Better news at SXSW
More information is better, right? A trip through the new journalism at SXSW
Journalism may not be the most well publicized subject at SXSW Interactive but it is well attended. That’s due in part to the international reputation that journalism panels have gained over the years and by the high-powered organizations participating in and covering the conference.
There’s a reason you should care about all of this: Journalists provide not just the information we all need to live smarter and make better decisions about our lives; they also provide context in a complicated world.
Themes this year revolved around building successful business models and encouraging small, upstart organizations and bloggers to do more good, ethical journalism that you can rely on.
Over the course of five days, SXSWi presented over 40 panels focused on journalism and online news. Panelists represented the full spectrum of news organizations and associations dedicated to journalism and reporting. Powerhouses like the Poynter Institute, NPR, PBS, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, Reuters, CBS, ESPN and CNN joined small hyperlocal sites and blogs to discuss the state of journalism online.
The advent of news readers and tablets, along with the ubiquitous nature of news feeds from Twitter and Facebook, have changed the game for journalists. Information is now at the your fingertips, all the time, in real-time, and that poses significant challenges for legacy news organizations, as do the changing habits of the news consumer.
And there are now more news outlets than ever; bloggers and hyperlocal sites proliferate.
The number of bloggers, news aggregators and hyperlocal information sites has seen explosive growth in just the last five years, which Lisa Williams, the CEO/Founder of Placeblogger pointed out during “The Hyperlocal Hoax” panel. She tracks the numbers and reports that half of all cities in the U.S. have a hyperlocal news provider. “In 2007 one of every eight Americans lived in a city with a placeblog, today it’s one of every two.”
Seattle is ground zero for hyperlocal news. Cory Bergman of Lost Remote and former Digital Content Director at KING-TV in Seattle proved that when he pointed out one neighborhood in Seattle, Queen Anne, is now served by eight different hyperlocal news providers. And that’s just one neighborhood.
This revolution is a huge benefit to us. More journalists means more and better information, right? Well, maybe not.
The rise of small, hyperlocal news and blog sites puts enormous pressure on legacy news organizations. The short time frame (like, immediately) makes editing for accuracy and fairness much more challenging for everyone.
For the most part, news providers work hard to be truthful and fair and earn your trust, but unfortunately there are those whose goals do not include those principles.
So panels like “Audience-Centric Media,” “Prepping the Newsroom for D-Day” (D is for disaster), “Storytelling Beyond Words,” and “Has Twitter made the Sports Reporter Obsolete?” found audiences of seasoned professionals and newbie bloggers alike looking for advice on how to more easily enter the real-time, always-on revolution in news consumption.
At the same time, panels like “Is Aggregation Theft,” “The Hyperlocal Hoax” and "Vetting in the Age of Social: Who do you trust?" tried to provide insight into not just how to be successful as a business, but how to do principled, ethical journalism that the reader can trust.
Adrian Klein of Evri.com, an aggregated news reader app, summed up some of the issue during his “Audience-Centric Media” panel when he pointed out “our experience is seeing that people are more interested in opinion than they are in facts.”
That's been our experience here at CultureMap, too. Opinion journalism is fine of course, as long as it’s rooted in fact.
Just recently there's been a push to create standards for online aggregators, the folks who post news stories gleaned from other publications. It's important that you know the source of what you're reading in order to know whether to trust what you're reading. Simon Dumenco, the Editor at Large of Advertising Age formed a Council on Ethical Blogging and Aggregation. Not everyone thinks it's a great idea, but having a conversation about doing better journalism can only benefit everyone.
We need good journalism more now than ever as the world becomes smaller and more complicated. Real-time reporting is hard, but it is expected in the Twitter-verse.
If you want to read up on any of the SXSW panels you can do so via Twitter. Most panels were live-tweeted by numerous attendees using a unique panel hashtag that can be found on the SXSW website’s panel descriptions.