Technical and editorial staff working on the frontline of news operations need to be able to react quickly to rapidly changing scenarios – often pushing themselves and their equipment to the limit in order to deliver reliable, high-quality coverage.
Rasha Hasbini has taken those skills that she developed in the field and is using them to help EBU members and clients realise the possibilities of IP and software workflows. In this episode of MediaRoad SkillBytes, Rasha explains that change is now a constant in the broadcast world and that curiosity is the most transportable skill.
Eoghan: You’re listening to MediaRoad SkillBytes with me, Eoghan O’Sullivan. The MediaRoad project is supporting the transformation of the European media sector by building an ecosystem for innovation. SkillBytes is a podcast series where we’re exploring changing skill sets and career paths in today’s media technology environment. My guest for this episode is Rasha Hasbini, who works at the European Broadcasting Union, where she is the lead on news partnerships and services for Eurovision News Events.
Rasha (preview clip): It’s a huge change that we’ve gone through in the past 10 years. It’s really as dramatic as going from black and white to colour TV. It’s now stabilising on the technology side, so you have all the communicators that are in and that are actually explaining in simpler ways how the technology works and how you can embrace it in today’s world.
Eoghan: Thanks for joining me Rasha.
Rasha: Thank you.
Eoghan: So, at the start of SkillBytes, we set a challenge for all our guests. Rasha, I’d like you to summarise your career to date in about 30 seconds.
Rasha: I started as a student in visual communication. So it was all about web design, graphic design. And then I discovered audiovisual and documentaries more specifically. So I’ve trained, and then I was working at the EBU at the newsroom for about six months until the Lebanon War started. And that was the at the same time, the moment where I was shooting my first documentary, and I had just come back from south Lebanon and so I could help the news operations team that we’re going into Lebanon navigate their way into south Lebanon. And that’s when I discovered what news was all about and what news operations were all about. So the field operations were for me from 2009 until 2015 and after that I came back and I was embedded in the technology team because news had been disrupted: there was new technology out there. And recently I’ve just taken the job as lead on partnerships because there’s so much to do to rebuild the whole news operation team that is now based a lot on software and IP and what you can do with the new technology today that it now that it has stabilised a bit.
Eoghan: To what extent would you have described yourself as a digital native or a techie person before you made that jump?
Rasha: Being a digital native is something that is very interesting, but it’s still a label. Technology is part of everyday life. You cannot go without it. But still, today you have 60 to 70% of embracing new technology that is relationship management and people management and is often maybe politics, or often also, if you really strip it down to the core, it’s dealing with fear of change, which is a very interesting world.
Eoghan: Would you say that if you look at, say, young people coming into media jobs today who are surrounded by social media, et cetera, as opposed to maybe very experienced media practitioners (journalists, editors and so on): are those who didn’t grow up with this technology at a big disadvantage?
Rasha: It’s a lot about being born with a minimum understanding of technology, but it’s still very, very relevant to have the right communication and people skills to bring innovative projects together. The ones that are very interesting to watch are the people in the middle – the ones who actually manage to fill the gaps or build bridges between the two generations.
Eoghan: Is there a risk that those communications skills will get lost as part of this transformation. How can media organisations make sure that those skill sets get transferred to younger generations coming into the workforce?
Rasha: They have to talk. Talk, talk, talk all the time. They have to absolutely listen as well. And if you listen to what’s important to the new generation, you can find a better way to communicate with them. And it’s crucial. It’s crucial, because you can see that today young people are lost in the mass of information and they’re really absolutely focused on what is given to them by their peers. And the critical mind and the critical thinking is a skill that’s absolutely important. Being comfortable with the technology is now not an option. You have to be comfortable with any type of technology in front of you. So actually, the skill that is transportable is curiosity. If you’re not curious today you drown. So between being curious and shaping their critical minds and asking why all the time, all the time, all the time, I think you’re set for the future generation.
Eoghan: If we say that news and the technology that surrounds it has gone through a big transformation over the last 10 years, do you see it stabilising now, or is there a sense in which it’s never going to be stable – there’s just constantly going to be change going forward.
Rasha: Change is the new normal. So it’s about coping with change and finding a way to keep up with the constant innovation. Once you’re comfortable with that, you’re good to go. Today on a news operations team, the skills have completely changed. Of course, you have to be comfortable with change in the field. Of course, you have to be very reactive and find solutions. But today you also need to understand how software works so that you can feed back. There’s a feedback loop that needs to be established in every team. Once you have a feedback loop and once you have communication with your software team (and that’s a new type of profile that we now see)… once you have that going and they improve continuously while they watch you working – and while this is happening – this is the only way I believe that we can today stay relevant. That takes a lot of courage because saying to somebody who’s leading a department, “okay, you have had your broadcast engineers for so long, but today we have to make them work with software engineers” is not something easy to swallow. So politically, it is very difficult to convince very established teams to say, “you know what, today you’re gonna have to work with somebody and somebody completely new and somebody half your age and actually somebody that you’re going to need to listen to”. It’s very challenging. But it’s very interesting times.
Eoghan: If you look at these multi-functional teams that you’re talking about, does it still make sense to talk about someone as being editorial or someone as being technical? Or does everybody need to do both?
Rasha: It’s very interesting as a question. I believe that no, you cannot now pretend that you’re only editorial or only technological, but you can have a certain tendency towards one side or the other. You need to be able to speak the same language as the software engineers or the broadcast engineers in our situation. And they need to also take the time to listen to the editorial side of things and that has not happened systematically. If they listen and talk to each other regularly in a continuous improvement loop and a continuous feedback loop, then you have the recipe for success. And that is a conscious decision from the top. If you don’t have that endorsed and protected – the need for communication, they need to have them just exchange regularly and hold them accountable for that – you are nowhere near finishing your digitalisation process, and it’s a pity.
Eoghan: When you talk about feedback loops like that, that suggests to me possibly lots and lots of meetings.
Rasha: No, your meetings should be short, not more than 15/20 minutes and standing up, please! In order to innovate, you have to be able to continuously improve. In order to continuously improve, you have to cut the waste – the waste of time. Time is the most valuable resource you have. And so when evolving becomes part of your everyday life and you take that in account in your everyday delivery of service, then you’re fine.
Eoghan: So at the end of every episode of SkillBytes, we ask our guests the same question, and I’m going to ask you now: from where you are now in your career, if you could give yourself a piece of advice at the start of your career, what one piece of advice would you give to yourself?
Rasha: Cut the noise… actually. At the beginning of my career, it was a time where the technology started disrupting the very well established ways and work flows that we had. You had the very established workforce that had been doing the same thing for 10/15 years that wanted nothing else than repeating and continuing the way because they thought they held the truth. And they did in a certain way. So cutting the noise really early on to listen and realise that the change was happening would have been an advice I would have given myself, yes.
Eoghan: Well, Rasha, thank you very much for joining me for this episode of SkillBytes.
Rasha: Most welcome.
Eoghan: You can find more information on the initiative that has inspired this series by heading to mediaroad.eu.