In our Throwback Thursday series, we take a look at what the key figures in media were saying in the past, based on the archive, and how those issues can be related to the current challenges and opportunities that dominate the conversation about the digital media landscape.

Read the first three parts of the series here. Today, we are going back to August 2009, to find three topics of discussion that we often explore in detail today.

Collaborative investigative journalism

In August 2009, published a piece by Tom Scotney, then reporter at the Birmingham Post, who worked on the first story to be published as part of the Help Me Investigate project.

Help Me Investigate was set up by Paul Bradshaw, leader of two journalism MAs at Birmingham City University, as a site that helped "people and journalists who wanted to investigate questions in the public interest".

The project’s first published story looked at where in the city the most parking tickets were given out, using data from a Freedom of Information request.

Scotney said: "When I first brought this up in the office, one comment that came up was, 'well if this is just an FOI request, why is this any different to what a journalist on a newspaper might do?' My response: firstly, why does it need to be different; and secondly, if a journalist could do this, why haven't they yet?”

He also reflected on the collaborative aspect of the work and to what extent a larger media outlet should profit from the work of volunteers in collaborations, explaining that his contribution was calling the council after the number crunching had already been done.

"But what's most important when working like this is to recognise that you're part of a process, not the end result of it. Which means giving credit where it's due, getting the facts right, and making clear in the article the process by which it was created," he wrote.

Tom Scotney is now deputy editor at Global Water Intelligence. Help Me Investigate suspended its activity in 2014, but the practice of collaborative investigative journalism is thriving and has brought up some of the biggest stories in the past few years. Listen to our podcast on Panama Papers, highlighting lessons from working on the biggest leak and collaboration in journalism history.

Covering refugee stories

Many front pages have been dedicated to stories about the refugee crisis over the past few years, but media coverage of refugee issues has not always been the most ethical. wrote about the dangers of journalists acting like "disaster tourists" when covering refugee stories, as well as the impact the media can have on how refugees are perceived by the public.

In 2009, before the current focus on media portrayal of refugees, shared a piece asking whether online tools will enable more refugee stories to be told in the voice of the person who had experienced them, rather than through the media lens.

"Why do some refugee stories get covered by the media and others not?" asked Judith Townend, then news reporter at

"The internet allows us to tell them all. I hope, that with the aid of the online community, if it's powerful enough, a case should be able to reach the influential people it needs to, without necessarily negotiating precious printed column inches. And it can be told accurately, at length, and in a person's own words."

Steps in this direction have indeed been taken since, with reporting on Snapchat and training refugees in mobile journalism techniques helping first person accounts reach people directly.

Realistic models for photojournalists

In 2009, the Guardian moved to change the way it paid photographers, no longer offering reproduction fees. Photographer Pete Jenkins started a campaign to push against these changes, telling he could not work on those terms.

"It's a business decision that I have made. I think what I've said is what most photographers feel, but most photographers won't say it. A lot of people are running scared because there is less work in the industry," he said.

Jenkins also explained how the business models for photojournalists were changing, and those who still supplied newspapers likely did so on a part-time basis, supplementing their income elsewhere.

At the NCTJ Journalism Skills conference in 2014, a panel of editors and producers debated the role of a photojournalist in the digital age, agreeing on the fact that photographers need to be multi-skilled.

"Photographers, they're specialists and we need to protect them. [But] every position in the newsroom has changed, and everybody does take pictures, that's one of our issues at the moment", said Neil White, then editor-in-chief, Burton Mail and Derby Telegraph.

See you next week for more Throwback Thursday! Do you remember any predictions that never came to pass, or any quotes that were spot on from 'back in the day'? Tweet us at @journalismnews.

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