Nieman Foundation at Harvard
HOME
          
LATEST STORY
How The Washington Post built — and will be building on — its “Knowledge Map” feature
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.
How The Washington Post built — and will be building on — its “Knowledge Map” feature
The Post is looking to create a database of “supplements” — categorized pieces of text and graphics that help give context around complicated news topics — and add it as a contextual layer across lots of different Post stories.
How 7 news organizations are using Slack to work better and differently
Here’s how Fusion, Vox, Quartz, Slate, the AP, The Times of London, and Thought Catalog are using Slack for workflow — and which features they wish the platform would add.
The New York Times built a robot to help make article tagging easier
Developed by the Times R&D lab, the Editor tool scans text to suggest article tags in real time. But the automatic tagging system won’t be moving into the newsroom soon.
What to read next
1119
tweets
New Pew data: More Americans are getting news on Facebook and Twitter
A new study from the Pew Research Center and Knight Foundation finds that more Americans of all ages, races, genders, education levels, and incomes are using Twitter and Facebook to consume news.
701Newsonomics: The halving of America’s daily newsrooms
If you’re lucky enough to have the right deep-pocketed owner buy your paper and steady it, you’ve won the lottery. If you’re in a town whose paper is owned by the better chains, or committed local ownership, your loss will probably be mitigated. Otherwise, you’re out of luck.
551“Modern” homepage design increases pageviews and reader comprehension, study finds
A new report from the Engaging News Project shows that users prefer modular, image-heavy homepage designs.
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 ➚
BBC News
The Washington Post
Gannett
Patch
PBS
News Corp
New York
McClatchy
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Bayosphere
Craigslist
Ars Technica