Digital Journalism: a New Storytelling

The Storyology 2015 conference saw leaders in the field spilling the beans on the who, why and what of digital journalism.

Emotional connection, community, engagement – three terms that struck me as the most powerful during this year's Storyology, which is run by the Walkley Foundation.

Some might argue these important parts of the fabric of humanity and storytelling are exactly what are being lost in the digital age.

To the contrary.

As print continues its transition to digital, the two-way conversation that is becoming part and parcel of digital journalism will foster a much deeper sense of community between journalists and the public, and also among diverse components of the wider community that might otherwise never have connected.

Particularly via the always-at-the-ready mobile, and the digital natives who wield it, digital journalism also provides a live, up-to-the-second engagement where journalists must be ever mindful of directly addressing their audience and fostering a conversation.

And then there's the multitude of new tools available to digital journalism – particularly the platforms through which it is accessed – that are opening up the potential for a much deeper emotional connection than has ever been possible.

But won't somebody please think of the words!!!

Words, words, words ... the mainstay of traditional journalism. They're what the craft is about, right? Words and the crafting of story – the foundation and walls that house the narrative, and the window the readers use to peer into it. With the builder, the journalist, carefully constructing the dwelling so that the reader gets the most from the telling of the story; and the subeditor somewhere behind the scenes, trimming, cleaning up and prepping the story before it hits the audience's eyeballs.

And yet with so much more at our disposal now as storytellers, particularly those in the digital journalism space, what does it mean for words?

Image has, of course, also been such a huge part of telling story, and sometimes is the story where words can't express it. The thing that struck me at Storyology was that the huge range of media represented – from Mashable to NewsCorp, Junkee to Twitter – seemed to be pushing away from words towards the visual in digital journalism. A narrative is still of utmost importance, as is emotionally engaging the reader, but so many of the media, new and old, and the platforms to which they are relinquishing their gatekeeper roles, are now focusing on image, particularly video.

Partnered to this is, of course, the dreaded word that meant little or nothing to heritage/legacy media but means everything to digital journalism and new media: data.

Data and analytics were the other massive takeaway from Storyology, and needing to see them as an essential aspect of the craft. Digging your head in the sand and pretending they don't matter is a road to oblivion.

Intrinsically linked to data is the 's' word – and probably the most crucial aspect of new media: sharing.

What all this seems to point to is that the power dynamic has changed – that the audience is now in control. That new and old media must listen to their diverse audience for what it wants – and, let's face it, it wants a lot!

It wants Snapchat and Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Youtube and Pinterest, Tumblr and LinkedIn.

It wants a conversation and a chance to contribute.

The audience wants to be a part of the story, not just the recipient of it, helping tell the story when it can.

The digital journalism landscape continues to shift under the feet of the professionals who have stuck with it, or the newbies who have rushed to plant themselves on it, even as it squirms and shifts beneath them, trying to become something new again.

It's an exciting time – a challenging time.

It's the great age of digital disruption that is going to continue to sweep through the journalism profession, and so many others.

Yet, it is still a time where words matter ... story still matters ... and the storytellers matter.

The new landscape is a place where the storytellers now walk among us ...

Paul Bugeja
Communications Officer
communication@editorsvictoria.org