As a graduate student in the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno, I spent two days in San Francisco touring and discussing the future of journalism with some very popular social media platforms and some not so known innovative journalistic start-ups.
On Monday, October 22, 2012 our cohort had the privilege of meeting with Krishna Bharat, inventor of Google News,along with the several graduate and undergraduate students from the Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.
“It is important to think about how the user will use your content and consume it when cultivating and creating content,” said Bharat. “Designing for information consumption is an interesting concept and exercise: thinking about when, where, and how will the user consume your content, whether in the car, at home, work, etc.”
In addition to Bharat, we listened to Andre Rohe, Head of Engineering at Google News, discuss how Google and journalism are intricately linked and what we as journalists can do to reinvent ourselves and define our role in the new millennium.
Listening and learning from these very smart and innovative men helped me to better understand what the opportunities are for my role as a journalist and that the possibilities are wide open.
After having lunch in one of Google’s cafeteria’s we ventured to Facebook. We spent the afternoon touring the facility and understanding how journalism plays a role in how Facebook uses content.
After our visits with two famous start-ups, we headed into the city to a lesser known, but still exciting journalistic venture, The Bold Italic. Designed to be a new newspaper, overtime, they discovered that wasn’t what people wanted. Research told them that the news just comes to people, through the TV, social media and news sites. A new newspaper wasn’t going to work. The Bold Italic began exploring what the people of San Francisco were passionate about. That led them to seek out local merchants and artisans, creating a venture that’s all about and for San Francisco. The small staff does everything together and everyone has little roles they perform; everyone wears multiple hats. When considering a story, The Bold Italic says it has to contain some sort of visual element.
On Tuesday, October 23, 2012 we set out for YouTube. Despite being owned by Google, it maintains its identity. It was interesting to see how a company designed to be completely user-generated is a very useful tool for journalists. Not only can journalists upload stories they have created, they can curate a selection of videos to supply to their audiences as well.
After YouTube, we traveled east to Berkeley to talk with the most traditional journalistic of all the companies we visited – California Watch. They create long-form investigative journalism pieces and publish it in a way that best suits the story – which can mean a coloring book for children about earthquake safety.
All in all, it was a good trip. I learned a lot about how I can use these companies and the tools they have created to create, curate, publish content, while learning from and building relationships with that same community. I also learned that no one has it quite figured out yet how the new journalism model will work. As long as we keep trying, fail faster to succeed sooner is the best model to embrace. Failure doesn’t mean failure – sometimes you have learn all the wrong ways to do something to learn the one that works the best.
Social media is not just for kids or people with too much time on their hands. When understood in the right context and with a little motivation from the unraveling journalism world, it is exciting to begin to ponder the possibilities of creating original and/or curating user-generated content in order to supply a new style of journalism and story telling. Visiting these innovative companies has given new hope to a field that struggled to hold on to (and is still) a style and way of life that is crumbling beneath their feet. Journalists are in the midst of change and while many people are comfortable with the way things were, inventing something new holds far more promise for the future.