Journalism Week: students urged to develop new skills

Leeds Trinity University College Journalism Week ran from Monday 22 until Friday 26 February. Speakers from across the industry spoke at Leeds Trinity about the latest trends in the news media, including Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger; BBC news director Helen Boaden, Sky News reporter Mike McCarthy and ITN political correspondent Chris Ship.

Two of the most influential figures in the news media spoke together on Friday at the close of Leeds Trinity University College’s Journalism Week.

BBC News director Helen Boaden and Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger gave students an insight into how they see the internet and social media shaping the future of journalism.

Helen Boaden used the snow and severe weather in January as an example of how Twitter could provide lots of information, but said it could not replace what traditional news outlets and reliable brands had to offer.

“People want a big, reliable, trusted brand, not just the information on Twitter,” she said.

“Twitter was invaluable in gathering information but people wanted someone to pull it together. Finding out the facts and verifying is still essential. Social networks can be faster but mainstream journalism has the expertise. It can convey something unique.

“Today’s graduates face the dual challenges of the growth in media courses and the economic recession. To get your foot in the door you need to work hard, be flexible, and understand the job you are going for.”

She advised students to acquire all the skills they could to have the best chance of getting into the industry and spoke of the need to for them to become ‘total journalists’.

Her comments about reporters needing new skills were echoed by Alan Rusbridger who said journalists now needed to be able to curate, aggregate and link.

He cited US journalism academic Jeff Jarvis’ mantra: “Do what you do best and link to the rest.”

Rusbridger said a more open relationship with the audience meant a move towards what he termed a ‘mutual newspaper’.

“We are moving from a world where journalists didn’t like contact with their audience, to a period of experimentation with mutualisation.
The balance is changing – we can report on what people are interested in not what we think they should be interested in. This should lead to better journalism as it will enable us to get at the truth more quickly,” he said.

The web lent itself to live reporting, he said, such as Andrew Sparrow’s ‘dazzling’ reporting from the Chilcot Iraq War inquiry, or deep reporting, such as coverage by Ruth Gledhill, the religious affairs correspondent for the Times.

He cited several examples of the Guardian using social networks and the internet to obtain key information for stories, including:

Putting a complex financial document on the internet during the Tax Gap investigation and being able to get it deciphered by experts without having to pay a fee.

The G20 protests, when reporter Paul Lewis used Twitter to ask people to check their ‘digital records, a move which led to The Guardian obtaining footage of the moment Ian Tomlinson died.

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