06 November 2009

It may be digital journalism, but is it good journalism?

While newspaper sites experiment with new technology and new ways to generate revenue, it is always good to step back and take stock of what works and what doesn’t.

How do we define whether any of [digital media] is good or not asks Mark Briggs on his Journalism 2.0 blog. It is great to get started, but how do you maintain the quality of your digital products?

Briggs chaired a panel discussion recently at the National College Media Conference in Austin, Texas, where this issue was tackled.

The panel featured Gary Chapman, director of The 21st Century Project at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, the graduate school of public policy at the University of Texas at Austin, Bryan Murley, director for innovation, Center for Innovation in College Media, and assistant professor, Eastern Illinois University and James Wickett, general manager, Community Impact Newspapers, a growing hyperlocal publisher based in Austin.

Briggs stated that all three agreed that a sense of urgency was needed in defining what’s good in digital journalism.

According to Chapman: “Journalists need to discover their sense of mission. Otherwise it’s just going to be a bunch of cats flushing toilets.”

He continued by describing that even as methods for sending and receiving communication are changing rapidly, the “continuum of information isn’t going to change”. He suggested that journalists are still not using analytics as effectively as they should be and recommended more effort be focused on them.

Wickett added that it was important to split the media from the medium and not to write-off print products, saying there was still a place for it. His company is print based but has a growing digital presence.

According to Briggs, Murley provided the closest thing to a rigid definition for quality, suggesting that technical merits on multimedia and additional components to a package (timelines, maps, etc.) can help steer us toward a standard definition and a goal to shoot for.

Briggs finished the panel discussion with a short slide show presentation on how to take a practical approach back to a newsroom for standards in defining what’s good.

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