“Practicing journalism in 2016 is like throwing a dart at a moving target, I’m hoping the Communications@Syracuse program will better my aim.”
Those were the closing words to my admissions essay to the Communications@Syracuse program. Now, as I put the finishing touches on the final assignments in my last two courses, I find myself on the other side of the program. I can confidently say two things: practicing journalism in 2017 isn’t any easier than it was in 2016 and the Communications@Syracuse program has certainly bettered by aim. Perhaps it’s most evident in this class: Emerging Media Platforms. Technology is changing more and more rapidly and consumers’ needs and desires are shifting just as fast. And with those two things — so too changes Journalism itself. How we practice it. What we cover. How we deliver it. How it’s consumed. With that said, here are some of my predictions on how emerging platforms will continue to alter Journalism and the career I love and practice each and every day.
CHATBOTS: As evident by my choice in Capstone project, I believe chatbots are a big part of the future of journalism. We’ve already seen sectors of news with rudimentary reporting based on facts and figures be farmed out to automated bots (think: sports stats/scores and stocks and other financial reporting). Chatbots will soon take off as AI becomes more adaptive thanks to more and more interactions between bots, facts/figures, and consumers. Chatbots will soon be able to answer more complex questions, which could potentially undermine traditional methods of delivering information and news. Why sit through an hour-long newscast for the story teased in the headlines when I can get the answer now using an adaptive, predictive, chatbot?
ASSISTANTS: As chatbots grow in number and popularity they will also improve in accuracy too, as AI transforms into something more reliable — and more like what we’ve seen in movies for decades. And as AI improves personal assistants likes Alexa, Siri, and Google Home will become as intelligent as they will be ubiquitous. The IoT will increases integration between home, businesses, and goods giving personal assistants the power to perform increasingly complex tasks and understand nuanced questions. This will further force journalists to deconstruct the narrative of the “story” and stick to facts that are easy for these assistants to navigate. Consumers will interact directly with information and ask questions about things that make them curious. The gatekeeper theory will be greatly tested. Make no mistake, this is the future. And it’s happening now.
DRONES: As geofencing becomes more complex and the government is better equipped at interfering with drones to protect collective interests like safety and privacy, drone usage will become more ubiquitous by both amateurs and businesses (including journalism). As drone flight times, currently limited by battery length and range, increase they will completely eliminate news choppers for purposes of collection video. This is, in theory, safer — removing chopper pilots and crews from harm’s way. This shift will also quicken news crew response times to breaking news situations. Imagine getting the address to the scene of breaking news and being able to input those coordinates in your drone and within seconds it takes off -— and within minutes it makes it to the scene. Here’s something else to consider: as long range lenses become more compact and digital zoom improves with higher image quality formats, accidental capture and invasive surveillance by news crews will undoubtedly become an issue. Where should the line be drawn?
SENSORS: What can be done now with sensors is already amazing. What the sensors of the future will allow us to do will be alarming. As nanotechnology becomes mainstream, sensors will be able to collect data in more discreet ways. I primarily see sensors as being a huge aid in health and environmental reporting, but I can also see applications when it comes to crime. 96 U.S. cities in the country already have gunshot detection apparatuses called Shot Spotter (or a similar brand) that uses sensors placed around an area to immediately signal police when a gunshot is heard.
VR/360: While there is great possibility in what can be achieved with VR and 360 video, I still think there is a long way to go before we see these medium becoming mainstream and second nature to the consumer. The video files are still massive and stitching video together is complex and labor intensive, and in many cases still looks grainy. Yes, a virtual world is on the horizon, but it’s still a sunset of a distant day. Not today. 360 video on the other hand will explode as video quality and internet speeds improve. I think storytelling that follows a “character” or highlights an environment or venue will benefit greatly from this innovation.
Exciting. Gritty. And filled with lots of “gray”. Here’s to the future of Journalism and all it promises to bring along with it.