Northwestern University professor Rich Gordon opened Saturday's session of a computational journalism summit at Georgia Tech with a plea for journalists to understand that the job of the technologist involves creativity and the job of the journalist increasingly involves challenging technology. Gordon moderated a panel, "Advances in News Gathering," at a Symposium on Computation and Journalism in Atlanta. "We've been doing computational journalism, if that's the term, for 20 years and yet this is the first time, that I know of where we've gotten a couple of hundred people from the worlds of journalism and technology together in one place to figure out where have some common ground." Gordon, who teaches at the Medill School of Journalism, added: "I would like to posit that many of us in the journalism field don't appreciate that computer science is a creative discipline and think that computer scientists, progammers are people who should do our bidding to build things we want. And I think maybe on the other side, on the computer science side, maybe there isn't enough respect for the intellectual rigor that a good journalist goes through to do their job and an appreciation of the intellectual and creative challenges of doing htat job well. And I'd like to see us close that gap." With Gordon on the panel were Nic Fulton, chief scientist at Reuters Media; Paul Ferguson, supervising editor, international news, at CNN; and Andrew Haeg, senior producer at American Public media's Center for Innovation in Journalism.
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Ferguson described the advances CNN has made in using mobile satellite technology to set up within eight minutes the capability to broadcast live television from anywhere in the world -- a package which costs many thousands of dollars, but now weighs only 65 pounds. Fulton described Reuters experiments with technology partner Nokia to use a mobile camera phone for instant, low-resolution, on-the-street video interviews. In addition, he said Reuters is now using computers to electronically "read" news releases and write headlines and lead paragraphs, which are then briefly checked by an editor for accuracy before being transmitted globally. "Now, we're beginning to have machines reading news and turning it into information that triggers trades," says Fulton. From Fulton's point of view, there is no lack of information in the Internet age, but there is a lack of analysis. He said he hopes journalist and technologists will find ways to enable the public to read things such as congressional reports and efficiently extract and submit the news they contain.
Haeg listed three questions which challenge technologists working on journalism solutions: (1) What tools can we use to better spot patterns and emergent issue? (2) What's the most effiicnet way to disseminate all of the information and insights we're receiving? (3) How can we measure trust and confidence?