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29 Journalism Sessions Worth Voting for at SXSW

The deadline for voting on SXSW sessions is September 4th. Below I’ve rounded up a few session ideas that caught my attention. Go forth, vote, comment and share.

Community Engagement and Public Powered Journalism

I’m most interested in sessions that look at the role of media and technology on the lives of people and communities and that explore how communities and journalists can work more closeing to co-create the future of news.

Building Journalism and Civic Tech With Community

If civic tech and journalism are about creating a more just and equitable democracy, we need to reorient our work towards building with communities, not just for them. The future of civic work is not about investing in technology, it is about investing in community. This interactive panel is designed to address this gap, demonstrating through play and dialogue how journalism and technology practices can be reconfigured to work collaboratively with diverse publics. We’ll present case studies and community-driven strategies from sectors like public art, social justice organizing and design thinking. Attendees will leave with models they can put to use and iterate on in their work. (Disclosure: I submitted this one)

Let the People In: How to Democratize Local News

We believe everyone has a stake in the future of journalism. That’s why Free Press is applying the tools of community organizing to local news engagement. Our News Voices pilot project in New Jersey brings community leaders and residents together with media makers to explore the role journalism can and must play in helping communities shape their own futures. By treating residents as active partners, we’re building a model where newsrooms respond to local needs and residents advocate for quality sustainable journalism in their hometowns. Our panel can speak from different perspectives — as journalists and community organizers — about how and why this approach works. (Disclosure: we at the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation fund this project)

Comments Are Terrible — But They Don’t Have To Be

Interacting with readers is important. But your comment sections are a troll-filled cesspool. What’s a publisher to do? Think more strategically, we say — and we can help you do it. In this interactive session, leaders from The Coral Project and the Engaging News Project will give you tips on improving your interactive spaces — comments and beyond — based on the latest research. They’ll also solicit your questions and feedback, a dialogue that will help guide the Engaging News Project’s research and The Coral Project’s open-source software development.

We’re Living the Future of Journalism in Holland

As you may have seen in The New York Times, The Guardian, or on CNN, the small European country of the Netherlands (pop. 17 million) is home to two very successful media companies. One broke the world record in journalism crowdfunding in 2013 ($1.7M) and has grown into a platform with 35,000 paying members ($75 a yr.); the other solved the issue of micropayments for journalism, with hundreds of thousands of users and investments from The New York Times and others. In this session, De Correspondent and Blendle share valuable insights into alternatives for the std. go-to earning model in the U.S.: advertisements. Backed up with concrete figures and details of (un)successful experiments.


Image by Patrick Breitenbach, used via creative commons

Making Podcasts and Making Them Pay

As you might imagine there are a lot of proposed sessions on podcasts but these ones below seemed particularly interesting because of their focus on revenue, engagement and diversity.

Get Your Readers to Pay You Money

Nearly every newsroom these days has at least considered a membership program or paywall — and then not implemented one. For a long time, the conventional wisdom was that they almost never worked. But the landscape is changing. Clever technological implementations and editorial strategies can make reader revenue a big boost to the bottom line. This panel, presented by Slate, will gather the people who are reinventing the reader revenue model. Slate’s Julia Turner and David Stern will discuss Slate Plus and their international paywall; Matthew Lieber of Gimlet will dissect their membership program; and Ken Fisher will share insights on monetizing Ars Technica.

Selling your podcast without selling your soul

Podcasting is a burgeoning digital platform with great potential. This budding medium is already attracting serious advertising dollars, most notably with Mail Chimp’s sponsorship of “Serial.” Podcast advertising creates opportunities for podcasters but presents new challenges. Testimonials and host endorsements present ethical dilemmas for journalism-focused podcasts. Pioneering podcast advertisers contend with different creative and metrics than traditional media buys. How do podcasters balance their creative freedom with commercial interests? Speakers will discuss advertising’s role in their revenue model, balancing creative independence, and the limitations of podcasting.

Earshare: How to Grow a Podcast Audience

It’s no secret that podcasts have recently made their way into the mainstream. But while the larger currents of change surrounding their ascendancy are much discussed, we hear less about how the individual popular podcasts we know and love made their way from relative obscurity to staggering success. With millions of podcasts now available, making your way to the top of the charts is no easy feat. The Slate Group’s podcasting network, Panoply, brings you a panel about podcast audience development, featuring well-known podcasters with unique stories to share about how they achieved broad listenership.

Podcasts Powered by Women — NextGEN Leadership

The voice of female leadership is rapidly rising in the male-dominated world of podcasts. This session will inspire you with stories about the women who are creating gender balance in this decade-old space and growing the audience as a result. We will discuss why showcasing content by women is a lucrative business strategy for networks. You will gain valuable insight from the talent, product development and advertising business perspectives, as to why diversity in this space is important for our industry’s brand marketers. Women are notorious game changers, and female leaders are changing the podcast game by delivering cutting-edge content and sound business advice to your key consumers.


Slide from presentationby @fst, @thomnagy, @herrhorn

Data and Journalism: Big Ideas and Workshops

A number of sessions focus on pushing the boundaries of how newsrooms are working with data.

Structure is the Future of Journalism

The Internet revolution began 25 years ago, yet publishers are still presenting journalism the old way — as plain headlines and blobs of text. But there is a growing movement called structured journalism that reimagines how to tell stories about crime, politics and even entertainment. It slices and dices the news into data fields, enabling readers to interact in powerful ways. Bill Adair, creator of the Pulitzer Prize-winning PolitiFact, and Laura Amico, creator of the acclaimed Homicide Watch, will discuss the structured movement and how publishers and entrepreneurs can use this approach in new (and old) ventures.

How Cities Use Data & Evidence to Improve Lives

New York Times columnist David Bornstein will moderate a discussion with Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan (former Secretary of the Department of Housing & Urban Development), Head of Bloomberg Philanthropies Government Innovation Program, and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter. Donovan, Anderson and Nutter will discuss how advancing the use of data and evidence in decision-making at all levels of government can improve lives. They will cite examples from their current and prior work at the federal and municipal space, tapping into experience in OMB, HUD, New York City government, Government Innovation at Bloomberg Philanthropies, and Philadelphia city government.

Innovating a Newsroom with Data

Newsrooms are full of data: Realtime data, long term data, behavioral data, data on device usage, on time spent and articles read — But what are we supposed to do with it? How can we use newsroom analytics to create better, more impactful journalism? How might we change workflows and publishing models with the use of data? How can we develop specific products for a certain subset of users? And how do we train our reporters and editors to use data without getting caught in the clickbait-trap? This panel will showcase strategic approaches and practical examples how user centered and data based newsrooms work.


Image by Josep Ma. Rosell, used via creative commons

By the Numbers: Analytics and Metrics

News by numbers: Analytics transform a newsroom

When it comes to customer usage data, The Associated Press — a news service whose content is mostly consumed on platforms controlled by others — has historically known very little. In 2015, the AP partnered with analytics company NewsWhip to tackle this vexing problem. Now, the numbers are rolling in. How can this flood of data transform a newsroom? And what are the perils of suddenly having all this information? Join veteran AP journalist Jaime Holguin and NewsWhip founder Paul Quigley for a wide-ranging conversation about the challenge of building an analytics solution for wholesale news, and the lessons they’re learning about how all that data should and shouldn’t be used.

Winning In The Battle of Metrics vs. The Newsroom

How can newsrooms know their audiences better, respond to their needs and win them over? Data! We’ve got tons of it! However, using metrics and data to make better content decisions requires more than just numbers. It requires a cultural shift from a purely editorial mindset to one that combines news judgement with metrics. Four local and national media experts in radio, TV and newspaper tackle this conundrum head on. They discuss how to encourage culture changes in the newsroom that will motivate adoption of data-driven practices.


Image by Nan Palmero, used via creative commons

Cutting Edge Tech and News: Wearables, Virtual Reality and Games

Wearables and Social Technology in the Newsroom

In an ever-evolving media world, creating content that is visually pleasing, dynamic and pushes the conversation forward is always a challenge. Our jobs are to find the right mix of multimedia to tell stories that meet that criteria. Mobile devices and social media technology have had a huge impact on the media industry and have become tools for today’s news organizations to capture and report the news. As consumers begin to embrace and use wearable technology, we’ve seen a rise in interest from journalists looking to use these new pieces of technology to facilitate content creation and storytelling.

VR Journalism: The Next Disruption

A lot has changed since VR Journalism emerged as a possible platform. There’s more hardware than Oculus; Google and GoPro are collaborative for VR development; and news organizations have begun to produce VR experiences. But is this really the next disruption? Has VR finally gone from hype to reality? Join the “Godmother of VR,” a gaming veteran turned journalist, a director of digital interactives and a professor who believe VR has finally arrived and has found a home in journalism. While it may seem out of reach, learn how newsrooms of nearly any size can create these immersive experiences.

Sucked Into the Story: Virtual Reality and News

Enter the Singapore Airline A380 suite class cabin and you’ll see 3-foot wide seats that turn into beds with linens and pillows. Not alone? The middle seats become a double bed. Thanks to virtual reality, you don’t have to pay $12,000 to sample the ultimate in luxury. And you could use the same technology to visit a Syrian battlefield or the Siberian tundra. Each new publishing technology alters how we experience news, and VR promises the next revolution by immersing us deep in a story. Though ethical and tech challenges remain. Join AP, POV, Vice and The Reynolds Journalism Institute for a conversation about what’s worked, what hasn’t and what’s next for the newest news medium.

Game Design Thinking: A Jolt to Newsrooms

As the news and journalism industry battle their economic realities, can game design provide some remedy to their challenges? Hear our super team of game designers and research fellows share lessons learned from a year of summits, workshops, interviews, and prototype production for real-world applications. What can the most innovative leaders in news journalism do to convert the energy of game design into impact in news? Topics include iterative design, promoting reader efficacy, reward systems, thinking beyond the page, experience design and other game design elements. Learn with us from our interactions with top news executives.


Leadership, Training and Job Skills

Journalism Intrapreneurs: Snows Becoming Starks

Journalism contains some of the most trusted brands in our world today. But it’s also battled hardships with integrity, relevance, and, at times, a painstakingly slow ecosystem. In this pivotal time for quality journalism, organizations must embrace intrapreneurship. How can intrapreneurs create their own identity while operating under the values and mission of their original institutions? Can they be different enough to truly forge their own path or are they just replicating the older model? How do they reach new audiences and serve the greater public? Come hear stories of successful intrapreneurial Snows and the lessons they have learned along the way to becoming Starks.

Developing News Leadership for the New Normal

Fluid is the new norm in newsrooms, which constantly restructure, invent new job titles and juggle high staff turnover. Nurturing leaders and rethinking hierarchy and management skills for an ever-changing culture are a true challenge — but not an insurmountable one. In this cross-generational discussion, hear how both established and emerging executives from start-up, blended and legacy newsrooms are preparing the next-level leader. This session will feature members of the Online News Association, who explored this issue with hundreds of colleagues at ONA’s annual conference.

Disrupting J School with Digital Culture

It’s hard to disrupt a traditional institution like a university and an industry like journalism, but meet professors that have taken steps to build digital culture within the classroom, in hopes of disrupting in the newsroom. Ranging from creating apps or flying drones or creating AR/VR experiences or using digital platforms to cover breaking news like the Boston Marathon Bombings, these professors are forcing their schools — often alone and with little to no support — to embrace digital and make significant changes. Hear how to disrupt J School with things like sensors and food trucks.

Horror Show: Social Newsgathering & Mental Health

Journalists have always put themselves in harm’s way — on battlefields, in disaster zones, under volatile dictators. As they know too well, witnessing violence and cruelty firsthand can take a mental toll. Today, unspeakable acts are as close as your nearest networked device. Journalists using social media to cover distant horrors can suffer emotional consequences looking at photos and YouTube videos from a cubicle or a living room couch. Learn about the psychological danger of working with graphic user-generated content from social newsgathering experts at AP, Poynter and First Look Media, and from the psychiatrist who led the first study of the impact of UGC hunting on mental health.

I’m Tired of “Doing Social Media”: What’s Next?

With the adoption of social media at most major corporations complete, a new problem is starting. Seasoned social media professionals need to define career paths for themselves, and their opportunities to do “just social media” fade quickly. Many companies do not have social leadership beyond the Director level and experienced employees find themselves topped out with nowhere to grow. Corporations lose because they lose digital native talent. Individuals lose because they are stuck making lateral moves. This panel discussion intends to explore the looming crisis, and discuss about what corporations and individuals can do about it.


Image by Ewan McIntosh, used via creative commons

Sharing, Collaboration and Distributed Content

New Partnerships in Digital Storytelling

Filmmakers and journalists each play a vital role in informing the American public. While journalists excel at breaking news, filmmakers illuminate the personal, human stories behind the headlines. The documentary film nonprofit Independent Television Service, The New York Times, The Atlantic, and others aim to combine exceptional filmmaking with in-depth journalism to engage audiences in the important social issues of our time. At this panel, major players in the dynamic media landscape will discuss the challenges and opportunities of this new model of in-depth storytelling, and provide insight on how journalists and filmmakers can work together to strike up critical conversations.

How Do We Make Distributed Content Work In News?

Companies like Snapchat, Facebook, and Apple are now asking the media to forgo their old websites and publish directly to their platforms. Snapchat Discover, Facebook Instant articles, and Apple News all offer the chance to reach a growing mobile audience on wildly popular platforms. What are the tradeoffs for publishers in hosting their work on other people’s property? What’s the potential audience look like? Can big media companies be successful on platforms that favors the raw aesthetics of user-generated content? A panel of journalists from companies including NowThis and First Look Media will discuss the opportunities and challenges of distributed content.

Meet the Next Generation of Public Media Producers

If you were given the opportunity to produce news for the PBS NewsHour as a teenager, what stories would you tell? How would your videos be different from news produced by adults? This session is an informal conversation about the future of public media and news between NewsHour senior correspondent William Brangham and high school students from Student Reporting Labs, a video journalism program in 100 schools around the country. These young producers will explore the intersections of learning, activism, filmmaking, journalism, creativity and current events.


Image by WNYC from their NYC Stock Image project

Other Interesting Journalism Sessions

The “Dark Sci:” or Inclusive STEM and journalism

Getting beyond the idea that science is conducted by a white dude in a lab coat, the National Science and Technology News Service is an organization which seeks to get more people involved in telling the science stories that impact us all. We aim to get more journalists telling stories of how science affects the world and its people, and we aim to get readers, viewers, listeners and students to understand that we are all scientists, and the next great problem to be solved could indeed be solved by someone who thinks she or he doesn’t “look like a scientist. From gaming to grooming, and health care to space exploration, the way we understand our world requires that everyone take part.

Front pages are changing, but they still matter

Newspapers may be dying, but when major news breaks anywhere around the world, they still have the ability to capture and freeze a moment better than any other medium. Some, like the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, have changed how it approaches the front. That was most evident in Ferguson. Some, like the Charleston Post and Courier, use it to send powerful messages. And some, like Sentinel and Enterprise, have even given it over to an artist for 26 days as a public art installation. Why are front pages still so powerful? And what do newsrooms need to do to make the most of this space? How else could it be used?

Why the Best Journalism is Satire

Why is it that more and more millennials have turned to sources like The Onion and ‘Last Week Tonight’ with John Oliver to get their news? Changes in technology and growing media bias have hit traditional news outlets at a time when satirical news has been growing in popularity. Recent studies have shown that not only has the public began to trust satirical journalists, but those who get their news from satire are often better informed on current events. This panel will discuss the role of satire in journalism, how satirical outlets break news and inform their audience, and why outlets like The Onion have become a trusted source for news.

A Look Inside FRONTLINE’s Future

FRONTLINE is among the few remaining media enterprises dedicated to extensive, hard-hitting examinations of complex stories. As the digital landscape transforms the models and practices of journalism, FRONTLINE is more committed than ever to finding innovative ways to expand its uncompromising reporting. In this solo presentation, Raney Aronson, FRONTLINE’s new executive producer, reveals how the iconic PBS series is bridging the gap between broadcast and digital to ensure its independent journalism remains relevant and accessible for generations to come.

(Top image by alex de carvalho, used via creative commons)

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