The art of religion news in the broadband, multimedia, social age, 2010-2011
The independent online religion news magazine, A Journey through NYC religions, was launched in 2010. Journey proposed data-driven journalism that put a special emphasis on allowing collections of data to initiate and guide stories. The Guardian and The New York Times launched similar efforts that same year.
Journey also took a step toward virtual reality with the showing of a 360 Panorama film, a British production of a roamable 3-D image St. Patrick’s Cathedral (since then, Getty Images bought the rights for further distribution). In that year CNN’s Belief Blog also got going.
Saint Patrick’s Cathedral Click the photos at the bottom to do 3D tour of exterior and interior.
In 2011 the Religion Newswriters gave its first prize for in-depth reporting to an independent online religion news media organization, A Journey through NYC religions. The online magazine promoted a new understanding of New York City as a post-secular city and a new way of doing journalism combining “sympathetic objectivity,” street reporting, and data journalism.
Journey followed a method pioneered by the animators at Pixar studio. The animators were constantly pushing to improve their ability to digitally increase the details in their animations. The more small, invisible to the eye, details that were included, the more the eye unconsciously “sees” the animation as having a supple, natural reality. On the big picture screen, you may not be able to see the nose hairs, but their presence is processed by the mind into a feeling of naturalness. Likewise, Journey hoped to paint into the city picture the thick faith details of the city so that people would “see” the natural, spiritual excitements of the city. Along the way, a consistent goal was to give recognition to unknown religious actors who were pioneering compassionate works in the city, unheralded by no one except for the people they directly helped.
The news media audiences were also taking over the cutting edge of daily reporting by posting more and more of their own videos. Their work became one of the major sources of news for many viewers. Even the professionalized news media started relying on the work of these “amateurs.”
In 2011 the Pew Research Center identified what it called “citizen-posted videos as the most watch videos on the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. The researchers also documented that news organizations were highly reliant on these videos for their own coverage. PEW reported that 96 million people viewed the top twenty news videos on YouTube in the week following the disaster. “The most watched video of all was shot by what appeared to be a fixed closed-circuit surveillance camera at the Sendai airport,” the researchers reported. They called this “a new kind of visual news.”
Japan earthquake: CCTV video of tsunami wave… by HistoricalEarthquakes
“In 2011 news events were the most searched term on YouTube four months out of twelve, according to YouTube’s internal data: the Japanese Earthquake; the killing of Osama bin Laden; a fatal motorcycle accident; and news of a homeless man who spoke with what those producing the video called a ‘god-given gift of voice.’” YouTube users were also posting 39% of the video produced by news organizations, which posted the other 61% of the professionally produced news videos.
The audience was both producing the news and acting as editors and publishers who determine which professionally news media videos would get wide circulation. First, a reporter had to get the okay from his producer or editor. Then, he or she had to hope that amateur publishers would give a green light to reposting the work on the web. It is not surprising that personnel trained in the ways of the monopolistic industrial age news media were psychologically ill-prepared to deal with its audiences on these terms. The culture, operations and design of all news media had to change to keep up.