How to excite a journalist

Posted on November 15, 2009

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Daniel Meadows - digital storytelling genius

Last week in journoland we had a visit from Daniel Meadows, documentarist, photographer and all-round charmer. I’ve never seen the lecture room so captivated – it was just fantastic to be hearing from somebody who was genuinely excited about telling stories instead of obsessing about how the internet is taking over.

For those who haven’t heard of him, Mr Meadows was quite something back in the seventies. He basically bought a bus and set off round the country on said bus taking photographs. He took no names. Years later, he set about trying to track down everybody down by putting the original pics into local newspapers, and quite a few people made themselves known. Fascinating.

Still trying to think of a modern day equivalent, but I’m not sure that anyone will loan me a plane.

So, Daniel was brought in for a lecture on digital storytelling. He showed us some great digital stories from a project he ran called Capture Wales, including lots of examples from my lovely (ahem) home town of Wrexham. A rather funny one about (*SPOILER ALERT*) shoes, A Quest for Understanding, has to be my favourite.

I’ve already started messing around a bit myself with some movie software, with the result below. Blink and you’ll miss it as it’s only about a second long, but that tiny clip is made up of 17 individual photographs. I do love stop-motion, but I think it’s going to destroy my hard drive.

Yes, I know it’s rubbish. It was supposed to be longer but my camera died.

What struck me about Daniel was how different he was. The issue at the moment is that plenty of people are spending a lot of time trying to convince us how fantastic online and mobile media is. And they’re being met with a lot of reluctance from us students. The problem is that they didn’t grow up with it. But we have. And still are.

That’s why Daniel made such a difference. He grew up with photography and doing it all the first time round and putting those pictures together. People discovering online halfway through their journalism careers just don’t see it the way we do. They’re all excited about it because Twitter and Facebook and everything else are a load new load of toys to play with.

Trying to get young people genuinely enthused about using online for journalism is a bit like trying to get an old-school journalist 30 years ago at the beginning of their careers excited about using a typewriter. Letting them figure it out for themselves, with the new things that are actually new – that’s where they’re going to get excited.

Image taken from jdlasica‘s photostream.

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