Friday, 27 June 2008

Networks and Journalism

It's six months this week since I started spreading myself over the internet's social sites in an attempt to shift my analogue brain up a gear.
I came home from a TM Leaders course last January shocked by my ignorance of Web 2.0 opportunities, and determined to do something about it. It started as a mild Twitter habit and has become an all pervading part of my life; one that has had an incredibly positive effect on my ability to do my job.

Contacts on my networks point me - either intentionally or as part of wider community sharing - at blog posts, sites, information streams and applications I would never have found out about on my own. I made a powerpoint recently and e-Grommet suggested I try it out on Slideshare, which I'd heard of but never used. As a result of joining that, and sharing information about myself and my interests, I found a real wealth of knowledge, including this great presentation about how how to understand the post Web 2.0 world which states, very neatly, the importance of networks.

Online networks, for me, offer a glimmer of hope for the survival of mainstream journalists - if we are just prepared to get out, get involved and share. These sites are the best way of reaching a worldwide network of experts and commentators (blogs, vlogs, podcasts, homepages), disgrunted whistle-blowers (forums, blogs) and potential readers. They let us market ourselves, our surveys and our stories, crowdsource, make eye-contact with people and ask them a question (I love Seesmic for this).

I was reading Adam Tinsworth's One Man and His Blog this week for his take on how the media gets the whole 'community' thing wrong. It's a great post and I've bookmarked it because I know I'll want to re-read it - and share it.

I find our little locked-off world deeply frustrating. Mainstream journalism is like a hunter-gatherer hugging all the food to itself and dispensing it grudgingly, then expecting everyone else to share during the lean times.
And the sad thing is, it's not deliberate. There aren't many journalists who make a concientous decision to closet themselves away and be spoon-fed stories; they just wind up in this situation because there is no time. There's no time to experiment, learn or even explore things online.

I'm always checking my networks at work; it isn't a question of not having that enough to do - I'm always juggling myriad deadline-orientated tasks. What I do is snatch moments to visit networks and see what experts are discussing, what links they have found that might help me, and what is going on in the world beyond the enclosing walls of my office - and my own head.

So, six months in and I'm still learning, still getting things wrong, still loving this whole social media thing. I've made good friends, new contacts, had amazing, interesting conversations with people on the other side of the world whom I will never meet face-to-face, and whose support and feedback I value.

Journalism is a huge part of my life and it pains me to fall out with it but right now so many people in journalism are nodding at the right places while secretly wishing the interet would just go away. I don't know where our industry is heading but I know that ultimately it will have to be a vastly different beast - leaner, wiser and (whisper it) a bit more respectful to social networks.
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