Tech trends: Forward-thinking journalists wanted

October 3, 2009 | By | Category: General News, Student Newsroom

By Juana Summers

Amy Webb defines the leading edge of a field known for innovation. The digital media consultant, writer and adviser to numerous news organizations is engrossed in the intersection of journalism and technology.
Webb founded Webbmedia Group in 2005. The digital media consulting company helps businesses and media organizations adapt technology tools for everyday use. In 2009, under Webbmedia, she launched “,” which she describes as “an affordable solution to learning and training for everyone and anyone working in content.”

Before founding Webbmedia, Webb wrote about technology and business trends for publications, including the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Newsweek and The Economist.

The story of Webb’s entry into online journalism could only be described as kismet. Webb says a number of her friends were working in engineering and technology jobs. Her own work in technology, as well as her personal interest in the field, grew out of the people she knew. “Plus, I’m an insomniac, and I think that helps a lot,” Webb said during a recent interview.

At this year’s conference, Webb, who is a member of ONA’s board of directors, recast her popular “Ten Tech Trends” talk for a 2009 audience. Webb has given the presentation at the last three ONA conferences. She said she constantly revamps the talk—even down to the wire–to make sure she includes the most up-to-date information.

During the talk, she discussed the need to think about technology from a consumer perspective, rather than a reporter’s perspective and suggested new ways journalists should approach technology.

Here’s a list of the Ten Tech Trends Webb highlighted this year:

  1. The “Real Time Web”
  2. Lightblogging
  3. Personalization
  4. Interactive TV
  5. Identity recognition
  6. Augmented reality
  7. User-generated sensor data
  8. Mobilife
  9. Geolocation 3.0
  10. The “Internet of Things”

The overarching goal of the talk was to get journalists in any medium to be more forward-thinking in their integration of technology into their craft.  She applied this same idea of broad technological literacy in her opinion on journalism education.

Webb doesn’t think students should leave school having had an hour of Flash training or a short seminar on how to use Twitter. “That’s not what the marketplace needs,” Webb says.

Instead, she thinks journalism educators should focus on making students more aware of technology overall, rather than suggesting they learn a specific programming language or application. Webb calls it “teaching to the technology.” Webb is on the advisory board for Philadelphia-based Temple University’s journalism department.

Webb said she’s seen the challenges American news organizations face—staff cutbacks leading to more responsibility for individual staffers—worldwide. She says in all the news organizations she’s visited, journalists are coming to terms with the idea that they have to do more with less.

Nonetheless, she’s encouraged by the future of journalism and says news organizations like ProPublica and The New York Times have made encouraging progress integrating tech tools into investigative reporting. Webb says it’s key that journalists continue to learn storytelling skills alongside an awareness of technology, rather than attempting to become engineers or developers.

“Journalists should not be experts at coding,” Webb said. “Journalists should be experts at journalism and be able to have a conversation with coders.”

Tags: , ,

Comments are closed.