Digital Journalism Notes

The following includes tips/points I have gathered after reading a mass of articles (mostly thanks to Ryan Frank) – I’ve chosen the best articles with the best points that correspond to The Hullabaloo. I’ve included the direct passages from these articles with a bolded point for each, so you can scan or read more into those findings.

C.W. Anderson, Emily Bell, Clay Shirky: Post-Industrial Journalism: Adapting to the Present

…Perhaps the single most important adaptive trait is to recognize that that we are in a revolution, in its sense of a change so large that the existing structure of society can’t contain it without being altered by it.

In a revolution, strategies that worked for decades may simply stop working (as many already have). Strategies that seemed impossible or insane a few years ago may now be perfectly suited to the current environment. This period is not over, and the end is not even in sight; the near future will hold more such reversals, so that even up-to-the-minute strategies of a few years ago (RSS feeds and staff blogs) may fade into prosaic capabilities, while new ones (the ability to hunt for mysteries instead of secrets, the ability to bring surprising new voices to public attention) may become newly important.

More than any one strategy or capability, the core virtue in this environment is a commitment to adapting as the old certainties break and adopting the new capabilities we can still only partially understand, and to remember that the only reason any of this matters to more than the current employees of what we used to call the news industry is that journalism–real reporting, about whatever someone somewhere doesn’t want published–is an essential public good.

Journalists’ duties expand

  • Must grasp data analysis. Journalists should be able to analyze the data and metrics that accompany their own work, have a familiarity with the idea that metrics represent human activity.
  • Reporters now also need management/technological/editorial skills. As we see more effective models of journalism emerge from a remaking of the existing process, one widely held observation is that journalists are having to move from a world where the sole focus of their activity was their own stories to a host of different concerns. Steve Buttry, who blogs frequently on newsroom change and leads the training and skills program for Digital First Media, identifies this as ‘project management skills–being able to keep across all parts of the process and understand how they can be brought together to produce something that works.’
  • Newsroom collaboration causes responsibility of processes to blur. Working collaboratively and across disciplines should start in the newsroom, which is where this organizational skill set should flow from. This in itself requires journalists to be freer to think about and improve the overall processes of journalism….Individual journalists will spend more time in collaborative relationships. This might be with technologists, working out better systems; with specialists or academics in their field; or with other journalists to develop stories or software and in editing and aggregating the output of others….1) Deadlines and formats for journalism become unrestricted. 2) Geography becomes less relevant for information gathering, the creation, consumption of journalism. 3) Live streams of data and social activity provide new and unfiltered source material. 4) Real-time feedback influences stories.
  • Product over brand. Individuals become more significant than the brand.
  • Journalists must engage in social media every day. Although journalists should already spend time following up stories and engaging in public discussion on social networks or in comment threads, their ability to add value for users with these techniques will increasingly become part of their value.
  • Everyone needs to output content. Time saved by the automatic organization and editing of pieces, however, dramatically reduces the need for editors to oversee every part of the process. Newsrooms can no longer afford senior staff who do not produce content. Every new desk editor should at least be aggregating and linking to work both inside and outside his or her organization, providing meta-analysis of the process and sources, following stories through cultivating and recommending sources in public.
  • Reporting is no longer linear. The importance of dedicated professionals isn’t going away. What’s going away are the linearity of the process and the passivity of the audience. What’s going away is a world where the news was made only by professionals, and consumed only by amateurs who couldn’t do much to produce news on their own, or distribute it, or act on it en bloc….The audience’s preference for news about Hollywood over Washington, the presence of the competition just a click away, the Supreme Court’s current interpretation of the First Amendment, and the proliferation of high-quality cameras on mobile phones are all part of the news ecosystem of the early 21st century, the effects of the ancient and modern all mixed together….There is no solution to the present crisis. One corollary is there is no stable state coming to the practice of news any time soon. We are not living through a transition from A to B (Walter Cronkite to Baratunde Thurston, say) but a transition from one to many, from a world where Cronkite could represent some central focus to a world with a riot of competing voices–Thurston and Rachel Maddow and Juan Cole and Andy Carvin and Solana Larsen as a few members of a cast of millions.
  • Reporters do not normally turn in finished products from scratch. It has become obvious, in the new news ecosystem, that the notion of everyone producing a finished product from scratch is simply not the normal case.
  • Stories/information must be linked. Linking is the basic technological affordance of the web, the feature that sets it apart from other forms of publishing, because it says to the user: ‘If you want to see more on the topic being discussed, you can find related material here.’ It is a way of respecting the users’ interests and ability to follow the story on their own.

Clayton M. Chrstensen, David Skok, James Allworth, Mastering the art of disruptive innovation in journalism

  • Management must drive the process. “This needs to be guided by top management. In previous studies of disruption, very few companies succeeded without the personal, attentive oversight of the CEO. More than anyone else, the CEO can ensure that the new organization gets the required resources and is free to create processes and priorities appropriate to the new challenge without interference.”
  • Use readers more for information. “For many newsworthy events, it’s increasingly more likely that the first available description will be produced by a connected citizen than by a professional journalist. For some kinds of events—natural disasters, mass murders—the transition is complete.”
  • Journalist’s job has become more editorial. “The journalist has not been replaced but displaced, moved higher up the editorial chain from the production of initial observations to a role that emphasizes verification and interpretation, bringing sense to the streams of text, audio, photos and video produced by the public.”
  • Our generation of journalists are  expected to act. “As Shazna Nessa, head of the AP’s interactive newsroom, notes: ‘We need to get young journalists to understand that they can change organizations. Indeed, they are often expected to be the people who change things.'”
  • Must recruit innovators. “Not all of these qualities might be teachable, but they are not optional. It is important to recruit and develop journalists, whether in newsrooms or through journalism schools, who engage with persistent change. For some of these institutions, which by their very nature represent stability, a substantial readjustment will be required. … Individual journalists in whatever area of expertise need to think of experimentation with the aim of innovation as something they practice rather than endure.”
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