Fleeting tweets, journo beats…

New News: You are the Future” brought Andy Carvin (NPR), Sandra Hanchard (Swinburne Institute for Social Research) and Hal Crawford (Editor-in-Chief of Ninemsn) together to discuss what it means to be a journalist in the digital age. Patrick Hutchens reports.

For those with their finger on the pulse, it has become cliché to hear how audiences are liberated from their role as passive news consumers through social media.  Terms like “new media” can sound like “old man-speak”. 

The panel, chaired by economist and commentator Nicholas Gruen, bypassed the tired “old” debates. The general consensus was the nexus between the audience and the reporter in the online world was now very porous.  

Andy Carvin, Senior Strategist for the US public broadcaster NPR, has just fewer than 74,000 followers on Twitter.  He said when a work colleague asked him whether he was a journalist he told them: “I don’t know. What day is it?”

His said he did not initially see himself as a journalist, but on certain days of the week he would work as a reporter and on other days he would develop tools to “better connect with audiences”.

Carvin said he disliked the term “citizen journalist” as he thought it suggested the reporting would be bad and that there was a wall between journalists and other people who practice journalism.

The panel acknowledged Carvin represented a new and exciting form of individual journalist who connected with mass audiences.  However it also agreed that centres of organizational power would still remain strong on the Internet.

Hal Crawford, Editor-in-Chief of Ninemsn said audiences will continue to gravitate towards established digital news websites.

Mr Crawford said Twitter was an amazing “industry facing” platform and a great tool for breaking news reporting but not as an instrument for driving people to their website.

He said articles seeded on Twitter amounted to about one per cent of the Ninemsn website’s traffic. Referrals from Facebook, on the other hand, accounted for 18 per cent of the website’s clicks.

According to the panel Facebook news stories were generally “water cooler” news shared by networks of friends.

“There is an over proportion of stories about dogs that people share,” said Mr Crawford.

“There is a refinement on that; they have to be dogs acting like humans,”

Sandra Hanchard, who previously worked with Internet measurement firm Experian Hitwise, said that rather than being interested in your demographic information, companies are now interested in grouping people into their interests, such as what types of stories they shared with friends.

“We’re more interested in people who share your behaviours than your demographics, ” says Hanchard.

Mr Carvin told the audience occasionally he’ll share videos of squirrels on surf boards and explained if he felt he needed a break from what he was doing, chances were his audience does too.

The panel closed with an agreement that while there would be a rebalancing of the relationship between news organisations and their audiences, digital mainstream companies would remain as centres of power.