Notes from 8th Innovation Journalism Conference

Last week’s 8th Innovation Journalism Conference produced a lot of interesting sessions and sparked a lot of ideas.

This year David Nordfors, the founder of the conference and Executive Director of the Stanford Center for Innovation and Communication, opened up the conference to public relations, a smart move because of the connection between journalism and PR.

Here are some of my notes from the conference:

- Sven Otto Littorin, a former Minister for Employment in Sweden, spoke about how the topic of innovation is a popular one among all types of politicians. But it’s not well understood how communities can use innovation to create jobs and that’s why it isn’t a hot election topic.

He said that governments will avoid uncertain policies that have long-term results. Plus, governments are organized as “verticals” which means it’s very difficult to create broad policies around innovation.

I pointed out some of the pitfalls in San Francisco, where the city wants innovative companies but then they want special treatment, as did Twitter, which costs the city money.

- I took part in a panel organized by Lou Hoffman, from The Hoffman Agency about “Earned, Owned and Bought Media.” We discussed the blurring of some of the lines as companies finance the production of some media directly. This relates to my “every company is a media company” manifesto.

- Journalism and ethics. I spoke about the need to maintain the same ethics that we’ve always had in journalism and that there was nothing new about journalism that required any changes. This is not the view of some in SIlicon Valley, where Mike Arrington, Editor of Techcrunch is allowed to make investments in startups that the publication covers.

Journalists should seek to minimize conflicts of interest as much as possible. Not all conflicts of interest are equal to one another, so where do we draw the line? In the same place it exists today: no financial conflicts of interest should be allowed.
- Burghardt Tenderich, a former executive at PR company Bite, spoke about how marketing and PR are changing. He said it is best to be agnostic to all media channels and to view them as all important as part of a whole. He quoted Henry Jenkins: “If it doesn’t spread it’s dead.”

- David Burk, Senior Vice President, West Coast Digital at Fleishman-Hillard spoke on:”Algorithms and Antipathy: The Polarizing Nature Communications TodayHe made several interesting points about how the personalization technologies of the Internet try to show us only those things that we know and like. “You are targeted by you.”

- Martha Russell, Associate Director Media X at Stanford University; Neil Rubens, Director of Active Intelligence Lab, University of Electro-Communications, Japan, spoke about their analysis of relationships within an innovation ecosystem. It’s good to remember that journalism doesn’t occur in a vacuum and that relationships are important to consider when working on a story. But there wasn’t much said about how journalists should use relationship mapping tools.

- Amy Tenderich, Founder DiabetesMine.com, VP Patient Advocacy, Alliance Health Networks, gave a great presentation on how she succeeded to build a business from her blog, DiabetesMine.com. It was acquired last year and she now works for a larger company that has considerable resources.

She shared her early experience blogging and also some of the monetization strategies that worked very well. She is now involved in building online communities around healthcare.

I see this as a key future for many media companies: building and maintaining online communities. It is better for a neutral third-party organization to build communities rather than a brand. Brands should not seek to own the communities that are important to them.
- Tatyana Kanzaveli is a real firecracker, I was glad to meet her and talk with her about a range of subjects close to my heart. She moderated an interesting panel on “Innovation, Publishing and Women” with Andrea Davies, from the Clayman Institute for Gender Research, Stanford; Ina Fried from AllThingsD; and Esther Wojcicki, Vice Chairman, Creative Commons.

Ms Wojcicki spoke about how she teaches journalism at a high school and how students learn about many different subjects by taking part in the production of a newspaper.

This was a bit puzzling: when Ina Fried complained about a world where smart phones and other gadgets are all designed by men.

- Also speaking: Michael S. Malone; Harry McCracken, Editor of Technologizer; Justin Ferrell, Director of Digital, Mobile and New Product Design, The Washington Post; Evan Doll, Co-founder Flipboard; Jacob Ward, West Coast Bureau Chief, Popular Science Magazine; Declan McCullagh, Chief Political Correspondent, CNET; Josh Rushing, Al Jazeera; Sahar Ghazi, Knight Fellow at Stanford, former senior duty editor DawnNews TV, Karachi, Pakistan; Susan Currie Sivek, writer PBS Media Shift; Jackson Solway, co-founder Once Magazine; Amy Gahran, CNN mobile technology writer; Thomas Frostberg, Senior Business Columnist, Sydsvenskan; Jason Snell, VP, Editorial Director Macworld.

- Serbian TV crew was at the conference. I spoke with them about journalism in Silicon Valley.

- John Joss did an excellent job, as always, of keeping questions coming and organized. And also in sharing his long experience in journalism. And it was great to meet Kirsten Mogensen associate professor in journalism at the University of Roskilde in Denmark. She helped organize the academic track that ran parallel with the conference.

- On the second day we all took part in a wonderful group exercise led by Mei Lin Fung. Each table ended up with a sentence that described their insights into something they had experienced at the conference. My table came up with this, which I really like:

“Reinventing journalism via connected narratives enabled by media technologies through networks that mimic the human brain and communicate human experience delivered with integrity.”

Journalism is in trouble because of all the job losses: one third of newsroom jobs have disappeared over the past ten years and more will be lost. But journalism is also becoming rediscovered, and reinvented within the many different media formats we now have at our disposal — it’s an intensely innovative sphere.

This will re-energize journalism and refocus it on what it does best: communicating our shared human experience with integrity.

I like the word “integrity” because it is a good proxy for truth, honesty, and responsibility — all vital to great journalism.

 

[Cross-posted at Silicon Valley Watcher]

About Tom Foremski

Tom Foremski is a former Financial Times journalist. He has been covering Silicon Valley since his arrival from London in 1984. In May 2004 he became the first journalist to leave a major newspaper to make a living as a journalist blogger, publishing Silicon Valley Watcher - reporting on the business and culture of innovation. Tom’s understanding of diverse technologies and his access to global business leaders, make him one of the most prominent media influencers in the technology world.