BY HARRY MISIKO
Media and technology today are like lovers. They were born of different mothers and centuries apart, but are always meeting and shaking hands at every bend and corner in current-day journalism.
The link is so strong that even if a technology becomes obsolete, media always has a rock-bottom guarantee of getting a complementary partner in the next new innovation.
And unlike human beings— whose secret rendezvous can be dismissed, ignored, loathed and even blacked out by journalists and media houses — the public affair between media and technological innovations demands the Fourth Estate’s attention.
Scribes and media organizations that choose to look the other way as new technologies exchange vows with journalism and walk down the aisle officially reach their sell-by dates and write their obituaries.
Many are buried in abysmal oblivion, with some wake up from their la-la land and give a chase. While a few finally catch up, many fall by the wayside and are written off.
Alive to the demands of these strange bedfellows’ holy alliance, I almost literally shot to Cloud Nine on learning that my fellowship would take me to the U.S. political capital.
I touched down in D.C. and perched myself in a strategically located seat at The Washington Post. There, the naked truth dawned on me how new technological innovations are driving and killing journalism in equal measure.
New hardware, software tools, apps, processes and fresh ways of newsgathering and dissemination are spinning and changing the media landscape at every stroke of the clock.
Media houses that jump on these change-bandwagons live to see their next day in the market. Laggards pay the price — including closing shop.
Since the list of these new media innovation is endless, I will focus on a few major ones:
- Cloud computing: It refers to a model of network computing where programs run on connected servers rather than on a local computer, tablet or smartphone. It provides journalists with endless space to store their documents and data, and even pool these resources. Some cloud computing models like Google Drive, Dropbox, Google Docs and OfficeDrop come with applications for accessing and processing the stored data into stories and other useful information. I recently signed up for Google Drive account and used its applications such as Google Chrome Scraper, Google Spreadsheets, Google Refine, Google Maps and Google Charts to work on data journalism course assignments.
- Data journalism: It involves the scraping, refining, visualization and generation of stories from both readily-available and hidden data. The tools I listed above are among those used in this field. The New York Times and The Washington Post have excelled in data journalism.
- Convergence journalism tools: Telling stories using text, photos, videos and info-graphics seamlessly is the latest fad. However, the headache most media houses face is the need to invest in software and tools that can publish across platforms — print and online. In the U.S., most converged media houses use EidosMedia’s Methode. Methode allows a ‘create once, publish many’ approach, which eliminates the duplication that bogs down many media houses.
- Crowdsourcing and citizen journalism: The era of journalists sweating profusely to get snippets of information ended with the advent of social media. Today, you can report about an uprising in Egypt while sitting in the comfort of a U.S. media house— courtesy of social media tools like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, WordPress, and Blogger among others.
As with any other technology, these innovations are not error-proof— some like cloud computing and data journalism easily drive scribes into legal minefields.
The accuracy (or otherwise) of stories solely rests with the person using them— the journalist.