Digitizing Your Life and Your Journalism in the Age of “Information Overload”

Briggs begins chapter nine of Journalism Next by quoting author Clay Shirky, who says, “There is no such thing as information overload, only filter failure” (233).

I sometimes, actually more like all the time, feel as though I am drowning in the sea of information. After a rare three-day weekend of disconnecting from the digital world for a little everyone will experience the same phenomenon of opening your laptop and immediately being engulfed by a wave of stress. You have a hundred new emails to read, and then your other email to check, your Facebook, Twitter, and blogs to attend to, and your class pages, websites, news outlets, and feeds to catch up on. Everything imaginable you subscribe to, use, and communicate through seems to be yelling, “Where have you been!” It can be overwhelming, but as Briggs explains in sections of chapter 9, and this article by Reportr.net about Amy Webb’s “10 Top Tech Trends that Every Journalist Should Know” discusses, there are ways to lessen the stress of the data driven day-to-day craziness of living in the digital world, as a person and as a journalist.

Briggs discusses how the constant “onslaught of information” presents challenges for most, both personally and professionally. Obviously, today just about everyone is part of the data-driven world and has to some extent digitized their life. Everyone has to adapt to the constant barrage of information and new technology, but for journalists it is imperative that we not only embrace the “information overload,” but learn techniques for managing all of the digital tools available to us and using them effectively to get the most we can out of them. While every day people may find the tips Briggs gives in this chapter helpful, for journalists it is vital that they at least explore most of these aids, to find ones that they find beneficial for them and learn to use them, in order to keep up with the constant information intake. Briggs writes about how digitizing your life is the first step in digitizing your journalism, which I agree with because as a journalist your personal life and your work are becoming increasingly intertwined due to the new technologies for receiving and spreading information and data.

While digital capabilities have in one way put more expectations on journalists by causing audiences to expect fast, real-time, data-driven journalism, the way in which technological advancements and the web have made data available is unlike anything journalists thirty years ago could have dreamed for. Briggs explains that when news outlets publish their data on the web “…it can sing–with depth, customization, search ability, and a long shelf life,” which is not possible in its full potential through a printed newspaper (242). Briggs explains how technological advances such as sites and apps that facilitate data gathering and information sharing benefits media outlets, journalists, and readers alike. Applications, like Mapbuilder used by The Salt Lake Tribune during their coverage of an earthquake in 2009, allow journalists to get out information on breaking news stories within minutes in an effective way that is helpful for readers who are looking for quick answers during a breaking news story.

While news outlets now have access to hundreds of applications to aid them in breaking news coverage, it is social media outlets, especially Twitter, that allow such quick exchange of information that we could consider tweets the main form of breaking news. Mathew Ingram even wrote about how during a series of forest fires in California, Twitter and Facebook helped spread the news so quickly that “a study by sociologists later found they did a better job than either the official emergency information networks or the traditional media.”

While the information overload we experience today is often stressful, the convenience it allows is something we, especially college students, would be lost without. It is difficult to imagine a time when the answer to any possible question was not literally at your fingertips. The ease and availability to access information has benefitted journalists probably more than it has any other professionals.

Briggs, Mark. Journalism Next: A Practical Guide to Digital Reporting and Publishing. Thousand Oaks, CA: CQ, 2013. Print.

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