Thursday, January 19, 2012

How New Journalism should provide grounded traditional techniques

The colossal creativity unleashed on the web, and the successes we've witnessed pose an interesting question for any profession.

In journalism it's had us believe unequivocally that creativity is the key index for journalism and its future. We acknowledge that by the weight of sites and conferences espousing "the future of journalism"that stop us in our surfing track.

It is undoubtedly a necessary ingredient, however prototypes of this new horizon are fewer than we often think.  We might mash up, become inter discipline, develop apps, but truthfully the cognitive techniques developed by Defoe who wrote Robinson Crusoe, or Vertov's in "Man with a Movie Camera" are still robust.

These and many others are the exemplars recycled to present iterations.

Yes, you could reel through those bookmarks of the 20 apps you need that separate you from the luddites. But invariably those apps facilitate, add to, push forward concepts you might already have dreamed off or conceptualised, otherwise you're not using them now because they have no relevance.

Sad news this week of Kodak locking itself in the dark room in perpetuity after a hundred plus years is not necessarily an indictment of new journalism over old,  but off a complacency of process over product.

Great photography still employs fundamentally the same techniques whether its analogue or digital.

David Hockney's new London exhibition which shows paintings made on an IPad does not disguise that great painting still rests on composition, mis en scene, lighting and fundamentally problem-solving.

Writing great copy is still a cognitive process of conflicting styles, grammar and rules of punctuation.

The future of journalism then is curiously formalised techniques for writing for blogs, the mobility of journalism through the IPad, the social networking of you and your audience, but it's far from being a zero-sum game.

Journalism is still "a hunger for human awareness" and how hardwired we are to storytelling so brilliantly captured in Bill Kovach's and Tom Rosenstiel's The Elements of Journalism.

So what does this all mean for even a self-confessed quasi-techno like you and me?

Search for the exemplars, the original forms that have influenced contemporary leanings - that so often blight our outlook we think them new.

Interrogate those methods against the emerging to discover where new lesions may arise for you to work. Storytelling is fundamental, but is influenced by culture, social and technology. If you're a student spend time asking your lecturer about those classics - exemplars.

Google is without doubt an exemplar for its age, but google itself grounded its techniques on our cognitive understanding of how people search and reference. The art of referencing emerged in the 1950s, which itself looked to the art of taxonomy.

But if you don't know how to search efficiently what good is google?  The story of baffled kids watching Harry Porter visit a library, when he might easily have used google, shows how in the last decade alone technology can seemingly blunt the way we think.

New journalism is brilliant but don't make it an island cut off from its many archipelagos.