CN Oct 27 2016


Yusuf Omar is running a brand new newsroom. He has 750 reporters. They do all their reporting using cell phones. And there are 75 different types of phones, because his newsroom is in Dehli, India.

Gary Kebbel once edited newspapers with tin snips. That’s how he would shorten a story back in the hot-lead Linotype years. Later he became the Journalism Director for the Knight Foundation, where he helped create the Knight News Challenge, which has funneled millions of dollars into journalism innovation projects . Today,  he heads the University of Nebraska’s Center for Mobile Media.

They’re both in town for the Mobile Me&You conference, which runs this weekend. You’ll be able to watch select videos from the presentations soon at their site.

And they both joined us for this week’s Chicago Newsroom, to talk about the future of our business.

So what’s a mobile newsroom? It’s an operation that’s building its infrastructure from the ground up, based on the architecture of the smart phone and its apps. It is not an outfit that’s just trying to adapt its product to the small screen.

And it’s eagerly lapping up every technical innovation it can. That’s why there will be sessions on drone journalism, sensor journalism, virtual reality, 360 reporting and reporting with wearables.

And it all comes together by expanding the definition of commercial apps like Snapchat and Instagram.

If you’ve ever pondered the definition of “citizen journalist”, you’ll want to watch this week’s discussion. Hacking old 2-G cell phones, equipping them with air-monitoring sensors and sticking them to porch railings and fence-posts so you don’t have to FOIA air-quality documents from the government. Beaming live-as-it happens 4k video from a hundred feet above a civil disturbance or massive parade. This is today’s journalism.

But, we ask, who’s the editor? Who’s the publisher? Our show’s name honors the concept of a “newsroom”, a place where editorial decisions are made, and where there’s a 24-hour meeting of the minds about what’s important, and what needs attention.

Both guests agreed that this central point of curation remains critical.

“I think you need a hub,  a heart of editorial wisdom,” explains Omar. I think in this age where social media feeds have been surrounded by cat videos and all this ridiculous content, you need a central space with people who do make firm editorial decisions, and that’s where the newsroom is going to come into play. I think the notion that reporters are going to go out into the field might change entirely. We might start curating masses of civilian reporters, of selfie journalism coming in. But that physical newsroom isn’t going to change for a long time. ”

When we’re living in a world,” adds Kebbel, “where everyone can be a publisher, and two billion people are, then we have a lot of junk out there. So therefore the need for the journalists, the need for the person who helps us find accurate, helpful information that helps us make decisions in our lives, that need is greater than ever. So the role of the journalist has switched from the gatekeeper of the old-stye model, where I have the information and I’ll tell you what to know, now the journalist is the guide, helping you find the good stuff. ”

“The revolution,” Omar tells us, “will be Snapchatted.”


About Ken

Ken's the host of Chicago Newsroom. A former news director, reporter and radio program host, he's also a past Vice President of the Chicago Headline Club.
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