Monthly Archives: February 2012

Lego journalism catches an exponential wave


Quite a title eh? It is, in short, my answer to this month’s Carnival of Journalism post, whose prompt is:

“What emerging technology or digital trend do you think will have a significant impact on journalism in the year or two ahead? And how do you see it playing out in terms of application by journalists, and impact?”

For quite some time we have seen data journalism produce interesting stories, that are compelling and engaging. From early tech mashups like the Chicago crime map to really cool data driven projects from the NY Times, unique forms of telling stories and informing the public have gained increasing momentum.

While most traditional media companies haven’t vastly increased the resources to help explore these new technologies, the tech itself has become so prolific and accessible that even if there isn’t an increased staff to tackle new data driven projects there’s an increased capacity to do so. Facilitating this increased pace is a vast array of new free tools that make building new products as simple as assembling Legos. This really dawned on me as I recently embarked on my first programming project in some time. Did it used to be this easy? No.

I could use an off the shelf language parsing technology, combined with my publication’srecently launched API and the increasingly simple to use Rails programming platform to produce something slick in no time.

The journalists are getting more savvy and the tools are getting more simple. Journo-nerds everywhere seem to be experiencing this same eye-opening reaction to technology. Many people I know who have never thought of themselves as coders, are for the first time savvy enough to jump into the fray. It’s this type of anecdotal evidence that leads me to believe we are on the cusp of something exponential.

This year and the next reminds me of the year that the iPhone came out. In the early part of the last decade, cell phones were common, but they weren’t quite ubiquitous, especially not smart phones. Then the iPhone came along and really changed the game in a few short years. Journalism and technology is at that same point now. What’s exciting is the sheer number of interesting journalism related projects that are underway. I doubt there have ever been more concurrent tech/journalism projects than there are now. Each passing day seems to illuminate a new one.

Not too long ago I wrote about how little innovation I saw in our industry, but in a very short time that has turned on a dime and I am excited to see where it goes in the next 1-2 years.