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Journalist of the month: Think of yourself as a newsmaker and the journalist as a curator

Blog post   •   Sep 05, 2014 10:00 +08

For the month of September, we talk to Asha Phillips(@AshaPhillips), founder of the social media news consulting firm Verily. Asha has taught numerous journalists, editors and students on how to use social content in reporting. She has trained and consulted for several key industry giants, including CNN, Wall Street Journal Asia, Australia Broadcasting Corporation, Yahoo, WAN-IFRA and Singapore's Nanyang Technological University.

Asha is also one of the pioneering editors at Storyful – the first global social media news wire -- which was acquired by News Corporation in 2014.

She began her career in broadcast journalism in Australia, where she worked as a producer and executive producer at ABC Australia, Nine Network, Sky News and CNN. She’s lived and worked in Australia, Hong Kong, Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore. 

What is the average number of press releases you receive in a day? Zero. I don't work like a 'traditional' journalist might so I don't get press releases, which I am grateful for.

My main subject areas are... Right now I work on Yahoo's New Digest which is international news. In fact, I've always covered global news stories in my line of work. Everyday I cover a range of stories from the Gaza crisis to tech stories and cute cat videos that go viral.

The best thing about being a journalist is... Being able to bring to light the stories that matter and give context to them - help people understand why they should care. That's rewarding.

3 challenges as a journalist... Understanding your audience and knowing how to provide the right amount of context to a story with 'lecturing' the audience. Lastly, technology - it's imperative for every journalist to keep up to date with and really understand the latest tools and technology and how to use them, something that can be both exhilarating and exhausting! 

What makes a good story for you? Relevance - a story that answers the 'so what?' and 'why should I care?' questions is a good story.

Suggestions to PR / Communications staff... Stop relying on press releases to get news out - they're redundant.  When crafting ways to release content and news to media, think about the platform you use and the kind of content you release. Make sure it's useable.

Also, it's important to think of yourself as a newsmaker and the journalist as a curator. Even though we hate that word, it is to some degree what journalism is now - curation. Increasingly your role as PR / comms managers is to be a content creator and to present that content to journalists in a way that is relevant to them.

You started as a journalist 10 years ago. What is different then and now? When I started out - in broadcast news in Sydney - the environment was remarkably different. It was all about media releases by PR firms and governments. We relied so much on scheduled press conferences and getting reporters to the scene of events. 

These days, a lot of what we as journalists and editors do is crowdsource and curate. The rise in the smartphone and social media over the last 5 years has provided a huge stream of content around breaking news events globally - from the most remote and unreachable corners of the world to our own backyards.  

In recent years news organisations (like Storyful, where I was previously Asia Editor for 3 years) understand the importance of using social media to discovery and distill relevant images and videos from the web, and verify their authenticity. This phenomenon raises serious ethical and legal questions around context and verification of content as well as copyright and rights ownership of this 'public' content. I have now set up my own business, Verily (@Verily_Media), to educate and train the journalists of today and the future on these issues. 

I could never have imagined when I started out, that the industry would shift so much in the first decade of my career, and honestly I am so glad to have been around for it! 

Brand Content Marketing - Is this relevant to all sectors? It has its place and can be very effective when used properly. However, I strongly believe in keeping branded content and news content separate and clearly identifiable. 


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