One of the problems that journalism has faced over the past few years is the decline of news as a salable commodity. When other professions have faced the same problem, they have looked outside of their traditional roles to find new sources of work.
When the decline in manufacturing created an oversupply of designers, those who couldn’t find work in tradition fields created the new discipline of service design. Likewise anthropologists have also found new markets for their work in the corporate sector.
Journalists are already able to move into PR, media training and copywriting. Now social reporting – a fusion of reporting and citizen engagement – is emerging as another journalistic discipline. Although it is currently quite a niche area, it does offer some possibilities for corporate and public sector commissions.
Social reporting requires journalists to abandon their traditional instinct of bagging exclusives. Instead their role is to share ideas, make sense of information and bring people together.
Essentially, a social reporter takes tools like YouTube, Twitter and Audioboo to report and amplify an event, with no interpretation or attempt to process the content. A leading proponent of social reporting in the UK is David Wilcox, a former Evening Standard journalist who has worked more recently in the public and community sectors.
Wilcox blends his social reporting activities with work facilitating events, community management and using technology to start conversations about democracy and civil society. These specialisms have opened up a new range of potential clients for him in the public sector, think tanks and events companies. He has recently started working with the Big Society Network, a project to encourage citizen action.
“As a social reporter you are giving your contacts away all the time, so you are moving yourself away from your position of power,” he says. “Also, you are no longer looking for the angle. Instead of saying ‘that is the story’, you are saying ‘here’s my take on this, what do you think?’.”
I have featured an example of David Wilcox’s social reporting at the top of the page. This YouTube clip features the dancer turned physiologist Peter Lovatt, who heads the dance Psychology Lab at the University of Hertfordshire and is another example of professional transfer.
Service Design is being used by blue chip private and public sector organisations as a way of improving their customers’ service experiences. Service design agencies apply design tools, techniques and thinking to clients’ service challenges, either to improve existing services or to create new ones.
One agency at the forefront of service design in the UK is live|work, whose commissions include redesigning services for Multiple Sclerosis patients in Ealing. They worked with patients to create services tailored to their individual needs during the different stages of their treatment.
This re-design is currently being implemented by Ealing Primary Care Trust and is a part of a wider NHS innovation programme.
Corporate anthropology emerged two decades ago out of research at Xerox to study how people interacted with technology. Since then, anthropologists, psychologists and other social scientists have been in demand in the corporate world and this trend has grown as companies step up their research into technological products before their release.
Technology firm Intel, one of the companies best known for this type of recruitment, first brought anthropologists in to help design computers with features for emerging markets. These Intel employees collect data ranging from the weather to the content needs of people in regions where computers are not yet popular. One anthropologist spent a year living in rural China, while others have spent time studying Indian villages and internet cafés in Brazil.