Guardian offers insight into journalism

I couldn’t have picked a more interesting day to attend a workshop at the Guardian Newspaper than last Friday.

The day was designed for teachers and lecturers to meet Guardian journalists and find out more about ‘how a national news media organisation works’. However the previous night the News of the World was closed by Rupert Murdoch as a result of the investigative journalism of Nick Davis of the Guardian. This provided both a very dramatic backdrop to the day, and an illustration of the fundamental shifts taking place in the UK media landscape. Print journalism is in some trouble and web based news is becoming an increasingly important channel for reporting ranging from mainstream newspapers, to independent blog based organisations such as the Huffington post through to individual bloggers.

We met many journalists throughout the day who were very generous with their time on such a dramatic news day and the overwhelming impression was of a set of people who were incredibly enthusiastic and committed to their work. We were introduced to investigative journalism, feature writing and the editing of newspaper sections and magazines, and we conducted an interview and wrote a feature.

The existing business models for newspapers based on sales and advertising are no longer delivering good enough results, and it is unclear as yet what the new business models are going to be. Some papers, mainly specialist, are erecting paywalls, but many don’t want to move in this direction.

The advent of social networking has challenged traditional models of journalism which saw the journalist as a skilled professional whose role was to provide information and interpretation for the reader. The idea of user-generated content has now become a significant part of the news landscape generating many difficult questions about accountability, authority, etc. Tracy McVeigh, Chief Reporter from the Observer talked about the need for a journalist to be an authoritative and professional source whilst the Head of Culture at the Guardian, Georgina Henry, talked about the need to build engagement with readers and users and the challenge this presented to journalists. David Leigh, Executive Editor, Investigations for the Guardian described the task of coping with the vast amount of information that became available to them through Wikileaks, and how the flow of information is now ‘unstoppable’ and we need to learn to live with that. This has led to the Guardian developing the capacity and tools to derive meaningful narratives from these enormous flows of information and data.

The Guardian is about to engage in a ‘major transformation’ called ‘Digital first’. ‘The Guardian’s editor-in-chief, Alan Rusbridger, has said that the newspaper needed ‘to embrace an “open” digital philosophy in which it embraced contributions from beyond the ranks of its own journalists…’

The journalists gave us insights into their previous experience and advice for budding journalists, and they have produced a useful set of resources for journalistic writing. The day helped clarify some of the issues faced by those of us in the world of education when we are trying to disseminate work and engage readers.

Whilst we have already developed some innovative approaches to journalism in the specialist world of educational technology, I felt the workshop confirmed my thinking about how online journalism can enable us to reach a wider and more diverse audience, and help us to make sense of the huge volume of work that has been done in this area.

It was a really great and thought provoking day.

Global film festival

This may be slightly off topic for educational technology and standards, but I ‘attended’ an amazing internet-based world-wide event on Saturday which reminded me of what I think this is all about.

In 2006 filmmaker Jehane Noujaim spoke at the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conference about her wish to tap the power of film to strengthen tolerance and compassion while uniting millions of people to build a better future and she won a TED annual prize. The idea of the prize is that the recipient is ‘granted a wish’ to ‘change the world’.

This year Jehanne’s Noujaim’s wish was granted through the organisation of a world wide film event called Pangea Day which was held on Saturday May 10th.

It’s difficult to convey the scale and scope of the event, and how inspiring it was, and it was possible to participate at all sorts of levels, including a world-wide drumming session! and strange how it seems to have totally bypassed the mainstream media.

Many of the films and events and a replay are on the website, and Jehanne’s thinking and planning are also explained

Among the amazing number of varied contributions I came across the 6 Billion Others project which is of an enormous scale – ‘The objective of the project is to attempt to reveal each person’s universality and individuality. To achieve this 6 directors set off across the world to interview the inhabitants of the planet….‘ This is a project by Yann Arthus-Bertrand of ‘Earth from the Air’ fame and includes filmed portraits of everyone who has so far been interviewed – thousands so far…

At a time when there are so many worries being voiced about the role of the internet it’s great to come across such positive and life-enhancing activities taking place!

Rationale for new website design

The following are some notes on why we took the approach we did to the design for the new look site –


the new website development was made possible because the e-Learning Focus team were given an extension of two years from the summer of 2007 with a couple of specific remits –

* to integrate the the JISC CETIS site and the e-learning Focus site
* to develop a coherent communications and dissemination process across JISC CETIS
* to co-ordinate with the JISC Communications team

A paper explaining the thinking behind all this went to JISC Committee for Learning and Teaching (JLT) in the Spring . Feedback was also gathered from the questionnaire in the early summer.

Communications and dissemination across the site

The idea behind the new site is to develop an overall approach to journalism and communication which enables us to meet the needs of our various readerships/audiences/members – and uses rss – so we can benefit from what everyone does. A tool has been developed which enables people to publish what they choose – see Sam’s blog for more on the development process.

Editorial control

Editors can write a regularly changing editorial at the top of their page highlighting developments and items of current interest. One of the principles is that the Front Page editor and the Domain co-ordinators should be able to select and control the news and features they publish on their front pages. As they all share the same feeds the intention is that a coherent overall editorial approach will develop.

Role of the wiki – and the old CETIS site

Domain front pages link through to the wiki wherever needed – to SIG information, briefings etc – this is also where things like briefings may be written – it’s where the ‘community can talk to itself’

Links can also be made to items on the old site though the need for this probably will decrease over time

More information illustrating the model for communications is available in a powerpoint presentation

Future developments include a multi-functional project directory, and in-depth themes and ‘packs’ .

Feedback is very welcome