Tuesday, 11 November 2008

My Big Digital Adventure

No sooner had I sworn to make online and digital media "my thing", than I was handed the perfect opportunity dive in head first.

A fortunate few of the Cardiff postgrads went to cover the Society of Editors Conference 2008 in Bristol as reporters for the Society's webiste. That in itself was exciting- a fantastic experience to get bylined on an industry body's website (shameless self-promotion perhaps) not to mention getting to listen in on a huge range of opinions about the buzzword ringing in everyones ears: CONVERGENCE.

Going straight from a contaversial speech like Paul Dacre's or a thought-provoking rant from "video visionary" Michael Rosenblum and writing for immediate publication online was exhilirating. And of course there's nothing like white-knuckle pressure to give you complete clarity of mind when writing.

But what was more thrilling was the 'unofficial' coverage the group did via Twitter under the hash tag #soe08. I think I'm right in saying Cardiff students set this tag up last week, and although I have no doubt the system would have been set up by someone else if we hadn't, it gave me a real buzz to see the number, and calibre, of people who got involved using the same tag and providing practially minute by minute coverage. With over 10 pages of tweets, contributors included Press Gazette, Journalism.co.uk, the Guardian's Jemima Kiss, lecturer Paul Bradshaw, MediaUKPress, online journalist and blogger Martin Stabe as well as pretty much every one of the student contigent.

Reporting this way gave a real sense of connection. That we were being published and read by people who already have the long and exciting careers we seek was empowering. And equally, we had instant access to their thoughts on what was going on. But one issue this threw up was: is Twitter a tool primarily being used by media types, for media types? Could we report like this on a non-media event or more local story? And who would read it? Its recent outing on Radio 4 might change this and I was delighted when my housemate (a music student) said she'd signed up to see what it was about. But I'd be interested to know if people think, other than major media events like the US election, it currently has value as a crowd sourcing tool.

Another limitation was pointed out to me by Rob Alderson, my partner in crime in this most digital of adventures. Dacre's speech was at 7pm, but its contents was embargoed until 10pm. No matter how instantaneous the internet is in itself, there are still real world restrictions that can limit this immediacy.

On an unrelated point, there is an important demographic observation to be made. The majority of people at the conference were white, old-ish men. Of the handful of women it was disheartening to be told that many of those were the wives or partners of the male professionals and I saw just one black journalist. It struck me as odd that we were talking about massive change when some of the basic demographics at the top end of journalism seem to have a way to go.

In her interview with Cardiff's Hannah Waldram, Jemima Kiss highlights that for this reason, the conference was probably most valuable for people like us because we will be the ones to change things.


kesha said...

A lot of people in our family don't have non-analog television like cable or satellite. Out of the five families who get together for dinner every week, two have cable and three don't. So we have been spending a lot of time looking at converter boxes and talking about antennas in anticipation of the digital television changeover.


Jessica Best said...

I've been so wrapped up in online ideas I hadn't even thought about the digital/analog debate, so thanks for bringing that up! Seems there are just so many changes happening it's difficult to keep up.