Connecting the Stream with Action: Media Embraces Real Time

SXSW: By the numbers from CNN on Vimeo.

This is the second installment in our conversation about the themes or trends at SxSW 2011. To build on the framework created by technology and humanism, because of the fragmentation and speed of digital, the opportunity for media is to connect people to real time.

Thanks to the ubiquity of media with digital, the newsreel becomes both the thread of what is happening and a reminder of what happened — much of which we may have missed, given our speed and processing ability as humans.

Therefore, media connects the stream with action in three important ways, all of which played a role in our experience at SxSW 2011.

Embedded recording

I have discussed the role of citizen journalism and we media extensively in this blog. The trends of citizens taking a more active role in the making and shaping of news with commentary, discussions, and iReports continues. As I had the opportunity to experience this past week, the stream comes first.

However, there is plenty of opportunity for mainstream media to act as embedded recording partner in the development and archiving of news. This past week, CNN took on the role of news platform by placing itself in the thick of things at SxSW, and hosting important initiatives that took place at the conference.

Which allowed the network to shift from the stance of opinion and entertainment that characterized its recent programming. The video I embedded with this post is a perfect example of the power of recording. [hat tip Steve Garfield]

Ambient journalism

This goes beyond just recording to making sense of things as they develop. Senior NPR strategist Andy Carvin has been doing just that on Twitter during recent events in Egypt and Lybia especially, a kind of curation many have called ambient journalism.

In the conclusions of a paper he published one year ago, Canadian j-prof Alfred Hermida, wrote (emphasis mine):

This broadens the journalist’s role as proposed by Bardoel and Deuze of a professional ‘‘who serves as a node in a complex environment between technology and society, between news and analysis, between annotation and selection, between orientation and investigation’’ (2001, p. 101). In the case of ambient journalism, the role may be designing the tools that can analyse, interpret and contextualise a system of collection intelligence, rather than in the established practice of selection and editing of content.

Which means this is where stories develop and can also be sourced and verified.

Public experimenting

While in the past one news story was repeated over and over again with the same footage, news organizations have now the opportunity to provide the stage for the story as it develops. One example is CNN online coverage of the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

That is not all though. There should be room in there for experimenting with new formats. Dave Winer reminds us why it's important to invest in public broadcasting in light of the issues surrounding NPR's or a like organization survival.

Nieman Journalism Lab does an excellent job of documenting the direction of quality journalism.


I spent the weekend catching up with news and my feed reader. While SxSW was more chaotic and connective than ever, it had the side effect of isolating me temporarily from the larger context of life and business reality.

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