The Science of Journalism

If I Had My Way
One Man's Opinion -- for what it's worth.


To: Emily Bell - ebell@columbia.edu

Cc: Margaret Sullivan - public@nytimes.com

From: Doug Skoglund - skoglund@pdmsb.com

Date: 23 Nov 2014 10:00 am CDT

Subject: 2014034 - Thank You, Ms. Bell...

For an excellent speech. "Silicon Valley and Journalism: Make up or break up?"

First, allow me to introduce myself, because I believe it to be relevant, I am an 85 year young engineer turned programmer. I call myself a "half-assed scientist" because I have a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Minnesota in July 1955. True full-blooded scientists have a PHD. 

I chose the path followed by most graduate engineers -- Industry -- working for the companies that serve "The People." I emphasize "The People" since we all, in one way or another, work for each other -- don't ever loose sight of that fact.

Second, your problem is with "Technology" -- and NOT "Silicon Valley." And the obvious answer is "Make up." It is your responsibility to make certain that Technology works to serve Journalism, so that Journalism can serve The People.

I quote from your speech:

The first is to build tools and services which put software in the service of journalism rather than the other way round. We need a platform for journalism built with the values and requirements of a free press baked into it. This means education, at Columbia we are ahead of the pack in combining journalism, data and computational training, others like Cardiff and Stanford have joined us in the past year and we need many more journalism schools to change their missions to match.

The second unfashionable and unpopular call would be for regulation. Journalism has been firing shots at companies like Google over redundant issues like Copyright for years, whilst the more serious regulatory issues relating to monopoly, utility status and opacity have been largely untouched.

And the third and most achievable is report. Report, report, report. Cover technology as a human rights and political issue as if it were Parliament. Maybe even with more verve and clarity ­ were that possible. It is just as interesting and about ten thousand times more important. The beats of data, privacy and algorithmic accountability currently either don't exist or are inadequately staffed. We have to stop coverage of technology being about queueing for an iPhone and make it about society and power. We need to explain these new systems of power to the world and hold them accountable.  It is after all what we do best.

So, I started with a question suitable for a bad dating app. Makeup or breakup?

I don't have an answer to that ­ apart from to say that as a relationship status goes, it's complicated, but journalism needs to be at least an equal partner in this most modern of relationships.

How you get there, I leave, at least partly, to you. Thank you.

Good points -- the key to this entire discussion is "Serving The People" (AKA: The Customer). Obviously, each individual must serve their employer; however, that individual must evaluate how well their employer serves their customers

And, it is particularly important that you add a fourth paragraph dealing with Journalism's relationship with it's customers. You must concentrate on teaching the public to be better voters by participating in a 21st century "Technology peer-review process."

BTW, I have been trying to make contact with specifics relative to your points; however, nobody seems to want to discuss -- how about you??

To be continued (I really hope) 

Doug Skoglund skoglund@pdmsb.com

I don't provide for comments since that is a system designed to control the communication process -- I do provide an e-mail address!! (Please put a [MYWAY] in your title to get my attention).

BTW, I am working on a replacement system -- and I sure could use some help.

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