Recently I had the opportunity to visit ITV Jersey’s new studio. It’s certainly a compliment that ITV have invested in Channel Island news, Jersey now have one of the best broadcasting newsrooms in the UK. But, admittedly, I wasn’t just there to gawp at their shiny array of broadcast technology; I wanted to see how much of a role digital journalism plays in Channel Island news.
This visit was of particular interest to me having studied International Journalism at university before pursuing a career in digital marketing. Undoubtedly, journalism and digital go hand in hand, making the transition between industries relatively smooth for me. We’re now at a point where print newsrooms continue to shed jobs and in turn, journalism courses increase digital modules to give their graduates a fighting chance.
Many ‘traditional’ journalists are jumping ship to better-equipped digital vessels such as The Huffington Post, Mashable and Buzzfeed and Jersey is certainly a microcosm of this notion. As the Jersey Evening Post builds an online pay-wall to keep printing, digital media outlets like Bailiwick Express are offering an easy alternative to locals in search of news and businesses looking to advertise.
This is great progress for the island, but whether these news sources can expand beyond initial digital innovations is another question. The opportunities are seemingly endless and incredibly exciting for anyone in the digital industry. Buzzfeed, for example, use “sponsored content” to keep the cash rolling in. Ever read an article on “14 Amazing Photos That Are Totally Not Photoshopped” and come away desperately needing a new Samsung camera? Buzzfeed are great at crafting advertorials, stopping their 200+ million monthly unique users from being bombarded by ads. Buzzstream also give their advertisers the ability to track content performance in real-time, something that print certainly can’t compete with.
Recently our Lead Developer wrote an interesting post on the lack of digital technology used during the NatWest Island Games. One of his recommendations was to expand beyond Facebook and Twitter to crowd source content using a purpose-built app or live streaming channel. This could also be applied to our news outlets, local journalists are used to mining social media for stories, why not expand that search to live streaming apps such as Periscope?
With the app’s integrated live comment feed reporters can communicate with the creator and source the content from them afterwards or record it directly on to their server if they have the technology. Footage from both Meerkat and Periscope was used in this way to cover incidents like the Baltimore protests earlier this year.
Of course, there are some ethical considerations to be made when sourcing user-generated content in this way. Working in such a fast paced, competitive environment means journalists no longer take their time perfecting copy and triple-checking facts; they often take more risks and use questionable sources.
ITV get 92% of their engagement through Facebook and in turn, use Facebook to find local stories every day. Their aim is to strike a balance between news hungry users who treat them as a destination site and others who arrive after seeing their news stories on Facebook. This balance seems rather unattainable considering the majority of their audience engages with them on social media. Understandably, it’s difficult for ITV to compete and their ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ attitude is to be expected. Professional journalists who were once solely responsible for delivering news now share that space with tweeters, bloggers and citizen journalists.
Investigative journalists getting to the source of the news while donning a trench coat and fedora simply don’t exist anymore, now anyone with a computer has the potential to share breaking news with the world.
As an island we are desperate to advance in digital technology, our local audience is small but extremely receptive. Journalists at the Games could have used their backstage passes and smartphones to their advantage, broadcasting behind the scenes via Periscope at no additional cost to their employer. This would, in hindsight, have boosted their visibility and secured their reputation as a forward-thinking news source for the island.