Crossing Boundaries: New Media and the Shape of International News, March 17-18

Conference on New Media and the Shape of International News 

Students and practitioners of journalism recently descended on Sutardja Dai Hall at the University of California Berkeley, for a conference that focused on new media and the emergent, boundary‐crossing collections of news, technologies and audiences. During “Crossing Boundaries” event, which was co-sponsored by Innovation Center Denmark, the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, CITRIS, the Berkeley Center for New Media, Aarhus University, and University of Southern Denmark, speakers discussed the effect the numerous digital devices are having on the amount of news reaching individuals. Now that global issues, such as climate change, extreme weather, economics and warfare, are no longer filtered through specific local, regional or national news outlets, what are the consequences for the media and the user?Keynote speaker Jane Singer, an associate professor at the University of Iowa, kicked things off by discussing changes in the newsroom spurred by new technology. She noted that journalists have to deal with an exponentially greater numbers of “facts” and sources that make verification virtually impossible, and that much of what constitutes a news story now comes from outside the newsroom.Nicholas Carr, a journalist and author of “The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains,” addressed the fascinating technology side of the media. He noted that the Internet has expanded to be with us all day long, shaping our relationship to information and the way we live. The Net is now an information-rich environment of connectivity and interactivity. At the same time, however, it is an interruption-rich environment. Statistics of how we use the web that reflects our perpetual state of distraction. The media thus faces a conundrum. Journalists need to adapt to a distracted audience; however, this adaptation can result in further distraction that leads to further compromised attentiveness.Lively panel discussions filled the afternoon, with attendees learning about new platforms and devices for news gathering, production and delivery, as well as on lessons that the news media learned from coverage of natural and manmade disasters. Panelists, including executives from Al Jazeera, the AP, and craigslist, noted that social networking gives the traditional media an opportunity to engage with young people. The heavy traffic on Twitter (#xb11) paid proof to the importance of new media’s role in advertising events and news.

Other panels focused on reliability, accuracy and how to accurately portray events. A popular topic was how to protect citizens or reporters in other countries who post on U.S.-based websites but may not have access to First Amendment protection. Also, what is new media doing to the relationship between the citizen and the government? If official state information is subject to strict control, how do citizens get access to alternative information?A final panel focused on the media and activism. Karey Harrison from the University of Southern Queensland noted that activists don’t see the media as a source of information; they use it to alert activists, get political action, and recruit supporters. The recent uprisings in the Middle East and elsewhere relied heavily on new media to organize and energize their followers. How will new leaders deal with this possible source of unrest and mistrust?

UC Berkeley Prof. Ken Goldberg and Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau attending the event.
Chancellor Birgeneau provided an introduction on March 18.

Posted in News