I don’t have any easy answers. But I do think societies are going to have to think hard about how to sustain the public sphere.
March 16, 2013
Umair Haque is an economist I admire deeply, and he’s depressing the hell out of me tonight. He’s on a roll about the end of journalism as we know it.
That’s truly scary stuff. It’s like the collapse of the Fourth Estate happening in front of our very eyes, while we Honey Boo Boo.
March 16, 2013
Umair does this a lot. Saying it like it is, and forcing people to think and respond. Tonight he’s touched a nerve, and so I’m going to try to gather my thoughts a bit.
There’s obviously problems with the journalism business model. Unbundling, etc. What Umair is pointing to is something deeper than that. He seems to think that our very ability to appreciate and value journalism is eroding.
That’s actually scarier than the business model problem. I disagree with Umair about the business model problem. I think we’ll find a business model if there is an articulate demand for journalism. I happen to be in a field where really smart designers, engineers and entrepreneurs are working on the business model problem. It will look very different from the “great-minds-leading-a-newsroom” model of journalism from the last century. It will be a networked version of it, and I truly believe between Matter and Kickstarter we are seeing the beginnings of that business model.
What I am really afraid of is whether we are losing our vision for what journalism ought to be as a culture. I just read Trending on Twitter: Groupthink, and it points to how systems like Twitter, with its high frequency feedback cycles, are short circuiting our ability to form dissenting opinions. Is Twitter pushing the tendency for society to form premature conclusions? Is Twitter too quick?
Journalism at its best serves to resist dominant narratives and premature conclusions, enabling society to revisit and revise its understanding of the world. As an interaction designer, I worry that the communication forms that we are creating are stifling our ability to reflect independently.
How do we design communication forms that are conducive to truth-seeking? How do we sustain a public sphere in a networked age?
Bold emph mine.
Ideas are becoming more compact in order to spread faster. You can see it in everything from mass protest and ‘social justice‘ to listicles and lazy journalism. And it’s all evolving relatively quickly.
On one end, this evolution is going to start looking like stuff that feels beautiful, moves society forward, and reaffirms our faith in humanity.
On the other end, it’ll probably take the form of real, actual genocide.
There’s a lot of work to be done to better understand this sort of thing and better design for it.
I don’t know if Tony’s thinking is as bizarrely broad as mine is on the topic but I’m glad he’s on it.
Deadspin: Outside of a few Twitter and Instagram accounts, there's no online evidence that Lennay Kekua ever existed.
Slate: Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o’s dead girlfriend is neither dead nor Manti Te’o’s girlfriend nor a corporeal being.
Perry Aftab: In any cyber incident, everything is digitized. The evidence can be tracked and traced.
Time: In some ways, the fact that the relationship played out entirely in the digital realm makes falling in love —or at least believing you’re in love—more likely.
CNN: Manti Te'o's deceased girlfriend tweeted late Wednesday night.
We just thought this is going to be the fastest way we can cover this and it’s the most dirct route. It’s wasn’t like, ‘Oh, this is a trend, let’s assign this on Instagram.’ It was about how quickly can we get pictures to our readers.
Kira Pollack, director of photography, TIME, to Jeff Bercovici, Forbes. Why Time Magazine Used Instagram To Cover Hurricane Sandy.
TIME gave five photographers access to its Instagram account as they covered Sandy. Many of the images can be seen on TIME’s Lightbox blog.
The cover for the northeast edition of this week’s edition uses one of the Benjamin Lowy’s photos. His work can be seen on his Tumblr.
Bonus: How do Instagram-type apps affect photojournalism? There’s a debate about that.
Over at O’Reilly Radar Alex Howard takes a look at the latest Knight News Challenge winners and identifies key trends in “journalism’s networked future.”
- Networked accountability: Alex looks at a project by Safecast that hopes to bridge “citizen science, open data, open source hardware, civic hacking and the Internet of things to monitor, share and map radiation data.”
- Peer-to-peer collaboration, across newsrooms: Individual journalists, technologists and organizations are collaborating across news organizations like never before. Yes, there’s competition between them still, but there’s also coopition and pure collaboration.
- The value of an open geo commons: There’s Google Maps and there’s what Apple is trying to call maps, but these are proprietary solutions for news organizations that want to visually place their stories and data in a precise place. OpenStreetMaps is a well known open source startup. Knight winner Development Seed is building visualization tools on top of it so that “media organizations large and small can tap into to inform communities using maps.”
- “Open” is in: Especially open data that’s used for the public good.
Read through for Alex’s descriptions of each.
Alex Howard, O’Reilly Radar. Four key trends changing digital journalism and society.
In four short weeks, the opportunity to apply to become a 2012/13 Knight-Mozilla Fellow will come to an end. We’ve been getting applications from developers, hackers, data scientists, and engineers all over the world—Kyrgyzstan to Kenya, San Francisco to Santiago—but we want yourapplication too.
The Knight-Mozilla Fellowship is a chance to spend ten months working out of some of the best newsrooms in the world doing open source development on hacks, experiments, and full-fledged projects that help to change the way news works. It’s a potentially world-changing (and definitely life-changing) opportunity to engage in the rebirth of journalism at the highest levels. Plus, it’s a lot of fun.
Write Kick-Ass Code
At the center of your Knight-Mozilla Fellowship is the code you’ll write. By being embedded with one of our 2013 news partners—the New York Times, the Guardian, the BBC, Zeit Online, Spiegel Online, the Boston Globe, ProPublica, and La Nacion—you’re in the room when news breaks, and are able to experience the deadline-driven development of the newsroom. In addition, you’ll be working on your own projects, experiments, and ideas—and sharing them in the open with the global open-source community.
See the World While You Change It
Knight-Mozilla Fellows are embedded around the world: In 2013, we’ll have fellows based in New York and Boston, London, Hamburg and Berlin, and Buenos Aires. In addition to their host city, fellows travel the world attending conferences and hack days, meeting new people, collaborating on code, and presenting their world-changing ideas to international audiences.
Become Part of the Solution
Journalism is undergoing massive change. While some see the end of an era, we see the opportunity for experimentation, for trying new things, and for reinvention. As a Knight-Mozilla Fellow, you’re right in the center of helping to chart exciting new directions for journalism.
The application to become a Knight-Mozilla Fellow is super lightweight—just 450 words spread over a few questions. We want to make it easy for you to toss your name in. The application closes August 11—so go for it: Apply right now.
But the particular utility of Reddit is a new, powerful development. Reddit, despite no central controlling mechanism or formal editorial structure, was able to provide citizens with information about the shooting in a way that traditional news organizations could not — in fact, it informed the media’s coverage. Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian told BuzzFeed FWD, “it comes down to the mechanism that powers the front page and the comments alike. That algorithm (we’re open source - it’s public! - I’m shocked no one copies it) that [we] engineered.” This, he says, it what allows the most valuable information to rise into view — as was the case when a shooting victim posted photos of his gunshot wounds deep down in a comment thread.
When female graduates don’t end up in newsrooms, female MFA program stars don’t get book deals, or female editors are not promoted up the chain, publications can be held accountable for that problem. When writers of color are disenfranchised at every stage of the process, everyone is to blame, so no one is.
Also: GOOD magazine laid off a bunch of it’s staff including Amanda. (Wha?) The bit about how things fell apart sounds eerily familiar to me.
Had Narrative Science — a company that trains computers to write news stories—created this piece, it probably would not mention that the company’s Chicago headquarters lie only a long baseball toss from the Tribune newspaper building. Nor would it dwell on the fact that this potentially job-killing technology was incubated in part at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. Those ironies are obvious to a human. But not to a computer. At least not yet.
See also: A Robot Stole My Pulitzer!
The backwardness of political cartoons is especially evident when you compare them to the bounty of new forms of graphical political commentary on the Web. My Facebook and Twitter feeds brim with a wide variety of political art — biting infographics, hilarious image macros, irresistible Tumblrs (e.g., Kim Jong-il Looking at Things), clever Web comics, and even poignant listicles. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a traditional political cartoon appear on my various social-media channels…
…This isn’t surprising. Editorial cartoons were born in the era of newspapers, and while they now regularly appear on the Web—including in Slate—they remain stuck in the static, space-constrained, caricaturist mind-set of newsprint. The Pulitzers began awarding a prize for cartoons in 1922, and other than a few notable exceptions — Garry Trudeau’s Doonesbury in 1975, Berkeley Breathed’s Bloom County in 1987, and Mark Fiore’s animated cartoons in 2010 — the overwhelming majority of its awards have gone to traditional, single-panel cartoonists. It’s time for the Pulitzers to look past this old-fashioned medium and include graphics that are better attuned to this century.
My first suggestion would be for the committee to recognize infographics and interactive visualizations. Like most political cartoons, infographics are rarely funny. Unlike most political cartoons, the best infographics tend to pack a wallop.
Farhad Manjoo, Slate. Editorial Cartoons Are Stale, Simplistic, and Just Not Funny: The Pulitzer committee should honor slide shows, infographics, and listicles instead.
Within this context, it’s possible to see political cartoons as the clever reaction gifs of their time.
The Economist + Pressly + Tumblr = Electionism
The Economist recently launched a 2012 presidential HTML5 site for tablets called Electionism and uses a nifty bit of MacGyvering to get it done.
It appears the Economist Group Media Lab is using Tumblr as a backend where they curate content from various news sources. These feed into Pressly, a startup that pulls RSS feeds and Twitter posts, and extracts the content contained within links for magazine-style tablet display.
Pictured above are various screens from a tablet display and includes the Electionism Home, Category, Twitter and articles. The site currently works on the iPad, Galaxy Tab and Kindle Fire.
Interested in following the actual Electionism Tumblr? That’s over here.
Select images to embiggen.
This workflow is neat. You know what would be a cool next move? Develop a community of Tumblr followers who “get” the Electionism mission, enlist them to populate a custom tag (#teamelectionism?) with stories that gets refed into a re-Electionsim Tumblr that happens to have a custom HTML5 theme designed for tablets. “Curate” the front page through stickied posts and featured tags (a la Single A).
Sure, electionism isn’t a community project but why not make it one? And sure, it removes Pressly (which also falls under the category of ‘neat’) but I’m a big fan of making sure that the results of community driven products are able to be seen within the community.
Here’s a fascinating video in which Italian photographer Ruben Salvadori demonstrates how dishonest many conflict photographs are. Salvadori spent a significant amount of time in East Jerusalem, studying the role photojournalists play in what the world sees. By turning his camera on the photographers themselves, he shows how photojournalists often influence the events they’re supposed to document objectively, and how photographers are often pushed to seek and create drama even in situations that lack it.
You might start looking at conflict photos in the news a lot differently after watching this.