Tag Archives: news librarians

The Future, it’s in the Data.

Here’s a post I meant to publish earlier this summer before life got crazy…I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – even a simple, non-traditional wedding takes more time than you’d think to pull off!

Earlier this summer, I read one of the more provocative and unique posts I’ve seen in awhile about the future of journalism in the blog Xark.  It sets out a vision for for how reporters could begin, through their normal day-to-day work, to build detailed databases full of information from their stories – a rich trove that could be mined for future stories to add context and depth, to discover new connections and relationships that lead to great enterprise, and for myriad other to-be-imagined uses.

Instead of simply producing an important but highly perishable commodity, the news story, the reporter is also producing an easily searchable, analyzable, and lasting resource full of information about the community and its institutions and leaders.

In one of our many conversations about journalism that used to be over beer and now, sadly, is more often over email, my friend and fellow journalism professor/Mizzou PhD (almost) Jonathan Groves made an interesting point   – if the future of journalism is about data, then why are so many news organizations laying off their skilled librarians?

He directed me to the manager of the Christian Science Monitor’s library and information center’s Leigh Montgomery, who makes the following point:

Librarians are precisely who have been leading in managing information and knowledge in the organization, providing technology training and collaborative tools ­ and adding value and context to information to make it accurate, distinctive and unique. Librarians are already doing what the new, leaner, next workforce will have to do more of:  inherently sharing their vast knowledge to help their colleagues, improve the product and grow the business.”

“We know this.  And we know it is like shouting into a hurricane.”

What astounds me is that many news organizations, beyond the publication date, are not as attentive as they could be to the most valuable thing they have:  their content.  There has been such a fixation on a pay wall or the traditional models of subscribers & advertising or getting as much Google juice as possible that no one seems to be thinking about the many ways this content will live on in other markets.”

“In all the ink and pixels spilled over the future of journalism I have not heard one mention of this.  And whether you have been in business for a century or part of a new startup, that information is valuable, and it needs structure ­ keywording & taxonomy added to it so it can be accessed, and repurposed. All this is then repackaged and sold and accessed by students, researchers, professionals, in databases or on other platforms where the user depends on relevant, fact-checked, objective content.”

Brilliantly said, Leigh, and I think this is something news organizations need to start thinking a lot harder about.

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