09 May 2009

JEEcamp and duckonomics

I went to Birmingham yesterday for the 2nd JEEcamp. Last year, it was very much an experiment to see what might happen if you stuck 50 journos in a room and let them unconference for a day. I came away feeling inspired and full of plans, but then my personal life upended itself and the online journalism venture I'd been mapping in my head for 2 years was no longer going to happen.

So, where are we 12 months on? Last year, I went alone, for 1 thing. This year I found myself on the early train with half a dozen other hacks - fuelled on pints of coffee, we took over an entire train carriage and annoyed all the commuters with our chitchat about modern hackery.

On arrival at JEEcamp, there was the usual opportunity to shake hands with people you co-follow on Twitter but only just met for the 1st time. Kyle McRae gave a really interesting account of his attempt to set up a picture agency trading in citizen journalists' photos and what happened when it all went horribly wrong.

There were breakout sessions and a couple of really good panel discussions about the future of journalism, particularly about paid-for content models (Rupert Murdoch had just annnounced his own thoughts on this), the problems with council-funded newspapers and the kinds of enterprises journalists might want to engage in.

A year ago, we were just seeing the start of the recessionary effects on our industry - job cuts, closed papers, freelance budgets affected etc - now the landscape looks very different and one thing is clear. Whatever that landscape will look like in another 12 months' time (and none of us can predict that), hacks are going to have be enterprising and create their own opportuinities (or do what I do and run a portfolio career). A colleague of mine who's been in the trade even longer than I have has a theory about the current state of play for the traditional business model for newspapers: "it's all as fucked as a fucked duck from Planet Fuck". Er, quite. Which is why events like JEEcamp are so important.

Andy Dickinson, who teaches journalism at UCLAN, was bang on the nail when he said we can't exist in isolation. For all we network on Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere, there's no substitute for getting together face to face . So here's to next year's JEEcamp!

The train journey home went quicker, fuelled as it was with wine and sushi (and we'd already sunk several pints in the pub between JEEcamp and New Street station). On arrival at Piccadilly, it was a toss-up between going home or heading to the pub. I chose the latter, schlepping laptop bags across town while trying not to fall off my heels, to catch up with a friend. Several gallons of wine later, I fell into a cab, then my bed and decided nothing made sense anymore...

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