Newsrooms told: Stop obsessing about 'bright, shiny things'

MANILA, Philippines – A study published by the Journalism Innovation Project suggests that news organizations should stop pursuing “bright, shiny things” or pursuing "technology in the absence of clear and research-informed strategies."

When it comes to innovation, they should focus on content, business development, and audiences, according to the study, the first done by the Journalism Innovation Project based at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford.

The report, written by Senior Research Fellow Julia Posetti, was based on roundtable discussions with 39 journalism innovators from 17 countries, including Rappler CEO and Executive Editor Maria Ressa.

From these discussions, the experts agreed that journalism innovation can happen in many different ways at the same time, combining new forms of storytelling, business models, and distribution strategies.

What has been happening however is that journalism innovation has mostly been focused on the challenges of distribution, causing content and business development to fall by the wayside.

This is harmful, because it sacrifices time, money and effort that should be spent on audience engagement and loyalty,  professional prestige, social impact, and digital capability building, the study said.

In the long run, focusing too much on innovation without a clear strategy could lead to distraction from core journalistic functions, burnout and fatigue, and stagnation or innovation paralysis, the study added.

News organizations must stop relentless and unfocused pursuit of innovation and instead experiment according to their own specific objectives. The study called on newsrooms to refocus their innovation strategies toward the needs of their "end users" or their audiences.

The report also brought to light the "unintended consequences" of technology-led innovation – like online harassment of female journalists, viral disinformation, and privacy breaches – and the journalistic "ingenuity borne of necessity" in developing countries.

The Journalism Innovation Project, which is funded by Facebook, aims to develop a research-informed definition of journalism innovation, to collate and share case studies on good practices in journalism innovation, and to develop a framework to support journalism innovation in different environments. – Rappler.com