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Journalism 2017: Rethinking the newsroom

Published: 
Monday, July 24, 2017
Bit DepthXX
It’s time to pick up the mic and define a new way of spreading the news.

Journalism in T&T is still done the same way it was done ten years, even 40 years ago, just with different gear.

A way of doing things can be ruthlessly sticky.

Journalists cover events and incidents to report what they find to the public. They listen to the authorities and question—with almost unparalleled timidity these days—what they are being told.

They are expected to fact-check, investigate and compare the realities of the island in which we live to the narratives and public relations that infest the public domain.

That information flows into newsrooms to be reviewed by phalanxes of informed editors, who reject reports that are incomplete or unbalanced for correction and rewriting.

Then this flood of material faces the winnowing of space and time, depending on the medium, with only the most polished and pithy of reporting coming to the attention of the public at large.

This is the model that journalism has followed for more than 100 years in this country and in just one decade, it has been broken, perhaps forever.

In response, media managers have diminished the critical oversight capacity, and today’s editors are less trained and seasoned than ever before, many leaving for greener pastures just as they reach professional maturity.

Sub-editors and proofreaders, a critical final tier in the news review process, are increasingly being replaced by software robots that don’t always understand the words they are processing.

No newspaper implementing these digital solutions has been immune to the errors that result, but one notable recent Newsday story had a full-stop. after. every. word. That prompted one Facebook wag to note that the paper had “pulled out all the stops” for that particular story.

These are the early days of machine journalism, which already sees online publications turning to automated solutions (http://ow.ly/ZdxP30dOh2a) to create basic news stories.

These tools will get better with time, which puts one more hurdle into the Olympian obstacle course that practicing journalists will face in the decade to come.

I began talking to Lasana Liburd about his idea for Wired 868 when we both served on the executive of the Media Association of T&T.

Liburd had recently shuttered TnT Times, an early effort at an online news publication that had an impossibly large scope relative to its small team and kept producing on a schedule that tracked with traditional news. I agreed to talk if he agreed to embrace the possibilities of the digital medium.

We’ve spoken regularly ever since (http://technewstt.com/liburd-wired868).

“When I started Wired868, it was stripped down and built to survive on very little finances which was not the case with the TnT Times,” Liburd said.

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