The power of digital journalism: The appeal for information solved in just 30 minutes

Here’s a story to warm the cockles of any journalist worried that digital journalism means losing many of the things we hold dear as regional journalists.

Shortly after lunchtime on Thursday, the Birmingham Mail published an appeal from National Express, which runs the buses across Birmingham, for information about a man wanted in connection with an assault which left a ticket inspector unconscious.

Using a variety of tools available to the newsroom, not least Facebook and Twitter, the Birmingham Mail got the appeal out to a wide audience very quickly:

What happened next was quite remarkable – and shows the strength of reaction regional news brands can enjoy in a digital world.

Within 30 minutes, according to the Mail, National Express knew the name of the man they wanted to speak to – and hundreds of people rang in with information.

Of course, the Mail won’t have been the only outlet publishing the appeal, and the fact the CCTV quality is so sharp will have helped massively.

National Express were quick to follow up with the Mail and others, thanking the public for their quick response.


And it’s the speed of the response which journalists worried about what digital journalism means for local journalism should take heart from.

Done well, with the right focus on building an audience and understanding what that audience wants – including the audience’s desire to make a difference – the tools which comes with digital platforms have the power to make our local journalism a more potent force than ever before.

As I discussed in my blog post on Friday, building a loyal digital audience make newsrooms more powerful than they’ve been in a long time – able to start and win campaigns at a stroke, hold those in power to account more effectively than ever and make a difference when it really matters within minutes.

For those who fear digital journalism is underpinned by clickbait articles ‘which aren’t real journalism,’ here’s the proof that nothing could be further from the truth.


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