By Jean-Adrien Delicano, Media Relations Specialist – Canada
In June, I attended the Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) annual conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The CAJ conference is generally considered the largest gathering of Canadian journalists during the year and offers journalists a place to exchange ideas, tools and a few laughs.
The conference covered a lot of subjects regarding the state of journalism. Speakers held panels about ethics, investigative journalism, different types of reporting and tips on how to succeed as a journalist today.
One particular subject that dominated the conference was the role of technology in journalism. These days, technology goes hand-in-hand with just about everything in our lives, be that organizing our days, facilitating tasks or providing entertainment. Technological advancements have also played a big role in improving news gathering, production and consumption. These new tools for journalists range from drones with cameras designed to capture images from different vantage points, to web programs that intend to protect the identity of sources.
Trevor Adams, editor of the local city and lifestyle publication Halifax Magazine, agrees with the notion that technology improves journalism. That said, there can be pitfalls that may come as a result of technological advancements.
“Many of the technologies referred to are becoming essential tools for journalists and it was good to learn more about them,” Adams says. “However, as other sessions discussed, these technologies also have the potential for great intrusion on personal privacy. I was pleased the conference covered both sides of the issue.”
Nick Taylor-Vaisey, current president of the CAJ and moderator at the conference this year, agrees that new technology has benefited modern newsrooms. But he also says there is risk involved when trying out the latest and greatest gadgets and apps.
“Many of journalism’s technologically driven projects are experiments. That’s important, because it demonstrates that newsrooms can innovate and try things out with no guarantee of success,” Taylor-Vaisey says. “Of course, that latter bit is also important to note: Not every experiment works as intended or delivers what was expected.
“One of the enduring themes of CAJ 2015 was that we brought together innovators who know what works and who could pass on some of that knowledge to their peers,” he continued. “Those delegates all return to newsrooms that are stronger for that learning.”
Topics regarding technology in journalism covered at the conference included:
Using drones for news gathering: Drones can be used to capture captivating footage for news stories from a perspective that has not always been available to everyday people until recently. Drone journalism is an emerging field in the industry, and soon it will be a useful tool for journalists. While drone journalism has been prominent in other countries around the world, the issue of safety and ethics has affected the use of drones for news reporting in Canada.
Data journalism: Math and numbers may scare off some journalists, but they can also help them find stories buried in the data. Spreadsheets and analytics can be used to discover trends, predict possible future results or further verify facts. Recently, Canadian journalism schools have begun to offer more data journalism classes, as young journalists are seeing the value in stories underneath the statistics.
Covering your online tracks: In this age of digital surveillance, the safety of your sources, and perhaps even yourself, can depend on an ability to cover your tracks online. With threats posed by hackers and the NSA, your privacy may be compromised during the chase for a great story. A CAJ panel brought up some tools and tips that can help journalists protect their sources and secure their own safety.
Photo and video journalism right in the palm of your hand: Journalists once had to rely on heavy, expensive and intrusive technology in order to capture photos and videos for their stories. Today, journalists can use their handheld, pocketable smartphones to capture photos and videos in ways not possible as recent as a decade ago, improving the speed and accuracy of modern news reporting. The CAJ Conference featured panels that discussed how to take advantage of mobile technology when it comes to photo journalism, and how to verify that what we see is true in the age of speedy and citizen journalism.