Tag Archives: Head of BBC Radio

Devil’s advocate: clickbait won’t help your Aston run smoothly

If you’ve made enough success of your life to own a £210,000-plus Aston Martin V12 Vanquish, it is unlikely you’d trust a bloke with an iPhone and a diploma in logistics to service it.

Unless, of course, the bloke had also graduated from a three-year Aston Martin dealer technician apprenticeship.

If he had, you could be confident he knew his stuff.

He would have been through months of formal technical training at the company’s Gaydon headquarters, followed by many more months of working alongside case-hardened experts, gaining real-world experience in the workshop at a dealership.

And when the 48 valves – capping the big V that is the engine of your pride and joy – stop tapping in harmony to deliver its full 586 horse power performance, you’d know you had a safe pair of hands to sort it out.

So what is the role of journalism in IC today?

Some say not much. In a digital age, where content creation is democratised, speed and impact counts more than depth. Everyone is a citizen journalist – who needs the real thing?

But last week Helen Boaden stepped down as Head of BBC Radio and made an interesting point.

Without the opinion, analysis and depth that comes with proper journalism, she said, the world is becoming increasingly shallow, ill informed, unthinking, frustrated and dissatisfied.

Boaden is a hardy professional who graduated in journalism before starting her career 30 years ago, knocking on doors and chasing fire engines as a news reporter on Radio Leeds.

Her observation on the impact of the current trend towards click-bait media was this: “When we slice time into ever smaller fragments and feel pressurised by this, our creativity drops.

“Our ability to perform complex thinking tasks drops and we tend to enter an unsatisfying psychological state of anxiety named by psychologists as ‘psychic entropy’.”

The answer, she said, is to balance speed with the depth, commentary and analysis that are the components of professional journalism.

“My message is: human judgment matters. Should we apply it more?

“We are unconstrained in our speed of coverage, unmatched in our fleetness of foot – but do we lack the depth that we might achieve if we took our foot off the accelerator, or put the handbrake on, and stopped to observe more closely the world on which we are reporting?

“If we do not as journalists take time occasionally to catch our breath, to pause, and slow down, and make greater efforts to explain, we may find that we are left with nothing much in our hands at all, except the indifference of an audience and a vacuous, unblinking, screen.”

Those who care passionately about the role of IC in shaping happier, healthier, more productive communities will take her parting comments very seriously.

Our adoption of digital is inexorable – and good. It has the potential to be transformational. It opens the way for free expression, networking, collaboration, empowerment and engagement like nothing has ever done before. And by its very nature, it embraces all-comers for the generation of its content.

But it is not the end of the story.

Every organisation has more complex tales to tell, more detailed explanations to offer and insights and perspectives to bring to life. Every healthy organisation wants its people to understand, to think – to be challenged, stimulated and where possible, considered, creative and innovative.

This is where journalism comes in. And, for that matter, print.

Journalism is not just a technical skill that comes from three years of classroom training and shop-floor experience. It is an outlook and an insight that comes from witnessing, reporting, understanding and commenting on the many threads that make up life’s rich tapestry.

The role of a professional journalist is to help people to understand and see things in context – a context that is relevant to them – and to offer an insight capable of prompting thoughts and actions.

The job of internal communication is a delicate and complex one, which calls for different treatments and skills at different levels. There is no room for compromise: our people are, after all, our most precious asset.

Journalism is one of those skills. Do it properly and, like the certified Aston Martin technician, you’ll work the magic that gets the engine turning in harmony and performing at its optimum.

But with the best will in the world, we seriously underestimate its value if we trust it to someone equipped with little more than an iPhone and a media studies degree.