Tackling the challenge of ‘news’

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October 20, 2013 by Catherine Dhanjal

A recent FreePint webinar examined the topic of “Authoritative Analysis: Because 24/7 News is Too Risky“.

The speakers, Stephen Foley of the Financial Times and Cynthia Lesky of Threshold Information Services, offered two perspectives on work – from that of a business journalist and research analyst respectively. At first sight, perhaps, the two might not have too much in common but it soon became clear that they actually face similar challenges.

It’s also worth taking a look at my previous post on the Changes at Channel 4 to discover how the challenges of a broadcast news programme also dovetail into those faced by print (online) journalists and business researchers.

In her intro we heard from FreePint’s director of research, Robin Neidorf, that in this era of unprecedented news output with daily or twice daily ‘official’ news plus constant feeds and updates, it’s hard for journalists, researchers and the public to sort through the unrelenting volume of raw material and work out what’s relevant.

Stephen made the point that news used to be hard to get, now it’s hard to evaluate and it can be difficult to determine how factual or accurate news is. Repetition has become important and we should be wary of believing a ‘fact’ is true or authoritative just because it’s been repeated many times. Taking a pause to evaluate whether or not something’s likely to be true before (eg) retweeting is a valuable tip. (On this note, take a look at GigaOM’s post on Twitter and news errors.)

Journalism now is more about offering a layer of interpretation over data which is complex or could be misconstrued (eg legal matters) – also the data alone may not be enough, a base of trusted contacts to offer analysis of the data remains invaluable.

Cynthia also made the point that published data should also be taken with a pinch of salt and is no substitute for industry experience – she had the situation where a newspaper published the production capacity of a new factory only for her to realise thanks to previous experience in the sector that it was out by a factor of 100!

Stephen is on Twitter @stephenfoley
Cynthia is on Twitter @threshinfo
FreePint is on Twitter @freepint

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The MmIT group is a CILIP special interest group concerned with the organisation, delivery and exploration of information through modern media including graphic forms, video and web based application. This blog contains news from the group and about multimedia information and technology in the library and information. For more information about MmIT see http://www.cilip.org.uk/about/special-interest-groups/multimedia-information-technology-group.

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