Not set in stone, please

Preparing himself for his 25th year teaching journalism at Columbia, Jay Rosen picks out four things he has learnt about the press in all those years. All are truly worthy of note, but it was number three that struck me: “The news system will improve when it is made more useful to people”.

The purpose of the media today, he says, is to give its consumers “what they find useful for staying informed and participating in public life”. Traditional media lacks the flexibility to do this. The industrial production routines of journalism – using a truly appropriate phrase here – literally set in stone ideas about what journalism is and what it can be. 

Which is why Rosen says that the simplest way to add value in journalism is to save the user time. I’m doing my annual Easter break review of my news tools, and this year I’ve picked up great new innovations like Storify, a curation tool, and taken up Tumblr again, and am looking forward to trying Typekit, as I am a typography style hound.

But the problem still seems to be in the mixing and matching of formats and content. It’s easier to share material across platforms, but still tough to keep it coherent – the text extracted that you wanted, between Tumblr and Twitter and Facebook, the headings where the headings should be, the links attached to the source credits, etc.

I know I could write CSS kludges, or tinker with APIs, but not in every case and anyway, I don’t want to. I’m a slow and inaccurate coder. I want someone to improve the content communicability between platforms for me. 

Jay Rosen is right, the simplest way to add value in journalism is to save the ‘user’ time, but journalists at the other end of the pipe are users too.

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