Tim Offers The Future For Hope

TIM Soule, a senior journalism student at Liverpool Hope University, gave me a call yesterday to discuss the changing face of newsrooms as part of a 10,000-word dissertation he has to submit for the course.

Having tracked me down through this blog he decided, for whatever reason, that it would be worth asking my opinion on around a
dozen questions he had crafted and was recording in their radio studio.

I was only too happy to help out, remembering my own time at Napier University and the efforts needed to find someone to interview.

And I’m glad I did, because it was a real eye-opener for me too.

The general thrust of my answers were that:

  • yes, I think newspapers will survive in some way shape or form despite the advances in technology;
  • used properly websites and mobile should enhance newspapers by offering differing content from print – free and paid for – not kill them off;
  • provision of technical training is probably better now, but undermined by having fewer experienced heads in newsrooms from cuts to pay for it;
  • management and budgets are the main threats to newspapers as they seek to satisfy shareholders – not technology, online or a
    diminishing newspaper audience;
  • the fundamental role of the news reporter remains the same – to
    gather and provide the facts – regardless of how that information is
    ultimately presented;
  • reporters have always been multi-skilled and have always learned to adapt along the way. Multi-media doesn’t change that;
  • newsrooms will evolve hugely within the next 36-months to become multi-media hubs – central news gathering operation surrounded by
    specialist ‘editors’ to feed the content out in print, web, broadcast and mobile.

Of course this is just my view. I could be right, I could be wrong. Doesn't matter really. Each and every person reading this will have his or her own view, which is one of the great things about this trade. 

We all have an opinion on where it will go.

But listening to Tim’s responses as he quizzed me, I detected that he may have been a little surprised by the tone of some answers.

And his reason was hugely interesting.

The person he had interviewed prior to me has been in the job around 20-months as opposed to my 16-years, and their view
was massively different.

Apparently they believe that newspapers will die, strangled to death by the fibre optic cables that carry the Internet.

They can see no future for print. It will become extinct. A dead parrot.

A new generation of journalists weaned not on a daily diet of smudged ink on the fingers, but RSI of the thumbs.

Those who will never have seen hot lead, subbed on stone, marveled at the presses running, the military style operations
of the distribution teams.

But then again, will they be a generation who’ll casually forget the PCC when needs must and jam their foot on a doorway, rifle through bins, accept a smack in the face knowing it will make a good picture?

Or will they simply be too busy trying to record, shoot, edit and file at the same time to upload their content not knowing if someone at base will be there to check it for facts, style and accuracy?

Perhaps they are the ones who will be proved correct in the long term. 

My own belief is that there will be room for both.

Breaking news, the kind of information that needs updated or becomes stale quickly, made available online and updated with
links, video and comment – much the same way as 24-hr rolling news works on TV.

Then premium content: big reads,
investigations, colour, analysis, images, features, comment, columnists available only to those willing to buy their new look daily newspaper, paid content online, or delivered to their phone.

Phone? Absolutely, a newspaper in your pocket.

While people are still coming to terms with the internet, with Web 2.0 let alone the fact we are now on Web 3.0, how many
fully realise the potential of the humble mobile phone?

And how many of them could be the journalists of tomorrow?

More to the point, how many will still be the journalists of today?

Categories: Media philosophy & trends


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