No crystal ball can predict the future of journalism, but students at Columbia University are using multimedia to better understand their own future in the profession.
Students chronicled changes in journalism over two months using video, digital media and the web, looking into issues like crowdfunding to cover stories and the fight for distribution on U.S. networks faced by Al Jazeera English.
Cynthia Martinez, one of the students who worked on the project, spoke with IJNet about the project.
IJNet: What's the story behind Fast Forward News?
Cynthia Martinez: Every year, the video storytelling spring semester class at the Columbia University Journalism School puts together a class project, where everyone produces pieces around a common theme and hosts them on a website [past projects include NYCTake2 and Downsize NYC, both of which were about the economy.
This year, the class, in conjunction with Professor Betsy West, decided to take a look at the future of journalism. Since mid-March, students have been shooting behind the scenes with reporters, editors and innovators who are working on new journalistic ventures and also profiling veteran journalists grappling with the challenges of technology.
IJNet: How many students are involved with the project?
CM: There are 18 students involved, putting together a total of 10 stories.
IJNet: How is Fast Forward News different from other projects chronicling changes in journalism?
CM: We're looking at these changes from the perspective of young journalists just starting out in our careers, who are wondering what the future of our chosen profession really looks like. We're also trying to examine the changes through a visual medium, as there hasn't been much video work in this area.
IJNet: What impact do you hope Fast Forward News will have?
CM: We hope the project will show other journalists the huge amount of innovation going on both inside and outside newsrooms and help them evaluate the likely success of that innovation – and what its potential impact will be on journalism itself. Some of these new developments are scary (and indeed, it's questionable whether some of it is taking us further away from “journalism” itself), but they are happening.
IJNet: Can you tell me about some of the stories you covered?
CM: The stories include the attempt to rescue long-form journalism with new digital technology, a company that has programmed computers to replace reporters; what it's like to work in a so-called "content farm;" an inside look at Al Jazeera English after their attention-grabbing coverage of the Arab Spring, and interviews with veteran 60 Minutes correspondent Bob Simon and CNN's new interview host Piers Morgan. The pieces cover a broad range of topics within the general themes of how technology is changing journalism, what sustainable funding models might be and how TV journalism is adapting to this new world.