“It’s not a sexy title, but it essentially it means I have a mandate to innovate and experiment with new possibilities in the digital era,” says Mr Lewis, Special Projects Editor for the Guardian. “I’m encouraged to try out everything possible.”
Mr Lewis takes the audience at the annual Newsroom Summit on an excursion to the heart of last year’s London riots, to show how new digital and social media reporting tools allow a new, enriched collaborative journalism approach involving reporters, journalists and academics to provide deeper news coverage.
From using Twitter to gather information and report it, to raising funds from foundations for serious reporting projects, to hiring researchers and academics to analyse big data, to organising crowdsourcing for the benefit of a news organisation, his case study presentation has it all.
“Never before have we had access to so much information and never before have the possibilities been so limitless for doing journalism,” he says.
Twitter has become an essential tool for covering large-scale, simultaneous events like the riots, Mr Lewis says. “Nowadays, the first time we hear about a news event is via Twitter.” And during the events, witnesses armed with mobile phones want to help and can be easily recruited.. “They have the capacity that journalists have had for decades, recording and then sharing information.”
It’s a two-way street, with witnesses collaborating with reporters who ask questions and request advice, and send them information in return. Mr Lewis describes it as “using people to help me report and feeding information back to the crowd, which is essential. The crowd helps report the story – they’re helping the newsroom. The crowd wants to help the reporting process. When you help the crowd, the crowd wants to help you back.”
The conference, which drew editors from around the world to Hamburg, continues Thursday and Friday. The conference programme can be found at http://www.wan-ifra.org/events/11th-international-newsroom-summit.