Mojo #1 and journalism

Few month ago I’ve submitted the polemic tweet project built with the Institute for Research and Innovation of Pompidou Center to the Mozilla MOJO Challenges.

And now from one week ago I follow the Mojo learning lab on P2P U with all this cool people .Just have the time between my trips, my work at IRI and in the Aviz Lab .

The program of “webminar” is really nice, and I’m exited to follow all this lectures as an observer of how moz make a creative seminar online/offline (I will make other post on that) and as a participant to propose some innovative idea to enhance journalism.

Last lecture week started really hot with three nice speaker :

  • Azaa Raskin
    Who made a really close presentation than the one he made at Drumbeat 2010 with some new interesting example about how to redefine problems by empirical experiment and prototyping.I know well this presentation since I used it as inspiration to mentor the workshop Design metadata I made last year, with students from several school of design and engineering (ENSCI/strate/Esilv).
  • Burt Herman, CEO of Storify and a co-founder of Hacks/Hackers.
    Follow your passion, identify it, build a community, build a team, build your product and listen to your users … entrepreneur <> start up Fit
  • Amanda Cox, (Graphics Editor – New York Times )
    Make visualization closer to people is one of the big challenge, as Georges Grinstein says in this article . Amanda finds some good ways to do that, it’s why I love her work. She finds simple and effective ways to present data and make it closer to people. I retained three really cool work form her :
    - How different groups spend their day ?
    - Jobless rate for people like you ?
    - This impressive correlation between vote, cotoon plantation, and sea…
    “Generic solutions are pretty rarely awesome”
    editing viz : Let people look up stuff

What is journalism ?

It’s really interesting to see how technology change the rule of information diffusion and how journalism publish news information.I never work in a news company, and I never really studied deeply the phenomenon. But when I made my master degree in Art “shape and flow of data
I was interested to look at journalism as a data source for art, and as an addictive news reader.
Therefore my analysis might be a litlle bit naive, sorry by advance…

My first impression on the news was TOO MUCH INFORMATION. But after two months of reading thousands Rss news feed by day I didn’t think the same. My second impression was TOO MUCH REPETITION :
- repetition of same informations
- repetition in time of same thematic by season
- repetition of the focus
And my third impression was Newspaper is really CLOSED SYSTEM as an information system.

But what are News ?
Newspaper which started in the 17th centrury are defined by wikipedia in this term : “news is the communication of selected information on current events which is presented (..) to (..) a mass audience”.

news = communication( selection( information( event ) ) )

If we follow this definition news is how to :

      • Get informations ( collect )
      • Select informations ( process )
      • Communicate informations ( diffuse )

So if we use just these 3 elements (get/select/communicate) to analysis news in their ecosystem we have a simple general framework to study news in the digital world. In order to study these three points I have relied this report from Professor Justin Lewis “The Quality and Independence of British Journalism – Tracking the changes over 20 years”.


How news get informations / data ?
Their are several sources of information, raw and pre-packaged :
- investigation (raw)
- wire services (pre-packaged)
- public relation services (pre-packaged)
- syndication (pre-packaged)

This report put in evidence the importance of pre-packaged sources. For the press, repartition is 60% of prepackaged sources (public relation + wire services). This means that 60% of my journal is an editing or rewriting agregation of other “public” news feed (I can probably find myself like AFP / REUTERS / AP / AJR / …).

We can notice here the GET/COLLECT process in the News system does not prioritize the investigation and raw data.

The border problem of this system is that all News System get 60 % of its information from the same sources. Therefore all newspaper speak about the same subjects (enhanced with other informations, point of view, analysis and blabla…). But the result is a repetition of angle/opinion and repetition of article on the SAME subjects and NO NEW FRESH information. In conclusion, news system have more an agregation role than a production role.

Hopefully news start to be interested at social network as new sources (storify and other) ! We can forsee in a near futur the change of this repartition with the entrance of social networks and wikileaks as a big part of the future information source feed.


How news process their information ?
Again we won’t enter inside the news production process but look at it from outside, and this study presents the problem as such :

“In 1995, 417 employees produced a daily average of 12.5 pages of editorial content (along with the News of the World). But in 2004, 485 staff had to produce 27.3 pages of content. The overall pattern that emerged is a situation where journalists are expected, on average, to produce far more output than they would have done previously”

After this constat, author of the study asks :
“how most journalists are now required to do more with less time, a trend that inevitably increases their dependence on ‘ready made’ news and limits opportunities for independent journalism.”

I think doing “more with less” is always a big (and interesting) challenge. But in this configuration I imagine that it needs a really big revolution of the intern process if we want to have the same level of quality…


Empirically, I feel journalism don’t have problem to diffuse the information and it’s what works the best. When I take subway I can buy or find freely fresh news paper, when I open my browser I can read last rss feed, when I loose my eyes on a tv a “fresh” feed comes live, the same on radio…
Diffuson works quantitatively, but what happens if we calculate the repetition rate or a repetition rank by article and by newspaper ?

Repetition Rate could be a macro measure to quantify the degree of distance in time between newspaper and other existing news information feed.

Repetition Rank can be a tool to classify the relation of similarity or difference between the different newspaper and article.

It is not just about clustering as you can find on GoogleNews. But rather a factor to find what are the different information, what is new in the news ?
CC by Na : Nathan Winter -

News and memory ::

In France we drive on long road bordered by invariable alignement of big trees. It has an aestetic value and a usefull value, avoiding cars to run off the road.The French name of these trees is marronier. Interesting enough, in journalism,
marronier, is the same invariable article published every year at the same moment (danger of internet, violence in the suburb, problem with immigrant, …). I don’t know if it’s the same in other countries…

This phenomenon is one of the indicator to question the relation between journalism, memory and repetition.
CC share Alike : Jean-Etienne Minh-Duy Poirrier :