Journalism in a new era

Little over a decade ago, I spent the first days of my journalistic career in the dying days of another age. I filed my first stories over the phone to copytakers; I did my research using actual cuttings from the newspaper’s meticulously organised cuttings library; and, if I needed to quote someone, I had to track them down, instead of hanging around on their twitter feed.

While there are few industries that haven't been somehow changed by the advent of the internet, it's hard to think of many that have faced as desperate a scrabble to adapt or die as the news media. 

Production, product, distribution, medium, method, market, not to mention the mechanisms of power and influence - not one aspect of the business of news is the same today as it was at the turn of the millennium. 

Many of the old-school hacks I know (if they weren't so busy trying to single-handedly fill tomorrow's pages on a shoestring) would be quick to tell you how the internet has killed quality reporting, replacing it with vast quantities of poorly-researched, superficial content.

They'd say the Mail's infamous 'sidebar of shame', and Trinity Mirror's recent decision to set audience targets for its regional journalists, are the inevitable consequence of ‘old media’ powerhouses converting to the new religion of clickbait; that as paper sales nosedive, affordability of staff is valued over experience; and that finely honed editorial judgement means a whole lot less when you've got analytics at your fingertips.

If you know Scriberia as a live scribing company, producers of animations, or purveyors of awesome visual thinking workshops, you might be wondering why we care at all about the evolution of news media. But, the fact is, we see ourselves at the heart of it in future.

Having left behind the newsrooms I more or less lived in as a reporter, I have a new vantage point. From here, I can see a media landscape full of possibilities for those committed to exploring them. The internet has more to offer journalism than listicles or the digital reproduction of a print product, and true pioneers of the medium know that. 

Our recent series of animations for The Guardian’s #KeepItInTheGround campaign is one example of the effective use of animation to deliver factual content to an online audience. Designed to sit comfortably in-stream, they packed a visual and factual punch in under 60 seconds, and proved hugely popular with the Guardian’s Facebook following in particular.

The Guardian has always pushed boundaries in its reporting and its embrace of animation as a form of journalism (from several studios and in several styles), reflects that. The Hunger Strikers, an unflinching commission by the Guardian’s sister paper, the Observer, in 2013 to share the deeply disturbing testimonies of five Guantanamo inmates, is one particularly noteable example.

Do you have to be a vegan to fix the climate? One of five questions posed in our Climate Fix series for the Guardian. 

But the Guardian is not alone in realising animation’s place in news. From Bloomberg’s infographic-style explainer on the European debt crisis, to this completely bonkers rendering of the Labour leadership election from Taiwanese news animators, NMA TV – animated news content is gaining a foothold everywhere.  Some animation studios, including Kurzgesagt (aka In A Nutshell), are gaining significant audiences for self-initiated projects. Their recent explainer on the European refugee crisis had scored in excess of 6.5 million YouTube views at the time of writing.

At the start of 2015, the BBC’s Future of News report talked of reinventing the news to engage younger audiences. It noted the need for journalists who could embrace new methods of storytelling; ones better suited to sit in-stream on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. High among its list of recommendations was the increased use of animation, and it praised this animated sequence by the US cable channel Fusion, to illustrate the Michael Brown case in Ferguson, Missouri.

In June, Contently declared Instagram Journalism “the content trend shaking up the media world”. An Instagram-based experiment from journalists at the Virginia Quarterly Review indicated, they said, a new direction both for news journalism and for the app itself. Has it shaken up the media world? Not quite yet. But it’s a clear indication that traditional outlets don’t intend to be caught napping again.