How good journalism is like a pair of strong sunglasses

by Jessica Weiss
Oct 30, 2018 in Miscellaneous

As technology advances, journalists and newsrooms worldwide are trying to both understand digital trends and tools as well as harness their power for newsgathering, storytelling and engaging the public.

A digital book released today by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation can help. It offers 1,000 tutorials and learning resources, and sheds new perspectives on the major challenges facing journalism. “Searchlights and Sunglasses: Field Notes From the Digital Age of Journalism” is an interactive online experience that explores the past, present and future of news. It represents the deep "field notes" that its author, Eric Newton, senior adviser to Knight Foundation's president, has gathered over the years as a journalist and grant maker.

In five in-depth chapters, the book explores the industry’s evolution, urging journalists and educators to better blend traditional journalism values with digital age platforms and opportunities. It delves into media history and policy, investigative reporting, community engagement and the open data movement.

“Searchlights and Sunglasses” is intended to be a teaching tool for high school teachers and college journalism instructors. Its “learning layer” offers up more than 1,000 lesson plans, resources and tools for educators embedded on an HTML5 site, which is designed to work well on multiple devices.

The book’s title speaks to the fundamental changes facing the industry. “While news organizations have thought of themselves as searchlights for truth, Newton argues that today’s journalists need to act more like a good pair of sunglasses, filtering, verifying and curating the news," writes Marika Lynch, a communications consultant for the foundation.

In Newton’s words, today’s journalists need to “provide sunglasses to calm the blinding light” in order to help the public see.

Knight Foundation and three other major foundations today launched a $1 million challenge "encouraging universities to create teams that will experiment with new ways of providing news and information," according to a release. The announcement was made at the annual conference of the Online News Association, which will run the two-year micro-grant contest.

The foundation also announced a $4 million grant to Mozilla to seed innovative news products as well as "grow a pool of tech talent to lead change in newsroom culture and create a common space for journalism coders to collaborate," writes Knight Foundation Media Innovation Associate Marie Gilot.

Explore “Searchlights and Sunglasses” here. Watch a video on how to use the learning layer here.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Vivian D. Nguyen under a Creative Commons license.