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JTM/Silicon Valley: Innovation, democracy and a new ecology of news

How will technology innovation support journalism and participatory democracy?


=Technology for journalism: The wish lists=

Journalists are waking up to the opportunities presented by technology and Internet-enabled networks. What can technology offer the craft of journalism to help carry the news into the 21st century? Here are a few ideas:

Questions / ideas from Georgia Tech

From Andrew Hage . . . .

Consider three questions listed by Andrew Haeg, of American Public Media in Minneapolis, during his portion of a panel at the Georgia Tech Computation & Journalism conference on Feb. 22, 2008 in Atlanta:

  • What tools can we use to better spot patterns and emerging issues?
  • What's the most efficient way to disseminate all of the information and insights we're receiving?
  • How can we measure trust and confidence?

From Michael Skoler . . . .

At the same Georgia Tech event, Haeg's colleague in Minnesota, Michael Skoler, said technologists can help journalists by advancing work on:

  • Filtering
  • Fact-based social networking tools
  • Advancing authentication networks that assure both trust and confidentiality
  • Games that assist public-data analysis.

From Chris Barr . . . .

And also in Atlanta, Yahoo senior vp Chris Barr offered this short list of things he hopes technologists will invent to help news and journalism:

  • 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
  • Massive localization

Individual ideas / proposals

Here are some additional ideas:

Digital kiosks

  • (Suggested by Maurreen Skowran) -- Kiosks at places such as laundries and mass transit stops could help bridge the digital divide. These could provide highly local news, information and advertising, and possibly also more opportunity for people to interact with each other and institutions. They might start with a focus on transit information. They could be supported by one or any combination of advertising, user fees and charitable contributions. A number of companies make these.

And some additional ideas:

  • Architecting an OS for Democracy (e.g., FCC reg’s as the blueprint for information diffusion)
  • Biologizing the Media System (analyzing MSM and the alternate media as biological systems)
  • IT Technology in Support of Diversity in News Sourcing
  • The Challenges of Disintermediated Journalism
  • Network neutrality -- Information delayed Is information denied
  • The New Technology of Journalism
  • The Wiki Revolution: Information Wants to be Accurate
  • The Challenge of Prioritizing News (while avoiding censorship)
  • Decentralizing News Management
  • Innovation in a Dominated Media Environment
  • The Technology and Best Practices of Citizen Journalism
  • Empowering the Citizen Journalist
  • Designing the Next News Room
  • The Evolving Media Infrastructure (i.e., a state of the MSM and the new media)
  • The Power of Blogging: Overview and Forecasts/Predictions
  • The Cathedral and the Sports Pages (see: “The Cathedral and the Bazaar”)
  • Journalism Education in the Digital Age
  • Address-specific news and info -- Automatic filtering or prioritization based on address.
  • Lessening potential for echo chamber.
  • Scanning or screening of potential source information. That is, a program might scan various online sources and tip reporters to leads they should check out.
  • Automating fact-checking.
  • Emergency and public safety info might be sent directly to newsrooms.
  • Siren check -- When or soon after a siren is heard, be able to easily find out what it was about.
  • Decoding cop talk on their radios.
  • Automatically turning meeting minutes and press releases into adequate stories. Thompson does this with quarterly earnings updates. That could help free reporters to work on more meaty items, and it could be used in small communities that don't have their own news operation.
  • Easily find elected officials, contact info, voting record for any given place (down to address). Much or all of this is done now on federal level but not municipal level. Levels in between vary.
  • Easily compare voting records -- between individuals, between individual and majority, between individual and party, between parties, between official and one or many constituents' preference.
  • News that oozes -- Identify trends and outliers, especially before they become crises. For example, potential for warning of problems such as Enron, the subprime mess, environmental problems, before things started falling apart.
  • Auto-linking: Easier finding, inclusion of relevant links within and from stories.
  • Footnoted news: Enabling reader comments to be linked to the relevant parts of stories.
  • Easier, more-organized feedback on stories and sites -- referencing relevant material.
  • Organize and synthesize comments on stories.
  • Checking photos for alteration.
  • Inclusion of marginalized people and communities. If news is going digital, how can we make sure that is accessible to people making minimum wage?
  • Gauging source reliability (such as connections, bias, accuracy).
  • Identifying behind-the-scenes networks -- sometimes people who have the most power are least known, sometimes people are doing shady favors for each other.
  • Document scanning for summarizing, analysis, key facts, inappropriate facts, outliers. This is meant mainly for massive documents, such as budgets.
  • Fact-checking campaign ads.
  • Examining campaign contributions.
  • Examining records of lobbyists', and officials' contacts with them.
  • Plain-English versions of bills and changes.
  • Easy comparison of local and maybe state candidates.
  • Generation of at-a-glance fact boxes for readers: what you can do, who you can contact, how you can help, if you go.
  • http://Fixmystreet.org
  • Earmarks tracking.
  • Tracking spending.
  • Tracking and analyzing corrections.
  • Wire service corrections could alert news organizations if they used the problem material. That is, the alert would be something other than the general broadcast sent to everyone.
  • Corrections alert for readers. Such as, if you read a story online that was corrected, the next time you visited that site, you would see an alert for the right info. If you got the wrong info by RSS, you'd get the right info by RSS.
  • Checking math and related.
  • Auto page design (for print paper).
  • Public records for any given address.
  • Tracking and analyzing planning and zoning.
  • Checking for database anamolies (dirty data and valuable outliers).
  • Synthesizing local economic indicators. Such as determining local version of GDP, etc.
  • Tracking and synthesizing data on specific companies and industries.
  • Tracking and analyzing school performance and the like.
  • Behind the scenes in the news organization -- help with scheduling; moving stories around for different editions; software for the newsroom, production, ads, etc. playing nice with each other; etc.
  • Police blotter tracking.
  • Off-duty alerts, especially for small papers that can't staff as many hours. For instance, if a killing went over the scanner, you could get an alert on your cell phone.


If I had heard of this sooner, I would have proposed using available global teleconferencing facilities to open this up to the world, as in a Club of Rome/UNESCO conference that some of my friends worked on.--Mokurai 15:32, 15 April 2008 (EDT)

One Laptop Per Child is distributing low-cost laptops with built-in video camera and microphone. About 750,000 units have been ordered since Nov. 2007, making this by far the biggest product launch by a non-profit/NGO ever. The aim is to reach all of the hundreds of millions of poor, sick, and oppressed children of the world, even (eventually) those in countries that currently won't allow their citizens to get on the Internet. These children and their communities, newly brought to the Internet, will be the biggest news story, the biggest news source, and the biggest news market, that the world has ever seen.

The size of the story is several billion people affected in many ways by

  • The present Digital Divide, which we propose to obliterate, and not merely bridge. A bridge would still leave most people on the wrong side.
  • Global poverty, global disease, global trade barriers, and more localized war, oppression, corruption, starvation, and all the other ills addressed in the UN's Millennium Development Goals.
  • Access to e-commerce, to buy and to sell, and to the market, technology, and other information resources of the Internet.
  • Having, for the first time, a voice in the conversation about our future. Yes, many of the people who have no phones, no computers, not even electriticy are aware that global warming has increased the number and ferocity of storms, floods, and droughts directly affecting them. They have views on other matters, too.

The countries that are to receive ten thousand or more laptops each, up to hundreds of thousands, during 2008, are Peru, Uruguay, Haiti, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Cambodia, Afghanistan, Mongolia, and the US. Birmingham, Alabama has ordered 15,000 units. The State of Illinois is considering a purchase of 100,000 or more with HB5000, The Children's Low-Cost Laptop Act. It has passed the Illinois House and gone on to the Senate. OLPC Chicago is helping, and you are welcome to join the discussion.

Much more at http://laptop.org/ and http://lists.laptop.org/.--Mokurai 15:32, 15 April 2008 (EDT)