We hear so much about how the internet is killing journalism: Now idiots can “report” whatever they like and it’ll still go viral, fact-checking be damned; everyone rushes to be the first to publish something, fact-checking be damned; robots are replacing reporters. So I love seeing all the interesting, happy news out of the journalism hackathon hosted by MIT Media Lab last month, as reported by the Guardian. Technology almost always has massively negative and positive effects, and it’s easy to dwell on the negative ones. Here, just a few of the positive tidbits out of the hackathon:
* “Sensor journalism” uses real-time data from sensors measuring light, noise, pollution, and heat, among other things, to report environmental and public health stories. Just as the internet can spread false data fast, technology can also help us get more accurate reporting — and cheaper than ever, a huge concern in times of ever-shrinking news budgets.
* Some new sites and apps allow journalists to collect, maintain, and crowdsource their reporting, or “news atoms,” which might be most notable just for the hilariously, aggressively futuristic-sounding idea of “news atoms.” (Back in the day, we called these “notes.”)
* One group from the hackathon came up with the brilliant idea of a Chrome extension called “Newstrition,” which shows you pie charts of how “healthy” your reading habits online really are. It’ll tell you, for instance, that you read 35 percent politics, 20 percent culture, and 45 percent “junk” in the past week. Depending on what you call “junk,” of course, this is brilliant! I want it right now.
* Another came up with Triangle, an app that would tell you how a given news item relates to you. Example given: A friend on Facebook lives in the area affected by a recent earthquake.
Check out the entire article for even more.