Digital pioneer

Amanda Kelly (BEd’95) is a digital pioneer. She was involved with the ground-breaking website for the prestigious newspaper, The Guardian—the first British newspaper to offer a “web first” service, putting content online before it appeared in the paper.

"I do not own a TV," said Amanda Kelly.

In the age of cord cutting, the statement doesn't seem out of the ordinary. The fact Kelly works for Global News in Montreal, Que. might make her statement seem a bit peculiar. Maybe not when you take into account she is the online news producer.

Graduating from the University of Saskatchewan, Kelly did not set out with the intention of working in journalism. "I had finished a road trip with a friend in Canada," remembered Kelly. "I was trying to get a visa to visit South Africa, which did not work out. I decided to move to London. I did not realize how expensive it was in London, so I shared a house with a number of roommates and started teaching.

"Teachers in England do not make very much money, so I got a job in television production. I saw an advertisement in The Guardian's jobs section and returned to London to work for the paper as a permissions executive. I helped negotiate the terms of re-publication of Guardian, Observer and New Internationalist content. It was an exciting time because the news media were just entering the online world. Questions of copyright and ownership of content were major issues—and still are today."

During her time as a permissions executive, she would also do double duty as a web editor. "Computers have always been an interest, and I helped with things like sub-editing content, coding for the website and tagging.  We were referred to as the ‘kids upstairs' by many on The Guardian staff who were maybe from a different generation," said Kelly with a laugh. "I worked a lot of night shifts with an interesting group of people. Many were PhD students who had many different viewpoints. It was a great work environment."

While Kelly enjoyed her responsibilities with The Guardian, she would move on to other endeavours. "I co-founded a voice recording studio where we would do work for radio including the BBC.  We also did audio books including Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood."

After almost ten years living and working in England, Kelly would find herself back in Canada. She worked a number of different communications jobs including for the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa and the McCord Museum in Montreal. "I was responsible for projects like working on art books as the editor for the National Gallery and working on texts for exhibitions at the McCord Museum. I also did freelance work doing things like copy editing, project management, proofreading.  I am passionate about anything to do with culture and communications."

In 2011, Kelly would re-enter the news-media world. "I was hired as the online news producer for Global News in Montreal. When I started, Global was moving much more into the digital world. We totally redesigned the website, and reporters were trained to also think about such platforms as Twitter and the website when producing a story. It is a transition that is still taking place."

Kelly sees a number of differences between traditional television and online news. "Both TV and online are telling stories about our lives, cities and world. When we are producing a television piece, we are basically writing for the images that are presented to the viewer. A story online has a different dimension to it.  People are able to give their feedback on the piece either through comments on the site, Facebook or Twitter. The story is constantly developing and changing. It is up to the news team to keep on top of it all."

In the instantaneous age of the internet, Kelly does see some challenges in her role as web producer. "In my profession, the fastest news organization to the story is often the winner. But you just can't be quick, you also have to be good," said Kelly matter-of-factly. "It is important to put a story out with the basics of good journalism like fact-checking. There is always pressure as well to balance limited resources with all the possibilities the online world presents."

She still sees a role for traditional news organizations in a world dominated by bloggers and citizen journalists. "I like to think one of my roles as web producer is to help curate the news.  We are able to draw from many different sources to help put together a more complete picture to a story."

Kelly does see a change in how we may consume the news. "All of the news that I view is online. I see Facebook moving into news as a real game changer. How it is collaborating with the Press Association for its UK politics page, for example, is very interesting. Using people's photos and posts in news features will raise many questions over the copyright of content on Facebook."

While Kelly is very adept at using social media, her own news consumption habits tend to the longer form. "I love reading pieces that can really delve into the story. I think we are seeing more websites doing that type of journalism. I also enjoy reading opinion pieces that provide different perspectives on an issue."

No matter the future of journalism or news reporting, it is very likely that Kelly will be on her laptop or iPhone documenting the entire process.
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