I'll be here through June. It's a free year at this university for 20 mid-career journalists to study anything and everything. ( Here is where you apply. The deadline is February 1. If not this year, some year; it's way too good not to try for.)

One of my goals down here, besides getting tan and drinking Napa/Sonoma valley wines, was to catch up on changes in journalism. More than an update, it's turned into a tumble down the rabbit hole. Blogs, wikis, social tagging, pro-am (professional journalists working with citizen journalists), multimedia reporting and publishing. Feel your temples throbbing?

My aim is to share useful links and resources with ADN colleagues. Some links are practical. Some links are gee-whiz. Some are out-there conceptual takes on the Creative Commons (the Internet) and the battle over who will run it. I'll give a short description of what you'll find at a link, and the link itself. I welcome additions from anyone.

Daily journalists are so damn busy, they hardly have time to look up and sniff the wind. This can help: an ad hoc guide to the changing landscape, with links to tools to help navigate it. That's the spirit in which it's offered. Whether you work for a news organization or go out on your own, the state of our work is changing radically. You need new tools, new skills. You've already got the experience. Combine both, and you're invincible.

In the meantime, I'll keep trying to soak up what I can and post it here. It's all new to me, too.