A little bit of politics for you

Lovely to see the JFDI crew heading for Thomson Reuters again yesterday for #askDC a little talk by David Cameron and then a Q&A that promised to include some questions from Tweeters. It was a re-run with extra manpower and sparkly bits of the Gordon Brown do in the same room at Canary Wharf a little while ago, when Christian qikked the PM thus getting a 2 or 3 second scoop on the “live” internet feed and the BBC.

I love it – I’m a news junkie – I can’t get enough of this stuff and these guys supply it very well. It also fits very well with some work that I’ve been doing within Government that I *still* can’t talk about properly, but hopefully will very soon.

So what next?

In following the pattern of traditional news media with live coverage they show two things: firstly that there’s so much more that mainstream media could do, if they could be bothered to learn and let go of their ideas of how things have to work. I think this is the main reason Reuters are doing it, but (yes there’s a but) what it also reminds me is that there’s a whole lot more to news than instant live coverage and, even more importantly that there’s a whole lot more to social media than getting a few seconds scoop on the big boys.

There’s a limit on how live you can get. So in certain circumstances we can get a scoop pretty easily just by happening to be in the right place at the right time or to be witness to something that otherwise would not get any coverage because the benefit from the story doesn’t outweigh the cost of sending a 5-person camera crew. However, when it comes to set pieces like yesterday, the marginal speed gain from live-streaming from qik is wiped out by the drop in quality – the added value is in the contextual stuff that together the guys were creating while running around and pulling together stuff from twitter, flickr and qik.

What the social stuff is best for is the slower, longer-term story-telling, the relating. The repeated application of this kind of reporting is what really wows people, one-offs are fun, but ultimately unsatisfying, because we don’t, we can’t get under the skin of a story in one morning. Yesterday we got a very very broad look at a very shallow event – I’m interested now in how we get depth as well as breadth.

Once Cameron had finished speaking, BBC News fell back to the studio and analysis from a specialist political correspondent. I think we need now to be looking at how we provide that sort of added value, of contextualising stories, breaking them down and looking at them from a range of perspectives. And we get our context by writing and creating other content tangentially to the story that the subjects want to tell. The social reporter interviews the bit-players, junior officials and also-rans because what they think and say tells us as much about the main story as what the official speech-writer managed to squeeze into a time and space designed specifically for conveying a precise message to a relatively small group of hacks. Then by making all the content available, not just the annointed bits that push “the message”, we, the reader/viewers get to filter and re-mix to help make sense of it all.

Things are getting really cool.

Photo: Sizemore

4 thoughts on “A little bit of politics for you”

  1. This is excellent, Lloyd

    “What the social stuff is best for is the slower, longer-term story-telling, the relating. The repeated application of this kind of reporting is what really wows people, one-offs are fun, but ultimately unsatisfying, because we don’t, we can’t get under the skin of a story in one morning.”


  2. Great analysis, Lloyd. I like the way you get across that the many eyes of the crowd make our understanding of news, of the politicians, richer.

    I was watching the last season of The Wire last night with the commentary turned on (*long* flight + slight obsession with it) and a couple of the writers were saying that they’d had feedback from politicians that their depiction of City Hall politics was dead on.

    No one had depicted on TV how decisions are really made, the big decisions that affect communities, policing, education in American cities. They’re made based more on complex deals and myriad interests than party policies. That back needs scratching, that snout itches for that trough. But their impact doesn’t stop with the players at the top. The decisions trickle down right to the street.

    What the many eyes (and brains) of the social crowd give us, then, is an opportunity to break out of the black and white narrative and to tell, as you rightly say, the long story. Unpicking the channel restricted story in internet time – internet time not being faster, as we once thought – but wider and deeper too. With more room for meaning.

    Maybe it means we get closer to the truth. Maybe it means that more of the back-rooms and corridors of power become public places, and the politicians remember more often that they are accountable to more people than their peers alone.

    Maybe. Hope so.

    Thanks again – great post. Look forward to hearing more about your sekrit project when you’re able to discuss it.

  3. Things are indeed getting really cool.

    I think the depth as well as breadth point is very interesting. I like news too, but it’s often a pretty arbitrary concept. The funny thing about social media is the way that it facilitates users doing that kind of digging around in an issue that only journalists perhaps could do before. And the digging doesn’t necessarily need to be in real-time: if there’s something interesting from a few weeks, months or years ago, that can still be valuable, and so potentially popular.

    It’s a bit tedious to relate everything back to government, but I think there’s an opportunity now to showcase some of the backstories, the feature material, the curiosities that inevitably exist in pockets of the big machine, and possibly (ahem) even reach a wider and more open-minded audience than those who follow government news releases.

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