If journalism is in the doldrums, you wouldn’t know it from the Online News Association conference in Atlanta last weekend.
The sold-out conference offered a dizzying array of great panels and a midway that lived up to its name. Vendors ranging from Google to the Knight Foundation showcased a wide range of new digital tools for journalists. Matt Waite flew his drone.
The conference was a reminder that we’re at a moment of reinvention in journalism when we can radically improve how we tell stories and inform people. And that is our mission for the Reporters’ Lab.
I took over the lab when I became the Knight Chair at Duke a few months ago. It’s been dormant while I focused on teaching my fall classes, but now that the semester is well underway, I’ve got several projects underway. You’ll be hearing about them in the next few months.
I inherited the lab from my predecessor Sarah Cohen, a talented colleague I know from our days at the St. Petersburg Times. Sarah created the lab and used it to develop great tools for journalists.
I’ll be continuing that mission and broadening the focus. As the founder of PolitiFact, I’ve long been interested in developing new story forms. In a TED speech last year, I said it was time to blow up the news story and experiment with new forms.
We’ll be doing that in the Reporters’ Lab (although we will make sure the explosions don’t damage the Sanford building).
I’ve got some a veteran journalist and some talented students to help with our new mission:
Mark Stencel, a national leader in digital journalism who ran NPR’s website for the past four years. He’ll be writing occasional articles for our website as he explores what tools are available to journalists and what else they need.
Prashanth Kamalakanthan, a senior political science and film student at Duke who has written for the Nation, Alternet and the Duke Chronicle. Prashanth is researching digital tools and new story forms.
Aaron Krolik, a Duke electrical engineering student who has a talent for writing code and an interest in journalism. Aaron is developing our first digital project, which you’ll be hearing about very soon.
We’ll approach everything we do with a sense of curiosity and experimentation. We’ll try new things. Some will work. Some won’t. We welcome your feedback and suggestions. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.