Cloud journalis scenario

Cloud Journalism

What if the cloud became where every form of infor­ma­tion and media exchange took place? Nat­u­rally then, the cloud is also where jour­nal­ism would hap­pen. How­ever, it’s not just about tech­nol­ogy and remotely stored con­tent. It’s about the rad­i­cal changes in lifestyle that result from uni­ver­sal access and a search­able inter­con­nect­ed­ness that the early Inter­net hardly dreamt of.

Matthew Bell is one of the most suc­cess­ful reporters in the Knoxville News-Sentinel’s news­room. A news writer who cov­ers local gov­ern­ment as well as var­i­ous gen­eral assign­ments, Bell main­tains solid con­tact with his sources and inte­grates mul­ti­me­dia into his sto­ry­telling. But most sig­nif­i­cantly, Bell uses the cloud – the online, on-demand, ubiq­ui­tous data repos­i­tory that has essen­tially replaced file stor­age in most mod­ern elec­tronic devices.

As cloud ser­vice providers have come to replace sim­ple Inter­net ser­vice providers, very lit­tle infor­ma­tion and few files are phys­i­cally kept any­more on desk­top and lap­top com­put­ers. Nor are mem­ory cards used in phones and tablets. Every­thing is stored remotely in the cloud so that indi­vid­u­als can access it from any­where at any­time on any network-connected device they are using.

The cloud has become a steady source in Bell’s report­ing at the News-Sentinel.
For instance, Bell received a tip from a sis­ter paper in Ken­tucky one day that there might be a prob­lem at the Par­adise Fos­sil Plant in Muh­len­berg County, Ky. The plant is oper­ated by the Ten­nessee Val­ley Author­ity, which is based out of Knoxville, Tenn., where Bell works. Par­adise is the largest power plant in Kentucky.

Sure enough, there they were – hun­dreds of pieces of infor­ma­tion posted to the cloud out of what’s nor­mally a quiet area. Just as search engines seek out links, images and video, the cloud has its own select tab too.

Bell found pho­tos from the nearby high­way of irreg­u­lar black smoke ris­ing from the plant. There was some ama­teur video from inside. He even dis­cov­ered a before and after shot of the Par­adise facil­ity – the after photo taken once an uncon­trolled fire began burn­ing with work­ers and class tours inside.

Much of the user-created content from the cloud was eventually replaced by professional photography and more authoritative sources in a longer-form story.

While Bell went to work con­tact­ing a TVA spokesper­son and those on the scene, the news organization’s online design team pieced together a photo gallery from the pub­lic cloud. Design laid it out with a tablet-first mind­set, while a brief web story slid into its reg­u­lar tem­plate as most sto­ries do.

Much of the user-created con­tent from the cloud was even­tu­ally replaced by pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­phy and more author­i­ta­tive sources in a longer-form story. But while the story devel­oped online, the cloud allowed Bell to break a story he wouldn’t have oth­er­wise even cov­ered from such a distance.

The cloud has changed more than how reporters do their jobs. It’s changed how peo­ple compute.

Take a photo? It’s imme­di­ately sent off. The same applies to mobile phone con­tacts and music. As opposed to when peo­ple used to send pho­tos to Twit­ter, Face­book or Flickr, the cloud is a one-step process. There is no “send to cloud option,” because any­thing that would nor­mally be saved to a hard drive is already there.

The cloud has turned into a news gath­er­ing tool that Bell and most other reporters inte­grate into their every­day jobs. By using con­tent such as pho­tos and video posted to the cloud, Bell uti­lizes a new force in com­mu­nity jour­nal­ism. Really, Bell doesn’t con­sider the cloud much dif­fer­ent than when social media boomed and he kept a con­stant eye on such ser­vices as Twit­ter and Face­book for story ideas. But now the cloud has become the pri­mary area to store information.

Files stored to the cloud are avail­able to jour­nal­ists as fair-use items. So long as the media use files for report­ing pur­poses, they can be used in sto­ries know­ing it’s for the pub­lic good.

A larger than ever number of newsworthy stories are popping up because the paper has a better connection to what’s going on in the surrounding community via the cloud.

The cloud is a direct evo­lu­tion – and a com­bi­na­tion – of such tech­nolo­gies as remote email servers, Google­Docs, photo/video shar­ing apps and file shar­ing. It’s about the abil­ity to access a per­sonal file from any­where on any stan­dard device.
Most impor­tantly, it’s easy to use and instantaneous.

Users choose pri­vacy set­tings to decide what they want to hide (typ­i­cally email, con­tacts, doc­u­ments) and what’s posted to a pub­lic cloud data­base acces­si­ble by all (typ­i­cally pho­tos, videos and music). But in a soci­ety that’s increas­ingly more open about tech­nol­ogy and per­sonal infor­ma­tion, most leave at least their pho­tos and videos open.

As soon as a file is saved, it’s sorted to become pri­vate or pub­lic, where it can then be accessed by search engines. Peo­ple don’t have to share any­thing, but as became pop­u­lar in the 2000s with peer-to-peer net­works, many choose to do so. And as soci­ety con­tin­ues to dial back its col­lec­tive pri­vacy set­tings, post­ing pho­tos to the Inter­net that every­one can access is becom­ing more common.

Now the cloud is the place to share because of its ease of use.

In turn, the news­pa­per busi­ness has to adjust.

A larger than ever num­ber of news­wor­thy sto­ries are pop­ping up because the paper has a bet­ter con­nec­tion to what’s going on in the sur­round­ing com­mu­nity via the cloud. As such, dead­lines are con­stant. It’s under­stood that the news cycle runs all day, every day.

Print edi­tors and design­ers grab the best con­tent from the day and design around that. News is kept short in print, as the paper now favors more ana­lyt­i­cal con­tent, columns and com­men­taries – essen­tially the less timely ele­ments that can retain a print product’s impor­tance to a community.

The goal is to aggre­gate every­thing into one news­pa­per report for the pub­lic to con­sume. Key infor­ma­tion may be out on the cloud, so the journalist’s role is to comb through infor­ma­tion and deter­mine what’s newsworthy.

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