DM 2014: Adapt, evolve or die
Anna Wagstaff and Damien Gayle - © mark dimmock
Sian Jones - © mark dimmock
The NUJ panel for the Future of Journalism seminar - © mark dimmock
11 April 2014
Adapt or die was the message of Damien Gayle, one of the speakers as a special seminar, the Future of Journalism.
Damien works for Mail Online, one of the most popular websites in the world, with its sidebar of shame, showing celebrity cellulite and stars in various stages of undress, making it a global hit.
Mail Online now has offices on three continents and turns out 600-700 stories a day – with only a small proportion generated by its staff. The website boats 11.3m unique browsers per day. But in a fast-moving world, young upstarts, such as Vice and Buzzfeed, are snapping at its heels
Damien Gayle said:
"We have to adapt or die. We have to preserve our essential skills of researching and interrogating our sources and telling the story, but we have to do it in a radically different medium.”
The way stories are distributed is also radically changing. Buzzfeed and Vice are positioning their schlock variety of journalism and are packaging stories and graphics it in a way to entice its readers to pass them on to friends via Facebook and social media. Today, a story can spread virally to millions within seconds.
Martin Shipton, chair of the Trinity Mirror group chapel, said:
“Trinity Mirror seems to be going out of its way to shut its titles, with constant job cuts and local newspapers no longer having the staff to hold local authorities and vested interests to account.”
While the traditional press tries to get to grips with the move to digital and juggling print editions with digital, new models of journalism are developing, from crowd-sourced publications, the rise of hyper-locals proving popular as they plug into local needs and the development of philanthropy-led funding bankrolling investigative reporting.
One innovation looking to the future is the development by the NUJ in Scotland of modern apprenticeships in digital journalism. The scheme, funded by the government, and supported by Skills Development Scotland, aims to recruit between 30 to 50 creative media modern apprenticeships across many media groups.
Paul Holleran, Scottish organiser, said:
“This is a great way for the NUJ to be connected to the colleges and the employers involved.”
Speakers and delegates discussed ways the NUJ can take advantage of developments in the media industry to advance career opportunities for journalists and to strengthen union recruitment.
Anna Wagstaff of the NUJ Oxford and District branch told the meeting that the branch had spent a great deal of effort getting home email addresses for journalists in its area. This was really worthwhile, as it made communicating with members more efficient. It also encouraged interactive communication, so that members could respond and react to news of what the branch was doing and share concerns.
The branch also found Twitter an invaluable tool, helping to get the NUJ and its views known across a wide spectrum of local people, including other trade unions and publishing and media students. The branch also had a blog which often carried information that people couldn’t get anywhere else.
Sian Jones, member of the national executive, said that increasingly journalists were creating portfolio careers, doing shifts, submitting features and taking on PR contracts. She said PR was a ripe area for recruitment and that more use should be made of joint memberships, such as PRs working in councils who are Unison members also joining the NUJ.
Incoming NUJ vice-president Tim Dawson said that, while there might never be as many jobs in mainstream journalism as there had been in the heyday of print, there were still opportunities for journalists to make a good living in new ways.
Tim instanced e-books:
“They are a huge, new opportunity for journalism. Even if e-publishing involves selling, say, a 10,000 word piece for £1.50, that can add up to a fair amount of money if you sell enough.”