Wick Communications

Structure your work

In journalism on 6 Aug 2015 at 3:28 pm

Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 10.34.09 AM

If you want to watch one trend in our business, it might be something that has come to be known as “structured journalism.” And a Wick Communications alumni is right in the thick of it.

I confess that it has taken me a minute to get my head around the concept, but it is essentially this: Most pieces of journalism can be broken into component parts. In a common newspaper story those parts are stitched together, perhaps in an inverted pyramid format or some other narrative. But they are still unique parts that the writer weaves into a whole.

Consider a story about a new road project in your town. You might write about it in an incremental way over time. There is the city council discussion over the need for the project, the vote on the bond to pay for it, the wrangling at the state level over priorities, the gadfly who claims it will harm the environment, etc. Each time you write about it you have to provide context from scratch, essentially, which is time-consuming for you and tiresome for anyone who already knows all that stuff.

The Columbia Journalism Review recently imagined a world in which all that journalism would be converted into data that could be a sort of internal or even industry-wide wiki that could add depth for readers who want it. In other words, when you went to do that road story, you could call upon your archive to populate your online story with all those pieces of journalism. (The screen grab above is from what the Washington Post calls a “knowledge map” that weaves together various links and pieces into a very full narrative that readers can swallow whole or in parts.) …

It’s both a simple concept and a new paradigm and you are excused if you are having a hard time understanding it on first glance. The fault is mine for failing to explain it well. Please make time to read the CJR story and consider where this might be going and how it could enliven your journalism in the years to come.

The CJR story quotes David Smydra, who is now editorial manager at Google Play Newsstand but once was a reporter at the Half Moon Bay Review. He is now one of the chief architects of this new structure that could change the way we all think of journalism. Pretty heady stuff.


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