The Guardian’s first open weekend was held yesterday and today at the newspaper’s HQ near Kings Cross Station in London. Most events were sold out, but I managed to get tickets to three today. I didn’t really know what to expect, but love the quality of writing in the Guardian so was keen to go along. As I took my seat for the first event, editor Alan Rusbridger in conversation with US writer Clay Shirky, I noticed that my bearded neighbour was wearing sandals, and I smiled to think of the Guardian reader stereotype. The event started with a screening of the Guardian’s fabulous three little pigs ad, and then Rusbridger moved straight on to interview Shirky. They discussed the fact that although we have free access to more data than ever before, people aren’t using it. Shirky said that this is because the public consumes stories not data, and needs experts to comb through the data and turn it into stories the public cares about. So that’s good news for journalists then. The discussion also covered moves to put news behind paywalls as opposed to free online, with Shirky commenting that ‘the Times and the Sunday Times have become a newsletter for the Tory party’ since going behind a paywall, in his opinion.
My next event was How to Tweet, with writer Grace Dent and Guardian executive producer Stephen Abbott. I’ve been tweeting for a couple of months but am still getting the hang of it, so was looking forward to getting some inspiration and was not disappointed. Grace Dent explained in her amusing way why she loves twitter and how useful it is, concluding that people are mad not to be on it. Stephen Abbott then went through the nuts and bolts of setting up a Twitter account and how it all works. I now know what the ‘Connect’ tab means, and I apologise to anyone who’s tweeted me before that I haven’t replied to – I wasn’t ignoring you, I just didn’t see your message. Stephen then very kindly explained to me how to tweet on my android phone, so I will try to set that up this week.
After a quick lunch from the pancake stall on the terrace overlooking the canal behind the building, I strolled down to the Guardian bookshop and met northern editor Martin Wainwright who was signing copies of his books. I had to buy his True North because it has a picture of a whippet like ours on the cover and because we talked about Leeds where Martin lives and I studied. I’m looking forward to reading it.
My last session of the day was Family Secrets and How to Tell Them where three writers told us their own family secrets. It was interesting, but I didn’t feel we had any answers on how to tell, other than ‘carefully’ as author Alison McQueen said. I found myself wondering about the impact on other family members when their issues are aired in public. But that probably says more about me than them.
Overall I found the day thought-provoking and enjoyable, and would definitely go again. http://www.guardian.co.uk/open-weekend