HOME
          
LATEST STORY
Ken Doctor: Why The New York Times hired Kinsey Wilson
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
Sept. 20, 2011, 11 a.m.

From Nieman Reports: How can we build better filters for growing flows of information?

An Italian journalist goes the startup route “with the intent of being relentless hunters of news and human filters of information.”

Editor’s Note: Our sister publication Nieman Reports is out with their Fall 2011 issue, “Cold Case Reporting,” which focuses on process of revisiting old investigations to tell new stories. Over the next few days, we’ll highlight a few stories from the issue — but go read the whole thing. In this piece, Nicola Bruno, cofounder of effecinque and a fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford, writes about new ways journalist are managing an increased flow of information.

At Northwestern University, out of a place bearing the name Intelligent Information Laboratory, rises the invisible hand of Stats Monkey, a software program capable, its creators say, of drafting dozens of news items in impeccable English within seconds. If it seems smarter than journalists perhaps this is because so far its stories have been limited to baseball, a sport in which statistics dominate. Number crunching is, after all, a mechanical task. Speaking of numbers, the folks who invented Stats Monkey say they plan to expand its coverage to global financial markets, a place where numbers scurry by in milliseconds. In this realm, the stories these numbers tell can make a significant difference — possibly sending markets tumbling with a misstep here or there.

The escalating velocity and density of the flow of data mediates every aspect of our daily lives. Keeping this ferocity in mind, it is not difficult to understand why machines and robots — not human brains and people — face a promising future in journalism. Perhaps it is too much of a stretch for the Stats Monkey developers to predict that a story written by their program will be awarded a Pulitzer Prize within the next few years. With the pace of change so rapid, what might seem on its face an absurd notion can’t be totally dismissed.

Our concern should not be solely a fear of robots replacing us. Journalists’ place in the world already is being reshaped by the widespread ability — belonging to anyone with a digital device — to effortlessly and inexpensively produce and disseminate information globally. Digital connectivity delivers us into unrelenting streams of social media that can drown us with their overflow of information. With digital media, government officials can — and do — bypass the pesky press by sending talking-point messages via Facebook or YouTube. Corporate interests and nonprofit organizations now rely on their own message-making strategies to deliver words about their missions and promote products and campaigns. And then there is the controversial public release of secrets by WikiLeaks and the potential this ease of revealing holds for other whistleblowers.

Keep reading at Nieman Reports »

POSTED     Sept. 20, 2011, 11 a.m.
SHARE THIS STORY
   
Show comments  
Show tags
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
Ken Doctor: Why The New York Times hired Kinsey Wilson
The former chief content officer at NPR will be moving up I-95 to one of the most important digital positions at the Times.
Why Google is taking another shot at helping readers pay for news
Google Contributor is the latest tool the company has designed to help readers pay for what they read online. But its previous experiments in supporting paid content have had limited success.
In Canada, newspapers’ attempts to experiment with ebooks haven’t seen much success
A number of papers across the country started ebook programs in the early part of this decade, repurposing their archives or producing new work. They haven’t been the moneymakers some had hoped.
What to read next
718
tweets
Ken Doctor: The New York Times’ financials show the transition to digital accelerating
The numbers may look flat, but they contain a continuing set of ups and downs. Up next: executing on a year’s worth of launches.
540Here’s some remarkable new data on the power of chat apps like WhatsApp for sharing news stories
At least in certain contexts, WhatsApp is a truly major traffic driver — bigger even than Facebook. Should there be a WhatsApp button on your news site?
502Controlled chaos: As journalism and documentary film converge in digital, what lessons can they share?
Old and new media types from journalism, documentary, and technology backgrounds gathered at MIT to share practices and discuss mutual concerns.
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
DNAinfo
Craigslist
News Corp
Media Consortium
Foursquare
Newsmax
Ushahidi
Fox News
Voice Media Group
The Globe and Mail
Forbes
Quartz