“We are exposed and laid bare”: Guardian writer on digital journalism

Jon Henley, senior feature writer at The Guardian

Jon Henley, senior feature writer at The Guardian

By Ailsa Rochester

A Guardian feature writer has told of a changing face of journalism that would make some of the editors of old quake in their boots.

Giving a lecture at Leeds Trinity University, Jon Henley quoted an unnamed American academic, saying: “Maybe we shouldn’t be calling people journalists anymore, but people who commit journalistic acts.”

Jon Henley of the Guardian gives interviews to journalism trainees

Jon Henley of the Guardian gives interviews to journalism trainees at Leeds Trinity University

Despite starting his career using a typewriter, Jon has been on the cusp of social media which he said has turned journalism on its head.

The newspaper’s foreign correspondent and reporter and writer for Firestorm, hailed as one of the most innovative examples of digital storystelling, claimed the internet has “exposed” journalists and laid them bare.

He said: “Journalists no longer hold a monopoly on truth. They can be challenged. Anyone with a smartphone is a publisher. Exposed us to the fact that whatever we are writing about there will always be people out there who know a hell of a lot more than we do. The game has changed fundamentally.”

Jon Henley, senior Guardian feature writer

Jon Henley: “Journalists no longer hold monopoly on truth.”

During the Greek financial crisis when generalised stories of doom saturated the media, Jon started a concept labelled “The Tweet Trip”.

This was born of a tweet looking for Greek stories of hardship but also of self-help.

The response he got was overwhelming and paved the way for a human portrait of the Greek people that was at the forefront of The Guardian‘s world reporting last year.

This changing landscape for journalists has partly been shaped by the audience themselves adapting. Whereas once they were inert readers, Jon says they now wear three hats as contributors, fact checkers and distributors.

Indeed 60 per cent of Guardian traffic now comes from a clicked link rather than their homepage.

Jon says that “open journalism” will see classic reportage being edged out, and that the internet means that journalists can no longer afford “to sit alone in ivory towers and spout”.

Jon’s entire speech:

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