The UK’s big media companies could have done with being at yesterday’s Google Big Tent event and specifically Eric Schmidt keynote lecture.
Asked about the vast growth of accessible online data, the company’s Executive Chairman said it was an ‘extremely complicated’ area of the web but something Google got round by asking bright sparks coming out of college what they thought the solution was. The reason, he said, for doing this was that young people ask ‘Why is it this way? Why is the status quo way it is?’. They see things from a new and different point of view. And then Google ‘finds such a person and follow them,’ according to Schmidt ie they look to utilise what fresh ideas those relatively experienced people have. ’Innovation comes from this approach when people question the dominant zeitgeist’, he concluded.
So why don’t big media organisations take the same approach? Why, when one of the world’s most innovative businesses is advocating giving those on the outside looking in a chance, do national newspapers continue to turn a blind eye to the argument of recruiting for skills that existing journalists may not possess? It’s starting to happen but the trend for community specialists and live-bloggers will just be the tip of the iceberg should there be increasing amount of video on news sites and even Twitter-only reporters.
Now, let me make it clear, this is not a ‘I am owed a job by the journalism industry’ post (my dislike of that type of ego puts pay to that..) – this is me begging the question ‘if that kind of recruiting and pooling of ideas works for Google, why can’t it work for journalism?’.
Jo Stashko raised this point briefly in his interesting post about personal branding (I will be returning to discuss another of it’s salient points next week..).
Right now the industry’s strategy seems to be offering conventional jobs to talented graduates who were spotted precisely because they were unconventional.
It’s something that I’ve long thought about – how large media companies, newspaper, magazine publishers, whoever, are quite willing to recruit aspiring journalists and graduates but for position’s that don’t take advantage of the set of skills that they’ve just learnt. It’s tantamount to putting round pegs in square holes. The skillset for being an editorial assistant or trainee reporter on a B2B or any job a fresh-faced journo is likely to get is effectively the same as it was ten years ago – nothing will have really changed.
And in the majority of roles, said journalists won’t be encouraged to do anything different, to try to develop new ways of storytelling or foster a social media presence – if anything, they’ll be asked to keep the status quo that Schmidt rightly pointed out is there to be challenged, even if it’s not broken.
Instead it’s left to pop-up events like the Knight-Mozilla News Innovation Jam in London at the end of this month to get the people on the cutting edge of journalism innovation together in a room to bounce ideas off each other. In an ideal world, every major publication would have something like this every week to see what they come up with and to develop fresh long-term content, mediums and social features. It’s unrealistic obviously but, with the feisty right young journalists, it would not doubt be of use.
And if Google do it, who’s to say there’s anything wrong with it.
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After finishing my stint in student media, I couldn’t help but look