Talking social journalism at TEDx Liverpool

I was asked if I’d be one of the speakers at TEDx Liverpool – the first of several TEDx North events taking place over the next few months – and it turned out be be a memorable day.
Based around the mind-stretching theme of Creativity, I got hear presentations by from Microsoft’s Steve Clayton and’s Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino among others, I met some Twitter friends in real life, and got covered in bubbles by Bubblino.

The theme of my 15-minute talk was Social Journalism – I wanted to explain my thoughts on how journalists who engage communities and interact on social networks can tell stories and gather news more completely, and with better results – and it featured as an example the July crane collapse in Liverpool, as I’d blogged around the subject then and thought about it a lot since.

There was some powerpointage which I’ve now put on (without the original punctuation errors – it’s amazing what you miss until it’s up on a damn great screen in front of an audience!) and hopefully it was of interest to TEDx-ers, although I guess the tech crowd must have wished for 15 minutes more of the Microsoft Surface.

The questions at the end were challenging – I think a lot of people outside newspapers must find the crisis facing the industry fascinating. There were a few Post&Echo people in the audience and it must have been a bit weird for them to listen to me discussing the future of journalism in fairly frank terms. As I said at TEDx, my views are my own, not those of my employers. I don’t keep them to myself particulalry, but neither do I accost co-workers in corridors and urge them to join Twitter. Perhaps I should.

I wonder, for instance, what my colleagues made of me saying journalists needed to take themselves out of the story, and stop trying to shape and influence it? That journalism wasn’t the sole preserve of those paid to do it? That in the future there would be journalists – just maybe not so many, and perhaps they would be working for several employers across different types of media.

The thing is, journalism is changing, the way news reporters operate has to change, and the way we interact and seek out our audiences has certainly got to change. Answering questions on public social networks like Twitter doesn’t lessen the importance of a piece of information – it strengthens it, makes it easier to share, and for more people to apply their knowledge. The facts of a crane collapse – the Hows, Wheres and Whys – become really compelling when you add in the Whos: Who was involved; who saw what; who got hurt/had a miracle escape/rescued a neighbour. And you find out Who by reaching out – talking to witnesses, listening to their stories – both in the real world (by going to the scene) and online (by engaging on social media).

Anyway, that’s how I see it. For more on TEDx Liverpool have a look at this blog post by The Guardian’s Sarah Hartley – and if you’re thinking of going to any of the others I’d act now; tickets for Manchester have already gone.

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