Value of Journalism 2010

Fresh from my visit to the LSE for the BBC College of Journalism’s conference entitled The Value of Journalism 2010, I thought I’d post my thoughts on the matter. One point I will make is that many media types will be mentioned, and instead of describing exactly who they are, I will link to a website. This website will usually be Wikipedia, not because I rely on their user-generated content, but because I feel that this will be the easiest way to find out who they are.

Having arrived, my first impressions were that the London School of Economics (LSE) is an impressive campus, much more so than the one during my time at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth. Once we found the Sheikh Zayed Theatre – Lower Ground floor of the New Academic Building, in case anyone gets lost like we did!- we registered and were given the standard free literature, including a remarkably interesting booklet on Networked Journalism, and a free USB pen. We then wandered round for a while, seeing what kind of people were attending, and found the ‘Twitter Wall’. This was an electronic board compiling tweets that had the hashtag #voj10, seeing who was attending and what they had to say about it. Of course, prompted by this, I posted with the hashtag, and my tweet was shown on said wall! After this, we decided to enter the theatre, and take our seats.

Even the lecture theatres in the LSE are nicer than they were in Aberystwyth! Whilst ours was decrepit and falling apart, these were modern, fancy, and even had cooling fans in the floor! Talk about impressive!

Whilst we were still awed by the impressive nature of this lecture theatre, people begun flocking in and taking their seats. We were ushered from our optimum-viewing seats, centralised so we could see everything that was going on, to the end of the row, in order to allow other people to sit down too. We didn’t mind too much, it’s a fact of life, but others begun making it an issue, raising their voices at the stewards. Why bother? What’s the point? Is it going to make your life any better once you’ve shouted at the poor girl?

Anyway, Charlie Beckett (Director of POLIS, the think-tank at LSE, http://www.charliebeckett.org/) introduced himself and told us a little about how the event was going to work. It turns out there were two tracks going on at the same time, and you could pick and choose which ones you wanted to go to. The other track didn’t begin till 11, so we had an hour and a half to spend in this theatre.

Once Beckett had finished his brief introduction (he would return later) the chair was left to Jon Snow, of Channel 4 news fame (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jon_Snow) I myself was very impressed with how he spoke, though I wasn’t expecting him to be an awful orator, given his position of power within C4 News. He discussed Networked Journalism, told us a little about his time in Haiti, and how that was like being back to basics, where journalism was concerned, he told us about the changing face of journalism, reliant on things like Twitter (http://twitter.com/) and BlackBerry. He also recommended we watch a film called Man On Wire (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1155592/) comparing it to journalism in a long and well-worded metaphor that I won’t disgrace by précising.

Everything else seemed a bit of a disappointment after Jon Snow, but we still enjoyed the day. The next talk was one on whether the recent election was a digital one or not, which didn’t actually interest me much at all. If I were asked to give a definite answer as to whether it was a digital election or not, I’d say yes it was, given the televised debates, and the Facebook and YouTube polls, along with the Twitter integration. Speakers here included the chair Rory Cellan-Jones (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rory_Cellan-Jones), a BBC journalist who was impressive in his chairing without really saying a great deal and Douglas Alexander of the Labour party (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douglas_Alexander), an MP who didn’t really have much to say, and was overshone by a number of other speakers. Rishi Saha (http://blog.conservatives.com/index.php/2008/09/26/up-and-running/) who, in his position of Head of Social Media at the Conservative Party, had a lot to say regarding the issue of whether this was a digital election, and did stress repeatedly that the mailing list for the Tories is the most subscribed of all three political parties. The most credible of all the speakers in this event was Sir Robert Worcester, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Worcester) who, with the aid of a hand-out, analysed the recent election results, which I won’t go into because frankly they bored me almost to tears. Laura Kuenssberg (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laura_Kuenssberg) had a lot to say about Twitter, given her reliance on it, and is a huge advocate of the digitalisation of journalism, it would seem.

For the next few hours, there wasn’t really much to speak of. We inadvertently caught the final half hour of a talk on the Value of Networked Journalism, chaired by Charlie Beckett, which wasn’t great, neither of us enjoyed it, so we took lunch.

We returned for possibly the most interesting and thought-provoking of all the talks, which was on Grassroots Journalism. This was a piece on what is called hyperlocal journalism, which will be explained further in a later post, but is, in its simplest terms, journalism which is tailored to its readers to such an extent that it could be written purely about your postcode!

#voj10 was a thought-provoking and intriguing day, which certainly gave me a lot to think about, but I also feel that it was a little disappointing, in that I left it with a lot more questions than answers. I guess that’s the way it is though!

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