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Rachel Nixon- The News Cycle and the Audience April 17, 2009

Posted by oliviafong in symposium.
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Rachel Nixon is the Global News Director of NowPublic, a site fall content is user-generated. Their goal was to create the world’s largest news network. Founded four years ago, NowPublic now has 170,000 users from more than 100 cities and has raised $13 million in venture capital.

Nixon compared the news cycle from the 1970s to the projected news cycle of 2010. In the earlier model, an event would happen, each witness would have a “piece of the pie”, the reporter would gather the information from each witness, the audience would  go away as the reporter combined the news, and the audience would return to consume the news after the reporter published the it.

In the present and future, however, each witness can interact directly, essentially bypassing the traditional news network. Nixon noted that 90% of these people sharing information are not professional journalists.

This shift has led many journalists to fear that they will no longer be necessary in the future because they would be replaced by an “army” of cheaper citizen journalists who were waiting to take their place.

But journalists needn’t be afraid of this changing relationship with their audience, said Nixon. The truth is that ordinary people aren’t interested in taking away jobs. They are simply bystanders who happen to witness an event, not professionals who are dispatched with the specific goal of gathering news. In short, they simply want someone to “tell (them) something new about something that’s interesting to (us).” Instead, journalists should welcome this new boom of content and information, which can lead to better journalism as a whole.

Nixon also suggested 4 key areas in which news organizations are struggling:

  1. The cost of spot news coverage is out of reach for most organizations.
  2. There is less reader engagement on news properties.
  3. There is a reliance on generic wire content.
  4. The “live” web is very complicated to navigate and utilize.

One solution NowPublic is playing with is a prototype of Scan, which monitors Twitter for news topics so that they can see trends. It also connects people to each others and allows them to see which news stories are getting the most comments and the location those comments are coming from.

The future version of Scan will allow users to  access photos, videos, real-time analytics and graphics, and will allow users to extend the life of story by adding on new content.

Nixon concluded her presentation by suggesting that there should not really be a question of of citizen vs. professional journalists. Professionals will still needed to verify information and keep up the standards of the news, though they should learn to understand that their elationship with audience is now different and the narrative structure has changed.

About Nixon:

Rachel Nixon is the Global News Director of Canada-based NowPublic.com, the world’s largest participatory news network…She spent nine years with the internationally acclaimed BBCNews.com, where, most recently, she served as Deputy World Director…She led key global stories such as 9/11, the war in Iraw, the US presidential elections of 2004 and the mid-term elections of 2006. Nixon was named BBC World Service Editor of the Year in 2007 for her work across multiple and emerging media platforms. She is an Adjunct Professor at the Graduate School of Jornalism at the University of British Columbia.



1. The Twitters tell the story « Charlotte-Anne Lucas - April 23, 2009

[…] to some extraordinary panelists: NowPublic News Director Rachel Nixon, Paul Brannan of the BBC, chron.com Interactive Editor Dwight Silverman and statesman.com Internet […]

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