On Wednesday I joined scores of journalists from around the world for the news:rewired digital journalism conference organised by the good folks at Journalism.co.uk.
As always there were plenty of great speakers, representing organisations including The Wall Street Journal, the BBC, Facebook and BuzzFeed, and lots to think about as the digital revolution continues to disrupt and challenge the business of news.
Each of the sessions that took place in London this week are covered in depth on the news:rewired website, but here are the five things I took away from the conference:
Who do you trust more, your local paper or Facebook? According to this story published by The Drum earlier today a YouGov poll has found people are far more likely to trust their local rag to inform them about what’s happening in their community than they do Mark Zuckerberg’s social networking behemoth.
Regardless of the figures YouGov turned up, this headline is the sort of thing that can usually be guaranteed to rally the digital evangelists and print die-hards for yet another clash in the cultural civil war that seems to have gripped many newsrooms in recent years.
But to see this as another excuse to rehash the tired old arguments about print versus digital would be to miss the point entirely. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that trying to quantify people’s trust in Facebook compared to their local paper is akin to asking which they trust more, the BBC or their telephone.
Facebook’s introduction of Subscribe in September last year and its resulting transformation into an asymmetrical social network has presented a new opportunity for connection – but is it an opportunity that is passing many journalists by?
Social media use has exploded among journalists in recent years. What only a few years ago was considered by many in the industry at best a fad, and at worst a time-wasting distraction, has now become a valued part of the reporter’s toolkit.
And the evidence around me – in newsrooms, in conversations with colleagues and online – suggests that Twitter has become the tool of choice for most. Where once Twitter was an unknown quantity, now it is almost surprising to discover a journalist isn’t using the micro-blogging service.
But is this really the best approach for us to be taking?
A friend working in the murky world of Westminster politics once gave me some very sound advice: “Don’t send an email if you wouldn’t be happy seeing its contents printed in the Daily Mail.” Advice which applies equally to just about every form of electronic communication in the internet age, advice which urges you to think twice before you hit send or upload that passing thought or picture.
Advice which Rebecca Leighton, arrested in connection with a series of deaths at Stepping Hill Hospital in Greater Manchester, might now wish someone had given her before she found her life splashed across the pages of this morning’s newspapers.
My first reaction on reading the coverage of the 27-year-old nurse’s arrest was this: Who in their right mind leaves their social network profiles open to the public? Haven’t there been enough scare stories about privacy in the age of Facebook to make people at least think about what they are sharing online?
Last Sunday I started a poll on my Facebook page asking people to vote for their favourite place to eat in Kent. It came about because the day before I’d been down to Folkestone harbour to take a look at Mark Sargeant’s new restaurant Rocksalt.
It is hoped this new venture, complimented by the soon-to-open fish and chip shop The Smokehouse, will help attract diners into the old town – the centre of Folkestone’s ongoing arts-led regeneration – but I wanted to know what other restaurants people are passionate about.
Asking questions on Facebook is such a simple thing to do, and I didn’t really expect I would get a massive response to this enquiry. Maybe a few friends would chip in, but that would probably be that. How wrong I was.
Today I found out journalism.co.uk has named me as one of the UK’s 100 most influential journalists online based on my score from PeerIndex.
It’s clearly a very selective measure of influence and ultimately means very little, but I’m pleased to have been included in the list because since I took my first steps into the world of social media and blogging I’ve come to see just how useful these tools can be, and why all journalists – regardless of the level at which they operate – should be excited about the possibilities for using social media and the web to interact with their audience.
Establishing an account on Twitter and a professional page on Facebook has allowed me to explore new ways of communicating with my audience. Sharing pictures, creating polls and posting links might not generate a wealth of stories – but it does help build relationships with readers in ways which were not possible before.
Another month, another set of negative headlines about life for businesses down in the epicentre of Folkestone’s ongoing regeneration, the Creative Quarter.
There was disappointment earlier in March when it emerged the team behind the planned restaurant at the former Earl Grey pub, Max’s House, were pulling out. Reported in the local press as a ‘major setback’, it seems the truth may be rather more banal: that those behind the venture were simply a little too keen to trumpet the news of their plans, Facebook page and all, before pen had even been put to paper on the deal.
I imagine the Creative Foundation, the body behind the multimillion-pound regeneration of Folkestone’s old town, would have preferred the potential tenants to have kept a lower profile and a lid on their ambitious plans until the deal was actually done.
The fact the site in the Old High Street, which has been renovated to a high standard by Thanet-based contractors DJ Ellis, has not now opened as a bar and restaurant is of course a real shame for everyone associated with the area – 0ther businesses in the neighbourhood are keen to create a critical mass of venues and shops to draw in the punters – but it still seems there are some who are worryingly keen to talk the area down.