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News in the Age of Participatory Media

I’m teaching my first class at MIT this spring, a “special topics” class at the Media Lab. (This is evidently how new classes get launched at MIT -they’re “special” the first year before they become official. All that means, I think, is that you need my permission to take it.) If you’re a student at MIT, or another Boston/Cambridge institution, hope you’ll consider joining us.

The class is my attempt to bring a “journalism” class to the Media Lab while avoiding the journalist/citizen media distinction. (This certainly isn’t a first for the lab – Andy Lippman and Walter Bender have done great teaching around newsgathering and journalism in the past.) With advice from Clay Shirky and other friends I consulted, I’m asking students to think very little about how paper and broadcast newsrooms currently operate and instead treat newsgathering and reporting as an engineering challege. How do we know what happens in the world? How do we verify information about what happened? How do we understand what events are important and which we can ignore? How do we make the important relevant and interesting?

To make these practical questions, we’re doing eight weekly exercises, each of which involves reporting a different type of story using different media. The final project involves designing a tool, technique or technology to make reporting one or more of these stories easier to accomplish… and part of the project involves persuading another student to use the new tech to report. The goal is to create some interesting stories, all of which will live on the web, and design some tools that might take on new life in newsrooms, in the hands of bloggers or other civic actors.

I’m excited to get back into the classroom and to see how the legendary inventiveness of Media Lab students – and the creativity of other students at MIT and within the Boston academic community – applies itself to some of the newsgathering questions I’m most intrigued by. First class is 2pm, Wednesday, February 8th, in E15-363 – that’s a classroom in the “old building” of the MIT Media Lab. Maybe I’ll see some of you there…

2 thoughts on “News in the Age of Participatory Media”

  1. Wonderful approach to teaching best practices of digital journalism while encouraging deep thinking and innovation towards ongoing transformation of the media space. Good luck with the course.

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