Journalism’s New Wave – by “Jakob W”

September 30th marked the initial invitation-only release of the “Preview” beta of the new Google Wave service. Like Google News and Maps before it, Google Wave — a browser-based app that allows one to collaborate with contacts in real time through an AJAX-based document model — arrives on the scene in a developmental stage, with little explanation and largely left to the user to figure out how best to use — it’s even open source since, as Google VP of engineering Vic Gundotra readily admits, “frankly we need developers to help us finish this product.”

Ever since its unveiling (and as more invites are made available), many have speculated on what Google Wave could mean for journalism in the Internet age.

In the moments before even the first 100,000 invites were released, Mark Milian came up with a list of potential uses for the L.A. Times technology blog that could change journalism and the way we interact with it — and in ways more clearly beneficial than other recent mutations, such as the ever-controversial citizen journalism. Possibilities the Wave allows in its current form include live editing (so writers can watch editor changes and address questions/ambiguities as they develop), and real collaborative reporting (during the pen-and-pad era of journalism, having two or three writers to a story was often messy, and rather uncommon to date) and blogging (which, in its draft/publish/edit form, is similarly cumbersome to co-author). With just a couple small tweaks, Wave could be even more revolutionary: integrating Google Voice would allow for easy integration of recorded interviews, voicemails and text messages into story notes and archives; more transparent story update/correction timelines, reader observation and perhaps even participation during the writing process of a story (almost like a Wiki); live, paragraph-by-paragraph reader commentary and discussions; combining Google’s Polly extension, live mid-story polling of readership could be possible, et cetera. In essence, Google Wave could allow citizens to take a much more active role in professional journalism, instead of trying to compete with it via questionable Twitter feeds and rumor mill bullflop.

Jeff Jarvis of Buzzmachine, who believes Google Wave has potential to be “the new news,” provides a lucid example of how the above dynamic might develop:

Imagine a team of reporters – together with witnesses on the scene – able to contribute photos and news to the same Wave (formerly known as a story or a page). One can write up what is known; a witness can add facts from the scene and photos; an editor or reader can ask questions. And it is all contained under a single address – a permalink for the story.

As one Scott Blanchard comments on a post in the Wired Journalists Publish2 feed, Google Wave could be especially effective in particularly temporal forms of news updates, like weather and traffic reports. Crowdsourced, real-time collaborative reportage allows for a level of “man on the street” input previously infeasible in journalism.

And yet, these exciting possibilities remain just that. Time will tell how Google Wave’s technology truly impacts journalism — but all accounts thus far point to a very promising future for what many have recently written off as a dying art.

Further reading not linked above:
Google Wave the next social media phenomenon and journalistic tool? (Editors Weblog)
Exploring Google Wave – how could it transform journalism and publishing? (iTWire)
Periodistas 21 (en Español!)

One thought on “Journalism’s New Wave – by “Jakob W”

  1. Interesting post. The idea of everyone collaborating on a news story sounds cool, but what if witnesses are throwing in unverified information or the reporters have conflicting stories? Things could quickly become a mess on a “news wave.” Google Wave has appeared somewhat limited in usefulness to me, but then again, Bill Gates famously said that no one should need more than 640kb of memory. So, who knows? Maybe I will be proved wrong and Google Wave will be the next big thing.


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