Yesterday evening the Social Media Journalists had a tour of the amazing Guardian offices in in Kings Cross with the amazing Benji Lanyado. So many things suprised me. For starters, I felt there were twice as many people in twice as much space as I thought there was going to be (the Guardian and Observer employ 630 journalists). I just didn’t know that it was going to be that big. Also from the ergonomic office chairs, to the bright designer cafe, to the sumptuous meeting rooms it was alot more opulent than I was expecting too! And er, I guess I was also suprised by what a genuinely exciting place it was – even though everything goes online before it’s in the paper now, it’s still quite magical looking at the real physical paper being laid out.. and sitting in meeting rooms which on a daily basis are visited by world leaders, nobel prize winners and media moguls.
I guess that made what Benji explained to us quite surprising – the Guardian is still in peril. Although revenues from the Guardian’s digital products are rising – they aren’t making up for the loss of revenue in print. This is an organisation in transition and importantly for young aspiring journalists this means several things. First, The Guardian is increasingly seeing itself as an aggregator and sign-poster to other peoples views, opinions and reporting. The message was clear to the SMJs – if you want to get into the Guardian, you have to start reporting now, that reporting has to be reporting that nobody else is doing, and it has to be something that you are passionate about. Second, (although persistence is important) you can’t sell yourself to the Guardian newsdesk – chances are, if you’re worth something to the Guardian, they will find you. Third, the future of the Guardian is all about ‘digital’ – if you want to be a journalist of the future, you have to think about ways that your news can be experienced in places and in ways that we haven’t even conceived of yet. As Benji says – ‘it’ll pop out of the toaster, burnt on to your toast’.
There wasn’t time for that many questions, but I guess the ones i wanted to ask were. 1. If people who work in news organisations are ‘aggregators, signposters and curators’, does that mean that they aren’t journalists anymore and if so what have we lost? 2. Do the experts that the Guardian draws on get paid, or should they just be grateful to be signposted to? 3. Are there really a hoard of independent enthusiasts out there doing the kind of reporting we expect to see in our newspapers – aren’t there just alot of people reporting about (a) not very serious i.e. things – sport, hobbies, culture or (b) just people offering their views on serious issues.
Here’s a video of Benji talking about how social media has changed his writing: useful. Oh, and check out ‘The Deadline’ on the Iplayer if you’re interested in a take on the future of another newspaper.