They are the best entrepreneurs in the City of London — The Guild of Entrepreneurs.
Their Master, Lee Robertson, seen addressing members (Freemen) at their annual installation dinner is a chartered wealth manager and chartered FCSI. He’s also one of the top wealth managers working in the UK and has collected many other illustrious titles in his career.
They below are amongst a new emerging cohort of digital and interactive storytellers attending the Guild of Entrepreneurs’ education event. What happens when you bring them and the best entrepreneurs in London together? More on that in a moment.
In response to the pressures of digital disruption and the need for modern tertiary education to present distinct, perhaps radical, fit-for-purpose learning experiences this year we launched the Digital and Interactive Storytelling LAB (disLAB).
Amongst its distinction, a move away from chalk and talk, to what I call Digital & Applied Market Experiences (DAME), to think beyond Flip, MOOGs and blended learning as the panacea to education’s inertia documented in Wired Magazine’s brilliantly incisive 2012 article: University just got flipped: how online video is opening up knowledge to the world.
No! If the overriding question is how best can you you prep yourself for the harsh discursive realities of the digital market, where media remains a popular destination as a career, but the means to get there have largely been the same as the 1990s, it’s not just content, the interface of delivery that needs changing, but perhaps the field.
In his latest post, Rethinking journalism schools from the ground up (Part 1), Monday Note Editor Frederic Filloux, a Stanford’s John S. Knight Fellowship recipient and veteran journalist with form that includes being editor at Liberation newspaper, zooms in on two key issues. Firstly, the need for entrepreneurial skills amongst journalists and secondly their familiarity with tech.
I’d like students to have a glimpse of how Michael Lewis works; how a New Yorker piece is edited; how the data editor from Pro Publica is doing his job; how a seasoned national security reporter works sources; how the Paradise Papers where put together…
His piece, not unlike the views of stalwart Prof Jeff Jarvis from CUNY who launched one of the first entrepreneurial journalism schemes in the US and horizon-thinker Brian Storm, he cites in his piece, is thought-provoking.
Brian and Jeff are part of my mutual respect club from seeing each other’s work from the turn of contemporary multimedia in 2005 at Wemedia’s summits in London and Miami. In 2014 Jeff invited me to speak at his gathering in New York: Reinventing TV and Video News’. Brian’s video I made from 2007 plays to a wider theme of the need for storytelling skills. I’ll end this post on this theme.
Back in 2005, I questioned the ethos of learning, as multimedia in its present form was gestating by collapsing several disciplines: radio, television, video, imagery, design, podcasts, blogs into one. Students, I was told by my then Vice Chancellor Geoffrey Copland, would build their own curriculum. It is coming!
Podcasts became the rage in 2007 enabling me to share ideas about work with the Financial Times — training them in videojournalism — and Iraq 24 Frames with heart-wrenching images working with World Press Photographer winner Yannis Kontos.
The culmination of this work led to a highly publicised Apple profile feature and multiple invitations to speak at Apple and around the world, whilst yielding a number of awards in digital interactive and the Knight Batten Award for Innovation in Journalism.
I’d like to add something, perhaps unusual to Filloux’s point, but first back to my central question at the top, what would happen if you brought the best of entrepreneurs together with the creative skills of new generation storytellers?
A Digital Applied Market Experience. Instead of a chalk and talk approach to issues such as negotiations in industry, setting up a company, refining an idea, what better way than to have the best entrepreneurs in the country work closely with you in an agile creative environment, where we can tailor knowledge to the student accordingly.
Hence, next semester on my module 4 Business, students will receive first hand experience of entrepreneurial skills, courtesy of the Guild of Entrepreneurs. To say I’m thrilled is an understatement. We’re the only ones in the country to be in this position.
The Guild’s Founder Member and Chair of its education committee Nicola Manning says:
The Guild is hugely excited to be partnering with Westminster’s disLAB for this innovative new programme, designed as a symmetrical learning technique with its entrepreneur mentors sharing their years of business and life experience and in return, being gifted with their students’ filmcraft and a unique and personal, 21st century ‘portrait’ of their mentor.
disLAB is already demonstrating its range and purpose in the art of the entrepreneurialism. A month ago, students were presented with a real-life commercial brief from Safe4's Managing Director Ben Martin. Could they create multiple individual treatments and a concept video on a zero budget, via agile productions, on one of the company’s prime products?
They did, harnessing collective team work. Their pitch pleased Mr Martin so much he offered them a digital vault, a protected online space, for life. The next phase is where our Campus’ Creative Enterprise Centre takes over the brief to safeguard both students intellectual property and the needs of the Safe4.
The disLAB’s approach is to not only bridge the distance between academia and industry, but to uberise learning. With variegated interests in digital forms, the question is where do you want to get to, fast, tackling digital traffic on the way and leave a footprint? My two pence? Alongside the plethora of artefacts you’ll create find the impact project — that thing that resonates with communities. We get there via a quasi boot camp approach replete with continuing critiques and wisdom of crowd feedback. It’s TED with that oomph thing.
Over the last 8 weeks, the LABers have been invited into meetings with leading global companies, such as BBC News Lab, the extraordinary Grand Visual, The Financial Times, and TBWA . Here, quite often, senior managers have spoken in confidence to them, revealing business and confidential material not for publication.
More is planned with global tech companies. Meanwhile, some of the best talent in the industry have sat in on classes or delivered at a Uni open session in Engagement week. Here they’ve challenged students to fly, to experiment.
Michael Min, Technical Director on Star Wars: Episode 1 and Forest Gump explained why VR 360 is a marketing ruse and Cinematic VR is still wide open for innovators. Min’s colleagues are leaders in this field. Otherwise, Bernard Achampong, an exemplary podcaster, and ex-BBC Radio producer who layers sound that is symphonic and masterly eclectic, made podcasting truly theatre of the mind.
Master of Entreprenuers
In his Master-Elect address in the Guild of Entrepreneurs magazine: Dare Create Succeed, Lee Robertson looks ahead.
As I write this, he says, the politics at home and abroad are looming very large indeed.
From Russia cyber attacks, North Korean missile tests, the Syrian Civil War to the Middle East states and Qatar, China militarisation of the South China Sea to the revolving door for the staff that President Trump appears to have installed in the White House. As is the new norm there is rarely a dull moment in world politics. These are what we call macro events in financing and these large scale issues can impact in lots of small ways in the way we all go about our daily business and can have lots of impact in unforeseen ways.
Against this backdrop he adds, he is firm on the “unquenchable optimism of entrepreneurs”.
Generally, the media industry has looked to journalism to disseminate knowledge of the world to consumers, and whilst we can still count on exemplary journalists to educate us, the field’s many achilles, particularly in the digital era have been exposed. The 2008 crash precipitated by Fanny Mae, Brexit, Trumpism have been some of journalism’s spectacular misses.
Elsewhere, from posts I have written (Future storytelling, Epic Journalism), I explain how it’s not journalism’s fault. To comprehend this is to understand its history and sociology. It was fit for an era. Yet attempted add-ons have often smacked against its conventions. By itself, faced with nuanced, or non-binary issues, where the might of PR has delivered squirrels and dead cats, it’s been found wanting. It eschews emotional cognition borne out of its constructed rules and depends on the explicit to inform us, when often the implicit is the danger button. Journalism schools are rarely, if anything taught this.
We can reform journalism all we like, but if you’re a student starting your career, my message to you, look to learn the wider spectrum of storytelling — the field which documentary, journalism, cinema journalism, photography, narrative arcs, and a lot more inhabit.
This is the landing space that will give you wider reach in digital, from journalism ( if you want) but across many destinations that include programmatic video — an untapped £1billion market.
I’m not saying storytelling is better than journalism, but its approach is different and suited to providing digital students with a breadth of options. Michael Lewis, author of The New New Thing, cited by Filloux earlier is behind MoneyBall which I first read in 1999 working dotcoms. He’s also penned the New York Times Best Seller Undoing Project. Lewis IS a storyteller. Brian Storm also cited earlier; if you watch his video he talks about his craft as story telling.
Taking video as an example on disLAB, in the first six weeks the students are exposed to multiple different forms of video styles. This gives them the ability to problem-solve an issue by examining what story form may suffice. It’s about choice, what to apply and when. My piece on Chris Nolan’s Dunkirk reveals a delicate atavistic method of storytelling worth learning.
Unlike traditional journalism which anonymises the journalist’s culture and heritage, as if it doesn’t matter, in storyteller it does and this makes journalism editors uncomfortable. They shouldn’t be.
How and why the brain works should be an integral part of storytelling. How plots might drive narratives, or by de dramatising or circularise the narrative you can make viewers become reflective. Technology is the facilitator, and sometimes the driver, but unfortunately the tech journalism consistently ignores is the one you carry around with you 24/7 — your brain.
On the disLAB, like all start-ups, we can expect bumps, but we’ve got the in-house staff talent in Dr Sandra Gaudenzi who also runs the increasingly popular external guest lectures, disLAB presents, and Dr Massimilano Fusari.
My experience working on several dotcoms, drawing on almost thirty years of journalism/storytelling, which includes producing Jon Snow at Channel 4 News, and my science experience of applied chemistry and artist in residence at London’s Southbank centre has more than equipped me for the LAB.
What’s more when you have organisations like the Guild of Entrepreneurs walking alongside you, to borrow Master Lee Robertson’s quote, I’m certain of the unquenchable optimism of storytellers working alongside entrepreneurs to solve problems ahead of us.
Dr David Dunkley Gyimah is behind viewmagazine.tv and has been designated by @medium as a top journalist writer. He leads the DisLAB . He is co-producer alongside a dedicated team of professionals: Co-producer Simone Pennant, Photographers David Freeman and Gerald McLean and Graphic Designer Wayne McLean, behind the TVC Leaders’ launching on December 7th. More on disLAB here