OLD Media Moves

Finding ways to cover innovation

December 11, 2009

MediaShift’s Mark Glaser interviewed David Nordfors, who runs the Research Center for Innovation Journalism at Stanford, which seeks to find ways to help business and technology reporters cover innovation.

Here is an excerpt:

What was your impetus for starting the Innovation Journalism program?

Nordfors: We aren’t able to have a public discussion [about innovation] because journalism is organized in those same darn verticals as the rest of society. So you have one part of innovation stories on the business page, another part on the tech page, one part is on the politics page, one part on the lifestyle page. All these editors have one part of the story and have no intention of collaborating with the other editors. You have the same stack of silos in the newsroom as out in society. If you’re into changing things and finding new solutions, the opportunity is to go across disciplines.

When I started with Innovation Journalism, I said we must cross the barrier between tech journalism and business journalism [that existed] in early 2000. I talked to a business journalist about it and he said, “It sounds interesting, but you know it won’t work. We business journalists don’t cover products. That might give companies control over us.” His job was covering the numbers from the company, but it’s impossible to cover a company if you don’t cover both how it’s managed and the products it makes.

If we want to discuss the iPhone or Nokia or the future of the U.S. car industry, we have to discuss their ability to make future products, and there’s no way to do that without crossing the silos of tech, business, politics and lifestyle. And these barriers can be very high. I was lucky to be at a small magazine where all our readers were engineers, so we could write enlightened things for enlightened engineers — but we couldn’t set the public debate.

Read more here.

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