Wednesday, 26 February 2014

The Green Ink Brigade

Never feed the trolls. In a day gone by the postman at the radio station I worked for would deliver some very dubious looking letters.  The writing on the envelope would be erratic, sometimes in block capitals, inside, usually on scraps of paper, rather than proper writing paper would be a crazed diatribe from a listener again in block capitals, with plenty of underlining and exclamation marks.  The letter would be about something that they did or did not hear.

You would look at the childish scrawl, observe the colour of ink, often red or green and screw the whole lot up into a ball and throw it in the waste-paper basket. - Job done.

Now those green ink writers have harnessed email and social media to make their point.  There are the Twitter Trolls and the like, people who have enough time to complain about everything and anything.  And you are obliged to treat every email you get with due deference whatever bollocks they are writing about.

No longer can you tell that you are dealing withe the maddest of the mad and their rantings need to be filed into the waste-paper basket.  Now you must enter a dialogue with people who frankly have a lot more time than you do, realise the power of that situation and use it to their own trolling advantage.

But I believe it is a necessary evil to deal with the nutters because in amongst the ranters are the new wave of sane, savvy and interactive listeners and viewers and consumers of media.

Here is an interesting excerpt from an article by Rory Cellan-Jones the very fine and approachable BBC Technology Correspondent:

"Now, I am not naive enough to believe that some of those people weren’t a bit odd, or that the term green-ink brigade no longer exists in newsrooms across the country."

Rory Cellan-Jones however is trying to demonstrate how,  in the not so very distant past, television and radio stations simply had no interaction with their audience. Journalists made the news, nutters wrote in to talk about it.

This undoubteldly produced a laziness as well as an arrogance in journalism. Learning his trade in the early 1980′s, Mr Cellan-Jones says that there was virtually no original journalism. Television editors and reporters would check the daily newspapers and see what was worth following up.

Again that tendency has by no means disappeared. Television journalism is a much a slower process than print or even radio.

The point however is that with the boom of social networking and blogging, and with it the greater capacity for instant interaction, engagment and feedback from the viewer and/or listener, that arrogance and laziness can no longer be afforded.

As Mr Cellan-Jones rightly states:

“Twitter is a news agency”. Millions of people can react almost instanteanously to the content you produce.
The ability of organisations to track what their audience is reading on their websites indicates to its editors what their audience wants.
Where the consumer can directly interact with the journalist, one has to be 100% sure that what they are writing is factual and accuarate, and must be prepared for criticism and abuse.
Furthermore, user-generated content is now a permanent feature of how news is produced.

The first footage of the 7/7 bombings in London came from the mobile phone of a underground passenger; it was because of a member of the public filming a man being pushed over by a police officer at the G20 protests that news organisations could report that they have led to his death a few hours later; and where would we be without the hundreds and hundreds of photos sent into television stations of people trapped in the snow, building a snow man, falling over on snow?…you get my point.

All of this, according to Rory Cellan-Jones, has made editors and the media industry as a whole completely lose confidence in itself.

They alone no longer judge what is newsworthy. It is a two-way conversation.

The BBC, Sky and ITN now need, and thus seek, feedback rather than look down on those who provide it.

Hurrah!  Victory for the Green Ink Brigade (sort of)" Speaking to the Cardiff Journalism School from 

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