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Future Comms: Digital Reporting

Posted on Apr 2, 2013

colorado test kitchen

Have a dig into studying journalism at the University of Colorado Boulder in the US. You’ll most likely stumble across a communication platform that really is quite inspiring. The Digital News Test Kitchen site simply screams out that they ‘get it’ at Colorado. Even the language they use is current, relevant and media-cool. They talk ‘Test Kitchens’ for their ‘experiments’ in digital reporting; they sit comfortably alongside the likes of Wired with their statement ‘Cooking the news of tomorrow with emerging technology’; and they aren’t afraid to stick their necks out with their rallying call – ‘wake up and smell the future of journalism.’

The future of journalism is very much about great platforms, embracing new technology and learning new methods of communication. It’s now a long time since heavyweight print journalists were instructed to start writing blogs and to carry a camera phone so they could take pictures too. Possibly ten years. The age of journalists simply scribbling, typing or dictating the news, or their opinion, is long gone. The new age is upon us and it will demand much more than camera phones and blogging. Journalism is fusing in many ways with the world that marketers like to call ‘content’ (normally a world full of PR / Social / Advertising professionals). Web 2.0 and interactivity are King. A journalist posts and hundreds comment immediately. Social media platforms predominate as both a home for news but also the place that news gets shared (and changed). And it’s not just the journalists that have the smartphones to relay pictures. We all do. Mix this all up and you get the professionals competing with a mob of smartphones recording Gaddafi fleaing Tripoli, or kids rioting on the streets of London. Let’s face it, we can all be journalists now. So, more than ever it’s time for the professionals to stand out.

And this is why we love Colorado Boulder’s Test Kitchen. Students there are encouraged to stand out. They are given the latest kit – most of it relatively low-cost before you ask. They find the latest apps. They are challenged to experiment with their reporting; to use technology to try something different. Here’s just two examples you can read about and watch:

A student is sent to cover President Obama’s inauguration. He’s got three ‘toys’ with him to help him try something new. The third he uses is our favourite. It’s a GoPano camera that produces a panoramic film report whilst allowing the viewer to still control what they view. Well worth a look (click on video and move where you want to)

gopano

A student is given a GoPro camera and uses it to report the news with a film that operates at different speeds. Think the Matrix and other blockbusters. The background is rapid (like a time-lapse movie) but our reporter operates at normal speed. It’s stand-out stuff. And it’s relatively cheap to do. We can all embrace Hollywood now.

gopro

So what is being achieved here? First, students are learning to tell the news. But they can do that anywhere of course. Second, students are applying their skills to deliver real news – a big benefit to their CVs for when they go job hunting. Again, lots of universities encourage this. Finally, students are given the resource, the space and the motivation to stand-out. Not just from other media students. But from those already working. We don’t think quite as many universities are achieving this.

Marketing and Communications Directors at universities are focused on brand. We think this is a great example of what brand could be. Real-life, practical application of learning, with a distinct edge, told by the students, that stands out both as a communication platform and as a shop-window into what the students can go on to achieve. A brand that works for both the institution and its main protagonists.

We have looked at a number of similarly inspirational case studies, and some, such as Hyper Island were featured in our Future Media release in 2012. You can download it here. This year we will be releasing our Future Communications index that brings together the latest, and most inspiring, examples of student created content, alongside various other techniques employed by universities to breakthrough from the rest. To learn more, visit us at www.thefutureindex.com

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