So maybe this structured journalism idea is going mainstream after all.
The BBC recently announced a “manifesto for structured journalism,” which has to be the first time a major news organization has used that term; and there was a very interesting post in the NYT Labs site that spelled out in everything but name the gist of a manifesto for structured journalism.
Check out this bit from the NYT Labs post:
…when we look at an article we can see that it actually contains many smaller component parts, like a fact, a person, a recipe or an event. If we could begin to annotate and tag these components, it would enable us to do so much more with that information. New devices, especially those with smaller screens, could make use of smaller chunks of content. New products could be created by extracting components from their original article context and recombining them to create collections or new kinds of experiences. And rather than the archive being a file cabinet full of articles, it would become a corpus of structured news information that could be interrogated and reasoned across.
Doesn’t get much more structured journalism than that, including the notion of recombining elements of stories to create new stories or “new experiences.” That’s one of the fundamental tenets of why we should structure the information in our notebooks rather than simply tag stories better. (Although that would be good too.) And the notion above that one of the main use cases for recombined stories is to make a more effective mobile experience is a great one.
And Columbia Journalism Review has also just come out with a good piece on structured journalism as well, completing a nice trifecta of shout-outs in a short period of time.
Both the BBC and the NYT are huge organizations, with access to the kinds of resources that most newsrooms would drool over, and with huge teams of journalists that in theory could really power the creation of deep and rich datasets. On the flipside, that also means they have strong embedded legacy cultures that could slow the growth of broad-based initiatives.
How these ideas get rolled out in the newsroom, what benefits the staff see immediately, how the business/product side embraces it, are all critical elements in success or failure – more social engineering than technology engineering.
It’ll be really interesting to watch; Jacqui Maher and Paul Rissen are front and center of the BBC initiative, and they’re also part of the Google Group devoted to the subject, and have already reached out to the small, but growing, community of folks interested in structured journalism.
And as an aside, a small group of us are increasingly thinking about more things we can do to spread the word, network and share ideas and challenges. More on that as we get it going.
PS: I realize it’s been a while since I wrote anything here, and my legion of fan (hi, Mom!) are wondering if I’ve taken up needlepoint instead. I actually do have a chunk of topics I’ve been accumulating to write about; it’s the time to write that I’m in shorter supply of. But I do plan to get to it. Once I dispense with the “sleep” thing.