Nic WalkerNic probably knew that when a helicopter tore out of the sky and burst into a nearby office, leaving a trail of flames, that this was probably a news story.And what he did, was he shared that story with his social network first.Not a social conversation that we are inherently part of. We become part of it because these people, at that moment, have something we want.
And the conversation looks a little like this.
That’s news, and Janis Krum knew it too – he snappedp this as the ferry he was on went to the resuce of the passengers of US Airways Flight 1549.Almost four years to the day previously, the news industry work up to the power of social networks during big breaking news situations. When crash landed into the Hudson, there weren’t many that understood how to find Janis Krum’s picture or to how to obtain the right permissions to use it. The Vauxhall helicopter crash shows just how far we’ve come.
But the industry still has a way to go. Many organisations were caught out by this video. Good verification skills when it comes to online content are not just a nice to have, in an era where trusted sources are ever-more important and needed, it is a journalistic necessity to stay relevant.The Guardian has recently run a series od courses for its journalists to keep them up to date with new and advanced techniques to spot the hoaxes, and is planning more in the future.This is curcuial to the discovery of what I’ll call big news, the oft-cited stories about the power of social media.However, in my opinion the real power of social conversation for journalists is for those times when the rest of the world isn’t even aware there’s a story at all.So, what other news can social conversations uncover?
Is that news?Well bear with me on this one, I want to convince you it is. Shiv Malik, a reporter for the Guardian, had been hearing about what seemed to be unfair practices around the government’s workfare scheme, aimed at encouraging young people into jobs.Interested to find out more he teamed up with the community team to open up a dialogue with young people who were struggling to find a job.Through tools on our site, and by appeals on social media, we started to reach young people who had experienced the warkfare scheme.We also reached lots of people who didn’t, but one of these happened to have a friend who had recently been forced to drop out of her work experience at a museum to stock shelves at Poundland in order to keep her jobseekers allowance. Her name was Cait Reilly. The friend suggested that Cait got in touch with Shiv and the Guardian’s community team.
The result? Cait successfully challenged the Government in the Court of Appeal. Whatever you think of Cait’spostion the truth remains that this was an pretty big and incredible story, one which would nenever have happened without the planning and the outreach of the community team, not the journalistic nous of Shiv Malik.This is the power of social conversation – being able to reach out to people and convince them that something they may never have thought newsworthy is.It’s the sort of thing that can change Government policy.
And then there are the stories that need the journalist to bring together. Last year, the international perception of Greece was at an all-time low. In debt, struggling, financially incompetent and suffering, the country’s tales of dependence and woe writ large in the coverage of major news organisationsBut there was another story to tell – one of fortitiude and genorisity. And it was through the power of social coversations that our, self-professed technophobe Jon Henley. Was able to tell that story.
Jon makes the point perfectly in his piece, about the journalistic power available to us as we learn to reach out to new arenas online. He’s also right that, the real power is in the dialogue – the ability for This is a level of social conversation a world away from the bombarding of requests to use content related to a breaking story. That has its place, of course, but this is something that, done right, can connect you to the world in ways that a journalist of 20 years ago could only dream his contact book would provide.But it takes work and time. This image is of the Guardian’s open weekend last year – two days where thousands of Guardian readers gathered together to attend workshops, debates and discussions all linked to the Guardian’s coverage.It was, of course, the Guardina’s most loyal audience, but it underlined the power of a news brand to represent and be a voice for its readers. These are the people who, like Cait Reilly’s friend, talk about our journalism and pint people with relevent experience our way. There is a repsonsibility to recognise that – like those hard-working Greek citizens -d there is insight and experience outside of the walls of our building, ourside the confines of the press offices and face-toface contacts - that we have the power to reach through the conversations we have online. This is our community and the more we can grow it, the greater our newsgathering ability will be.That’s why today I’m delighted that today, at Shift 2013, I can annouce the launch of a new platform by the Guardian that will help us do just that.But they work best built up over time. With community