Networked Journalism Education

Archive for April, 2013

How should journalism schools respond to the merging of media and technology companies?

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This image is from an advertisement for Seatwave, featured in an article in the Guardian in 2009, listing the “top 100 tech media companies”

Last week in a talk at the Reynolds School, David Cohn, director of news at Circa and founder of Spot.Us made the point that technology companies are becoming media companies: Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook all started as technology companies — in Apple’s case, a hardware company — yet all have moved closer and closer to sponsoring, producing, aggregating and selling media.

Wired just published a thought provoking interview with Andrew DeVigal (thanks to Craig Silverman at Spundge for the tip!) in which DeVigal speaks to the question of whether media companies (in this case, The New York Times) should become a technology company:

…Part of the challenge there is that the New York Times, which is a media company would then become a software company. Not to say that isn’t the right thing to do, but is that what the  Times wants? It’d be a pretty major shift in mindset and operations, you know, to support customers and support the technology. Do we really want to see teams of journalists turned into teams of support technologists?

It makes me wonder if a team at Apple ever asked themselves: Do we really want to turn ourselves into a music company? Or whether the early team at Microsoft that decided to adapt an encyclopedia for the Web (remembering Encarta) worried about whether their engineers knew enough to create media. Will journalists lose their critical space in the network because they can’t imagine how to reconfigure themselves?

DeVigal goes on to describe the next frontier in interactive news, which to me reinforces one of the reasons why media and technology have to move closer together:

Trying to capture a narrative around data is still the missing link. How do we blend interactive story telling with information?

We’ve recently reconfigured our curriculum to include narrative, data and social journalism courses. But what I get from DeVigal is that after these foundational courses, we should be pushing ourselves to integrate these concepts and produce something new that marries media and technology. We can’t tell stories on one page and display data on another; these two forms of information need to be integrated in ways we’re just beginning to invent.

DeVigal emphasized the need to more deeply engage readers, and one way to do that is through games. Let the reader simulate driving a car while texting, or play different roles within a documentary of the Haitian earthquake. We have to experiment to understand how to arrest attention and help people focus on the message/the story/the issue we are presenting. Integrating narrative with data through the framework of a game may be the closest template we have at the moment for thinking through a new form of news.

DeVigal’s final advice on what we should be teaching:

    Strong Storytelling Skills (“Know Story” he said)
    Facility with Software (being able to whip out an idea is valuable)
    Ability to Collaborate (absolutely critical)

If journalism/media companies are to become tech companies, then journalism schools have to become much, much more tech saavy. We who prepare students: Are we preparing them to jump start new types of news, with the attitudes necessary to grok the merging of numbers, stories and social?

We can’t start the journalism curriculum by drilling AP style, the inverted pyramid and 1:30 second news packages and expect students to come out on the other end with new ideas. Maybe it’s on us to become Schools of Information, in all its forms, to make sure we stay in the game.

Written by Donica

April 6th, 2013 at 11:32 pm

Journalism programs finding their niche

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The Brown Institute for Media Innovation website

It’s fun to read about the new Brown Institute for Media Innovation (and drool a bit) over the thought of having resources to spend on journalism/engineering collaborations between Columbia and Stanford students. Learning from their innovations, as well as from the Knight News Challenge grants, the work of folks at the MIT Media Lab and many other pockets of creative thinkers hooked to generous resources, brightens the prospects for journalism spectacularly.

I think it helps everyone when an entity is able to decide what it’s about and build an idea. Lots can be done at a smaller scale, too, and I am excited to see how different programs, including ours, answer that challenge. I see a great need for programs to develop innovative products using all open-source, freely available tools, or to use old tools in new ways. There’s plenty of invention and experimentation to be done, and bravo to anyone who gets the traction and support to unfold a solid strategy.

Written by Donica

April 1st, 2013 at 1:14 pm

Posted in Innovation