Jackson shares the Daily Mail news as he helps write it

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Jackson Rawlings in his current job: “we have to create content so invasive and permeating that it is consumed everywhere from the train to the loo.”

A big welcome back to our very own Jackson Rawlings (as in HTWB Students writing fame) who has now ascended to dizzy heights in cyberspace, as a Blogger Outreach Specialist at the Daily Mailno less. Our sincere – and very well deserved – congrats to him … and here’s his fascinating account of the brave new world of news gathering, 21st century style…

Marble. So much marble.

That was my first thought as I entered the palatial surroundings of my new workplace…

It was an odd thought, I’ll give you that.

As I travelled first up an escalator, and then in one of many majestic, 360 degree glass lifts, I gazed at the orange and white coy carp suspended in tanks between floors, the luxurious, if not somewhat over-the-top black leather chaise longs that peppered the lobby and the little glistenings of gold that seemed to be sprinkled, well, everywhere.

Sitting at my desk, two weeks into my contract, this awe and wonder I’d felt on my first day had all but vanished.

But then, out of the corner of my eye, positioned just above my monitor, I caught sight of the clocks on the wall displaying the time for LA, New York, London, Hong Kong, and just a hint of that first day excitement returned.

Aside from their digital format, these timepieces rekindled the image of the smoky, bustling 50s newsroom that I had romantically exaggerated in my mind, but for so long wanted to experience.

Well, the smoke and the 50s may have gone, but the bustling is still there.

The thrill of seeing a big news story break is incomparable to anything I’ve experienced before. It’s a kind of calm expectancy and hurried chatter reminiscent of unplanned assemblies at school.

And it’s in these moments, whether election results or celebrity births, that my choice to work here (in a hybrid of traditional and modern media) feels validated.

But I won’t overhype it: these moments are infrequent and as each day passes, the more it feels the trend is moving towards the new. This is not a newsroom as a fifties hack would recognise it.

In fact, my entire job would never have existed back then. Working in the intersection between journalism, marketing and online media, I am fully aware that my role owes more to this modernization than it does to traditional press work.

This modernization, which has resulted in 24 hour consumable media, means that the pace at which content is created, syndicated, shared and linked to is continuously speeding up.

We have to create content so invasive and permeating that it is consumed everywhere from the train to the loo.

This means employing dozens of ‘intermediary’ types like myself whose sole aim is to distribute, promote and enhance the simple news article so that one cannot not  be aware of its existence.

In the fifties, it was enough to be printed in a national newspaper – your words were displayed and digested in the largest platform there was.

Today, aside from competing with other papers, modern publishers like Buzzfeed or Vice and social media, we must also vie for the consumer’s attention against rolling news, video games and pretty much any other user of time that exists. For as much as content continues to be made and pushed out, each individual’s time is only finite. A 50s style newspaper wouldn’t last one minute in today’s media landscape.

So how do we compete? How do we make someone read our take on the election results as opposed to reading Buzzfeed’s “10 Cats That look Like Nigel Farage”, Twitter’s bite-size truisms or crashing into pedestrians on GTA?

Data. It’s all about data.

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Gone are the days of a newshound, sniffing out the latest scoop.

Gone are the days of a newshound, sniffing out the latest scoop.

Today’s news is crafted methodically and calculatedly based upon views, traffic and metrics, as well as social media ‘buzz’.

Data is the driver; the more the graphs go up, the more words get put down.

This real-time aspect is what I think would be most alien to any ‘old-school’ hack – news isn’t written in the morning and printed in the evening any more, it’s going on all the time and with every click and every like, the narrative gets built up more and more.

The big news publishers almost never break a story any more, but thanks to size, budget and scope, they’re often the ones to ‘grow’ them.

Take a look at your favorite news site. You’ll notice big stories have a habit of getting bigger. More articles are written, from different perspectives and with different intentions. Opinion pieces start flooding the op-ed and comments pages, graphs and charts are scattered in to visually demonstrate whatever can’t be expressed with words alone.

And it’s a self-perpetuating existence: the bigger a story gets, the bigger (often literally) it gets. Until, at some point, a Premiership footballer signs a trillion pound contract and everyone forgets about it. Until the next one.

This type of news-crafting is entirely reliant on, and as a result of, the technological advances of recent years. It’s much easier to edit, add to and build ‘storyboard’ style stories, sometimes over the course of days or weeks, with the internet and online publishing, than it ever would have been in print.

blog,writing,news,blogging,businessAnd it’s this data-driven content, expanded upon by the minute that keeps the reader hooked and makes them come back for more and more. It’s this which sets publishers apart from other media – the sheer scale of the operation.

To return to my point about the clocks above my monitor: on either side in my direct view, there is a screen.

On one, I see a constantly updating graph showing real-time traffic to the site. On the other, Sky News blares out incessantly.

For me this sums up a modern newsroom perfectly: a bit of the traditional, framed by a lot of the new. And you know what? That’s just how I like it.

Sounds good to us too, Jackson. So pleased to catch up with your news – and please keep us updated with your progress! 

photo credit: FDWR via photopin cc