Online News: The Big Picture

Posted: July 25, 2011 in My Data Journey

Here’s a video of my friend Francis saying how online news is s**t. He started giving out so, having a background in broadcast journalism, I filmed him for the purpose of the Knight-Mozilla News Challenge. Now Francis doesn’t have a TV or radio and doesn’t read the newspaper (he gets The Economist). For daily news, his laptop does all. It is his only outlet to the world wide media monster. Yet he thinks no one has got online news right:

So here is Today’s Guardian. I would highly recommend you read Phil Gyford’s post about his creation. He has tried to recreate a printed newspaper for online and it’s beautiful in its simplicity. Why try and reinvent the wheel? The newspaper structure, design and user experience has been fine tuned for centuries now. It is the oldest medium. Why are we trying to kill it with graphics and clicks and a maze of navigation tunnels in an attempt to decipher what is relevant?

This obsession with personalised personalisation is detracting from the fact that people want to get together and combine their knowledge to understand what is new in the world and how it affects them. Online news separates you from the crowd, it isolates your knowing by assuming an entry point (and placing background and foreground somewhere within each article) and it gives you no relevancy by limiting conversation to a stream of comments from unidentified sources at the bottom of each article. The article is not the right space. The principle element of news should be the story, not the article (there’s a difference). The article is no longer the atomic unit of news. So why are we trying to put everything there?

In Phil’s sense of Friction, Readability and Finishability; why don’t we try and take news pre-mediation? Why don’t we take it back to the conversation? You engage, you communicate, you understand. Social reduces friction, people’s understanding is what is most readable, and the conversation gives you something tangible in your head. It creates a “thing” which you can take away and personalise in your own head in the form of enlightenment.

In that vein, I give you my proposal for the Knight-Mozilla News Challenge. I call it: “The Big Picture” and it is a mashup of the studio discussion, Storify, Big Blue Button, a Reader and Phil’s creation. Sounds crazy right? But the key point is: the conversation is the navigation and you comment with content to create an editorial crowd-sourced democracy for a news issue.

Here’s a quick video going through my drawings I threw down later that night after filming the above video (I’ll try and make a better proposal MVP, not sure a prototype can be made in time):

Here are pictures of my musings late one night:

The Big Idea

The Big Bucket (of content)

The Big Discussion

The Big Picture

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  2. Hey there Nicola,

    Really enjoying your use of video to present your thinking process out in the open. For me, however, the clarity of the slides is even more helpful to understand the idea. Perhaps in your final project you could bring the two together, e.g.: the conciseness of the slides, with the audio track.

    Overall, excellent. 🙂


  3. […] by Phil Gyford’s analysis of news sites (really interesting commentary on it here) Nicola Hughes takes a crack at bringing “friction, readability and finishability” to the news with […]

  4. […] Posts Useful SitesSocial SearchingAboutJournalism: To Learn, to Teach, to KnowOnline News: The Big Picture Categories Select Category Bad Data  (2) Data Journalism  (26) […]

  5. […] I got the idea for The Big […]

  6. […] lofty goals of changing the way we experience news online. I came up with my idea after filming a rant by my friend and colleague. I threw down something very quickly on paper and have since made wire frame mock-ups using […]

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