‘Robots in the basement’: How interactive media is changing journalism (and research)

“I still can’t get over the feeling that Brian was a robot assembled in the basement of the New York Times to come and destroy me”

New York Times’ David Carr (@carr2n), affectionately describing his browser-flicking colleague Brian Stelter (@brianstelter), ‘Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times’.

The film (2011) neatly captures many of the dilemmas in the newspaper industry: laid-off journalists clearing their desks; editorial meetings about Wikileaks; the limitations of aggregated content sites (at an industry debate David Carr holds up a screenshot of Newser, with holes showing where all the content mainstream media content sat, much to founder Michael Wolff’s chagrin).

The new robots are slowly rising rank in the newsroom, slinging their notebooks and pens aside as they tweet and live blog as a matter of course.

But the new breed are not emotionless automatons: social interactions and the human touch are still at the heart of successful interactive journalism.

That’s what I tried to get across in my talk at Coventry University this week, which borrowed Carr’s description for the title and looked at the possibilities of digital interaction for the dissemination of information in the public interest (which might include what I’ve previously called journalism outside journalism).

New technology enables journalists, researchers and bloggers to challenge mainstream and tired ways of doing news, to make the process and product of journalism more diverse, and to hold powerful organisations accountable. And no, I don’t know how it will be funded.

Afterwards, Coventry lecturer John Mair asked me which five people I’d recommend them to follow. Of course, it completely depends on the students’ specialisms and interests, but five Twitterers I’d recommend for their innovative and exciting approach to journalism include:

  • Andy Carvin (@acarvin), Senior strategist at NPR (US)
  • Neal Mann (@fieldproducer) Digital News Editor at Sky News (UK)
  • Joanna Geary (@guardianjoanna), Guardian’s Digital Development Editor (UK)
  • Patrick Smith (@psmith), editor, the MediaBriefing (UK)
  • Sarah Hartley (@foodiesarah) MD at Talk About Local; Community strategist at Guardian Media Group (UK)

Here are some of the links and projects I mentioned (in order of appearance):

  • Recent research on regional journalists’ pay and redundancies by Francois Nel, University of Central Lancashire
  • Jeff Jarvis on journalism’s myth of perfection and the strength of the blogging process

Pic: Arthur40A on Flickr

[I don't maintain this blog very regularly; check out my other site, Meeja Law, for links, posts and resources on media, law and ethics]

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One comment

  1. Pingback: Generation AudioBoo: how journalism students are interacting online « @jtownend

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