World Association of News Publishers

3 questions addressed to Sylvain PARASIE, Sociologist and Associate Professor at the Université Paris Est/Marne-la-Vallée

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3 questions addressed to Sylvain PARASIE, Sociologist and Associate Professor at the Université Paris Est/Marne-la-Vallée

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Hacker journalism: a new prospect for the news industry?

WAN-IFRA: What is the role of the News Application Team within the traditional newsroom of the Chicago Tribune ?
Sylvain PARASIE:
This team consists of four persons  with a programming background, some of whom also underwent training in journalism. 
In the Chicago Tribune newsroom, they have a triple role. First and foremost, they produce visual presentations (maps, search engines) for the newspaper's websites, frequently in cooperation with the traditional reporters. 
Then they help the newsroom reporters to access and process large data volumes within the framework of service journalism (school results, information on the health system, old age homes, etc.) or investigative journalism (local justice, etc.).
Finally, they contribute also to the building of editorial websites, working in close cooperation with the newsroom journalists.

WAN-IFRA: How did the terms "hacker" and "journalist" become linked in order to define a new professional identity? Which media brands in the USA back such profiles ?

The expression "hacker journalist" is used at least as much as "programmer journalist", but networks are today formed on the basis of the proximity between the terms of "hacker" (IT enthusiast) and "hack" (the journalist responsible for reporting about roadkill).
That goes back to a longer history of the US news industry that, since the end of the 1960s, has witnessed the emergence of new professional identities linked to data processing - especially "computer-assisted reporter".
In the USA today, there are three types of media recognised in the area of hacker journalism. These are the major newspapers, such as the Washington Post and the New York Times (Aaron Pilhofer), but also many new players who have emerged in the last years in this area: ProPublica, EveryBlock (now owned by Microsoft).
Last but not least, small news organisations also act as sources of reference for US journalists and programmers (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution).

WAN-IFRA: These "hacker journalists" will use their developer skills to collaborate with a large number of other journalists within their newsrooms, as at the Chicago Tribune, but how are they regarded by the traditional journalists?
While duly acknowledging the input of these new skilled workers, several of the more traditional journalists have expressed reservations. Some have questioned the interest in a "computer-assisted journalism", stating that these programmer journalists output journalistic products that are difficult to present in a form that is suitable and understandable by a wide audience. The majority of traditional journalists are not technophiles, and these new journalists have had to show their use within the newsroom, with relative degrees of success.

For more information, visit the personal website of Sylvain Parasie: 

Sylvain PARASIE will participate as a lecturer in the sixth edition of the Summer University.

Interview conducted by David SALLINEN, WAN-IFRA Development and Training Manager


Sandrine Proton's picture

Sandrine Proton


2011-06-08 09:53