Poynter Institute hosts Tedx event on the future of journalism

06/07/13 Samuel Johnson
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The future of journalism was the theme of a version of the popular online Ted Talks series Friday at the Poynter Institute in downtown St. Petersburg. A crowd of mostly media insiders listened to topics ranging from copyright issues and viral media to fact checking and the role of new media.

Poynter is borrowing a style of engagement from the popular Ted Talks that focus on new ideas in varied industries including technology. The Poynter Institute is a non-profit school of journalism, which teaches through traditional class room settings as well as online webinars. Elynn Angelotti is the social media faculty member at the Poynter Institute. She said the blueprint used by Ted Talks is a good fit for The Tedx Poynter event.

”So, what they’ve done is provide us with a framework to create powerful engaging; much briefer talks than we typically do here at Poynter. So, it’s a different tempo. It’s a different style. But it’s an engaging platform that helps us invite the Tampa Bay community and the larger journalism community into an event where we can realty learn from innovative thinkers.”

This is Poynter’s third Tedx. One staff member who focuses on ethics in the media, Kelly McBride, emphasized fact checking and validity during her speech. She mused about falling victim to a viral hoax about a mammoth sized alligator caught in Florida. In an interview after the talk, McBride said a well informed citizenry is a cornerstone to democracy.

”Well that creates a class system for journalism consumers because the people who actually consume documentaries and long form journalism are a certain class of people. Fairly elite in our country. At a certain point we have to translate that information for the masses. Which means it has to be on broadcast TV and it has to appear on your Facebook feed. If that doesn’t happen we don’t necessarily have an informed citizenry. Now, I’m not suggesting that we ever had a full informed citizenry because we never have. The big question is how uninformed can our citizens become before democracy actually fails.”

A Ted Talks veteran, Eli Pariser, spoke about the misconceptions of viral media. Pariser’s most recent project is upworthy.com but he cut his internet teeth with the moveon.org website. He said everyone needs a smart content filter to stave off mountains of information.

”I think there is a lot of content that people make that aren’t professionals but that are of just a high of or better quality. I think there a whole bunch of metrics you could look at if that’s what you were thinking about. So, Facebook for example, could have an important button to go along with the like button and that would actually have a significant effect. Right? Because it’s hard to click like on war in Afghanistan continues for twelfth year. But you would say that’ important; I want people to pay attention to that. So there are ways without being prescriptive about what’s important and what’s not that you could allow people to elevate that kind of content.”

Copyrights and fair use policies in journalism was the focus of Pat Aufderheide’s speech. Aufderheide is a professor and director of the Center for Social Media at American University. She is also a film critic. Aufderheide said documentaries are an important medium for reporting on culture.

”Homes across America through public broadcasting these films are being seen by millions and millions of people; which is at least two or three orders of magnitude larger than anything that will happen to a documentary on theatrical screens. So although they are not necessarily sexy in movie media they are terrifically important in being part of our media mix for a democracy.”

Media experts also talked about the changing tides of journalism as a result of expanding technology. Those includes the rise of video, web content and instant news from social media sources like Twitter.

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