I’m back from the computational journalism symposium at Georgia Tech. It was fantastic. I only wish I had a better cell phone to twitter/take photos and a better computer so I could have live blogged the whole thing.
But the point of this post is to take a step back and consider what I just learned.
- First: I’m back to the age-old question of what we call all this.
My friends joke that I’m a "blogger" and if I don’t want to get into it – I laugh it off. But I’m not a blogger. Nor am I a ‘citizen journalist.’ I work in citizen journalism – but I am a full-time professional journalist. I study community management and online organizing. I consider journalistic standards and ethics and weigh them against the barriers to user-participation. I ponder journalism practices and wonder how the internet can enable, bolster and increase them.
So what do you call my job? Am I a "computational journalist"?
Computational Journalism brings up images of database journalism or hard core algorithms to determine the news ala Google News and Digg. All this is true, but computational journalism is a wide net. If it only referred to acts of journalism where computers carried the entire load I would have had no business being at the symposium (I can’t code) nor would Michael Skolar or dozens of others in the audience.
I have to admit, I was a bit nervous that there would be no room for people like me: I tend to route around what I can’t code by using free web applications. While I consider it rather clever of me, I fear some programmers would snicker. To the contrary, I found out, that’s something programmers admire – and perhaps something all journalism organizations need to learn about.
What I found, however, was that everyone in attendance agreed: Journalists can benefit from programmers and vice-versa.
As I have always thought about it: The practice of journalism has three phases: (a. Collect information (b. Filter information and (c. present information.
Computers can dramatically alter how we do any one of those steps. But to do all three and weave them together still takes the gentle care of a real-live journalist.
- I met lots of cool people
Some of these people/panelists
- For visual communication Martin Wattenberg
- For new Citizen Journalism site: AllVoices (who is getting an open invitation to blog at NewAssignment.net)
- Michael Skolar: I have met and spoken with Andrew Haeg before. I’m a big fan of what MPR is doing, which in my mind is perfecting the art of targeted crowdsourcing.
- Lila King and other CNN peeps: Who, despite my constructive criticism, don’t hate me. I don’t think CNN is in this just to get "cool cred." Judging from my quick interactions – I think Lila and company really want to figure out how to bring CJ into the network.
- Rich Gordan – Really curious to see what comes out of his scholarship to teach programmers about journalism.
- Gary Kebbel – is as rocking as I expected.
Really it’s not fair to list some of the highlights – because the whole thing was fantastic. I especially enjoyed my panel with Cliff Lamp and Anton Kast. In my opinion – these two people are both geniuses and I’m the lucky dope-of-a-journalist that got to sit next to them. Although I’m happy that the conversation turned to social news sites, a topic that I am openly covering almost all the time as it pertains to an act of citizen journalism. When I get back from Miami I hope to contact Anton Kast again to see if I could get a tour of Digg’s offices in S.F. In some ways that would be the ultimate blog post for me.
It’s time to catch-up and get ready for WeMedia.
At WeMedia there will probably be less of a focus on technology and computing power – more about the social aspects of media and how they play out. I’m really looking forward to it and I hope that upon my return I’ll have that much more to offer to NewAssignment’s beat blogging project and NewsTrust.net