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.