Friday, 21 January 2011

The Leaving of Liverpool

The Liver Building, Liver Birds"Farewell to Prince's Landing Stage
River Mersey, fare thee well"*

 So that's it - I am a Liverpool Daily Post and Echo staffer no more. After countless news conferences, telephone calls from people who start their conversation "Wori'is,is..." and cups of coffee, I have cleared my desk drawers and turned in the company N97.

In 1996 I joined my first daily, the Gloucester Citizen, and was told I was replacing someone who had Gone To The Liverpool Echo. That was the first inkling I had that this was an aspirational thing. So I investigated further and discovered that not only was it an incredible newspaper, it was also an incredible city.Years later, when I was a news editor, I saw an assistant editor job on the Echo advertised and - nothing ventured - I applied for it.
I didn't get it of course.

But I was invited to join as news editor, for six months, to cover a secondment. I snatched editor Mark Dickinson's hand off... and after I'd been here three months he told me the job was mine for good.
With the Echo I got to work on incredible stories, from international headlines - the Ken Bigley kidnap and murder in Iraq, the disappearance of Madelaine McCann, the Miracle of Istanbul - one of the best nights of my journalistic career - and the (first) sale of Liverpool FC.

Two years later the editor of the Liverpool Daily Post, Mark Thomas, offered me a job as his deputy and I crossed the Rubicon. It was a strange experience to stop being in competition with the Post; it took about a fortnight to settle in and start saying "we" instead of "you". I got to edit front pages, work on commercial projects and understand the strategy behind an AB morning title, and where it fitted in alongside the brawny Echo.
Two years after that, the newsrooms merged and I was back working on both titles, with a new digital team and a new philosophy. It was hard, and it didn't work the way that we'd all hoped and wanted it to immediately (and it still has its' moments) but gradually change was effected. The city was changing too - it staged its first Twestival, followed by TEDx Liverpool and a host of other events - How?Why?DIY! and Ignite Liverpool, and Social Media Cafe Liverpool - among them.

I've made a lot of friends, I've made a lot of discoveries and mistakes, and I've learned more than my frazzled brain could hold at times.
The best thing, other than the friends I've made, to come out of my move to Liverpool was the new direction my career took; as a result of the TM Journalism Leaders Course at UCLan I became aware of digital journalism. And if it seems mad that it took a course to make me realise you could do more than basic Googling on the internet, let me add that I wasn't particularly non-techie or hostile; I genuinely didn't realise the possibilities that existed. I think there were a lot of journalists in the same boat, not all of them got lucky and had their employers pay for a reprogramming like mine did.

Digital journalism is just Journalism but with an awareness and willingness to use new tools to help you open your ears and eyes more widely, and with more conversations taking place around you and involving you. It's connected , networked , social journalism- whatever label you want to give it. Digital journalism connects us; it's not about Being First Online First (file that one under AZ Shooting Fail) or Making Video, or requiring everyone in a newsroom tweet whether they want to or not.

Writer (and former journalist) Terry Pratchett once used the phrase 'Old gods do new jobs' to describe a change; that makes sense to me. Notebooks become netbooks, cameras become smartphones with megapixel cameras and HD video, contacts become Facebook  fans and Twitter followers but these are only new tools for storytelling and connecting. Journalism is what it has always been - finding things out, asking the right questions, sharing the information. The tools change easily; changing ourselves as individuals, or our culture as an industry, proves more demanding and time-consuming.

And so on to Wales and new challenges as an editor for the first time. The blog goes on, with the same idea of helping me make sense of the world of journalism, and the problems, discoveries and excitements will continue I suspect - only the geography will change.
I can't wait.


Lyrics: The Leaving of Liverpool
Image by David Le Masurier via Flickr
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