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N ieman ReportsTHE NIEMAN FOUNDATION FOR JOURNALISM AT HARVARD UNIVERSITY VOL. 64 NO. 2 SUMMER 2010video gamessemantic WebsharingNet Generationserendipityimmediacynews grazersPowerPointinformation overloadYouTube computer scienceaugmented realityinteractiveGooglesmartphonestorytellingiGenerationiPadPokémonabsorbthe brainengineerssocial mediapersonalizationdistractionsmashupthinke-papernews literacyconnectivityTheDigitalLandscape

‘to promote and elevatethe standards of journalism’Agnes Wahl Niemanthe benefactor of the Nieman FoundationVol. 64 No. 2 Summer 2010Nieman ReportsThe Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard UniversityBob Giles | PublisherMelissa Ludtke | EditorJan Gardner | Assistant EditorJonathan Seitz | Editorial AssistantDiane Novetsky | Design EditorNieman Reports (USPS #430-650) is publishedin March, June, September and Decemberby the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University,One Francis Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138-2098.Subscriptions/BusinessTelephone: 617-496-6299E-Mail Address:nreports@harvard.eduSubscription $25 a year, $40 for two years; add $10per year for foreign airmail. Single copies $7.50.Back copies are available from the Nieman office.Please address all subscription correspondence toOne Francis Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138-2098and change of address information toP.O. Box 4951, Manchester, NH 03108.ISSN Number 0028-9817EditorialTelephone: 617-496-6308E-Mail Address:nreditor@harvard.eduInternet Address:www.niemanreports.orgCopyright 2010 by the President andFellows of Harvard College.Periodicals postage paid at Boston,Massachusetts and additional entries.POSTMASTER:Send address changes toNieman ReportsP.O. Box 4951Manchester, NH 03108.

N ieman ReportsTHE NIEMAN FOUNDATION FOR JOURNALISM AT HARVARD UNIVERSITY VOL. 64 NO. 2 SUMMER 20104 The Digital Landscape: What’s Next for News?Brain Power5 Feeling the Heat: The Brain Holds Clues for Journalism | By Jack Fuller7 Our ‘Deep Reading’ Brain: Its Digital Evolution Poses Questions | By Maryanne Wolf9 Novelty and Testing: When the Brain Learns and Why It Forgets | By Russell Poldrack11 Thinking About Multitasking: It’s What Journalists Need to Do | By Clifford Nass13 Watching the Human Brain Process Information | Conversation with Marcel Just15 A Big Question: ‘How Is the Internet Changing the Way You Think?’ | By John BrockmanDigital Youth18 Lessons for the Future From the First Post-Pokémon Generation | By Mizuko Ito20 Digital Demands: The Challenges of Constant Connectivity | Excerpts from Frontline’s “DigitalNation” interview with Sherry Turkle21 Generational Divide: Digital Technology’s Paradoxical Message | Excerpts from the BBC’sinterview with Sherry Turkle24 Understanding the iGeneration—Before the Next Mini-Generation Arrives | By Larry Rosen27 Revealing the Digital News Experience—For Young and Old | By Amy Mitchell29 Journalism: English for the 21st Century | By Esther Wojcicki31 E-Textbooks to iPads: Do Teenagers Use Them? | By Esther Wojcicki33 The Future of News: What Ninth-Grade Students Think | By Palo Alto High School students34 News Literacy Project: Students Figure Out What News and Information to Trust| By Alan C. Miller35 Critical Thinking About Journalism: A High School Student’s View | By Lucy ChenNew News37 News in the Age of Now | By Nicholas Carr39 There’s More to Being a Journalist Than Hitting the ‘Publish’ Button | By Douglas Rushkoff40 Categorizing What Works—So We Can Apply Those Lessons to Future Endeavors |By Michele McLellan42 Establishing a Digital Value for Watchdog Reporting | By Stephen Janis45 A Message for Journalists: It’s Time to Flex Old Muscles in New Ways | By Ken Doctor

47 Twitter: Can It Be a Reliable Source of News? | By Janic Tremblay50 YouTube’s Ecosystem for News | By Steve Grove52 Video Games: What They Can Teach Us About Audience Engagement | By James Paul Gee54 News-Focused Game Playing: Is It a Good Way to Engage People in an Issue? | By NoraPaul and Kathleen A. HansenHacks + Hackers58 Hacks/Hackers: Bringing Journalists and Technologists Together | By Burt Herman59 Joining Digital Forces Strengthens Local Investigative Reporting | By Brant Houston61 The Peril and Promise of the Semantic Web | By Andrew Finlayson64 Journalism on the Map: A Case for Location-Aware Storytelling | By Krissy Clark66 Digital Immersion: Augmenting Places With Stories and Information | By Mike Liebhold69 The Future of Storytelling: A Participatory Endeavor | Conversation with V. Michael Bove, Jr.71 Storytelling in the Digital Age: Finding the Sweet Spot | By Hanson Hosein73 Apple’s iPad Meets Hamlet’s Blackberry | By Peter Cobus75 The Tablet’s Mobile Multimedia Revolution: A Reality Check | By Juan Antonio Giner3 Curator’s Corner: Fairness as an Essential Ingredient in News Reporting | By Bob Giles76 Nieman Notes | Compiled by Jan Gardner76 From Rejection to Success—With ‘Radiohead Journalism’ | By Paige Williams78 Class Notes83 End Note: A Nation’s Past and Promise: A Shift in the Meaning of American Symbols| By Derrick Z. JacksonDigging Deeper: Our Digital LibraryIn assembling this edition of Nieman Reports, the magazine’scontributors helped us create a collection of resources and articlesthat dig deep into the landscape of digital media and speakto the journalism issues written about on the following pages.Visit our digital library via a link at Once there, you will find volumes connected totopics covered in the magazine, such as youth & media, multitasking,the brain, and social media.Over time we intend to expand this library and invite you tosubmit relevant articles, videos, blog posts, or stories. Send yourlinks to and we will put them in theappropriate digital volume.Cover graphic and illustration for the Nieman Reports’ Digital Library (above): Diane Novetsky/Nova Design2 Nieman Reports | Summer 2010

Curator’s CornerFairness as an Essential Ingredient in News ReportingThe Nieman Foundation’s Taylor Family Award recognizes journalistic fairness—and we learn from the stories it honors how newspapers achieve it.BY BOB GILESFor the past nine years, the Nieman Foundation hashonored journalistic fairness with the Taylor FamilyAward for Fairness in Newspapers. Our goal is toencourage fairness and ethical practices in enterprisingnews coverage by drawing public attention to exemplarywork. The award is given in the name of the Taylor familywhose stewardship of The Boston Globe over four generationswas anchored in the belief of Charles H. Taylor,the first publisher—that in the long run honest and fairdealing will win.We had no specific definition for “fairness” when thecompetition began in 2001. To prepare their exhibits forthe Taylor award judges, newspapers were asked to explainhow stories were framed, reported and presented to readersin the context of fairness. It was our expectation thatover time we would build a valuable base of knowledgeabout what constitutes fairness. A review of the award’swinning entries does, in fact, reveal a range of journalisticpractices that have met the test of fairness.What Makes a Story Fair?Les Gura of The Hartford Courant received the initialTaylor award for his meticulous account of the badlyhandled investigation into the murder of a Yale student;a promising young instructor was implicated but nevercharged. His story forced readers to consider fairness fromevery angle—by the news media, by the police, by thepublic, and by a prestigious university. He demonstratedhow the Yale teacher’s reputation had been shattered bythe use of anonymous sources in other news coverage; heused the words of only those who would go on the record.In 2003, The Boston Globe was honored for the fairnessof its reporting about the sexual abuse scandal in theCatholic Church when it took on a highly sensitive subjectin an environment of intense passions. Reporters examinedthe fact that other denominations had sex abuse scandalsof their own, that the victims were not all young boys, thatvictims’ lawyers were not without blame, and that phonychanges against priests constituted a real danger. The Globealso sought to present the story from the perspective ofthe church and those who worked within it.Reporter Robin Gaby Fisher and photographer MattRainey of The Star-Ledger in Newark, New Jersey wonthe 2005 award for a report on the lives of students andfaculty at a New Jersey school that became known as “LastChance High.” During the more than 10 months they spenton the story, Fisher and Rainey were able to get closeto students, teachers, administrators, parents and drugdealers. Their patient pursuit enabled them to tell a storythat was honest but not judgmental, and accurate withoutromanticizing or denigrating the situation.A different dimension of fairness emerged in the 2006coverage by the Lancaster (Penn.) New Era for its series ofstories about the shooting of 10 Amish girls in a one-roomschoolhouse in rural Pennsylvania. The reporters faced aformidable obstacle: Many in the Amish community didnot want their names or photographs published and thestate police, out of respect for Amish religious traditions,would not speak for attribution. The solution was to reportso exhaustively that the stories could be written confidentlyand compellingly, shedding light on a world usually hiddenfrom view without revealing the identities of those whowished anonymity.In 2008, Howard Witt of the Chicago Tribune was recognizedfor a body of work that focused on three Southerntowns where he documented America’s unfinished businessof civil rights. Witt’s stories were not simple tales of goodand evil. He wrote nuanced accounts of young people withblemished records whose predicaments could be tracedto racially unjust legal prosecutions or school disciplinemeted out in racially disproportionate ways.The commitment The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer madeto fully represent the perspective of a major North Carolinapoultry producer was a key factor in the paper winningthe 2009 award. The reporters began talking withcompany officials about health and safety violations ninemonths before the stories were published. The paper twicepostponed publication to allow the company more time torespond to its questions. It posted full written statementsfrom the company on year, the Chicago Tribune won the award for a secondtime for an investigation revealing a secret admissionssystem that enabled children whose parents had politicalconnections to be admitted to the University of Illinoisalthough they did not meet basic academic requirements.The newspaper let university officials speak for themselvesat length while protecting the students who had benefittedfrom the system but were not demonstrably culpable.Each of these award winners has broadened our understandingof how fairness strengthens the impact and credibilityof stories. After nearly a decade, this award affirmsour belief that fairness will continue to be recognized inits different manifestations in the years ahead. Nieman Reports | Summer 2010 3

The Digital Landscape:What’s Next for News?Journalism resides in the technological landscape of its time. Whether on parchment or paper,via the telegraph, radio waves, or TV signals, significant occurrences and utterances of a communityhave been revealed through words, written or spoken, and images, drawn, filmed or photographedby the people observing them. In thinking about the telegraph’s effect on 19th centurycommunication, the late James W. Carey noted that by rendering geography irrelevant, what hadbeen a personal connection of journalist to readers was severed. And the constraints of transmission,Carey wrote, “made prose lean and unadorned,” while at the same time words were tuggedaway from their colloquial roots and pushed toward a style striving for the tone of objectivity.Familiarity no long seemed the right touch with the expanding breadth of audience. All of this,Carey concluded, “led to a fundamental change in news.”A decade into the 21st century, the contemporary digital conveyors of news and informationonly underscore in our minds the telegraph’s slow and limited capacities. Yet as we think aboutour modern day digital landscape in the context of journalism’s possibilities, perhaps it’s wise torecall the interwoven tapestry of journalistic changes that Carey remarked upon as the use of thetelegraph became widespread.In this issue of Nieman Reports, journalists and commentators, teachers and high schoolstudents, reading researchers and neuroscientists trek through our contemporary digital landscape,mapping and exploring various pathways that journalists use or might soon discover.When phrases such as “information overload” and “news literacy” bump up against “augmentedNon Sequitur © 2010 Wiley Miller. Used by permissionof UniversalUclick. All rights reserved.reality” and “semantic Web,” it behooves us toask how this digital landscape is affecting theexperience of producing and consuming newsand information. It’s a good time to look, too, atwhat we are learning about the human brain’scapacity to absorb and process what technology’sadvances make possible for journalists.From finding out how the younger among ususe digital devices to wondering whether anytechnology can replicate the experience of deepreading, our writers stretch their thinking andours. A word of thanks is extended to AndrewFinlayson, a Knight Journalism Fellow at StanfordUniversity, whose own thinking about thistopic coincidently arrived one day in my e-mailjust as we were starting this project. In turn, heled us to several other Knight fellows as well asprofessors and speakers he’d heard, and theirwords, like his, now contribute mightily to thisconversation. —Melissa Ludtke4 Nieman Reports | Summer 2010

WHAT’S NEXT FOR NEWS? | Brain PowerFeeling the Heat: The Brain Holds Clues forJournalism‘This rise in emotional intensity poses a real problem for seriousjournalists … . The sciences of the mind offer a lot of help if we arewilling to learn from them.’BY JACK FULLERHere is the deepest and, to manyserious journalists, most disturbingtruth about the future of news: Theaudience will control it. They will get thekind of news they choose to get. Not thekind they say they want, but the kind theyactually choose.To the extent that news needs to produceprofits, the demand ultimately willshape the supply. But even if unlimitednonprofit funding for serious journalismwere suddenly to appear, demand wouldstill control. That is because, no matter whatits business model might be, journalismwill fail to deliver to the broad public thecivic education our society requires unlessit can persuade large numbers of peopleto pay attention to it. So the choice is notbetween giving people what they want orwhat they need. The challenge is to inducepeople to want what they need.How to do that with everything inconstant motion? New technologies, newservices, new competitors seem to ariseevery day. All this activity can mask amore important trend—the audience itselfis changing rapidly. As a consequence, thedisciplined, professional presentation ofnews perfected over the 20th century nolonger commands the widespread respectit once did. The influence of undisciplinednews voices grows.Journalists know all about respondingto the next new thing. We leap likedalmatians at the sound of the fire bell.But to understand what is happeningto the news audience today we need toget beyond the clang of the alarm. Wehave to get past the immediacy of eachhot new idea and begin with somethingNieman Reports | Summer 2010 5

What’s Next for News?deeper and more durable. We need tounderstand what the transformationof our information environment hasdone at the most fundamental level tothe way people take in news.Emotional HeatMy struggle with this question led meto the science of how the brain processesinformation, especially the wayemotion directs attention. Of course,it did not take the rise of modernneuroscience to prove that emotionholds an audience. Sophocles knewthat when he wrote his drama of incestand violence, “Oedipus Rex.” So do theeditors of supermarket tabloids. Counton fear and sex to attract the eye.Evolution provides the reason:Our ancestors became our ancestorsby being able to spot danger andthe opportunity to mate. So it wasinevitable that as competition forattention exploded with the revolutionaryinformation technologies ofthe late 20th and early 21st centuries,message senders raised the emotionalvolume. Serious journalists tended todecry this as infotainment or worse.Perhaps they never themselves quitelived up to the professional ideal ofutter disinterest and detachment, butthey did learn to draw back from rawemotional appeals.The audience did not. This baffledmany of us. How could people betaken in by screaming commentators(on everything from health careto basketball), by celebrity gossip,by reports characterized at best bytruthiness rather than the rigors ofverification?Here is where the implications of therapidly developing science of the mindhelp. It turns out that certain kinds ofcognitive challenges (challenges to ourthinking) produce emotional arousal.And an emotionally aroused brain isdrawn to things that are emotionallycharged.Give normal humans a trickyanagram or a long division probleminvolving two numbers out to sixdecimal points, and they will beginto show emotional arousal—think ofit as stress. Give them a strict timelimit, and their level of arousal willrise. Throw new information at them(some of it useful, some irrelevant,some just wrong) while they areworking on the problem, and theiremotional temperature will go upeven more. Then distract them (sayby calling their names or having theirsmartphones signal that somebodyis trying to reach them), and theirarousal level will soar.If that sounds familiar, it is. All toofamiliar. Information overload, timepressure, and distraction characterizeour era. The very nature of the informationenvironment in which we alllive creates emotional arousal. We areavailable every moment to everyonewe know, and an enormous number ofpeople we do not know. We continuouslyreceive messages: messages ofa particular sort—the kind that aredirected specifically to us. They comefrom people who know us personallyor from people or institutions thathave learned something about whatinterests us.In effect, these ubiquitous messagescall out our names. Consequently welive in a continuous state of interruptionand distraction. Time pressureis enormous. Even after leaving theTribune Company to write books, Idiscovered that people expected me torespond to e-mails within a couple ofhours, if not a couple of minutes, andwere offended if I did not.So not only has the explosionof competition among suppliers ofinformation—news, advertising andentertainment—caused producers toincrease the emotional temperature,the recipients of information havebecome more attracted to emotionalheat. This helps explain why heavynews seekers turn to the intensityof Fox News or MSNBC and awayfrom CNN. (It also explains why theonce rather restrained National Geographicchannel has so many showsabout predator species that prey onhumans—species that include Homosapiens themselves.)Where Journalism FitsThis rise in emotional intensity posesa real problem for serious journalists,as I describe in my book “What IsHappening to News: The InformationExplosion and the Crisis in Journalism.”1 We have been trained for manygood reasons to shy away from it in thepresentation of news. But we see ouraudience drawn to it. And we do noteven have a way of discussing whichuses of emotion are misleading ormanipulative and which actually canhelp people understand their world.The sciences of the mind offer a lotof help if we are willing to learn fromthem. They explain, for example, whythe immediate crowds out the important.Why bad news attracts attentionmore than good news does. They canshow us how emotion interacts withthe human brain’s inherent mentalshortcuts to lead us systematicallyto erroneous conclusions. They canpoint us to the ways in which searchalgorithms interact with emotionsand these mental shortcuts to misleadpeople about the relative importanceof various pieces of information. Theycan even help us understand the wayour ability and impulse to read otherpeople’s minds draws us to a story andlight up other secrets of how and whynarrative works.It should be clear by now that thechallenge for journalists from hereforward is not only the steadfastadherence to the values of accuracyand independence and the socialresponsibility to provide a civic educationbut also the development of new1Chapter Six, “The Two Searchlights,” in Jack Fuller’s book describes neuroscienceresearch about emotion and attention and how it is relevant to the way journalistspresent their stories. Read it online at Nieman Reports | Summer 2010

Brain Powerways of thinking and talking abouthow to advance the social mission ofjournalism in a radically and rapidlyevolving environment. The answeris not to figure out how to transport20th century news presentation into21st century delivery mechanisms butrather to create a new rhetoric of newsthat can get through to the changedand changing news audience.To conclude where I began, theaudience will determine the futureof news. Serious journalists mustunderstand to the very essence theminds that make up this audiencein order to know how to persuadepeople to assimilate the significant anddemand the accurate. Anything lessis the neglect of our most importantsocial responsibility. Jack Fuller, who won a PulitzerPrize for Editorial Writing, waseditor and publisher of the ChicagoTribune and president of TribunePublishing Company. His book,“What Is Happening to News: TheInformation Explosion and the Crisisin Journalism,” is published by theUniversity of Chicago Press.Our ‘Deep Reading’ Brain: Its Digital EvolutionPoses Questions‘The reading circuit’s very plasticity is also its Achilles’ heel. It can be fullyfashioned over time and fully implemented when we read, or it can be shortcircuited…’BY MARYANNE WOLFWill we lose the “deep reading”brain in a digital culture?No one knows—yet.The preceding paragraph providesa legitimate synopsis of this essay. Italso exemplifies the kind of reducedreading that concerns me greatly, bothfor expert adult readers and even moreso for young novice readers, those whoare learning how to read in a way thathelps them to comprehend and expandupon the information given.The challenges surrounding howwe learn to think about what weread raise profound questions. Theyhave implications for us intellectually,socially and ethically. Whetheran immersion in digitally dominatedforms of reading will change thecapacity to think deeply, reflectivelyand in an intellectually autonomousmanner when we read is a questionwell worth raising. But it isn’t one Ican answer now, given how early weare in the transition to digital content.In my work on the evolution of thereading brain during the past decade,I have found important insights fromthe history of literacy, neuroscienceand literature that can help to betterprepare us to examine this setof issues. The historical momentthat best approximates the presenttransition from a literate to a digitalculture is found in the ancient Greeks’transition from an oral culture to aliteracy-based culture. Socrates, whowas arguably Greece’s most eloquentapologist for an oral culture, protestedagainst the acquisition of literacy. Andhe did so on the basis of questionsthat are prescient today—and, in thatprescience, surprising.Socrates contended that the seemingpermanence of the printed word woulddelude the young into thinking theyhad accessed the crux of knowledge,rather than simply decoded it. For him,only the intellectually effortful processof probing, analyzing and internalizingknowledge would enable the young todevelop a lifelong, personal approachto knowing and thinking, which couldlead them to their ultimate goals—wisdomand virtue. Only the examinedword—and the examined life—wasworth pursuing. Literacy, Socratesbelieved, would short-circuit both.Using a 21st century paraphrase,the operative word is “short-circuited.”I use it to segue into a different,yet concrete way of conceptualizingSocrates’s elegantly described worries.Nieman Reports | Summer 2010 7

What’s Next for News?Modern imaging technology allowsus to scan the brains of expert andnovice readers and observe how humanbrains learn to read. Briefly, here iswhat we find: Whenever we learnsomething new, the brain forms anew circuit that connects some of thebrain’s original structures. In the caseof learning to read, the brain buildsconnections between and among thevisual, language and conceptual areasthat are part of our genetic heritage,but that were never woven togetherin this way before.Brain Pathways: Created ByReadingGradually we are beginning to understandthe stunning complexity that isinvolved in the expert reader’s braincircuit. For example, when readingeven a single word, the first millisecondsof the reading circuit are largelydevoted to decoding the word’s visualinformation and connecting it to allthat we know about the word fromits sounds to meanings to syntacticfunctions. The virtual automaticityof this first set of stages allows us inthe next milliseconds to go beyondthe decoded text. It is within the nextprecious milliseconds that we enter acognitive space where we can connectthe decoded information to all that weknow and feel. In this latter part ofthe process of reading, we are giventhe ability to think new thoughts ofour own: the generative core of thereading process.Perhaps no one better capturedwhat the reader begins to think inthose last milliseconds of the readingcircuit than the French novelist MarcelProust. In 1906, he characterizedthe heart of reading as that momentwhen “that which is the end of [theauthor’s] wisdom appears to us as butthe beginning of ours.” A bit more thana century later, in 2010, book editorPeter Dimock said that “[this] kindof reading, then, is a time of internalsolitary consciousness in which thereading consciousness is brought upto the level of the knowledge of theauthor—the farthest point anothermind has reached, as it were …”The act of going beyond the text toanalyze, infer and think new thoughtsis the product of years of formation. Ittakes time, both in milliseconds andyears, and effort to learn to read withdeep, expanding comprehension andto execute all these processes as anadult expert reader. When it comes tobuilding this reading circuit in a brainthat has no preprogrammed setup for it,there is no genetic guarantee that anyindividual novice reader will ever formthe expert reading brain circuitry thatmost of us form. The reading circuit’svery plasticity is also its Achilles’ heel.It can be fully fashioned over time andfully implemented when we read, orit can be short-circuited—either earlyon in its formation period or later,after its formation, in the executionof only part of its potentially availablecognitive resources.Because we literally and physiologicallycan read in multiple ways, howwe read—and what we absorb fromour reading—will be influenced byboth the content of our reading andthe medium we use.Few need to be reminded of thetransformative advantages of thedigital culture’s democratization ofinformation in our society. That isnot the issue I address here. Rather,in my research, I seek to understandthe full implications for the readerwho is immersed in a reading mediumthat provides little incentive to usethe full panoply of cognitive resourcesavailable.We know a great deal about thepresent iteration of the reading brainand all of the resources it has learnedto bring to the act of reading. However,we still know very little about thedigital reading brain. My major worryis that, confronted with a digital glutof immediate information that requiresand receives less and less intellectualeffort, many new (and many older)readers will have neither the time northe motivation to think through thepossible layers of meaning in whatthey read. The omnipresence of multipledistractions for attention—andthe brain’s own natural attractionto novelty—contribute to a mindsettoward reading that seeks to reduceinformation to its lowest conceptualdenominator. Sound bites, text bites,and mind bites are a reflection of aculture that has forgotten or becometoo distracted by and too drawn tothe next piece of new information toallow itself time to think.We need to find the ability to pauseand pull back from what seems to bedeveloping into an incessant need tofill every millisecond with new information.As I was writing this piece, aNew York Times reporter contacted meto find out whether I thought Internetreading might aid speed reading.“Yes,” I replied, “but speed and itscounterpart—assumed efficiency—arenot always desirable for deep thought.”We need to understand the value ofwhat we may be losing when we skimtext so rapidly that we skip the preciousmilliseconds of deep reading processes.For it is within these moments—andthese processes in our brains—thatwe might reach our own importantinsights and breakthroughs. Theymight not happen if we’ve skipped onto the next text bite. Tough questions.Rigorous research. These are what areneeded now of us as we ponder thekind of readers we are becoming andhow the next generation of readerswill be formed.Our failure to do this may leaveus confronted with a situation thattechnology visionary Edward Tennerdescribed in 2006: “It would be ashame if brilliant technology were toend up threatening the kind of intellectthat produced it.” Maryanne Wolf directs the Center forReading and Language Research andis the John DiBiaggio Professor ofCitizenship and Public Service andprofessor of child development withinthe Eliot-Pearson Department ofChild Development at Tufts University.She is the author of “Proust andthe Squid: The Story and Science ofthe Reading Brain,” published byHarperCollins. A version of this essaywill be translated for the FrankfurterAllgemeine Zeitung.8 Nieman Reports | Summer 2010

Brain PowerNovelty and Testing: When the Brain Learns andWhy It ForgetsRussell Poldrack is a professor ofpsychology and neurobiology anddirector of the Imaging ResearchCenter at the University of Texas atAustin. In his research he uses imagingto understand the brain systemsthat underlie the human ability tolearn new skills, make good decisions,and exert self-control. What Poldrackand his colleagues discovered in theirinvestigations provides informationuseful to journalists as they look forways to engage the minds of readers,viewers and listeners through digitalmedia. This past October he beganblogging for The Huffington Post abouthis research. The words that follow areadapted with the author’s permissionfrom two of his blog posts, one aboutthe brain and multitasking, the otherabout what people recognize about theirown learning.As I set out to write about multitaskingand information overload,let me admit that I aman information junkie. It’s difficultfor me to make it through an hourlongmeeting without peeking at leastonce at my iPhone to check my e-mailand on more than one occasion I’vecome close to hurling myself down thestairs as I try to read e-mails whiledescending.Why do I do things that place mein such clear social and physical peril?Part of the answer lies in the brain’sresponse to novelty. After all, it isbuilt to ignore the old and focus onthe new. Marketers clearly understandthis: Watch closely and you will noticethat heavily-played television ads willchange ever so slightly after being onthe air for a few weeks. When ourbrain detects this change, our attentionThe lighter regions in the brain’s right hemispherewere more active for a group of individuals when theystopped themselves from making a movement. Imageby Eliza drawn to the ad, often without useven realizing it.Novelty is probably one of the mostpowerful signals to determine whatwe pay attention to in the world. Thismakes a lot of sense from an evolutionarystandpoint since we don’t wantto spend all of our time and energynoticing the many things around us thatdon’t change from day to day. Researchershave found that novelty causes anumber of brain systems to becomeactivated; foremost among these is thedopamine system. This system, whichlives deep in the brain stem, sends theneurotransmitter dopamine to locationsacross the brain. Many peoplethink of dopamine as the “feel-good”neurotransmitter because drugs thatcreate euphoria, such as cocaine andmethamphetamine, cause an increaseof dopamine in particularparts of the brain. But agrowing body of researchshows that dopamine ismore like the “gimme more”neurotransmitter.Kent Berridge and colleaguesat the Universityof Michigan have doneinteresting studies in whichthey videotape rats and thenmeasure how often the ratsexhibit signs of pleasure—what we call “affective reactions.”1 Blocking dopaminein the brain turns out notto affect how often therats exhibit these pleasureresponses but instead itreduces the rats’ motivation,turning them into slackers.(Another neurotransmittersystem in the brain, theopioid system, seems tobe the one that actually produces thepleasurable sensations, though it hasvery close relations with the dopaminesystem.)Dopamine also is very much involvedin learning and memory, which occur inthe brain through changes in the waythat neurons connect to one another.We know that the brain can changedrastically with experience. However,the brain needs some way to controlthese changes; after all, we wouldn’twant our entire visual system to berewired to see upside down after doinga single handstand. Dopamine is oneof the neurotransmitters that controlsthis: When dopamine is released, itis a signal to the brain that it is nowtime to start learning what is going on.So what do things happening insidethe brain have to do with the way I1Video of these rats and their reactions can be viewed at Reports | Summer 2010 9

What’s Next for News?behave with my iPhone? Well,it’s hard to imagine a morepowerful novelty-generatingdevice. Every time it buzzesto signal a new e-mail or textmessage it is wiring even morefirmly into my brain the desireto pick up the device and lookfor that precious nugget of newinformation, which often is onlya reminder of another committeemeeting. Although noresearch has yet been publishedon this, I am confident that wesoon will see that our bond tothese devices works through thesame mechanisms in the brainthat govern addiction to drugs,food and many other things.Maximizing LearningThere is a second, relatedquestion of particular interestfor journalists. How can newsof importance be effectivelyconveyed through the digital clutterand information overload to peoplewho are in constant novelty-seekingmode? Key to figuring out how to dothis is gaining an understanding ofwhy and how the brain responds tonovelty—and then taking advantageof this knowledge in figuring outhow to attract attention. However, itis equally important to be sure thatonce information breaks through theclutter that the person receiving itremembers it.Unfortunately, our intuitions maylead us astray: Psychological researchhas shown that people are not verygood predictors of their own or others’learning. A good example of thiscomes from a study done in 2006by Henry Roediger and a graduatestudent, Jeffrey Karpicke, at WashingtonUniversity in St. Louis. Usingtwo different approaches, they taughtstudents about the sun and sea ottersby giving them a paragraph containingscientific information to read abouteach topic. One group of studentshad the chance to read the materialfour times. Another group was givenThese highlighted regions in the prefrontal cortex weremore active when a person silently counted backward thanduring a rest period. The largest of them is often activewhen people engage in mental activities that place heavydemands on working memory. Image by Russell Poldrack.only one chance to read it, then wastested three times on how much theyremembered.Then, through a questionnaire,members of each group told theresearchers how well they thoughtthey had learned the material. Theresearchers also gave them memorytests within a few minutes after studying,as well as one week later so theywould have objective data to evaluatealong with the students’ own subjectiveevaluations.When questioned about how wellthey had learned the material, thepeople who had read the paragraphfour times indicated that they feltmuch better about their learning of thematerial. They also performed better onthe memory test right after studying.However, things were very different aweek later. At that point, people whohad studied the paragraph once andthen been tested three times handilyoutperformed the overconfidentparagraph-readers on the memorytest for the material.This kind of research is teachingus that often we can be overconfidentabout memories that arecompletely false and yet lackconfidence about our ability toremember things we have actuallylearned well. In particular,we often confuse fluency (orease) for ability. By its fourthtime reading the paragraph,that group found it very easy,and this led them to think thatit would be a snap to rememberthe material later. But it wasn’t.There is a growing body ofresearch showing that thingsthat are hardest are what makeus learn best. This concept isknown as “desirable difficulties.”If something is too easy thenwe probably aren’t learningvery much. We have more tofind out as we determine justhow widely this idea applies.But there is enough evidencealready assembled to give usreason to rethink how learningtakes place in our daily lives.The finding of desirable difficultiesposes a serious challenge to journalistsbecause things that make peopleremember best are also things thatpeople are likely to avoid because theyare difficult.As researchers learn more abouthow learning and memory work, theremay be additional clues about howto maximize learning. But there arealready some tricks that can be used.For example, information is oftenremembered better when presentedmultiple times, but only when thosedifferent times are spaced apart fromone another. Thus, presenting severalversions of an idea in different parts ofa story could help improve retention.If journalism is about learning—about taking in news and informationand understanding its relevance to ourlives—then what neuroscientists andbrain researchers are finding out aboutthe brain and its capacity to absorbinformation surely matters. For more information about RussellPoldrack’s research go Nieman Reports | Summer 2010

Brain PowerThinking About Multitasking: It’s What JournalistsNeed to DoHeavy media multitaskers ‘are often influenced by intervening content. Newsarticles are therefore going to require more recapitulations and reminders tohelp readers pick up where they left off.’BY CLIFFORD NASSWhen people multitask withmedia they are consumingtwo or more streams ofunrelated media content. (Dealingwith two related media streams hasdifferent dimensions.) It doesn’t matterexactly what information they aretaking in or what devices they are using;just the act of using two or moremedia streams simultaneously meansthat consumers are engaging in whatis an increasingly frequent pursuitin our digital age. Perhaps they aresearching on a Web site while textingon their phone. Or they are tuning into a YouTube video while exchanginge-mails on a laptop. Maybe CNN isplaying on their screen and they aretracking the news while chatting onlineabout work in one window andconnecting with a friend several timezones away via Skype.Or maybe all of these things arehappening at once.Given what we’re finding out aboutmedia multitasking, it is much moreubiquitous and involves many morestreams of content than is commonlyappreciated. Based on surveys we havedone at Stanford University, the averageuniversity student is regularly usingfour different media streams; fewerthan 5 percent of students report thatthey regularly use a single stream, andmore than 20 percent are using sixor more streams at one time. Otherresearch suggests that this method ofhandling media is increasing acrosspopulations ranging from infants (e.g.,breast-feeding babies will watch televisionwhen their mothers are doingso) to adults in the work force (e.g.,many companies require workers torespond immediately to multiple mediachannels, such as mobile phones, chatand e-mail).Journalists are adapting—withvarying degrees of frustration andconsternation—to the unwillingnessof the growing number of mediamultitaskers to focus on one streamof content, regardless of how engagingit might be. Given the urge toconsume as much unrelated contentas possible, readers demonstrate anunwillingness, for example, to staywith long-form journalism; the longerthe article, the greater the frequencyreaders show of bouncing around andeventually drifting to other mediastreams. Similarly, how stories arebeing told must become less complexas readers show an unwillingness toallocate enough attention to workthrough difficult material.At a more macro level, one seesincreasing concessions to heavy mediamultitaskers in the clustering of storieson the Web. In the early days of digitalnews, links would augment a storywith supporting video or prior coverageon its topic. In the second phase, thenumber of links increased, and therelationships between the story andlinks became more tenuous (e.g., having“international news” or “politics”in common). Today, numerous linkslike Top Stories, Editor’s Picks, andArticles You Might Be Interested In arescattered throughout each Web pageand the relationship between the basestory and the links tends to vanish.Heavy Media MultitaskersWhile these responses to changingreading styles are important to understand,journalists are now being confrontedwith an even more importantsituation brought about by this growthin media multitasking. Now evident tothose of us who study media multitaskingare fundamental changes in theway heavy media multitaskers (HMMs)process information. Research I didwith Eyal Ophir and Anthony Wagnerthat we published in the Proceedingsof the National Academy of Sciencesshows that HMMs—who are alreadya large and rapidly growing part ofthe population—are much worse thanprevious generations of readers atthree tasks that reporters have beenNieman Reports | Summer 2010 11

What’s Next for News?able to take for granted: filtering therelevant from the irrelevant, managingshort-term memory, and switchingfrom one task to another.Because these changes affect theway people can consume media ratherthan how they wish to see media, therequisite changes will strike at the verycore of how news can be written. Whatfollow are implications for journalismbased on what we’ve learned about thehabits of HMMs.Filtering Information: TheHMM’s inability to filterirrelevant information, evenwhen it is labeled as irrelevant,is shocking. In oneexperiment people wereasked to only pay attention tored rectangles and to ignoreblue rectangles. While lightmedia multitaskers (LMMs)were unaffected by the bluerectangles, no matter howmany there were, the HMMswere consistently distractedby the blues: The more blue,the less attention they paidto the red rectangles.With this inability tofilter in mind, news storiesand editorials must behighly focused. Filtering provides asense of proportion that HMMs lackso secondary messages will tend todilute the primary message. Also,readers will not distinguish betweenexperts and nonexperts, even whenthe distinction is made clear in thestory. For this reason, it is important toavoid using sources that are obviouslyunqualified to create balance. Finally,even engrossing stories are going tobe competing with advertisements,e-mails, phone calls, Twitter and ahost of other media streams sinceHMMs will be chronically seduced bythe other: With HMMs, nothing grabsand sustains truly focused attention.Short-term Memory: Another experimentexamined the ability to manageshort-term memory. Participants wereshown a sequence of letters and werecontinually asked whether they saw agiven letter exactly three letters before.While LMMs did reasonably well atthis task, HMMs did progressivelyworse with this task as a given letterappeared more frequently and as thenumber of letters grew.If one thinks of the brain as a set offiling cabinets, HMMs—the readers oftoday and especially tomorrow—havemessier cabinets and have a hardertime finding what they need. ThisJournalists are adapting—with varyingdegrees of frustration and consternation—to the unwillingness of the growingnumber of media multitaskers to focus onone stream of content, regardless of howengaging it might be. ... the longer thearticle, the greater the frequency readersshow of bouncing around and eventuallydrifting to other media streams.inability of HMMs to manage shorttermmemory means that stories willbe more effective if they take peoplestep by step through an argument ortime sequence because readers will getconfused by interlocking content. Onthe other hand, the classic invertedpyramid will be very difficult for HMMsto follow because the interrelatedcontent requires memory managementand integration.Switching Tasks: The final deficiencyis ironic: HMMs are actually worse atswitching from one task to another.This was demonstrated when participantswere asked to perform a taskthat focused on either a letter or anumber and then were presented witha letter/number pair. The HMMs weredramatically slowed down when thetask randomly switched from letterto number or vice versa. Thus, asHMMs switch from reading an articleto consuming other media and thenswitch back—a very frequent occurrence—theyare often influenced byintervening content. News articlesare therefore going to require morerecapitulations and reminders to helpreaders pick up where they left off.It will also help to ensure that thelayout, font and other visual featuresof the article are radically differentfrom the rest of the page,thereby reminding readersof the distinction betweenthe story and all of the otherstreams that they continuallyencounter. Perhaps mostironic is that the juxtapositionof unrelated content,driven by a desire to satisfyHMMs, is going to makeit harder for HMMs tounderstand the stories thatthey do read.Journalists have long beenresponsive to changes in society,culture, and consumerdemographics and preferences.The extraordinarygrowth of media multitaskingmeans that there is nowan unprecedented source ofvariance—the brains of news consumers—thatis demanding change. Thispresents journalists with a criticalchallenge: How will the public be bestinformed given the emerging cognitivedeficiencies created by chronicmultitasking? Few questions are asnecessary as this one for journalists toaddress. Given the pace at which mediamultitasking continues to increase,there is urgency in finding answers. Clifford Nass is the Thomas M.Storke Professor at StanfordUniversity in the Department ofCommunication. He is author of theforthcoming “The Man Who Lied toHis Laptop: What Machines TeachUs About Human Relationships,” tobe published in September as one oftwo inaugural books in Penguin’spopular science imprint, Current.12 Nieman Reports | Summer 2010

Brain PowerWatching the Human Brain Process Information‘We measure the amount of brain activity while somebody’s doing something.You can’t generate more activity beyond a certain point. There’s an upper limit.’Marcel Just is the director of theCenter for Cognitive Brain Imaging atCarnegie Mellon University, where heand his team use functional MagneticResonance Imaging ( fMRI) scans toexamine brain activation as peopleperform various high-level tasks suchas spatial thinking, problem solving,multitasking, and real-time, dynamicdecision making. In a conversationwith Nieman Reports editor MelissaLudtke, Just describes what imaginghas revealed—and what it one daymight reveal—about how the humanbrain processes information. Justbegins by talking about how the brain“codes” concepts. Edited excerpts follow:Melissa Ludtke: When you talk abouttrying to unravel or study the code ofthe mind, what do you mean by “code”?Marcel Just: Most people have seenthe illustrations in magazines andnewspapers of hot spots in the brainwhen a person is thinking. Thoseaccurately depict where the activityis and tells which brain areas are inplay. For the first time we’ve been ableto identify what concept a person isthinking about from their brain activity.We use machine-learning algorithmsto put together what is being codedin various places in the brain so thatwe can determine what concept theperson is thinking about. In effect,we can read their mind.The second finding is that the patternof brain activity for one of theserelatively concrete concepts is commonacross people. If we train the computerprogram to recognize the patterns for60 words (concepts such as apple,shoe, tomato) on one group of peopleand then a new person comes in whohas never been encountered before,the computer can tell what the newperson is thinking fairly well.It’s the first time we’ve been able toanswer the question that philosophershave been asking: Is your concept ofsomething the same as my concept ofit? For these concrete nouns it is. Andif you train the computer to recognizethose concepts in one language, it canthen identify what the bilingual personis thinking about when he or sheencounters those concepts in anotherlanguage. So the brain representationsare not only common across people,but they’re common across languagesfor translation equivalents.Ludtke: I’m wondering how you seethe notion of multitasking in termsof brain function and how the braincopes with distraction.Just: In many of our studies we areinterested in finding out the upperlimits of our thinking capability.We often put the brain on a mentaltreadmill and just see how high wecan put it. With multitasking we askpeople to do two relatively high-leveltasks simultaneously. We’ve aimed ata real-world issue: using a cell phonewhile driving and we have measuredthe brain activity with people whoare using a driving simulator whilealso listening to someone talk at thesame time.We find there’s an upper limit tohow much information a person canprocess per unit time. If you’re workingon two tasks simultaneously, you cando that, but there will be less activityallocated to each task. For example,when we compare how much brainresource allocation there is to justdriving while listening to someonespeak, we find that while listening tosomeone speak the amount of brainresources allocated to the driving goesdown by 37 percent. It’s an enormousdifference, and it shows up in the drivingsimulator in how well you maintainyour lane, whether or not you hit theside of the road. It’s possible to drivewhile listening to someone talk. Weall do it and sometimes using a cellphone. However, there’s absolutely noquestion that it takes away from thequality of the driving.You ask about distractions. Particularlywith respect to automaticity,which we study, that’s a very interestingquestion. There are driverswho say, “Oh, well, when the drivinggets tough, I’ll start ignoring my cellphone partner or my passenger ormy talk radio and I’ll just focus onthe driving.” We ran a study in whichwe told experienced drivers that theyare going to hear someone speak butto just ignore them and do the mainspatial task. But we found that theycouldn’t ignore the speaking becausethe processing of spoken languageis so automatic that you can’t turnit off. You can’t will yourself not tounderstand a speaker’s next sentence.It just gets in.In watching the brain’s activity, wecan see this. When the next sentencestarts, even though our subjects arepoised to ignore it, the activationstarts up in the language areas andthe activation in the other areas of thebrain—for the other task—goes down.There is no blocking out someone talkingto you. It goes in and it consumesbrain resources.Ludtke: I’ve been reading about howpeople aren’t processing things as effectivelyas they think they are whenthey’re multitasking.Just: There are dozens of cases wherewe overestimate our thinking ability.And it never goes in the other direction.It’s always “Oh, yes, of course Ican do this.” However, in perceptualNieman Reports | Summer 2010 13

What’s Next for News?judgments and cognitive judgmentspeople always—probably 98 percent ofthe time—overestimate their abilities.It’s not cheating, it’s not bragging. It’san honest intuition that’s wrong.Ludtke: Does the brain reach a pointwhere it’s simply too stressed in waysthat make it more difficult to take inand process information?Just: In brain imaging we’re actuallymeasuring electrochemical activity.Like all biological functions it needs anenergy source. We measure the amountof brain activity while somebody’sdoing something. You can’t generatemore activity beyond a certain point.There’s an upper limit. You can sortof see it yourself when you’re tryingto do a digit-span task. Somebodyasks you to repeat back five digits. It’snot very hard. When they start goingto eight or 12 digits, there’s no moreroom for improvement and you justgive up at eight or 10, or whateveryour digit span is.Ludtke: In speaking with Sherry Turklewho teaches at Massachusetts Instituteof Technology and studies identity andself as it relates to digital media, wefound out that she’s not allowing theuse of computers in her class. Studentswere trying to do e-mail and Twitterand Facebook and also listen andparticipate in class while occasionallylooking down at their cell phonewhen it vibrated. She felt that all ofthis was leading to a diminution interms of what she was able to teachand what they were able to take in.[See interviews with Turkle beginningon page 20.]Just: Yes, I think the research supportswhat Turkle is saying. WhenI was a student, the problem waspeople reading the newspaper at theback of the room. Competition for astudent’s attention is an old problem,but now the media are so portable andinteresting and flexible that it’s evenmore tempting.Ludtke: We’ve been talking aboutmeasuring and locating brain activity,about upper limits of the brain’scapacity and distractions. All of thisrelates to the tasks confronting journalistsas they compete for attentionin a broader media universe.Just: That’s right. Now each of us islike an organization in that we haveto prioritize and decide what would bethe most beneficial way to spend ourthinking time in the next five or 30minutes. Because of the competitionand the availability of various sources,I know that I have to be much morethoughtful about what would be thebest use of my time, and such choicescome up many times an hour. So weneed to be more strategic, constantlydeciding whether to click on this nextthing or go back to what we werereading. It’s wonderful to have somuch information, but choosing andallocating our resources is a toughthing. The limiting resource now isn’tthe information; it’s our time.Ludtke: But it’s also our brain, isn’t it?Just: Oh, yes, that’s what I meant: ourbrain time.Ludtke: There is a notion that in thistime of information overload—ofeveryone trying to grab people’s attention—thatone thing that the brainis very pumped for is to take in emotionallycharged information. Do youhave any thoughts on this dynamic?Just: Yes. One of the biggest contributionsof brain imaging is to revealhow intensely social and emotionalthe human brain is. To me it was avery big surprise. Ask people to readsome innocuous little narrative andthe brain activity shows that they’recomputing things like the character’sintention and motivation. I think thereis a constant tendency to be processingsocial and emotional information. It’sthere and it’s ubiquitous.Ludtke: As journalism moved ontotelevision, news began to be conveyedin visual ways and this often led towhat is referred to as a “if it bleeds,it leads” style of reporting.Just: Processing print isn’t somethingthe human brain was built for. Theprinted word is a human artifact. It’svery convenient and it’s worked verywell for us for 5,000 years, but it’s aninvention of human beings. By contrastMother Nature has built into our brainour ability to see the visual world andinterpret it. Even the spoken languageis much more a given biologically thanreading written language.Ludtke: Does this mean that as wemove out of the era of print and paperand into the digital era with morevisual media, it’s going to be a morenatural environment for humans totake in information than when it wasthe printed word?Just: Yes, and it can be informative ina visual way. Now you can circumventwritten language to a large extent.A lot of printed words are there todescribe things that occur spatially.In many cases a picture is worth athousand words. Now we can generatethese pictures and graphics andwe can convey them to other peoplevery easily. I think it’s inevitable thatvisual media are going to become moreimportant in conveying ideas and notjust about raging fires.Ludtke: Ideas?Just: Ideas of physics and biology andpolitics and so on. Now I think there’sa role for the printed word. I don’tthink it’s going to go away.Ludtke: With children gaining a facilitywith digital media that many in theirparents’ generation don’t have, wouldyou expect that years from now brainimaging is going to show the brainfunctioning in different ways becauseof this orientation?Just: Yes, I think that’s very plausible.Nobody has done that yet. But let megive you an analogy done withoutimaging. In the 1970’s there was apsychologist who studied people whowere illiterate in Portugal. He founda group of people who had neverlearned how to use written language.14 Nieman Reports | Summer 2010

Brain PowerHe compared them to a control groupwho could read. He found that theyprocessed things differently just as afunction of having learned to read.I think that’s a counterpart to yourquestion.Nobody’s done the brain researchyet because it’s hard to get a controlgroup to really study this. But I thinkthat learning about the organizationof information in a particular way isextremely likely to affect the organizationof the brain processing. Somethings are going to stay the same, suchas the coding of concrete concepts thatwe talked about earlier. But the notionof hyperlinks, of temporary diversionsto get more information is, I think, aslightly different way of thinking that’slikely to have an impact on the brain.We’re not going to change the brain,of course, just as reading doesn’t reallychange the fundamentals of the brain.But you can repurpose some areas todo some things that nobody’s donebefore.Ludtke: Do you suspect that we’regoing to be able to push that upperlimit that we talked about in terms ofthe multitasking?Just: No. You can get more proficientwith it, but we’re never going to changethe biological limits. However, if youpractice a task, you can do it betterand faster.Ludtke: Larry Rosen, a psychologistwho is the author of “Rewired:Understanding the iGeneration andthe Way They Learn,” has done somestudies at the University of California,Dominguez Hills, in which he’s foundthat mini-generational divides aredetermined, in part, by the amountof multitasking that young peoplesay they are able to do; with eachnew mini-generation the number ofsimultaneous tasks increases. [SeeRosen’s article on page 24.]Just: The possibility exists. Everybodysees young people with iPod earphoneswalking around. Does that decreasetheir capability to do other things?Some of my staff—very talented smartpeople—sometimes have an iPod budin their ear while doing scientific workat a computer. I don’t know whetherthis degrades their work.Ludtke: These are questions that peoplelike you are going to be looking at?Just: Yes. There are a number of studiesstarting. It’s hard to get a reallywell-controlled study of this stuff, butit’s very plausible we’ll find changes inpeople’s brains. Sixty years ago nobodyknew how to do computer programmingand now there are hundreds ofthousands of people who can program.They had to have learned to think ina slightly different way.People ask what’s special about thehuman brain. It’s that we can inventnew things and learn to think aboutthem, like computer programs anddigital media devices and printedlanguage. That’s part of the geniusof the human brain: new injectionsand this intellectual bootstrapping.We’re obviously on this acceleratedpath upward. I can’t guess exactlywhere it’s going to take us, but almostcertainly it’s going to take us upwardinto a different place.Ludtke: That’s what we’re exploring. Iappreciate you bringing us along onyour journey. A Big Question: ‘How Is the Internet Changing theWay You Think?’Edge posed this question; discover how a wide range of thinkers responded.BY JOHN BROCKMANAs each new year approaches, JohnBrockman, founder of Edge, an onlinepublication, consults with three of theoriginal members of Edge—StewartBrand, founder and editor of WholeEarth Catalog; Kevin Kelly, who helpedto launch Wired in 1993 and wrote“What Technology Wants,” a bookto be published in October (VikingPenguin); and George Dyson, a sciencehistorian who is the author of severalbooks including “Darwin Among theMachines.” Together they create theEdge Annual Question—which Brockmanthen sends out to the Edge listto invite responses. He receives thesecommentaries by e-mail, which arethen edited. Edge is a read-only site.There is no direct posting nor is Edgeopen for comments.Brockman has been asking an EdgeAnnual Question for the past 13 years.In this essay, he explains what makes aquestion a good one to ask and sharessome responses to this year’s question:“How is the Internet changing the wayyou think?”Responses can be read in theirentirety at Reports | Summer 2010 15

What’s Next for News?It’s not easy coming up with aquestion. As the artist James LeeByars used to say: “I can answerthe question, but am I bright enoughto ask it?” Edge is a conversation. Weare looking for questions that inspireanswers we can’t possibly predict. Surpriseme with an answer I never couldhave guessed. My goal is to provokepeople into thinking thoughts thatthey normally might not have.The art of a good question is to finda balance between abstraction andthe personal, to ask a question thathas many answers, or at least one forwhich you don’t know the answer. It’sa question distant enough to encourageabstractions and not so specific thatit’s about breakfast. A good questionencourages answers that are groundedin experience but bigger than thatexperience alone.Before we arrived at the 2010 question,we went through several months ofconsidering other questions. EventuallyI came up with the idea of asking howthe Internet is affecting the scientificwork, lives, minds and reality of thecontributors. Kevin Kelly responded:John, you pioneered the idea ofasking smart folks what questionthey are asking themselves. WellI’ve noticed in the past few yearsthere is one question everyoneon your list is asking themselvesthese days and that is, is theInternet making me smarter orstupid? Nick Carr tackled theOrigins of EdgeThe Edge project was inspired by the1971 failed art experiment entitled“The World Question Center” bythe late James Lee Byars, JohnBrockman’s friend and sometimecollaborator. Byars believed thatto arrive at an axiology of societalknowledge it was pure folly to goto Widener Library at Harvard andread six million volumes. Instead,he planned to gather the 100 mostbrilliant minds in the world in aroom, lock them behind closedquestion on his terms, but didnot answer it for everyone. Infact, I would love to hear theEdge list tell me their version: Isthe Internet improving them orimproving their work, and howis it changing how they think? Iam less interested in the general“us” and more interested in thespecific “you”—how it is affectingeach one personally. Nearly everydiscussion I have with someonethese days will arrive at thisquestion sooner or later. Whynot tackle it head on?And so we did.Yet, we still had work to do inframing our question. When peoplerespond to “we” questions, their wordstend to resemble expert papers, publicpronouncements, or talks deliveredfrom a stage. “You” leads us to sharespecifics of our lived experience. Thechallenge then is to not let responsesslip into life’s more banal details.For us, discussion revolved aroundwhether we’d ask “Is the Internetchanging the way we think?” or probethis topic with a “you” focused question.Steven Pinker, Harvard researchpsychologist, author of “The LanguageInstinct” and “The Blank Slate,” andone of several distinguished scientistsI consult, advised heading in thedirection of “us.”doors, and have them ask eachother the questions they were askingthemselves. The expected result, intheory, was to be a synthesis of allthought. But it didn’t work out thatway. Byars identified his 100 mostbrilliant minds and called each ofthem. The result: 70 people hungup on him.A decade later, Brockman pickedup on the idea and founded TheReality Club, which, in 1997, wentonline, rebranded as Edge. I very much like the idea of theEdge Question, but would suggestone important change—thatit be about “us,” not “me.” The“me” question is too easy—ifpeople really thought that somebit of technology was makingtheir minds or their lives worse,they could always go back to thetypewriter, or the Britannica,or the US Postal Service. Thetough question is “us’”if everyindividual makes a choice thatmakes him or her better off,could there be knock-on effectsthat make the culture as a wholeworse off (what the economistscall “externalities”)?Ultimately it’s my call so I decidedto go with the “you” question in thehope that it would attract a widerrange of individualistic responses.In my editorial marching orders tocontributors, I asked them to thinkabout the Internet—a much biggersubject than the Web, recalling that in1996 computer scientist and visionaryW. Daniel Hillis presciently observedthe difference:Many people sense this, but don’twant to think about it because thechange is too profound. Today,on the Internet the main eventis the Web. A lot of people thinkthat the Web is the Internet,and they’re missing something.The Internet is a brand-newfertile ground where things cangrow, and the Web is the firstthing that grew there. But thestuff growing there is in a veryprimitive form. The Web is theold media incorporated intothe new medium. It both addssomething to the Internet andtakes something away.Early RespondersFraming the question and settinga high bar for responses is critical.Before launching the question to theentire Edge list, I invited a dozen orso people who I believed would havesomething interesting to say; theirresponses would seed the site andencourage the wider group to think16 Nieman Reports | Summer 2010

Brain Powerin surprising ways. Here are some ofthese early responses:• Playwright Richard Foreman asksabout the replacement of complexinner density with a new kind ofself evolving under the pressureof information overload and thetechnology of the instantly available.Is it a new self? Are we becomingPancake People—spread wide andthin as we connect with that vastnetwork of information accessed bythe mere touch of a button?• Technology analyst Nicholas Carr,who wrote The Atlantic cover story,“Is Google Making Us Stupid?,”asks whether the use of the Webmade it impossible for us to readlong pieces of writing. [See Carr’sarticle on page 37.]• Social software guru Clay Shirkysays the answer is “ ‘too soon to tell.’This isn’t because we can’t see someof the obvious effects already, butbecause the deep changes will bemanifested only when new culturalnorms shape what the technologymakes possible. ... The Internet’sprimary effect on how we think willonly reveal itself when it affects thecultural milieu of thought, not justthe behavior of individual users.”• Web 2.0 pioneer Tim O’Reillyponders if ideas themselves are theultimate social software. Do theyevolve via the conversations wehave with each other, the artifactswe create, and the stories we tellto explain them?• Stewart Brand, founder of WholeEarth Catalog, cannot function withoutthe major players in his socialextended mind—his guild. “How Ithink is shaped to a large degree byhow they think,” he writes. “Thanksto my guild’s Internet-mediatedconversation, my neuronal thinkingis enhanced immeasurably by ourdigital thinking.”• Hillis goes a step further by askingif the Internet will, in the long run,arrive at a much richer infrastructurein which ideas can potentially evolveoutside of human minds. In otherwords, can we change the way theInternet thinks?The ConversationThe 2010 question elicited, in all, 172essays that comprised a 132,000-wordmanuscript published online by Edgein January.Kelly speaks about a new type ofmind, amplified by the Internet, evolving,and able to start a new phase ofevolution outside of the body. In “NetGain,” evolutionary biologist RichardDawkins looks 40 years into the futurewhen “retrieval from the communalexosomatic memory will become dramaticallyfaster, and we shall rely lesson the memory in our skulls.” NassimTaleb, author of “The Black Swan,”writes about “The Degradation ofPredictability—and Knowledge” as heasks us to “consider the explosive situation:More information (particularlythanks to the Internet) causes moreconfidence and illusions of knowledgewhile degrading predictability.”Nick Bilton, lead writer of TheNew York Times’s Bits blog, notes that“[the] Internet is not changing how wethink. Instead, we are changing howthe Internet thinks.” Actor Alan Aldaworries about “[speed] plus mobs. Ascary combination.” He wonders, “Isthere an algorithm perking somewherein someone’s head right now that canact as a check against this growinghastiness and mobbiness?” New YorkTimes columnist Virginia Heffernanwrites that “we must keep on readingand not mistake new texts for newworlds, or new forms for new brains.”Numerous artists responded inenlightening ways, as their evocativeheadlines suggest:• Marina Abromavic: “My Perceptionof Time”• Stefano Boeri: “Internet Is Wind”• Tony Conrad: “A Question With(out)an Answer”• James Croak: “Art Making GoingRural”• Olafur Eliasson: “The Internet asReality Producer”• Eric Fischl and April Gornik:“Replacing Experience WithFacsimile”• Terence Koh: “A Completely NewForm of Sense”• Hans Ulrich Obrist: “Edge A to Z(Pars Pro Toto)”• Jonas Mekas: “I Am Not Exactly aThinking Person—I Am a Poet”• Matthew Ritchie: “The Interface IWant Is the Real World.”My FavoritesI enjoyed the juxtaposition of responsesby psychologist Steven Pinker, “Not AtAll,” and Chinese artist and culturalactivist Ai Weiwei, “I Only Think onthe Internet.” The response I mostadmired is George Dyson’s “Kayaksvs. Canoes.” It is a gem:In the North Pacific Ocean, therewere two approaches to boatbuilding.The Aleuts (and theirkayak-building relatives) lived onbarren, treeless islands and builttheir vessels by piecing togetherskeletal frameworks from fragmentsof beach-combed wood.The Tlingit (and their dugoutcanoe-building relatives) builttheir vessels by selecting entiretrees out of the rainforest andremoving wood until there wasnothing left but a canoe.The Aleut and the Tlingitachieved similar results—maximumboat/minimum material—byopposite means. Theflood of information unleashedby the Internet has produced asimilar cultural split. We used tobe kayak builders, collecting allavailable fragments of informationto assemble the frameworkthat kept us afloat. Now, we haveto learn to become dugout-canoebuilders, discarding unnecessaryinformation to reveal the shapeof knowledge hidden within.I was a hardened kayakbuilder, trained to collect everyavailable stick. I resent having tolearn the new skills. But thosewho don’t will be left paddlinglogs, not canoes.What do you think? Nieman Reports | Summer 2010 17

WHAT’S NEXT FOR NEWS? | Digital YouthLessons for the Future From the First Post-PokémonGeneration‘Creating interest-driven content and programming that is easily shared,interactive and participatory is key to unlocking the power of networked media.’BY MIZUKO ITOAyear and a half ago, my researchteam released the findings froma three-year study of how youngpeople use new media in social andrecreational settings. In summarizingfindings from the Digital Youth Project,we wanted to focus press attentionon the learning opportunities we hadfound being supported by interactiveand online media. When I spokewith journalists about our research,I emphasized the need for adults tosupport the positive potential of informaland social learning online ratherthan assume that the time that kidsspend with digital media is always adistraction or waste of time.More often than not, however,teachers asked me about strategies todisengage kids from social media sothey can focus on their studies. Andjournalists seemed most interestedin how online networks escalate peerpressure and bullying. Whether it isteachers trying to manage texting inthe classroom, parents attempting toset limits on screen time, or journalistspainting pictures of a generation ofnetworked kids who lack any attentionspan, adults seem to want to hold onPokémon has become much more than a video game. It taught a generation of kids that they are morethan consumers: They are participants, experts and creators of media. Photo by Shea Walsh/AP Imagesfor Poké to their negative views of teen’sengagement with social media.This generational gap in how peopleregard social media means that kidsand adults are often in conflict aboutwhat participation in public life means.Not surprisingly, cultural and educationalorganizations also seem outof step with how young people learnand access information. It is criticalto acknowledge the radically differentmedia environment kids inhabittoday while also appreciating boththe positive and negative aspects ofthese changes. Now young people canbe connected 24/7 to peers,information and entertainment,and their attentionis captured through visualmedia, participation andinteraction.All of these differenceschallenge journalists as theyredesign their models ofcommunicating news andinformation. In today’s mediaenvironment, daily life is farmore porous in accepting adiverse range of informationand social interactions,and this circumstance cancomplicate and enhance thetask of reaching and engagingyouths. In fact, this isn’tjust about youths, thoughthey are emblematic of thesechanges. All of us are livingthrough a profound shift inhow we engage with culture,knowledge, information,news, events, society and oursocial lives.To create a digital public18 Nieman Reports | Summer 2010

Digital Youthsphere that both engages and informsrequires that we find ways of bridgingthe gap in our understanding ofthe networked world. Yet if we cancapitalize on the potential of socialmedia, we’ll discover unprecedentedopportunity in highly personalizedand participatory public engagement.Our study, the Digital Youth Project,was part of a larger effort by theJohn D. and Catherine T. MacArthurFoundation’s digital media and learninginitiative to understand how youngpeople’s lives are changing as a resultof digital media. Our research involvedhundreds of youths across the UnitedStates and relied on the efforts of 28researchers and collaborators. Whilewe did not examine their mediapractices with the journalism andnews media industry in mind, our keyfindings can be of significant valueto journalistic organizations that arefiguring out how to bring news andinformation to the next generation.Ours is in many ways a hopefulstory. Our research leads us to believethat organizations and institutions thatserve youth can still have their bestdays ahead of them if they engagewith youths’ peer cultures and socialcommunication. Creating interestdrivencontent and programmingthat is easily shared, interactive andparticipatory is key to unlocking thepower of networked media.Learning From PokémonBefore we explore what’s taking shapetoday, let’s look back to the late1990’s when Pokémon swept throughchildhood culture. Those who aregraduating from college now are thefirst post-Pokémon generation. Theseare kids who grew up with ubiquitoussocial gaming and convergent mediaas a central part of their peer culture.Pokémon incorporated video games,trading cards, a television series, moviesand a wide range of merchandise.It also broke new ground by placinggaming and social action at the centerof the transmedia equation. Its contentinvites collection, strategizing andtrading activity, and as such it is aform of media that is not an end initself. Instead, it mobilizes youth todo something with it.What is different about contemporarysocial media such as Pokémonis that personalization and remix isa precondition of participation. Atits core, it is about engagement andcommunication. And this is what socialmedia means for this generation—notjust media that are about social communicationbut also media that invitesocial exchange. Marketers talk aboutthis as viral or contagious media. Forkids, it means media that have socialcurrency. They are consumers, butmore importantly they are participants,experts and creators.There is much we can learn aboutkids’ learning and engagement withPokémon. What follows are a few ofthe lessons that relate directly to thetasks of journalism:• Skills and literacy are a byproductof social engagement. Kids are notplaying Pokémon with the explicitgoal of learning skills or gainingknowledge. We’re starting to seesome research coming out about thekinds of complex language skills andvisual literacy that kids pick up withcomplex gaming environments likePokémon or Yu-Gi-oh. But again itis a byproduct, not a focus of theengagement.• The focus is on demand, not supply.In their new book, “The Power ofPull,” John Hagel, John Seely Brown,and Lang Davison write about acultural shift from supply-push todemand-pull. Instead of workingto build stable stocks of informationin kids’ heads—in supplying astandardized body of knowledge—demand-pull is about giving kidsskills and dispositions to be ableto access and draw from a highlydynamic and unstable informationenvironment that is too massive forthem to internalize.• Sources of expertise come frompeers, not institutionalized authorities.Kids occasionally consult rulebooks, but they will far more oftenlook to their peers for knowledge.Certain kids in a given peer culturewill gain reputations as Pokémonexperts, and the more advanced ofthese will be posting walk-throughs,reviews and cheats on Web sites thata much broader range of kids will beaccessing. It’s about peers assessingand providing feedback rather thanrelying on institutional gatekeepers.The excitement comes from takingon the roles of participants, expertsand knowledge creators, not simplyknowledge consumers.• Networked games support specialization,the development of personalizedrelationships to the content, andsubject matter expertise. Instead ofbeing asked to master a standardizedbody of knowledge that is the samefor all their peers, measured againstprescribed benchmarks, these moreinformal digital environments allowkids to choose their own areas ofinterest and engagement. One kidcan develop a reputation as a waterPokémon trainer and expert; anothercan master the universe of cheatcodes.• The overall knowledge ecology ishighly distributed. The circulationof information and knowledge andthe learning is distributed acrossdifferent kids, different sites, anddifferent media platforms.What Lies Ahead?As kids grow older, they bring experiencesfrom media like Pokémon totheir participation in the teen socialscene. Just as with childhood play,teenage peer sociability takes placein networked and digital environments.Negotiations over status andpopularity that once happened inschool lunchrooms and hallways nowmigrate to MySpace, Facebook andtext messaging. For the post-Pokémongeneration, these online communityspaces are seamless with the offlinesettings of their daily lives.Although peer spaces involvingteen friendship are quite differentfrom those that center on interestslike Pokémon, peer culture operatesin similar ways in both. And whathappens in these social media spacesdiffers from what takes place in spacespresented to them by most adults.Nieman Reports | Summer 2010 19

What’s Next for News?With mainstream media, as with othercontent and activities adults offer,teens find themselves acting primarilyas consumers of information. Intheir media environments they areproducers and distributors of content,knowledge, taste and culture; theymake decisions about how to craft theirprofiles, what messages to write, andthe kind of music, video and artworkthey want to post, link to, and share.These choices about what media todisplay and circulate are made in apublic (nonprivate) space and haveconsequences for their reputation inthe social circles that matter to themthe most.Where are things headed? It’s goodto remember that these are still earlydays of social media and our experimentationwith harnessing digitalmedia in the service of communication,engagement and knowledge acquisition.And many of us still carry theweight of assumptions, practices andinstitutions that no longer fit well withthe emerging digital environment.Historically we also have separatedour kids’ peer cultures from their learningand engagement; this has createdantagonism between education andentertainment media and demarcatedboundaries separating adult-mediatedinstitutions from youth-produced ones.These are major encumbrances as wemove forward. Yet for those willing toexperiment and seize the opportunitiesthat today’s always-on, fully networkedtechnology offers, tremendous opportunityexists to expand our reach to anew generation. Mizuko Ito is a cultural anthropologistwho specializes in digital mediaand youth culture. She is researchdirector for the Digital Media andLearning Research Hub, a MacArthurFoundation-funded effort at theUniversity of California HumanitiesResearch Institute that is analyzingthe impact of the Internet and digitalmedia’s evolving relationship toeducation/learning, politics/civics,and youth. More information aboutinitiatives at this research hub canbe found at Demands: The Challenges of ConstantConnectivity‘We’re becoming quite intolerant of letting each other think complicated things.’Sherry Turkle is Abby RockefellerMauzé Professor of the Social Studiesof Science and Technology at the MassachusettsInstitute of Technology andthe founder and director of the MITInitiative on Technology and Self. Since1995, Turkle has studied adolescentsand adults in the culture of connectivity.In her forthcoming book, “AloneTogether: Sociable Robots, DigitizedFriends, and the Reinvention of Intimacyand Solitude,” to be published inJanuary by Basic Books, she exploreshow humans have come to expect morein terms of relationships from machinesand less from each other. Among herkey questions are these: What are thelimits of “relationship” with a machine?What is intimacy without privacy?What is democracy without privacy?How do the always-on/always-on-youdemands of digital life interfere withpeople’s need for solitude, the kind thatrefreshes and restores?In these edited excerpts from Turkle’sinterview with Frontline’s TV/Webreport “Digital Nation,” she speaksabout young people’s relationshipswith digital technology and how thisaffects their lives and learning. Theentire interview is available at Turkle: What I’m seeing is ageneration that says consistently, “Iwould rather text than make a telephonecall.” Why? It’s less risky. I canjust get the information out there. Idon’t have to get all involved; it’s moreefficient. I would rather text than seesomebody face to face.There’s this sense that you can havethe illusion of companionship withoutthe demands of friendship. The realdemands of friendship, of intimacy,are complicated. They’re hard. Theyinvolve a lot of negotiation. They’reall the things that are difficult aboutadolescence. And adolescence is thetime when people are using technologyto skip and to cut corners and to nothave to do some of these very hardthings. One of the things I’ve foundwith continual connectivity is there’san anxiety of disconnection; that theseteens have a kind of panic. They saythings like, “I lost my iPhone; it feltlike somebody died, as though I’d lostmy mind.” The technology is alreadypart of them.And with the constant possibility ofconnectivity, one of the things that Isee is a very subtle movement from “Ihave a feeling. I want to make a call”to “I want to have a feeling. I need tomake a call”—in other words, peoplealmost feeling as if they can’t feel theirfeeling unless they’re connected. I’mhearing this all over now so it stopsbeing pathological if it becomes agenerational style.Frontline: Some would say most ofthe [university] lectures, most ofthe classes, most of the books are20 Nieman Reports | Summer 2010

Digital YouthGenerational Divide: Digital Technology’s Paradoxical MessageIn an interview Sherry Turkle didwith Aleks Krotoski for a BBC project,“The Virtual Revolution,” she spokeabout how young people think aboutprivacy and how their experienceswith digital technology shape theirconnections and exchanges withothers. The entire interview canbe viewed at excerpts follow:Sherry Turkle: This generation hasa sense that information wants tobe free and information about themwants to be free. People puttheir lives on the screen, theyput intimate details of theirlives out there with very littlethought that there might bepeople using that informationin ways that are not benign.I interviewed a 16-year-old,and he talked about how heknows that people can readhis e-mail. Somehow he sensesthat his texts are being savedin some server in the sky.When he wants to have aprivate conversation he goesto pay phones. He feels thepay phones are the only safeplace for him to talk.My grandmother, who camefrom a European background,taught me how to be a citizenat mailboxes in New York City.She brought me down to themailbox and she said unlikein Europe where bad governmentswould read your mail and open yourmail, in America it’s a federal offenseto read somebody else’s mail. Thatkind of privacy is what gives yourights as a citizen.In a way, I learned to be anAmerican at these mailboxes as akid. I don’t know where to take mydaughter to teach her that. When wetake the Mass Pike we use E-ZPassand surveillance cameras track mycar. We’re both giving up unprecedentedamounts of informationand profiling.It’s hard to teach the relationshipbetween privacy and democracy; andit’s also hard to teach the relationshipbetween intimacy and privacy. Whatis intimacy without privacy? I thinkthis is a really important questionfor this generation.Aleks Krotoski: It’s almost as if it’s afeedback loop: I give you a bit moreinformation; you then give me moreinformation, which then creates thisThey’ll text, but they won’ttalk. Philosophers tell us thatwe become human when we’reconfronted with another face, witha voice, with the inflection of avoice; these kids don’t want to seea face, they don’t want to hear avoice. They want to text. In a waywe’re no longer nourished butconsumed by what we’ve created.incredible flood of information. As arecipient of all of this information,how do you think this is affecting me?Turkle: You start to want to hide.At first, it’s all good. You get whatseems like a virtual cycle of moreand more and more; but as we seewhat this generation looks like as itgrows up with it, we find they arenow a generation in retreat. They’lltext, but they won’t talk. Philosopherstell us that we become human whenwe’re confronted with another face,with a voice, with the inflection of avoice; these kids don’t want to see aface, they don’t want to hear a voice.They want to text. In a way we’re nolonger nourished but consumed bywhat we’ve created. It’s not all good.I see people in retreat as much asthey are in advance now that theyhave all this information.Krotoski: Do you feel that we areexperiencing information overloador that we can parse it?Turkle: Totally experiencinginformation overload. It’sbecome a cliché. In a word Isee people defining a successfulself as one that can keep upwith its e-mail. There’s kindof a velocity and a volumethat keeps people on a kindof hyperdrive of connectivity.In the end, they find a way towithdraw.If the velocity and volumeis such that I send you a tweetand I send you a text, thenyou have to answer me back.Nobody answers a text by sayingI have to think about thatfor two weeks. The communicationdemands a response. Butthat means that we start to askeach other questions that areeasy to answer.We live in a kind of paradoxicaltime. We’re giving young people avery paradoxical message: The worldis more and more complex; on theother hand, we’re only going to askyou a question that you can answer intwo seconds. We leave ourselves lessand less time for reflection becauseour communications media push usto quick responses. Quite frankly,the questions before our planet rightnow are not questions that shouldbe answered or thought about in thetime space of texting. Nieman Reports | Summer 2010 21

What’s Next for News?MIT professor Sherry Turkle finds the prevalence of PowerPoint in grade school classrooms “distressing,” yet PowerPoint is ubiquitous. Ithas gained adherents in the federal Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who use it to brief military commanders.unnecessarily long and boring, andthe stuff that’s great you could fitin a couple of hands, and that’s thestuff they should really commit toand memorize and study. The rest ofit is better short and quick and to thepoint. Look at haiku. It’s much harderto do something quickly than it is todo something for hours. And who’s tosay that it’s better to take your timeand not be distracted?Turkle: The ability to trace complicatedthemes through a literary work,through a poem, through a play—thesepleasures will be lost to us because theybecome pleasures through acquiredskills. You need to learn how to listento a poem, read a [Fyodor] Dostoevskynovel, read a Jane Austen novel. Theseare pleasures of reading that demandattention to things that are long andwoven and complicated. And this issomething that human beings havecherished and that have broughttremendous riches. And to just say,“Well, we’re of a generation that nowlikes it short and sweet and haiku.Why? Just because the technologymakes it easy for us to have thingsthat are short and sweet and haiku.”In other words, it’s an argument aboutsensibility and aesthetics that’s drivenby what technology wants.I don’t really care what technologywants. It’s up to people to developtechnologies, see what affordancesthe technology has. Very often theseaffordances tap into our vulnerabilities.I would feel bereft if, because technologywants us to read short, simplestories, we bequeath to our childrena world of short, simple stories. Whattechnology makes easy is not alwayswhat nurtures the human spirit.I’ve been an MIT professor for 30years; I’ve seen the losses. There’s noone who’s been teaching for 25 yearsand doesn’t think that our studentsaren’t different now than they werethen. They need to be stimulatedin ways that they didn’t need to bestimulated before. No, that’s notgood. You want them to think abouthard things. You want them to thinkabout complicated things. When youhave the ability to easily do showy,fabulous things, you want to believethey’re valuable because that would begreat. I think that we always have to22 Nieman Reports | Summer 2010

Digital Youthask ourselves, when technology makessomething easy, when its affordancesallow us to do certain things, isthis valuable? What are the humanpurposes being served? And in theclassroom, what are the educationalpurposes being served?One of the most distressing thingsto me in looking at K-12 is the use ofPowerPoint in the schools. I believethat PowerPoint is one of the mostfrequently used pieces of software inclassrooms. Students are taught how tomake an argument—to make it in bullets,to add great photos, to draw fromthe popular culture, and show snippetsof movies and snippets of things that[he or she] can grab from the Web,and funny cartoons and to kind ofmake a mélange, a pastiche of croppedcultural images and animations andto make a beautiful PowerPoint. Andthat’s their presentation.PowerPoints are aboutsimple, communicableideas illustrated by powerfulimages, and there’s aplace for that. But thatisn’t the same as criticalthinking. Great books arenot fancied-up Power-Point presentations. Greatbooks take you through anargument, show how theargument is weak, meetobjections, and show adifferent point of view. Bythe time you’re throughwith all that, you’re waybeyond the simplicities ofPowerPoint.Computers are seductive; computersare appealing. There’s no harm inusing the seductive and appealing todraw people in, to get them in theirseats, and to begin a conversation. Thequestion is, what happens after that?Frontline: What about multitasking?Turkle: Because technology makes iteasy, we’ve all wanted to think it isgood for us, a new kind of thinking, anexpansion of our ability to reason andcycle through complicated things—domore and be more efficient. Unfortunately,the new research is comingin that says when you multitask,everything gets done a little worse;there’s a degradation of all functions.Did we need to really go through 10years of drinking the Kool-Aid on theeducational wonders of multitaskingand forgetting about everything weknew about what it takes to reallyaccomplish something hard?At MIT, I teach the most brilliantstudents in the world. But they havedone themselves a disservice by drinkingthe Kool-Aid and believing thata multitasking learning environmentwill serve their best purposes becausethey need to be taught how to make asustained, complicated argument on ahard, cultural, historical, psychologicalpoint. Many of them were trained thata good presentation is a PowerPointpresentation—you know, bam-bambam—it’svery hard for them to haveSherry Turkle spoke on Frontline’s “Digital Nation” about how adolescentsand adults interact with technology. Photo courtesy of Frontline.a kind of quietness, a stillness in theirthinking where one thing can actuallylead to another and build and build andbuild and build. There are just somethings that are not amenable to beingthought about in conjunction with 15other things. And there are some kindsof arguments you cannot make unlessyou’re willing to take something frombeginning to end.We’re becoming quite intolerant ofletting each other think complicatedthings. I don’t think this serves ourhuman needs because the problemswe’re facing are quite complicated. Tohear someone else out, you need tobe able to be still for a while and payattention to something other than yourimmediate needs. So if we’re living ina moment when you can be in sevendifferent places at once, and you canhave seven different conversations atonce on a back channel here, on aphone here, on a laptop, how do wesave stillness? How threatened is it?How do we regain it?Erik Erikson is a psychologist whowrote a great deal about adolescenceand identity, and he talks about theneed for stillness in order to fullydevelop and to discover your identityand become who you need to becomeand think what you need to think. AndI think stillness is one of the greatthings in jeopardy.[Henry David] Thoreau, in writingabout Walden Pond, lists the threethings that he feels the experience isteaching him to developfully as the man he wantsto become. He wants tolive deliberately; he wantsto live in his life; and hewants to live with no senseof resignation. But on allof those dimensions, I feelthat we’re taking awayfrom ourselves the thingsthat Thoreau thought wereso essential to discoveringan identity.We’re not deliberate;we’re bombarded. Wehave no stillness; we haveresignation.Kids say: “Well, it hasto be this way; we have noother way to live. We’re not living fullyin our lives. We’re living a little in ourlives and a little bit in our Facebooklives.” You know, you put up a differentlife, you put up a different person. Soit’s not to be romantic about Thoreau,but I think he did write, as Eriksonwrote, about the need for stillness; tobe deliberate; to live in your life andto never feel that you’re just resignedto how things need to be.When we’re texting, on the phone,doing e-mail, getting information, theexperience is of being filled up. Thatfeels good. And we assume that it isnourishing in the sense of taking us toNieman Reports | Summer 2010 23

What’s Next for News?a place we want to go. And I think thatwe are going to start to learn that in ourenthusiasms and in our fascinations,we can also be flattened and depletedby what perhaps was once nourishingus but which can’t be a steady diet. Ifall I do is my e-mail, my calendar, andmy searches, I feel great; I feel like amaster of the universe. And then it’s theend of the day, I’ve been busy all day,and I haven’t thought about anythinghard, and I have been consumed bythe technologies that were there andthat had the power to nourish me.The point is we’re really at the verybeginning of learning how to use thistechnology in the ways that are themost nourishing and sustaining. We’regoing to slowly find our balance, butI think it’s going to take time. So Ithink the first discipline is to think ofus as being in the early days so thatwe’re not so quick to yes, no, on, off,good, good, and to just kind of takeit slowly and not feel that we need tothrow out the virtues of deliberateness,living in life, stillness, solitude.There is a wonderful Freudianformulation, which is that lonelinessis failed solitude. In many ways weare forgetting the intellectual andemotional value of solitude. You’re notlonely in solitude. You’re only lonelyif you forget how to use solitude toreplenish yourself and to learn. Andyou don’t want a generation that experiencessolitude as loneliness. And thatis something to be concerned about,because if kids feel that they need tobe connected in order to be themselves,that’s quite unhealthy. They’ll alwaysfeel lonely, because the connectionsthat they’re forming are not going togive them what they seek. Understanding the iGeneration—Before the NextMini-Generation Arrives‘As the pace of technological change accelerates, mini-generations are definedby their distinctive patterns of media use, levels of multitasking, and preferredmethods of communication.’BY LARRY ROSENThree decades have come and gonesince I started to explore theimpact that technology has onus. Back then we didn’t have desktopcomputers; the idea that one day soonwe’d hold a computer in the palm ofour hand seemed like something outof “Star Trek.” As I look back on theseyears—and on the various directionsmy research about the psychology oftechnology has taken me—I realizehow strongly connected my focus inresearch is to changes I’ve experiencedin my daily life.When students refused to usekeypunch machines, I studied computerphobia.When microwave ovens,fax machines, and desktop computersarrived, I switched to studying technophobia.And when technology becameubiquitous, I moved on to examiningtechnostress. This happened at atime when the conversation wasn’tso much about the stress of having touse technology, but about what happenswhen people do, including theinformation overload they experience,Internet addiction, the presence andfear of online sexual predators, andcyberbullying.At home I glimpsed these rapidtechnological changes through the eyesof my children. When my older son,now 34, was a teen and my youngerson, now 22, a preteen, they playedvideo games constantly, blasting aliensand splattering blood. Not surprisingly,I was drawn to studying the impactof games. Later they joined the herdin finding their way to MySpace,Facebook, IMing, texting, iPhones,and nearly everything with an “i” init (iPod, Wii). There were times whento get my teenage daughter’s attention,I had to text her to come out of herroom to join us for dinner.Even though I’m technologicallysophisticated, my kids left me in the24 Nieman Reports | Summer 2010

Digital Youthdust—though they did so in differentways and to varying degrees. And thisdifference became a fascination of mineas I set out to untangle why and howthe younger ones related to and handledthis technology much differently thanmy older ones did—even though only15 years separates them.Waves of TechnologyOn the day local news reported thata man was seen walking around mycampus with a gun, how I connectedwith members of my family signaleda turning point for me in recognizingwhat I’d come to understand throughmy research as mini-generational differences.Told to remain in my shutteredoffice, I e-mailed my two olderkids and texted my younger ones. (Ofcourse, I phoned my elderly parents.)For each family member, my messagewas the same, “I’m O.K. Don’tworry.” Only how I relayed it wasdifferent, and that got me thinkingabout how rapidly changes in how wecommunicate are taking place. In “TheThird Wave,” written in 1980, AlvinToffler outlined his view about howwaves of technology have defined ourworld. Toffler identified three majorwaves: the 3,000-year agricultural era,the 300-year industrial era, and the(projected) 30-year computer era thatwas on the upswing. Each wave roseand fell as new technologies arose.Extrapolating from the pace ofToffler’s waves (dividing by 10), thefourth wave would be predicted tolast for three years, the fifth for aboutfour months, and so on. But judgingfrom consumer product penetrationrates, we were not seeing technologicalchange taking place in months; rather,the data showed cycles of three- to fiveyearwaves. A product is considered tohave penetrated society when it reaches50 million people. Technologies suchas radio, television, and phones tookmore than a decade to reach this levelof penetration.As we move closer to our time, wefind technology barreling its way intoour society. With the Internet, instantmessaging and iPods, it took only fouryears. Blogs took three. With MySpace,50 million profiles were created withintwo and a half years: in its early yearsMySpace added 100,000 (mostlyyoung) members a day. YouTube hit 50million unique viewers in one year; inApril 2008, 73 million people tuned into YouTube videos, with teens watchingan average of about 70 per month.And when the iPad went on sale inApril, more than 300,000 were soldon the first day, even before the 3Gmodel arrived in the stores.Texting settled into the typical teen’sneighborhood even faster. Data fromthe Nielsen Company shows that as oflate 2009 teens on average sent andreceived 3,186 text messages a monthcompared with receiving and making196 phone calls. That works out to 10text messages per waking nonschoolhour, although we know kids textduring school hours and some sleepwith their cell phones so they don’tmiss text messages. It is interestingto note that their Net Generationsiblings—only a few years older thanthey are—text half as much. At thestart of 2007 the monthly average forteens was 435 text messages and 255phone calls.Mini-GenerationsAs the pace of technological changeaccelerates, mini-generations aredefined by their distinctive patterns ofmedia use, levels of multitasking, andpreferred methods of communication.Among these mini-generations, differencesare also being found in theirvalues as well as levels of social andpolitical activism. Since GenerationXers (born between 1965 and 1979),we have seen a rapid emergence oftwo mini-generations, and maybe evena third. There is the young adult NetGeners (born between 1980 and 1989)followed by teen iGeners (born from1990 to 1999), and the first generationborn in the 21st century, yet unnamedand still too young to fully define.There are some things we are startingto find out about this yet-to-belabeledgeneration. Nielsen’s textingdata show an average of 1,164 monthlytexts for children and preteens. And thepopularity of preteen and child-basedsocial networks (e.g., Club Penguin,Barbie Girls) and the dramatic changesin media (e.g., 3-D kids’ movies) leadus to believe that their ways of communicatingand approach to getting andsharing information will be differentfrom their teen siblings.How this generation adapts totechnology—and the impact it hason family dynamics, on the classroomexperience, and on what entertainmentlooks like and how it is consumed—iswhat I am focusing on in my currentresearch. My last book, “Me, MySpace,and I: Parenting the Net Generation,”was written with parents in mind. Mynew book, “Rewired: Understandingthe iGeneration and the Way TheyLearn” is aimed at a different audience.It portrays teen lifestyles in the seaof technology and challenges parentsand educators—and anyone, such asjournalists, who might be looking forconstructive ways to interact with thisgeneration—to take this knowledgeabout the intersection of technologyand learning and use it to find themost effective ways to teach andcommunicate.Meet the iGenerationIn studies of thousands of children,teens and young adults we’ve completedat California State University,Dominguez Hills, my colleagues andI have found that massive amounts ofmedia are being consumed daily. TheiGeneration is already setting itselfapart in its consumption patterns.Here are a few of the generationaldifferences:• Increased media consumption: Inanonymous online surveys, weasked about daily hours online anda number of activities, includingmusic listening, video game playing,talking on the telephone, IMingand chatting, texting, sending andreceiving e-mail, and watching television.While we computed a totalscore, we know that many of theseactivities are done simultaneously.Net Geners and older teens spendmore than 20 hours per day usingmedia and technology followed byNieman Reports | Summer 2010 25

What’s Next for News?Questions about kids and multitasking,explored in a 2006 Time cover story, arestill being asked today.younger teens who spend slightlymore than 15 hours per day.• Multitasking: Older teens reportdoing the most multitasking;according to them, they performnearly seven simultaneous tasks.In “Rewired,” I argue that they arenot really doing them at the sametime, but they are simply better taskswitchers. This constant multitaskingamong teens compares with sixand a half simultaneous activitiesfor younger teens and six for NetGeners. Baby boomers like me reportbeing able to do about four and ahalf things at the same time.• E-communication: Baby boomersprefer face-to-face or telephonecommunication along with e-mail.Gen Xers embrace cell phones,e-mail and instant messaging. It iswith the Net Generation that differentcommunication approachesemerge, including social networks,IMing, Skyping and texting. Butit’s the iGeneration that is rapidlyredefining digital communication.To them, a phone is not a phone.It is a computer (or likely soon tobe a tablet) that they use to tweet,Facebook and, of course, text, text,text. For them, peer relationshipsare all about connecting by anyelectronic means. To them, WWWstands for whatever, whenever andwherever.• Socializing: The two recent minigenerationsare more technologicallysocial than any that came beforethem. For them, connecting is whatdigital technology was invented todo. They built MySpace and Facebook;nearly every one of them hasa page on one or both. Upward oftwo hours each day are spent connectingonline with their communityof friends, whether they are RL (reallife) or SL (screen life) friends. (In2009, “unfriend” was the word ofthe year added to the New OxfordAmerican Dictionary.)• Creativity: They make their ownYouTube videos, post photos, mashup music, create multimedia presentations,and develop personalizedcontent. In their eyes, the “i” iniGeneration stands for “individualized.”iGeners have their own iPhoneapps, their own song mixes, andhave forced developers to minetheir products for personalizedapplications.• Writing: Some argue that LOL,JK, and OMG are symptoms of anilliterate generation of teen texters.Research is showing that isn’t true.This generation writes more thanany other and whether it is textbasedwriting or formal writing, itis still writing. And writing begetswriting. Interestingly, they also readmore, particularly if you expand theconcept of reading to include onlinecontent rather than just books inprint.• Motivation: iGen teens are highlymotivated, as evidenced by thecontent that they post daily online.They are not, as some people haveasserted, lazy. In contrast, other generations—particularlybaby boomersand Gen Xers—are as interested inprocess as they are in product. Youngadults and teenagers hate meetingto discuss how they are proceeding;if forced to meet in person, they’llusually pull out their Blackberriesand iPhones so they can multitask.They do not like interim deadlinesand prefer to be held accountablefor the entire project executed welland on time. They thrive on positivereinforcement for their completedwork, but tend to downplay praisefor subproducts along the way.From all of my research, as long asadults let teens work on their timeschedule, using high-tech tools theyprefer, teachers and employers willmost often find that iGeners andNet Geners will come up with anexcellent final product.Lessons for JournalistsWhat do such findings mean to journalists?In short, the answer is a lot.In reporting and distributing newsand information—and in their interactions—journalistsneed to understandhow younger generations use technology,what they expect to do with it, andwhat they expect to receive throughit. If journalists want their words andimages to be engaging to Net Genersand iGeners, they need to figure outhow teens and young adults operate intheir high-tech world. And they needto keep up with the distinctive digitalhabits of mini-generations.Information is power, but first itneeds to reach an audience. Whetherthe vehicle is Facebook or its next iteration—perhapsnow in the making as anapp—we know that as digital platformschange, so does the psychology ofreaders. And this includes how theyrelate to and deal with information.Each mini-generation is showing itselfto be different—in big and discernibleways, and what makes them sodifferent surely matters to those whoare trying to reach them. Larry Rosen is a professor ofpsychology and past chairman ofthat department at California StateUniversity, Dominguez Hills. He isa research psychologist, computereducator, and the author of fourbooks. His most recent is “Rewired:Understanding the iGeneration andthe Way They Learn,” published inMarch by Palgrave Macmillan.26 Nieman Reports | Summer 2010

Digital YouthRevealing the Digital News Experience—For YoungAnd OldIn surveys and analysis, the Pew Research Center illuminates the ever-changingcourse of Americans’ digital habits.BY AMY MITCHELLThe Internet and cell phones arechanging people’s relationshipto news—when, how and wherethey consume it. The emerging digitaldevices also dramatically alter howjournalists gather the news and whathappens to their reporting after itappears.Just how much all of this is changing—andwhat it means to Americans’news habits—is revealed in a jointsurvey released in March by the PewResearch Center’s Project for Excellencein Journalism and the center’sInternet & American Life Project. Hereare some of its findings:• On a typical day, 61 percent ofAmericans get news online. Thismeans that the Internet is now justbehind television as a news sourceand ahead of newspapers.• Thirty-seven percent of adults nowaccess the Internet on their cellphones and PDAs.• Digital news consumers tend to beyounger than the general population—68percent are under 50 and29 percent are under 30. But themovement toward online news isevident in all age groups.Technology is fueling these developmentsas it reshapes in profoundways the news ecosystem. Social mediatools and mobile connectivity providecitizens with a deeper and more directrelationship with the news. Consumerssearch and filter, then react to andshare news they find interesting orvital with followers and friends. Thisis especially true among the young,whose social networks often becomepersonal “editors” who determine theirfront page information.A major survey released in March looked at Americans’changing news habits. Courtesy of Pew Research Center’sProject for Excellence in Journalism and the center’s Internet& American Life Project.Two surveys of teens and adultsreleased early this year by the PewInternet Project found that nearlythree-quarters of 12- to 17-year-oldswho are online and an almost equalnumber of young adults (ages 18 to 29)use social network sites. In contrast,40 percent of those who are overthe age of 30 used social networkingsites in the fall of 2009. (Thesefindings emerge as part of a yearlongPew initiative to develop a portrait of“generation next.”)Grazing With NewsIn this digital media environment,Americans have become news grazersbut not aimless wanderers.Most people are comfortableusing a numberof platforms for theirnews. On a typicalday, according to oursurveys, nearly half ofAmericans are drawnto news stories on fourto six platforms, includingonline, TV andprint. Most also turn tomultiple sources withinthose platforms. Only 21percent tell us that theytend to rely primarily onone destination; whenasked if they have afavorite online newssource, a surprisinglysmall segment of onlinenews users (35 percent)say they did. These usersare the most activein consuming newsonline—individualswho explore the greatestvariety of topics online and usethe greatest number of online sources.Still, we found that online newsgrazers do not stray far. Fifty-sevenpercent rely mostly on two to fiveWeb sites. Only 12 percent use morethan six. They also turn to the Webfor a wide variety of news topics. Inour survey we questioned participantsabout 12 topics. Forty percent said theyexplored at least nine of them, withweather and national events being themost popular.For now, legacy-based Web sitesget most of the online news audience.The 35 percent with a favorite newssite most often named Web sitesof major national television newsorganizations such as CNN and FoxNieman Reports | Summer 2010 27

What’s Next for News?The young are more interested than older Internet users in commenting on and sharing news stories,according to the survey results at left. Many online news consumers favor the sites of the major televisionnews networks, as is shown at right. Charts courtesy of Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalismand the center’s Internet & American Life Project.News. In a separate analysis that theProject on Excellence in Journalismconducted this year using Nielsen’sNetView database of online audiencemeasurements, we found that Web sitestied to legacy news organizations likenewspapers or cable stations attract67 percent of the news traffic.Yet there is evidence that thisdominance could change. The nextfavorite kind of news site among thosewho have a favorite is a news aggregatorsuch as Yahoo! News, Topix andGoogleNews. And when asked whatsources people use on a typical day(not just their favorite site), portalstop the list with more than half ofthose surveyed visiting daily. Among18- to 29-year-olds, 68 percent typicallyaccess news aggregators for theirnews, and there are signs that theyoften go no further, deciding that allthey need is the headline, byline andfirst sentence of text.The implications of such emerginghabits for both the content andfinancial strategies of those whoreport news and convey informationare extraordinary. And mobile devicesare adding yet another significantplatform for audiences and bringingnew information sources into the mix.Our survey illuminated this trend witha variety of responses:• Twenty-six percent of Americans saythey get some form of news todayvia a cell phone. That amounts to33 percent of cell phone owners.(About 80 percent of Americanadults have cell phones.)• There is every reason to think thisnumber will rise significantly as moreand more people get smartphones,such as the iPhone and those withGoogle’s Android and Microsoft’sWindows Mobile operating systemson them.• In the topics mobile phone usersseek out, weather again takes thelead, but news and information aboutcurrent events comes in second.Keeping an Eye on Readers’HabitsWhen it comes to figuring out whothe new news consumers will beand where they will land, the Webis showing itself to be a place wherevisitors don’t linger at any one placefor very long. The in-depth examinationof Nielsen’s data shows that theaverage visitor to the top 199 newsWeb sites stopped there for onlythree minutes and four seconds persession. This represents a fraction ofthe time that readers, on average, havespent with a print newspaper; in theNorthwestern University ReadershipInstitute’s 2008 study that examinednewspaper and online reading habits28 Nieman Reports | Summer 2010

Digital Youthin 100 U.S. communities, people whoread newspapers said that they spentan average of 27 minutes doing so onweekdays and 57 minutes on Sunday.We will continue asking questionsabout people’s digital media experience—andreporting what we learn—just as news organizations will addto this knowledge base by observingand measuring their audience’s habits.Another key component, though, whichcuts across all platforms, is the contentitself. Technology and consumer habitsrequire adaptation and evolution, butjournalists’ fundamental role remainsthe same—reporting, assembling anddisseminating information the publicseeks about their communities, ourcountry, and our world. Amy Mitchell is deputy director ofthe Pew Research Center’s Project forExcellence in Journalism.Journalism: English for the 21st Century‘The two main drives in teenagers’ lives are for independence and acceptance;our approach to journalism supports these drives through favoring freedom ofexpression and showcasing student work on a variety of public platforms.’BY ESTHER WOJCICKIIn an age when many people, especiallyjournalists, are worried aboutthe future of the profession and ofdemocracy, questions I’m asked ona regular basis include, “Why teachjournalism since there are no jobs outthere? Don’t you feel guilty misleadingyour students?”Good questions, but in fact journalismis not dying, at least not inPalo Alto, where I teach journalismat the public high school. The mediaprogram at Palo Alto High School isthe fastest growing program in theschool with more than 500 studentsout of a student body of 1,900 electingto take journalism on one platform oranother. In fact, more students thanever want to participate. And the wayI see it, journalism is alive and wellthroughout the United States; it isjust changing platforms from paperto digital, and the majority of writersare no longer professionals but citizenjournalists.Twenty-five years ago journalism inPalo Alto was very different. When Ifirst came to the school, 19 studentswere in the program and our schoolpaper was put together on a typewriterand pasted up on a pasteboard with hotwax. Through the years, as technologychanged, I added Apple computersand Adobe software and the programgrew. Between 1998 and 2005 as thenumbers in my Advanced Journalismprogram exploded, I created fourmore programs and we hired fourmore teachers to handle the increaseddemand. Today we publish a twosectionbroadsheet every three weeks,and an 80-page feature magazine andan 80-page sports magazine every sixweeks. (The publications are online at Web journalism programpublishes daily, just as our televisionprogram broadcasts every day, andour video program teaches kids howto produce videos. In January the PaloAlto Board of Education approveda 24,000-square-foot two-story $11million media center to house theprogram.So why are all these kids electing totake journalism? What are we doing atPalo Alto High School to get studentsexcited about learning to write whennationwide few students sign up forwriting classes?Here is the main reason: At PaloAlto High School, we respect the FirstAmendment and give students thefull rights accorded them in the U.S.Constitution. That means they canwrite about issues of importance tothem. That means we respect theiropinions and showcase their work ina variety of platforms.I can hear people saying that freedomalone would not account for suchlarge numbers of students. We mustbe doing something else. It must beteacher dependent. Don’t be fooledby the simplicity of the answer; it isfreedom. Sometimes it’s good to justremind ourselves that there werepeople who risked their lives and gaveup their homes to come here seekingthe freedom to pursue the Americandream, which includes freedom ofspeech and freedom of religion.Freedom of ExpressionThat drive for independence and freedomis alive and well in our teenagerstoday; if we enable it in our schools,students will respond. Yet far toooften schools squelch students’ drivefor independence and do what theycan to control them. We teach to thetest while failing to pass on to themskills relevant to the times and worldthey live in. Most schools do not allowtheir students access to an uncensoredWeb; this is a trait we usually ascribeto China and rarely acknowledge aboutourselves. Schools even subscribe toNieman Reports | Summer 2010 29

What’s Next for News?netTrekker and Gaggle, services thatsanitize the Web. Cell phones areconfiscated, and Facebook and othersocial platforms get blocked. Computersare used as word processors.Certainly this isn’t the case in everyschool or classroom. There are administratorsand teachers who understandthe power of the Web as a teachingtool and use the Internet as a sourceof information and the “cloud” to storedocuments. There are those who don’ttry to censor the Web for students, arefamiliar with Google Apps for Education,and encourage kids to use Flipcameras to make videos. They are theexception, however, and not the rule.The two main drives in teenagers’lives are for independence and acceptance;our approach to journalismsupports these drives through favoringfreedom of expression and showcasingstudent work on a variety of publicplatforms. Yet in 43 of the 50 statesstudents do not have legal protectionto guarantee freedom of expression inschools. The Hazelwood v. KulhmeierSupreme Court decision in 1988 gaveadministrators and teachers the rightto “prior review” of student work, andthat often leads to kids not being ableto write about issues of importance tothem. The states with laws that protectstudent free speech are California,Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas,Massachusetts and Oregon. In otherstates, anything the principal deemsinappropriate is removed and entirestories can be censored. Given thesecircumstances, is it a surprise thatmany students are not interested intaking journalism?The Student Press Law Center writesabout the Hazelwood decision andits impact on the present generation:The Hazelwood decision is nowtwo decades old. An entiregeneration has lived its entireStudents at Palo Alto High School publish a magazine called Verde that tackles issues such as whetherCalifornia should legalize marijuana; The Viking, a magazine about high school sports that was foundedin 2007; and The Campanile, a newspaper with roots that date to 1931.academic life—and is nowmoving into the professionalranks—under Hazelwood’s influence.Far too many of our futurejournalists, citizens and leadersunquestioningly accept thatschool administrators—governmentofficials—should have theauthority to dictate what theyread, write and talk about. Whatthis means for the future of pressfreedom in America remainsunknown …Journalism as EducationHow can schools afford these programswhen budgets are falling? All the printpublications at Palo Alto High Schoolare self-supporting through advertisingfrom the community. The kids learnwhat it means to sell advertising, createads, service an ad contract, and balancethe budget. It brings the communityinto the school and the school intothe community. Being involved inthe advertising program teaches kidsimportant skills about business.The easiest way to pass on the skillsand purpose of journalism is to havean online program, which is, afterall, the future. Our digital journalismprogram is free—at least in the toolsand supplies we need to run it. Itcosts the school nothing; in fact, ourWeb site makes money using GoogleAd Sense and it providesa dynamic platform forshowcasing student work.Digital journalism is thefuture so kids are learninghow to publish onthe Web using Blogger orWordPress. If they wantto publish books, theycan use print on demandservices like Lulu, Blurbor Qoop.Today’s journalism curriculumcan revolutionizeEnglish education by makingthe writing curriculumrelevant and exciting. Inthe process, it can alsotrain an entire generationof citizens—many ofwhom will be doing whatjournalists do today—to be responsiblecontributing members of the digitalsociety. I see what we do in ourjournalism program as being a goodway to teach all students importantthinking and writing skills along withjournalism 2.0 skills, which includesknowing how to use Creative Commons(CC) licenses to share, remixand spread creative works.Creative Commons is a nonprofitorganization that offers licenses allowingcreators to specify which rights theyreserve and which rights they waive forthe benefit of other creators. Studentsin Palo Alto use a license each timethey upload a story to the Web site;this means they license each storyindividually or not at all, and theyare the ones who make that decision.Critical thinking skills are essentialfor work in the 21st century, andjournalism is all about picking out30 Nieman Reports | Summer 2010

Digital Youthwhat is important and figuring outhow to write a lede. It’s also a way tolearn civic engagement skills; practicingjournalism gets students involvedin local, state and national issues.(Assignment: read two online papersdaily and two magazines per week.)It’s about teaching writing skills andmotivating kids to write news, features,reviews, opinion. It’s about learninggrammar skills since writing can be aneffective way to motivate kids to usegrammar well. (With their byline there,they are motivated to make sure thereare no errors.) It’s a way to teach Webskills—how to search, blog, practiceWeb ethics, and share. Journalismalso teaches kids how to collaborateboth online and offline and how towork effectively with their peers bothas leaders and as participants. Theseare skills employers are seeking inprospective employees.All students need these skills, notjust journalism students. I am sopassionate about this notion that Ipiloted teaching journalism-Web skillsin my ninth-grade English classes thispast school year. The kids loved it.They said it was much more excitingto write opinion pieces about issuesthey cared about than the typicalfive-paragraph response-to-literatureessay. They liked the curriculum somuch that the majority of them aresigning up for journalism next fall.The students’ response delightedme so much that I decided to writea grant proposal for a 12-week mediacurriculum that can be used either asa 12-week unit or individual modulesto be spread over the year for ninththrough12th-grade English or socialstudies. It’s aimed at teachers who areinterested in getting their studentsexcited about writing and engaged asmembers of a digital generation. In MayI was awarded a Knight Foundationgrant to support the development ofthis journalism curriculum, an exampleof project-based learning that will befreely available under a CC license.This approach to classroom instructionis commonly used in countriessuch as Finland, Japan and Canada,in which students score the highest onthe Program for International StudentAssessment.America is a nation that thrives onindependence and on the entrepreneurialspirit. Yet our schools’ curricula dojust the opposite by driving teachers toteach to the test and kids to be effectivemultiple choice test takers. Let’s offerour kids at least one opportunity inschool each day in which they trulyact with an independence of mind andwith freedom to speak to the issuesin their lives. That course should bejournalism. Esther Wojcicki directs the journalismprogram at Palo Alto HighSchool and is chairwoman of thenonprofit Creative Commons. She isa recipient of a John S. and James L.Knight Foundation grant in supportof her work developing a projectbasedjournalism curriculum forEnglish or social studies classes.E-Textbooks to iPads: Do Teenagers Use Them?‘... I didn’t anticipate the heated debates we would have about the impact of theseemerging digital platforms or the intensity of our discussions about the future ofe-textbooks, journalism, and reading in general.’BY ESTHER WOJCICKIIn February I happened across JoshQuittner’s story “The Future ofReading” in Fortune magazine andthought students in my high schooljournalism and English classes wouldenjoy it since they are concerned aboutthe future of journalism. I sensed thathis article would be controversial—givenhis perspective that reading tabletsare likely to revive print journalism’scontent—but I didn’t anticipate theheated debates we would have aboutthe impact of these emerging digitalplatforms or the intensity of our discussionsabout the future of e-textbooks,journalism, and reading in general.Students hold strong and passionateopinions about e-textbooks. While amajority dislikes e-textbooks, about20 percent believe that they are thefuture—and should be.Perhaps I should have predicted sucha reaction given that early in the schoolyear many of these students had writtena fiery editorial about e-textbooksin their social studies classes. In partit read, “… online textbooks hinderstudy habits and force the use ofcomputers. … and are detrimental tolearning and inconvenient.” The editorialconcluded with these words: “Ifthe school wishes to cultivate the useof e-books, it should at the very leastoffer students the option to continueusing the old, hardcover books.”I thought things had calmed downin the intervening six months as thestudents had become accustomed tousing e-textbooks. Soon we discoveredthat was not the case. Several studentssaid that the only reason they wouldwant an e-textbook was if it has “addedvalue, like videos or interactivity.” “Welearn better from real textbooks,” mostof them said. E-textbooks might workNieman Reports | Summer 2010 31

What’s Next for News?better for math and science, some said,because it appears those e-textbooksare likely to be interactive.At one point, we did a straw pollwith the option of a free Kindle withall their books loaded on it or theirold textbooks. The result: 100 percentvoted for their heavy, old textbooks.This overwhelming show of supportfor print on paper shocked me.Students were adamant that it was“much easier to learn” from a textbook.(Several students did say that theydon’t like carrying heavy books.) Withhardcover books, they told me, they canhighlight sections and flipthrough and scan pagesmore easily; reviewing thehighlighted pages helpsthem remember facts.Portability also was animportant factor: Witha textbook they couldstudy in random placeslike at after-school gamesor practices or they couldtake it with them to afriend’s house, and no onewould ever want to stealit, unlike a Kindle. Theysaid that digital devices ingeneral were hard on the eyes, hard toread outdoors, required dealing witha battery, and are fragile.Meet the Skeptics: TeenagersI grew concerned that the studentswere classifying all reading materialinto the same category so I decided tobreak our discussion into four parts—textbooks, news, magazines, novels.This helped to clarify the issues andcalmed the conversation. Here’s theirview of the other categories:• News: My students overwhelminglypreferred the Internet. They wantthe story fast and short but theypreferred to lounge about and readthe newspaper on the weekends.They like to relax with the paper justas their parents do so they wantedboth options. Kids claimed theyread a greater variety of articles innewspapers; online, they read justwhat they target.• Magazines: Timeliness was not anissue. “Who would want to snuggleup with a laptop on the beach or inbed to read a 2,000-word article?”they asked rhetorically. The answeramong them was no one. They allliked the feel of paper and beingable to flip through the magazine.They felt that magazines are a leisureactivity and they like reading themin hard copy.• Novels: Opinion was split on novels.Some kids thought they wouldn’tmind using a Kindle; others saidno. They said if they needed toMy students overwhelmingly preferred theInternet. They want the story fast and shortbut they preferred to lounge about and readthe newspaper on the weekends. ... they reada greater variety of articles in newspapers;online, they read just what they target.mark up the book for school theywould rather have a book.Our discussions began before theiPad was released, and few studentscould afford to buy one once theywent on sale. Some had gone to theApple store to try it out and liked itbut still did not feel compelled to buyone. Their general consensus was “Itlooks cool, but I don’t know what Iwould use it for. It is too big to put inmy pocket and I already have an iPod.”Even Steve Jobs has indicated thathe isn’t sure what consumers are goingto use the iPad for, according to LevGrossman in Time magazine. Those fewstudents interested in buying one saidthings like they “want to be the first oneto have it” or “it looks cool for games.”But none want to read magazines ornovels on it or get their textbookson it. They don’t see it as a “gamechanger,” as Walt Mossberg wrote inhis gushing column in The Wall StreetJournal, “Apple iPad Review: LaptopKiller? Pretty Close,” parts of whichI read to my students. Kids who hadtried it at the store complained aboutthe keyboard, about the fact that thekeys are so big someone (like theirparents) could see what they are typing,that it did not have Adobe Flash,and that they could not watch theirfavorite program on Hulu.These kids do not see it as a replacementfor their laptop or netbook butas a separate digital species that wasas yet unclassified. Their main complaintsare its size (too big) and thatit isn’t a phone. They see the iPad asa good device for gamesand something they wouldwant to give to theirgrandparents who “needto have big type and like tolook at pictures.” They alsothink it would be a gooddevice for their youngersiblings since the screenis so big and they couldaccess picture books.As I listened, I wonderedwhy they are soreluctant to progress. Dothey really find it easierto learn from a textbookand more pleasant to read a novelthey can hold in their hands? Onlytime will tell.I asked my son-in-law, GregorSchauer, an Internet analyst, for histhoughts on what I am hearing. “Theyare just wrong. … just plain wrong.They don’t know because they can’teven conceptualize what is coming,”he said. In the long term he might beright, but so far the teens in my classesdon’t even want to conceptualize. Theyare happy with their iPod, especiallywith its latest features.Clearly the iPad arouses conflictingopinions, as New York Times technologycolumnist David Pogue observedwhen he wrote that “[in] 10 years ofreviewing tech products … I’ve neverseen a product as polarizing as Apple’siPad.” Pogue classified people into twogroups: the haters, who tend to betechies, and the fans, who tend to beregular people. We can now add onemore group: the skeptics, otherwiseknown as teenagers. 32 Nieman Reports | Summer 2010

Digital YouthThe Future of News: What Ninth-Grade Students ThinkEsther Wojcicki’s ninth-grade studentsat Palo Alto High School, mostof whom are 14 years old, wroteessays about “The Future of Reading,”a Fortune magazine article byJosh Quittner that they read anddiscussed in class. Excerpts fromfour of these essays follow, andthe complete texts are available future of news will be online.Newspapers will slowly begin toput more resources into onlinemedia and spend less time designingtheir latest layouts for their papernewspapers. Most people read thenews to get a better sense of whatis happening around them. Theydon’t read it for in-depth analysisof topics. Therefore, a quick scan ofa short article is normally all thatpeople desire. One of the reasonsnews will slowly move to the Web isbecause there are many news sourcesaround the globe, each with theirown viewpoints and subject preferences.Reading news online allowsreaders to read from multiple newssources and get multiple viewpointswithout having to buy five differentnewspapers. Another reason is thefact that the news changes almostevery day. People will not want tobuy a newspaper every day to findout about (normally) boring news,such as if a dictionary wants to addan extra word to their tomes or ifComcast and ESPN are in an argumentover profits, when they can justget news online for free. It is muchmore convenient to be able to readnews online. Finally, advertising ismuch more effective online, wherethe advertisements are scrollingdown next to the text. There theyare visible yet unintrusive. In newspapers,the ads are normally groupedtogether in an advertisement section.Most people simply skip over this.—Aaron ChumThe Internet Age will probably changenews stories and publications themost. News stories do not need to beread thoroughly to be enjoyed, andthe easy accessibility of the Internetmakes it ideal for breaking news.Although some printed newspapersprobably will still exist, they will be(and arguably have been) replacedby digital media. So now the realquestion is whether newspapers andnews media companies will be ableto adapt to the Internet more fully.The New York Times, desperate tosave its sinking business, has decidedto implement more pay-for-viewarticles on its Web site, and TheWall Street Journal requires onlinepayment. Still, it is too soon to seewhether people will want to payfor their news. Although it seemsunlikely, Josh Quittner in Fortunemagazine makes an interesting point:People will pay for media if theybelieve that the price is reasonable,simply because it is more convenient.Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia,echoes this idea: “Anytime I wantI can go on the Web to read thesame content for free, but it’s notreally about that. It’s about thepackage and delivery.” Basically, ifnewspapers make a stronger effortto entice readers to want to pay fora service, readers will pay. However,a certain amount of adaptation willbe necessary in order for news mediacorporations to remain relevant.—Ana CaranoAdapt. This is the power behindthe human brain. Humans havenatural instincts to adapt to theirsurroundings. Their temptationto always receive more and morecauses humans to create new anduseful ways to benefit themselves.Literature has survived many centuries,from as long ago as the timeof the Egyptians, but will the newtechnology change literature as weknow it? Many people think that ourcurrent development in technologywill kill reading, because one itemafter another is being digitized. Rangingfrom newspapers to textbooks,written text has been transferredto be accessible on computers andsoon almost everything will becomeavailable online. People today allwonder how the future of readingwill come to exist and whether bookswill survive our era of technology.The destiny of literature will changeand configure over time, mainlyaffecting newspapers, textbooks andmagazines. News will thrive furtheron the Internet, online textbooks willeventually cause personal computersto become a necessity for all students,and magazines will survive mainly inprint, despite the growing technology.—Diana ConnollyOne area that is growing rapidly isonline and digital news. Though thereis still some debate about other mediaforms, news online is becoming thenorm for many people these days.The Web is perfect for people whowant to know the basics of a story.There even seems to be a different,shorter writing style developing specificallyfor online news, as “peopletypically spend two minutes or lesson a site.” However, this isn’t to saythat printed journalism will becomeentirely dead—it all depends on thetype of article you’re looking for. Hereis the classic depth versus breadthissue, where Web sites provide lotsof articles quickly while printedworks let you actually learn aboutthe story. In the near future it seemsas if online journalism will becomeincreasingly popular for its accessibilityand speed, while print will becomemore of a leisure activity, unless youare looking for a lengthy article.—Emily Rosenthal Nieman Reports | Summer 2010 33

What’s Next for News?News Literacy Project: Students Figure Out WhatNews and Information to Trust‘Without a demand for quality journalism (on any platform) from the nextgeneration, what future will it have?’BY ALAN C. MILLER“People who are citizens in an informationage have got to learn to thinklike journalists.”—Kathy Kiely, USA Today reporterand News Literacy Project fellowThe News Literacy Project wasconceived when I discovered thatI could speak to my daughter’ssixth-grade classmates about my jobwithout embarrassing her.In 2006, I spoke to 175 studentsat Thomas W. Pyle Middle School inBethesda, Maryland about what I didas an investigative reporter for the LosAngeles Times and why journalismmattered. Julia’s hug told me that Ihad succeeded with her; the thankyounotes that followed told me thatI had connected with her classmates.Concerned with both the implosionof the news business and the challengesposed to Julia’s generation by the explosionof news and information sources,I began to think about the prospectof journalists, both active andretired, teaching students inclassrooms across the countryhow to sort fact from fictionin a digital world. Twoyears after talking with thosesixth-graders, I exchanged my29-year newspaper career fora new journalistic mission.That germ of an ideahas evolved into a nationalprogram that recently completedits first full year in theclassroom. In the 2009-10school year, the News LiteracyProject worked with 21 English,history and governmentteachers in seven middleschools and high schoolsin New York City, Bethesdaand Chicago, reaching nearly 1,500students. More than 75 journalistsspoke to students and worked withthem on projects.We provide original curriculummaterials that we adapt to the subjectbeing taught. Whatever the underlyingsubject matter, our curriculum focuseson four pillars:• Why does news matter?• Why is the First Amendment protectionof free speech so vital toAmerican democracy?• How can students know what tobelieve?• What challenges and opportunitiesdo the Internet and digital mediacreate?I hired Bob Jervis, the former headof social studies for the public schoolsin Anne Arundel County, Maryland towork with me to develop the curriculummaterials. They are built around moreAlicia C. Shepard, ombudsman for NPR, was a guest lecturerfor a News Literacy Project class in Bethesda, Maryland. Photoby Alan C. Miller.PRthan 20 engaging activities dealingwith topics as diverse as viral e-mails,Google and other search engines,Wikipedia and the news. Some can bedone by teachers, some by journalists,and some by either. Teachers choosethe ones that best fit their classes.Some teachers have done the unitduring just a few weeks; others haveembedded it in their courseworkthroughout the year. They deliver itin three phases: initial activities andthe introduction of our “word wall”of basic journalism and news literacyterms and concepts, presentations bytwo to four journalists to each class,and a culminating hands-on studentproject.We train the journalists to concentrateon our four pillars, to useanecdotes and activities to engage thestudents, and to include extensive timefor Q. and A. and discussion. Our localcoordinators work with the journaliststo plan their presentations andto connect them in advancewith the teachers.Our goal is to give youngpeople the critical thinkingskills to be better studentstoday and better-informedcitizens tomorrow. We alsowant them to appreciate qualityjournalism and to use itas the standard against whichto measure all information.One of our pilot projectswas at Walt Whitman HighSchool in Bethesda, Maryland,where we started withAdvanced Placement (AP)U.S. government classes inthe spring of 2009. This pastschool year we added Englishclasses and reached about34 Nieman Reports | Summer 2010

Digital YouthCritical Thinking About Journalism: A High School Student’s ViewBy Lucy ChenIn the spring of 2009, asI was daydreaming aboutwarm weather and thesmacking of flip-flops onthe boardwalk, I was joltedback into reality by thestart of a new unit in myAdvanced Placement U.S.government class—the NewsLiteracy Project. My teacherpromised that it would beinteresting and entertaining.I doubted him.I was wrong; it was funand fascinating. We learneda lot about topics such as theimportance of accurate newsreporting, the implicationsof the First Amendment’sprotection of free speechfor journalists and ordinarycitizens, guidelines for findingtrustworthy information,and the challenges of livingin a digital world. It wasalmost easy to pay attentionbecause the lessons directlyrelated to my life, my decisions,and my observations of theworld around me.Journalists came to speak withus, and they reinforced our learningby relating what we were studyingto their own careers. Insteadof reading a worksheet, we heardfrom Mark Halperin, a book authorand political analyst for Time, whogave us examples of how the FirstAmendment has protected his work.Pierre Thomas from ABC Newsresponded to our questions aboutthe daily responsibilities and tasksof journalists. Thomas Frank of USAToday showed us how he uses primarysource documents in reporting.Interacting with these journalistschanged how I view the process ofgathering information. Now I appreciatea lot more the hard work thatgoes into digging for news. TheseLucy Chen created a quiz to test critical thinking skillslearned in the News Literacy Project.speakers described the responsibilitythey have to report the facts accuratelyand objectively, a task that ismuch more difficult than I thoughtit was. Sometimes people won’ttalk to reporters. At other times,figuring out exactly what happenedturns out to be quite complicated.But a journalist’s job is to find theinformation they need, decipher it,and convey a story coherently.Occasionally, I had watched theevening news with my parents andread the newspaper, but I never fullyrealized the impact that news hadon my daily life. And studying newsliteracy taught me how to gather andassess my own stream of information,whether it comes from a newspaper,a TV show, or the Internet.Throughout this process, I grewmore skeptical about the facts I reador hear, especially those Ifind online, where anyonecan post information aboutanything. The guidelinespresented in the unit helpedme determine whether asource was accurate andreliable—and knowing thismade me better at selectinginformation in an everwideningsea of sources.For my final project,I created a fun quiz thatasked several questionsbased on critical thinkingskills I had learned. Thequestions I used are onesI felt would help to judgea person’s ability to selectcredible sources and reliableinformation, especially onpopular Web sites that mypeers visit frequently. Onekey aspect of my project isusing common sense andnot taking every fact onlinefor granted. If somethingsounds too good to be trueor if it sounds fake—it probably is.Based on the answers chosen, the quiztaker would be described as eithera “silly” or “savvy” news consumer.In addition to expanding my interestin journalism, the News LiteracyProject taught me lessons that areproving to be useful in my Englishclass, my interactions with people,and my daily newsgathering. And Iknew they would be helpful in myfirst job. In fact, they already are.This spring I joined the staff of ourhigh school paper. Lucy Chen will be a junior at WaltWhitman High School in Bethesda,Maryland. She works on the schoolpaper, The Black & White. Videosabout her project and those of otherstudents are online at YouTube.Nieman Reports | Summer 2010 35

What’s Next for News?625 students in the ninth, 10th and12th grades.“This is nirvana for me,” Englishteacher Marilee Roche said. “I’d giveup ‘Hamlet’ for this.”I’ve spent a lot of time in classesat Whitman. It’s been exhilarating tosee journalists connect with studentsand spark lively discussions about suchissues as identifying bias, assessingfairness, and verifying information,whether for a research paper or aninvestigative report.I’ve also learned a great deal aboutthe students’ own consumption habits,biases and views. They get a lotof information from social media orfriends. Few read newspapers (eitheronline or in print, even if their parentssubscribe to one). Many don’t followthe news at all and most aren’t awareof the watchdog role of the press ina democracy. Before exposure to theproject, few had any idea of the kindof reporting and vetting it generallytakes to get a story into print or onthe air.I’ve also observed widespreaddistrust of the mainstream media.Students often feel that all journalismis driven by bias—political, commercialor personal. The students themselvesfrequently fail to distinguish betweennews and opinion in a media culturewhere those lines are increasinglyblurred.My experience has underscored theimportance of the project’s mission.Former colleagues and others havelaunched worthy efforts to find newways to fund and deliver journalism inthe digital age. But that is not enough.Without a demand for quality journalism(on any platform) from the nextgeneration, what future will it have?So, what does a news literacy lessonlook like? Here are some snapshots:• Gwen Ifill of “The PBS NewsHour”and “Washington Week” explaininghow she handles bias: “I hope younever know what I think. I’m thereto provide you the informationso you can decide. I have to keepopen the possibility that the otherguy has a point. … I have to be anhonest broker.”• Sheryl Gay Stolberg of The New YorkTimes describing how she spent theentire previous day nailing down asingle name: that of the third gatecrasherat the infamous state dinnerthat President Barack Obama hostedfor the prime minister of India atthe White House in November.• Peter Eisler of USA Today discussingaccountability: “Never trustanybody who doesn’t admit theymake a mistake. Never trust anyonein life who doesn’t admit they makea mistake.”• James V. Grimaldi of The WashingtonPost asking students whatthey knew about a shooting thathad occurred near the school theprevious evening, then pressingthem on how they had learned thisinformation, whether they believedit and why.In one memorable presentation,Brian Rokus, a CNN producer, showedthe students video excerpts from areport he did with Christiane Amanpourabout the New York Philharmonic’strip to North Korea in 2008.The students got a glimpse of acountry without First Amendmentprotections of free speech. They sawthe minders who shadowed the tightlyrestricted American journalists. Rokusalso passed around a copy of ThePyongyang Times with its full-pagepaeans to the nation’s “Dear Leader.”He then handed out an AssociatedPress report of a speech that PresidentObama had made to Congress andasked the students to cross out everythingthey would censor if they werethe editor of The Pyongyang Timesand Obama was the “Dear Leader.”Sometimes the lessons begin evenbefore the journalist arrives. Priorto her visit, NPR ombudsman AliciaC. Shepard asked the teacher to askthe students to find out everythingthey could about her. When Shepardasked the students what they haddiscovered, one named the street onwhich she lived, another said shetaught at American University and athird said she had attended her highschool reunion. All three statementswere wrong.“You absolutely have to check outall information and make sure it’saccurate,” Shepard said. She thenshared the journalistic maxim “If yourmother says she loves you, check itout.” (We’ve created our own “CheckIt Out” button with our logo that weask teachers to present to studentswhen they complete our unit.)At times, our brand of authenticlearning literally brings journalistichistory into the classroom. Former LosAngeles Times foreign correspondentTyler Marshall recalled the emotionalscene when he covered the fall of theBerlin Wall in 1989. He then pickedup and displayed two pieces of thewall that he had carried home. Thestudents gasped.At the end of our unit, we askteachers to assign a hands-on projectto demonstrate real understanding.Options include creating a newspaper,holding a mock press conference, orpreparing an oral history.The students at Whitman created avideo, song, online game, board game,and other projects that reflected whatthey learned about news literacy—andpresented it to the class. They showedthat they absorbed the project’s lessonsand can find creative ways tocollaborate and share them with theirclassmates.As Colin Mealey and Adam Schefkind,two of the students, sang intheir final project, “Wikipedia Rap”:It’s really important to knowwhat to believe.You gotta know where and whyand what to read.Search your information andcheck it twice.’Cause getting it wrong will comeat a price. Alan C. Miller is a Pulitzer Prizewinningformer investigative reporterwith the Los Angeles Times. He is thefounder and executive director of theNews Literacy Project.36 Nieman Reports | Summer 2010

WHAT’S NEXT FOR NEWS? | New NewsNews in the Age of Now‘On the Web, skimming is no longer a means to an end but an end in itself. Thatposes a huge problem for those who report and publish the news.’BY NICHOLAS CARR“Thought will spread across the world with the rapidity of light,instantly conceived, instantly written, instantly understood. It willblanket the earth from one pole to the other—sudden, instantaneous,burning with the fervor of the soul from which it burst forth.”Those opening words would seem to describe,with the zeal typical of the moderntechno-utopian, the arrival of our new onlinemedia environment with its feeds, streams,texts and tweets. What is the Web if not sudden,instantaneous and burning with fervor? ButFrench poet and politician Alphonse de Lamartinewrote these words in 1831 to describe theemergence of the daily newspaper. Journalism,he proclaimed, would soon become “the wholeof human thought.” Books, incapable of competingwith the immediacy of morning and eveningpapers, were doomed: “Thought will not havetime to ripen, to accumulate into the form ofa book—the book will arrive too late. The onlybook possible from today is a newspaper.”Lamartine’s prediction of the imminentdemise of books didn’t pan out. Newspapersdid not take their place. But he was a prophetnonetheless. The story of media, particularly thenews media, has for the last two centuries beena story of the pursuit of ever greater immediacy.From broadsheet to telegram, radio broadcast toTV bulletin, blog to Twitter, we’ve relentlesslyratcheted up the velocity of information flow.To Shakespeare, ripeness was all. Today, ripenessdoesn’t seem to count for much. Nownessis all.The daily newspaper, the agent of immediacyin Lamartine’s day, is now immediacy’s latestvictim. It’s the newspaper that arrives too late.An enormous amount of ink, both real andvirtual, has gone into diagnosing the shift ofnews from page to screen and the travails theshift inflicts on publishers and journalists. Yetwhen we take a longer view, the greatest threatto serious journalism may not be the Web.Instead, it may be found in changes alreadyunder way in the ways people read and eventhink—changes spurred by the Web’s rapid-firemode of distributing information.It used to be thought that our brains didn’tchange much once we reached adulthood. Ourneural pathways established during childhood,Nieman Reports | Summer 2010 37

What’s Next for News?common wisdom held, remainedfixed throughout our mature years.We know now that’s not the case. Inrecent decades, neuroscientists suchas Michael Merzenich and Eric Kandelhave shown that the adult brainis, as Merzenich puts it, “massivelyplastic.” The synaptic connectionsbetween our neurons are constantlyreweaving themselves in response toenvironmental and cultural shifts,including the adoption of new informationtechnologies. When we cometo rely on a new medium for finding,storing, and sharing information,Merzenich explains, we end up with“different brains.”Reading: Print to WebFor 500 years the medium ofprint has been training us to payattention. The genius of a page ofprinted text is that nothing else isgoing on. The page shields us fromthe distractions that bombard usand break our concentration. Theprinted word allows us to “loseourselves,” as we’ve come to say, ina book, a magazine essay, or a longnewspaper article. Print journalism,at least in its more serious forms,has shaped itself to the attentivereader. The layout of a paper makesit easy to skim headlines, but italso assumes that the skimmingis a means to an end, a way todiscover stories that merit deeperreading and study. A newspaperallows us to scan and browse; italso encourages us to slow down.The Web promulgates a verydifferent mode of reading andthinking. Far from shielding usfrom distractions, it inundates us withthem. When we turn on our computersand log on to the Net, we areimmediately flung into what the writerCory Doctorow calls an “ecosystem ofinterruption technologies.” The welterof online information, messages, andother stimuli plays, in particular, toour native bias to “vastly overvaluewhat happens to us right now,” asChristopher Chabris, a psychologyprofessor at Union College, wrotein The Wall Street Journal. We rushtoward the new even when we knowthat “the new is more often trivialthan essential.”Unlike the printed page, the Webnever encourages us to slow down.And the more we practice this hurried,distracted mode of informationgathering, the more deeply it becomesingrained in our mental habits—inthe very ways our neurons connect.At the same time, we begin to loseour ability to sustain our attention,to think or read about one thing formore than a few moments. A StanfordUniversity study published last yearshowed that people who engage inNicholas Carr’s cover story provoked extensivedebate in 2008.a lot of media multitasking not onlysacrifice their capacity for concentrationbut also become less able todistinguish important informationfrom unimportant information. Theybecome “suckers for irrelevancy,” asone of the researchers, Clifford Nass,put it. [See Nass’s article on page 11.]Everything starts to blur together.On the Web, skimming is no longera means to an end but an end in itself.That poses a huge problem for thosewho report and publish the news. Toappreciate variations in the quality ofjournalism, a person has to be attentive,to be able to read and think deeply. Tothe skimmer, all stories look the sameand are worth the same. The newsbecomes a fungible commodity, andthe lowest-cost provider wins the day.The news organization committed toquality becomes a niche player, fatedto watch its niche continue to shrink.The fervor of nowness displaces thethoughtfulness of ripeness.There’s little chance that technologywill reverse course. With the growingpopularity of instant social mediaservices like Facebook and Twitter,the Web is rapidly moving awayfrom “the page” as the governingmetaphor for the presentation ofinformation. In its place we have“the stream,” a fast-moving, evershiftingflow of bite-sized updatesand messages. Everything we’veseen in the development of the Netand, indeed, in the developmentof mass media indicates that thevelocity of information will onlyincrease in the future.If serious journalism is going tosurvive as something more than aproduct for a small and shrinkingelite, news organizations will needto do more than simply adapt to theNet. They’re going to have to be acounterweight to the Net. They’regoing to have to find creative waysto encourage and reward readersfor slowing down and engaging indeep, undistracted modes of readingand thinking. They’re going to haveto teach people to pay attentionagain. That’s easier said than done,of course—and I confess that I haveno silver bullet—but the alternativeis continued decline, both economicand intellectual. Nicholas Carr writes extensivelyabout the social, cultural andeconomic implications of technology.His latest book, “The Shallows:What the Internet Is Doing to OurBrains,” was published in June byW.W. Norton. He is also the authorof “Does IT Matter?” and “The BigSwitch: Rewiring the World, fromEdison to Google.”38 Nieman Reports | Summer 2010

New NewsThere’s More to Being a Journalist Than Hitting the‘Publish’ ButtonFor better or worse, the Internet is ‘biased to the amateur and to the immediate.’BY DOUGLAS RUSHKOFFFirst they came for the musicians,and I did not speak out—becauseI am not a musician. Then theycame for the filmmakers, and I didnot speak out—because I am not afilmmaker. Then they came for thejournalists, and there was no one leftto speak out for us.In a media universe that for somany decades, even centuries, seemedstacked against the amateur, theInternet has made a revolutionaryimpact. Previously, the only law ofphysics that seemed to apply to thetop-down, corporate-driven mediaspace was that of gravity. King GeorgeII, William Randolph Hearst, or evenRupert Murdoch would decide what thepublic should believe and then printthat version of reality. And inventionsfrom the printing press to radio, whichonce seemed to be returning mediato the people’s hands, were quicklymonopolized by the powers that be.Renaissance kings burned unauthorizedprinting shops, and the FederalCommunications Commission tiltedthe radio spectrum to corporate control.Our mainstream media seemedpermanently biased toward those inpower as well as toward whatever versionof history they wished to recordfor posterity.But at least at first glance the Internetseems to be different. It is a biasedmedium, to be sure, but biased to theamateur and to the immediate—as ifto change some essential balance ofpower. Indeed, the Web so overwhelminglytilts toward the immediate asto render notions of historicity andpermanence obsolete. Even Googleis rapidly converting to live search—alittle list of not the most significant,but the most recent results for anyquery term. Likewise, our blog postsand tweets are increasingly biased notjust toward brevity but immediacy—aconstant flow, as if it is just humanityexpressing itself.And this notion of writing andthoughts just pouring out of us isalso the premise for the new amateurjournalism. It is nonprofessional inboth intent and content—as close towhat its writers believe is an unfiltered,pure gestalt of observation andself-expression. As if the time takento actually reflect or consider is itselfa drawback—or at the very least adisadvantage to whoever wants to becredited with starting a Twitter thread(as if anyone keeps track). Of coursewriting—whether considered or not—ismost definitely never a direct feed fromthe heart or soul but rather the useof an abstract symbol system, highlyprocessed by the brain and no moregestalt than solving a math equation.The real difference between the Netand traditional writing is the barrierto entry. Before computers, journalistshad to use typewriters—with no cut/copy/paste functionality. Typewrittenarticles and manuscripts couldn’t becorrected—they had to be rewrittenfrom scratch. Almost no one enjoyedthis process, which actively discouragedall but the truly dedicated fromattempting to write professionally.Now not only is writing much easier,but distribution is automatic. Writingsomething in an online environmentmeans being distributed from themoment one hits “publish.” It’s not amatter of how many people actuallyread the piece; it’s a matter of howmany could.Which gets to the heart of themisconception leading to the demiseof professional journalism: Peoplebelieve their blog posts and tweetsmay as well be interchangeable withthose of the professional journalistswith whom they are now competingfor attention. Dozens of times nowI have fielded these same questionsafter my lectures—What makes somenewspaper columnist’s writing anymore important than their blog? Withcameras and keyboards in phones thesedays, why do we even need reporters?Won’t someone see and report?What Makes a Journalist?What these honest questions don’ttake into account is that a professionaljournalist isn’t just someonewho has access to the newswires, orat least it shouldn’t be. A professionalnewsperson is someone who is notonly trained to pursue a story anddeconstruct propaganda, but someonewho has been paid to spend the timeand energy required to do so effectively.Corporations and governments alikespend hundreds of millions of dollarseach year on their public relations andcommunications strategies. They hireprofessionals to tell or, more often,obfuscate their stories. Without a crewof equally qualified—if not equallyfunded—professionals to analyze andchallenge these agencies’ fictions, weare defenseless against them.And thus, we end up in the sameplace we were before—only worse,because now we believe we own andcontrol the media that has actuallyowned and controlled us all along.First off, our misguided mediarevolutionaries are mistaking accessto the tools for competency with theskills. Just because a kid now enjoysthe typing skill and distribution networkonce exclusive to a professionaljournalist doesn’t mean he knows howto research, report or write. It’s asif a teenager who has played GuitarHero got his hands on a real Strato-Nieman Reports | Summer 2010 39

What’s Next for News?caster—and thinks he’s ready for anarena show.Worse than the enthusiastic amateurizationof writing and journalism isthat the very same kinds of companiesare making the same money off thiswriting—simply by different means.Value is still being extracted fromeveryone who writes for free—whetherit’s me writing this piece or a bloggerwriting his. It’s simply not being passeddown anymore. Google still profits offthe ads accompanying every searchfor this article. Likewise, every “free”video by an amateur requires thatamateur to buy a camera, a videocapablelaptop, editing software, and abroadband connection through whichto upload the completed piece ontoGoogle-owned YouTube, along withcertain rights.Value is still being extracted fromthe work—it’s just being taken from adifferent place in the production cycleand not passed down to the writersor journalists themselves. Those ofus who do write for a living are toldthe free labor will garner us exposurenecessary to get paid for somethingelse we do—like talks or television.Of course the people hiring us to dothose appearances believe they shouldget us for free as well since they’republicizing our writing.Worst of all, those of us still in aposition to say something about any ofthis are labeled elitists or Luddites—asif we are the ones attempting to repressthe natural evolution of culture. Rather,it’s the same old spectacle working itsmagic through a now-decentralizedmedia space. The results—ignorance,anger, and anti-elitism—are the same.The pen may be a mightier toolthan the sword, but not when we’reusing it to lobotomize ourselves. Douglas Rushkoff is the author of10 books on new media and popularculture, a technology columnistfor The Daily Beast, media studiesteacher, and documentarian. Earlierthis year as a correspondent for theFrontline TV/Web project “DigitalNation,” he explored what it meansto be human in a digital world.Categorizing What Works—So We Can Apply ThoseLessons to Future EndeavorsAs journalism heads into digital territory, an exploration of online news sitesreveals 100 that offer promising pathways.BY MICHELE MCLELLAN“[The] death of a huge tree is not thedeath of a forest … The ecosystem willcontinue and if any gaps exist, peoplewill move in to fill them.”Eric Newton, who is now vicepresident for the journalismprogram at the John S. andJames L. Knight Foundation, saidthese words more than a decade agowhen the sale of the Examiner foretoldits demise. What he said is apt todayas we watch tall trees of old growthjournalism wither and even die.As this happens, it is crucial that wemark what is at risk and find ways tosupport them, such as labor-intensivewatchdog journalism and long-formnarrative, each of which binds usacross differences.But it is equally important for us, asjournalists, to mark the shortcomingsof late 20th century journalism: ourlack of inclusiveness, the banality of alot of what we produced, our significantloss of credibility and relevance. Wefailed to engage our communities, andas long as the ad dollars flowed wedidn’t feel much pressure to do so.The Web changes what we do—andour relationships. We can now interactlocally and globally in ways we nevercould in old growth newsrooms.Given these possibilities, I am turningmore of my attention from tall treenewsrooms, where I spent nearly 30years, to the emerging news organizationsI fondly call the “sprouts.”These sprouts are part of our chaotic,dynamic news ecosystem today. Manywon’t survive, but some will. Mostwon’t be very impressive, at least atfirst, as Clay Shirky observed in the2009 commentary he published onthe Web, “Newspapers and Thinkingthe Unthinkable’’:Nothing will work, but everythingmight. Now is the timefor experiments, lots and lotsof experiments, each of whichwill seem as minor at launch asCraigslist did, as Wikipedia did,as octavo volumes did.There is no telling which sproutswill flourish and which will die. Butit’s probably far too pessimistic tosay flatly that none of today’s sproutswill ever replace any of our trees. I’vebeen spending quite a bit of time withthe sprouts. I advise and coach communitynews startups for the KnightFoundation’s Community InformationChallenge. At Knight Digital MediaCenter, I develop training programsfor news leaders—broadly defined toinclude fledgling entrepreneurs andsmall nonprofits along with newsroomand corporate executives.40 Nieman Reports | Summer 2010

New NewsAs a recent fellow at the ReynoldsJournalism Institute (RJI) atthe University of Missouri Schoolof Journalism, I developed a list ofpromising online news sites. To dothis, my research partner, AdamMaksl, a journalism doctoral student,and I reviewed more than 1,000 sitesto come up with our list of just over100 promising sites that seem to begetting traction in developing contentand revenue streams. Our criteria forinclusion focused on the productionof original news in ways that attemptto be fair and transparent. And theseWeb sites had to demonstrate effort infinding a sustainable revenue model.Taking this digital journey helpedus to better understand the emerginglandscape as well as what it will taketo support the new news organizations.And it organized our thinkingto the point where we came up withcategories for the various approacheswe found. Here are those listings—withdescriptions we developed:• New Traditionals: These sites aredominated by original contentproduced by professional journalists.While the newsroom staff maybe smaller than in a traditionalnewspaper newsroom, these sitestend to have more journalists onstaff than community or microlocalsites. Many are embracing digitalconnectivity with their users, buttraditional journalism is their breadand butter. Most of these sites, suchas the Texas Tribune and Voice ofSan Diego, started with grant fundingand are searching for a viablerevenue model, perhaps one thatmixes memberships, grants, donations,sponsorships, syndication andadvertising. 1• Community: These sites, such asOakland Local, often rely on professionaljournalists but they tendto be bootstrappers who also focuson community building—activelyseeking user feedback and content,writing in a conversational tone,and fostering civic engagement withpractices such as voting, calls toaction, and partnerships with localorganizations and activists.• Microlocal: Sometimes called“hyperlocal,” these sites providehighly granular news of a neighborhoodor town. They may have a tinystaff—one or two people plus internsor citizen contributors—usually supportedby highly local advertising.Examples are The Rapidian, CapitolHill Seattle Blog, and My Ballard.• Niche: These sites, such as Seattle/LocalHealthGuide and FresnoFamous, focus tightly on topicssuch as restaurants and entertainment,health and medicalnews, environmental or politicalcoverage, consumer and shoppinginformation. Revenue may comefrom advertising, subscriptions orsyndicating content.Though our primary focus fallson these four categories, they do not1Additional examples of New Traditionals can be found in the Spring 2009 issue ofNieman Reports at Oakland (Calif.) Local and My Ballard, which covers a neighborhood of Seattle, are among thepromising online local news entities identified in McLellan’s and Maksl’s study of 1,000 sites.Nieman Reports | Summer 2010 41

What’s Next for News?represent the entire universe of localnews online. Additional categoriesinclude mini sites, which tend to beidiosyncratic in the selection of storiesthey cover and not highly aggressive infinding revenue; local news systems,which are highly local, low-cost sitesthat are created with a regional ornational template, often by a corporation(AOL’s Patch, for example); andaggregators who curate and link toother sources.After the List: Next StepsAt RJI, we’re completing a telephonesurvey of the 100 online publishers onour list. The 60 online publishers whohave responded to date say producingoriginal news and engaging communityare their top priorities.Here is how a couple of onlinepublishers describe their mission:• We promote discussion and conversationof these topics as part of ourmission. As far as taking an activistrole, that’s not what we’re doing.We are looking to spur discussionas compared to promoting our sideof a particular issue.• We’re not advocates so we tend tofocus on the information side morethan what people are doing with theinformation. We do care what peopleare doing with the information, butour site is not designed to revolvearound it. We provide a forum forour readers either to post stories ormake comments on other stories. Itis kind of like a town square.Out of our research, we are findingsome common ground. Four areasworth mentioning are:• Nearly half of the sites rely on paidstaff, with students and internsas a secondary source of content.Volunteers or user uploads arewidely viewed as unreliable sourcesof content.• Online community publishers citecomments and social network integrationas the most effective waysto engage users.• Journalists are working with communitymembers to create newssites. No more bloggers vs. oldmedia. It’s all about partnershipsand networks.• Most are struggling with sustainabilityand developing revenuesources that include advertising,memberships, syndication, grantsand donations. Charging for accessis rarely seen as an option.We expect to post detailed surveyresults in late June. Find us Michele McLellan, a 2002 NiemanFellow, was a 2009-2010 fellow atthe Reynolds Journalism Institute atthe Missouri School of Journalism.She writes the Leadership 3.0 blogfor the Knight Digital Media Center.Establishing a Digital Value for Watchdog Reporting‘Our impulse as digital journalists is to innovate—and this means finding storiesthat aren’t being covered by other news media in Baltimore and doing what wecan to illuminate them in ways that propel people to act.’BY STEPHEN JANISMy cell phone rang at roughly11 p.m.“Turn on the television,”said a man I’ll call Michael, an employeeof the Baltimore City Department ofPublic Works (DPW). “That’s Dennis!They arrested Dennis!”I didn’t know who Dennis was, butMichael doesn’t make late-night callsto pass along trivial information. Forseveral years he had alerted me to actsof malfeasance inside the city agencyresponsible for everything from fillingpotholes to managing the Baltimoreregion’s water supply.“That’s him,” he said. “He worksfor the department; that’s DennisMcLaughlin, man.”On the screen flashed a mug shotof a heavyset bald man, his roundedface punctuated by a droplet-sizedgoatee. Indeed, a Dennis McLaughlinhad been arrested for impersonatinga police officer. Using a phony badgeand a dashboard-mounted beacon, hehad pulled over two young women inBaltimore County, placed one underarrest, and then began fondling her.The victim managed to escape. Througha partial reading of his license plate,police tracked him down and chargedhim with a number of offenses, includingimpersonating a police officer, falseimprisonment, and assault.On the Richter scale of newsworthiness,impersonating a police officer ismildly catastrophic. But if McLaughlinwere a city employee, the story was severaldegrees more enticing, especiallyto my City Hall-centric audience. As Ichecked through the numerous newsstories about his arrest (and othermisdeeds), I found not a single mentionof his city job. My curiosity piqued,I decided to dig a little deeper into42 Nieman Reports | Summer 2010

New NewsMcLaughlin’s background, promptedin part by my source, who said thatMcLaughlin had taken an eight-monthleave of absence recently for a herniaoperation, an absence rumored not tobe related to a medical issue at all.Using a list of city employees I’dobtained while working on a storydocumenting some significant cityspending on employee overtime, Ifound a Dennis McLaughlin listed onthe city’s 2008 payroll. According tothese records, McLaughlin had earneda salary of roughly $26,000, including$4,508 in overtime. It was not thefull annual salary for his position,but more than one would earn withextended leave.A quick check of his criminal recordrevealed something even more intriguing:McLaughlin had been sentenced to18 months in prison in 2007, meaningit was possible that he was in jail at thetime that city payroll records indicatedhe was earning a salary of $21,000 ayear, plus $4,500 in overtime.How Could This Be Possible?related to criminal convictions andthe employment of sex offenders injobs that bring them into contact withthe public.This was not the first time thatour Web site, dedicated to watchdogjournalism, broke a fairly major story.Our small staff regularly breaks stories,including a recent series on the citypension board’s taking luxury junkets.2009. The stories were tracked asthey moved through various newsoutlets and into the public arena.The idea was, according to PEJ, “tosee how the ecosystem moved, howinformation traveled from one sectorto another, who initiated the newsand who was first to transmit andframe the narratives that the rest ofthe media followed.”With a bit of digging, helped by mysource and David Scott, the directorof public works, I determined thatMcLaughlin was not only on the citypayroll while in jail, but collected sickpay while serving an eight-month sentencefor sexually abusing a minor. Italso turned out that McLaughlin hadhelp: someone had submitted fake leaveslips, signed by a doctor stating thathe was receiving medical attention.These discoveries and quite a bitmore—for example, DPW supervisorshad threatened to fire an employeewho discovered that McLaughlin wason the state’s Sex Offender Registry—were published in a series of storieson Investigative Voice, the Web sitewhere I work as a senior reporter andcontent director. Baltimore’s inspectorgeneral opened a departmentwideprobe, and the city solicitor ordered acitywide review of personnel policiesInvestigative Voice plays a watchdog role in its coverage of Baltimore city government, suchas the story it broke about a municipal worker who was on the city payroll while in prison.The Digital DifferenceOther than our partners at WBFF, theBaltimore Fox affiliate, no other newsorganization in Baltimore coveredthe McLaughlin case or the pensionboard’s antics. I mention this absenceof a media chorus because about thesame time we were publishing theMcLaughlin story, the Pew ResearchCenter’s Project for Excellence inJournalism (PEJ) published a studyon Baltimore media, which concludedthat Investigative Voice (lumped in withother “new media” news outlets) was allbut irrelevant to the city’s news flow. 1The PEJ study focused on sixhigh-profile stories from one weekof Baltimore’s news coverage in JulyHere are some of PEJ’s conclusions:• Among the six major news threadsstudied—which included storiesabout city budgets, crime, publicbuses, and the sale of a localtheater—83 percent of storiesconveyed no new information. Ofthe 17 percent that contained newinformation, nearly all came fromtraditional media either in print oronline.• General interest newspapers includingThe (Baltimore) Sun produced48 percent of those stories and otherprint publications, namely businessand law newspapers, producedanother 13 percent.• Online outlets or broadcast news1“How News Happens: A Study of the News Ecosystem of One American City,” a look atBaltimore media by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, canbe found at Reports | Summer 2010 43

What’s Next for News?provided very little original reportingor new information.• In two cases new media brokenews. In one, the police Twitterfeed broke a story, an example ofwhat is traditionally a newsmakerbreaking news directly to the publicrather than through the press. Inthe other, a local blog picked upa story that the mainstream pressnearly missed entirely. It involveda plan by the state to put listeningdevices on buses to deter crime.A newspaper reporter noticed theblog post, then reported on thestory, which led the state to dropthe plan.Because of the governmental watchdogreporting we do at InvestigativeVoice, I was distressed by the impliedassumption in the study that thepurpose of a Web site like ours is toreplicate what our print brethren isdoing.Yet folks at Investigative Voice andother Web sites like ours are rethinkinghow to keep a watchful eye oncity government agencies, personnel,policies and practices in a ways thatwill have impact. The old assumptionis not our starting point.Had the PEJ researchers asked, Iwould have explained that our goalisn’t to duplicate or follow storiesthat are already widely reported. Myreporting partners—Regina Holmes,a colleague from the now-defunctBaltimore Examiner, and former Sunreporter Alan Z. Forman—do not workseven days a week for minuscule payto proffer a watered-down version ofa legacy paper or TV news.Our impulse as digital journalists isto innovate—and this means findingstories that aren’t being covered byother news media in Baltimore anddoing what we can to illuminate themin ways that propel people to act. Whilewe take full advantage of our digitalplatform, we adamantly uphold thebasic tenets of investigative journalism.What set us apart, however, are ourhomepage’s outsized graphics and ourinvestigative mission; in both, we aimfor a different model of social influencewithin the community.‘Social Model’ of InvestigativeJournalismWhat we call our “social model” ofinvestigative journalism is showingsigns that it’s working for us—andreaders. And what we’ve learned intrying this approach can shed lighton the future of newsgathering andits distribution in the digital domain.At Johns Hopkins University, Itaught a course on the disassemblingof the music business that was precipitatedby the birth of the file sharing.This collapse is similar in ways to theeconomic unraveling of journalismtoday. We studied a concept called“object relation” that refers to theset of cultural relationships, in thiscase, stemming from the distributionof music. Put simply, the technology—thecompact disc—served as agateway of sorts, forming an implicitcultural contract that organized theartist, listener and promoter arounda process of disseminating new musicto a receptive audience.In the newsgathering business,the object relation is, of course, thenewspaper. To a certain extent, thenewspaper created a loose barrierto entry, a quasi-monopoly on theconveyance of print news. The paperalso established itself as an aggregatorof information and a portal forcommunity events—qualities thatthe World Wide Web challenged. Butthe newspaper and its limited spacealso imposed a de facto discipline, aparsing of choices and a distinction ofpurpose that heightened the relevancyof print reporting.The mantra of the Web is aboutcapturing eyeballs by embellishingsites with bells and whistles to drawin multitudes of visitors. This strategyis premised on the idea that a hugeaudience brings in advertising dollars,which is a relic of old media thinking.In practice, this approach translatesinto ad revenues that turn out to beutterly worthless in relation to the costof creating the content that would lurean adequate audience. For example, offers 30 cents per1,000 impressions. Do the math andeven a daily audience of one millionpage views translates into $300 for asingle ad per day—hardly enough torun a newsroom that would be capableof attracting a million readers, evenwith multiple ads placed throughoutthe site.This is why Investigative Voicehas constructed a different approachrevolving around a well-defined andarticulated expectation about the storieswe cover and aggressive graphicsto display them. We parse, organizeand emphasize with the idea that theworthiness of our efforts will be measuredby the influence and relevanceof our reporting. Thus, if we return tothe idea of object relation, our digitalapproach is constructed on concisionand appearance.The Impact of ReportingAfter Investigative Voice’s reportingon the McLaughlin story highlighteddeficiencies in the city’s handling ofmunicipal employees on sick leave whoare facing criminal charges, the InspectorGeneral’s (IG) office launched aprobe. The IG’s 17-page report onthe investigation was handed overto prosecutors for possible criminalcharges. The report revealed thatMcLaughlin fraudulently received$12,700 in sick pay while in jail. Inresponse, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake closed a loophole in the cityemployee manual when she signedan executive order requiring all cityemployees to inform their supervisorswhen they are arrested. Failure to doso may result in termination.Our consistent focus on this scandal,coupled with bold, eye-catchingtwo-word headlines (white words setagainst a black background), provocativesubheads, and information-ladencaptions reinforced our emphasis onwatchdog reporting and lent authorityto the investigation as it unfolded onour Web site. In some ways, our digitalapproach harkens back to the heydayof newspapers in the early 1900’swhen boys hawking papers shoutedout headlines designed to catch theattention of passers-by.Economically, this translates intoan ability to market our influence44 Nieman Reports | Summer 2010

New Newswith readers and advertisers in aqualitative rather than a quantitativeway; impact and influence triumphover eyeballs and clicks. By breakingwatchdog news and deliveringinvestigative reporting, our relevanceto those who live in Baltimore hasbecome the value we sell to advertisers.As our relevance increases, so toodoes our ability to engage advertisersand attract readers in ways that willmake our fiscal survival possible. (Ofcourse, as I mentioned, our staff issmall, our hours long, and let me addhere that our compensation is lean.)It is building this social infrastructure—andcreating distinctly newrelationships with readers—that is keyto acclimating people to new ways ofconsuming news. Similarly, the carvingout of a distinctive digital spaceand mission will be what creates thepath to viability for those of us in thebusiness of reporting the news. Ourstories have to be relevant to readersso that what we produce gets embeddedinto their daily lives one link at atime. Then it’s up to them to decide ifwe’ve earned their trust to the extentthat our survival is something theycare about—and care about enoughto see that it happens. Stephen Janis is a senior reporterand content director of InvestigativeVoice (,a Web site dedicated to investigativereporting about government in thecity of Baltimore. He will be teachingjournalism at Towson Universitythis fall.A Message for Journalists: It’s Time to Flex OldMuscles in New Ways‘We’ll learn by trying new ways of doing what we’ve done with news, by puttingourselves visibly in the social media mix, and by using the emerging tools ofdaily communication in all aspects of our work.’BY KEN DOCTORIn the early 1990’s, I became managingeditor of Saint Paul, Minnesota’sPioneer Press, a proud KnightRidder newspaper locked in mortaldaily combat with Minneapolis’s StarTribune, just across the river. I recallwell the day when I had to make myfirst tough calls—the news we weregoing to place prominently on PageOne and the news we weren’t. I feltan odd mix of exhilaration and fear.I was the final arbiter of whatwould greet several hundred thousandpeople who picked up the paper eachmorning. What if I chose wrong? SoI focused on choosing right, and withthat confidence grew the assumedpower and nonchalant arrogance ofthe gatekeeper. That’s what top editorswere, and still are, though their poweris diminishing each day by weakeningprint circulation and an odd feelingof being on the losing side in history’smarch into digital journalism.In this hybrid era of straddling printand digital publishing, the role of thegatekeeper has markedly morphed.It’s shifted from “us” to “them,” but“them” includes a lowercase versionof “us,” too. Gatekeeping is now acollective pursuit; we’ve become ourown and each other’s editors. I pickedthis idea to be the lead trend in mybook “Newsonomics: Twelve NewTrends That Will Shape the News YouGet,” published earlier this year by St.Martin’s Press. I called the chapter“In the Age of Darwinian Content,You Are Your Own Editor,” and sinceI named it I’ve never regretted givingit top billing.Consider recent supportingevidence:• The Pew Research Center’s Projectfor Excellence in Journalism and thecenter’s Internet & American LifeProject reported that 75 percentof online news consumers in theUnited States get news forwardedthrough e-mail and posts on socialsites. Fifty-two percent share linksto news stories via social media.Nieman Reports | Summer 2010 45

What’s Next for News?• Research I conducted in July 2009with Outsell, a research firm focusedon the publishing industry, showedthat of those Americans who usesocial sites, some 49 percent saidthey used Facebook for news. Twentypercent used Twitter.• Those little URLs, shortenedfor Twitter, are now driving morethan two billion visits a month.• My own anecdotal research talkingto news companies shows that socialsites are the fastest-growing sourceof traffic to news sites, “referrers,” inWeb lingo. The Wall Street Journalsays it’s getting about 7 percentof its traffic from social sites. Thephenomenon, like digital media, isglobal: Mexico City’s El Universaltells me social sites drive more than15 percent of traffic.Social Trumps NewsTwitter for news? Facebook for news?Just as we were getting used to saying“Google News”—remember howodd that sounded five years ago?—wefind ourselves in the midst of a newrevolution. Now we have to figureout—and act on—the socialization ofnews. With social media, the serendipitythat came with turning pagesand suddenly discovering a gem of astory that an editor put there happensin new ways. We’re re-creating suchmoments ourselves, each of us—individuallyand collectively—as we toutstories and posts to each other. Afriend e-mails us a story; we mightread it, time permitting. We get thesame story from three people, andchances are good that we’ll carve outtime to take a look.It’s a different notion of serendipity,and for some people, it doesn’t equate,but it is what it is in this digital space.And here’s the difference: With socialmedia the chances are good that likemindedfriends—not to be confusedwith the strangers who were newseditors—recommend a story becausethey believe you’ll be drawn to eitherits topic or argument.We now see the early experimentsto harness this new power. CNN, TheWashington Post, and ABC News areturning the Facebook phenomenonto their advantage. Using Facebook’sextensions, these sites’ readers can seewhat stories their networks of friendslike—and thereby recommend. It’s anew serendipity—and one that leveragesthe digital world as it works, notas some journalists wish it would.We’re experiencing a loose democratizationof gatekeeping—reinventedon the fly and in the ungainly waystypical of the digital revolution—andtherefore we should expect suchinnovations to have legs. In December2009, Nielsen Company reported thatthe average American spent six hoursand nine minutes on social sites, up143 percent in just a year.It’s About MeIs this about Facebook? No, I thinkit’s about something near and dear toall of us: me. Some might recall thatback in the ’90s news sites activelypromoted “make us your homepage”buttons in the (misguided, it seems)belief that online news sites wouldbe a center of digital readers’ lives, asthe daily newspaper had long been.Instead, as things turned out, digitalplaces like Facebook organize our livesaround, well, us.Stated simply: I am the newhomepage. Stuff gets to our pagesin all kinds of ways, including thesemi-serendipitous sharing. All ofthis, while interesting, might be justprologue. News aggregation is youngon Twitter or Facebook, and even onthe old folks, Google and Yahoo!. Veryfirst-generation, very primitive, anddone by amateurs for amateurs, largely.So a looming question is who willemerge to lead the younger generationsin bringing content together? Creatinghybrid products? Weaving news ontosocial platforms? Socializing on a newsplatform? Other yet-to-be envisionediterations?Journalists ought to be among thosewho embrace these challenges—makethem part of what they think aboutand do every day, and have theirexperimentation go beyond their ownparticipation as individuals in thissocial sphere. We’ll learn by tryingnew ways of doing what we’ve donewith news, by putting ourselves visiblyin the social media mix, andby using the emerging tools of dailycommunication in all aspects of ourwork. It’s not enough to watch fromthe sidelines or even to try to mimicwhat kids do.News in Social MediaThe social dynamics of news willundoubtedly lead us into unchartedwaters. And there will be businessimplications yet unimagined, somethat look less rosy for our professionthan others. So we are faced with howwe can best prepare for inevitableadjustments as we think about howactivities related to news reportingand storytelling can benefit and howwe can strategize wisely about waysto deliver the news.From the perspective of business, it’slikely we will soon see the news industrypercolate with ideas about socialmedia optimization, just as searchengine optimization grew greatly asa business proposition during the lastdecade. Issues to think about: How dowe write headlines with the dynamicsof social media in mind? What’s thebest way to encourage retweets? Howdo we utilize the “liking” strategiesthat showed up recently on Facebook?In some news organizations, editorsare leading the way as they encourage—in some cases, even mandate—thatreporters and writers promote theirstories (and themselves) routinelythrough social media. And this makessense; experimentation and testing isnow happening so it’s important forjournalists to carry their principlesinto this social media environment,even as they keep a watchful eye outfor useful practices.The challenge for editors goesbeyond their participation and exhortingtheir charges to do the same.Return, for a moment, to considerthe editor’s customary role as gatekeeper—andthink about the mostvalued attribute of the job. It went byvarious names and phrases—judgment,news sense, news judgment—but at itscore, the job was about these things46 Nieman Reports | Summer 2010

New News(and more): What makes a good story?When and how to push a reporter totake a story deeper? When to publishit? When to wait? Where to place it?Today, things work differently. Theattitude—as well as the mechanics—forattracting readers has to change. It’sno longer “take my judgment on theday’s news or good luck finding anotherlocal daily.” And even though readersare no longer captive to what an editordecides, people still want some helpwhen it comes to deciding how andwhere to look for the news they value.Go ahead and call it gatekeeping, butthink of it with a different slant whenit comes to flexing those well-honednews judgment muscles. These dayseditors have a much bigger bank ofnews and features on which to draw.It’s not just what staff reporters andwire copy offers; it’s the entire Webof content. Some editors connect—andcollaborate—with local bloggers andhyperlocal Web sites. Others go insearch of health or travel or financialnews to fill holes in—or supplement—their coverage. These largely exist asmodules of other people’s contentfloating in a sea of the news site’sown content.The natural and next step wouldbe smart aggregation. This meansfiguring out how to guide visitors tothe best content—so here’s anotherplace where judgment comes in. Itcan be organized—with social mediasensibilities in mind—by locality ortopic, by its social currency or itsperceived value as news. Offer packagesof content, some produced by yournews organization, some by others.Help visitors find them, then makeit easy, as many sites already do, toshare what they find on Facebook orwhatever popular social media sitecomes along.It comes down to this: Use oldmuscles, but flex them in new ways.Tweet, yes, and post on Facebook walls,but perhaps with different messagestailored to each social venue. Keepthose old world skills in mind—andyes, hold onto your news judgment,while adapting to the digital demandsof readers. Ken Doctor is the author of “Newsonomics:Twelve New Trends ThatWill Shape the News You Get,”published by St. Martin’s Press, anda news industry analyst for Outsell,a global research and advisory firm.On his Web site,,he tracks the transformation of thenews media, focusing on changingbusiness models and the journalismcreated.Twitter: Can It Be a Reliable Source of News?‘I came to understand that there is a science to this quest for creating the rightnetwork. It’s an empirical process, one that requires lots of time and thoughtand effort.’BY JANIC TREMBLAYIn February, five journalists fromFrench-speaking public radio stationsisolated themselves in a farmhouse insouthern France to conduct an experiment.For five days they would stayinformed by using only their socialnetworks. Their ground rules forbidthem to follow the feeds and tweetsof any news media; to be informed,they had to rely solely on the tweetsor Facebook offerings of individualsor organizations such as nonprofits,government agencies, or educationalinstitutions. One of the secluded journalistswas reporter Janic Tremblay,who works at Radio-Canada. In thisarticle, he describes the experience andthe lessons he brought back to his work.“News will find you wherever youare.” That’s what a lot of peoplethink now that the Internet isin its third revolution—as the alwayson, always available Web. Thanks toFacebook, Twitter and the smartphone,we expect that we will be informedin real time on just about any topic.We depend on family members, closefriends, and those who are part ofour digital networks to act as reporters,alerting us when something theyfeel is important has happened or ishappening. Within our chosen digitalcommunity, we are always connected,always informed. At least, that’s howthe story goes.But is this how it actually happens?What kinds of information emergethrough social networks? What dopeople talk about after traditional newsmedia sources have been removed?Which news do they tweet? Or retweet?And do social networks help us findvaluable information?We humbly set out with these questions—andothers—in mind, hopingwe’d find a way to measure, thoughnot in any scientific way, the valueour social networks held for us asjournalists. We set some rules, lockedthe door of our home in Saint-Cyprien,and turned our full attention to theWeb. From there, many lessons—mostdiscovered through Twitter—flowedmy way:Nieman Reports | Summer 2010 47

What’s Next for News?• Twitter can be like radar: On ourfirst night in France, I went onlineand came across tweets from a manwho had been arrested during ademonstration in Moscow earlierthat day. He had been jailed formany hours and was tweeting aboutwhat was happening. I did not knowhim. Clearly we lived in differentuniverses, but it turned out thata member of his social network isalso part of mine. When my socialnetworking friend retweeted hisposts, he showed up in my Twitterfeed, and there we were—connected,with me in a French farmhouseand he in jail in Moscow. And soI tweeted him directly, then latercontacted him by phone. He spokeFrench very well, an importantdetail for a French-speaking radioreporter. He told me about his arrestand the condition of his detention,and so I had a good story. With thetraditional tools of journalists, theodds of me finding this man wouldhave been close to zero. However,I believe situations like this onehappen rarely, as best I can tellfrom my experience and that of mycolleagues.• Twitter can steer off course: It wasthe third night of our stay in Saint-Cyprien. Apparently a very loudnoise had been heard in the cityof Lille in northern France. Lotsof tweets talked about this noise. Itwas obvious that people were tryingto figure out what had happened asthis topic became the talk of theFrench Twitter-sphere that night.Many hypotheses were tweeted; itwas an explosion, a fire, or maybea nuclear problem. In the next day’snewspaper (which I could not readat the time), a reporter unraveled themystery with a story of what actuallyhappened. The loud sound wasfrom an airplane that had crossedthe sound barrier over the city. OnTwitter, I had not seen anyone comeup with this explanation. So whilewe knew what was being talkedabout via the tweets, we had noidea what was happening.• What I like about you is me: Like allsocial media networks, the Twitterexperience is determined by thoseJanic Tremblay, left, and four other journalists from French-speaking public radio stationsspent five days in a cabin in southern France. Their goal was to keep informed using onlysocial networks. The project was called “Huis Clos Sur Le Net,” which roughly translates to“Behind Closed Doors on the Net.” Photo by Nicolas Mathias.whose tweets we welcome into ourdigital feed. And digital communitiestend to congregate aroundinterests or issues. This isn’t so verydifferent from how audiences flockto various news media (Fox Newsor CNN, for example) based onthe topics or perspective they arefairly certain they’ll find there. Itcan feel reassuring to follow likemindedpeople. Who doesn’t liketo have their opinions confirmed?Yet choosing such a specific path tonews can also be limiting since itcan be hard to count on friends tobroaden our horizons. Like a couplewho thinks alike, neither bringsmuch new to their conversation orthinking.Tweeting LessonsAs I think back on these five days—andwhat I learned, I focus on the socialnetworks I brought with me into ourhouse. This experience taught me thatthey were not diversified enough. Newsreached me, but in my mix of tweetsI could find little in-depth analysisor many international news reports.Nor did I find much discussion aboutnews taking place among members ofmy network. And only very rarely didI hear much about economic news.I came to understand that there isa science to this quest for creating theright network. It’s an empirical process,one that requires lots of time andthought and effort. And the search forthe best sources of news never ends.I also concluded from this experiencethat finding symphonic notes amid allthe noise of these networks is not easy.Moreover, on Twitter, people tend totweet what they have picked up fromthe traditional news media; what theyadd is an introduction to what they’vefound, letting their friends or followersknow that they found it interestingor new, moving or fascinating. Rightnow how this exchange of informationhappens is very tied in with the toolsof social media that we have availableto us, and this is something else weexperienced firsthand during our weekin France.One lesson I took from this48 Nieman Reports | Summer 2010

New Newsexperience is that what interests thepublic—as I saw interest expressed bywhat they share and highlight throughthese social media networks—is not thesame as the public interest, at least asjournalists conceive of it. Of course,these two ideas might grow closer intime as Twitter becomes more popular.Getting PersonalWhile in the farmhouse, I managed togather almost all of the important newsduring the more than 60 hours that Ispent on Twitter. (After we emerged,I checked to see what stories I mighthave missed.) Retweets turned out tobe essential for my newsgathering sinceI was not allowed to follow any mediaorganizations. But being constrained,as I was, helped me realize how oftenmessages that journalists send outare retweeted. On the other hand,the stories sent out by newspapersand broadcast entities didn’t getretweeted too much. What this toldme is that there is a strong tug ofpersonal engagement within the digitalcommunity, evidenced as members ofthe community retweet stories thatare brought to the Twitter feed by anauthor or journalist himself.At CBC/Radio-Canada where Iwork, very few journalists use Twitter.Even so our news organizationhas a Twitter account with more than30,000 followers. However, during thefive days of the experiment, I did notfind any news from Radio-Canada. Thereason: no retweets. A popular French-Canadian newspaper, La Presse, alsohas a Twitter account with just aboutthe same number of followers, and I didnot get any retweets from La Presse’sfeed, either. But many journalists atLa Presse tweet personally, so manyof their stories made their way to methrough retweets.The lesson is simple: journalistsshould tweet about their stories. Bydoing so, they might get a higherpenetration rate of clicking on linksand sharing among followers; theywill also likely gather new followersthrough this retweeting, and ultimatelygetting the news out will inform morepeople, which is our goal.Journalists broadcast from the cabin where they spent five days without direct access tonews media. Janic Tremblay is at left. Photo by Nicolas Mathias.But there are other key considerationsabout why more journaliststweeting is better than fewer. Whenonly a few journalists tweet—anddo so constantly—they occupy a lotof the space. This means that theirperspective on the news could becomethe dominant (or possibly the only)interpretation of an event and, if thishappens, the lack of diversity of theinformation becomes an importantissue.Social Media and JournalismWhile social media networks can bea personalized resource for news, itis virtually impossible to work eighthours a day, take care of the kids,regularly ride the train to work andback, read books and articles, followwhat hundreds of people are tweetingat the same time, and click on the linksthey suggest and end up absorbinganything fully. Even with a deliberatefocus on doing so, as we had forthose five days in the absence of anydistractions, this was hard.This is one reason why I so firmlybelieve that traditional news mediaoutlets are still essential—as the peoplewho can provide reliable journalisticcontent, which then forms the backboneof Twitter’s links. This is not tosay that any others who can bringadditional knowledge and informationinto the mix shouldn’t do so. Theyshould, but having this foundationbuilt by the practitioners of journalism’sstandards and ethics is vital.Still, it now is not possible forjournalists to ignore or neglect Twitter.Too much is happening there. Everyindividual journalist—along with everynews organization—should put strategiesin place to determine the bestways to do our work in tandem withthe culture and habits of social medianetworks. Also, figuring out how bestto thrive in the Twitter environmentwithout compromising our work asjournalists (and not as advocates) ispart of what the job entails today.Tweets are easily sent and they leavetraces for a long time—just as allwords and pictures do in this digitalterritory. When personal opinion reignssupreme—with a side taken and aperception settling in—then servingthe public interest as a journalist justgot harder to do. Nieman Reports | Summer 2010 49

What’s Next for News?YouTube’s Ecosystem for News‘Our users innovate at an extraordinary pace and in ways that amaze us, makeour world more transparent, and change the way we consume information andare informed.’BY STEVE GROVEAglance at YouTube might give theimpression that it’s a jungle inthere. After all, with 24 hoursof video uploaded to YouTube everyminute, the constantly flowing streamof content can feel overwhelming,even chaotic. With raw footage, videomashups, parodies, cultural memes,and viral hits—staying on top of it alland determining what’s relevant canseem like mission impossible.Now take a closer look, dig beneaththe chaos, and an evolving order isrevealed—one that is driving contentthrough the broader ecosystem, whichis changing the ways we communicateand get information. At YouTube, weare busy developing tools to help newsorganizations and consumers navigatethis ecosystem. Before peering into thetool box, let’s get acquainted with thekey players that make the YouTubenews ecosystem unique. Here is thecast of contributors:• Citizen reporters: Our most frequentcontributor is someone who capturesan event on video and uploadsit to YouTube. (I don’t use thewords “citizen journalist”because I don’t think anyperson who happens totake video of somethingis necessarily practicingjournalism, a skill thatrequires some training.)Citizen reporters areensuring that many moreevents around the worldare being captured onvideo now, and throughYouTube, they reach aglobal audience.• Clip-cutters: These arepeople who find the mostsalient moments fromcable news programs, C-SPAN,public archives, or other sources,and upload these clips to the site.Sometimes the insights revealedin these clips inspire more peoplethan the original content did. Oftenthis happens because the originalproducer was busy packaging theentire show instead of looking formoments of significance to whicha broader online audience willrespond.• Mashup artists, video bloggers,admakers and musicians: Thesepeople influence the public discussionon any number of topics withtheir video commentaries.• Curators: They are trend spotterswho don’t upload videos at all, butinstead discover interesting contentand embed, tweet, e-mail and shareit on Facebook.• Viewers (a.k.a. all of us): We watchthe videos, rank them, and sharethem, thereby driving up view countsand giving the videos exposure onthe most-viewed pages of YouTube.Media organizations enter thisYouTube Direct enables news organizations to ask for, look at, andrebroadcast news footage from YouTube on their own site.YouTube ecosystem most effectivelywhen they leverage the work of thesecurators to find what’s important. Topvideos—discovered and promoted byYouTube’s grass-roots community—arerebroadcast on TV and other platforms,especially when news organizationsdon’t have their own footage of anevent. Or they might find the commentaryon YouTube a useful way oflooking at an issue.The most memorable exampleoccurred last June when foreign mediawere kicked out of Iran in the wakeof the presidential election. Iraniansthen provided the visuals and wordsto tell the world about the clashesbetween police and protesters. Buteach day there are numerous YouTubevideos broadcast on television andcable stations—on topics ranging fromthe serious to the silly. In fact, TVviewers who see a YouTube clip willsometimes circle back to our Web siteto watch the entire segment and searchfor related content—thus refuelingYouTube’s ecosystem.The incentive for broadcasters andYouTube to create this ecosystem issimple: Those who uploadtheir video to YouTube wantbroader exposure on TV andthe broadcasters want toexpand the scope of theirreporting and to stay ontop of the cultural zeitgeistthat is YouTube. But thereare business reasons, too.Leveraging citizen reporting,in particular, is efficient;when it works well, newsorganizations don’t needto send a satellite truck tothe scene of every possiblenews event. In all likelihood,someone was already there50 Nieman Reports | Summer 2010

New Newsand took video on their mobile phone.For politicians, activists and nonprofits,posting a video is the 21stcentury press release that affords themfree media opportunities. News Websites can link to it and TV stationscan use it. Of course these videos—designed to promote the message ofthose who produce them—will notserve the public interest in the sameway that a news report would.Media organizations, in turn,post their content on YouTube in anattempt to gain new viewers, revenueand exposure. Like any other partneron YouTube, news organizations canuse our content identification andmanagement tools—Content ID—tofind and claim user videos (like themashups uploaded by clip-cutters).Then they can choose what they wantto happen next—they can block thevideo, leave it up and monitor it, oreven make money from it. Increasingly,news organizations are seeingthe value in leveraging this organicuser activity; the majority of mediacompanies using Content ID chooseto make money from user clips, ratherthan take them down.YouTube’s Tool ChestThere are some challenges to the You-Tube news ecosystem for consumersand for news organizations, particularlywhen it comes to news footage shotby citizen reporters. If it is taking toolong for the grass-roots community tosurface content, there are ways to findcontent faster, to verify its authenticity,or to request a particular video thatmight not already be on the site.Two of the most recent platformswe’ve built are:• YouTube Direct: Launched last fall,YouTube Direct is an open sourceplatform that enables news organizationsto request, review andrebroadcast news footage collectedon YouTube, right from their ownsite. The Washington Post, ITN,ABC News, Gannett, the TribuneCompany, The Huffington Post, andothers have used the platform to createSteve Grove moderated an interview with President Barack Obama that was streamed livefrom the White House earlier this year. YouTube users submitted questions by text andvideo and cast votes to determine which ones Obama was asked.their own citizen assignment desks.• Google Moderator: The votingplatform we used to collect citizens’questions for YouTube’s interviewwith President Barack Obama earlierthis year is now available to anyYouTube user. With a few clicks, newsorganizations can create a dynamic,democratic discussion on any topic.Every day we explore more waysto enhance the news ecosystem onYouTube. This summer we’re running aYouTube News Lab with the Universityof California at Berkeley’s GraduateSchool of Journalism to find out evenmore. Working with three studentsand several local news partners, weare experimenting with a newsfeed ofcitizen-reported videos to help newsorganizations locate relevant content.And we’re working on a hyperlocal newspartnership in San Francisco with CBSaffiliate KPIX-TV to cover as muchof the city’s news as possible throughcitizen-reported videos. (Stay tunedto our news and political blog,, to find out more.)If there’s one thing we know aboutnews on YouTube, it’s that things happenquickly. Our users innovate at anextraordinary pace and in ways thatamaze us, make our world more transparent,and change the way we consumeinformation and are informed. Asnews organizations continue to evolveand develop new business models,YouTube will undoubtedly be a part oftheir strategy. With so much contentto explore, creative minds are nowseeking ways for us to find what wethink we’re looking for. It may feellike a jungle out there, but we findbetter ways to explore it every day. Steve Grove is the head of news andpolitics at YouTube. He developedthe CNN/YouTube debates and theYouTube Direct citizen reportingplatform. He tweets @grove andblogs at Reports | Summer 2010 51

What’s Next for News?Video Games: What They Can Teach Us AboutAudience Engagement‘… we learn differently from content-driven media than we do from mediadriven by choice and problem solving.’BY JAMES PAUL GEEIn our interconnected world, whatdoes it take to understand issueslike climate change or the globaleconomic meltdown or events suchas conflict in the Middle East? Traditionallywe have used news reportingand documentaries as well as novels.Another name for such providers iscontent-driven media, which stringstogether facts or fictions to report onevents or tell us stories.Video games are not content-drivenmedia though they do have content.They are driven by choices andproblem solving. Content is there tomotivate player choices about how tosolve problems. Our understanding orillumination comes through solvingproblems or trying to solve them orby realizing there are multiple waysto solve them. Perhaps the problemis how to wage war in contemporaryglobal conflicts (Full Spectrum Warrior),sneak past enemies (Metal GearSolid), manage a city (SimCity) ora civilization (Civilization), or cleanhouse and keep a family happy whenyou are a four-inch robot (Chibi-Robo).Learning ChangesOur expectation is similar with thesedifferent kinds of media; we expect tolearn new things, whether the sourceis news, novels, textbooks, movies orgames. But we learn differently fromcontent-driven media than we do frommedia driven by choice and problemsolving. In content-driven media welearn by being told and reflecting onwhat we are told. Of course it is notalways easy to ensure that reflectionhappens and some content producers—especiallyin our polarized andentertainment-driven media—do notencourage wide-ranging reflections onall sides of an issue.With games, we learn best from awell-designed guided experience. Thismeans inhabiting virtual worlds thatguide players to make choices, solveproblems, and reflect on the results.Players have to reflect because theirIn Civilization, players manage a society’sresources to ensure its survival.choices affect whether they win or lose.Game designers create digitalenvironments and game levels thatshape, facilitate and, yes, teach problemsolving. For example, after playingChibi-Robo I know how to clean ahouse when you are only four inchestall and I know how the world looksto a four-inch robot and what dilemmashe faces. In a real-time strategygame like Rise of Nations, playershave to make a decision like, “Shouldmy civilization invest in technologynow or wait 500 years?”. In Portal,a player has to think about how thelaws of physics—for example the lawof conservation of momentum—canbe used to manipulate the environment.In Tactical Iraqi, a game that ismarketed for military and diplomatictraining, the player must be a soldierin Iraq and learn to speak Iraqi Arabicin realistic settings without culturallyinsulting anyone.We learn from games quite differentlythan we do from news and books.And we also learn from games quitedifferently than we learn in schoolwhere failure is a big deal. Not so ingames; just start over from the lastsave. A low cost for failure ensuresthat players will take risks, exploreand try new things.Games are based on performancebefore competence: learn by doing,then read. School often is based oncompetence before performance: learnby reading, then maybe you get todo. Players are able to understandmanuals and strategy guides becausethey have experience with the game.In school, too often, students have notlived in the worlds described by thebooks they are reading (i.e., they havenot “played” the game of biology, butonly read about it).Games let players practice skillsas part of larger goals they want toaccomplish; in school, kids are oftenskilled and drilled apart from anymeaningful context. Games makeplayers master skills through practiceand then challenge that mastery witha “boss battle,” forcing the player tolearn something new and take masteryto the next stage. School can be toochallenging if kids are never allowedto practice enough to attain mastery.52 Nieman Reports | Summer 2010

New NewsAlternatively, schools too often fail tochallenge the routine mastery of kidswho get good grades.Finally, games encourage players tothink about how they are designed—inorder to beat them—and even to designgames themselves through “modding,”in which they use tools that often comewith games to make new levels orentirely new games. Schools rarely letkids design or redesign the curriculum.Be Told or Be InvolvedAn example of this learning dichotomycan be found in a book and a gameabout what it is like to be poor. BarbaraEhrenreich, in her book “Nickel andDimed,” tells what it is like to be poorby describing how hard a time shehad, as a middle-class well-educatedperson, trying to get and keep lowlevelservice jobs. She shows us howshe tried to solve problems, and asreaders we are meant to learn throughher experiences.On the other hand, players in TheSims, which is the best-selling PCgame of all time, can challenge eachother to see if they can survive as apoor single parent and get their kidssafely out of the house into youngadulthood and college. This isn’t easyto do in the game, which contains lotsof rules about what players can andcannot do in order to simulate thefeel and difficulty of poverty.In assuming such a challenge,players learn by facing the problemsthemselves, as Ehrenreich did. Andthey can win or lose. One rule is thatplayers cannot reverse a decision (e.g.,quit a play session without saving theresults), even if bad things have happenedor they’ve made bad choices.They have to live with the bad things.Of course, people cannot quit without“saving” what has happened ; they haveto live with the consequences of whatthey’ve done or what has happened tothem. Players are not learning fromsomeone else’s experience; they arelearning from their own.Yet these players are learningsomething beyond what it means tobe poor; they are learning that solvingWhen players engage in the Metal Gear series their goal is to solve problems, escape enemies,and survive.problems (such as poverty—or it couldbe global warming) depends a lot onhow the problem is set up and whatthe rules are. Call them constraints, ifyou like. Along the way, they discoverthat poverty is a system and that thereare different ways to view or simulate(or discuss) that system.At a time of polarized, entertainment-drivennewspapers and in aworld replete with risky, dangerous andcomplex systems, maybe it is better tomake a game as a way for people toengage and learn than it is to writeor broadcast a report.Journalism is part of a contentdrivenmedia world. Both a newsstory and a novel are meant to informus and perhaps move us emotionally.Maybe the novel offers a deeperunderstanding than a more ephemeralnews story but in both cases contentis being used to make us learn, think,know and perhaps feel.Games are about things, too, andhave content; for example, the infamousGrand Theft Auto series of gamesis about crime. Sometimes games haveThe Sims, which is the best-selling computer game, offers players open-ended scenariosthat mimic the challenges of real life.Nieman Reports | Summer 2010 53

What’s Next for News?elaborate stories, sometimes they don’t.But games are not about their contentin the way that a newscast or a novelis about its content. Games are aboutproblems to be solved by the player andthe content is there only to establishwhat the problems are or to motivateplayers to solve them.In one of the Grand Theft Autogames the player must sneak intoa parking lot and, unseen, plant abomb in the trunk of a car and leavethe scene without doing damage tothe getaway car. Our intuition aboutcontent-driven media tells us that thisis about a crime but the task could bechanged to placing flowers in a lovedone’s car without being discovered, andthe problem and its difficulty wouldbe the same. What matters are theproblems and how a player responds.What makes a game good is notcontent but the problems playerssolve and how they do so. If contentcontributes to this effort in waysthat motivate, then it’s good to have.Otherwise it is detrimental to thegame or, at best, a distraction. Digitalmedia enable journalists to devisegames as a platform for sharing news.Doing this, however, requires not onlyknowing how to use the technology tocreate effective games but recognizingthat the player’s ability to absorb theinformation will likely rely more onwhat he does than what he reads. James Paul Gee is the Mary LouFulton Presidential Professor ofLiteracy Studies at Arizona StateUniversity, author of “What VideoGames Have to Teach Us AboutLearning and Literacy” and coauthorof “Women and Gaming: The Simsand 21st Century Learning,” bothpublished by Palgrave Macmillan.News-Focused Game Playing: Is It a Good Way toEngage People in an Issue?‘Ultimately our challenge will be to determine which metrics for successfulstorytelling turn out to be most important in the digital environment.’BY NORA PAUL AND KATHLEEN A. HANSENReporters employ sounds andimages in place of text. Usersengage with information anddata in ways that resemble how theyplay video games—manipulating interactiveelements to create their ownexperience with the content. But whatimpact does such storytelling haveon its audience—especially when thecontent is news?Journalists are experimenting withdifferent presentations of online newseven though there isn’t a lot of researchto tell them whether such storytellingtechniques work with news, or if theydo, how and why.Some news stories are ripe candidatesfor creative multimedia storytelling.Two good examples are The NewYork Times’s graphic depiction of acrane accident and The Virginian-Pilot’s coverage of the challenges peoplewith brain injuries face.Yet such coverage is often reservedfor long-term projects or compellingnews events. What happens with ongoingcoverage of issues or with eventsFive ways to tell “boring but important” stories were tested in a study called “Playing theNews.” Stories involving the use of ethanol for fuel were presented both in traditional waysand as games to 197 participants in the study. While it features a graphical presentation,the role playing game was the least effective of the five models tested.54 Nieman Reports | Summer 2010

New Newsthat occur with consistency over timeand require that a thread of contextrun through the storytelling? MattThompson addressed aspects of thisdigital challenge in “An Antidote forWeb Overload” in the Fall 2009 issue ofNieman Reports. He observed how difficultit can be for readers—especiallyyounger ones—to tune into stories thatare a part of ongoing news coverageof events or issues unfolding overtime. The Associated Press affirmedthis observation when it conducted astudy to evaluate how best to engageyoung people in news reporting—anddevised a digital strategy to convey itsnews reporting in more inviting andaccessible ways.Playing the NewsA few years ago the Knight News Challengeawarded us $250,000 for a twoyearstudy designed to explore whatwould happen when news-focusedgames were devised with the purpose ofengaging an audience. We named ourproposal “Playing the News,” and ourgoal was to learn about the potentialfor telling process-oriented stories inaccessible and absorbing ways.To do this, we tested five onlineversions of stories about the issuesinvolved with using ethanol forfuel; two were presented in gameformats; the other three relied onmore traditional formats. All versionscontained the same information buteach presented it very differently.Ethanol worked well as a topicbecause of the differing perspectiveswe featured—from farmers, environmentalistsand legislators, to name afew—and because it is often coveredas an ongoing, process-oriented story.It was also one of those “boring butimportant” stories that was perfect,in our estimation, to test whether amore engaging presentation would helppeople find their way into the story.In one game the player or the personcoming to the news story movedaround in a simulated environmentcomprised of people who providedfacts and various perspectives aboutthe issue. Each player could chooselocations to visit and which charactersto question; at each location the playercould click through multiple dialogueboxes to get information from differentperspectives.The second approach used a gameboard to expose each player to factsand the perspectives of differentstakeholders. The player was dealtcards, rolled the dice, and moved amarker to the appropriate area wherean answer might be found. Once theplayer arrived there, all of the answercards were activated so the playerwould see all of the information relevantto that stakeholder’s perspective.Then the player was asked to selectthe right answer, based on what hehad learned.We created three other formatsbased on standard news Web sites.In one version, the information aboutethanol as fuel was shown as a conventionalanalysis/explanatory story innews-column format. In another, wepresented the same information butorganized the material by topics, (e.g.,Quick Facts, Ethanol: Government)The most highly rated format, left, organized the material in theethanol story by topic and provided a summary for each topicwith links to related content.The board game model, above, proved to be one of the more effectivedesigns tested so the authors released it as an iPhone app.Nieman Reports | Summer 2010 55

What’s Next for News?and provided a summary under eachtopic with links to related content. Ourlast approach presented the informationas a simplified blurb—serving asa headline for this topic—with a set oflinks, in reverse chronological order,to the news organization’s storiesabout ethanol.To test the various digital-storyformats, we recruited 197 people whoranged in age from their teens to theirlate 70s. Slightly more than half werewomen. The participants, randomlyassigned to one of the five formats,spent as much time as they likedwith the material before filling out asurvey. We wanted to determine theirinterest in the topic, their knowledgeabout it, and their engagement withand opinions about the story formatthey saw.What Worked?With the measuring tools we used toassess their responses, we arrived atsome conclusions about what workedand what didn’t work with each ofthese five formats:Simulation Game: This version rankedthe lowest on virtually all of our measures.From participants’ comments itwas clear that when people seek newsthey want to acquire the informationquickly and easily. While this kind ofsimulation game is effective in teachingand training, it did not appear tobe a viable way to present informationfor a casual news audience.Board Game: The board game testedwell as far as the amount of informationread and whether or not theexperience was fun. Based on thefeedback we received, the board/quizstyle game seemed to be an effectiveand engaging way to present an arrayPlaying the News Moves Into the ClassroomWhat we learned in our Knight NewsChallenge grant project Playing theNews informs the way we teachour journalism students. Whileincorporating Web story design andstructure into reporting and writingclasses is imperative, it isn’t enoughto simply translate story content intoformats that allow for interactivity.We need to enlist student journalistsin inventing digital story forms thattake full advantage of the Web inways that provide the context thatpeople want.To do this, build in at leastone assignment in which studentscreate a topic-organized page ofcontent to guide readers throughthe complexities of an issue orcoverage of an ongoing controversy.This exercise helps students developvaluable synthesizing skills as theycreate topic categories that will shedlight on the major points or themesthat connect stories across time.This requires higher-order thinkingthat instructors shouldn’t assumestudents already have. The abilityto take a bird’s-eye view of multiplestories over a period of time andfind a way to make sense of themis crucial—and challenging.Think, too, about asking studentsto brainstorm about story-focusedgames designed for a news Web site.This will tap into the experiencesof these digital natives who havea much more tenuous connectionto news stories told in traditionalways. Many of our Playing the Newsparticipants were attracted to theboard-style game as a way of connectingto news so this format mightbe worth pursuing to convey certaintypes of information.There could be no one better tocreate and test such news gamesthan those whose peers are part ofthe audience that news organizationswant to attract. At the University ofMinnesota School of Journalism andMass Communication, we teach acourse called Convergence Journalism.Our students use contemporarydigital tools to learn about andexperiment with various news storyforms and storytelling strategies.In the content analysis exercise,students are assigned readings andrequired to complete a contentanalysis of news to demonstrate theirunderstanding of the topic of theweek. To complete this assignmentstudents organize news content ina coherent way and create categoriesthat accurately and effectivelydescribe the threads of news reporting.The obvious next step is forstudents to create a topic-organizedWeb page that could guide peoplethrough content that has appearedover time in coverage of a topic inthe news.Even in our school’s basic reportingand writing classes, students learnthe strengths and weaknesses oftelling stories using different formsand with various tools. When theypitch a story idea, they are askedto describe the form they think willwork best to tell the story. A blog?Slideshow? A Google map? What islikely to be the best way to guidereaders into and through a storyand engage them with its content?Perhaps traditional text will workbest. Or a combination of formsmight be tried with various storyelements presented in different ways.As storytelling forms evolve, wewant journalism students to be onthe front lines of experimentation.Yet we also want them to know thevalue of gathering information aboutwhat works as they evaluate theiroptions. —N.P. and K.A.H.56 Nieman Reports | Summer 2010

New Newsof information about such a topic. Theamount of time people spent online wasalso the highest with this version—animportant measure for news organizationslooking to sell their audience toadvertisers. Because this game seemedattractive to the audience, we createda mobile version of it for the iPhone;since January more than 1,000 peoplehave downloaded the free app.Traditional News Story: This formatproved effective for getting people toread about the topic in detail. Peoplealso said they would thinkhighly of a news organizationthat presented information inthis familiar way.Topic-Organized Facts andLinks: This method of absorbinginformation was byfar the favorite approach ofthose we tested. People foundit an excellent way to presentnews about serious topics; thisformat interested them in thetopic more than the way newsstories are usually presented.They also found that the informationwas easier to understand comparedwith a traditional news story. Thoseassigned to this format were also mostlikely to say they learned somethingnew about the topic. It also generatedthe most positive responses tothe statement “I would think highlyof a news organization that presentedstories this way.”Blurb With Reverse-Chronologically-Organized Collection of Links: Thisformat generated the most negative reactionof the three traditional methodsof presenting a news story. It turnedout to be the least-engaging formatand made the information harderto understand. Those who receivedinformation in this way would notthink highly of the news organization.Keep in mind that this is a commonway that news organizations digitallydisplay their archive of stories forongoing coverage.A game format clearly is not a goodfit for news stories involving differing... the opportunities news organizationshave to tell digital stories far exceed theknowledge that any of us have abouthow these choices affect the audience’sexperience.perspectives and ongoing coverage.For lighter topics such as “Should Iget a cat or a dog?” or trivia, a newsgame might be more appropriate.Much of the appeal of a news gamewould be in enabling multiple playersto move through the game at thesame time, thus adding a competitiveelement—and this is something ourgames didn’t have.As we developed these game systems,we started to see interestingopportunities for these projects togenerate revenue, such as by embeddingsponsorships, coupons and othersimilar elements. This is an area ripefor testing in the next iteration ofthe study.The most compelling finding wasthe popularity of the topic-organizedformat. For ongoing, process-orientednews stories, readers appear to wantto have their experience be guided, inthis case, by journalists. This speaksto the curatorial function that manynews organizations are starting toexplore. The curated version helpedthem in absorbing the big picture andthen they relied on the topic-organizedfacts and links to point them towardadditional, in-depth information. Ourparticipants’ experiences coincidewith what Thompson discoveredwhen people used his experimental,context-laden Web sites, The MoneyMeltdown ( and Columbia Tomorrow ( And when anews organization presented informationin this way—as our curated sitedid, readers expressed a high level ofsatisfaction.As news organizations look for waysto create content and develop onlineexperiences that are valued, theseresults should be kept in mind. Withyounger readers, in particular, whoreport feeling lost in their attemptto follow ongoing process stories,such topic-organized pages could be apromising way to engage readers andbuild brand loyalty.Right now the opportunities newsorganizations have to tell digital storiesfar exceed the knowledge that any ofus have about how these choices affectthe audience’s experience. Yetresearch such as ours is startingto provide clues. Our hopeis that news organizations willseek out such informationas they expand their use ofmultimedia and informationvisualization.Ultimately our challengewill be to determine whichmetrics for successful storytellingturn out to be mostimportant in the digital environment.We already knowthat this can be a complicatedpicture. For example, what our researchreveals is that while one style mighthave the greatest impact in one area(e.g., time spent online) another hasimpact in another area (e.g., “I learnedsomething new.”).Digital storytelling possibilitiesoften seem limitless as new toolsemerge with a rapidity that can outpaceour knowledge of their effectiveness.Yet efforts are underway that canprovide guidance, ours being one ofthem. And news organizations—asthey experiment with these newstorytelling formats, as surely theymust do—might want to take a lookat what is known about which formworks well for which story. Nora Paul and Kathleen A. Hansenteach in the School of Journalism &Mass Communication at the Universityof Minnesota. Playing the News,their research project, was fundedby the John S. and James L. KnightFoundation’s News Challenge grantprogram from 2007 to 2009.Nieman Reports | Summer 2010 57

WHAT’S NEXT FOR NEWS? | Hacks + HackersHacks/Hackers: Bringing Journalists andTechnologists Together‘We’re all trying to figure out what works, and that’s really the key to innovation:a tolerance for failure and embrace of experimentation.’BY BURT HERMANThe scene is often an airy loft inSan Francisco’s South of Marketarea where technologists typicallygather to talk about their latest start-upventure, share ideas, and demonstratenew digital tools. The scent of pizzawafts through the room while peopleTwitter away on smartphones.Hacks/Hackers gatherings are different:Journalists are now in the mix,not to get quotes for stories but todiscuss the future of media in hopesthat in this time of upheaval a wayforward can be found.Hacks/Hackers was born out ofa blend of hope and curiosity. I hadjust completed a Knight Journalismfellowship at Stanford University aftera dozen years as a bureau chief andcorrespondent for The AssociatedPress. At Stanford, I studied innovationand entrepreneurship so I couldlearn what makes Silicon Valley tickand apply those lessons to journalism.After the fellowship, I remained in theSan Francisco Bay Area to experimentwith my own projects and find partnerswho shared my passion for theintersection of media and technology.In November I started a groupEric Rodenbeck, founder and creative director of Stamen Design, speaks at a Hacks/Hackersevent in San Francisco. Photo by Burt Herman.on Meetup as a way to build a communityof journalists and technologists.I wanted “hacker”—a term thatembodies the spirit of an engineer whodoes whatever it takes to get the jobdone—in the group’s name. “Hack,”as slang for journalist, worked in atongue-in-cheek self-deprecating way.Hacks/Hackers was born.It turns out I wasn’t the first personto happen upon this name. Twojournalism leaders, Aron Pilhofer andRichard Gordon, who were working tobring technology into the newsroom,also had proposed an online communitycalled Hacks and Hackers.Pilhofer, editor for interactive news atThe New York Times, leads the teamthat builds the Web site’s data-drivenapplications. Gordon, associate professorand director of digital innovationat Northwestern University’s MedillSchool of Journalism, oversees ascholarship program for computerprogrammers to earn a master’s degreein journalism and collaborate withj-school students in the process. 1At a conference last year in Cambridge,Massachusetts, organized bythe John S. and James L. KnightFoundation and the MIT Center forFuture Civic Media, Pilhofer andGordon pitched the idea of creatinga Hacks and Hackers Web site forthis emerging community of journalists,programmers and journalist/programmers.As our gatherings in San Francisco1Read about what Gordon’s students produced in the Fall 2009 issue of Nieman Reportsat www.niemanreports.org58 Nieman Reports | Summer 2010

Hacks + Hackersgot underway, journalists noted thecoincidence of our names on Twitterso we reached out to each other. All ofus recognized the benefit of bringingtogether people from these disparatefields to use technology to help findand tell stories in the public interest.Since then, Hacks/Hackers haslaunched a blog ( and a question-and-answer Website ( leading technologists and journalistsfrom across the world respondto questions and share ideas. We’vebeen thrilled at how much interest theQ. and A. site has generated since itslaunch in mid-April.In the Bay Area, we’ve held monthlyevents that have brought togetherdozens of people from companies suchas Google, Yahoo!, Twitter, the SanFrancisco Chronicle, San Jose MercuryNews, and Current Media, along withother technology and media start-upsand freelancers. Events are spreadingto more cities. In early May a groupgot together in Washington, D.C. inpartnership with the Online NewsAssociation; similar gatherings arein the planning stages for New Yorkand Chicago.Toward the end of May, we metin San Francisco—partnering withKQED, the most listened to NPRstation in the country—to build newsapplications for the iPad and tabletdevices. Part journalistic exercise,part hack weekend, the journalistswere charged with finding a story totell while the engineers brought theirinsights and tools to find new ways totell a story. At the end of the weekend,they presented their work to an expertpanel including a venture capitalist,start-up CEO, and journalists.It turns out that technology peopleare often news junkies. The mostskilled hackers are good at what theydo because they can quickly consumeinformation and learn how to dosomething new. Hackers, like journalists,believe strongly in freedom ofinformation, embodied in the opennature of the Internet. When Twitterheld its first conference for developersin April, CEO Evan Williams said thecompany was guided by the fundamentalphilosophy that “the open exchangeof information has a positive impacton the world.”Still, the conversations betweenhacks and hackers haven’t always beenharmonious. At a Hacks/Hackers panelin February with companies that buildpersonalized news aggregation sites,entrepreneurs faced a barrage of questionsabout how to fairly compensatecontent creators for their work. Butthe panelists themselves admittedthat they weren’t making any money.We’re all trying to figure out whatworks, and that’s really the key toinnovation: a tolerance for failureand embrace of experimentation. Atits core, that’s what Hacks/Hackersis all about. Burt Herman has reported fromaround the world as a bureau chiefand correspondent for The AssociatedPress. A 2008-2009 John S.Knight journalism fellow at StanfordUniversity, he tweets @burtherman.Joining Digital Forces Strengthens Local InvestigativeReporting‘Our goal is to build online tools that the people can easily use to enhance theirability as watchdogs—whether they are citizens or journalists.’BY BRANT HOUSTONDuring the past year journalists,citizens and even some governmentofficials have focused onthe need to replenish the diminishingamount of investigative reporting donenationally and at statehouses. Butthere hasn’t been as much concernexpressed about the reduction of publicaccountability journalism in cities andsuburbs, rural areas, and counties. Andwhen this topic is discussed, few viablesolutions are emerging at a timewhen metro and local papers struggleto simply cover breaking news andessential beats. There are hyperlocaland online citizen efforts, but they tooneed more resources and tools.Digital media’s capabilities mightprovide ways to hold public agenciesaccountable while expanding journalists’role as community watchdogs. Thispotential comes from several sources:• Ever increasing streams of information—includingpublic recorddatabases—are now available onlinefrom local public agencies.• A drive to create digital toolscapable of shaping and channelingthose streams so they can bebetter understood and more easilyanalyzed.• Collaboration between journalists,computer programmers, and informationscientists helps journalistsand citizens use these tools moreeffectively.Mining Public DataWhile local government agencies oftendeny traditional requests for informa-Nieman Reports | Summer 2010 59

What’s Next for News?tion and documents, the levees theybuilt—and maintain—to restrict accessare broken. Much digital informationthat the public has a right to see nowtumbles over and flows around thoserestrictive practices. So our challengeresides in collecting and channelingwhat can be massive amounts of dataso they can be understood.Our goal is to build online toolsthat people can easily use to enhancetheir ability as watchdogs—whetherthey are citizens or journalists. Todo this, computer programmers arecreating and journalists are usingdigital tools to make visible data anddocuments so that people can analyzeand share the information they find,and the John S. and James L. KnightFoundation has been a key player inthis area, especially through its challengeprograms.At the University of Illinois atUrbana-Champaign where I teachinvestigative journalism, I am workingwith a small team of programmers atthe National Center for SupercomputingApplications to develop aneasy-to-use mashup of analysis andvisualization programs for publicdocuments. Our organizing principleis that journalists and citizens will usethis mashup ability to do retrospectiveand real-time comparisons of what thepublic is concerned about and howthe government is responding—or notresponding—to their concerns.At the same time, I’m learningabout work being done in the CommunityInformatics Initiative at theuniversity’s Graduate School of Libraryand Information Science. (Informaticsencompasses the study of informationscience, information technology,algorithms and social science.) Part ofthe initiative’s mission is to partnerwith citizens to develop informationtechnologies and to create access tothose technologies through communitynetworks.I am discovering a lot of commonground between journalism andinformatics, especially as I work ona Champaign-Urbana Citizen Accessproject to look at local poverty issues.Those involved with informatics oftendo their work in a low-income orisolated community. They find outwhat the pressing issues are and usedigital tools to help community membersenhance their knowledge aboutthe problems and strategize ways tosolve them.Part of their approach relies on textminingtools that can reveal key wordsand clusters of words. By applyingthese digital tools—many of which areopen source programs—to the realmsof government documents and publiccomments, we can visualize where theinterests of constituents and publicofficials diverge (and, on occasion,converge). For example, commentsmade about particular issues at publicmeetings, neighborhood gatherings,in blogs, and on Twitter or Facebookare easily searchable. Along with thisinformation are data and documentsproduced by local government officialsthat address the same issues. These canbe found in agendas and minutes ofmeetings and hearings, in press releasesand reports about regulatory actions,and in the budgets and databases ofpublic agencies.Linking Complaints WithActionDigital techniques either exist orare being developed to collate andanalyze this kind of information tofind patterns, to map the informationgeographically, to learn what socialnetworks are involved, and to visualizethis information over time. So far,however, neither journalists nor citizensare extensively using these tools.Sometimes this is because the softwareisn’t easy to learn and manage. Andprograms that more sharply contrastpublic concern and the government’sresponse and activity still need to bedeveloped.For example, with the right mixof programs in place, citizens wouldcomplain about flooding in theirneighborhood in public hearings, ona Web site, in social networks, blogsor letters to local media. Diligent textmining of that public comment couldshow who and where it is coming fromand whether comments and frustrationhave increased over time. By text-miningpublic officials’ comments, publicdocuments, news articles and blogs,a comparison could show whetherand how well the city responded tothe neighborhood’s concerns—and itcould also discover the public officials’excuses. With this approach, residentscould see for themselves what else washappening when city officials ignoredtheir complaints or stalled in takingaction. They could easily find out whatproject or neighborhood the city’sresources are going to. Could it be onein which the residents are wealthierand thus have more influence withlocal officials?Contrasts and disparities could bevisualized on a computer screen ormobile device in numerous ways. Itmight be shown as two bar charts—one a measurement of frequency andintensity and even emotional depthof citizen concern and one showingthe paucity of official comment andaction. Or it could be two fever linesdisplayed over time—with the citizenline soaring on the graph while theofficial line stays low or dips. Mapscould be created using data analysisof budgets and information about proposedand completed projects to showneighborhoods that are receiving littleor no attention and the ones that are.The social network of citizen activity—snapshotsof who is connectedto whom—also could be visualizedby connecting the dots between thepublic officials and their politicalconnections and friends. Again, eachof these analyses and contrasts couldbe visualized over time. In addition,Web crawlers can be developed thatwould go after various documents anddownload them into a central cloudcomputing location on the Web. Thenthe mashup of analytical tools, guidedby a journalist or citizen—using keywordsand clusters of words—couldgo to work on mining the information.The result would be a host ofvisualizations.Collaborative ApproachWhat is needed is a dashboard fromwhich a journalist or citizen coulddrive their inquiries, choosing their60 Nieman Reports | Summer 2010

Hacks + Hackersroutes to come up with findings andcreating information and datasets ontheir neighborhoods and issues. Oncetopics are chosen, data flows and alertscould be set up to enable people to staycurrent on comments and actions byautomatically creating updates.All of this is good in theory butwhat is then needed is to get the toolsto the journalists and particularlyto the people in the communities.That’s where journalistic collaborationwith those in informatics can takethe effort to another level. Throughfieldwork and research, experts ininformatics gain a deep understandingof community issues; using computertraining centers, they push to maketechnology available in underservedneighborhoods.With computer programmers, informaticsexperts, and journalists workingtogether, government accountabilitycan be strengthened on a local levelbeyond what it’s been when reportershave been on their own as watchdogs.Now what targeted digital searchesby local residents reveal can launch atotally new realm of story ideas andonce a story is told, readers can bedirected to explanatory data throughonline links. And all of this can bedone at a cost that even an upstart,hyperlocal Web site can afford. Brant Houston holds the John S. andJames L. Knight Foundation Chairin Investigative and EnterpriseReporting in the journalism departmentin the College of Media at theUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. For the previous decadehe served as the executive director ofInvestigative Reporters and Editors.The Peril and Promise of the Semantic WebWhat is the role of the journalist as computers become more adept at pullingtogether data from different sources?BY ANDREW FINLAYSONIn the movie “Terminator,” humanitystarted down the path to destructionwhen a supercomputer calledSkynet started to become smarter onits own. I was reminded of that possibilityduring my research about thesemantic Web.Never heard of the semantic Web?I don’t blame you. Much of it is stillin the lab, the plaything of academicsand computer scientists. To hearsome of them debate it, the semanticWeb will evolve, like Skynet, into anall powerful thing that can help usunderstand our world or create variouscrises when it starts to develop a formof connected intelligence.Intrigued? I was. Particularly whenI asked computer scientists about howthis concept could change journalism inthe next five years. The true believerssay the semantic Web could help journalistsreport complex ever-changingstories and reach new audiences. Thecritics doubt the semantic Web willbe anything but a high-tech fantasy.But even some of the doubters arewilling to speculate that computersusing pieces of the semantic Web willincreasingly report much of the newsin the not too distant future.What Is the Semantic Web?It doesn’t help that the semantic Webis such a wide-ranging concept thateven advocates can’t quite agree onwhat it is; that’s not surprising, giventhat semantics has to do with the verymeaning of words and symbols. Themost general definition I can offeris that the semantic Web speaks tohow we are moving from a Web ofdocuments to a Web of linked data.One might say documents are dataand that would be correct. The challengeis that the World Wide Web wasdesigned for humans, not machines.The Internet is like a digital filingcabinet overflowing with all sorts ofdocuments, videos and pictures thatpeople can consume but machinescan’t read or understand. This meansthat an avalanche of facts and figures,photographs and so on is simplyinaccessible or cannot be organizedquickly and effectively, particularly ifinformation is constantly changing.You might think that Googlealgorithms do a fine job of findinginformation and organizing the Web.Yet the vision of semantic Web advocatesis so big that it dwarfs Googlein complexity and reach and startsto sound like a science fiction movie.These semantic Web visionaries wouldlike humans to work with machines tomake the data we create more easilyaccessible and analyzed. This is thefundamental difference between linkeddocuments (what Google does) andlinked data. Tim Berners-Lee, whoinvented the World Wide Web, saysthe semantic Web will give information“… a well-defined meaning, betterenabling computers and people to workin cooperation.”The ways this machine-friendly datacan be created vary in complexity andjust as you may not know exactly howyour computer creates documents andstores them on your hard drive, youmay never need to enter the world thatuses words like “taxonomy” and itsNieman Reports | Summer 2010 61

What’s Next for News?close relation “ontology” or new techterms like RDF (Resource DescriptionFramework) and SPARQL. Let’s justsay that the first two speak to howwe can organize and find meaning instatements inside documents and thesecond set has to do with the languageof machines, how we can express therelationship between different data,and how we can request structureddata that has been optimized for useby machines. These concepts are beingslowly incorporated into the Web andwill, so the advocates say, give the Webthe smarts it lacks.If machines can look at all documentsand pull out the who, what,when and where (and someday how andwhy) so other machines can understandthem in a standardized way, then allsorts of interesting opportunities arisefor how that information can be foundand used. Names and places and ideasand even emotions expressed in storiesbecome much more than just words inone story; they become the way that allof the information in many documentscan be linked and layered together tocreate new documents and stories.Does it sound like a super sophisticatedmashup, where data fromdifferent sources such as police crimereports and maps are combined to showexactly where arrests have occurred?Yes, but police reports are simply thevery tip of the huge amount of datagenerated every day that might be ofinterest to your readers or viewers ifonly you could get your hands on itand process it in a meaningful way.Reports on the number of flu cases,level of foreclosures, employmentstatistics, and home prices, if theyfollowed semantic Web standards,could accurately and objectively (andautomatically) reflect the constantlychanging health of the neighborhoodsin your community.Some efforts are giving us a lookinto the future with sophisticatedcomputers that can find data, see howthey fit with other data, and answerqueries with a previously unattainablelevel of accuracy and relevance. Youmight have heard of the WolframAlphasearch engine unveiled last year. Thegoal is to generate better answersusing organized data. The trouble isthat while WolframAlpha is very smartanswering some database-relatedqueries, its limited supply of datasets means that on many commonquestions it is quite dumb.The semantic Web hopes to addressthis by asking everyone to help standardizedata descriptions so that theWeb becomes a giant shared database.There are several government effortsin the United States and the UnitedKingdom (including one headed byBerners-Lee) that will open up governmentdata for anyone to use as they seefit. This effort will unlock a treasuretrove that journalists can analyze withthe potential to inspire thousands ofnew stories. Reporters familiar withthe semantic Web concept will soonuse automated research tools thatidentify patterns, local connections,and even conflicts of interest withouthaving to painfully acquire and loadpiles of data into spreadsheets.But if semantic Web tools becomerobot helpers for journalists, couldthe technology become so smart itwill replace some reporters? Yes andno. Even advocates of the semanticWeb say machines will not be abletell complex stories with nuancesand context or convey emotion orinsights any time soon. However,there is a range of stories that couldbe told by computer programs pullingdata from various sources. Imagine ifdata from wedding licenses could becombined with the educational andbirth certificates of the happy couplealong with weather statistics and theirbridal registry or Facebook page. Acomputer could then write a typicalwedding announcement:Mary Smith, 23, a recent journalismgraduate of StanfordUniversity born in Los Angeles,and John Doe, 25, a graduatestudent at the University ofCalifornia at Berkeley GraduateSchool of Journalism born inNew York City, were marriedat St. Mary’s Cathedral in SanFrancisco on Tuesday, April 20,2010 under sunny skies. Theyare registered at Crate & Barrelwhere they are still hoping fora new toaster. Their Facebookprofile says they honeymoonedat Disneyland where they sharedthese photos.Right now it is difficult to do this,although Facebook is encouragingpeople to consider such concepts withtheir recent announcements aboutlinking data. The more data that aremade public and computer friendly,the more viable this idea becomes.To return to our example, if someonebuys Mary and John their toaster, thesemantic Web and use of linked datawould allow our computer-generatedstory to automatically update to includetheir continued need for a fondue setand their new address in San Francisco.The Threat to Some NewsAfter talking to dozens of computerscientists, I am concerned that asignificant amount of what passes fornews—why people pick up the paper orwatch a newscast—can be produced bymachines that pull together data froma variety of sources and organize—even personalize—it for the consumer.Certainly sports information (includingvideo of the winning home run) andweather and financial news will oftenbe presented to our readers and viewersby semantic Web-related softwareprograms that can assimilate datadirectly from the source and instantlypresent it to consumers, no newspapereditor or TV producer needed. Doubtthis possibility? If you search Googlefor a city’s weather, it will give youthe answer without sending you to aweather-related page on a news site.One of the original grand visionsfor the semantic Web was that bystandardizing information so computerscan read it, machines could startto be our personal agents, anticipatingour needs, and seeking out informationon our behalf, helping to plan theperfect trip to Paris based on our pastpreferences (a love of art or fashion,for example, would be combined withthe latest data on art shows and storesoffering sales during your vacation)or to pull in data to solve problems62 Nieman Reports | Summer 2010

Hacks + HackersFor a Start-up, Machine-Generated Stories Are the Name of the GameFor a partner in a start-up specializingin stories written by machines, theonly downside to attracting coveragein Bloomberg Businessweek was theheadline: “Are Sportswriters ReallyNecessary?”“We want to augment what is outthere rather than to replace what isalready being done,” said KristianHammond, a partner in NarrativeScience and director of NorthwesternUniversity’s Medill/McCormickCenter for Innovation in Technology,Media and Journalism.Narrative Science has licensedsoftware that enables computers towrite stories about sporting eventsbased on data they assimilate andanalyze. For example, it may not befinancially feasible for local newspapersto cover Little League games ora college publication to cover all ofits team’s softball games but NarrativeScience, given accurate gamestatistics, could provide stories.One of Narrative Science’s firstcustomers is the Big Ten Network,a college sports television network.Scorekeepers from Northwesternand other participating teams e-maildata to Narrative Science and thecomputer-generated story appearsonline in minutes. (The college paper,The Daily Northwestern, covers onlyabout 25 percent of the season’sbaseball games.)Of course machine-generatedstories cannot offer the details thatreporters observe by being on thescene but Hammond said that acomputer can make a judgment bystudying the data. One machinegeneratedgame story suggested thatthe pitcher’s excellent performanceduring that game indicated that hemight be coming out of a slump.Hammond sees a lot of potentialfor Narrative Science in businessreporting. Journalists report on onlyabout 350 of the 6,000 publicly heldcompanies in the United States.Computers could mine financialtransactions to cover many more.“Machines can give voice to the storiesthat are in these data repositories,”he said. —Jan Gardner(recommending the quickest way towork given the weather, traffic andplanned road work). Imagine your localtraffic reporters replaced by the sciencefiction vision of your own version ofHAL 9000 who might not open thegarage doors if the conditions outsideare unsafe to drive in.The good news for local radio stationtraffic reporters is that the Webis messy and filled with contradictoryand unclear information that stillneeds human interpretation. SemanticWeb advocates know the Internetwill remain confusing for machinesbecause we humans keep changing itin unexpected ways, not to mentionour habit of inventing new words andmeaning. If our use of poor grammarand slang is not enough, the developmentof the semantic Web faces anotherchallenge. Many people, particularlythose who would have to pay to havetheir business apply semantic Webconcepts, do not see the immediatebenefit of such an effort. Even if majorcorporations embrace it, given that theWeb is the result of millions of mindseach with their own standards andgoals, getting everyone to agree andthen act on one way to describe datais going to happen only when thereare compelling economic reasons orit becomes so easy to do that thereis no reason not to.A number of news organizations,however, are already betting thatmaking their stories more machinefriendly will pay off. The New YorkTimes, the BBC, and Thomson Reutershave embraced various facets of thesemantic Web. Thomson Reuters ismaking a separate business of it byoffering a way to tag stories, extractinginformation such as places and namesso they can be more easily found andlinked to other data. Applying semanticWeb ideas to a news archive should,in theory, allow that data to be usedand reused by the news organizationand the world at large, reason enoughfor The New York Times to invest injust such an effort.This enhanced findability is themost practical and immediate reasonfor journalists to pay attention to thesemantic Web movement. When westop writing clever headlines for theWeb (you might have been told punsare for humans and mean nothing tocomputers) and instead write headlineswith full names, places and descriptionsof action, we are in effect taggingcontent for the machines, which inturn should help more people findour reporting. If you use Delicious ortag photos on Flickr, you are likewisedoing the work of the semantic Webby making content computer friendly.Looking AheadThis move toward semantic publishingwill, I forecast, over the next fiveyears encourage the linking togetherof many kinds of Web content. Datawill be easily gathered and Webusers will reuse the information andinterpret it in their own ways. Sucha world will challenge our notions ofcopyright law, fair use, and privacy asdata start to flow without attributionor even verification. You can speculatethat someday in the next 10 yearsmachines combining parts of storieswill commit libel by omitting criticalcontext from data they have gatheredand presented.While the semantic Web promisesa world where machines can combineNieman Reports | Summer 2010 63

What’s Next for News?data from an infinite number ofsources for us—perhaps someday witha Skynet avatar delivering customizednews based on where you are andwhat you are doing—the real promisefor journalists is that it should soonoffer us easy access to thousands ofsources of raw data that we will useto tell meaningful stories about ourcommunities. Humans still will beneeded to analyze and use the data totell stories. In this way, the semanticWeb might not be a technology thathastens the end of journalism butinstead offers a new beginning. Andrew Finlayson was a 2009-2010John S. Knight journalism fellow atStanford University where he studiedthe semantic Web, video streaming,social media, and mobile technologies.He is a former director ofonline content for the Fox TelevisionStations and author of “QuestionsThat Work” a book about succeedingin work by asking questions that hasbeen translated into four languages.Journalism on the Map: A Case for Location-AwareStorytelling‘Every place has a story, and every story has a place.’BY KRISSY CLARK“To be rooted is perhaps the mostimportant and least recognized needof the human soul.”— Philosopher Simone WeilOnce upon a time I had a visionin the Utah desert and saw thefuture of journalism. (At least,part of its future.) The vision camewhile I was deliriously hot, drivingwest of Salt Lake City across a vaststretch of land where almost nobodylives. But there was this house off inthe distance. What was it doing there?I couldn’t stop wondering. Who livedin it? Why? It was a familiar feeling,one that fuels my journalism—a deepcuriosity about a place and the peoplewho inhabit it.In my delirium, I had the strangeurge to click on the house as a personmight click on a hyperlink. I wantedto find out more about the house, itsinhabitants, and the desert surroundingit. This urge was delusional, ofcourse. The landscape is not made ofhyperlinks; we can’t click on thingswe see in the world to learn moreabout them.At least, six years ago, when I hadthis vision, we couldn’t.Before I go any further, let me backup. This drive through Utah was notPlaces have stories to tell, and technology is likely to help us connect what we see—like thisold barn—with stories about people and events that happened here. Photo by Krissy Clark.the first road trip to shape my visionof journalism. I became a journalistvia road trips. In the late 1980’s, myfather and I took a series of driveson weekends, together in his beat-upbrown Mercedes. I was young andcurious; he was old and sick with theemphysema that would later kill himwhen I was in high school. We drovebecause he had things to show me,most of all the land surrounding theSan Francisco Bay, where our familyhas lived since 1848. I was navigator,squinting over maps, fingering shorelines,and tracing roads. As I lookedout the window, my dad told storiesof what we saw.Down that road, in the little townof Birds Landing, were the ruins ofmy great-great-grandfather’s store,64 Nieman Reports | Summer 2010

Hacks + Hackerswhich supplied gold-seeking fortyniners.(Now the building sits in theshadow of an industrial wind farm.)Up that hill, on Vallejo Street in SanFrancisco, was where my dad andhis mother before him grew up. (Mygreat-grandparents moved into thehouse after their original house wasdamaged in the 1906 earthquake.)Past that tollbooth—see it through thefog?—was the place where as teenagers,my dad and his best friend climbedup the base of the Golden Gate Bridge(or so they told us) while it was underconstruction.It was on these trips that I first fellin love with a place and its people,and I understood that a landscape ismade of stories over time, layer uponlayer, like geologic strata.A year after graduating from college,I saved up for a bicycle rideacross America with my best friend.We pedaled from California to Massachusettsand camped in the yardsof people we met along the way. Wehad breakfast with roughnecks livinglarge off the gas boom in Wyoming.The noise and lights from their rigskept the town up at night. We stayedwith a family who raised hogs in Minnesotabut struggled to compete withcorporate farms. We rode through animpoverished Indian reservation andmet locals who hoped a casino mighthelp. We hit the Atlantic Ocean, andI didn’t want to stop.But I had figured out that what Iliked doing—meeting people, askingthem questions, learning about thejoys and frustrations of the placesthey lived—had something to do withjournalism. Since then, over the courseof my career I have let these instinctsand values guide me. I have been astudent of how land shapes peopleand how people shape the land. I’velearned to ask simple questions thatoften lead to surprising answers—andinteresting stories. Why did SanFrancisco become the gay-friendliestcity? What happens to a cow townwhen the cows are all gone? Whatdrives a city to court a nuclear bombfactory? What is it like to live in theforeclosure capital of the U.S.?Mapping the JourneyThere is another thing all those roadtrips taught me. Maps are powerfultools. In fact I’ve come to believe thatthe best journalism is like a map. Itshows where you are in relation to others;it provides a sense of topographyand can show the best path forward.Whatever the purpose is of a particularpiece of journalism—breaking a story,investigating corruption, giving voiceto the voiceless—when the job is donewell, a new place in this world emergesor new understanding of a familiarone is gained. Effective storytellinghelps citizens and communitiesdiscover where they are (sometimesby examining who they are). Fromthere, they can better decide wherethey want to go.And so I come back to that visionI had in the desert on that swelteringdrive through Utah when I noticed thatfaraway house and wanted to click onit. While that would have seemed aridiculous idea a decade ago, now it isnearly possible. Look in your purse orpocket. There’s a good chance you’vegot a smartphone in there—equippednot only with Internet access but alsowith GPS, a compass, and an accelerometer.It can tell you where you are,help you get to where you’re headed,and even let you know how fast youare going in getting there.Technology like this is changingthe media landscape, and the shifthas got me thinking hard about theactual landscape under our feet—thestreets and land we live on, and thelayers of stories heaped upon them.Every place has a story, and everystory has a place.So what can that gadget in yourcar or pocket tell you about a placeright now? The answer: a lot of facts,figures and user-generated reviews.• An application called Wikitudeallows you to point your phone inthe direction of a mountain rangeor historic building and read aWikipedia entry about it.• Twitter and Foursquare and Gowallacan show the tweets and fleetingthoughts of people who have stoodwhere you’re standing.• Yelp and Urbanspoon let you usethe camera and GPS on the iPhoneto create a window of augmentedreality that displays comments aboutthe restaurant in front of you.• EveryBlock reveals data includingcrime statistics, property values,and municipal permit applicationson a city block.All of this is useful information. Butas a journalist it’s worth consideringtwo things: Too much information canbe too much of a good thing, if it’snot vetted and curated. And a place’sstory is more than the sum of its data.In other words, facts and tweets anduser-generated encyclopedia entriesand reviews are not the only thingsto know about a place. There are alsowell-researched, well-crafted stories:the dramas, hopes and concerns of thepeople who live there and the forcesthat affect them.At such a challenging time forjournalism, this is good news.Now imagine this scenario. I’mdriving down Interstate 80 throughthe Utah desert and I see a house. Iwonder about it. So I point my phonein its direction and click; I find a story,perhaps from The Salt Lake Tribune,about the man who built it. Maybehe worked at the Wendover Air ForceBase, where the Enola Gay crew trainedbefore they dropped the first atomicweapon in 1945. And the desert surroundingthis house? Courtesy of theDeseret News, I learn that the landmay soon be home to a radioactivewaste dump, just over the ridge overthere. A few miles behind me, that’swhere a skydiver fell from the cloudsand broke his pelvis last summer. Andthe town up the road may look sleepy,but in the last few years it has hadthe highest job growth in the nation.Imagine pointing your smartphoneat the desert and hearing a stream ofstories about the people who live andwork nearby. Imagine clicking on thethings you see in the world as thoughthey are hyperlinks. Imagine hearinga podcast as you move throughNieman Reports | Summer 2010 65

What’s Next for News?a landscape that would tell you thestories of that place.Telling the Stories of a PlaceEvery place has a thousand storiesthat can help us understand ourworld and make decisions as citizens.Journalists tell these stories every dayand news organizations have archivesfull of them. But there could be moreefficient, effective and creative waysto link these stories to the placeswhere they are rooted. Reporters andnewsrooms could geotag their storiesand archives in a coordinated way sothat when someone goes to a particularplace or looks at a map of that place,she could get an aggregate of relevant,well-researched content.I’ve gotten glimmers of the powerof telling a story at precisely the righttime and place and heard back abouthow the experience enriched my audience’sunderstanding. A few years ago,a woman e-mailed me to say that shehad been driving past Santa Monicabeach when she heard my radio storyabout a 97-year-old man who flieshomemade kites there. She found himand introduced herself. Then therewas my friend who told me he caughtmy story about the drought’s effectson Lake Mead just as he was drivingpast the reservoir toward Las Vegas.Those intersections of story andplace were just lucky coincidences.We could build tools that ensure thosemoments. By harnessing the fleetingbut powerful investment that peoplehave in a place when they are physicallyin it, we fuel curiosity and givedeeper meaning to what is discovered.We live at a time and in a worldin which people can become so gluedto their gadgets they forget the placewhere they are standing. But a reporterequipped with the right geospatialdevices has a unique opportunity toreconnect people to place.Combine storytelling skills withlocation-aware tools, and the interactivelandscape of my desert hallucinationis nearly possible. I see a worldwhere narratives are draped on alandscape, and the news of a regionis not just about what’s new. Placeprovides an alternative organizingprinciple for journalism, promptingquestions about what forces—economic,political, environmental,cultural, personal—shape one spot inthe world. “Where” has always beenone of the fundamental questionsguiding journalists, along with who,what, when, why and how. Now theanswers to those questions—in theform of stories—might soon emanatefrom the landscape itself. “If thesewalls could talk,” the saying goes. I’mhere to tell you: They can. Krissy Clark is a contributingproducer for American PublicMedia’s documentary unit, AmericanRadioWorks. She is based in SanFrancisco and was a 2009-2010John S. Knight journalism fellowat Stanford University, whereshe focused her study project ongeographically aware journalism.Digital Immersion: Augmenting Places With StoriesAnd Information‘News organizations and start-up entrepreneurs are only beginning to explorethe potential of augmented reality.’BY MIKE LIEBHOLDImagine that you are able tosee invisible information drapedacross the physical world. As youwalk around, you see labels tellingthe history of a place and offeringgeographic attributes of the space asyou walk through. There’s the nameof a tree, the temperature, the age ofa building, and the conduits underthe pavement. Popping into view areoperating instructions for devices. Allof this is digitally overlaid and visibleacross the physical world.This yet-to-be-realized experience isa thought experiment for helping usinteract with a future that is movinginexorably toward us.Web browsers enable us to viewhyperlinked media on a page. Now theWeb browser is our camera view as weinteract with digital-linked media thatare attached to the real world. We canexperience this now through mobiletechnology’s augmented reality (AR)on a smartphone using apps like Layar,Wikitude and Junaio. Eventually we’llbe able to do so with augmented realityglasses. In time, we’ll do this throughour vehicle’s windows, too, then withdigitally augmented contact lenses,and on go the possibilities. Right nowdata are geocoded so the information isidentified with latitude and longitude,though for many future AR applications,it will be necessary to includedata about a digital object’s elevation.The first generation of smartphoneaugmented-reality viewers can seeonly a few narrow glimpses of theincreasing mass of geocoded data andmedia available nearby. Yet, there’s agrowing flood of location-based mapdata, geocoded Web pages, and livesensor data digitally available usingnewly opened standards like Keyhole66 Nieman Reports | Summer 2010

Hacks + HackersMarkup Language (KML); thismap description language is usedby Google Maps and GoogleEarth and named after Keyhole,the company that developedKeyhole Earth Viewer, whichwas renamed Google Earth whenthe company was acquired byGoogle. According to Google,people have already created andposted more than two billionplace marks—digital objectsattached to a place—and a fewhundred million more usinganother Web standard calledgeoRSS. This location codingis an extension of RSS (RealSimple Syndication), which iswidely used by news organizations.And now Twitter’s newgeocoding tools are being usedto add location coordinates tomillions of tweets.The beauty of these standardcodes is that ideally they canbe viewed on any browser, justas an HTML Web page is noweasily read on commonly usedbrowsers such as Firefox, InternetExplorer, Safari or Opera.Similarly, KML and geoRSSlocation data can be viewed onany map program from Google,Microsoft, Yahoo!, or companiessuch as ESRI, which is the dominantmap software company.Unfortunately our GPS-equippedphones can’t calculate location accuratelyenough to precisely displaygeocoded information that is closerthan about five to 20 meters. This isa technical limitation of both GPS andof the data. Nor does most geocodedinformation yet include precise 3Dcoordinates of latitude, longitude andelevation. Instead, with this first generationof mobile devices, most of theapps rely on the GPS and an internalcompass to show viewers the general,but not the precise location of the data.This works fine for finding a coffeeshop, but is insufficient for learningthe finer details of an object or placewe can see, for example informationabout an ornamental decoration on ahistoric building.There are, however, some technicalUsing an augmented reality browser, a person can see differentlayers of information overlaid on the live view fromtheir smartphone’s camera. Photo courtesy of Layar.developments that will enable thecreation and viewing of digital objectswith precision in 3D space. These willrely on a photographic recognitioncapability, which major technologycompanies such as Nokia, Microsoft,Google, and others are developing.How will they work? By comparingthe pattern in the view to a storedpattern. By using the company’s vastnetwork of computers and massivedatabase of images, Google’s visualsearch application can identify animage of a place like the Golden GateBridge; eventually this technology willbe able to calculate the “pose” of acamera, i.e., the 3D location, with thefield of view and precise distance of theperson from the object he is viewing.Nokia’s Point and Find and Microsoft’sPhotosynth work similarly and willprovide the capability for people toadd a precisely located annotation tothe real world so that peoplecan discover digital informationattached to these physical places.Augmented Reality andJournalismUntil now our knowledge ofthe physical world, as humans,has been limited to that whichwe can carry around with us tohelp make sense of the physicalworld. With the Internet andnow with relatively inexpensivewireless mobile devices, ourability to make sense of theworld as we move through itis greatly enhanced. All weneed to do is to enter a queryand view the information on adigital device. But right now tosee this information in the realworld requires that we launchone of dozens of special iPhoneor Google Android phone applications.By 2015, the Institutefor the Future forecasts thatdigital augmentation will workseamlessly and naturally throughthe first generation of specialeyeglasses equipped to showdigital data overlaid on the realworld. By 2020, perhaps glasseswon’t be needed as wirelesscontact lenses, already in developmentin University of Washington labs andelsewhere, become available.Just as the hypertext Web changedour interaction with text, emergingaugmented reality technologies willreshape how we understand and behavein the physical world. That’s why it’simportant that we—in particular, thosewho transmit information and interpretand describe the world for others,as journalists do—start to think aboutthe implications of physical space beingtransformed into information space.I think it’s apparent that we won’twant to see everything about all thatwe are viewing. If we did, our naturalvision would be blocked completely.This means we’ll need to think hardabout developing ways to query theinformation we want and filter fromour view potentially vast amountsof information that we don’t want.Nieman Reports | Summer 2010 67

What’s Next for News?In any place we go, there will existthe potential for a bombardment ofinformation that has been aggregatedabout the thousands of digital objectsthat describe in some way our physicalenvironment—its infrastructure, history,culture, commerce and politics.In the mix will be social and personalinformation and sometimes evenfictional events with this place as abackdrop.With access to this realm of information,complex objects will becomeself-explanatory. People will be ableto display operating and maintenanceinstructions in text, graphics or evenin geolocated video and sound. Andjust as it will be very easy to encodeand view facts about a place, it will besimilarly simple to overlay the placeMost of the apps on the first generation of smartphonesrely on GPS and an internal compass to provide generalinformation about a place. Photo courtesy of Layar.with fictional art and media. Andwhen this happens, even neutral spacescan be transformed into sensory richentertainment experiences.As travelers in information, journalistswill have the job of makingsense of this new world and they willdo this with a fresh palette of digitaltools. It will be incumbent on themto find ways to tell stories about ournew blended realities, using tools thatmake possible these new dimensions.Imagine the possibilities of being ableto describe in detail the cultural andsocial histories of a place that foreshadoweda newsworthy event—anddo this in augmented reality so peoplecan visualize all of this.There is also the opportunity tooverlay statistical probabilities ofan event occurring. Forexample, if a driver lookingfor a parking space cansee that there have beenmany auto thefts nearby,he might decide to parksomewhere else. If peoplecould discover that thereis a very high incidenceof communicable diseasesnear a restaurant,they might choose to eatelsewhere.News organizations andstart-up entrepreneurs areonly beginning to explorethe potential of augmentedreality. Map out wherenews stories occur at amoment in time and yousurely will find storiesfrom Washington, D.C.and Baghdad, others fromAfghanistan, and a mixtureof local coverage. However,if we gather stories relatedto a place over a longerperiod of time, there isa higher density of newspresent in that place. Andso both the temporal andspatial density of informationin any one place canbecome a more completeand richer resource.Recently Microsoftdemonstrated how we’llbe able to see old photos and videosof an earlier time overlaid directly andprecisely on a rendering of the currentenvironment. This will enableus to understand better (by seeing)what a place was like at another time.Indeed, it’s likely that we’ll be able tosee from recordings video ghosts ofpeople walking down the street andlisten to them describe experiencesfrom another time in this exact place.This futuristic vision of the digitalaugmentation of our real world seemsquite strange, even disorienting, toour contemporary sensibilities. Inits entirety, it is not yet imminent.We have ample time to explore theimplications, challenges, dilemmasand opportunities that it poses.At the Institute for the Future, wehelp people to systematically thinkabout the future by following a basicmethodology of planning for disruptivechanges ahead; the process involvesthree stages—foresight to insight toaction. Foresight happens by gatheringand synthesizing expert opinions;one expert might be able to describea clear view, but one limited by herown realm of expertise. By gatheringviews from multiple experts, we startto see things at the intersection ofvarious views. Then by developingthese vivid views of the possible future,we arrive at what we can grasp as theprobable future. The next step is toselect actions to build what is seenas a desirable future that is based oncontextual insights.Through this process, one overarchingtheme remains at the centerof our thinking. We are not victimsof the future; we can shape our ownfutures. The takeaway for journalistsis that the tools and probable use ofaugmented reality are not the stuff ofscience fiction. To those who find waysto use this technology to tell stories—togather and distribute news—will flowthe audience. Mike Liebhold is a senior researcherand distinguished fellow at theInstitute for the Future, an independentnonprofit research group in PaloAlto, California.68 Nieman Reports | Summer 2010

Hacks + HackersThe Future of Storytelling: A Participatory EndeavorAt the Center for Future Storytelling, researchers envision how technology cangive people more control over TV programs they encounter and storiesthey follow.For 25 years the Massachusetts Instituteof Technology’s Media Lab hasbeen at the forefront of exploring howtechnology can enhance communicationand storytelling. V. Michael Bove,Jr., a principal research scientist,leads a number of initiatives at thelab including the Center for FutureStorytelling, which was founded in2008. Jan Gardner, assistant editorof Nieman Reports, spoke with Boveat the lab. Edited excerpts follow asBove, one of three codirectors of thecenter, talked about television viewersas directors and media consumers ascollaborators.V. Michael Bove, Jr.: Our effort at thecenter looks very broadly at the waysin which people will express themselvesand share stories and at the differenttensions involved in doing this. Thereare two that I particularly care about.The first is the tension between theshared social experience of invitingfriends over to watch the Super Bowlon your big screen TV versus peoplewho watch TV on their iPhones wantingto have a personalized interactiveexperience. How do you simultaneouslycreate what will be a shared experienceand a personalized experience suchthat everybody comes away happy?The second tension is betweenlarge organizations—such as Disney-Pixar—which do very good storytellingby getting the best talent and havinga culture that nurtures what theydo—and the YouTube generation. Howdo you support both of those visionswithout casting them in oppositionto each other? How do you look hardat the business models, content andtechnologies with some meeting ofthe minds, in ways in which eachside feels that there’s some benefit intalking with the other?Recently we had about 150 peopleat an event called Story 3.0. A bigpart of that gathering was an attemptto figure out what people are alreadydoing that relates to these questions,as well as some interesting directionsto follow up on.A prototype of a handheld device application that could enable surround vision to happenin ways similar to what audio technology now enables. From video by Melanie Gonick, MIT.Jan Gardner: Is there a tension betweenproviding a rich experience and anoverwhelming one?Bove: The problem of overwhelmingnessis maybe generationally defined. Sodifferent people—depending on whatthey grew up with—are overwhelmedby differing amounts of media richnessand saturation and ubiquity. I heard anumber this morning that 87 percentof teenagers who text sleep with theircell phones. I don’t know that it’s easyto overwhelm somebody like that withmedia ubiquity. But that doesn’t meaneverybody wants that. So I think thatinformation dissemination is goingto be even more multi-dimensional.And you can’t just be in the businessof one dimension.Gardner: What was discussed at theStory 3.0 gathering?Bove: One topic was a project frommy group called “surround vision” inwhich we are saying “let’s take yourhigh-definition television set and addaugmented reality to it.” What thatmeans is you’re watching a debate, atalk show, an entertainment program, asporting event, and it’s the same thingeverybody else can see. So you’d say,“I want to see the audience’s reactionto what Jay [Leno] just said.” On“The Tonight Show” there’s always acamera pointed at the audience, butmost of the time the feed doesn’t goout. What if those additional videofeeds were available and all I had todo was take my iPhone and hold itup and look around behind me? Orduring a debate I could look at thereactions of the other candidates towhat the person at the podium justsaid. I would not then be relying onthe producer providing the video todecide which view I ought to see.Nieman Reports | Summer 2010 69

What’s Next for News?Or for a sporting event, I may wantto look at the other end of the fieldthan what they are showing right now.The field is surrounded by cameras,so video is being shot.We are looking at a variety of contentranging from entertainment to sportsto news and public affairs. Initially,we’re not looking to add complexityor expense to the production or postproductionprocess. We’re trying totake stuff that is already being shot,where there’s additional material, andsimply providing a means for makingthat available. What that means is thatindividuals will have a bit more control.Gardner: So viewers can become theirown producer.Bove: You can become your owndirector. Or you can decide to have alean-back experience.So it’s not like playinga video game. You don’tconstantly have to bepressing buttons ormoving around to makethe story advance. But ifyou want to invest morein it, you can get morein return. That’s a themethat my students havebeen working on for along time, the notionthat we want to havetelevision that’s interactivewhen we want it tobe. But if you don’t interact with it,it’s still a perfectly valuable experience.We did a television program with JuliaChild and WGBH in 1999 that workedthat way—it was a dinner party thatshe hosted. She put all of the dishesout on the table, and if you wantedto know more about a particular dish,you could click on it and she gave alesson in how to prepare it.A lot of the technology we need todo these things is almost off the shelfnow. So it’s more a matter of creativevision and business model, but we alsohave to reinvent television to makethis happen.Gardner: What about the implicationsfor print?Bove: We have to assume the printmedium is part of an ecosystem andthen ask what happens when all thepieces of the ecosystem fit together.What is the overall experience? Thisis another issue. Too often in organizationsthat produce media oneteam does the main product, anotherdoes the Web site, others work onthe mobile app, and then there areteams that do something else. That’sunsustainable economically because it’sa huge duplication of effort. It’s alsonot a particularly good idea in termsof coherence because what you wouldlike is for the experience to play outacross these different platforms in differentways and let users go back andforth among them. It’s not necessarilythe job of the creators to drive youto a primary platform. I don’t thinkyou can do that anymore. FiguringYou can become your own director. Or you candecide to have a lean-back experience. So it’s notlike playing a video game. You don’t constantlyhave to be pressing buttons or moving around tomake the story advance. But if you want to investmore in it, you can get more in return.out how to make it work financiallyis another matter.Gardner: What else came out of Story3.0?Bove: We had a case study that MTVpresented where they rather radicallyhad to alter what they were doingbecause the audience was actually moredemanding than they’d expected. Itwas a show called “Valemont” about auniversity for vampires. People said tothemselves, “Oh, geez, it’s going to be167 hours until the next episode goeson the air, entertain us till then.” Thestory was advancing both through thebroadcast show and online, so if youreally wanted to find out what wasgoing on, you had to watch the showand go to the Web site. The audienceturned out to be very, very earnest.The point is that there are somecases where producers and directorssay that they probably should havelistened to the people on the Webbecause there were a lot more of themspending their lives thinking aboutwhat should happen and how the storyarc ought to progress than the smallteam of writers. And if they paid abit more attention, the show probablywould have been better. On the otherhand, not everybody is comfortablegiving up that much control. But ifyou go to these online forums wherepeople are discussing what ought tohappen next, there are some very cleverand thoughtful people out there whoprobably understand the characters atleast as well as the writers do.Gardner: Do you lookfor any lessons fromthe past for the workyou’re doing?Bove: What comes tomind is the 1998 book,“The Victorian Internet,”in which TomStandage explains howalmost everything thatthe Internet was supposedto do to societywas actually done tosociety by the telegraph.Even up to the degree that the telegraphwas this extremely economicallyimportant means of communicationessentially being run by very youngpeople who developed their own sortof text message shorthand.On the one hand, we can take thisstuff all a little bit too seriously andbelieve that OK, nothing new is goingon and there are no new lessons tolearn. On the other hand, we can feelthat any time something comes alongthat looks as if it’s going to amplifyour ability to communicate with othersover time and distance, we should pouras much of ourselves as we can intothat new means of doing so.In truth, the really fun stuff happensin the early days before anybody figures70 Nieman Reports | Summer 2010

Hacks + Hackersout what the new technology is goodfor. I thought the Web was a great placein the mid ’90s although nobody hada business model for it because peoplewould just try anything. In the sameway, TV was much more interestingin the mid ’50s when nobody knewquite what it was good for.Gardner: Mobile technology is big now.What about the future?Bove: The real question is: Is theregoing to be anything but mobile?Connectivity is a given, just as arericher user interfaces and offeringmore context. The best way to dealwith an onslaught of information isto have the system figure out what’sappropriate for you. No one reallyneeds 1,000 television channels. WhatI’ve always wanted to do is make atelevision that essentially has an on/off button and a guess-again button,where the TV shows what it thinks youprobably want to see. You tell it “No,not that,” and it shows its second-bestguess. A lot of things are going to haveto work that way.All of these things do not in anyway minimize the role of the humancreating the content. They actuallyamplify the ability to get the contentto the people who really want it. So inthe future the metric of success mightnot be whether a story appeared ina publication with a circulation of amillion readers, but whether 10,000people read it to the end within 15minutes of it being posted. Storytelling in the Digital Age: Finding theSweet Spot‘Old metrics for credibility and trust no longer guide us, nor does trust emanateexclusively from the power of a brand name or from the overpowering resourcesof a recognized institution.’BY HANSON HOSEINSix years ago I turnedaway from my televisioncareer with NBC News.Around me, I was seeing theexplosion of broadband Internetaccess, powerful computerprocessors, cheap digitalstorage, and the proliferationof portable content creationand distribution devices. Allof this was throwing the verycontrolled communicationsystem that provided my workand income into turmoil.Suddenly almost everyonehad access to a cheap andeasy-to-use digital communicationmedium.Yet the reality is still that humanshave only so much time and interestin consuming media. When virtuallyeveryone can produce content, thechallenge becomes convincing peopleto pay attention and effect a transaction—sharethe content, get involved,Filmmakers Hanson Hosein and Heather Hughes took their dogMiles with them on the road to make “Independent America: TheTwo-Lane Search for Mom & Pop.” Photo by Paul Perrier.or act in some way on what’s beenlearned.Early in 2005, blogging was hitting acritical mass. High-definition cameraswere descending to consumer-levelprices, and new multimedia distributionplatforms were proliferating.(YouTube launched that year.) As anovice filmmaker, I figuredthis was the right moment tocombine the timeless art ofstorytelling with 21st centurydigital tools by making a filmabout a civic issue of growingconcern. Could I build acommunity with trust at itscore through such an effort?I didn’t know, but I wantedto try.The film’s topic was thedisplacement of Main Street’scommerce and communityby soulless big box stores—massive structures enticingpeople away from the coreof their towns along stretches of roadwith a corporate shopping experienceat the end. So my wife, my dog, and Iset out on a cross-country trip, one inwhich we vowed to stay off interstatesand away from corporate chain stores.As I conceived our story—it would beportrayed as a personal journey—theseNieman Reports | Summer 2010 71

What’s Next for News?constraints would serve mostly as aheadline gimmick; by the time our film,“Independent America: The Two-LaneSearch for Mom & Pop” was ready forbroadcast, the journalist inside of merealized that these two “rules” gaveus an ideal storytelling structure andactually were our story.In his “Poetics,” Aristotle observedwhat we now consider obvious; everystory has a beginning, middle and end.He likened structure to the tighteningof a knot—lay out the premise at theoutset, then twist it tighter into acomplication until a transformation(the climax) occurs. This leads to thedenouement, literally the untying ofcomplication—a release of the story’stension. Here is where storytellers (andfilmmakers) will often let the audienceoff the hook with an emotional release.Our Brains: Emotion andDecisionThe emotional element turns out tobe crucial, since it actually helps usmake decisions. In “How We Decide,”Jonah Lehrer observed that the rightside of our brain allows us to see whatwe would otherwise fail to notice withour rational hemisphere on the left.“These wise yet inexplicable feelingsare an essential part of the decisionmakingprocess. Even when we thinkwe know nothing, our brains knowsomething. That’s what our feelingsare trying to tell us,” Lehrer writes.What this means to us, as journalists,is that in competing for attention inan information-saturated society, wewant people to make decisions basedon what we communicate to them.It’s important to know the value andpotential use we can make of emotionalimpact. In “Independent America,”there is mounting tension toward themiddle of the film about whether we’dcomplete the journey. (We did.) As theend of the film approaches, we presentviewers with an epiphany aboutAmericans’ growing mistrust of large,powerful institutions. This happens aswe encounter a community-supporteddepartment store in Wyoming thatoffers an alternative to the destructionof community that we’d seen before.Aristotle’s enduring formula wouldpredict that our mid-story tensionfollowed by this final release wouldsatisfy our story’s audience. In fact,what we offered as a return on theirinvestment of attention and time was anemotional bond—in this case, empathy.And through this we managed to buildtrust and form community. We cameto be regarded as credible storytellerswho might be able to re-engage anaudience in the future.Establishing Trust: Then andNowStories are encoded within our DNAas humans. Joseph Campbell spent hislife studying myths that have emergedfrom many cultures. In doing so, hediscovered a universal pattern thattranscends both culture and history.He called it the “hero’s journey”—thestory of when a seemingly ordinaryperson reluctantly accepts a call toaction, leaves behind the status quo,and embarks on a journey that entailstrials and tribulations from which thishero learns valuable lessons. Ultimatelyhe undergoes a transformation forbetter or for worse and returns homea changed person. Jesus, Moses,Mohammed, Harry Potter, Luke Skywalker,Frodo—these are all legendarypersonalities who have undertaken thehero’s journey.Campbell believed that our loveand belief in these myths originatesfrom experiences we have as humanbeings who are born, live and die,and that each of us pursues his ownhero’s journey, with a clear beginning,middle and end and a transformationalong the way. Thus, inherently wegrasp these three stages deep withinourselves. Indeed, we spend our livestrying to come to terms with it, so it’sno wonder that disparate societies cantell the same stories over and overagain with different names, places anddetails. Yet we continue to be deeplyattracted to these archetypal tales.Certainly advertisers and publicrelations professionals apply Campbelland Aristotle in their marketingcampaigns, sometimes even serializingthem like a television drama. Butuntil very recently these have been20th century mass media products ofpassive, one-way, filter-then-publishmedia distribution. There we usedto sit, without choice, as commercialsplayed. By and large, we trusted whatwas said, in part, because the wordsand images reached us as they did. Weascribed credibility to organizationsbased, in part, on the huge resourcesand effort they deployed to reach us;those high barriers to entry must countfor something, we figured, if only bywinnowing out losers and charlatans.With digital media, barriers to entryare eroded. Old metrics for credibilityand trust no longer guide us, nor doestrust emanate exclusively from thepower of a brand name or from theoverpowering resources of a recognizedinstitution. Through social networks,we adopt ways of trusting people we’venever met, often based on identifying amutual interest or point of agreement.When we find these, they encourage usto open a channel of communication.If we inject that channel with story,authenticity and a certain amount ofemotion, we have laid the groundworkfor an ongoing relationship of crediblecommunication. 1Back in 2005, in addition to thedigital tools at our disposal, we hadanother powerful asset: a nascentrelationship with the grassrootsAmerican Independent Business Alliance(AMIBA). As I contemplateddocumenting our journey, I called uponAMIBA to help drive their membersto our blog. This simple request for apartnership of sorts was why we succeeded.Not only did engaging AMIBAmembers help shape the content ofthe story, but with them we builtup a large amount of social capital.1Hosein elaborates on these themes in “The Storytelling Uprising,” a slideshow availableat Nieman Reports | Summer 2010

Hacks + HackersBefore the end of our trip, membersof AMIBA were clamoring for a DVDof the film so they could buy it andscreen it in their communities. Theyhoped to convince neighbors and cityofficials to reform economic policy asit affected local retail.We tapped into power by appealingto a niche community with the passionand focus to support the issuesand ideas that “Independent America”championed. We didn’t start outbelieving that this was a story thatwould capture the attention and stirthe energy of a mass audience. Thegood news for us was that the massaudience, like mass media, was alreadydividing into digital communities ofinterest. So it seemed natural, as well,to abandon the veneer of journalisticobjectivity—a blunting of the editorialedges to appeal to a mass audiencewithout offending them—given that wewere already relegated to the populistsidelines.Still we wondered how we mightreach a wider audience. Despite ourleanings in favor of Main Street, as ajournalist I also wanted our portrayal ofthe issues to be fair and not dogmatic.Ditto with our conclusions. Along theway, we made our editorial practicestransparent in blog posts and ourmission statement. And such transparency—andstriving for fairness—ledus to an unexpected interview withWal-Mart officials. Wal-Mart receives800 interview requests each week; theygranted us an interview even thoughwe didn’t even have a distributor forthe film because, they told us, theywere impressed by our professionalismand independence.After our film was made, wefound that we could break out of ourniche community to reach a muchbroader-based audience. We did thisby connection to a wide mix of digitalcommunications streams, broadcastingthe film internationally, and receivinghigh-profile exposure on Yahoo! andHulu.Somewhere between the monopolistic,hierarchic and centralized massmedia outlets of the 20th century andthe atomistic, anarchic and decentralizednature of citizen production anddistribution lies the sweet spot, aplace between institution and amateur,between left and right brain.The influence of these media creatorscomes not from any institution, butfrom their own personal brand—trustbuilt through ongoing storytelling andthe curation of knowledge within acommunity. Hanson Hosein is the director of theMaster of Communication in DigitalMedia program at the Universityof Washington, a filmmaker, and aformer NBC News correspondent andproducer. He is working on a bookabout storytelling in the digital age.Apple’s iPad Meets Hamlet’s BlackberryHistory teaches that ‘long-established media technologies, when faced with theprospect of commercial extinction, counter with their own dialectic.’BY PETER COBUS“E-paper has entered the market, butnot yet in a big way. No technology isyet sufficiently paper-like to grab thehuge latent market widely recognized tobe there. … This is a lot like the earlydays of television development, wheneveryone knew what was needed butgetting the technology right was tough.”— Nicholas K. Sheridon,who developed a forerunner toe-paper, from a 2007 interview.In 2006, National Journal media criticWilliam Powers wrote “Hamlet’sBlackberry: Why Paper is Eternal,”an essay—recently expanded to booklength and scheduled to be publishedin June by Harper—that compellinglyargues print’s invincibility as the mediumof choice for long-format narrativeconsumption—whether in book,magazine or broadsheet format.The timing of his book’s releasecouldn’t be better: Industrywide buzzsurrounding the launch of Apple’s iPadhas triggered—for newsprint-basedorganizations—the kind of vexatiousbouts of self-examination one mightexpect of a melancholy Dane.So now it’s time to bring up thehouse lights. Any illuminating historyof print says perseverance, not pulp,is its most distinctive trait; even acursory review reveals the consistencywith which long-established mediatechnologies, when faced with the prospectof commercial extinction, counterwith their own dialectic. Despite theiPad’s digital sophistication—and theassuredness that more sophisticatedtools will surely follow—history isa good guide in reminding us thatwhat is happening in the digital realmcannot be the death knell for all ofprint media.ReinventionWhen people assumed talkies heraldedthe death of theater, motion picturesand stage found ways to coexist, albeitwithin a reconfigured marketplace;plays were adapted to film and viceversa, and stage and screen performersNieman Reports | Summer 2010 73

What’s Next for News?found ways to reinvent themselvesin relation to new technologicaldevelopments. When Betamaxarrived on the market, it surelymeant the death of the cineplex.But this was not to be as Hollywoodrose to the challenge bycreating films of greater aural andvisual sophistication and made thebig-screen experience somethingnewly distinct from home viewing.(The business bonus was thatcinema flops could stanch financialhemorrhaging by going straight toVHS or DVD.)But if old media’s tenacity isn’tpersuasive, consider how printmaterials insist on their own presence.A newspaper delivered in themorning remains on the kitchentable while errands get run; whenwe return home, its open pages arean unsuspecting reminder of ourintention, prodding us to finishwhat we started before the dayends. Unlike words we receive digitally,words on paper—or, to paraphrasePowers, the electronic data that ourabsurdly futuristic-looking copiersand printers spray across theirsurface—evade the out-of-sight,out-of-mind gauziness that is theperpetual present of the constantlyupdated homepage. And, at the riskof intellectualizing, I’d suggest hardcopy periodicals maintain a kindof residual fixedness that seems toresonate, however subtly, with thatof our own physical vessel—thehuman body.There can be no lingering doubtonline media will rule breakingnews—the fact-finding or “just tellme what I need to know” strategiesof gleaning information online. Yetprint media (or the first interactivetechnology that can replicate theirevery physical attribute) will remainindispensable to the long-form narrativesthat provide us with the substanceof what we find necessary to nurtureour moments of personal reflection.Amidst the digital invasion, printcan be seen as an essential mediumof accommodating stasis, a thing thatcomplements our own momentaryrespite from the perpetual delugeThis flexible electronic paper display was createdby E Ink Corporation and LG.Philips LCD in 2005.Photo courtesy of LG.Philips LCD.of digital ephemera. It can be whatsettles us when we push away from thecompany of the constantly updating... print can be seen asan essential medium ofaccommodating stasis, a thingthat complements our ownmomentary respite from theperpetual deluge of digitalephemera.updates of the contemporary breakingnews portal. Print rescues us, in ways,from the eternal now that news organizationsnot only chronicle but, forbetter or worse, have come to embody.No matter how much the anatomyof our news media infrastructuremight change, advertising revenue willlikely remain its lifeblood. Researchhas shown that consumers say theyenjoy print advertising and, accordingto Powers, they typically disliketelevision and online-multimediaads due to their intrusive nature.Print ads are regarded solelyon a reader’s terms, while theirmultimedia counterparts on theWeb can be as intensely irritatingas they are deliberately attentiongrabbing. Is it any wonder thatpeople frequently describe feelinga lack of control over the onlinenewsreading experience? Or thatpeople overwhelmingly prefer toread long-format news in printrather than on a Web site?Even Google is attuned to thissituation with the staid whiteemptiness of its homepage. Thisentry anchors a global informationnetwork and thereby marksthe commercial epicenter of thebarely controlled chaos that istoday’s Internet. It is a kind ofcybersanctum of determined stasis:only a blinking cursor awaits yourarrival in the search bar. Each onlinesession is initiated purely on yourown terms.A pop-futurist sensibility continuesto imbue the digital marketplacewith a kind of mythical ethos ofthe modern consumer. Audio-visualsophistication and elaborate userinterfaces are assumed to be thestrongest selling points of anynew device. As humans, we seemprogrammed to grab at any devicethat improves our (simultaneous)ability to watch TV, play films, chatwith friends, video-talk with lovedones, take photographs, locate arestaurant, record a discussion, and/or indulge in activities we didn’t evenknow we wanted to do—anythingthat keeps us occupied.Yet it would seem the quiet andsolace of an uninterrupted white spaceis analogous to what humans findessential in the experience of deepthinking and reading. Sadly, it is thissimple lesson—born of what it is thatmakes us human—that we seem toowilling to forget. Peter Cobus works on The WashingtonPost’s universal news desk.74 Nieman Reports | Summer 2010

Hacks + HackersThe Tablet’s Mobile Multimedia Revolution:A Reality Check‘In my opinion, tablets, like the Internet in the past, are fantastic opportunities,not just devices on which to perform the same old tricks.’BY JUAN ANTONIO GINERIt’s the wine, not the bottle. Readers,audiences and communities don’tdrink light wines anymore. Theywant rich, full-bodied wines.So executives who run a monomediainformation winery don’t have to worryabout the tablet, Internet or mobilemedia. Print media will survive butwith a shrinking market, fewer andolder readers, and not very muchadvertising, increasing production anddistribution costs, and falling marginsand profits. It might be difficult toattract new and young talent.But those who believe in the futureof the news business, understand thepublic’s new habits, and want to be areliable and profitable player in thisnew media landscape should payattention to the new mobile mediadevices like tablets and smartphones.They are here to stay.Tablets are not the salvation of printmedia, but newspapers and magazinesare still the best journalistic vehiclesfor finding exclusive news. What iscritical are the skills to edit relevantstories and design compelling newspackages, not just for static monomediaplatforms but for the new, dynamic,mobile and multimedia platforms.Don’t expect miracles. If a monomediaoperation produces secondhandnews and stories, the tablets will notchange anything. Remember: garbagein, garbage out. But if a newsroomembraces these new digital multimedianarratives, the life of a publisher, editoror reporter is going to change forever.A newsroom will not be preparedto handle new platforms if it has:• Continued to think print first• Web site staff who still think onlinefirst• Failed to integrate its print andWeb newsrooms• Salespeople who still don’t sellmultimedia packages• Journalists and managers who don’ttalk to each other• Information technology people whowant to control everything• Visual journalists who are stillmonomedia storytellers• Journalists who are not able to createunique, relevant and compellingcontent• Failed to become a 24/7 multimediaoperation• Failed to spend money on research,training and innovation.As media consultant Daniel Ambrosewrote on his Online Publishing Insiderblog:It should be clear … that ifreaching the maximum numberof readers and customers—andcustomers for advertisers—remains a key strategy for mediacompanies, they’ll be doing thaton a wider and wider range ofdevices and platforms. Analogmedia companies have struggledto adapt to one important newdistribution platform in the last15 years: the browser-basedInternet. Over the next 15 yearsthere will be dozens of new opportunitiesto deliver media companycontent and services. It’s time tobegin the education process inearnest; not with highly specifictraining on particular platformsanointed by management, butwith conceptual thinking thatprovides a framework for takingin each new delivery form. It’stime for publishing companies tobegin to reinvest in their staffsat all levels. Companies that doso will thrive. New opportunitiesare emerging every day that theirstaffs will recognize and exploit.Companies that don’t will see thefuture pass them by.In my opinion, tablets, like theInternet in the past, are fantasticopportunities, not just devices onwhich to perform the same old tricks.This is a radical departure from hownewspapers and other media businessesdevelop new relations withreaders and advertisers as well ashow customers interact with them,anywhere, anytime, all the time.That’s good news for the media ifthey are able to produce richer wines.Content rules.Good journalism will be, as always,good business but what cannot beignored are the new ways to access,provide and enhance the uniqueexperience of getting the news first,explaining it better than anybody else,and presenting it in the most appealingand reliable multimedia news packagespossible, produced by a new generationof publishers, editors, reporters andvisual journalists. Juan Antonio Giner is presidentand founder of Innovation InternationalMedia Consulting Group inLondon. He writes the What’s Next:Innovations in Newspapers blog andis an editor of the World Associationof Newspapers’ annual reportInnovations in Newspapers. He canbe reached at Reports | Summer 2010 75

NIEMAN NOTESFrom Rejection to Success—With ‘RadioheadJournalism’In a crowdfunding experiment that earned back what it cost toreport a story, a writer discovers a fresh, but unproven, path for longnarrative stories.When Paige Williams, a 1997Nieman Fellow, couldn’t find ahome for a story she was passionateabout, she published it onlineand set out to crowdfund herexpenses. Donations and praisereached her Web site. But is theapproach she calls “Radioheadjournalism”—a term adaptedfrom a 2007 experiment in onlinemusic sales—a viable way to keepnarrative journalism alive? Inthis article, adapted from one shewrote for, Williamsreports on her experiment.Ipitched the whole world onDolly Freed. Seriously, everymagazine you can think ofand a hundred more. Nobodywas interested in a profile of awoman who used to eat roadkill,make moonshine, and sitaround reading Jean-Paul Sartrewith her alcoholic and probablygeniusfather; a woman wholater went on to get her GED,put herself through college, andbecome a NASA rocket scientistwho helped figure out the messbehind the Challenger explosionThe story of Dolly Freed and her back-to-nature frugal lifestyle became the occasion for an experimentin crowdfunding narrative journalism. Photo by Audra Melton.before turning her back on thatworld for a life that felt moreauthentic. Yeah, I can’t see theappeal whatsoever.So after months of rejection,I bought myself a Web site andin January used it to self-publisha long-form feature story called“Finding Dolly Freed.”In 1978 the pseudonymousDolly Freed wrote a book called“Possum Living: How to Live WellWithout a Job and With (Almost)No Money.” She was 18 and hada seventh-grade education. Sheused a pseudonym becauseshe was a teenage truantand because she and herfather had an intriguingrelationship with the law.After a slightly surrealpost-publishing blitz thatincluded an appearance on“The Merv Griffin Show,”Dolly slipped out of sight.In the ensuing decades, fanswondered what had becomeof her. What became of herwas Texas, among otherthings. She now lives andworks outside Houston asan environmental educator,and she goes by her realname, which I promised notto reveal. She still lives afrugal lifestyle. Dolly is, shetold me, “half-possuming.”Having lost my job twodays before hearing aboutDolly, in the worst monthsof the economic meltdown,I felt that she was a story76 Nieman Reports | Summer 2010

Nieman Notesfor our times. “Possum Living” wasscheduled to be re-issued in Januaryby Tin House.Late last year The New York Timesbought Dolly (yay!) for its Style pagesbut killed it (boo!) when I declined toreveal Dolly’s real name. So I hired aWeb designer and ran the piece online. 1I included a PayPal link in hopes ofrecouping some of the $2,000-plus Ispent on the project. Anybody couldread “Finding Dolly Freed” for freebut had the option to donate whateveramount they chose, sort of the waythe English alternative rock bandRadiohead did with their 2007 album“In Rainbows.”At that point, the Dolly Freedproject became not only an exercisein self-publishing but also an experiment.Would readers pay for a storythat they could read for free on anindependent Web site by a writerthey’d never heard of?Lessons LearnedHere are a few things I learned intransforming rejection into success:• Social media work. I used Twitterand Facebook to spread the wordafter posting “Finding Dolly Freed.”Powerful folks online are critical tothe dialogue. If Adam L. Penenberg,the author of “Viral Loop: FromFacebook to Twitter, How Today’sSmartest Businesses Grow Themselves,”and New York Universityprofessor Jay Rosen hadn’t tweetedabout the project, it never wouldhave entered this particular sliverof the public consciousness in a waythat compelled other journalists totalk about it.• People are awesome. A few ofthe characters behind the Dollyproject worked for no money orfor expenses only. My talented palAudra Melton jumped on a planeto Texas to photograph Dolly, forliterally no paycheck. (In fact, I’mpretty sure she lost money in thedeal.) Another friend, Geoff Gagnon,then an editor at Boston magazineand now at The Atlantic, editedthe piece, and refused to accepta dime. Everyone else got paid(the fact checker, the copy editor),and those expenses went into thedebit column along with Audra’stravel, my initial travel to Texas(air, hotel, car), Web site expenses($800 for design plus other fees forWeb hosting, domain registration,etc.), and miscellaneous FedEx andphotocopying charges.• You’ve got to burp the baby. Ithought I could release Dolly intothe wild and my work would bedone. Puh. Once you birth thebaby you gotta feed her, changeher diapers, protect her from bullies,take her out into public. Theback-end work included tweakingthe site, answering queries, tweetingand retweeting, and monitoring theWeb for mentions or questions thatneeded either immediate attentionor restrained silence. Momentumdies without a master.Minutes after the site went live, thefirst donation via PayPal arrived. Thecontributions came regularly for weeks,in amounts ranging from 50 cents to$100. Three people gave $100, includingPenenberg, who’d done such greattweeting about it, and Hank Stuever,a wonderful Washington Post featurewriter who e-mailed me these words:I’m happy to feel strongly enoughabout what you do—what wedo—to put money behind it. Ifeel it all going away: serendipitousstories, lark, wonder,exploration, heart. Everythingin the newsroom now is justreactive, scoop-centered, gossipy,fuss-and-chit-chat. I have lots ofthoughts about that, which I’mstill sorting through, and maynever sort through.As of early June, donations totaled$2,100. I earned an extra $500 asked me to record thestory as part of the “Possum Living”audiobook. And get this: Although akill fee usually runs 20 percent, theTimes paid me a 50 percent kill fee.These two checks put me over the top.I made back the out-of-pocket moneyI spent reporting the story and earneda few hundred extra to plow back intothe Web site.Judging the OutcomeSo did Radiohead journalism succeed?I guess it depends on the definition ofsuccess. In the strictest sense of theword, yes, it worked: I recovered mycosts. Yet given the visitor-donationratio—roughly 200 of more than5,000 visitors from around the worldcontributed—this doesn’t portend tobe a sustainable model, at least not inits current form. I choose to look at itthis way: People sent money they didn’thave to spend to a person they didn’teven know. That, to me, is wondrous.Someone else may find a better way,and I hope they do. I’d be thrilledto see independent self-publishingmodels for journalism fly, as longas the authors adhere to inviolablestandards of accuracy, fairness, solidethics, and reporting. Institutionalbacking confers credibility, but in thewilds of the Internet, trust begins andends with the storyteller and his orher integrity and approach.After oxygen and carbon, humansare made up of stories; telling andcraving them is elemental to ourexistence. Storytelling will never die.The vexing question is where we’lltell our stories, and how, and howto monetize online narrative withoutbastardizing it. The good news is thatit’s anybody’s game. Paige Williams is executive editorof Boston magazine and has taughtjournalism at New York Universityand Emory University. She won the2008 National Magazine Awardfor feature writing and has writtenfor The New York Times, New Yorkmagazine,, and GQ.1The story can be read at Reports | Summer 2010 77

Nieman Notes1951Angus MacLean Thuermer, a foreigncorrespondent turned CIA official,died on April 14th of pneumonia. Hewas 92.While studying German in Berlinafter college, he began working forThe Associated Press to earn extramoney. Thuermer covered major eventsleading up to World War II includingKristallnacht and Germany’s invasionof Poland.After the Japanese bombed PearlHarbor and the U.S. declared war,he was detained in Germany with135 other journalists, diplomats andAmerican officials. To pass the timeand because to do otherwise wouldbe “unconstitutional,” Thuermer latertold The Washington Post, he andtwo other prisoners formed the BadNauheim Wurlitzer Cup Series, a fourteambaseball league. They whittleda tree branch to make a bat, whichhe donated to the National BaseballHall of Fame nearly 50 years afterhis release.Before retiring in 1978 after 26years with the CIA, Thuermer servedas the agency’s “spooksman,” offering“no comment” to reporters, and hewas the station chief in Berlin andNew Delhi, according to the obituaryin the Post.He is survived by his wife, Alice,two daughters, one son, and agranddaughter.1953John Strohmeyer, a Pulitzer Prizewinningeditor, died of heart failureon March 3rd at his winter home inCrystal River, Florida. He was 85.Strohmeyer spent nearly 30 years2010 Lukas Project Awards Presented to AuthorsFrom left, award recipients David Finkel, James Davidson,and Jonathan Schuppe, as they discussed their books afterthe presentation. Photo by Tsar Fedorsky.Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalismand the Nieman Foundationhonored the recipients of the 2010 J.Anthony Lukas Prize Project Awardsfor exceptional nonfiction in a ceremonyat the foundation in May.David Finkel, a Washington Poststaffer, received the $10,000 J.Anthony Lukas Book Prize for “TheGood Soldiers” about a battalion ofsoldiers serving in Iraq. In their citation,the judges wrote that “this isnot a book about policy or geopoliticsor even about military strategy; it isabout something far more important,namely the human (and inhuman)aspects of making war.At times it is almostunbearable to read …[but] Finkel does whatall great writers do: hemakes it impossible tolook away.” The bookwas published by SarahCrichton Books/Farrar,Straus & Giroux.The $10,000 MarkLynton History Prizewas awarded to JamesDavidson for “TheGreeks and Greek Love:A Bold New Explorationof the AncientWorld,” his examinationof homosexuality in ancientGreek culture, published by RandomHouse. The judges wrote that Davidson“reconstructs in rich detail thecircumstances in which homoeroticlove found expression and shows thathomosexuality did not have one meaningbut many. … Intriguing, alwayslucid and often very funny, his bookis one of the most entertaining piecesof historical writing in years, and adelightful invitation to any readerwishing to enter the classical world.”The J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award, which provides$30,000 to assist in the completion ofa narrative nonfiction book, was presentedto former (Newark) Star-Ledgercrime reporter Jonathan Schuppe for“Ghetto Ball: A Coach, His Team, andthe Struggle of an American City” tobe published by Henry Holt. The bookwill follow a Little League team in theSouth Ward neighborhood of Newark,New Jersey, the most depressed in thecity. Judges said of the project that,“[with] no sentimentality, his narrativesuggests in these flawed characters theheroism and waste that illuminate greatnovels. As in the work of J. AnthonyLukas, at the core of Mr. Schuppe’swriting is a sense of responsibility, asif this book needs to be written. Webelieve it does.”The Lukas Prizes were establishedin 1998 to recognize nonfiction writingthat exemplifies the literary grace andcommitment to serious research andsocial concern that characterized thework of the awards’ Pulitzer Prizewinningnamesake, J. Anthony Lukas,NF ’69, who died in 1997. The MarkLynton History Prize is named for thelate Mark Lynton, business executiveand author of “Accidental Journey:A Cambridge Internee’s Memoir ofWorld War II.” The Lynton familyhas sponsored the Lukas Prize Projectsince its inception. 78 Nieman Reports | Summer 2010

Nieman Notesat the Bethlehem (Penn.) Globe-Timeswhere he wrote a series of editorialson racial unrest that won a PulitzerPrize in 1972. He was the paper’seditor from 1956 until 1984, whenhe was awarded an Alicia PattersonFellowship and left the paper to writethe book “Crisis in Bethlehem: BigSteel’s Struggle to Survive.” He latertaught at Lehigh University for a yearbefore becoming the Atwood Professorof Journalism at the University ofAlaska Anchorage. At the time of hisdeath, he was writer in residence atthe university and writing columns forthe Anchorage Daily News.Strohmeyer also wrote “ExtremeConditions: Big Oil and the Transformationof Alaska” and “HistoricAnchorage: An Illustrated History.”He is survived by his wife, SylviaBroady, and one son, one daughter,and eight grandchildren. His first wife,Nancy Jordan, died in 2000, and oneson died in 1998.1959Phil Johnson, a three-time Peabodyaward-winning broadcaster in NewOrleans, died March 22nd after alengthy illness. He was 80.Johnson, a native of New Orleans,graduated from Loyola University andworked in print journalism in Miamiand Chicago before returning to hishometown a year after his NiemanFellowship to become promotionsdirector for WWL-TV.Two years later he was broughtinto the news department and begandelivering editorials on air, a practicehe continued for 37 years. “Beginningtoday and every weekday thereafter,this station will present editorialopinion—a living, vigorous commentaryon all things pertaining to NewOrleans, its people, and its future,”Johnson said in his first editorial,adding that his goal was “commentarydesigned to stimulate thought, toawaken in all of us an awareness ofour responsibilities, not only to ourcommunity but to each other and toourselves,” according to the obituaryon WWL-TV’s Web site.Headliner Awards for Print and Radio JournalismThree Nieman Fellows have beenhonored by the National HeadlinerAwards program, which is one of theoldest and largest annual contestsrecognizing journalistic merit inprint, broadcast and online.Guy Raz, NF ’09, along with NPRcolleagues Travis Larchuk and RickHolter, received first-place honorsfor a feature that aired on “AllThings Considered.” “Every PlantHas Meaning on ‘The Island of BarCodes’ ” describes Plummers Island,the “most studied island in NorthAmerica,” where scientists have beendeveloping a method of sequencingthe DNA of every plant and animalon earth.Elizabeth Leland, NF ’92, was thesecond-place recipient of honors forJohnson traveled internationallyfor a number of documentaries heproduced, three of which were honoredwith George Foster Peabody Awards.He was inducted into the Greater NewOrleans Broadcasters Association’sNew Orleans Broadcasting Hall ofFame and received Loyola’s highesthonor as well as a Lifetime AchievementAward from the Press Club ofNew Orleans.He is survived by his wife, Freida,five children, and eight grandchildren.1961Andrew M. “Mac” Secrest, areporter, publisher, educator and vocalcritic of segregation, died on April 17thafter complications from surgery forthroat cancer. He was 86.As owner and publisher of TheCheraw (S.C.) Chronicle weekly from1953 to 1968, he pushed back againstthose who advocated resistance tothe U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling inBrown v. Board of Education, amongthem Senator Strom Thurmond andmany fellow newspaper editors in theSouth. He faced threats and attackson his home.a variety of feature stories she wrotefor The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer.Among them were a profile of alocal eccentric who discovered thathe suffers from Asperger’s syndromeand two pieces about a family helpingtheir daughter deal with a rarebrain affliction.Margie Mason, NF ’09, and herAssociated Press colleague MarthaMendoza, received a third-placeaward in the health and medicalscience category for the five-partseries “When Drugs Stop Working.”The series, developed during herNieman Fellowship in Global HealthReporting, explores how doctorsare losing ground in treating majordiseases because of the extensiveuse of antibiotics in agriculture. During the height of the civil rightsmovement, he served as a negotiatorand mediator for the federal governmentand worked with Martin LutherKing, Jr. to help bring about a peacefulsolution in Selma, Alabama.After Secrest sold the Chronicle, hetaught journalism at the Universityof North Carolina at Chapel Hill forfive years. He moved to Durham tohelp establish the communicationsdepartment at North Carolina CentralUniversity, retiring nine years later. In2007 he was inducted into the UNCSchool of Journalism’s Hall of Fame.1966Robert A. Caro has been named tothe inaugural class of the New YorkLibrary Association’s New York StateWriters Hall of Fame.In February Caro received the 2009National Humanities Medal, which“honors individuals or groups whosework has deepened the nation’s understandingof the humanities, broadenedour citizens’ engagement with thehumanities, or helped preserve andexpand Americans’ access to importantresources in the humanities,” accordingNieman Reports | Summer 2010 79

Nieman Notesto the National Endowment for theHumanities Web site.Caro, who started his career as anewspaper reporter, is best known forhis Pulitzer Prize-winning biographiesof New York master planner RobertMoses (“The Power Broker”) andPresident Lyndon Johnson (“The Yearsof Lyndon Johnson: Master of theSenate”). He is working on the fourthvolume of the Johnson biography.1969Richard C. Longworth reports:“I’m combining my Midwestern rootswith my years as a foreign correspondent(for UPI and the Chicago Tribune)to carve out a new career in what weresupposed to be my retirement years. I’ma senior fellow at the Chicago Councilon Global Affairs, working mostly onthe impact of the global economy onChicago and the Midwest. My book,‘Caught in the Middle: America’sHeartland in the Age of Globalism’(Bloomsbury) went through threeprintings and is out now in paperback.In the two years since it came out,I’ve given some 180 presentationsaround the Midwest. I spent a yearas Distinguished Visiting Scholar atDePaul University and have lecturedat most of the major universities in theregion. All this has led to the foundingof two centers here at the council—theGlobal Chicago Center, devoted tothe study of Chicago’s transformationfrom industrial city to global city, andthe Global Midwest Initiative, sponsoringreports and seminars on theMidwest and how, for the most part,it’s flunking the economic, politicaland social challenges produced by thisnew economy. Mostly, I’m having anexciting time, after a lifetime in otherpeople’s countries, rediscovering myown home turf.”1982Margot Adler received the Associationfor the Study of Women andMythology’s first Demeter Award forLeadership in Women’s Spiritualityat the association’s conference inApril. Adler, an NPR correspondentbased in New York, is the author of“Drawing Down the Moon,” a study ofcontemporary nature religions.1986Gustavo Gorriti has launched aninvestigative reporting Web site thatcovers the Peruvian government, IDL-Reporteros ( his first column, Gorriti wrote thatthe Spanish-language site’s mission isto “report, investigate, discover andpublish the cases and topics thataffect the rights, property, or destinyof the people.”1987Doug Cumming’sbook “The SouthernPress: Literary Legaciesand the Challengeof Modernity”was published byNorthwestern UniversityPress lastyear.In the book,Cumming, a journalism professorat Washington and Lee Universityand former staff member of TheAtlanta Journal-Constitution and The(Raleigh, N.C.) News & Observer, tracesthe history of Southern newspapers.Hodding Carter III, NF ’66, wrotethe foreword.1988William Dietrich’shistorical novel “TheBarbary Pirates”was published byHarper in March.The novel is thefourth in his seriesof Ethan Gageadventures and followsthe explorer ashe searches for the mirror of Archimedes.As with many of his novels,Dietrich blends historical details intothe narrative, along with research andreal-life details from his time as ajournalist.Gene Weingarten received aPulitzer Prize for Feature Writing inApril for “Fatal Distraction” in TheWashington Post Magazine. Fifteento 25 children a year die of hyperthermiaafter parents leave them inthe backseats of cars, and Weingartenexplored whether parents should becharged with a crime and how theycope with their loss.Weingarten, who writes the Belowthe Beltway column for the Post, won aPulitzer Prize in 2008 for “Pearls BeforeBreakfast.” He convinced a world-classviolinist to play in a Washington, D.C.Metro station during rush hour to seehow commuters would react; passersbygave him a total of $32.17 for 43minutes of playing.In an online chat at washingtonpost.comafter the second award,Weingarten said, “I think this [“FatalDistraction”] story had greater consequence,yes. The first [“Pearls BeforeBreakfast”] was an unabashed stunt.But both, I think, succeeded in makingpeople think differently abouttheir lives.”Before joining the Post, Weingartenwas editor of The Miami Herald’sTropic Magazine, which won twoPulitzer Prizes under his direction.1991K a b r a l B l a y -Amihere reportson his new bookand role in thegovernment o fGhana: “My thirdbook since my Niema n y e a r —‘Between the Lionand the Elephant:Memoirs of an African Diplomat’—waslaunched on March 24, 2010. It is arecollection of my experiences as anambassador for my country, Ghana,in two conflict zones, Cote d’Ivoireand Sierra Leone. It catalogs efforts80 Nieman Reports | Summer 2010

Nieman Notesby the international community,notably the Economic Community ofWest African States and the UnitedNations, that resulted in the resolutionof the decade-long civil war in SierraLeone (symbolized by the lion) andpeace initiatives in Cote d’Ivoire (theelephant). The book also offers richperspectives into the Ghana ForeignService and several initiatives andinnovations I undertook as an envoyfor my country for seven years. ...Meanwhile, I currently serve as thechairman of the National Media Commission[NMC], a constitutional bodycharged with the promotion of pressfreedom and professional standardsin Ghana. It is an elective post. TheNMC is made up of 18 members,representing a broad spectrum ofmedia stakeholders. I represent theGhana Journalists Association on thisbody.”1992Deborah Amos, who is a foreignnews correspondent for NPR, receivedSPJ AwardsTwo Nieman Fellows receivedSigma Delta Chi Awards from theSociety of Professional Journalistsfor outstanding journalismpublished or broadcast in 2009.Mary Kay Magistad, NF’00, who covers Asia for PublicRadio International’s “The World,”received an award for “Createdin China,” a five-part series thatlooked at the decline in Chineseinnovation over the last 500 yearsand the government’s efforts toreverse the trend.Chris Cobler, NF ’06, waspart of the reporting team atthe Victoria (Tex.) Advocate thatreceived an award for a 16-monthinvestigation called “Fatal Funnel”about a smuggling route in Texasthat brings drugs and people intothe U.S. and sends cash and gunsinto Mexico. the Edward R. Murrow LifetimeAchievement Award for her radiowork. It was presented by the EdwardR. Murrow School of Communicationat Washington State University.2000Deborah Schoch joined the CaliforniaHealthCare Foundation Centerfor Health Reporting at the Universityof Southern California’s AnnenbergSchool for Communication & Journalismin March as a senior writer. Thecenter’s goal is to expand and improvecoverage of health care in California.It will be supported by a three-yeargrant of about $3.3 million from theCalifornia HealthCare Foundation.Schoch left the Los Angeles Timeswhere she covered health care andthe environment for 18 years.2004Carol Bradley’s firstbook “Saving Gracie:How One DogEscaped the ShadowyWorld of AmericanPuppy Mills”was released byWiley in March.A r e v i e w i nLibrar y Journalcalled the book about a dog that wasrescued from a Pennsylvania puppymill a “compelling account” and an“excellent exposé of a shady industry.”Bradley, who covered animal welfareissues as a newspaper reporter, studiedanimal law during her Nieman year.2007Andrea McCarren is working asa full-time multimedia journalist forWUSA-TV, the CBS station in Washington,D.C., after spending a year asa freelance reporter and producer. Inaddition to reporting for televisionand the Web, McCarren shoots andedits some of her own stories, a roleshe embraces.Craig Welch’s firstbook “Shell Games:Rogues, Smugglers,and the Hunt forNature’s Bounty”was published inApril by WilliamMorrow. It focuseson the black markettrade in unusualmarine creatures from Puget Soundand the federal agents who work tocatch the thieves. Welch is the environmentreporter for The Seattle Times.2009Alfredo Corchado, Mexico bureauchief for The Dallas Morning News, isthe 2010 winner of the Elijah ParishLovejoy Award for courageous journalismto be given at Colby Collegein September. He is being recognizedfor his coverage of issues involving theU.S.-Mexico border.2010Marcela Valdes was one of twocritics to receive the first annualRoger Shattuck Prize for Criticism. Itis designed to support and encourageemerging critics. Valdes, who specializesin writing about Latin Americanarts and culture and was this year’sarts and culture fellow, is a freelancebook critic. CorrectionIn the Spring 2010 issue, an essaytitled “Connecting What HappenedThen With What Happens Now”about Loren Ghiglione’s book“CBS’s Don Hollenbeck” incorrectlydescribed “CBS Views the Press.”It was a radio program.Nieman Reports | Summer 2010 81

Nieman NotesWelcoming a New Class of Nieman FellowsThe Nieman Foundation has selected25 journalists from the United Statesand abroad to join the 73rd class ofNieman Fellows. The group includesjournalists who work in print, radio,television, photography, filmmakingand online media.The class of 2011 also includesthe first Nieman Fellow fromAfghanistan, bringing to 90 thenumber of countries represented bythe program.Bob Giles, NF ’66, curator of thefoundation, said, “The new fellowsare a highly talented group of journalistswith extraordinarily diversebackgrounds and interests. Together,they’ll have the opportunity to sharetheir expertise and learn from eachother as they take full advantage ofthe exceptional educational resourcesavailable at Harvard. This year, alarge number of them are freelancersand some have launched innovativejournalism projects. They represent anew breed of pioneering journalistswho will carry us, well informed,into the future.”U.S. Nieman Fellows:Loch Adamson, London bureauchief, Institutional Investor. She isthe Donald W. Reynolds NiemanFellow in Business Journalism, a newfellowship supported by the DonaldW. Reynolds Foundation.Tony Bartelme, projects reporter,The Post and Courier, Charleston,South Carolina.Tyler Bridges, author and freelancejournalist based in Lima, Peru.Jennifer Eccleston, broadcastjournalist and writer who has workedoverseas.Michael Fitzgerald, freelancewriter in the Boston area.Darcy Frey, author and contributingwriter, The New York TimesMagazine.Anna Gorman, staff writer, LosAngeles Times.Joshua Prager, freelance journalistand author based in New York.Deb Price, Washington correspondent,The Detroit News. Sheis the Louis Stark Nieman Fellow.Gwen Thompkins, East Africacorrespondent, National PublicRadio.Annmarie Timmins, reporter,Concord (N.H.) Monitor. She is theDonald W. Reynolds Nieman Fellowin Community Journalism.Nieman Fellows in GlobalHealth Reporting:Antigone Barton (United States),freelance journalist.Helen Branswell (Canada), medicalreporter, The Canadian Press.International NiemanFellows:Fernando Berguido (Panama),publisher and editor, La Prensa.Stefan Candea (Romania), freelancejournalist and cofounder of theRomanian Centre for InvestigativeJournalism based in Bucharest. Heis the Carroll Binder Nieman Fellow.Pablo Corral Vega (Ecuador),photographer and founder of NuestraMirada, an online network for LatinAmerican documentary photographers.He is a John S. and James L.Knight Foundation Latin AmericanNieman Fellow.Kevin Doyle (Ireland), editorin chief, The Cambodia Daily inPhnom Penh.Nazila Fathi (Iran), a reportercovering Iran for The New YorkTimes. She is the Ruth Cowan NashNieman Fellow.Hui Siu Fun (China), principalproducer, Television BroadcastsLimited in Hong Kong. She is theAtsuko Chiba (NF ’68) NiemanFellow.F l o r e n c e Ma r t i n - Ke s s l e r(France), documentary filmmaker.She is the Robert Waldo Ruhl NiemanFellow.Hollman Morris Rincón (Colombia),independent journalist andContravía TV series director. Heis a John S. and James L. KnightFoundation Latin American NiemanFellow.Rob Rose (South Africa), businessreporter, the Sunday Timesin Johannesburg. His fellowship issupported by the Nieman Society ofSouthern Africa.Philippa Thomas (United Kingdom),anchor and correspondent,BBC World News television.Maxim Trudolyubov (Russia),editorial page editor of the businessdaily Vedomosti. He is the WilliamMontalbano (NF ’70) Nieman Fellow.Abdul Waheed Wafa (Afghanistan),a reporter, based in Kabul,for The New York Times. He is theBarry Bingham, Jr. Nieman Fellow.The U.S. fellows were selected byJu-Don Marshall Roberts (NF ’04),senior vice president and executiveeditor of Beliefnet and the formermanaging editor of; Margaret Engel (NF ’79),director of the Alicia PattersonFoundation; and Donna Hicks, anassociate at Harvard’s WeatherheadCenter for International Affairs.The Nieman Global HealthReporting Fellows were chosen byJon Sawyer, director of the PulitzerCenter on Crisis Reporting, andStefanie Friedhoff (NF ’01), specialprojects manager for the NiemanFoundation.Giles chaired the selection committeesfor the U.S. and Global HealthReporting fellows and selected theinternational fellows. 82 Nieman Reports | Summer 2010

END NOTEAN ESSAY IN WORDS AND PHOTOGRAPHSA Nation’s Past and Promise:A Shift in the Meaning of American SymbolsBY DERRICK Z. JACKSONOn a surprisingly summeryOctober afternoonin 2007 at a fairgroundin Independence, Iowa, BarackObama’s sleeves were rolled upagainst a heat wave. In this regionwhere cornfields were turningbronze, critics were making haywith the fact that Obama did notwear a lapel pin of the Americanflag. This was despite the factthat few of the presidential candidates,Democrat or Republican,consistently wore a pin.“Tricky politics here for BarackObama,” said an anchor for ABCNews.“A breathtaking misunderstandingof the symbolism of theAmerican flag,” said a New YorkTwo weeks after Barack Obama was questioned about his patriotism and failure to wear a flagpin, he beamed the brightest of smiles before a giant American flag in the famously liberal collegecity of Madison, Wisconsin. A century earlier, W.E.B. Du Bois wrote that African Americans simplywant “to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American, without being cursedor spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of Opportunity closed roughly in his face.”Daily News editorial.The night before, Obama tolda Cedar Rapids television stationthat he wore the pin for a whileafter 9/11 but stopped wearingone because it was often misusedas a “substitute for, I think, truepatriotism.” Then, at this event,which I happened to be coveringas a columnist for The BostonGlobe, Obama spoke on the issuefor the first time.“Somebody noticed I wasn’twearing a flag lapel pin and Itold folks, well you know what?I haven’t probably worn that pinin a very long time,” Obama said.“I wore it right after 9/11. Butafter a while, you start noticingpeople wearing a lapel pin, butnot acting very patriotic. Notvoting to provide veterans withresources that they need. Notvoting to make sure that disabilitypayments were comingout on time.”He continued, “My attitudeis that I’m less concerned aboutwhat you’re wearing on your lapelthan what’s in your heart.”Obama spoke about flag pinswith a giant American flag drapedbehind him. Besides my pen, padand tape recorder, I also hadmy camera. Things clicked forme and I started clicking away.Here he was, negotiating theclassic tortured straits of AfricanAmericans, having to go an extrameasure to affirm his patriotismbefore a flag that historically wasNieman Reports | Summer 2010 83

End NoteIn Iowa, Obama reached out to hold the hand of a moist-eyed womanwhose brother, suffering from cancer, held on to his job so he could keephis health insurance. The woman said that the way Obama looked her inthe eyes and held her quaking hands “meant more to me than anything.”a blind sentinel on America’s tortureof black people. Yet, if he won, thisblack man would represent this flagas arguably the most powerful manon earth.For two years beginning in February2007, I took photographs as I traveledacross America covering the Obamacampaign. A selection of those images,“From Iowa to the White House:Historic Photos of President BarackObama,” was displayed at the Museumof African American History in Boston,Massachusetts earlier this year.Photo and text by Derrick Z. Jackson.Many people ask me what it waslike to be in Chicago’s Grant Park thenight of Obama’s election. I will mostremember the crowd of 125,000 peoplesaying the Pledge of Allegiance. Likeso many Americans, I grew up withhighly conflicted feelings about thepledge and the flag. Now 54, I am theson of parents who fled segregated Mississippifor the factories of Milwaukee.My mother, a light-skinned AfricanAmerican, told me white co-workersinvited her to picnics but asked hernot to tell her darker co-workers. Sherefused those invitations.I was too young to be part of the civilrights movement, but old enough toadorn myself with the artifacts of anger,like my “Free Angela Davis” button.Old enough to protest the exclusionof Africa from my high school worldhistory class and to get called beforethe vice principal for writing a reviewof “The Autobiography of MalcolmX.” I was a beneficiary of a decentpublic school education, affirmativeaction, and the Kerner Commissionreport that said America needed more84 Nieman Reports | Summer 2010

End NoteBarack Obama’s presence on the campaign trail created scenes thatlooked like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting. When votersin Madison, Wisconsin reached out to shake Obama’s hand, it broughtto mind the scene of the white man surrounded by generations of adoringfamily members in Rockwell’s 1948 “Christmas Homecoming.” By1961 the painter had progressed from that all-white scene to a multiculturalvision in “Golden Rule.”black journalists. But after gettingin the door, I saw too many ceilingsstill placed against the aspirations ofmy colleagues. To this day, African-American journalists comprise only5 percent of newsroom staff.I wrote in the Globe that I had neverin my life heard such a multiculturalthrong recite the pledge with suchdetermined enunciation, expelling itfrom the heart in a treble soaring tothe skies and a bass drumming throughthe soil to vibrate my feet. The trebleand bass met in my spine, where“liberty and justice for all” evokedneither the clank of chains nor thecackle of cruelty, but a warm tickleof Jeffersonian slave-owning irony:Justice cannot sleep forever.That was a long way from 1847when Frederick Douglass said, “I haveno patriotism” for a nation that does“not recognize me as a man.” Giventhat Douglass spoke in the Museumof African American History’s historicAfrican Meeting House in Boston, it isthe best of full circles. As the awardwinning,Boston-based photographerLou Jones wrote in 2006, “Storiesare ephemeral. Memories fade. Photographsdo not. Photographers bringback permanent proof of things neverbefore seen.” Derrick Z. Jackson, a 1984 NiemanFellow, is a columnist at The BostonGlobe.Photo and text by Derrick Z. Jackson.Nieman Reports | Summer 2010 85

End NoteOn the day before the Iowa caucuses, Obama asked the crowd in thisgymnasium who among them was still undecided. One of the undecidedvoters was St. Ambrose University professor Bill Hitchings. The nextnight Hitchings voted for Obama in his caucus. What was his reason?“I talked to an older black woman at the Obama event,” Hitchings said.“I helped four white women in their 70s find their place at the caucusand they all said the same thing. They said Obama is the hope for theirgrandsons and their grandchildren.”Obama turned his attention to this member of a future generation ofvoters during a campaign stop at Muhlenberg College in Allentown,Pennsylvania.Photos and text by Derrick Z. Jackson.86 Nieman Reports | Summer 2010

End NoteA girl perched on the shoulders of her father to get a better view on Inauguration Day inWashington, D.C. might make one wonder: What will witnessing the swearing-in of the firstAfrican-American president mean for this girl when it is her turn to become a leader?Photo and text by Derrick Z. Jackson.Nieman Reports | Summer 2010 87


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