Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Guardian's live Countdown blog-digital journalism in danger of being a parody of itself

The live blog on the Guardian website yesterday attracted a fair amount of criticism across the journalistic twittersphere.

The Guardian had decided in its infinite wisdom that Nick Hewer taking over hosting duties at Countdown was such a significant event that it required a live commentary.

But has digital reporting taken a step too far?

Now I applaud many things that the Guardian does as many readers of this blog and those that follow my twitter stream know.

However the danger to me is that the organisation,and it is not on its own, is being slowly taken over by the good intentions of journalists who have been schooled in the idea that the many tools of this digital age are the salvation of the profession whilst forgetting who they are actually trying to connect with.

Yes,live blogging as one such too has demonstrated its usefulness but yesterday's choice of event to me endangers it to being a parody of itself.

As a tongue in cheek Mike Rawlins of Talk about local tweeted to me earlier on the very subject

" Next time I see a live blog like that I think I'll live blog the live blog, hopefully someone will live tweet the....."

There is a danger that journalism and journalists spend far too much time navel gazing and forget whom their real audience is,Ready to jump on tweet and blog about about what they consider the next best thing which will come to their salvation,be it data journalism,geotagging,cover it live and whatever the next dreamed up hashtag will be(anyone remember Quora which was going to solve all our problems?)

Meanwhile the Leveson enquiry continues to rumble on.In much the same way as the Countdown blog,it is in danger of becoming a navel gazing exercise.Covered in depth by the Guardian and the Independent,I speculate on whether anyone outside the profession is really that interested in its outcome.

Indeed by the time it reports,the heady days of last summer when we actually thought the world was going to change will be long forgotten to be replaced by,well who knows?

So as I prepare to live blog my expedition to the kitchen to make a cup of tea and some toast,here is an appeal to some in the journalism community-get real please.


davidhiggerson said...

Hi Nigel,

Are you in danger of reading too much into something which was, in essence, a bit of fun? It was written very tongue-in-cheek and surely digital journalism is all about experimentation? Reader research time and again shows people want light-hearted as well as serious news and content, and if people were talking about it, why not?

Your point about using tools for the sake of it I agree with. The content comes first, followed by the best tools to use. Find tools which readers like and become familiar with - such as coveritlive or an in-house liveblogging tool - and it makes sense to use it whenever the opportunity occurs. The key is to ensure it works for the content, and therefore for the reader. The user figures for many of the coveritlive events I've seen are huge, so they clearly do work. The same applies for data journalism - if the data and the visualisation works for the reader, then why wouldn't you do it?

On Leveson, you're probably right, although I would argue the BBC is more guilty of over-emphasis on the inquiry, rather than the Guardian or Independent.

Nigel Barlow said...

Thank you for your comment David and I think that we are coming from the same standpoint.

You are correct content comes first and then you discover which medium is the appropriate way to cover it.

I just feel that too many times it seems easy for organisations just o throw up a cover it live page or a live blog simply because they believe that they should be doing it.

Yes when done well,they can provide a great amount of traction but I see many that aren't with the journalist involved having little understanding of the situation that they are describing.

Now that the dust has settled on the Guardian's Countdown attempt I can see that it was probably intended to be a little tongue in cheek but experimental? No-it was a live blog.

I do believe that it does point to a wider malaise within the industry and that content is on occasions relegated to second place.

And I am glad we agree on Leveson.My worry is that the impetus for change which came after last summer's revelations will be lost in a the fog of eveidence