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Reporting the G20 Protests in Central London – the benefits of using Web 2.0

For an aspiring journalist last week’s G20 protests outside the Bank of England highlighted the benefits of Web 2.0 for the reporter superbly.

Social Media came into its own throughout the entirety of the protest. The Guardian, The Times and the BBC all had reporters posting on Twitter and other mediums.

Not wanting to miss out on the opportunity, equipped with my Nokia N95 I headed down to capture the action. Once I arrived I instantly found myself catapulted into a crowd swarming with journalists armed with recording devices, cameras and mobile phones. It was astonishing to see such an army of people all trying to capture the moment with portable devices, whilst camera crews struggled to gain a prominent position amongst the restless crowds.

Deciding not to cross the police barrier, I positioned myself right behind the police line adjacent to Royal Bank of Scotland. Managing to secure a prime view of the action I set about capturing video and pictures whilst posting updates to my Twitter account. However it wasn’t long before these tools came into their own, as the crowds grew hostile and violence set in.

G20 Protests get Hostile

Having joined Qik, moments before departing City University I began streaming video of the action for my fellow course mates immediately. My efforts quickly attracted viewers, with many more viewing the footage since. Videos of the days action are available here. I was amazed how easy it was to generate original content from the ground, which I was able to post direct to my blog.

Having the power to produce instant content like this is invaluable. The more people that produce content the bigger the picture the audience gets of what is happening. The only trouble then is keeping up with the updates and highlighting what is legitimate.

As the day unfolded it became clear how powerful the role of citizen journalism is, and how crucial tools like Twitter are becoming in reporting events live from the ground. In many ways this was the first real test for Twitter. Visitors to The Guardian, The Times and the BBC websites where all exposed to rolling coverage from the likes of Paul Lewis who were posting live up to the minute information from the Square Mile. It was certainly the first time the site has been used at such length to describe the events of a major news event.

As newspaper ABC’s continue to fall, the Web 2.0 model online is becoming much more appealing. Whilst every media outlet in the UK descended on the Square Mile that afternoon to report on the violence and the attacks on Royal Bank of Scotland the fact that I was also posting pictures to Twit Pic direct from my phone via text and sending updates direct to my Twitter followers, highlights the necessity of news organisations and journalists to find the best ways of packaging and distributing this date to the public. Content in this form is not unique, it is expected, but it is how this presented to the reader which attracts attention. My attempts where relatively small scale, but the fact that was able to do so raises concerns about what is next. There is only so far citizen journalists can go though.

However if increasing numbers of people are able to generate this content cheaply and people are able to access it for free, what is the future for the linear news article or straight news report. Is there still a demand for the news in this format?

G20 Arrest

Speaking on Media Talk this week Janine Gibson, editor of guardian.co.uk, described the use of Twitter and Google Mapping as: “The best way of telling the story.. it’s an an incredibly useful way to show the users what is happening in different pockets of London. Twitter has a very simple function, which becomes perfect for saying – What can you see? What are you doing? It becomes really useful because what your representing is all the strands of the story.

“Even with broadcast cameras on a story like that, you only see one linear thing at a time. This was not a linear narrative story, you’ve got pockets of different temperatures you need to take, lots of different narratives to bring together and there is something something fantastic about being able to see all those strands simultaneously and work your way through which represents what it is.”

If nothing else, last week demonstates that social media and Web 2.0 are the future for reporting, however despite Robin Hamman discussing here the new technologies and opportunities for covering events like the G20 protests, if more and more people take up these tools, what can be said for the future of journalists and the news organisations they work for?

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