Saturday, 10 January 2009

"Slaapwandelende pedo"

There are times when the news gods choose to bestow favours upon journalists.

I now know this because a case landed in my lap that even the accomplished novelist Jordan could turn into a must-read splash, so bizarre and structurally perfect were its circumstances.

Sitting in the press bench thinking about what to have for lunch and waiting for the robbery trial I was there to cover, another Ormskirk case came before the court listed only "for mention".

Usually this means the lawyers wrangle about the practicalities of the case without debating the actual charges. Not so on December 22 2008.

CPS prosecutor Fiorella Brereton stunned me by coming out with this.

A sleepwalker accused of a sexual assault - against a child.
A lengthy battle to clear his name - actually almost 12 months to the day.
Not just an incident that happened at any old time of year either - but after a New Year's Eve party as we were working on the New Year's Eve edition of the Advertiser.

As I say, even Jordan could knock up a splash with those lines to go on and, thanks to the total lack of other reporters in court, call it an exclusive.

And so it came to pass that I went round to Alan Ball's house in Ormskirk, had a chat with him and wrote the story which has since popped up in the Echo, Lancs Evening Post, Daily Telegraph, Mail on Sunday , Daily Mail (from where it has been linked to by lots of American media including USA Today, Huffington Post & Washington Post) and - my personal favourite - has been translated into Dutch and featured in De Telegraaf where the story has provoked more than 20 comments.

Apart from proving the power of sheer good luck, this story illustrated the way a report can spread across the world thanks to the web and makes me realise how little I do to push my work to a new online audience.

In the past sharing was bad and we kept our exclusives to ourselves, but as news sites grapple for more web users it's hard to see how that mindset will survive.

How satisfying would it be to see some of the 10m+ USAToday.com unique users clicking through to the Ormskirk Advertiser's story instead of the Daily Mail? Would that have been the case if it had been submitted to Drudge?

Right now it's a one way relationship with the internet - journalists are comfortable with the idea of going to Facebook & co to find a story - but rarely link their reports back to the community it came from.

It will probably take some convincing before regional papers accept that there's more benefit in sharing the story online for free to increase traffic over making a profit by selling it to a newswire or national paper.

That said, and as much as I hate "predictions for 2009" style preaching, I do think a reporter's job will start to include seeding our work and getting stuck in online to create a buzz around the stories we've filed.

Hopefully the days when we'll be expected to translate them into Dutch are still some way off.

3 comments:

Kevin Matthews said...

Congratulations on a great story. Imagine how many great stories like this are missed each and every day in magistrates' courts throughout our districts.
E-marketing is a crucial part of producing online content - but it's something which we don't do enough of.
Newspapers go to great lengths to produce paper bills for the print edition in an attempt to gain a handful of extra readers, basic e-marketing can attract thousands/millions of new viewers - for free.
It's about putting our content where the audience is.
E-marketing needs to become a major function of the newsroom.

Old Reprobate said...

Carly has bookmarked a couple of items which you may be interested in reading apropos of the second half of your item:

http://blog.publish2.com/2009/01/09/networked-link-journalism-a-revolution-quietly-begins-in-washington-state/

and

http://blogs.journalism.co.uk/editors/2009/01/09/experiences-of-using-publish2-to-report-the-washington-flooding/

X

Beard v World said...

absolutely awesome :) good work jones...