I’m very late actually writing this post as it’s now week 4 of my new job, but maybe I wanted more to write about than simply ‘I’ve got a new job’ – that’s what twitter is for.
So four weeks ago I started working with Storyful. I had been following the startup since the summer of 2010 when Mark Little started tweeting about his new venture. I met Mark in person when we invited him to the BBC Social Media Summit I helped organised in May 2011 and then on a couple of unrelated trips to Dublin I found myself in a pub with Mark and other Storyful staff finding out more about how they operated and what they were hoping to achieve. Lots it turned out.
This January on another unrelated trip to Dublin Mark offered me a job I couldn’t turn down, and earlier this month I took the role of Global Advocate/Director of Development and Integration (we’re still working on titles around here)! I’m going to be based in London, but with lots of travel, working with our clients around the world, and frequent visits to the mothership in Dublin.
That’s the most exciting bit. It wasn’t until I started that I realised how much I missed working as part of a team. Being an academic can actually be quite lonely, and when you throw in the competitive and (dare I say it) backstabbing elements, it can be quite a disheartening experience. And my last three years as a freelancer have also sometimes felt quite lonely. Being part of a team, either in person in an office full of banter, tea and those buckets of naughty goodness from Marks and Spencers, or virtually, on yammer where at any time day or night, someone from the team in Dublin, Oregon or Vietnam will be there saying hello, or sharing tips and leads. That is incredibly rewarding.
The other impressive part of watching Storyful in action is that this is a proper newsroom. Every piece of content is verified to within an inch of its life, every fact is cross-referenced and double-checked, and the news values associated with a story are considered instinctively. And the speed at which they work is mind-blowing. My first day in the office was Super Tuesday, and watching the streams unfold on the internal systems made my eyes water.
After training at least 2000 people on social media tools in the past three years, and comparing that with what I see amongst the Storyful journalists I realise that everyone can learn what the tools do, and how they can be used theoretically. Being able to use them in real-time, under pressure, as well as being able to follow the trails across different social networks and sources, and to combine that with traditional journalism practices is not something that can be taught. Your brain has to work a certain way, and it has nothing to do with age, gender or experience.
My sister used to run a restaurant in West Wales and I’d often find myself on potwash, helping out on busy shifts. I used to watch in awe at the height of dinner service, as my sister, under intense pressure and heat, would stand at the Pass, directing the chefs, to create and send out the most beautiful dishes. I would compare it to a conductor directing an orchestra.
That’s what it looks like when I see a big news day at Storyful. A group of very talented people working together to create something very exciting. Come back to me in a few more months when maybe I’m more cynical, but for right now, I’m pretty damn pleased to be here.