For a long time I have followed and learned a lot from Journalism.co.uk, a small-but-mighty British-based operation that does some great coverage of innovations in digital media.
A couple of times a year the organization hosts conferences called News:Rewired that explore the emerging digital arena. For years, I have followed these from afar, and been highly impressed with the quantity and quality of the speakers, the topics that are covered and the way it’s all presented.
But, alas, traveling to London for the conference just wasn’t feasible for me. Until this year.
Working on a semester-long visiting professorship in Galway, Ireland gave me the opportunity I’ve been waiting for to attend a News:Rewired event in person. It took only a bus ride to Dublin and short plane ride to reach London, where it was held on March 16 at the Thompson Reuters Building in Canary Wharf. As I quipped to several people at the event, “Being in the same time zone, there was no way I was going to miss this.”
I was not disappointed. I am not going to try and summarize the whole conference here; the team does a great job of that themselves. (Scroll toward the bottom of that link for summaries of the sessions written by a team of bloggers, links to many of the speakers’ slide presentations, photos and tweet collections, and more.) But a few things that stood out for me:
- As digital journalists and journalism educators, we talk about the idea and goal of being “platform agnostic” — coverage must work correctly on multiple platforms to be effective, and different platforms have different technical demands and even different audiences. Several sessions did an outstanding job of exploring both best practices for multiplatform work and the rationale for its importance. Some of the examples were really impressive, such as the opening session on video practices and user engagement.
- It was great to attend a conference that was not US-centric with regard to technology and media. A couple of speakers, including one who video-linked in from San Francisco, were American but most were European. They included presenters from Reuters, the BBC, The Guardian, The Economist and Sky News, among others. One of the implications of this a work-view and world-view that are literally more global, or at least multinational, than so much American journalism. I really enjoyed that different perspective on everything that was discussed.
That characteristic was in fact reflected in the session that I found most interesting and impressive, concerning virtual voiceover translation and production. Dmitry Shishkin, digital editor for the BBC World Service, emphasized at the outset of his talk that this isn’t robot-journalism. But by improving the speed and efficiency of both translation and voiceover recording, human capabilities can be extended and many more stories can be presented in more languages for the benefit of the BBC’s audiences.
And, a nice side benefit of attending this conference was a chance to meet Journalism.co.uk President John Thompson and some of the staff whose work I follow. I have connected so frequently with them through social media that I really felt like I already knew them, but it was nice to take that to the next level and meet in person.
John and his team did a lot of smart things in organizing this conference but one of the smartest was to build in a lot of networking time, which is when I got to know not only the organizers but several other attendees as well. I came away knowing a few more conceptual and technical items, but even if I hadn’t learned those things the networking would have made it worth the trip.
The next event is in July, and I’ll be five time zones away, again. But you can count on my wanting to follow the conference from afar, and trying to find a way to attend another one in person one of these years.