Robert Peston famously spelt out the future of journalism – and PR – in a landmark Richard Todd lecture.
Just 12 months on and he’s out of date. Or rather, he needs rebooting slightly.
If web 1.0 was the equivalent of pinning up a digital public notice with web 2.0 we started to learn how to listen.
With web 3.0 we’ll be learning a whole new set of skills. The role of open data will be central to journalism and hand in hand as a consequence with PR. I wrote an idiots guide to it here a few months back and boy, I’m still learning.
With the open data revolution gathering pace reporters must now also be at home navigating a data store as they are on the Town Hall press benches. Press officers must do likewise.
Why? Because the avalanche of public information that will be released has the potential to sweep all before it and drown the unprepared.
Mathew Ingram, the communities editor of The Globe and Mail in Toronto, famously has said “the golden age of computer assisted reporting is at hand.”
Data journalism is a phrase that will become as familiar in journalism colleges as Teeline shorthand and exam favourite The Oxdown Gazette. What is data journalism? It’s the use of apps and mash-ups to mine for news amongst released data. Isn’t that for geeks? No. Where once a council committee report would bear fruit the data set is the new news source.
Open data brings transparency and openness.
Think of it as FOI turbo charged and you’re not even close.
Hyperlocal bloggers who are at home on the web are light years ahead in the interpretation of open data compared to print journalists.
Some journalism courses understand this. The excellent Birmingham City University gets it in spades.
So where does this leave the press officer?
The fashionable thing to say is the press officer as gatekeeper will be redundant by web 2.0 and buried by web 3.0. For me, that’s hooey.
But the old-style press officer who has served time as a hack and can only write a press release is a dead man walking.
What is needed to keep pace with the information arms race are new skills.
The ability to work with or create a mash-up will become as important as having a notebook or a sharp pencil.
Will the press officer for web 3.0 be an allrounder? Definitely. Will they have to have the command of every skill? No. But the team he belongs to sure as hell collectively will have.
At the risk of sounding in years to come as a BBC Tomorows’ World clip, here is how the web 3.0 communications team needs to look:
- Have basic journalism skills.
- Know how the machinery of local government works.
- Write a press release.
- Work under speed to deadline.
- Understand basic photography.
- Understand sub-editing and page layouts.
For web 1.0 the press office also needed to:
- Add and edit web content
For web 2.0 the press office also needs to:
- Create podcasts
- Create and add content to a Facebook page.
- Create and add content to a Twitter stream.
- Create and add content to Flickr.
- Create and add content to a blog.
- Monitor and keep abreast of news in all the form it takes from print to TV, radio and the blogosphere.
- Develop relationships with bloggers.
- Go where the conversation is whether that be online or in print.
- Be ready to respond out-of-hours because the internet does not recognise a print deadline.
For web 3.0 the press office will also need to:
- Create and edit geotagged data such as a Google map.
- Create a data set.
- Use an app and a mash-up.
- Use basic html.
- Blog to challenge the mis-interpretation of data.
But with web 3.0 upon us and the pace of change growing faster to stay relevant the comms team has to change.
Data journalism links
What is data journalism? A good introductory piece from The Guardian..
Mapped: the UK’s road cycling hotspot A mash-up of accident data by The Times.
Oil and Gas Chief Execs Are They Worth It? Lovely Financial Times data visualisation – needs a sign-up.
Is It Better To Rent Or Buy? New York Times data visualisation.
What is a mash-up? Great advice from the BCU journalism lecturer Paul Bradshaw.
Creative Commons credits: