Another point that seemed to be up for debate at news:rewired was whether journalists could undertake every element of getting a story published, now that technology has moved on to such an extent that most jobs can be done from your desk, or uploaded to the internet from the street.
Mark Rock, CEO of audioboo, has created a tool that journalists, and ordinary folk, can use to record, tag, upload and diseminate quality sound recordings from their mobile phone. In this instance, journalists take on the role of investigator, writer, sub-editor and producer. Web publishing has advanced to the point where journalists can do the same from their desktop – when I write for the Datablog I source the stats, format them in a spreadsheet, write the article, sub it, find and add all the relevant links and tables then publish it to the site. In this way, I am not just a librarian (finding and filtering information) but journalist, sub and publisher.
But it is important to note that I don’t do a blogpost every day, rarely every week. This is not my core job, more a sideline. If it were, I don’t think I would be able to manage all the stages on my own. It is also very different to the way a proper journalist builds a story.
Kevin Marsh (and several other speakers) argued that it is impossible for a journalist to be all things, to play all roles and still do their job effectively, even with new tools like audioboo. He said that the news industry still needed specialists who could design graphics, who could edit well, and I hope he would extend that to library specialists too. We still have skills that others don’t – complex searching of databases, filtering out unnecessary information, reading and understanding data, compiling lists of genuinely useful and reliable sources. Things that journalists don’t have time to do, things that journalists don’t have the skills to do.