Last week, The Times Football Editor @TonyEvansTimes tweeted about producing a sport section to deadline on the night of a huge football match, Chelsea vs Barcelona.
It was a fascinating insight into the pressure of working to deadline and a fabulous window into the often enclosed world of the newsroom. As a result it got some great feedback from his followers, who thanked him for taking the time to document his evening, and he did the same on Sunday as the Sport team went about producing the 20-page ‘The Game’ supplement.
The positive responses to Tony’s experiment made me think about the value of opening up the newsroom and how those tweets might be replicated in a more meaningful way. I was reminded of The Guardian’s ethos of open journalism and of their commitment to co-creation of the news with other people and sources and expertise that aren’t necessarily housed at Kings Place. The emphasis, as Alan Rusbridger, Editor of the Guardian, outlined in a Q&A in the aftermath of their recent Open Weekend, is on ‘what’ it is that is published:
Open journalism is journalism which is fully knitted into the web of information that exists in the world today. It links to it; sifts and filters it; collaborates with it and generally uses the ability of anyone to publish and share material to give a better account of the world.
I’d argue that Tony’s tweets last week and on Sunday is open journalism too but a different take on it. Rather than focus on ‘what’ it is that is published, Tony is making people aware ‘how’ it is produced, the process by which it is written, edited and published. If the Guardian is about co-creation, collaborating and curating that content, Tony’s model is about communication and letting people know about the decisions that are already made every day in the cycle of producing news for various platforms.
Now I realise a few tweets differ a great deal from The Guardian’s open journalism, which is a far more developed and mature concept. But the idea of being better at communicating what goes on in the ivory tower of newsrooms is a powerful one, I think, and a trick that The Guardian have perhaps missed. I say that because the majority of readers, your parents, school friends, neighbours, university mates, grandparents, will be, as a rule, more interested in the being communicated to (otherwise known as lurking) than the co-creation. That’s basically the 90-9-1 principle which is such because co-creation is a higher barrier of entry and takes a level of motivation. Knowing that the page 5 lead got spiked at the last minute because of legal complications or that the Editor requested a 3000 word feature at conference for the next day, however, is easier to engage with because it demands little from you.
The Guardian is clearly onto something when they talk about open journalism and I am a fan in principle. But I do wonder if the emphasis is in the wrong place, on the readers rather than journalists. Communication or co-creation, what do you think?