Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Megan Murphy

Fast FT’s Megan Murphy has a lot to say about the role of journalists in an age where citizens break their own news. Megan is running the FT’s revolutionary new direct-to- mobile news service, which launched at the end of May promising market-moving news and views 24 hours a day.

The idea is that the FT’s world-leading financial journalists, working together across different time zones, can bring you the stories you need to know as they happen, wherever they happen, and wherever and “whenever” you happen to be.

“Forget front page exclusives! Forget by-lines and physical paper! The web and social media have totally revolutionalised breaking news, and journalists need to think differently today about both input and output: how they approach stories; and how they process and deliver news. Today’s consumer of news doesn’t need it dressed up. It’s all about accessibility: people’s time is so compressed, they need their news on the move, wherever they are, whatever console they have to hand – mobile, iPad, desktop, whatever. What’s needed is a simple, straightforward straight-to-mobile service from a reliable source.”

We talked about the launch of GuardianWitness, her rival paper’s response to the explosion in citizen journalism, creating a platform for readers to submit their own videos and stories. Surely citizen journalism undermines the role of the traditional journalist? I ask her.

“I have a lot of respect for what The Guardian is doing and of course citizen journalism is having a big impact on what we’re doing at the FT; we are able to engage with the people consuming our content to a far greater degree than before and that’s exciting. My view on citizen journalism is that it actually puts our role as professional journalists into sharper relief; what I mean is, our skills are more valuable than ever before because in this age of information overload, people need to know which stories they can trust and they need context. Yes Twitter, and the ability for ordinary people to break news as it happens around them (here she cites the experience of how the story of the Boston bombings firstreached the public) is most definitely a threat to news organisations if they don’t respond to how people’s news consumption habits are changing. And let’s face it, as an industry we have been painfully slow to facing up to this change and adapting our models. We are under threat of the market being eaten up by far less credible competitors. But, what the FT offers is authority, as a news organisation you can trust to be accurate, unbiased and to put things into the correct context. I believe passionately that there’s a fantastic opportunity for the FT to say to readers, you know we have the world’s best journalists, that we are the world leaders in providing financial markets information and analysis and now we can match the less credible sources in terms of the ability to break news fast and get it to you in the way (and in the time) you need it. There’s no-one in the world who can do this for you better.”

Megan’s emphasis on the value professional journalists can add in terms of putting stories into context and helping people sift what’s significant and what’s not, puts me in mind of Legal Cheek editor and Guardian freelancer Alex Aldridge’s idea of journalists as curators of news.

“I think that’s a good analogy” says Megan. “We call our new digital drive at the FT “Digital First” but of course it’s not really about technology at all: it’s about attuning our content to readers’ needs. Perhaps we should have called this strategy Readers First.”
We love Netmums' Father's Day challenge to the "Dimwit Dad TV Stereotype". Citing such cult TV characters such as the hopeless Homer Simpson, the ineffectual father in My Family played by Robert Lyndsay, Hugh Dennis's inadequate dad in Outnumbered, even Peppa Pig's porky pa-pa. and all these hopeless male role models are paired with smart-thinking, practical, competent women. Netmums surveyed 2000 parents and found that most simply don't find this funny any more. It no longer resonates with the reality of most modern day families, where dads often have just as full-on a role at home. TV writers need to get with the programme and re-write this very tired script.  We wouldn't stand for such one-dimensional (and frankly discriminatory) treatment of mum characters these days after all). Let's respect the Dads in our families this Sunday. And let’s continue respecting them long after.
This week’s Amnesty Media Awards was a surprisingly uplifting event.  As I said last week it's always nice to be reminded in these post-Leveson days that some journalists really are heroes. 

You can see the shortlisted and winning stories here. A warning: Some of them are quite disturbing. It's a real eye opener as to what really goes on a lot of the time in other parts of the world.  But of course it's precisely because these tales are so harrowing that the journalists who risk so much personally to bring them to our attention should be so celebrated.

Another nice surprise on the evening was to hear a special mention given to Kysen friend, and multi award-winning journalist, Mira Bar-Hillel for a particularly moving article she wrote in The Oldie the plight of Israel's African refugees.  We are proud to know her!

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