Did you see them coming — the big twists at the end of those talked about thrillers, Bodyguard and Press? I enjoyed both dramas hugely, but couldn’t help noticing how much the producers kept showing us shots of text messages on the characters’ mobile phones to keep the plot moving along.
Contrast this with House of Cards — no, not the White House version, but the Westminster based original from 1990. It tracks the career of intrepid reporter Maddie and her infatuation with her secret source, the cunning Frances Urquhart, as he slithers his way up the greasy poll to Downing Street.
I stumbled across it on Iplayer a few weeks ago. It’s a masterclass for would be journalists on journalism in its purest form. And it struck me that it’s also a reminder of how business works at its best. Not by email or text. But by conversations.
All Maddie had was a notebook and a pair of very wide eyes. That worked for her, because c1990, journalists got their stories with conversation and eye contact. In 2018, judging by Press and Bodyguard, most of the manoeuvring is done by text and email. As a BBC reporter myself, I’m pleased to say that journalists haven’t entirely stopped speaking to the subjects of their stories, and to each other, but the digital age has certainly cut down the amount of time vocal cords are required to get things done.
Personally, it makes me a little uneasy. I reckon it’s only when you speak to someone that you can truly judge their tone, their passion, their hopes and fears. But text and email? I’m not convinced our emoji culture really cuts it.
How often do you email a colleague rather than speak to them? It’s something we work on in my newsroom themed workshops. Of course email’s great to pin down and record details, but does it ever help build workplace relationships? My suggestion to any TV producer planning the next Sunday night thriller? Ban the screenshots from the small screen. That should really get people talking.
If you’d like to give your business a boost by encouraging your staff to talk to each other a bit more, my Newsroom Bootcamp might fit the bill — you’ll see them debating and holding their own without a keyboard in sight.