"Coda is re-imagining digital storytelling." Natalia Antelava will deliver a keynote at scoopcamp 2015
Breaking news or background stories? Acting fast or research further? And how should the story be told? In these online-addicted days, those questions are more important than ever for journalists all over the world. With scoopcamp, nextMedia.Hamburg offers a platform for exchange. On October 1st, international keynote speakers will present their personal views on modern journalism. One of them is Natalia Antelava, co-founder of Coda, "a new way of covering crises", as it is written on their website. We interviewed her about storytelling, Twitter and characteristics a modern journalist should have.
Natalia, storytelling is one of the buzzwords the media industry is chatting about lately. But hasn’t it been important ever since?
Absolutely. There is a reason they say while we, journalists, are representatives of the second most ancient profession. Humans have been telling stories ever since they started speaking and storytelling will never disappear. It is, for sure, changing, we are all adjusting to the new digital age, we are all finding new ways of telling stories - and some work fantastically well, while others don't. But ultimately best pieces of journalism are simply well told stories. That's what people want, that's what people engage with. And you can have the most incredible investigation but if the story isn't told well - you lose your audience. That's the way it has always been, and I believe no matter how much our platforms change this in itself never will. And in some ways, I am inspired by the fact that with all that fantastic experimentation that's going on in journalism, what still stands out is simply a good story.
You are the co-founder of Coda with is a single-issue web platform. How does the storytelling has to change if you are covering a topic on the long run?
Coda is re-imagining digital storytelling. What's the biggest difference between platforms of the past (newspapers, television) and the digital platforms? The old platforms were disposable. Think about the daily newspaper, you read it, you throw it out. You watch a piece of television - you never see it again. Today stuff is there to stay and we are only beginning to wake up to infinite opportunities that this offers to journalists. But it also means that we need to think creatively about how to use these new, non-desposable platforms: what's the best way of using the past reporting? How can we link stories to each other? How can we create deeper, richer context?
At Coda, we believe that it will allow us to do what non-digital journalism never could: it will allow us to follow stories in a meaningful way for an extended period of time. I think one change to storytelling is that because of our format individual Coda stories will be treated as part of a bigger picture, bigger puzzle. We are building an overarching narrative of an issue or a crisis that we follow and each story in it contributes to that narrative. This concept of overarching narrative, of building a big picture and creating context is very important to us. But we also know that we'll only be successful in creating that big picture if we tell excellent stories in individual pieces - and in that sense storytelling doesn't have to change.
Journalism is based on good research. Does the web make it easier to research or does the information overload handicap the research?
I would say there is a little bit of both. Overall I think abundance of information is an overwhelmingly positive thing. We are all richer for it, even if wading through it can be a pain. But the hidden danger of the ease of access to information is that we, journalists, can become complacent. Reporting is still, to me, about speaking to real people. No internet, no twitter can replace that. But access to information can create an illusion of knowledge. It's important for us to remember that even tho it feels like we are getting all we need on twitter, it's still a bubble of sorts. Journalism's job is to burst that bubble, to bring in voices that are outside of it, to enrich it.
Should social networks like Twitter be used by journalists as a source for their stories?
Absolutely - and guilty as charged. I've done it myself. I have actually produced an entire documentary out of a twitter conversation. Twitter enabled this conversation - I could have never had direct access to this person without it (read here and here) and there is undoubtedly value in that sort of journalism. After all virtual as they are, social networks are part of our real lives now. We'd be crazy to ignore them. But as I already said, sometimes it is so easy to rely on them too heavily and to ignore people outside the social media bubble.
From your point of view: Which three characteristics should a modern journalist have?
Curiosity. Persistence. Compassion.
Curiosity should be what drives you. Persistence is what gets you stories - never take no for an answer. Compassion is what ultimately dictates your ethics, and is a big part of what makes one a good storyteller.
If you've got that, the rest can be learned. If you asked me what skills you need these days, I'd say: ability to write, code and to think like an entrepreneur will put you a head above everyone else.
Beside Natalia, we have more keynote speakers on scoopcamp 2015. Discover the speaker and program.