Saanya Gulati's Blog #QZGAEvents

It’s Day 1 of classes and the Media & Communications Cohort at LSE makes plans to attend the Quartz & General Assembly panel discussion on the Future of News In A Digital World. With heavyweights including Google, The Guardian and Wall Street journal on the panel, it’s hardly a surprise that it’s a full house. (Though with free entry and freely flowing wine, you can convince students to do pretty much anything.)

A 20-minute walk past the magnificent St Paul’s, down the City Wall and we’re at Moorgate in a venue that looks all too well-lit and feels too bohemian for a serious panel discussion. No boring old hall-styled lecture, because today’s theme is disruptive.

Saanya Gulati's Blog #QZGAEvents

Since the usual spiel about digital media disrupting and democratizing news consumption is rather hackneyed, I’ll cut to the interesting part of the panel discussion. Meanwhile, you can read my tweets (or ‘new-age notes’) that I took while the discussion unfolded.

Though I recently got active on Snapchat (@BombayDelhiGirl), I rarely use Discover, a contemporary, or rather futuristic, way of receiving news stories. Aaron Pilhofer, Executive Editor of Digital at the Guardian was surprised at how many hands went up among the audience on being asked who uses the Discover feature. Clearly it’s the ‘next big thing’ in news.

Data analytics was another theme that both panels dwelled on. No one’s denying that data isn’t helpful, but the panelists disagreed that data is everything. Data gives you ownership of the story, pointed out Sarah Marshall, social media editor of the WSJ. The world of bloggers can certainly testify to this: Your blog, your stories, your views. WSJ reporters are emailed the statistics for all their stories.

Pilhofer played devils advocate here and rightly addressed the fact that most people in the media industry do have some intuition about data. “An investigative piece won’t get as many views as one on Justin Bieber.” Madhav Chinnappa, Head Of Strategic Relations, News & Publishers at Google drew a logical conclusion from this: data should inform the newsrooms, but not dictate them.

The answer is to not pander to your audience, but understanding an issue and what the best way is to portray it. Some stories can be told in a tweet, and fleshing out an article would be rather futile. But just because pithy content has more virality doesn’t mean that good content has no place in the digital space.

As Sarah Marshall rightly said: some stories deserve 3,000 words. I can attest to this, since my piece called “How I Quit the Corporate World To Join the Social Sector,” a long personal narrative remains one of my top-performing blog posts. A more recent post that chronicles my journey of being a writer, isn’t doing too badly either!

I didn’t write these pieces because I thought people would share them on their social media timelines, but because I wanted to. Similar to Marshall’s views, some stories are just worth telling. As a parting thought, someone in the audience rightly questioned: we’re always talking about news and journalism adapting to digital media, but why don’t we ask how digital media can adapt to journalism and the news?

About The Author

Saanya is a blogger on contemporary culture, politics, travel and lifestyle. She has previously been published in Times of India, DNA, Youth Ki Awaaz & more. Her blog seeks to provide a unique perspective on topical issues.

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