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Technology as a Tool

October 14, 2012 Leave a comment

Jeff Jarvis’s “The Article as Luxury or Byproduct” makes the argument that writing an article may not be necessary for every piece of news anymore, thanks to advances in technology (like Twitter and YouTube).

Jarvis references Brian Stelter‘s experience covering the Joplin tornado.  Stelter had limited resources while in Joplin, but he was able to use Twitter to get his stories started for The New York Times.

Jarvis says although the article is not necessary for everything, it’s not an obsolete form of information.  To this, I agree.  There is so much news to cover and not enough man power to cover it in terms of writing articles.  However, advances in technology such as Twitter and blogging have provided new outlets from where information can found.

Jarvis also makes an interesting point when he basically asks why write something if it’s already been written?  Why not link to it and add to it instead of repeating it?  His answer: because (as journalists and human beings, we want our names out there).

He says, “In a do-what-you-do-best-and-link-to-the-rest ecosystem, if someone else has written a good article (or background wiki) isn’t it often more efficient to link than to write? Isn’t it more valuable to add reporting, filling in missing facts or correcting mistakes or adding perspectives, than to rewrite what someone else has already written?

We write articles for many reasons: because the form demands it, because we want the bylines and ego gratification, because we are competitive, because we had to. Now we should write articles when necessary.”

He is very clear to reiterate his stance on articles, “Let the record show that I am not declaring the article useless or dead. Just optional.”

In response to this article, Mathew Ingram wrote “No, Twitter is Not a Replacement for Journalism.”  (Ingram’s interpretation of Jarvis’s article was not well-received by Jarvis).

Like Jarvis, Ingram also uses Brian Stelter’s Joplin coverage as an example, saying, “If anything, in fact, the kind of live reporting that Andy Carvin and others do with Twitter, and the kind Brian Stelter did in Joplin, increases the need for curation and context and background and reporting. Watching the stream of thousands of tweets that Carvin produced during the uprising in Egypt was fascinating and compelling, but it was also overwhelming in terms of the sheer magnitude of data.”

While Jarvis argues the traditional news article may not be necessary for all news anymore (much like it used to be–it used to be the only source of news), Ingram defends the need for articles. Ingram claims Twitter and blogging are not replacing articles, but are tools that are changing the roles of journalists and how news is covered.

Ingram’s point reminds me of a quote from David Cage in the most recent issue of “Game Informer.” (Cage is co-CEO of Quantic Dream.  He writes and directs all of Quantic’s games.) In an interview with Cage about his most recent project, Beyond: Two Souls, he is asked about cutting-edge technology.  What he says rings true not only in video games, but in multi-media journalism, too.

Cage: “I like what it [technology] allows me to do on the creative side, but any technology, no matter how good it is, is only a tool.  It is the pen to write the book, but not the book.  If you have no vision, no idea, the best technology won’t make your game any better, just as the best pen won’t make a great book.  But if you have something to say, it gives you the means to say it better.” (His quote comes from the magazine issue, not online exclusive previously linked.)

I couldn’t agree more.  Twitter, YouTube, etc… aren’t going to ever replace articles.  Just because people publish information with them doesn’t mean the information is factual, fair, or even informative.  However, for journalists seeking to truly inform and share information, these new tools have enhanced the art of journalism and how information is shared.

Jarvis and Ingram make valid points in both their articles, but I believe David Cage hit the nail on the head with this one.

-MM

If you can’t beat them, Join them.

September 11, 2012 1 comment

In Emily Nussbaum‘s article, The New Journalism: Goosing the Gray Lady, she follows the almost down fall of the New York Times and the changes to move toward the digital age of journalism.

While the article focused on the large scale newspaper, I believe it’s important to remember there are smaller papers all over the country (and world) who are dealing with or who have dealt with some of the same issues faced by the New York Times.  There’s the mix of the young programmers who haven’t been out of college more than 5 years with the veteran journalists and editors who will often tell you what things were like “back in their day.”

Just when people began to turn their backs to the Times, these young programmers turned the paper into something that said, “Don’t pull the plug on me, yet.  There’s still life left in here.”

David Carr, a blogger for the Times sums up many of the feelings felt by papers going digital: “This notion of ‘Let’s give it a whirl’—that’s not how we act in our analog iteration. In our digital iteration, there’s a willingness to make big bets and shoot them down if they don’t work. And yet it’s all very deadly serious. Other print websites can innovate because nobody’s watching. Here, everybody’s watching.”  Yes, everybody was watching the Times, but more people are beginning to peg a closer eye on other newspapers, whether large scale or small town.

Aron Pilhofer, one of the first team members that helped turn the Times around, says at the end of the article he hopes the Times can excite “online readers about the value of reportage, engaging them deeply in the Times’ specific brand of journalism—perhaps even so much that they might want to pay for it.”  And pay for it, they do.  The Times now offers various levels of digital subscriptions.

The team that turned the Times around definitely did something right.  However, not all newspapers have been so fortunate, and there are plenty out there who are still facing this uphill struggle.  There are also those who keep resisting the changes of going digital.  I hope those who are trying continue to try and, in time, embrace moving to the digital age of journalism and not resist the changes.  Look to the Times as an example.  And for those papers out there who are struggling more than ever and are continuing to resist the movement, well, all I can say is if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

-MM

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