Alastair Reid is an experienced digital journalist, most recently working as the digital editor of The Big Issue, a UK street newspaper that writes about social change, sold by individuals facing or dealing with homelessness. This publication not only reports on the stories that you would not generally see in other newspapers, but it are gives jobs to those who need them.

He specialises in digital strategy, SEO, social media, user-generated content (UGC) and investigating misinformation. He previously worked as managing editor of First Draft, social media journalist at PA Media, UGC producer at Al-Jazeera English, and editor of Journalism.co.uk.

Reid speaks to journalism student Jane Ryan about life as a digital journalist and the key trends to be on top of.

Q: What are the main social media platforms you use the most?

AR: I used to do a lot more work on social media and Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram were the ones that were basically the most accessible at the time. They had bigger user bases, and they were the most accessible in terms of being able to search.

These days, Reddit and LinkedIn are pretty big but for different reasons. Reddit is a lot more open and in-depth than Facebook and it is a lot more in-depth in terms of what people talk about on Twitter. If you are looking for people who used to work at a particular organisation, then use LinkedIn.

Really, the platform that you use depends on the community that you want to talk to, I think.

Q: In terms of your personal life, how do you interact with social media?

AR: I have gone through phases. I used to be a lot more active. A combination of the pandemic and spending a period of my career basically all on social media gave me a bit of social media burnout.

More recently, I have been trying to be more active again, just because I do not see as many people in real life. The pandemic has had a strange effect where we got used to our world being smaller.

Q: As a digital editor and a manager, how important is social media to your job?

AR: You cannot really do journalism in 2023 without social media. The fundamental level is helping people make sense of society and sense of the world. When so much of people's lives, the world that they inhabit and the time that they spend is on social media, you have to meet people where they are.

You have to help them understand where they are. So, that means talking to them in that space and in that place. Where do readers come from? Social media. So, you have to build a brand and engage with people. That is your magazine front cover, that is your broadcast logo, that is where you are when you are talking about digital publishing.

Q: What are your opinions on new and upcoming social media platforms such as TikTok?

AR: The Big Issue did a lot of TikToks when we were looking to build an audience. We look at these platforms more, and more communities are trying to find the platform that is best for them.


Celebrites try to sell The Big Issue magazine for National Vendor Week, this is how it went… #jamesobrien #jamesobrian #colinmurray #melaniesykes #bigissue #coventgarden #londontiktok #homelessness #streetvendor #LBC #StreetPranks

♬ original sound - Big Issue

Q: What are your opinions on AI?

AR: AI can do particular things, but AI is not human. There is art, music, sports, connection and empathy in the world that AI will not be able to deliver. The hallmark of the human race is inventing even better tools.

The way that AI and large language models are being trialed by search engines is dangerous to publishers given how much traffic comes from search engines. But ChatGPT does not create new information. They are just taking it from elsewhere and then presenting it in a new form to its users. That feels to me like a copyright waiting to happen.

Q: Any advice for aspiring and current journalists?

AR: Put the audience first. Think about what people want and make sure you give it it them. Listening to audiences is the most important skill at the moment.

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