Friday, November 14, 2014

Journalists: increase your article impact with social media and new technologies

Journalists, you know, your editor knows, even the editor of you editor who retired 20 years ago knows: new technologies and social media are impacting the ways our readers relate to your articles. As a graduate student in the Northwestern Medill Media Strategy and Leadership program, I have found two articles you will find interesting. The first one is about automatic writing and the second is about social media.

Earlier in September, the British newspaper The Guardian has published an article that may scary old school reporters. The journalists who never sleep presented a few examples of companies that are working with artificial intelligence to develop automated writing. In this article, the author Yves Eudes (@YvesEudes) shows that a text can be completely written in English without any human interaction. What’s more: the text can be so good that any reader would realize it. A tool called Quill, designed by Narrative Science, was programmed to import data from different data-basis, convert this data into structured data, promote a narrative analysis and, at last, generate a narrative in almost any particular subject. Quill developers defend that the artificial intelligence will enable, in the future, every user to read an article tailored to his/her own interests.

On October, the Nieman Lab (@NiemanLab), an institution specialized in studying new journalism paths, released the article Where you get your news depends on where you stand on the issues, discussing a research about the Americans’ news consumption behaviors. The author Justin Ellis (@JustinNXT) presented many relevant data concerning the intersection of ideology in media consumption habits. The most important takeaway of the research is: if you are liberal, you tend to follow liberal vehicles; if you are conservative, you tend to follow conservative vehicles. These findings may seem silly in the first look, but they mean that people are every time more stuck in their own bubble of interests. This trend is even clearer in social media. In Facebook, most people just interact with posts containing a political view with which they agree. See above a chart with Facebook users’ behavior towards ideology.

After reviewing these two articles and drawing on my studies in the Northwestern Journalism program, here are three action items you should consider.

1. Understand data. Improve your analytical skills to always offer more complex texts than pre-programmed tools are able to produce.

2. Use social media. However, be careful to not be stuck under your bubble. Going beyond and trying to reach audiences outside your peers may be a competitive advantage of your work.

3. Don’t be afraid. Technology is here to help. Our jobs are not at risk. Yet.

Patrícia Gomes is pursuing her MS in Media Strategy and Leadership at Medill/Northwestern University. As a journalist in Brazil, she worked for Agence France Presse, Folha de S.Paulo and lately at Porvir, a news agency specialized in innovation in education that she co-founded. She is passionate about education, journalism, and innovation. She believes those three themes are a way to empower citizens to achieve a better life. Want to get in touch? 
Twitter: @Paty_Gomes_

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