Len Apcar, the new economics editor of the New York Times and visiting lecturer at the JMSC in online media and development, led a discussion on Friday about new and social media.
Apcar was joined by JMSC online media producer, Kevin Lau, and MJ students, Jonathan Stray and Yolanda Ma.
“New media has been transformational for the reader experience and is causing a change to the way information is presented,” said Apcar, who has been studying the way people consume news for the New York Times and its global edition, the International Herald Tribune.
He talked about how Twitter and other redistribution mechanisms have evolved and changed the way people share information and news, saying that these aggregators act now as editors for news consumers.
Jonathan Stray looked specifically at how social media sites are used in news gathering rather than news distribution.
“The new thing is that it’s not just two-way; it’s everybody informing everybody else.”
He analysed the worth of these ‘everybody informers’, shooting down the “misconception that it’s all rubbish”, and saying that new media means that increasingly, news organisations are providing a service to customers who can demand exactly what service it is that they want.
Yolanda Ma, a young lady with a lot of friends, spoke from a users point of view. She ran us through her personal news accessing system which starts with i-google, runs through Twitter, her google reader and Buzz and ends up sorted and saved in her e-mail. Ma devotes an hour a day to her own news gathering and sharing.
Watching her talk, Len Apcar had clearly taken note that young people no longer read traditional newspapers which means print papers have to change their modus operandi.
Kevin Lau shared the website Digg.com with the panel and group. This site set up by American Kevin Rose, who is partial to a can of beer and a bit of rough and ready news discussion, has been a huge hit. The community provides the news and other people vote on it, in a system they call ‘Diggs’, thus determining its value. Rose does a TV show on the website, alongside his buddy Alex Albrecht, called Diggnation, in which they discuss the week’s news.
“Users will tell you what they want to hear about, and may even have the personality to deliver it,” said Lau. “If you lose a bit of control and hand some over to your audience, they love it.”
Len Apcar closed the session by urging all students and staff to take note of these changes taking place around us as they will affect the way we operate as journalists. Our skillset is still relevant – collecting, sifting, analysing news, however, the discussion that follows each story about what we collected, sifted and analysed, has changed forever.