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How Technology is Shaping the Next Wave of Journalism

by david.nunes

How Technology is Shaping the Next Wave of Journalism

Glass, sensors, and drones are changing the way people tell stories.

Melissa Jun Rowley

August 04 , 2014

Advances in technology mean advances in all forms of communication, which mean changes in journalism. With a plethora of gadgets and high-end technology hitting the market so rapidly, it’s more important than ever for journalism curricula in higher education to evolve with the times. In a recent post published on Nieman Journalism Lab, Texas State University Associate Journalism Professor Cindy Royal wrote:

If you are a journalism educator or media professional, I have news for you: We work in tech.

While this may sound revolutionary or scary for some journalism professors, it’s not necessarily a novel approach to reporting the news. Communication has always followed the evolution of civilization, which in the same vein changes with emerging technologies. Like any schools aiming to integrate edtech into their classrooms, in order to stay relevant and foster 21st century success, journalism classes need to follow suit.

One journalism professor doing this is Robert Hernandez, who will be teaching a Glass Journalism course at USC Annenberg in the fall of 2014. He says the class, which is comprised of web developers, journalists, UX designers, and Glass Explorers is basically going to be a “15-week hackathon.”

“The goal is bringing these crafts together to achieve a common goal,” says Hernandez. “We’re not learning how to do journalism. We’re learning how to develop an android platform for reporting.”

The assignments the Glass Journalism course will be taking on will be part of a hypothetical syllabus spawned from brainstorming sessions with the class and its media partners. From there, the students will develop ideas for content creation and content consumption via Glass.

“We’ll, be looking at things like, what does an article (on Glass) look like? What’s a long-form article compared to a tweet? What does Snow Fall look like? What does an NPR story look like? I like to hijack technology for journalism so we can share it and advance the industry, particularly for news agencies who don’t have the resources to do so.”

Is the world and Glass ready for Glass Journalism?

Hernandez says it’s not yet reasonable to create a Glass Journalism department in universities, due to the technology being so new to the market. But his view is that because wearables are going to change the way people tell stories, journalists should begin to define how these stories are created, and this starts with experimentation. What better people to do this than students and professors?

Another new form or journalism spreading over the airwaves is drone journalism. In 2011, the University of Nebraska Lincoln established the Drone Journalism Lab, to explore how drones can be used for reporting. As high-definition cameras are becoming smaller and lighter, remotely piloted, low-cost air vehicles are serving as valuable instruments for a wide range of different genres of journalism. Possessing the ability to fly to unsafe zones or areas difficult to get to, camera-equipped drones are essentially an inexpensive replacement for the news helicopter.

Inexpensive and self-made drones could revolutionize reporting in developing parts of the world, such as Africa, at least that’s the mission behind the pilot project African SkyCAM. Aiming to establish Africa’s first drone journalism team in Kenya and ultimately across all of the continent, African SkyCAM uses drones and camera-equipped balloons to help news media that cannot afford helicopters.

Drones aren’t the only en vogue tech covering ground (or the sky, I should say) for journalists. News outlets are using sensor technology to create their own data and report on it. John Keefe, senior editor of data news at WNYC, developed the station’s Cicada Tracker to predict when the anticipated 17-year cicada swarm was going to hit New York City last summer. Comprised of parts bought from Radio Shack and an Arduino board, individual Cicada Tracker kits cost $80 to make.

Sensors are also coming in handy for environmentalists. Matthew Schroyer, a communications specialist who develops Unmanned Aircraft Systems specifically for environmental and data journalism, created the DustDuino, a small device that measures elements of air pollution, and sends the data to Xively.com for the public to see.

Any technology that can capture footage and collect data with great mobility at a low cost will always be attractive to media professionals. This has never been in question. The question is whether or not journalists are going to be able to elegantly keep up with the technology and if rules and regulations will become an obstacle. It seems the best way to circumvent any potentially impeding factors in using Glass, drones, or sensors in journalism is to know the ins and out and the ethics around the technology itself. In other words, if you are a journalist, you work in tech.

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