Journalism by Any Means Necessary – OPEN ’09

Yesterday I spent the morning hanging out in a nightclub, talking about the Future of Journalism™. It was a part of Open 09, a creativity and innovation event organised by the good people at UCLAN in Preston.

Talk about the future of journalism usually seems to revolve around a few big questions:

1.    How do we deal with the shocking pace of change in the industry?
2.    What skills will journalists need in the future?
3.    And (the elephant in the room) how do we fund all this?

We talked around all three in the morning.

For me, question 1 has a really simple answer: Trust in your core values, and improvise the rest by any means necessary.

By Any Means Necessary

Trust in your core values, and improvise the rest by any means necessary.

This is really about staying agile. Agility is essential for any journalist or news organization nowadays. The pace of change in media is famously fast.

A project might get millions of hits if it went live today, but if it takes a few months to come to market, it could be passé or even simply obsolete. But this sort of time scale is normal in TV and magazine production, as well as some interactive projects. Investigative journalism in any medium also operates on this time scale.

So we have a problem. It’s a challenge for an organisation with a big command structure to be fast enough. This goes double when institutional factors become involved, as they often do: company-wide strategies and operating procedures exist for a reason, but they can sometimes delay an otherwise promising project beyond relevance. What’s the answer?

Reinforce your core values, and improvise. Extrapolate from a diamond core of what the organisation is really about.

What is the purpose of the organisation? To be the first to get out the news? To cover one area especially well? To report on a particular issue or subject? Or to reach an entire nation comprehensively? Whatever the core mission is, ignore the SOPs and just do it, by any means necessary.

I know companies don’t work this way – and that’s exactly why they’re having trouble adapting to the pace of change. This is why startups are inherently more flexible than established organisations. It’s not just their size; it’s because they’re new enough that they aren’t beholden to established ways of doing things and corporate procedures – they just get out there and do it, using whatever tools are at their disposal. Their reduced institutional baggage means they can be more agile, amorphous and flexible, and this is a huge advantage. New tools, production techniques and public behaviours are evolving all the time. The advantage goes to whoever can engage and implement them the fastest.

What do you think?

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