December 18, 2013

Politics and journalism are like gin and vermouth, inextricably bound together in the cocktail of public life.

Whether you are a journalist seeking to stay abreast of the best thinking and practices of internet-era reporting, a political player struggling to stay a step ahead of what we pesky hacks will be up to next, or a citizen junkie addicted to the spectacle of democratic struggle, then you should follow the Nieman Journalism Lab.

A brainy boutique operating under the umbrella of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University, the Lab focuses its energy on the challenging crossroads where the news business intersects – and sometimes collides -- with technology.

To preview 2014, the Lab has published a series of thoughts and reflections from two-dozen news people, analysts, and professors. What makes these agenda-setting thoughts worth reading is the modesty of their tone and the practicality of their application.

High-minded blather from self-important journos has become institutionalized on the cable blab shows. However, to find this many smart people saying smart things in one place fits the definitions of both a good read and a public service.

Three of my favorites:

Lauren Rabaino, news apps editor at the Seattle Times, on the need to better contextualize the news. With space at a premium at most print publications and issues becoming increasingly complex, Rabaino ranges freely over turf covering specialized outlets and general interest publications suggesting in detail how journalism can better serve readers. The links are well targeted and are alone worth the price of admission.

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, an academic with ties to Denmark’s Roskilde University and Oxford on the dynamic triggered by the continued disruption of mainstream media and the rise of stakeholder and advocacy voices. Funding, social media, and the continued withering of network television are all in Nielsen’s mix.

Maria Bustillos, lives in Los Angeles and contributes to the New Yorker’s Page Turner and the Brooklyn-based The Awl on the spontaneity and potency of intellectual community spawned by Twitter. Personal and practical, this first-person essay will be instructive for those who see social media as only an ego exercise.

To check out what last year’s group of big thinkers had to say, click here.


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