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Technology and journalism go hand-in-hand at the Guardian Open Weekend

Posted by Richard Lambert on 27th March 2012

“Imagine if you can Richard Littlejohn’s worst nightmare…” read the headline in The Guardian’s focus on its inaugural Open Weekend. And it’s hard to think of a publication more likely to throw open its doors to friends and foes alike for a weekend of festivities.

The publication has of course taken a leading stance in the recent push for ‘open journalism’, promoting new ideas such as opening up its editorial schedule to readers.

The weekend was a true representation of everything the publication stands for today, with people of all ages creating an excited buzz in the packed foyer and corridors of London’s King’s Place.

Writing with the left hand?

My main interest was in the “Writing with the left hand” session.

Led by Stephen Moss, the discussion explored a variety of issues facing journalism, but took a particular look at the impact of technology on the profession, both now and in the future.

Some of the most interesting contributions came from the audience, with one particularly vocal participant taking the rather forthright view that the internet is simply a destructive force, likening it to nuclear weapons.

If given the chance today, he stated, we would go back and prevent nuclear weapons from being developed – and in 20 years time, people will say the same of the internet.

His justification was that the internet has taken readers and advertisers away from newspapers, and by allowing anyone to report or comment on news stories, audiences have become susceptible to malice and lies.

Progress in technology supported by young and old

Thankfully, in my opinion, this was not a viewpoint shared by the rest of the room, who suggested that new technology has opened up new possibilities for journalism.

It was pointed out that developments like live blogging on news events only emphasise the need for informed comment and analysis from trained and respected journalists.

Conversely, another audience member pushed for the need for greater background information on journalists, arguing that knowing the general stance of a publication is not enough – readers must be able to understand the thoughts and positions of individual journalists, as we read articles through their perspectives. That’s good both for readers and those of us that work in technology PR.

Overall, it was refreshing to see that the idea of new technologies somehow being a threat to the established principles of knowledge sharing was so completely discredited by such a wide range of people.

The early indicators are that the Open Weekend was a success.

The Guardian is centring its long-term focus on innovation – something it was keen to demonstrate at the weekend, with a prominent illustrated board showing how much of the publication’s web traffic now comes from social media, and the importance of balancing editorial experience with online savviness.

It is crucial that publications like The Guardian continue to look forward and push the boundaries with their influence by continuing to innovate and develop their interactions with readers.