Roundup 2012 in Review: Miranda Mulligan
Soundslice, Evening Edition, Nieman Lab, MozFest & smarter publishing
As we reach the end of 2012, we’ve asked a handful of designers and developers working in news to talk about a few things—news apps, interactive features, events, posts—that they loved…and didn’t work on themselves. First up is journalist-designer Miranda Mulligan, who helped bring responsive design to the Boston Globe as their design director for digital, and is now executive director of the Knight Lab
In 2012, I was reminded that I am inspired by nearly everything: arts, books, movies, people, food, drink, light. Working in a lab has spun my thoughts into a web of analysis about the who, what, where, and how that inspire me, and though my years of waiting tables and slinging booze taught me to keep a lot of details in memory, I write down nearly every single node of inspiration. I feel fortunate that I am continuously inspired by my career and my smarty-pants colleagues who motivate and teach me. Here are a few news-nerd moments of particular note from 2012 that I’d like to acknowledge:
Smarter publishing models
Journalism matters. The free press is important to a functioning democracy. Journalism has the power to change the world.
Yes, I did know the aforementioned points, thanks to my years in newsrooms and formal journalism training, but I didn’t realize that technologists were struggling to understand why the digital transition has been so painful for newspapers and magazines. The idea that, while the internet has been totally rockin’ for writers, designers and publishers as well as for readers and audience, introducing incomprehensible potential for new storytelling techniques, communication and ways to connect … its effect on the traditional publishing business models has been a giant suck-fest.
This is a point beautifully drawn in an A List Apart article from David Sleight, a highly respected designer, strategist, and consultant. In his explanation, Sleight puts forth a strong argument about why future-friendly publishing business models need to create more distance from their presentation layers.… Unlike our current models in which journalism’s revenue is deeply entangled in how content is presented.
My favorite story from the past year is how Mule Design Studio came to launching Evening Edition, a daily, “succinct summary of the day’s most important news” which provides an overview of the news and links to original reporting. This idea was inspired by a Twitter exchange… Awesome. They launched in July in partnership with Mother Jones, and are currently sustaining themselves on a sponsorship model. Plus, the team is currently seeking an East Coast editor, so apparently they are still growing.
Evening Edition is creative solution to the “fitting news into pockets of time in our day” problem that we’re all wrestling.
I have high expectations for Adrian Holovaty’s new project—Soundslice—which seems full of potential for highly creative, outside-the-box storytelling. While the tool is intended to help musicians learn to play the guitar by allowing users to create guitar tablatures from YouTube videos of music performances, it seems like it is only a matter of time before someone applies the idea to another type of YouTube video content.
A tool that allows users to annotate sound has many potential uses for audio storytellers on the internet, especially if it’s used in some form of “teach me something” journalism.
Nieman Lab’s Back to School
Nieman Lab taking on journalism education this year was all sorts of awesome. Its no secret, I am generally disappointed with the lack of preparation programs offer journalism students who are entering their professional lives.
I worry that today’s journalism and communications graduates are still afraid of the internet. In my experience, most recent graduates barely understand how the internet works, the medium’s constraints or how to communicate effectively with technologists.
Understanding our medium makes us better storytellers.
Finally, the Mozilla Festival in London, this November was a highlight in my year. This incredible event, hosted by the Mozilla Foundation, is in its third year and intends to motivate an entire generation of web makers. At Knight Lab, we say “there is no such thing as too ambitious” so, naturally, we find the MozFest think-tank to be kindred.
That weekend, the energy inside Ravensbourne was magical; from inspiring the non-technical-types to participate to providing an open place for developers/designers/engineers to engage-in and share their projects, every attended seemed to have a voice. My inner news nerd leapt at the opportunity for complete immersion in deep thinking on election-related news apps and tools, something that I continue to miss since my departing the daily news cycle.
We had a phenomenal trip, and we’ve already begun our plans to participate in 2013.