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Experts at Guardian Digital Media Symposium Newsrooms must adapt

Digital media consultant Nic Newman says traditional media companies risk losing relevance unless they put digital at the heart of what they do.

Speaking at T&T Guardian’s Journalism Conference at the Hyatt Regency, Port-of-Spain, yesterday, Newman said the smartphone was currently the key device of the digital age and should be the focus of today’s strategy.

However, he said while it is important to embrace new formats and strategies, staying true to core values and mission statements was just as significant.

GML board member Davan Maharaj, a former head of the LA Times, said it had become clear that the definition of news had changed over the years, adding that audiences themselves have also helped to shape news by stating what they were interested in. But he said young people had the most impact on determining what was news.

Saying all newsrooms had to adapt to new forms of storytelling, Maharaj said there have been instances where there was resistance to this.

“But the ones who have adapted have positioned themselves to survive,” Maharaj said.

Asked by Guardian Media Head of News Shelly Dass what could be the contributory factors to such resistance, Newman said some feared losing their jobs, adding that it was important to take away such fear from journalists.

Guardian Media Managing Director Lucio Mesqita, who echoed similar sentiments, said one of the biggest financial risks to print journalism was complacency in the digital age and urged journalists to embrace change.

Regarding specialist journalists, Adrian Van Klaveren, British broadcasting executive at the BBC, said this quality came from people who really knew how to be a specialist journalist.

On the issue of collaboration among journalists, American-born journalist and former executive director of the International Press Institute (IPI), Alison Bethel, said the Caribbean region could become stronger if there were such collaborative efforts, but noted such a decision must come from either top or middle management.

The issue of anonymity of sources was also brought to the fore, as questions were raised regarding the protection of anonymous sources.

American broadcast journalist and former CNN correspondent and anchor Jim Clancy said journalists have a responsibility to analyze whether a source first needs to be anonymous.

“Or is it just convenient for them to remain anonymous,” Clancy said.

During the conference, discussions also centered on a range of topics which included, “Original Journalism: Investigations, Data Mining, Crowd Sourcing...What Next?” and “Pitfalls and Profits: How can journalism be profitable in the digital era?”

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