Tuesday (3 May, 2011) saw the launch of the Kingston School of Writing, at the RSA in London. I was kindly invited, via former New Statesman colleague (now professor of journalism at Kingston University) Brian Cathcart, to join a short panel discussion on the future of writing and what students ought to be taught. I was asked to consider the digital aspects of this question. Due to time the discussion focused quite heavily on creative writing, so I thought it might be useful to post here the notes I made before the event:

A few things that interest me in this area from a digital perspective across all types of writing and storytelling. They can probably be split into what is still important, what is now possible/new and what students should be aware of. A few examples:

What’s still important

  • Narrative and the ability to construct stories well – both linear and non-linear. As stories such as the Wikileaks US Afghanistan / Iraq papers show, data alone does not a story make
  • Understanding narrative arcs and meta narratives and the role they still play – as the wedding showed clearly at the weekend
  • Headline writing, and summarising concisely and accurately – Twitter and search engines make this an absolutely vital skill
  • Sources and verification – in a world where anyone can quickly check information, showing and having clear (verified where possible) sources is going to become more and more important to maintain trust.

What’s new(ish)

  • The ability to connect media, create cross media experiences and take the reader on a journey, if they wish to follow – from the Archers on Twitter onwards
  • The numbers of possible outlets and possibilities
  • That the reader is now a participant and contributor to the story – even for printed books, where fan fiction keeps rising

What do students need to be aware of or have

  • The ability and willingness to experiment and not worry if they fail
  • User experiences and how to construct stories across media
  • If journalists – data
  • Business, networking and marketing skills
  • The breadth of possible work beyond the traditional jobs – writing for games, copywriting, PR, possibilities with mobile devices

For those interested this article by Jay Rosen ‘What I think I know about journalism‘ is well worth a read. And the following are related older posts of mine:
A modern journalists job description
So you want a job in journalism?