Face the future, at last

Monday 29 November 2010, 11:25

John Mair John Mair is a journalism lecturer and former broadcast producer and director. Twitter: @johnmair100

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After my experiences at the Society of Editors in Glasgow, the Coventry Conversations/BBC College of Journalism Face the Future: Tools for the Media Future conference last week was a refreshing change, and felt like the right direction of travel.

Many of the big beasts were there in person or by Skype - Jeff Jarvis, Paul Bradshaw, Steve Hermann - and the afternoon was chaired by CoJo's admirably sceptical Kevin Marsh.

All the modern tools and platforms were used to get it from Coventry to the big wide world: live blog on cutoday.wordpress.com; live tweets @covcons2010 #facethe future; live and recorded webcast at bbc.co.uk/journalism; podcasts at www.coventry.ac.uk/itunesU

So no excuse not to drop in, then or now. And it works: an extraordinary 35,000 have now downloaded the CoJo/Coventry Conversations Afghanistan conference from March this year.

But what is the digital future for journalism? Truth is, nobody knows; though there are some signposts being built along the way. One thing is near certain: the age of chopping down trees and spreading ink on them is coming to a close, probably sooner rather than later.

The future will be on a screen - in text, in audio, in still or moving pictures. The internet does not have to be a threat to papers. Mail Online has shown that by passing 50 million hits a month.

- And it can be used creatively. Paul Bradshaw demonstrated that with his Help Me Investigate website.

- And for profit, as Marc Reeves does with Thebusinessdesk.com day in, day out in Birmingham.

- And to generate stories, as Judith Townend showed with her presentation on the twitterati, which brought the phenomenon out of the cyber-Hampstead ghetto, away from just journos and their friends.

If you listen to local newspaper editors, some of whom regard the internet as, at best, a necessary evil, then the BBC and BBC News online is the elephant in the digital room. But the BBC was building this room while they were reaping fat profits and not investing in digital.

Steve Hermann, Editor of BBC News online, tried to allay some commercial competitor fears. 

Julian March, newly promoted to Head of Digital at Sky News, was simple and straightforward in selling the value of multiplatform journalism. He cited the Sky News series Talking to the Taliban on TV, on the internet, and interactive, as a great example.

Jeff Jarvis, the guru of much modern journalism, was Delphic but inspiring; and the young Oliver Snoddy, just inspiring. Both came live from New York City.

All in all a tonic for journalists of the future.

Now, for me, it's back in time, and technology, to produce the 'academic' book of the conference due out next March (from Abramis).

Face the future, colleagues. It is the only way ...

Video of the sessions can be seen here.

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