Phillip Smith

Journalism's Peanut Butter Cup Moment

I'm dreaming big here. It's aspirational, but here it is:

The next time there's a news event that grabs the world's attention -- from an uprising in the Middle East to the World Cup Finals -- newsrooms around the globe will be utilizing people, software, and ideas that came out of the Knight Foundation and Mozilla partnership, and their collaboration with news organizations. Stories and maps will be rich with semantic data. News will adapt to different devices and screen sizes instantly. Video and audio will be interactive, searchable, and multilingual -- all thanks to open-Web technologies.

Today marks a big step forward toward making this vision come to life for Mozilla, Mozillians, and the three-hundred million four-hundred million people that make up the global Mozilla community. This is also a big validation of the Mozilla Drumbeat concept: bringing artists, academics, lawyers, non-geeks of all stripes -- and now journalists -- into the work of keeping the Web open, fun, and generative for years to come.

This is a personally exciting moment because, for the last eight months, I've had the opportunity to do some brainstorming with folks at Mozilla about the future of the open Web. I've also spent a fair bit of time over the years working hands-on with news producers. Going back-and-forth between these two communities has led to more than few Reese's Peanut Butter Cup moments (you know, "two great tastes..."), which is elegantly explained in Mark's recent posts on Media, Freedom, and the Web.

If you're more of a chocolate and mint person, consider this:

  • Many news organizations are going through a period of significant change today.
  • There are entirely new news departments devoted to "news applications" and "data journalism."
  • These departments organizations have huge sizeable budgets and are making technology decisions that will reverberate for years to come. (Seriously, just ask any journalist why they still use Microsoft Access.)
  • For many everyday people, their primary experience of the Web is news.

This is why Mozilla cares and why it is investing in this opportunity to co-create new tools and news experiences that will benefit users and newsmakers. It is also an opportunity to nudge this ship -- news producers, news users, and the entire news-technology ecosystem -- further toward the open Web, something Mozilla cares deeply about protecting and cultivating.

If you want to help answer some of the big questions ahead, or just eavesdrop, you can follow along here as I do a bit of thinking out loud over the coming days. My colleagues at Mozilla -- Mark and Nathaniel -- will also be posting updates on their respective blogs. Last but not least, there's a project mailing list that you should subscribe to if you want to get involved.

Drop me a line if you have any questions.


Hi, I'm Phillip Smith, a veteran digital publishing consultant, online advocacy specialist, and strategic convener. If you enjoyed reading this, find me on Twitter and I'll keep you updated.


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