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Journalists are human beings too

October 27, 2009

My two week jaunt around the country is coming to an end. I’m relieved. I’m getting tired of the hotel experience (although the central Belfast Holiday Inn more than makes up for the prison-like interior of Newcastle’s riverside Travelodge). I’m keen to see my cats and I’m longing to see the garden from the kitchen window. I’m a sucker for home-life.

Hotels aside, it’s not all been bad. My brief has been simple: to cover as much of a series of events titled “New Tools for a New Way of Working” in a social media capacity for the new BBC College of Journalism website (currently beta for BBC staff).

CoJo (get used to the BBC College of Journalism acronym) has filmed a few of the specifically journalism related events in Cardiff including a presentation given by Executive Editor Kevin Marsh on how audiences are sourcing their own background information on a given subject following a news “announcements”. It’s changing the nature of news consumption and necessarily what methods journalists employ to tell their stories.

Former Assistant Editor of the BBC Six O’Clock News Mark Georgiou also made a repeat appearance at BBC Northern Ireland today, sharing his thoughts on producing news stories for a variety of multiplatforms. Memory is fading of the time when a producer and his reporter could film one piece about one story for one news programme. Now they have to be across the whole thing.

Some do it better than others, it has to be said. Some people take to writing blog entries and web stories and look for new ways to share their stories online, on radio and on TV. Georgiou offered practical tips on how to meet the challenge some producers may face when embracing multi-platform production.

It is during events like this I find myself impatient and unforgiving. I subscribe completely to the need to produce the same story in a variety of different ways for a variety of different outlets be it radio, TV or the web. My style may need finessing in some areas and skills might need to be acquired but still I’m surprised and frustrated such an event is even deemed necessary.

This may be in a small part down to the realisation I made a few years of my original career aspirations when I approached the end of my GCSEs 20 years ago. If I wanted to be a journalist, I’d obviously need English, which in turn meant an English degree. A-Level studies were fine. One term at University however and I soon discovered I wasn’t going to be able to meet the one book a week requirement demanded of me. I switched courses soon after and stupidly dropped my journalism aspiration too. A career in music administration, IT support and website management followed.

It’s only now I find myself in the journalism world I once thought I’d want to be a part of, even if I’m not actually – in the strictest sense of the word – a journalist. But having embraced the internet and its technologies (whilst steadfastly maintaining a healthy distance from any accusations of geekdom) and insodoing finding an outlet for my creative juices, I’m surprised there might be those who find the web platform a bewildering affair.

In short, I work on the basis ‘if I get it, it really can’t be that difficult, so why can’t you?’ Of course, such a view is blinkered and unforgiving, but it is the truth, one no doubt fuelled by a spark in my head that maybe at some point I might just end up doing what I thought I’d wanted to do 20 years ago. Who knows.

My lack of patience for those who perhaps need a bit more time to become accustomed with new ways of sharing stories is tempered by the experience of BBC Wales Political Editor with the Welsh Politics blog she writes on the BBC. This is no small part because she’s a pleasure to talk to and (as you would expect from someone used to delivering 2 minutes on tv or radio) and an effortless interview. During her New Tools presentation in Cardiff last week she said “I have become accustomed to it [blogging]. It’s not my enemy now.”

So as I approach the end of our two weeks away from the London CoJo office, I’m reminded of the blinkered and unforgiving view I have of journalists and the kind of people they are. They aren’t all one kind of person and they’re not necessarily anything like me. No surprises there. If only I could remember that the next time I sense that frustration rising up like bile inside of me.

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