#47: Exploring the future of journalism
How we can use Design Thinking to solve journalistic problems.
I've been to a few journalism events this week on the industry's future and what needs to change.
NUJ Racism and the Media special meeting, Freelance Industrial Council, and the #buildbackwellDEN Spring '21 meeting.
Common themes: Digital transformation, reinvention, diversity, resilience, burnout and mental health.
There was a backlash to the Society of Editors' bizarre statement denying press racism in the UK. Press Gazette did a survey which shows there's still much work to do. NUJ Black Members' Council made a statement about what we can learn from the Meghan Markle race debate saying how the industry should have used the comments made by Meghan and Harry to start a long-overdue debate about the best way to prevent racist coverage.
We heard some shocking stories about racism in the media and how the media has a problem pigeonholing journalists of colour. Editors want pitches related to race and lived experiences, giving little space for journalists to explore other topics.
Lack of diversity in newsrooms was the biggest issue flagged. It's not so much a problem with recruitment, but retention – if the work culture isn't diverse and welcoming, people won't hang around. Depressing to hear stories of endemic racism in our media corporations and comments like: ‘Sometimes the only way to break out [of the box you’re put in] is to leave and come back in through another door.'
Look out for the full report on londonfreelance.org.
Do freelance rates discriminate?
We have some new data on gender, ethnicity and rates. Thanks to the #FreelancerPayGap initiative LFB has added over 1,000 Rates for the Job with info on ethnicity as well as gender. We have a gender pay gap and an ethnic pay gap. In this data set, women are getting less than men and people who don't identify as 'white' are getting less than those who do.
We all need to step up. Sharing rates and being transparent about pay will help to dismantle the gender pay gap. You can submit your Rate for the Job here and via the #FreelancerPayGap. I've seen similar campaigns for advertising and publishing.
#buildbackwellDEN (Digital Editors' Network)
More than 70 colleagues from across 12 time zones came to the DEN event – a 90-minute, interactive discussion on how we can build back well. It focused on three areas: PEOPLE, PROCESS and PRODUCT.
The aim is to co-create an agenda to take back to decision-makers so it’s not just a talking shop (there’s a working document).
Excellent speakers and breakout sessions to brainstorm ideas.
The Chatham House Rule means I can share information about the discussion but not identify anyone or attribute quotes. This is so people can speak freely.
- Flying the flag for freelancers. The fastest-growing sector of the industry. Will we all burn out? Is that where this is heading? Is there any research on freelancers and burnout, and where do we go?
- No more siloed working. Newsrooms and publications need to build a better relationship with freelancers and be more inclusive. Freelancers need to be paid fairly – more transparency around pay rates.
- We need a database of freelancers showing who's available, their background and what they can do. To help speed up the commissioning process and encourage collaboration. Databases like this exist within organisations, e.g. the BBC has a portal, but there’s nothing that can be accessed by the wider industry.
- What companies are doing to prevent burnout – training people up on mental health, working on user-generated content, creating intranets about COVID as a resource for staff, and enforcing wellbeing policies.
- How Design Thinking can transform journalism. Never thought I'd hear Design Thinking, empathy and journalism in the same sentence ;-) Exciting! I'm reading a lot about Design Thinking on my UX course – here's a nice intro.
Newsrooms need to take a more holistic approach with human-centred storytelling and understand what people need before creating a story/product. How much do you know about your readers? Involve them in the creation process.
- Soft skills vs hard skills: The importance of listening and empathy. The emphasis on hard skills in journalism is why I haven't felt comfortable in it. It’s as though being argumentative, pushy and loud somehow makes you a better journalist. I did some subbing shifts on the nationals a few years ago - no women on the team, a hard-drinking culture and long working hours. A work culture that would exclude many.
Well done, DEN. An inspiring discussion and lots to think about. Feels like I’m heading in the right direction with the UX training - and I can see why I’m attracted to it.
I can combine my UX work with journalism to create better media products.
Check out the speakers and feel free to send in ideas for future DEN events.
Enjoyed this article by Rasmus Kleis Neilson, Director at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, on the vanguard and rearguards in the fight for the future of journalism. The tension between those who embrace change and those who want things to stay the same.
The vanguard is full of women and more diverse. The rearguard full of white men like me.
This mindset will continue to undermine journalism's ability to adapt, remake, and renew itself, and the profession as a whole, especially younger journalists, will have to live with the consequences of this conservatism.
Go deeper 🛠
World Press Trends Outlook 2021: Digital transformation in the driver's seat. Nearly 60% of publishers say staff will either WFH or have the option to WFH going forward. Only 5% expect to move everyone back to the office.
Content is Product and Product is Content: Why deeper alignment is the only way forward. Dmitry Shiskin on why it's time to start treating content and product as one. They are slowly merging into one thing.
People pay for other media, but they won't pay for journalism (Heather Bryant).
The idea that the user experience of the delivered product of most journalism is anywhere near the quality of any of other media is in many cases a delusion of grandeur. 👏
Facebook is Starting a Substack Competitor (Nieman Lab) – Facebook to pay $5 million to local journalists in news push. They’ve pledged to invest $1 billion in the news industry over the next five years. Be interesting to see what happens - Facebook has strong community groups.
Substack says, bring it on!
Listen up! #FutureMediaPodcasts roundup 🎧
Why journalists NEED to be researchers (Shirish Kulkarni) – on how journalism can apply Design Thinking principles to tell better stories.
Most of our news is presented 'top down' – do we actually want something 'bottom up' where communities are more involved in telling their own stories?
How to use design thinking to solve journalistic problems (newsrewired.com)
Freelancer Magazine – well done to the team for getting this out, an inspiring read 🙌 Get your copy here.
Freelance Business for Writers, 3-4 June 2021. Free online event for freelance copywriters, editors, journalists and translators. Speaker callout🎙
Global Freelancing – take the survey. ‘The goal is to understand the experience of freelancing during the pandemic and looking ahead at the future of work.’
This month, I've been… Building backlinks 🔗
I wrote an article on how to build backlinks. What they are, why you need them, and how they'll help your business.👇
Google has over 200 factors that determine your site ranking, and number one is backlinks.
Link building is an art and science, creative and analytical. It involves detective work, psychology, tools and relationship building.
I’ve done a few things so let’s see if my Google ranking improves.
Happy link building!
LINE OF DUTY
Ted Hastings. A man of principle. He can’t retire!
Will we find out who H is…? Not long till I get my fix…
Welcome to my bookshop! 📚
I’ll be sharing books in my bag and recommended reads on Bookshop.org. They pay a 10% commission on every sale and give a matching 10% to local bookstores, an integral part of our culture and communities. It would make me very happy if you make the odd purchase here.
Work with me
Leopard print, always. Worry less and rock a red lip. Remote work champion, problem solver.
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Thanks for reading!