It’s time to add collaboration to the journalism playbook

Recently, Scott Karp asked if algorithms will make human editors obsolete and replace them on the web. It is an excellent question in this age of emerging technology and dwindling human resources at most traditional news companies.

The same group of editors who shuttered at the first look of Google News a few years ago (ahh, robots!) are the same ones looking for more automation to fill the gaps in their layoff- and buyout-ravaged newsrooms.

I say, don’t give in to the Dark Side.

Granted, technology is necessary and important and provides journalism wonderful tools that must be used during this age of evolution. But it cannot replace the judgment and discretion that humans bring to the table (not yet, anyway).

And we’re not talking about just the humans who went J-school. We’re talking about the audience, too, in the practice of collaboration. As Scott notes, this is not in the traditional journalism playbook. True, so it’s time to write a new chapter.

Scott used our Newsgarden project as an example of the potential collaboration and described our concept perfectly:

… their bet is that journalists and community members all posting hyperlocal news as they come across it can do a better job than algorithm-based local sites in judging what news is important to the community.

Our concept is based on the “news” that is important to a hyperlocal audience that is not currently online, combined with the news that is online. It’s information that is worth sharing with neighbors or outsiders who are interested in that neighborhood. It’s noteworthy, but not always newsworthy in the traditional newspaper/broadcast TV model. It can stand on its own, but is most pertinent when combined with other like items from a neighborhood to paint a picture of what life is like there these days. Frequency is a key. Hyperlocal relevance is, too. It is conversational in tone, but not a rant or rave.

Many news organizations have had a bad experience with their own citizen journalism efforts. Turns out there’s a reason that journalism is a profession; it takes a steady paycheck to motivate someone to do it on a consistent basis. But just because there aren’t a number of people in the community who have the time and talent to keep a good blog on your site doesn’t mean there aren’t a host of people who, from time to time, would have something meaningful to contribute.

That’s why we’re building a platform for these contributions. And we think they should breathe the same air as the professionally reported news that does and not be ghettoized to a separate section on a news web site.

It’s time for journalists to add collaboration to their playbook. News organizations will not be able to cut and automate their way to the future and remain (become?) relevant and viable enterprises.

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