Networked Journalism Education

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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


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Robin Hutton on Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons

The best gift I can imagine from a software developer is a WordPress-like publishing and collaborating platform designed for doing journalism.

According to WordPress’s State of the Word, nearly 15% of the top million websites in the world are using WordPress. Twenty-two out of every 100 new active domains in the US use WordPress.

Hundreds of news sites are using WordPress. The Bangor Daily News uses WordPress for production and publication. The newspaper in Barga, Italy runs on WordPress. So does CNN’s PoliticalTicker as well as countless student newspapers.

WordPress is wonderful; it enables easy access to publishing for millions of people. I’m writing on a WordPress blog right now and I have nearly a dozen class sites in various stages of use.

But it is software for blogging. Journalists need a platform that enables a wider range of content to be published by a wider range of users using a much wider range of design tools. Journalists desperately need a content management system that is as easy and flexible as WordPress but built to enable collaborative, beautifully designed, multimedia rich, social media integrated news.

Image a tool box of widgets and plug-ins just for different types of journalism: wiki pages for context building, storify for all types of media with lots of design options, non-templated templates that allow for multiple size photos with captions, for large headlines, small headlines, contributed stories, rating tools, live chats, live coverage, crowdsourced maps, data visualizations, interactive databases and crowdsourced databases. Imagine a WordPress-like CMS that includes a work flow suitable for use by small and large newsrooms, by classrooms, nonprofits and neighborhood associations. It could be drag and drop, pop and play, easy to use out-of-the-box and open for all types of customization. It would look good on any browser and any device (I know, asking for the moon, but since you asked…)

A content management system built to accommodate all the amazing tools that developers are creating for journalists and that enables strong and beautiful design and is easy to use — that would be a gift of the decade.

I also have a related gift request, one that might not be so pie-in-the-sky. I would love a go-to-wiki that incudes a directory of all the cool tools developers are making that relate to journalism, with links to examples, how-to guides and user comments. So many experiments are flourishing around the world it’s impossible to keep track of all the wonderful gifts developers are already creating for journalists. People are using and customizing new tools in all kinds of unexpected ways. It would be incredibly useful to have a user-generated wiki directory that provided a one-stop place to learn about new tools that relate to creating, doing, producing, distributing and sustaining journalism. If anyone is interested in collaborating on such a project (or knows if such a thing already exists!) please comment below.

Those are my two wishes for this month’s Carnival of Journalism. For the record, I also wish for world peace, an end to hunger and a happy new year to all!

Written by Donica

December 9th, 2011 at 10:31 pm

Storytellers that enable storytelling

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If we want to teach our students genuine collaboration skills, we could spend more time teaching journalism from the point of view of enabling storytelling as opposed to focusing solely on being a storyteller. The Tiziano Project could be an excellent way to experiment with developing a different mindset among students.

The Tiziano Project recently won a $200,000 Knight News Challenge Grant for its work in creating a platform that enables people to tell their own stories. The project’s mission statement acknowledges the link between reporting stories and improving lives; between having the right equipment and having the right affiliations:

The Tiziano Project provides community members in conflict, post-conflict, and underreported regions with the equipment, training, and affiliations necessary to report their stories and improve their lives.

The Tiziano Project uses a classroom metaphor to present its tools and learning modules — which could lend itself to using in a basic journalism school classroom as well as classrooms on the street.

The future of journalism is collaboration — collaboration as a means of presenting all sides of a story and providing every individual, whether in a conflict zone or on Wall Street, with the ability to present their voice to the world.

In the most connected era of human history, it is a return to the humanization of the events surrounding us. Iraq is no longer a war thousands of miles away, but the story of a girl who is learning how to drive or the fastest go-kart racer in the country, who has no arms.

It’s not that we are merging activism with journalism; in many ways, that was done long ago. What we are doing is spreading the opportunity for communities to share in the global conversation about their own societies and to help shape perceptions about the world in which they live.

Written by Donica

November 19th, 2011 at 2:19 pm

Posted in Collaboration