Report Claims Technology Empowers Journalists, Not Replaces Them

A new report has been released from the Georgia Institute of Technology that highlights some of the key issues facing the journalism community as new and innovative technologies continue to transform the field. Based on Georgia Tech’s recent Journalism 3G: A Symposium on Computation and Journalism held in late February 2008, this report features insight from some of the major thinkers and key decision-makers from the media and technology industries – from the creator of Google News to the “Culture and Change” director of the Atlanta Journal Constitution to technologists from the latest digital media start-ups.

Among the major points and ideas presented in the discussions:

1. Journalists and computationalists can better serve the public interest through dialog, learning from each other and then working together to create the robust news reporting essential to the maintenance of a democracy.
2. The aim of technology is not to replace journalists, but to empower them with new computational tools that bring depth and context to news coverage.
3. Innovations in computation and the Internet are re-defining news itself, transforming it from a top-down, elitist model to more of a grassroots, user-driven model.
4. Visualization tools can help journalists tell their stories more clearly and powerfully.
5. Social networks, blogs and user-moderated Web sites are significant sources of article ideas as well as providing a means for receiving and posting news.
6. Sophisticated algorithms can perform as arbiters of what's news not only on a macro level, but in the delivery of online news pages tailored to an individual's interests.
7. Electronic interaction between journalists and the public serves several mutually beneficial purposes. It expands a reporter's "eyes and ears on the ground" to a tremendous degree while providing feedback that leads to more relevant news coverage for the public.
8. While readership numbers for traditional print media are rapidly falling, the potential audience for online and computer-mediated news is soaring, which poses new opportunities for computation-savvy journalists.
9. Computational media is not simply an electronic and digital rendition of print. It draws a demographically different audience than print and requires collaboration among journalists and computational specialists to maximize technology's advantages and the readers' expectations.
10. The combination of journalism and computation will require new business models.

Further development of the issues outlined above may begin with addressing specific needs identified at the symposium. Among them:

1. Continue expanding the interactivity of news
The involvement of readers -- by whatever means possible or practical -- will help define journalism in the coming years and ultimately improve the value of the craft. Reporting that incorporates many diverse elements into the story, including graphics, visualization, video and interactive components, will succeed by further engaging readers who are faced with an ever growing number of options for news.
2. Explore methods of verifying the accuracy and currency of online information
The ability to verify and authenticate Internet-based and other freely available information would support journalism's twin directives of fostering trust and imparting truth. That also means journalists need a way of knowing if information on a certain subject is the most current available.
3. Leverage the growth of social networking to support better news information
Networking of information and its consumers and the growth of social connections on the Internet is showing a path to new forms of how news is shared, consumed, and interpreted.
4. Support open source software development
Open Source code should be the norm for computational technologies because a single, common standard facilitates collaboration efficiently.