“And you can’t do that with a Google search!”

It’s a catchphrase that Bruce Forsyth would envy, but he’s got it spot on.

Jonathan Charles, a BBC foreign correspondent, was tonight the latest in a successful series of guest lectures at the University of Lincoln. His talk was entitled: “Journalism is dead: Long live journalism!”

Throughout his talk, Charles showed us some of his finest moments. And what fantastic moments they are. As you may remember, Charles was given the task of reporting one of the most heart-wrenching accounts of terrorism in recent memory, the Beslan school hostage crisis.

His report was breathtaking. Magical journalism. He intertwined fierce actuality with considered voiceovers. It was made even more impressive when Charles pointed out he had to cut this package together in a mere two hours. Incredible.

“You can’t do that with a Google search!” he repeated. And how right he was.

Although in complete agreement with pretty much everything Charles said, I did at times wonder where his determination to tell us about the woes of Google stemmed from. I don’t recall anyone suggesting Google-reporting is any substitute for the real thing.

Another running theme was that good reporting needs money, and plenty of it. Right again, of course, but at times it felt like Charles was pleading with his audience to keep him in a job. Maybe he was — the audience was made up of potential future journalists.

I’m not sure what Charle’s fear of the web is. Maybe I’m being a little too harsh to call it a fear. I doubt he’s afraid of it, but then like so many journalists, I don’t think Charles is entirely sure what ‘it’ actually is.

In my opinion, ‘it’ is the best platform for journalism in existence. Rather than being seen as a threat, it should be seen as the savior. On at least three occasions, Charles shared his frustration at not being able to cover certain events because of technological limitations. For example, he defended the BBC’s apparent bias to covering suicide bombers in Kabul rather than American bombings of small Afghan villages by stating that by the time a news crew could get there, the story would have passed.

With online, you can be there.

Rather than taking a satellite truck, camera man, sound guy and reporter, you can head down there with a compact video camera and get shooting. Within minutes, it’s on the web. The same goes for pictures. And audio. And interactive slide shows. You can do it all. Isn’t that exciting?

I hope Charles doesn’t see the internet as a threat. I’m sure it will make his already outstanding work even better.

Google doesn’t make a good reporter, but the internet certainly can help.

 

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