Tag Archives | New York Times

New York shooting – citizen journalists on the scene

On September 15th 2013 (as reported in the New York Times), police officers confronted an ‘agitated’ individual and used their firearms, missing the suspect but injuring two bystanders.  After the incident, The New York Times was able to identify the (unarmed) individual, name the shooting victims, describe the extent of their injuries and report from the Police News Conference about the incident.

Before the ‘traditional’ journalists got hold of the story, however, members of the public were recording, and editorialising on, the incident.  At least one person tweeted a picture of one of the victims, almost certainly before their friends or relatives had been informed.  Several YouTube videos of the incident have been uploaded (a simple search will bring up results).  Eye witnesses claim the agitated man had been run over – the police later denied this.  The incident is an example of instant news reporting – often a mixture of documentary, supposition and emotion.

Independent, verified news reporting is considered by many to be essential to democracy.  Does the replacement of traditional forms of news media by new models of information gathering and distribution (e.g. citizen journalism, crowdsourcing, Twitter) make democracy more or less vulnerable?  Or do the two enhance each other?

Riptide is a fascinating ‘oral history’ of the meeting of quality journalism and digital technologies in the US.  Actually, it is a written report drawn from interviews with movers and shakers in the news industry since 1980.

The report looks at the disruptive influences of digital platforms, the decline in traditional journalism jobs and new digital news economic models.  The report covers the early days of teletext all the way through the development of the WWW, the dot.com boom and bust, cable news, the emergence of the blogosphere, social news and ‘pay to play’.

The report also includes videos and transcripts of all of the interviews, including this one with star of the London 2012 Olympics Tim Berners-Lee.  It is also illustrated with fantastic images.

(It is worth pointing out that the report has come under some criticism since its release.  Of the 61 ‘media movers and shakers’ the researchers interviewed, a mere five were women – all of whom were white.  Only two non-white males were interviewed.  Moves are underway by some of the report’s critics to conduct further studies.)

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News in the digital first era

What used to be called ‘the newspaper business’ is under enormous pressure to change.  Sales of newspapers are down and, according to the US  Bureau of Labor Statistics, job numbers have been falling since 2001.  Its latest report shows there has been a steady decline in employment across many branches of what it calls ‘the information industry’, including film, radio, TV as well as newspaper publishing.

According to the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia Journalism School in the US, ongoing changes in the newspaper industry are unavoidable.  Journalism will never be able replicate the revenues previously generated by mass advertising and new business models for content creation and production must be found.  This is brought into focus by the ongoing debate between Google and the news media in a number of  European countries over payment for access to content.

Digital first

In the UK the Financial Times has recognised the need to change.  Its editor has written about the need to balance decisive leadership with ‘good journalism, deep reporting… and new delivery methods’ and why pursuing a digital first strategy was so important to the future success of the paper.

New business models and new roles will inevitably emerge and the situation is fast-moving and dynamic.  In the UK, Edinburgh Napier University’s Institute for Informatics and Digital Innovation is advertising for a Research Fellow in ‘e-punditry’ to explore this changing landscape of new roles, new skills and new formats.  The Tow Center researchers describe the need for ‘a … profession of highly skilled individuals who can work in a data-rich world of crowds and algorithms to find and tell the world important things they would not otherwise know.’

Information professionals and news content

FreePint recently surveyed corporate information managers on their news needs and preferences and identified the factors which they have to balance in their news acquisition decisions.   Beyond the tensions between fee and free content, they report their raised expectations for premium content.  They are looking for specialised features and content sets and additional functionality such as post-search processing and analytics.

The suggestion that [some] people will pay for guaranteed quality may well be reflected in the ‘surprising success’ of the New York Times paywall launched in 2011.  However, an increase in subscriptions is just part of a complicated story which includes a decline in advertising revenue and a reluctance by subscribers to renew after taking advantage of cheap ‘introductory offers’.

New York Times Introduces New Reading App

The New York Times has launched a new online tool that aims to make the experience of reading news on the web feel more like browsing through the print edition. Times Skimmer (www.nytimes.com/timesskimmer) attempts to retain the look and feel of a printed paper.

Skimmer sorts articles into sections such as ‘World’ or ‘Business’ and within each category presents  an array of headlines and summaries in a grid layout which utilises the full screen width. Users can choose from 7 different customised layouts.

Playing around with presentation of news online in this way calls to mind Google’s recently launched Fast Flip (http://fastflip.googlelabs.com/) which allows users to quickly ‘flick’ through content from a number of partner publishers. In contrast, Michael Wolff and Patrick Spain’s  Newser (www.newser.com),  which has been around since 2007, attempts to present online news in a way that deliberately moves away from the print idiom to a native web approach which allows users to customise their preference for ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ news.

It’s refreshing to see another major newspaper publisher trying a new format. It’s worth noting though that Skimmer’s prototype was launched in February 2009 – that is, before the current hubbub around the issue of paywalls and subscription models for online news kicked off. Would the NYT do the same thing if it were starting from scratch in the current climate?