The “Digital Convergence: How should we respond?” meeting

April 18, 2007

Len Mulholland talked about internet experiences at The Guardian, introducing the word bitcasting into my vocabulary, but still without meaning. Maybe its something to do with bit-torrent? Anyways, she mentioned four main problems with a digital convergence (funnily we always used the word to describe a meeting in a chat room, whereby here it just seems to mean multimedia & use of various formats) of newspapers: an increasing superficiality when reporting on the web compared with newspaper reports, a drop in professionalism, a high increase in workload and/or hours and a focus on short-term contracts as the web strategy of many media companies is plucked out of thin air and made up on the fly as they go along.

Paula Dear, from BBC News Online, states that many of the staff on the web site would also be on flexible contracts. The BBC Interactive Service is currently employing about 400 staff, including digital fax and ceefax, as well as audio-visual on the web. The BBC website got about 33.6 million page views on Wednesday, and it is estimated that 4-5 million unique readers are amongst these stats.

Each day the statistics are published and the newsroom is run on a 24/7 basis. The rota is one of the main hotpots and a wide consultation about the “rota problem” took place. There was something mentioned like 40 hrs a week over 4 days? – can this be correct?
Anyways, the rota was the cause for the biggest number of complaints.
She mentioned an unpredictability allowance they want to defend and that the pay level at the BBC would be quite good compared to what and how other media companies deal with their staff.
There is a growing tendency to integrate the interactive service with TV and radio collegues, she said.

I recorded the speech of Dr Andy Williams from Cardiff University, who is the author of a study about the impact of Video Journalism at the Western Mail and Echo. Unfortunately my batteries went, and the hotel staff have thrown away my expensive Sony accu and the rechargeable batteries so I had to abort my audio recording mission in the middle of it and tried to use the oldfashioned scribble method
instead.

Adam Christie from the National Executive Council gave an overview of implications for freelancers. He refered to the recent Johnston Press dispute over pictures from freelancers and the use of their pictures not only in print but also on the web. He said that freelancers were experiencing big cuts with the web. Photographers were asked to do video content, although they weren’t trained, and freelancers were used, but not trained to administer web content management systems. He also refered to the authors rights in copyright and licenses and gave the BBC’s user contribution as an example. He stated that the Health and Safety reps have actually legal powers to enforce adequate training and that the HSE would have quite good guidelines, which could be found in the entertainment category.

Finally Jeremy Dear closed off the meeting with a quick summary and reminded everybody that a one day conference on the same topic would take place on Saturday, 5th of May from noon till 4.30pm at NUJ headquarters. The topic is called “Educate, Agitate, Integrate”, places are strictly limited. If you would like to attend, please email campaigns@nuj.org.uk to book your place. At least that’s what it says on the leaflet. It also advertises contributions from NUJ members at The Guardian & Guardian Unlimited, BBC News, Johnston Press, Trinity Mirror, Telegraph Media and many more…

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Digital Convergence: How should we respond?

April 15, 2007

Click on the video clip below to see the first part of Dr Andy Williams’ summary of his report into Trinity Mirror’s online strategy. The rest of Andy’s presentation and other parts of the fringe event on Digital Convergence will appear on the Online Journalism Blog.