Craig McGill: We can’t ignore ‘cross-platform’

OVER the last few weeks, when talking digital journalism and the role of reporters, photographers and so on, some have been asking why there seems to be an obsession with cross-platform journalism and getting reporters/photographers to be doing lots of different things instead of having lots of staff.

To which I say, what do you think this is? The ’70s?

As I’ve noted before, the Scottish Media – especially the printed part of it – were slow to embrace the opportunities by digital and one reason for that was the idea that reporters were reporters and that was that.

Shoot some video? Take a picture? Write just for the internet? These were all jobs for other people prompted, in part, because journalists have no desire to see anyone else out of a job.

And it’s a completely fair point. Let the journalist be the master of his or her craft – the words – and let others take care of their domains, hopefully thus ensuring best quality for all.

But the water started to get muddied by those pesky bloggers, who, as well as producing words, also took pics and shot video. The waters were even further muddied with the idea of search engine optimisation, meaning writers really had to know a bit or two about optimising text for online.

So, as heads were stuck in the sand and newspapers missed one opportunity after another, budgets were slashed and reporters were let go. The idea of specialists – outside of, mainly, politics and sport – became more and more remote as the assumption began to take hold that Wikipedia and Google were all a reporter needed to become an ‘expert’ in any field (a false assumption but one probably maintained by the ‘bean counters’).

It would be great if we could have lots of staff – just as I’m sure the BBC and STV would love to go back to days of four- and five-man crews on a video shoot. But, it isn’t going to happen anytime soon.

In terms of the skills needed by the ‘creatives’ – reporters, photographers, sub-editors and so on – we are in a cross-platform world for the short-term at the very least.

We can’t ignore thinking of ways to get stories onto Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and elsewhere past just that of posting a headline and a URL.

Yes, it’s more work, but it’s also potentially more readers and exposure. And what writer doesn’t want that?

Craig McGill has written for – or been a member of staff at – TIME Magazine, The Guardian, Daily Mirror, The Scotsman, Evening Times, The Press & Journal, The Sun and Evening Times. An author of four non-fiction books, he has been recently appointed a lecturer in ‘cross-platform journalism‘ at Edinburgh Napier University.