Sky’s the coding future for today’s journos

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Sky News Steve Bennedick

Sorry about that, I was tied up with Spicer having to apologise, says the producer. What! The comments about Trump’s attempts to “destabilising the region?”, I reply. No, he adds, we’re still on the first batch of multiple apologies.

Busy day at Sky News, not unlike any other day. In conference room 6 — a hub, festooned with wire frame mark ups, Steve Bennedik who is Sky’s Head of Technology has assembled some his team’s best minds: head of news, design, a mobile producer and visual editor.

Their target though isn’t Spicer, who is fast breaking the golden rule of the press aide becoming the story himself as CNN’s Jack Tapper urges him to visit the Holocaust Museum a few blocks away from the White House.

No, the focus is a group of MA students from one of the UK’s leading media universities who would comment later about the generosity of the Sky News team taking them through a thorough rinse cycle.

The group , University of Westminster onliners are here to pitch their platform they’ve been working on from scratch over twelve contact days spread over 12 weeks. In that time, they’ve wrapped their head around HTML5/ CSS, mobile first, design aesthetics, perfecting a brief, and project managing in-house talent and a site to suit their vision.

Bennedik and his team frame how much journalism has travelled in their job life-span and that coding mark up skills is a desirable feature of modern day journalism. “Have you seen our Snap Chat stories?” the news editor Neil Dunwoody asks, signalling too the growing importance of graphics data visualisation before explaining how Sky sees itself as as blended platform, not television outright but a collocation of mainstream and new.

Ergo in their mobile unit right underneath us, a ticker tape analysis informs producers what stories are being hit up in real time, thus enabling them to direct their resources. Borussia Dortmund team bus attack is receiving wide attention.

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The pitch is both a performance of heuristics and a calling card. Unlike real world where a similar pitch would be a prelude for VC funds, this is about familiarity. The next stage planned is incubators and accelerators.

A lecturing team can, amongst many thing, shepherd their cohorts, but there’s nothing like day-to-day professionals providing analysis to problem solving. Barely a few minutes after their run through the site, the Sky team are giving some well received pointers, as well as the odd laser drilling. All grease for the job-seeking mill, I think.

The tradition of pitching to pros, isn’t new, but its value is of increasing importance in a way that a future programme we’re running will realise. So, students, are seen less as journalists on an MA course and more a hybrid of producers-academics in digital and interactive storytellers working closely as a media house (an agency start-up) solving particular issues.

Meanwhile in the last six years I have taken cohorts to ITN, BBC World Service, Channel 4 News, Google (see here) and now Sky. Alex Bath, a star of Sky News according to his former manager last month moved to the BBC. Bath was behind Where is London (2011)with a website that linked stories to geo placing.

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The Also in London graduate all work in related fields, however I’d like to draw attention to Avinash Kalla, now based back in Jaipur and responsible for one of the biggest digital gatherings in India, Talk Journalism, supported by Google, Facebook and Twitter.

Kalla was one of the first to appreciate death marches (dms) working for the government after graduation. Dms meant staying up 3/4 days in a row coding and rabbit holes, where we pushed the students out of their comforts — something of a balancing act. Some years it works, others you reign in and match the students’ pace.

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Monika Sarhar, editor of Sense of London (2012) looked to explore stories in London with heightened sensory attractions works at CNN International and is highly praised.

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Le Hei, the coder for Also in London (2013) looked into hidden treasures of the UK’s capital outside of central London. Today Le Hei works for the BBC’s innovative News Lab as one of its star members.

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In 2015, Got a tenner editor Ed Lauder was shortlisted for a national broadcast journalism award for his website Bad Cantina, whilst in 2016 Katy Scott, one of the team on Brits in Pieces

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Scott would produce a final year project, Abafuduki worthy of a webby and subsequently would bag one of CNN’s coveted internships and is still there.

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Class of 2017 would produce a mobile responsive site that sought to capitalise on quick news reads and video, labelled 21 seconds, which doesn’t negate findings that long reads are equally sought after.

A visit around Sky’s new purpose built auto camera newsroom and its ingest studios of multiple feeds topped of a day, that alongside the critique should stand them in good stead for future jobs.

Dr David Dunkley Gyimah, who devised the course co-delivered it with Dr Massimiliano Fusari. David leads a brand new course The Digital and Interactive Storytelling LAB.

Written by

Top Writer & Creative Technologist, Int. Award Winner. Cinemajournalist. Cardiff Uni @jomec. PhD (Dublin). Visiting Prof UBC, Ex BBC/C4News. Apple profiled.

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