Lee Oglesby On the 2008 UNITY Convention

Journalism / Article

Editor’s note: Lee Oglesby has been interning with the Knight Communications department this summer. Today is her last day. This post concerns the UNITY Convention, which was held last week in Chicago. Knight is a sponsor of the event.

The four days of workshops at UNITY 2008 Convention may have changed my mind a bit about new tools for journalism. The theme of the conference this year was ‘A new journalism for a changing world’ so, naturally, everyone was anxious to discuss their ideas for the future of journalism in ways that would actually work right now.

I went to two sessions that were particularly influential for me. The first was hosted by Knight’s own J-Lab and brought together a panel of people who had worked with citizen journalism projects and knew the ins and outs.

Citizen media, for them, could mean a woman in Somalia sending a news lead to a BBC correspondent in London. It could also mean a student journalist gaining real-world experience by reporting on an event in a neighborhood near his school. But all forms of participatory media are ways of connecting professional journalists with citizens who could help them build a better story. Framing the concept for me that way (instead of theorizing about questionable people off the street writing stories for the paper) made it easier to understand.

The other session I attended was hosted by KYW NewsRadio and was designed to teach newspaper journalists how to write for radio. On the outside, it was just a workshop, but I got more from it.

The session reminded me that, although newspapers may be doing badly, media in the form of radio and television is doing just fine. Inevitably, during the question and answer portion of the session, a member of the audience brought up the growing field of online media and how radio was handling it. Their answer was typical of those I had heard from other Unity attendees: their hearts are still in radio (or television, or print media), but the Web site provides information that they can’t include in the limited space for each story.

So I leave Unity with a positive outlook towards my (possible) future in journalism. The journalism world won’t be completely detached from the one I grew up with, but it will be enhanced by digital media. The people behind the innovations know what they’re doing and know how to maintain integrity, even if the experiments fail.