The Role of a Digital First Mentality

News is becoming more digitally focused. This isn’t a new idea; newspapers have adopted an online version for years and have started to integrate social media into their reporting. What Steve Buttry suggests in his blog is that journalists write for the online version and social media before the actual paper. His company, Digital First, promotes different priorities and processes for journalists.

Buttry explains the first step in the Digital First approach is to work and think first for digital platforms. An example used is a court reporter, where Twitter and a live blog replace her trial notebook. Tweets are sent out highlighting developments of the trial and a summary of the coverage is posted online to the blog, as well as a Facebook post and an item to Google+. The work here is formatted for the digital platforms, meant to give weight to live coverage.

Experimenting and risk taking is the another step. This applies to all aspects of journalism but especially the editors. Turning the focus to live coverage and breaking news, editors will have to guide journalists on their growth in digital journalism. Another step is trying new tools and techniques, which an editor would be best poised to suggest or inform on. Suggesting map integration, new hash tags, different social media websites and crowdsourcing ideas can help the overall flow of the work.

Two more steps Buttry points out are to cover the news live and value community input. By immediately posting updates to Twitter or Facebook, one can get feedback instantaneously. The concern of tipping off competitors shouldn’t be a deciding factor, rather the idea is to stimulate and curate community conversation on issues. This works well for beat reporters, covering local issues. Another source for beat reporters is the aggressive use of databases for interactive answerbases or to visualize data.

Buttry’s vision of Digital First isn’t where society is heading but where society already is. This approach gives live coverage and social media integration where most people are looking for news or updates. By using this method, professional journalists can help define themselves from citizen journalists who have been using the same tools. In a society where technology morphs itself every day, looking into the future is the best option for news organizations to continue to stay relevant. Sharing information first online, contrasts with most newsrooms’ traditional approach. The outdated versions of news coverage need to be reassessed. This doesn’t mean eliminating all paper or broadcast coverage but it does mean understanding a digital first approach and being able to successfully integrate it into the system. The idea that immediacy would take precedence over accuracy shouldn’t be an issue if the journalists are trained correctly.

Summarizing the idea perfectly, Steve Yelvington said that Digital First is about making the future your first priority, with everything that implies.


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