Digitize me, please

March 23, 2011

“Its time for everyone to accept that the amount of information in our lives is going to keep growing” – Mark Briggs

As the world is transitioning into socialization on the Web, it is also transitioning into a world of digital data. The amount of information we have at our fingertips through the Internet is incredible. Even more unbelievable, still, is the enormous amount of tools we have to deal with that overwhelming supply.

In terms of email, we are able to label and store messages in folders on the basis of sender, date, or topic. We used to only be able to open our files on the computer it was created on, but with the advent of cloud computing, we are now able to open our files wherever we go, whenever we want, so long as an internet connection is available.

But wait, this article is only talking about how digitalization effects you personally. How has this transition affected the journalism world and how will it effect you as a journalist?

I’m glad you asked. One of the most important ways that the digital movement has changed journalism is by allowing reader networks. “These databases organized the contacts that already existed in the newsroom, creating a valuable tool for its journalists to use while conducting and distributing reporting,”says Mark Briggs. No longer did reporters have to make use of their own personal Rolodex, they could tap in to the sources of all their coworkers, allowing them to create even better stories.

Digitilization has also allowed newsrooms to organize their world. Through programs such as Basecamp, news rooms are able to “track all the news stories, photographs and other elements that go into the newspaper and onto its Web site every day.” This way reporters, editors, and all other staff members can be aware of the progress of a story, and there is no more missed communication.

Data-driven journalism has also been born through digital transition. Through this practice, newspapers are able to provide to their audiences “a searchable database format,” that allows them to find the facts they want about a certain topic. In this chapter, Briggs cites an example of the The News Press publishing a database of FEMA handouts after the 2004 hurricanes in Florida. “In the first 48 hours, visitors to the site performed more than 60.,00 searches. Each person wanted to know who got paid what in his or her neighborhood, and The News-Press was able to help each person find out without writing thousands of different stories.”

Databases cannot tell all digital stories, however. A driving factor of many stories may be location. With the creation of Google Maps, reporters are now able to pinpoint exactly where a given event occurs. These “map mashups,” as they are referred to, are especially useful in traumatic situations. The Des Moines Register used the idea of mapping to tell a story perfectly when it covered the aftermath of the Parkersburg tornado. The Register embedded a map on to its webpage and allowed users to click on different locations on that map. As they clicked on the different pinpoints, the viewers were able to see images homes before the tornado, directly after the tornado, and after the reconstruction. Even more exciting, viewers were able to watch security camera footage which captured the tornado’s destruction in a way nothing else could. Without the digital transition, an interactive and incredible story like this could not be told.

This surplus of information, data, and data-computing programs, seems overwhelming at first look, but don’t let it discourage you. These tools are aiding us as reporters to create stories in ways that have never been thought possible. Digitilization is making journalism’s future bigger and brighter than ever before!

To hear professional journalists speak about data driven journalism, watch this video.

Entry Filed under: Briggs "Journalism Next" Chapter Reviews. Posted in  Briggs "Journalism Next" Chapter Reviews Tags: , , , , .

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