The changes brought about by digital technology was the topic which guided discussions at The Cardiff School of Journalism’s 40th Anniversary conference: Tomorrows Journalists Today.
The first of four lectures was titled the Challenges of Convergence and featured Peter Barron of google, Nick Brett of BBC Magazines and Pete Clifton, head of editorial development and multimedia journalism at the BBC.
Topics of discussion included multimedia newsrooms, the democratisation of information and the importance of brand.
Much debate revolved around the way in which technologies such as the Iphone and the IPad are changing the way we consume news. I asked the panel:

“New technologies allow us to tell all sorts of stories in a way that anyone can understand, regardless of literacy or specialist knowledge. However, is there a danger that the cost of new technology will create a digital underclass who are cut off from the events which define their lives?”

Mr Barron responded that prices will fall, particularly as the market gets more competitive.
While Mr Brett told an anecdote about how he uses his IPad to read books in bed which despite not really answering my question, did make me want to buy one.

The second talk was on digital spin and the 2010 election and featured Simon Lewis who from 2009 was the director of communications at 10 Downing Street and Prime Minister’s Spokesman until Gordon Brown’s resignation.
Mr Lewis spoke largely about the culture of corruption which governs political journalism.
He focused on the workings of the journalist lobby which he described as dangerously adversarial, saying that journalists are treating politics like a game instead of acting in the public interest. I asked:

“Will social media and blogs be able to disrupt the traditional political communication or will it they just become another organ of spin?”

Mr Lewis was sceptical about the power of political bloggers saying that while they are excluded from the cosy confines of the lobby they will never get access to the raw information they need to be effective.

A heavy cloud of gloom hung over the third session – Does Regional News Have a Future? – with Alan Edmunds from Media Wales, Ron Jones of Tinopolis, Clive Jones of Netplay and Arwel Owen from S4C.
Much of the discussion involved the potential cuts being imposed on S4C.
There was plenty of talk about regional newspapers as well. I asked:

“The internet should free us up to work anywhere but from my experience it seems that journalism is increasingly becoming a desk job, is this the case? And if so what are we sacrificing by not being out in the community?”

Though Mr Edmunds said that this was partially true he warned against being overly nostalgic for a past which wasn’t as great as we imagine it to be.
Mr Owen said that the journalism industry itself is responsible for this trend by not investing in quality journalism, he cited the BBC as an exmaple of this.
Despite such negativity all four members of the panel said that they were optimistic about the future.
Check out the sketches on Mark Cardwell’s excellent blog.

Thankfully the final talk dispelled the air of doom.
With three recent graduates – Hannah Waldram, Hattie Brett and Sally Rourke – telling the stories of what they’ve gone onto do since leaving Cardiff School of Journalism.
The three presentations were massively encouraging.
I thought the most interesting fact was that, although all three women work online, they’re still using the skills and techniques of traditional journalism.
This seems to be more common among young journalists, who make little distinction between digital and print.
And I think this is an encouraging trend for tomorrow’s Journalism.

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