Dear New Media: I’m In!

Ann Heppermann of Mapping Main Street’s snapshot of a cluttered kiosk on the UC Berkeley campus reminds us that some forms of old media are alive and kicking. In the blog post below, Ann shares her personal account of “digital conversion” during a week-long Web 2.0 Training fellowship at the Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. It’s a lively must-read with loads of links:

I was never born again…(put me in the column of wayward Catholic), but the week I spent at the Knight Digital Media Center feels like I was dipped in a new media baptismal font.  

“The sky is falling!” we’re often told, and lots of us Chicken Littles are running around trying to figure out ways not to get hit. In reality though, we can tilt our heads up and realize that the new media world is opening up all kinds of new ways report information and communicate with our audiences.  

OK, yes, maybe it feels like I’m drinking some kind of Kool Aid, but really, I’m just enthusiastic about what I’ve learned and am looking forward to sharing it with AIR members.

What did I learn?  Data visualization, widgets, map mashups, WordPress, social networking, more maps, more data visualization, video editing, more maps and more data (did I mention data visualization?). And I found it’s all much easier and less scary than I had anticipated. (I also learned that Google is quite possibly taking over the world, but that is a whole other story.)

We (“we” being 20 amazing journalists from a slew of news organizations–Ms. Magazine, CNN, LA Times and many other outlets) spent the week at KDMC creating a WordPress page about a particular TED topic (mine was on the Media Development Loan Fund and investing in a free press).  

Through this exercise we learned how to make interactive charts using Google Docs, word clouds with Wordle, maps with Zeemaps, widgets with Liquidia—all using open source websites and other free resources—and analyze website through Google Analytics. The goal wasn’t necessarily to make us experts, but rather help us to navigate the terrain and be better communicators with web teams and other possible collaborations. Lifting the veil and making things not seem so foreign is half the battle when learning something new.     

All the while, KDMC brought in a stream of inspiring speakers who encouraged us to “play” with new media and re-think our roles as content producers. For me, one of the most memorable was Richard Koci Hernandez, a visiting fellow at the Berkeley School of Journalism who gave a rousing multimedia presentation.

Hernandez, a self-proclaimed geek, pointed out that “Look, in the future, there will always be journalists, I know this because Sci-Fi movies tells me this.”

He showed all the ways new technology could be exciting for the field and encouraged us to be excited, too, while grounding us in the idea that the most important part of all of this is story. Technology may change, but the importance of telling stories will not change. “The question you have to ask yourselves is… are you in or are you out? Because doing nothing is not an option. If you do nothing, you will be out.”

Well, all right then.  Count me in.

(All of the workshops sessions and talks can be found by clicking on the above links.) 

-Ann Heppermann

  • If you have questions about this workshop, feel free to post them in comments below. 
  • The deadline to apply to the next round of KDMC Multimedia Workshops for May and June is this Friday, March 26.  Good luck!