The Future of Journalism is Agile. Small. Lethal.

Brave New(s) World, a conference held Thursday May 28, 2009 at Centennial College in Toronto gathered together some of the more forward thinking journalists, students, and educators to try to make some sense of the turmoil now bringing about many changes in the news business around the world.

The conference had a keynote speech via Skype by the author of "What Would Google Do?" Jeff Jarvis, from New York, and then 4 breakout sessions where the thinkers and experts tried to make sense of the changes affecting journalism, and where they saw the industry in the future.

I had the pleasure of moderating one of the afternoon panels, entitled "The New Journalism Toolbox" together with my industry expert, Jesse Hirsh.

Our job was to get the delegates to think about what "tools" a new journalist/cub reporter coming out of j-school will need to survive in the Brave New(s) World. But also, where we think the new journalist will go in the future.

Several weeks ago, preparing for my moderator job, I came up with my top 10 list of tools which I thought journalism students needed to have to succeed. 
My list included crowdsourcing (getting stories from ordinary "citizen" journalists), use of Twitter, Audioboo,, Audacity, RSS feeds, mindcasting (from Jay Rosen), photoskills and how to do slideshows and photogalleries, how to live blog using CoveritLive, etc.

I thought I needed to focus literally on the new tools and platforms which the modern journalist needs to be able to be familiar with, in order to tell their stories in the digital age of online journalism.

What a reassuring surprise for me to discover during the summit that the people who participated in my breakout session The New Journalism Toolbox, are convinced that the tools which young journalists need now are actually the same tried and true ones I learned are the most important when I began my career 27 years ago:

1) love journalism
2) see it as a public service/be a shit disturber/(Tim Knight/TV Trainer)
3) tell stories in a clear language
4) be ethical
5) use the new tools/technology to look for stories outside of the box, from ordinary people (Kris Reyes, Citytv)
6) Know your audience and what tools to use to tell the story. 
7) develop a BRAND (become an expert in something) Intrapreneurship (Rahul Gupta, NewsFIX, and  Michael Brooke of Concrete Wave)
8) use technology to be FASTEST to tell the story. Be NIMBLE (Steve Humphrey, NewsFix)
9) Be able to cut through the clutter  of live chats, Tweets and blogs to find the story and tell it to your audience
10) Be Small, Agile. Lethal. (Jesse Hirsh)

All the basic things which make up a well rounded journalist of the old-school type. The twist is, they are able to harness the "new-fangled" technology to tell stories without having to rely soley on the mainstream news media outlets, or authority, as the limiting "box". Thanks to the power of the Internet, journalists can tell stories directly to an audience through blogs, Tweets, etc. This is a good thing. 

It makes me feel better about the future, and less panic stricken about the possible demise of mainstream news operations (closures of venerable newsprint papers, trimming of local TV supper hour news shows, layoffs at the CBC News organization). 

According to the discussions at Brave New(s) World, news and journalism will still be happening, just perhaps in a different form then we have grown up with. 

And the summit argues there is still a need for trained news journalists who -- unlike citizen journalists so in vogue these days -- do the critical thinking, the analysis, the digging for hidden stories, and who continue to carry out the honourable tradition of "afflicting the comfortable while comforting the afflicted. "

To see some of the blogs and thoughts of people who attended the summit, please check out Melissa Feeney's rendition here: 
and the live blog by Lara Willis here.

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