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Nieman Journalism Lab
Pushing to the future of journalism — A project of the Nieman Foundation at Harvard

Breaking is broken

“What is needed are newsrooms that can filter, verify, curate, and amplify social media for their audiences, in addition to journalists reporting in enterprising and contextual ways.”

The approach that large traditional news organizations take in breaking news needs to be re-thought in the age of social media. Hurricane Sandy provided an example of how resources are often wasted by journalism organizations during breaking-news events while also demonstrating how vital authenticating coverage can be.

There were reporters standing on various shorelines letting us know that there was is a hurricane making landfall. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of YouTube videos were being uploaded and Twitter was a frenzy of micro-updates on the situation. Obviously, not all of this content was reliable, but these reports create a vibrant, real-time environment of news that mattered to people in a way that even a collection of large organizations could not accomplish.

What is needed are newsrooms that can filter, verify, curate, and amplify social media for their audiences, in addition to journalists reporting in enterprising and contextual ways. Andy Carvin at NPR excelled at this during coverage of the Middle East and I think we should and will see more of it in 2013.

Other predictions:

  • The shift of singular, story-based coverage to continuous narrative: a team comprised of a content lead, a designer, a techie, a business developer, and directed by a project manager, with a goal of creating a specific community around the narrative. Leads to narrow and deep coverage over broad and shallow reporting.
  • Data will continue to gain momentum as one of the important functions in newsrooms.
  • The growth of distributed news branding on multiple platforms, as opposed to a singular focus on destination news sites.
  • A shift from a pure advertising model that tries to monetize audience to one that seeks to develop a passionate community and generates revenue from events, membership, and underwriting.
  • The emergence of digital companies that produce news, as opposed to news organizations that wrestle with digital platforms.
Michael Maness leads the Journalism and Media Innovation program at Knight Foundation. Previously, he was Gannett’s vice president of innovation and design.