"21st-century editors" at Georgia Tech -- tech needs


On Friday, Feb. 22, 2008, we grabbed audio of a panel on the "21st Century Editor in Chief." The talk is part of the Symposium on Computation and Journalism at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. Moderator is Gary Kebbel, program director of the Knight Foundation in charge of the Knight News Challenge. On the panel are Shawn MacIntosh, director of culture and change at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Mitch Gelman, senior vp and executive producer of CNN.com and Christopher Barr, senior editorial director at Yahoo! and former founding editor in chif of CNet Networks.

Kebbel describes the Knight Brothers News Challenge, a $25-million initiative of the Knight Foundation to support innovation in news and journalism which serves real local communities. He said all the definitions of news, audience and distribution are no longer certain.

Chris Barr talks about the "load of growth of traffic from handhelds." He says people seem comfortable with context-based advertising to enhance the user experience, but for some people "alarm bells go off" on privacy and other issues when behavioral targetting serves up different content to different users. Barr provided his list of the "what's next" things which will influence journalism, including the next-general Internet Protocol, huge increases in bandwidth to homes, faster microprocessors, artificial intelligence, robs and nanotechnology.

Then Barr offers a list of the things he hopes technologists will invent to help news and journalism, including: Self-identifying content, easier-to-use tools to publish to multiple distribution outlets, easier user-generated content, persistent real-time feeds (including video and audio), ubiquitous personalization, and massive localization.

Shawn MacIntosh, of the AJC, asked for more tools to understand audiences -- digital as well as print. What do print readers want to have as part of their experience, she asks? And how can the serendipity of the newspaper page-turning experience be replicated on the web. "I'm not worried about the newspaper business. I couldn't be more excited about the demands for news . . . I think the challenges are going to require partnerships between journalists and technologists."

The editor-in-chief today is more a student and listener than anything else today, says Gelman, who is CNN.COM's lead editorial person. He talked about CNN's newest initiative, in beta, something called "I Report," a place where consumers can upload their own videos. Some of the videos get pulled from the I Report site to the general CNN service. "The authenticity of these pieces is vetted before it makes it onto CNN News," he says. "It is not vetted before it appears on IReport.com." He says the 21st-century editor's job is about recognizing the value of the consumer's contribution. And recognizing that the newsroom is now a news organization. He says it requires the humility to deal with technologists.