Fifteen Journalism-Related Panels for SXSW Interactive 2012

Earlier this week, the colossal film, interactive, and music festival known as SXSW announced the opening of the 2012 SXSW PanelPicker, a community-driven voting portal that allows people to vote on panels which they wish to see at the upcoming conference. The PanelPicker votes and comments comprise 30% of the decision-making process for any given programming slot, with the SXSW Staff and SXSW Advisory Board accounting for 30% and 40% respectively. Voting is open from now until 11:59pm CT on Friday, September 2, 2011.

For those of you who may not be familiar with SXSW, here’s a brief video from SXSW that gives an overview of the conference:

While there are three distinct portions of the conference, SXSW Interactive offers the most diverse group of topics, especially for journalists. Currently, there are over 50 journalism-related panels up for voting in the PanelPicker. I’ve culled through them all, and here are fifteen which I think would be great for journalists of all kinds. Each panel description also includes a link to vote for the panel on the PanelPicker (voting does require registering for a free PanelPicker account).

Content and Coding is Not a Commodity

Description: Geeks see code as art and content as stuff. Journalists see code as stuff and content as the art. Geeks may say “provide me content” while journalists are like “build this site.” With that kind of attitudes, it’s hard to get buy-in from the other side and why the web is plagued by low-quality aggregators or clunky news sites. What coders and journalists should understand: they have more in common than not. Both sides are motivated by their craft and a desire to feel that an audience is experiencing their work, whether though prose or programming. Coders and writers are not interchangeable, that great talent can be an order of magnitude more effective than mediocre talent. Though discussions of case studies and mistakes, this panel will explain from both the journalists’ and the programmers’ perspectives how to speak a language they will understand. Successful projects form partnerships with advice and consultation from the earliest stages, rather than as an afterthought.

Speakers: Raju Nariestti, The Washington Post; Benjamin Balter, FCC

Vote for “Content and Coding is Not a Commodity”


Digital Voices, Meet Media Consolidation

Description: The political adage, never get into a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel, rested on the tremendous capital costs involved in running a newspaper. Those costs have been swept away by a cheap digital media tsunami that has unleashed millions of voices. Media conglomerates are shuttering newspapers, buying digital upstarts like the Huffington Post and TechCrunch, and launching vertical hyperlocals like Patch. The nature of the power law means that A-list sites get a disproportionate share of eyeballs. As Clay Shirky wrote in 2003, “the greater the diversity, the more extreme the inequality.” So much for millions of voices. Let’s talk about the impact of media consolidation on public interest (political) journalism and civic life and explore our role as disrupters of the status quo. Examples include crowd-sourced visualization of media consolidation and digital media literacy modules, modules that need you for maximum impact.

Speaker: Kathy Gill, University of Washington

Vote for “Digital Voices, Meet Media Consolidation”


Election 2012: Campaigns, Coverage & The Internet

Description: It’s not just the politicians who are turning to social media to announce candidacies, influence public debates or galvanize volunteers, but also activists and pundits are rethinking how they monitor, measure and influence the campaign from grassroots to grasstops. From fact checking smear campaigns on Twitter to special interest e-mail listservs to owning a domain before the opposition does and simply interacting in real-time with a campaign, social media has changed campaign culture and elections for good. This panel will examine the ways in which social networks have redefined the political landscape of the 2012 presidential election with viewpoints from journalists, scholars, and campaign practitioners.

Speakers: Michael Scherer, TIME Magazine; Micha Sifry, Personal Democracy Forum; Mindy Finn, Engage DC; Zeynep Tufecki, technosociology

Vote for “Election 2012: Campaigns, Coverage & The Internet”


Immersive Journalism

Description: Journalism in the 21st century has followed a pattern of shrinking offices and overstretched producers despite the new tools made available through emerging technologies. It doesn’t have to be this way. Danfung Dennis, CEO of media tech startup Condition ONE, discusses how journalists can and should harness new tools to immerse audiences into powerful, emotional experiences. The application the ethics and research of traditional journalism to technology borrowed from the military and video games could spawn a new breed of ‘broadcast’ networks.
Speaker: Danfung Dennis, Condition One

Vote for “Immersive Journalism”


Journalism’s Got 99 Problems, Design is #1

Description: Will ________ save journalism? It’s a typical, and tired, question with everything from paywalls, iPads, programmers or hyperlocal, microlocal, over-aggregation filling in the blank. But the subject of design is often absent from these conversations. Why? Design is one of the most crucial ingredients; it’s the glue between intent and engagement, between content and comprehension. Yet news design on the web feels stagnant. From the perspective of three designers in the newsroom trenches, where the headlines meet the HTML, we want to look at design’s successes and failures and examine what’s next for this still nascent field. We look forward to the input of many voices before, during and after this session. Let us know what you think.

Speakers: Miranda Mulligan, The Boston Globe; David Wright, NPR

Vote for “Journalism’s Got 99 Problems, Design is #1”


Journalism is Dead. Long Live Journalism!

Description: If all you hear about are furloughs, layoffs, and doing more with less, you might think journalism is dead. But many young journalists who have been battling to change and improve the industry think the future is brighter than ever. From innovations in storytelling to a culture shift around how to present and contextualize information, learn what the next generation of journalists thinks could save the industry and how you can help.

Speaker: Robert Hernandez, USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism

Vote for “Journalism is Dead. Long Live Journalism!”


Local Legit: Who Blogs Local Best?

Description: From mom bloggers to foodies, parenting to restaurant reviews, art to sports – people are creating and reading local blogs. Where people get local information has been rapidly changing – there has been a shift from the printed local paper to online news. In many communities local bloggers have replaced the traditional newspaper. Some things are well covered by traditional media, but there are other topics that local bloggers are taking the lead on. Local blogs are creating and changing communities from urban neighborhoods in bigger cities to smaller towns across the United States. While blogging has created an accessible, free way for anyone to share information about their community. There are still areas of reporting that traditional media channels are better suited to cover – for example, more traditional newspapers have the financial and legal resources to file right to know lawsuits to obtain information. Do independent bloggers have the same resources? This panel will explore the idea of who covers local communities best, the rise of local blogging and the impact on those communities as well as what the local blogging landscape might look like in the future.

Speakers: Kate Giammarise, Rust Wire; Anthony De Rosa, Neighborhoodr; Angie Schmidt,

Vote for “Local Legit: Who Blogs Local Best?”


New Career for Journalists: Online Video Producer

Description: Writing is never going to die. Crafting thoughts into clear and useful communication is always going to be important online. But aspiring writers these days would be smart to enhance their skill set to include online video production. As online journalism evolves into video, writers have a new career opportunity: translating their journalism skills into strong online video production. This panel will feature some of the best online video producers out there who can share their insights in this nascent field and discuss how to make the jump from writer to video producer. What’s worked? What hasn’t? What skills are needed most? How many people should be on a video production team? What types of online video work best, and how and where do people see them? How can good online video support media sites and tell a different yet unique perspective.

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