It’s simple, logical, some would say plain obvious. Then why is it so hard to implement in reality?
While listening to an inspiring talk by Juan Señor at the Oxford Tablet Summit Tuesday, I was struck by what he said on how we need to move from Facebook journalism to face to face journalism. Now I don’t think those are mutually exclusive categories. I think Facebook journalism can be a great addition to face to face journalism, but I think it’s a sad testament to our industry when we need to be reminded of the value in talking to sources face to face.
Thing is, if you’re an online journalist it is often very hard, sometimes impossible, to find time to talk to sources face to face, or go out looking for new sources in real life, during your work day. The day-to-day production pressure is simply too high, and newsrooms are often staffed in such a way that it seriously impacts the volume of output if just one person were to use the day to go see people face to face.
The best journalists I know solve this problem by meeting up with sources after work. That journalism requires this kind of commitment from its practitioners is certainly nothing new, but this desk-bound day-to-day grind with emphasise on volume rather than quality does of course impact the value of the output.
It’s also paradoxical that so many online journalists lead such a desk-bound existence when considering how easy new technology has made it to work from wherever you happen to be. I recently organised an event for Norwegian Online News Association (NONA) where three online journalists talked about how to work effectively in the field with as light-weight equipment as possible.
They all felt a laptop, an iPhone and a camera like Canon50D was sufficient to report effectively from the field, be it a technology conference or a war zone - though one added that a bullet proof west was also useful for the latter situation and another said that Jaffa tape had turned out invaluable when setting up equipment for live coverage from a trial in Congo.
In either case: we have all the technology we need to be on the move constantly and file stories from anywhere we happen to be, and yet most news sites only occasionally allow their reporters to do this because in most cases it still affects the volume of output negatively even if it does improve the quality of the output. Is it any wonder our industry is in such a mess?