Hari Sreenivasan on Digital Storytelling

About the Conversation

Hari Sreenivasan, Online and On-Air Correspondent for PBS NewsHour, visited KCTS 9 on October 17, 2011.

We invited the University of Washington's Master of Communication in Digital Media (MCDM) program to hold their Advanced Digital Storytelling class at the station so they could meet with Hari for a discussion about journalism in the digital age. The discussion was moderated by digital journalist Monica Guzman, currently a writer for GeekWire. MCDM Director Hanson Hosein introduced the talk.

Complete Transcript

Hanson:

I’m really thrilled as the director of the MCDM to actually incorporate one of our fabulous advanced storytelling classes right here, so thanks to Alex and Jessica and Sarah for letting this happen. When Brook and Cathy both told me that they were thinking about having an event for us, my first thought was "Can we get enough interest?" and then I realized it was Hari; he’s the guy I’ve known for over a decade. We actually met as I was shooting myself in the foot career-wise, and he was just going up the career ladder a decade ago in New York, I think we were both members of the South Asian Journals Association there. I automatically resented him because... what do I have here... Things that I’m jealous about Hari: he’s better looking, better dressed, and apparently when PBS announced his joining the News Hour online, here’s a comment from Louis V.: "Hari is the best, and he dresses beautifully. That is important, maybe, but heavens, I rush up from the dishes to see what he is wearing. He speaks well; a fine attribute in any hero of lousy, fast-slurred English." You’ve had a highly successful broadcast TV career. His only shortcoming is that he’s only worked for ABC with Peter Jennings, Katie Couric at CBS, but you somehow mixed up on my network, NBC.

Hari:

Well I figured you had that covered.

Hanson:

Yeah, well yeah. And he has done amazing things, and one of the things I felt that it was this important to connect Hari’s work and his experience to the MCDM is that even before he became the director of Digital Partnerships before The News Hour is that he has always had an eye on where technology is taking journalism, even before he joined the networks and worked for CNET for a number of years in San Francisco. So I think his experience and his knowledge is something we can all draw from. I actually was on your show when you were anchoring on ABC when we first did our first film and it was great to be interviewed by you.

Hari:

Yeah, "Independent America."

Hanson:

So he has always been on the vanguard of things. And to be interviewed by Monica Guzman is I think the perfect paring because Monica is kind of a younger generation version of you. Someone who has truly understood the engagement of digital technology and journalism, working at the P.I. and then moving off into the start-up world to be working at Intersect, and now to be a one-woman brand and a freelance journalist working at Geek Wire, a columnist as well. I think you both represent the best of where journalism is heading and I think this gives me a great conversation, so I think you’re gonna hear from our students, both about journalism and about communication generally, and sort of where these platforms and technologies are taking us, so I’m thrilled you’re here Hari, thanks for sharing your time with us.

Monica:

Alright well first of all, thank you all for being here, I think it’s great that Hari could take some time to just bring the perspective of one of the media capitals of our country over in DC. Often it seems like a lot goes on in the east coast so it’s really cool when people are able to come out here to our corner and talk to us about what’s happening in media. So Hari, you’ve worked at various organizations, over quite a bit of time, but you are one of those journalists, as Hanson said, really has kept up, really sees what’s next, really has a handle on that. So we know that a lot has been changing, in the technology of how journalism is done, but I think I want to start off by asking you what has changed in the ways stories are told?

Hari:

I think when I started in television, in earnest, in 1994 in Yakima, Washington, the physical work involved in telling my story, because I would carry a three quarter tape deck and it had an umbilical cord connected to the camera, and including the lights and the tripod, our gear weighed 78 pounds. And we would run out onto the field and would have to turn two VO's and a package everyday. It was a physically daunting task. There was a woman that was smaller and more petite than Monica and she would run circles around us, and all of the men at the station, our goal at the time was... actually, she might be working at KING5, Meg Coyle... anyway, so the gear has compacted down to a point where now it is pretty close to your iPhone 4S or your smartphone, your Droid, and it can take, first of all, HD video, fairly good audio... The cameras recording this right now are much lighter and more robust and more durable.

So the barrier to entry as to who can tell a story has changed significantly, using the tools that was once "professional grade." So I think then what is a story changes, because, you still need a beginning, a middle, and an end, and you still need a character, some sort of a plot, et cetra, et cetra. You can use Hollywood’s definition of a story or ABC News’ definition of a story, but somehow, that idea of us telling a story to our family or to our friends, and now being able to use tools that were once the kind of privy area of "professionals." -- that’s the biggest change that I’ve seen. So I’d say the toolset, and I think that’s also impacting what is a story today.

Monica:

And there’s something that’s happened too, that has made it open ended, where a story could be a product, that was complete, and went into whatever media it was as that complete product. And then feedback might come in the forms of letter to the editor, on occasion something more immediate. Now it seems like you go from an article to a blog and it opens up a process, and you can continue to add to it. Talk to us about that; can a story become even more open, and what does that do to the way we tell them?

Hari:

I think that nowadays a story is a beginning of a conversation, a launching point. It’s something that a lot of old media in their "new media." departments like to talk about "Oh, this is where the conversation starts." And you look at their website and you look at how they’re marketing their ideas and their stories and products and you’ve got an e-mail bag. It’s not really a two-way street. Some of the more interesting things I see once in a while are not just people using the public inside network or a large crowd-sourced data base to try to find interesting experts, but they’re also turning around on the opposite side and trying to figure out how to implant these nuggets into those conversations that are already happening. And then another iteration of this story comes back to them, where people are saying "Well I saw this, and here’s my thoughts on this, I’m actually a rocket scientist, and I know the answer to that question." and you say "Woah, do I have the responsibility to go back and correct my copy?" Yes. Now can I do that for every story I’ve ever written based on when the feedback comes in? Maybe not. So we’re trying to figure out this process so we can continue this engagement with our audience, or what I would say, and Jay Rosen and Jeff Jarvin would say, the "formerly known as" audience. So that’s a big difference, is that we are tearing down that fourth wall and we’re trying to say "We’re not up on that stage, we’re like you, we ARE you, we want to hear from you, we want to amplify your voice." I think hopefully public media gets that, because that’s something commercial media seems to be missing, and that’s a huge opportunity for public media to cut in and take the lead.

Monica:

You were talking engagement and how important that is to have that be a mechanic that can manifest itself in a story. Are there ways that stories can be written, produced, or filmed, that lend that story to that engagement, that open it up more when it is first thrown out?

Hari:

I don’t know if you guys have seen the Johnny Cash project, it was a Chrome example, it’s really fascinating. If you get a chance, I think it’s jonnycashproject.com. They made a music video based on the artist’s renditions, and it’s kind of like a time lapse drawing. And underneath every single frame of that drawing, were the audience’s interpretations, so they would color and they would make those things happen, and as those things were voted up, and it’s kind of mind-numbing when you think about how many hundreds of thousands of people not just viewed it, but went inside and totally engaged and became a part of it. Now, one, I understand that that’s art and that’s music and maybe people wouldn’t necessarily have the same reaction to a news product, but then I think, well why wouldn’t they? It might actually be more impactful and more important for them to put their opinion in and share their experience with something if you’re saying "Here’s a big national issue." All of a sudden, along that story, we’re gonna see these videos, vertical lines where you can scroll down and you can see someone’s interpretation of that particular piece of puzzle, and you can be like "Well I am Sally who’s selling sea shells, I actually have a small business and I’m doing this on this particular beach." What if that idea that I’ve only found one character and if you’re one of those characters that resemble this story, what if you could literally put your own two bits in there, so now that story is a template, a placeholder, a little foundation, and all those little characters could actually engage into the story with you, so that the finished product that somebody sees is constantly evolving online. So the moment that I distributed it, well that’s fine, it’s the story that I distributed at 6PM tonight, but tomorrow morning it could be layered in a whole different way.

Monica:

Journalism schools and media schools across the country have a big question about "What are the skills you need now?" As everything is changing so much, as engagement is becoming a big part of everything, and I’m sure Hari, you could talk about these exciting tools of which are essential. Facebook and Twitter at this point seem pretty essential if you want to be an engaging journalist; an engaging journalist seems like the way to go. But what are the skills that you do need, and how do you balance the technical skills vs knowing how to craft a good story no matter the medium?

Hari:

You’re the professor, you start.

Alex:

That’s a good question, and actually that sort of relates to something I wanted to ask you about. I found an article in the Columbia Journalism Review a couple weeks ago that was basically saying that video had become the most widely spoken language in the world, but at the same time, as that sort of happened in the last 5 or 6 years, the amount of video actually used in broadcast news or cable TV news had actually fallen quite a bit because they’re contrasting video with talking head interviews. Do you think that’s gonna keep happening? Do you know why that’s happening? Do you think that’s gonna change and we’re gonna see more of citizen generated or semi-professionally generated video that students in this program might be learning how to produce on television or on TV news?

Hari:

I think in a commercial space, what’s most interesting to me right now is that the networks are really just exploiting people by asking for them to send in an eye report, because they’re not getting paid for it, and I feel like that’s one of the big problems we have and trying to change this idea that news should be of value to you.

Hari:

But I’m basically asking you to work for me for free, what am I gonna do, give you a YouTube credit as it flashes by? Oh, this house smashing into this bridge was shot by producer Matthew. And I remember that because I was looking for it. But most people remember that because it’s a house smashing into the bridge. I hope he gets paid for it, but I don’t know. Like right now, on iPads and iMovie, there’s a little button lets you publish to CNN for free. If you look at the model that HitRecord is following, they’re trying to essentially say, hey, we’re going to try and open source an entire movie together and if you shoot a frame of this film, if you shoot a scene of this film or contribute x, y or z, we’re going to make this huge open spreadsheet and you will participate in the value gained from whatever happens to the film in the future.

Hari:

I mean, we have the accounting technology today to make that happen. So, I think that there are going to be enough waves of people that are just so tickled that they have a video from their phone that they can press a button and give to someone and say, golly that was on TV. That’s not going to stop, and perhaps the commercial folks are going to prey on that. I think over time what you’re also going to see, is that someone’s going to get kind of smart and say, wow, you know, my video’s been everywhere six times around the globe and I didn’t make a dime off it. But the person who technically came here and shot it as a professional or was just smart enough to be a freelancer and sell it - hmmm. So that hmmmm moment will happen faster as they all start to get on social networks and the information exchange and there will sort of be less friction there.

Hari:

So, I think you’ll see more user generated content, but right now most of it’s noise. And one of the things I’d say is, there’s this really good professor you should check out at USC - Andrew Lih and he, I think at the end of October in Maryland, is going to present the open source code for an app that will essentially - I’m his marketing guy now by the way - but it will essentially be an augmented reality layer on top of your video screen that will say, here’s the basic five shots you need to look like a BBC template. You need a tight of the hands, a tight of the face, an over the shoulder, medium shot and a wide.

Hari:

I mean, when you think about the journalism questions, what’s happening, who’s doing it, how are they doing it, where are they doing it. Now, you can shoot more than that, but every editor begs for those shots in the edit room. So imagine that kind of process happening where you could decrease the amount of noise in user generated video and increase the quality of it. But let’s say if the quality just increased from 2 percent to 8 percent, you’re loving it. Now you combine that with an app called Gig Walk which essentially allows you to check for - I don’t know if you’re in Seattle right now and you see the gigs that are available to you - most likely it’s a restaurant review website that want a picture of a menu, so they will pay you 4 bucks for taking a picture of a menu, but imagine if I’m sitting in my edit suite and I’m like, oh, I don’t have an exterior shot of the building we have to run, I post that on a source site like that and let’s say somebody’s walking by and they’re like 8 bucks? Sure. Or it’s Ulan Bator, okay 200 dollars? Sure.

Hari:

So I think that that notion of user generated video coming on to networks will increase, but I think hopefully, what I hope, is that in between them there will be a pipeline where people are compensated for their work so that doesn’t get lost in the shuffle. Because right now, I just see that people are being exploited for their skills.

Alex:

Is that idea of that shift happening sort of frightening for a professional journalist?

Hari:

No, not really. I mean, look, I just think, I don’t know what it means necessarily to be a professional anymore. I think we all tell stories, it’s just that some of us do this for more hours a day than others. If I was a complete libertarian about this and said, everyone should be allowed and every network is wide open, etc, the best will rise to the top of whatever market force that is. Like I think the viewers on one hand will thumbs up and thumbs down on content, and on the other hand people will just start to evolve affiliations and affinities for particular humans and brands. But I’m going to follow Nick Kristof whether he’s at the Times or not because of his storytelling. And whether he publishes to Facebook or not. So, that thread will start to punch through. So there’s probably going to be some amazing storytellers that pop, that I’ve never heard of through ABC, NBC or CBS or didn’t go grooming up this way, which is fine.

Alex:

So maybe your advice to our students would be to develop a personal voice, a personal style...

Hari:

Yeah, I just think it should be a really, I mean, I;m very happy with personal brands, I just also really can’t emphasize enough regardless of where you work in the space to work well in teams. Understand that you are not the army of one, and if you get along with other people, whether or not they be editors, understand that your story is never so perfect that another person cannot improve it. And if that’s a huge shift for some people who are like, ‘oh, I’ve got all the toys, and screw you,’ mm, well, yeah you can shoot pictures really well, but you still didn’t tell me this great story that you think you told me. So, you know, be open to editing, be open to working with someone else, at least have one or two sounding boards. And in that process you also need to build a team of people who champion you, and push your brand out there and push your story. And to make it so almost infectious to them that they’re so excited about your product that they don’t think they’re marketing you, they’re just telling their friends how much they love your work.

Monica:

And that’s where this incredible dynamic of sharing comes in. Because that’s become so important to the distribution model of media right now. I mean, you see the Facebook ‘like’ button, when it was first launched there was a little controversy about it, now you’re even seeing newspapers adopt Facebook comments, just so that there’s this identity that can be somewhat verified - Facebook has almost become like the identity database for the entire world. So what about that - what’s going on with the merging of technology and journalism and these sorts of tools and what we use to do and platforms all coming together?

Hari:

Well, I mean, Eric Schmidt has basically point-blank said that he’s in the identity business. Because with him and Google plus, that whole conversation on whether you can be anonymous or not, etc, it’s kind of a sideline conversation to them. Because what they wanna really do, for them, they want to know a lot more than what the robot is reading in your email. So if you are actively sharing lots of things about buying a car, they want to be able to sell you the advertisement. Or they want to sell GM or whoever the advertisement that helps you make a buying decision. And that is going to be of incredible value to them. And what I find fascinating is that that’s the business that Google and Facebook are in. There’s a guy that we know, ____, who’s really a great guy, and he works on Facebook for journalists, and there are a couple people at Twitter who do the same thing, Eric Anderson, yeah, and so, I think their heart’s in a sincere place and I think they want to help us to tell stories, and these are, in certain ways, tools to help us do that. But understand that these are corporations that have a very different interest than helping us in the pursuit of journalism. So I am very cautious about... I mean I post stuff to a Hari Sreenivasan page, no problem, and I post to twitter, but over time I kind wonder, I just posted a picture of the space needle, I don’t own that anymore - I mean I own it in my Blackberry, but lockerz.com technically owns it, sitting on their server. And that annoys me. And that’s because I didn’t take the time to connect my twitter to a personal page, and put it on some server... so they’ve made it so easy, but in the process, my laziness has cost me ownership of that property. And, um, again, I might sound like some sort of a super-capitalist, and I really want you to, I’m talking about intellectual property, and I just really think that we’re not going to get away from the current plight of, oh no, how will journalism be funded, if we can’t convince people that there’s value in the work what they do. And if you can’t figuratively or literally sell somebody on that idea, then you’re not going to make rent. And I’m happy for all of you to volunteer and be citizen journalists and cover Ballard aggressively. But, then what?

Monica:

I can’t agree with you more. I think there’s been a lot of enthusiasm for the tools, and the people at the tools have seen that, and have known that that can help their own, sort of business, kind of move forward, so then what... let me throw it out to you guys. When you think about how you’re gonna enter this field..um..what are the things that you think are just gonna be essential, that you’re going, I’m working on this and that and the other thing, and what questions do you have about, you know, do I really need to know a lot about this or that? Maybe Alex, you can guide some of this discussion?

Hari:

Oh come on, shy journalists...

Hari:

Considering that this answer will be sent out to the Occupy Wall Street movement...

[laughing]

Monica:

Facebooked and tweeted and viral within...

Hari:

And then it will become most page relevant to me, and it will replace everything else that I’ve ever done in my life... you know, look, I think, you know I shared on my Facebook page in the first couple of days, when we kept getting criticism in the first couple of days and the first week or so, "why isn’t the News Hour covering it? Why isn’t the News Hour covering it?" And I think as... storytellers, I sort of shared those challenges with the audience and said, where’s the beginning, middle and end? Where’s the character? Where’s the theme? Where’s the... I don’t need a black hat, white hat, you know, but it’s a really tough idea because regardless of which fifteen people I talk to at the square, that’s not the movement to the other 400 that are there. right? So, and then we sent Paul Solomon down, and producer Lee ___, and they produced a 7, or 8 minute piece, maybe 9 minute piece for the News Hour, and I thought it was fine. I thought it was kind of what was representative of what was happening. We didn’t really dwell on the 700 arrests so much, we just went out and sampled the audience on what you’re talking about. Almost, is this sort of the rethinking of the American Dream, and you know that was sort of a thesis that started to emerge as you were watching this. Now... is it a story? Um, yes it’s a story, but it’s also in the finite world of the linear space-time continuum that we live in, and with the bounds of what a 22 minute newscast or a 62 minute newscast have, it is going to be victim to everything else in the world. So if... what’s... I’ll say what’s interesting to me about it is that there are, there’s a use of technologies and techniques at Occupy Wall Street that I think will actually become something that almost any protest movement has to have. You know, I think their tumblr page is what’s fascinating, it’s just person after person, and you see these stories, and then you connect with one of them inevitably, if you scroll down 25 or 30 people, you’re like, that person’s kind of like me. And you know, that’s pretty fascinating. And I never could do that in any other protest in the world. I never identified with a single person that way - because they were just sort of this mass, this horde. Right? So, anyway, the Tumblr page, the other tools that they’re doing, I think that’ll stick around. Whether it’s a movement, or... what constitutes a movement? Perhaps we’re seeing these kind of early fits and starts of it. And I’m sure that Malcolm Gladwell will probably say it’s not a movement, because it was tweeted... But, uh, I think that there are these bonds and connections that are forming there, but I don’t think that it has the same strength as, for some of the basic reasons the traditional movements have, because they get on message. I mean, what the Tea Party was able to do as a movement was get on message. They said, here’s what’s wrong, and we’re all on message. And I think fundamentally when you look at the political spectrum, this is the problem with the left in the United States. Is it dies in committee, right? They can’t even agree on what they disagree on. Whereas the right, they say this is God’s law. this is wrong. And we should go... I mean, I experienced this firsthand when I went and did a story about abortion clinics and people who were protesting it. And I went outside, and there would be people basically picketing, and I would constitute it as harassing a woman that went into the clinic. But they were organized. I asked them afterwards, so how do you guys do this? Well, this is my shift. I was like, wow, you literally have an excel spreadsheet, and you know to show up between 4 and 8 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays. That’s your shift. That, to me, is a level or organization, regardless of what your cause is, that’s pretty advanced. Now, technically, in that town, were there more people that were pro-choice? Yes. Did they show up and protect that woman from the car to the door? No. Cause the organization wasn’t there. And so as much as I agree with what some of what the Occupy Wall Street’s movements frustrations are, I don’t necessarily know whether they have the traction and the ability to really take it to the next level. Cause Occupy Westlake, is different than Occupy Wall Street, which is different from Occupy Portland. So, how do we tell that story in hopefully somewhat reasonable form, and a beginning a middle and an end to you, every night?

Monica:

Now, I wanna follow up on that, cause you mentioned the Occupy Wall Street Tumblr. And this is just one of those things, one of those news events, that the story tells itself on so many ways, on so many mediums, and gets plenty of page views all on its own. And I think about the tenth anniversary of September 11, being also a very social, very tell your own story, very share your memory, kind of event. The New York Times did a great job with this wonderful map, I don’t know if any of you used it, where you could go in and say where you were, and they just had so many stories. But what is the responsibility of the journalist when it comes to synthesizing a story that is basically already being told, in a lot of ways, through a lot of voices? How can you hope to sum that up? What do you look for?

Hari:

I think you wanna ultimately, whether people like it or not, you wanna be a first line filter. So as the amount of channels increase, whether it’s cable TV or Internet space, that means for me, that’s the amount of noise that’s increased. So the filter becomes, actually, someone I trust even more. If there are lots of issues on global health and women, etc etc, that are happening every day, guess what, Nick Kristof punched through to me, somehow. So I just say, well this filter, this is what he thinks is most important at the moment, and he surveys the space. So if i am a person who’s trying to tell a story that’s telling itself with thousands of people, where’s the value that I’m providing? So I might have to put in the x number of hours to say, in the 5 hours that I spend scanning this, here’s my best of, here’s my 15, top 5, please, tell me more, if you find other stuff that’s even more compelling or similar to this, or something something, help me do this job, and help me kind of... I guess the world has kind of played out in the last year and a half of ‘curating,’ but really helping me understand something is... even if that reporter’s not in fifteen places, the New York Times did a great job of kind of physically putting it on a map. And giving me a framework to understand this. Cause otherwise you have a list of 426 videos submitted. But their organization of those facts and those vignettes was what the real value was, right? It’s like a ____ lyric, it’s like the secret of any victory relies on the organization of the non-obvious. And it’s this journalism credo now, but it’s really, I mean, so help me make sense of it! Otherwise, I might as well go look at the 400... list.

Monica:

So, so let’s confront curation for a moment... because I think from the beginning of cura...

Monica:

...curating because it’s fun, because you’re on twitter, because it’s cool... and then what. When do you know to... you really gotta tell the original story, do your own legwork, or you know what, I’m so skilled in these tools, that I’m done.

Hari:

You know, I think sending a link is pretty lazy, I mean I think a lot of people who get away with just saying... well look at this, I basically just gave you a list of links. I mean, I frankly, I like to read blog posts that basically save me time by telling me what you just read. So especially the ones who are summarizing Long Reads, I don’t know if you guys check out Long Reads, it’s amazing, but it’s someone who just helps me say, I read the Economists’ version of this story and I read the Financial times’ version of this story, and here’s what I’m gathering. The Financial Times says this..I mean, they’re helping me, not have to read those two stories. And so to me that’s the kind of higher level, not quite aggregation and curation, but that’s what I find value in. Somebody who just says, oh, well here’s five different place that you can find this story... well, great, thanks for..there’s a thing called Google, I coulda done that, so why did I come to your place, or why did I... and so a lot of times, most of the people or institutions that I follow, almost all my tweets - or people that are in the stream - usually have a link to something else. And the ones I enjoy are the people who have thought about it a little while and are saving me time. And I just think that, I’m a, you know, not a get things done productivity wonk, but time is the most valuable thing that none of us have enough of. You can always earn more money, you can never earn more time, even if... I kick myself, if somebody wasted my time and I click through and I’m just sitting there on a page and I’m like, wow, that’s 45 seconds I’m never gonna get back. And so, you know, and do that two or three times? Done. you’re outta there. I’d rather waste that 45 seconds with my friends and family than I would with this stupid page.

Monica:

And that, I think, gets to another almost new role of the journalist, which, and I hate to call it a new role because, in a way, I think what it is is something we should’ve been doing it all along; but I hear, I actually think of back in my 6th, 7th grade math class where my math teacher would say, "Show your work. Because if you show your work, I’m gonna give you partial credit." And she would have tests with like 3 questions, so you better show your work... And that does seem to be a mainstay of journalism these days, show your work. So that people don’t, they can follow along, they can also replicate, a bit of that scientific method. Tell us how that manifests itself in your work, and...

Hari:

A guy that I read fairly often is Alex Howard at O’Reilly media, he goes by @Digiphile, and he’s really just, he’s a very good... um, you could call him a curator, whatever, his links are kind of well-positioned, but what I like about his work, and I’ve said this to him, too, is that, if I read his story as a story without having to see any line of blue, it would make sense. But what he added was, reasons for me to keep coming back to his story, cause I’ll link through, I’ll go back, I’ll come back to the story, and over time, his article on X becomes like an authoritative bookmark in my head. And I said, this guy’s already done all this work for me. And now, he’s saved me time, and I trust him more and more, and so regardless of whether he’s talking about gov 2.0 or some other issues, I’ve started to say, I like this guy, right? Whereas on the other hand, you have Andy Carvin, who’s doing something completely different, and it’s a totally different shift for what is journalism today... you know, he’s live-verifying, and crowd-source-something, I don’t even know what the word is, what he’s doing, it’s fabulous to watch, now, I mean...

Monica:

Do you all know who Andy Carvin is?

Hari:

Sorry, Andy Carvin’s a National Public Radio social media strategist, and if you follow @acarvin, be ready for a lot of tweets. I mean, he single-handedly has been covering the entire Arab spring, every country, he has enough followers in the region. Started out with his own personal networks of who he know, and then he started to watch the connections between other people following certain hashtags... and then he’d say wow, what a coincidence, this person seems to tweet when this person’s asleep, and maybe they’re brother and sister, and he’s put all this in his head. And then while he forwards and retweets, he’s constantly asking you, "Verified?" can anyone confirm, question mark. And within, what’s magical is, within 20 minutes or 30 minutes, they’re saying, no, I think that picture from Iran is actually doctored because here’s the photograph from the newspaper that I’m holding in my hand today. And that news isn’t there. Whoa! I mean, how long would it have taken us to figure that out? And so, but he’s just an exception. I don’t think that I could ever do that. I mean maybe I could, but, ahhh... it’s just...

Monica:

That’s so true. There’s still a controversy about that. I mean Andy’s just this example of someone who’s exploded verification! And it is, it’s amazing, he has a huge network! I don’t know how many followers, we’re talking 50, 60 thousand. And he’ll put out something that essentially it’s unverified. But he’ll just say, source? Question? That’s kind of his mainstay. So it’s really interesting debate about, we see the effects of it in his case, is that stories get told faster and better, and help people, we hope, in a region that’s in a lot of trouble.

Hari:

Yeah. Now, and then, the other question that happens is that well, when I look at, quote on quote, "media," or a storyteller, I hope that you’ve done that much work for me. Right? So that’s the other half of it, is, Andy, I don’t follow everything you say, because half of what you say, you’re still looking for verification on, and that takes me time. But, given, you’re beating the Associated Press by 20 minutes or more, but, in the grand scheme of things, I sometimes am a big fan of like the slow news movement, which is the News Hour... [laughing] but, I mean, really just slow it down for a second, can you? I mean, by the end of the day, you’ve already got all that information, and... you know what was fascinating was that when Steve... so I was in the Bay area when Steve Jobs passed, and so, KQED, the reporters at KQED, I was talking to some of them the next day and they said, what’s really interesting Hari is that at 4:30, we were having conversations at 4:40 or whatever and we were having conversations, we’re like, well how to we advance the story at 5:30? Because everyone will already have known? And I’m like, really? That’s a totally big shift... and I mean, you know, KQED, San Fransisco, tech market, word about Apple will spread. But, I was like, this is an obit for a person. I really hope you have something in the can. I mean it wasn’t a shock, it was very sad, it was happening for a while, so, I hope you kind of take a second to go ahead and allow your 3 minute obit to happen. Versus, like, no breaking news on me, just for the sake of... why? Who’s gonna win? I mean, do I remember which institution? I don’t, actually. I notice that 85% of everybody that I was following on twitter was commenting on Steve Jobs. And that was also an indication to me, cause I don’t follow just nerds, I mean there were people in Libya that were awakened by this, and they were tweeting this, and I was like, wow, this is for some people it’s their John Lennon moment... like, where were you, I knew this person, he’s changed my life, etc etc. For other people it was much less. But... I don’t, I think that in those kind of situations, it’s okay. Like do what you’re good at! Don’t try to compete with breaking news or CNN or the AP wire services, cause you’re not gonna win and you’re gonna look dumb doing it. So why don’t you just figure out what your niche is, what your audience likes about you, and if you have a personal story about Steve Jobs, or somebody that you knew, and you can actually comment intelligently, and that’s what, it’s okay. I mean, you don’t really want to try for that person in the audience who’s gonna switch away and throw your brand away because you didn’t have the information first. Really? Cause that person’s gonna run off from the second, they’re a cheater. They’re gonna cheat on their wives, their husbands, their gonna cheat on you...

Monica:

So we’ve talked about verification, curation, we’ve talked about all the tools...

Hari:

Infidelity, yeah...

Monica:

Infidelity... so I’m gonna...

Monica:

Twitter, blogs...

Hari:

Back in the old days, when we didn’t have Internet... no, uh, I think every generation’s gonna think it was harder. I’m sure the TV people thought, oh we have challenges today that radio never had, and radio thought, oh we have challenges that print never had, and onliners thought, oh, we have to publish all the time. I mean, I think that these are the tools, these are probably the growing pains of us understanding the tools and how they work, and how our audience expects us to be performing. I think we’re at a fairly significant shift where there’s a big generation of storytellers that aren’t familiar with these tools that their audiences are familiar with. That’s a big change. I mean, you didn’t have to convince people to watch TV - they just had to have one. Right? So that’s it, that’s just, the information got out, and the next thing you know, there was automatically a hunger for it. So, at this point, there’s a lot of people that aren’t on Tumblr, and there’s still a whole lot of people that aren’t on Facebook or Twitter, and I’m fine with that. And so, I think that there’s this... and then ultimately, there’s also this you know, where you guys and Monica are fluent in this technology and are going to be in the "newsroom of the future or the present," there’s a lot of people that run your lives that don’t know and don’t care. And they’re just trying to find a way to get to retirement without losing their jobs. And that’s a part of reality regardless of what business you’re in. Right? So these changes are going to happen, and sometimes they don’t feel like they can happen fast enough for us to be in this business or this profession or craft or however you want to call it. But I think that it is the barrier to entry to storytelling is lower today than it ever was in the multiple mediums that we have. But that doesn’t mean that the sort of finer art of storytelling is any easier. So it’s... whether that person has been classically trained at a big J Journalism school or not, might not, you know, they might not need to be, but they still need to tell a good story for me to like it. Whether they wrote it in the New Yorker, or they published a beautiful video on Vimeo, so I don’t know... it’s a non-answer.

Monica:

Anyone have a question to uh, close this out?

Hari:

Look at that, you have to have a grownup take a question, seriously?

Audience:

uh, this kind of goes to what you were just saying, I’d be interested in either of your answers to this, is um, have you found that there’s a different way that amateurs tell stories than people who have been professionally trained, or nothing you can particularly tell?

Hari:

I don’t think they care much about whether they’re right. And... whether there’s another side to their, you know, question or answer. I think that’s the sort of mark of an amateur. Somebody who’s so self-righteous about their vision of what they witnessed, that they can’t imagine that there was another perspective on that event. Even if it’s video. They just think, this is the only scene and this is the only angle of the car crash. I’m like, actually, there’s probably another one that might show you something else.

Monica:

I think you see surprising places where people are very careful because it’s there name on Facebook and Google+, and somebody starts to +1 it and +1 it, and you have to be really careful what you say. But I think also, I tend to see the amateur storytelling happening on the eyes and ears level of stories, you know taking the picture sending it out, reporting what they see, rather than the interpretation. And of course that’s not the case with you know, more, ideological storytelling and blogs are very into that. But you see a lot of that eyes and ears, and I think one of the opportunities for journalism is, how can the eyes and ears and the interpretation work together. Interpretation takes longer, there just so happens to be a profession of people who spend their time interpreting news. So can we leverage the eyes and ears that are out there and have this rewarding, fulfilling, information economy happening. Where the journalists are the interpreters. And whether they are large J Journalists or not.

Hari:

If you saw the Occupy Wall Street videos of when they were being marched onto the bridge, the first few hours or maybe overnight, the dominant narrative was, the cops led us on to the bridge, they said it was perfectly fine. If the NYPD didn’t have their own cameras and didn’t videotape the guy with the bullhorn saying do not come any closer, you have to turn around, that other first narrative would have been accurate. right? But I mean, I didn’t even have that much of a vested interest in figuring out this definitive answer that night anyway, cause it was Saturday or Sunday and we weren’t on-air and what have you, but that’s something I ended up following, what am I going to say about this Monday. And so then like well, by the first camera angle, it’s clear, the cops are walking in front of you, they’re leading you onto the bridge like sheep. But the second camera says, hm, maybe you shoulda listened to the bullhorn. Or, if you were six back, you couldn’t hear the bullhorn. That coulda been a third perspective. Right? So it’s like, how can we flood the zone, and create this Johnny Mnemonic, Minority Report kind of thing, somebody’s gonna do that.

Monica:

Okay, I think with that we’re gonna close the conversation, but thank you to Hari, you guys for coming, KCTS, MCDM, and everybody who put this together.

[applause]