Traditional journalism and new technology …

By KELLY BURNS

We’re currently in an age where technology is changing the way we do everyday tasks, so it’s imperative that we don’t let technology take away from the effectiveness and accuracy of our reporting. As a new generation of journalists arise, it is important to remember that while technology is indeed a huge aid in our reporting, it should not be completely relied on, as sometimes technology does fail us.  Below are a couple of debates regarding the use of technology in reporting.

Recorder versus notebook and pen: Before tape recorders were in existence, all interviews had to be documented using a notebook and a pen.  Now, with digital recorders, we can record every interview, transcribe them later and ensure an even greater accuracy of quotes. It can be difficult sometimes to jot down exact quotes when doing a face-to-face interview; however, there are times when a recorder may not be the best to use. Notebooks can be less obtrusive and are obviously a lot cheaper than a recorder, and some sources may request a recorder not be used. Also, a recorder can, in fact, fail you. If the batteries die, or simply the memory gets full and you’re without a notebook and pen, you are missing out on what could be a groundbreaking interview. However, recorders do allow for greater accuracy in quotes. They also allow you to focus on interacting with the source and pay closer to attention to his or her behavior. Some experienced journalists suggest using notebooks and pens for breaking news stories, because of the time it would take to later replay the recorded interview and transcribe it.

E-mail / instant messaging versus face-to-face interview: While e-mailing a source or using a form of instant messaging is a fast and easy way to connect with sources, it does not compare to the face-to-face interview. When you are meeting with someone face to face you get to see their facial expressions, gestures, and reactions in context.  Also, with e-mail and instant messaging, how do you know for sure that you are speaking with the person it claims to be?  While most of us take this for granted, and assume accuracy, there is no 100 percent guarantee and should be verified. In some ways technology has allowed us to become passive.  Instead of being persistent in contacting a source until a response was received, we have allowed e-mail to keep us at a “safe” distance from our sources.  Through e-mail we have avoided what could be heated conversations, and risk losing what could be great follow up questions.  Through e-mail we risk being ignored by a source by the click of a mouse.  By waiting outside the door of someone’s office for hours until they return, it is a little harder to be avoided.

Immediacy versus quality: I think, when it comes down to it, a key issue is the concept of immediacy. With technology literally at our fingertips, we can access more information than imagined years ago. We can have instant message interviews on our cell phones, we can get responses through a text seconds after we send it, and we can write stories if we wanted without ever leaving our homes. Yet one has to wonder if this path leads to the best journalism we can produce. Are we losing quality because of society’s need to get the news as soon as it happens?  While technology expedites the process, facts still need to be checked, quality sources are still imperative and reporters till need to be persistent.

While no one can deny the positive effect technology has had on the field, keep in mind that there are some aspects of journalism that shouldn’t be lost.

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