Cronkite News, the news division of Arizona PBS produced by the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, got funding from Google News Initiative’s first Innovation Challenge in North America. The challenge aimed to fund local newsroom projects that would lead to more audience engagement.
Cronkite News members will develop the interactive story wall in order to bring a more immersive experience for viewers and allow the broadcast to expand its coverage. The “smart screen” will utilize digital elements to visualize and further explain stories.
Frank Mungeam, the Cronkite school’s Knight professor of practice in TV News Innovation, is leading the project and said Google made a great choice in funding a student newsroom project.
“The principles of journalism transcend time, but the practices are always evolving,” Mungeam said. “Student journalists and newsrooms get more of a chance to explore new methods of storytelling.”
He said the addition of an interactive story wall could change Cronkite News' coverage of in-depth stories. In Mungeam’s experience in broadcast journalism, it was not uncommon for people to reject story ideas because they were “newspaper stories” or stories that were driven by data and often tackled complex topics.
However, Mungeam said those stories were often some of the most important to tell.
“By adding a story wall, we can cover those stories in a way that is interactive and easily accessible to everyone watching,” he said.
Cronkite News members like Mungeam hope to incorporate the interactive story wall into daily coverage rather than using it exclusively for events like presidential elections.
He said although there is not a set date for completion, Mungeam and the Cronkite News team are ready for the challenges the new technology may bring.
Mark Lodato, associate dean of the Cronkite school, said the funding from Google News further demonstrates the Cronkite school’s innovation in a fast-paced, ever-evolving field.
Video Credit: Andrew Onodera (andrewonodera on Twitter)
“There are a lot of companies like Google who are looking to institutions like the Cronkite school to help advance opportunities when it comes to news information and storytelling,” Lodato said.
He said the interactive story wall will be valuable in the Cronkite News newsroom in particular because of the potential exploration for students.
“It’s not just about what our students can do with this technology today, but the ways they’ll figure out how to use it as a tool to advance the field in the future,” he said.
Alex Simon, a digital reporter for the Cronkite News sports bureau and graduate student, said the opportunity to explore the technology of an interactive story wall was well earned.
“We’ve done a pretty good job of showing different ways to tell stories,” Simon said. “The idea of being able to test things out is the beauty of a college newsroom.”
However, Simon said being a “college newsroom” does little to limit the broadcast program in terms of coverage or professionalism.
“We don’t treat ourselves as college journalists,” he said. “We’re just journalists.”