News stories aren’t all about words

From learning how to create interactive maps on Google, manipulating timelines to crowd-sourcing information when developing news stories, Online Journalism has been by far the most insightful yet challenging of all the subjects studied in my university degree. More importantly, it has emphasized how journalists of the 21st century are incorporating various multimedia elements into news allowing audiences to better engage with and understand news. American web developer and journalist Adrian Holovaty summarises this point well saying, “people don’t need all the words any more … what they do need is facts’.

Professor of Media and Communications at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Terry Flew outlines the internet has provided the key to access big data sets bringing information technology specialists and journalists together to develop new computing tools. A union highlighted by emergence of ‘data journalists’ and ‘jourvelopers’, who are predominantly telling news through interactive data visualisations such as maps, tables or graphs … These visualisations aren’t ‘static’, they don’t just sit on the page for you to look at. They are dynamic, journalists are increasingly incorporating elements within their online data visualisations to allow users to interact and engage with the information presented. The embellished maps we created in class back in week three are a good example of these dynamic visualisations. Users can be told news and information via the data visualisation by clicking on drop pins or hover their mouse over different areas of an outlined route.

The Guardian Australia’s “Data” section of their website highlights how increased interactivity with the news, people are no longer reading the news they are click and learning about it. For example,  Dredging the Depths: Coalmining vs. The Great Barrier Reef allows for readers to click on different chapters showing the correlation between increased shipping and poor coral health.

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News stories are being increasing told without words.

The use of these visualisations in online news stories Flew said creates ‘accurate, original, reliable and socially useful’ information to the public and draw in online audiences as participants in the news process and not simply readers/consumers’.

The value of audiences is also been highly acknowledged by journalists in recent years as important sources of information when developing news stories. Journalists are increasingly utilising their audiences in the online domain by calling on them to provide information.

Senior Editor for data news and journalism technology, John Keefe of WNYC Radio explains journalists and citizens are working together and experimenting with the notion ‘detector-driven journalism’. As John explains, the concept refers to  distributing senors to collect primary, independent data about different aspects affecting our communities such as pollution.

This experimentation highlights the emergence of journalists and citizen collaborating  to accumulate independent data and draw stories and important information from the data to raise awareness about various issues and thus better our communities.

These data collections are bettering communities on all different levels. Closer to home we can find more local examples such as Brisbane’s Quest News tracking magpie attacks.

The story-centric view of news is no longer the mainstream or predominant method of effectively communicating news to the general public. Thanks to the internet, journalists have an array of interactive tools to produce and communicate news stories in effective and engaging ways. Personally, I am pretty excited to be a journalist in the 21st century.