Continued | Back to Personalized services
What does all this mean to journalists about to enter the field? “Journalism students shouldn’t be scared off by all the technical talk about parsing data and setting up personalized news hierarchies,” said ZDNet’s Farber. “The content people don’t need to be involved in the technical back end. For a journalist, it’s all about understanding how readers use those tools and then going out to gather the information most relevant to your readers.”
Today, news gathering often involves more than heading out to cover an assignment with a pencil and notebook. It might involve bringing along a camcorder, digital camera, handheld tape recorder, laptop computer or palm-held personal digital assistant for instant transmission back to the newsroom or directly to users. It might involve tracking down source materials on floppy disks so that the editors and tech people back at the office can transform that raw data into news and information that’s relevant right down to the individual user level.
In a multimedia world, young journalists need to use their imaginations to grasp the possibilities for making the news more personally relevant to each reader. Content does not need to be written for one reader, but that reader should be able to access and move through the information in a unique way.
In the rough-and-tumble world of the Web, it’s still uncertain who’ll win the battle for the hearts, minds and eyeballs of news consumers. Will news sites ultimately be the place where users go to get their daily dose of personalized local information? Will it be the portals? Weblogs? Who knows? Perhaps it will be a new source of news not yet invented.
Some analysts believe that users will eventually stop surfing to news sites and portals alike. Instead, a personal desktop application, trained to learn your likes and dislikes, would go out and fetch the news each morning from a dozen different sources, assembling it into an integrated package of interesting news stories, features, analyses, mailing list commentaries, humorous e-mails, shopping bargains and a live Webcast of your favorite sporting event. Already, you don’t have to surf to the New York Times or ABC News Web sites to catch breaking news. You can download small programs that let you see scrolling headlines and stock quotes from those sites on little pop-up windows on your computer screen.