Journalism without having to leave the house

IT’S taken me just an hour or so, but through the plethora of social media I’ve delved a little deeper into my journalism patch, and surfaced with some potentially fascinating stories to investigate further.

I should explain. I’ve been assigned Fairwater – a district west of Cardiff city centre, and, as it was for a young Roald Dahl, it will be my playground for the next eight months.

Still enthused after a whistle-stop-tour of social media by Dr Claire Wardle (formerly a lecturer at Cardiff University and now a freelance trainer at the BBC) last week, I decided to set up RSS feeds, search aggregators, and bookmark – the results took me by surprise.

I had a catalogue of videos, blogs, maps, newspaper stories, and links to social networking sites of anything related to “Fairwater, Cardiff” pooled, and accessible at the touch of a button.

I’m a skeptic when it comes to social media. But as the last few hours of online research attest it has benefits, and has shown me I need to keep in touch if I’m to build a better picture of my patch over the coming months.

Let me say a little about the YouTube results as an example. I’ve discovered Fairwater’s youngsters – those the media and politicians would probably deem to be the youths and street culture which contributes to a ‘broken Britain’ – are engaged in new media.

They upload videos and comment about each other. And so as a journalist for this area I need to keep on top of it. I don’t suggest this content does anything to question this stereotype. Indeed, I found mobile phone clips of happy slapping, and pranks. There are also numerous of clips of teenagers making rap music, which far outnumbered anything else.

A quick YouTube search offered a perspective of life for one section of the community in Fairwater I would not be likely to see from research on the ground – and gave me angles to investigate further.

Social media offers the journalist another tool in the armoury. It is not a substitute for traditional skills. I would still need to test the videos for exact location, author and subject. But if we can aggregate sources from online with other leads before leaving the house, we’ll be better prepared when we get on the ground.

…no longer such a skeptic.

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