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Lessons in best journalism practice can travel both ways between traditional 'old' media and digital 'new' media, with each able to benefit from valuable learnings from the other, the International Journalism Festival in Perugia heard today.

This point was made at the start of a keynote speech by senior writer at GigaOM Mathew Ingram. While his presentation focused on the ways traditional media can learn from new media, he first highlighted the fact that this is not a one-way street.

However, for the purposes of his presentation, he listed five key lessons to be learnt on the part of 'old' media: How to be open, how to give credit, how to be more human, how to see journalism and news as a process and how to focus, as outlined below:

1. How to be open

In the past, the more traditional forms of media appeared to some like a "fortress", Ingram said, with the perception that "nothing much gets in" and no one is usually seen.

This is the "typical metaphor to what newspapers used to look like", he said, and to a degree continue to in some cases, "impenetrable, inhuman".

There is also the idea of media preaching to the masses, "delivering a message from on high", he said. The idea being that the media talk, while the audience listen.

"For the most part there hasn't been much back and forth," he added. This is "a result of the way media was structured", he explained.

"It was very difficult to respond to a newspaper article unless you own your own newspaper," he said, or maybe called the newsroom or caught up with a journalist as they left the office.

Comparatively today, there are "so many more ways of interacting as journalists", he said, with "new social tools coming up every day".

"All we have to do to improve our journalism is ask people to help," he added. "Tools aren't just for transmitting journalism, or promoting our content. They're for interaction."

2. How to give credit

Ingram described the hyperlink as "the most fundamental aspect of publishing online", and therefore a vital role of digital publishers.

By linking out, journalists can clearly credit sources and use additional material to "support your argument".

The lack of links leads Ingram to ask questions about why an article is link-free.

"There has to be at least one link," he said, "at least one thing that writer used in their reporting.

"There has to be something they use that they should tell me about."

He said his own work has previously been criticised for being too link-heavy in some cases, but added that he likes "to go too far and put too many in because I never know what might get clicked on".

And the practice of adding links to content is "becoming less of a fight" today than it used to be, he said.

When asked how traditional media formats should be linking Ingram admitted "it is hard particularly for newspapers".

But he would still expect "them to include a few".

3. How to be more human

Ingram urged journalists to "be more human" in their interactions and admissions of failure.

"It's ok to admit once in a while we failed," he said. "It's ok to admit we have flaws and every now and then we slip up".

But he added it is "very difficult for journalists to admit".

He also spoke about the impact on readers' relationship with a journalist and news outlet when it is transparent and admits its errors.

In a feature earlier this year, which heard from US news outlets on their approaches to corrections, editor of Regret the Error Craig Silverman spoke about the "trust-enhancing value" of a transparent and clear correction.

Similarly Ingram said that "in many cases readers will show more trust because they connect with you as a human being".

Speaking later during a Q&A, Ingram added that there is also "value in having the human part of a journalist be more of a part of what they do", for example in sharing "intelligent, thoughtful" opinions on relevant issues.

4. How to see journalism/news as a process

Ingram compared the nature of the complete product of a newspaper article to the ongoing "process" of news and journalism which is now witnessed by the world through the window of the social web.

"News has no beginning or end", he said. And "one of the things the web and social media does very well, is give an impression of how news actually works".

Rather than being a complete product, it is "a stream". And the journalist and news outlet are not the only parties taking part in that process with the community able to "contribute from everywhere".

But he added journalists still need to "make sense of things for people".

"Readers will go and find their own information if you're not providing it in the way they want. Whether the tools have changed, the fundamental skills are the same".

5. How to focus

In the past, "the traditional newspaper was just a way of taking in as much content as possible", Ingram said.

Therefore a lesson which can be learnt from new media is about how to drill down into "specific things that you understand or do well or that have a connection with readers or the brand".

"In lots of ways the mass market newspaper is an anomaly", he observed.

Instead, journalists have a role to play in assisting communities in locating the specific information they require, he said. And if done well, this helps reporters "develop a valuable relationship with them". In time these connections are what can help grow from "friendship and loyalty into monetisation", he explained.

"If we're prepared to listen they will help us do that".

On a final note

Asked about the choice between providing real-time coverage of a news event, or holding back to offer a more analytical report, Ingram said the latter is where traditional media, particularly newspapers, can come into their own.

"Your skills are probably better suited to wait and provide a wrap-up or analysis," he said. "That is important, arguably more important than has ever been because there's too much information."

For those news outlets that "don't have unlimited resources", they may have to choose between real-time or later analysis. But Ingram said "if you wait, the longer you wait, the better it has to be."

"The bar has been raised, tomorrow is like a week from now, so it better be good".

Another challenge for traditional news outlets, which he described as "one of the biggest", is keeping "innovative and creative" staffers on board, and drawing in others.

"It would be too bad if there was traditional media over here struggling, then new media over here doing their own things."
A video of Ingram's presentation, filmed by the International Journalism Festival, can be found below:

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