London College of Communication is excited to introduce a brand new short course for 2018, Digital Journalism , where participants will get a sound understanding of the opportunities and challenges digital technology brings to journalism, taught by Ben Gilbert.

Participants will explore recent groundbreaking news stories – Trump and fake news, the Panama papers, citizen reporting of terror attacks – by delving into the technology, tools, and issues that produced them.

Ben is an NCTJ-trained journalist with more than 15 years’ experience at leading digital platforms including Yahoo and Microsoft and more recently was the editorial director at the startup MOVE Guides. He is now an Associate Lecturer here at LCC and has a background as a music journalist, developing digital content as a writer, editor and producer.

Unveiling the latest addition to LCC’s short courses, Ben is this post’s guest blog writer, explaining the backdrop to Digital Journalism in a landscape of fake news, post-truth and partisan content and what to expect from the five-day course next year.

Earlier this month, “Fake News” followed “Brexit” and “Geek” in being crowned Word of the Year in an annual poll by publishers Collins. Donald Trump’s ascension to the White House has prompted a surge in the term’s use and underlines the real and present danger posed to the credibility of contemporary journalism, particularly when the globe’s highest powers and loudest shouters seek to hoodwink the narrative. Defined as “false, often sensational, information disseminated under the guise of news reporting”, it’s also obvious how much power and speed can now be generated by such developments in media, when the discourse is so interconnected and complete.

“It’s interesting to note that in 1995, when I earned my NCTJ-accreditation, the American Dialect Society voted “Web” as their Word of the Year. Fast forward 20 plus years and the biggest publishers are Facebook, with algorithms seemingly acting as editors.”

London College of Communication will seek to address themes, questions and issues like this in Demystifying Digital for Journalists, a five-day Short Course I will be leading in 2018. The goal is to equip students with the knowledge and skills to better understand, explore and interpret these topics in recognition of a changed and continually evolving media landscape, as departing editor Alan Rushbridger did in 2015 after 20 years at the Guardian: ”We still tell stories in text and pictures, but the words are as likely to be in the form of live blogs as stories. We have learned to use moving pictures as well as stills. We work in audio, interactives, data, graphics and any combination of the above. We distribute our journalism across multiple channels, platforms and devices, including live discussion and debate. We’re on the iWatch; we’re in bed with Facebook; we’re still in the corner shop,” a quote lifted from the essential new edition of Paul Bradshaw’s Online Journalism Handbook.

Digital Journalism tackles emergent themes and terminology like fake news, partisan content and post-truth and provides an overview of the theoretical and practical ways media professionals in 2018 should expect to provide coverage. The use of web technologies, social media, SEO, analytics and data can seem daunting but it’s important to recognise not only the need to continue learning but also the vast array of possibilities afforded by these topics for journalists looking to stay in if not ahead of the game. The demise of the traditional publishing infrastructure should be balanced against the power of disruption, landmark stories such as The Paradise Papers and the way social media brings 21st century content to life like nothing before.

“Fake news, for example, is already providing fresh ground for academics and students to explore and develop key critical skills in and beyond the newsroom.”

“Without understanding the performance of your content, the visibility, the way in which your audience is appreciating, feeding back, sharing and engaging with your content, there’s little point in producing it in the first place,” comments Mark Frankel, BBC Social Media Editor. Such innovation means that, rather than diminishing job roles and responsibilities, the opportunities have expanded to meet accelerating demand, creating positions that previously never existed across new fields of expertise. Fake news, for example, is already providing fresh ground for academics and students to explore and develop key critical skills in and beyond the newsroom.

It’s interesting to note that in 1995, when I earned my NCTJ-accreditation, the American Dialect Society voted “Web” as their Word of the Year. Fast forward 20 plus years and the biggest publishers are Facebook, with algorithms seemingly acting as editors. Alongside my teaching work at LCC and Westminster University, I now run Wrote For Luck digital content. When designing my website, I commissioned some drawings to reflect the work I do, which are unashamedly reflective of a different era, such as a vintage typewriter and telephone. Journalists should be happy to reflect upon the industry’s roots and their own but in order to survive and succeed, it’s imperative to recognise not only what’s changed but also to find a way on board this speeding train, because it shows no sign of stopping for anyone.

Find out about Digital Journalism and book your place today.

By Ben Gilbert