Symposium program highlights online journalism trends in the industry and academia

The program for the 11th annual International Symposium on Online Journalism was officially released this Tuesday, and on paper, it is the biggest event yet, thanks in no small part to a record-breaking number of papers submitted, a new venue, and a new format.The tremendous growth of the symposium provides the catalyst for the venue switch. For an event that started in the small LBJ room on the 5th floor of the University of Texas College of Communication before branching out to the A.C.E.S. building elsewhere on campus, the move to the beautiful AT&T Executive Education and Conference Centerspeaks to the importance of the issues discussed at the event, as well as the stature of the professionals and academics the symposium brings every year.

The talk will be fast and furious from the opening minutes of the symposium thanks to keynote speaker Steven Kydd, executive vice president and head of content for Demand Media. On its website, the company boasts, “We produce tens of thousands of articles and videos every month and are growing fast. We are the largest provider of video content to YouTube, and our articles and videos are seen on popular websites such as LIVESTRONG.COM, eHow, GolfLink,, and many more.” Their content reaches 100 million unique users per month, which is pretty amazing. But some journalists are skeptical about the company for fear that it will flood the internet with useless content strategically created to fool the search engine algorithms and put its material at the top of Google. Jeff Jarvis is perhaps the most intriguing of the commenters, saying a hefty amount about the company on his blog BuzzMachine. Whatever each individual’s personal opinion of Demand may be, Kydd is a talented executive with stints at Yahoo! and 20th Century Fox on his resume, and his keynote address promises to be interesting at the least.

Not surprisingly, one of the biggest topics at the symposium this year will focus on the new generation of tablet computers, sparked by the Apple iPad. Joshua Benton, director of the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University, will chair a panel aimed at exploring mobile journalism and the ways in which the industry is adapting to not only tablets like the iPad, but also e-readers and smartphones. The panel will feature two journalists from the design side of the industry – Tom Bodkin, assistant managing editor and design director of The New York Times and Scott Dadich, creative director of Wired magazine. Rounding out the panel is Gilbert Fuchsberg, CEO of Skiff, the company responsible for the Skiff reader, a fascinating e-reader that many are calling better than the iPad.

Directly opposite the reader panel is a session dedicated to the newspaper companies, aptly titled Strategies to survive the digital era. Earl Wilkinson of the International Newsmedia Marketing Association will chair the panel, which features Jim Moroney, publisher and CEO of The Dallas Morning News and the 2008 symposium keynote speaker, and Eivind Thomsen, senior vice president of the Norway-based Schibsted Media Group. John Paton, CEO of the Journal Register Company, will also sit on the panel. Jeff Jarvis wrote an interesting post about Paton earlier this year, and it provides a good primer for those unfamiliar with Paton and what he does. As long as there are newspapers, the discussions in this panel will be necessary each and every year, and the strength and talent of those assembled this year is off the charts.

Attendees of past symposiums will notice that rather than dividing the event into one day for panels with professionals in the field and one day for academics, the two have been mixed for 2010. Combining the two areas is a fitting statement for journalism, as many have expressed the need for communication between both sides to more properly tackle the issues facing journalism. This year is a record-breaking one for the event on the research side, as more papers were submitted than ever before, prompting the selection of 24 papers for the 2010 symposium, as opposed to the approximately 12 that usually get selected. Research chair Amy Schmitz Weiss, an assistant professor at San Diego State University, will head the academic portion of the event, including chairing a panel exploring the innovations in journalism scholarship, highlighting papers about everything from the upcoming CBC music wiki, written by Alfred Hermida and Amanda Ash of the University of British Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, to a case study of the Interactive News Technology department at The New York Times by Cindy Royal of Texas State University.

And all of that is only the first day.

The second day promises to be just as exciting and will start off with a bang via a panel looking at innovations in online journalism internationally. Harry Dugmore, MTN Chair of Media and Mobile Communications at Rhodes University in South Africa, will bring his knowledge of SMS news distribution, as well as Mario Tascón of The other panelist, Roman Gallo, is a part of one of the most intriguing projects that will be discussed at the symposium. Gallo is the CEO of PPF Media Group, a Czech Republic media organization headed by a consumer banking group and one that aims to bring a truly hyperlocal approach to the news. Along with a central newsroom, being called the Futuroom, the group is opening newscafés in their local bureaus, making way for a legitimately personal connection between journalist and consumer.

Another former keynote speaker, Dan Gillmor, will chair a panel on participatory journalism with David Cohn of, Jan Schaffer of the J-Lab, the Institute for Interactive Journalism and Ethan Zuckerman, co-founder of Global Voices Online. A big issue in the profession is the new wave of non-profit journalism ventures that are popping up around the country. The president and CEO of the Knight Foundation, Alberto Ibargüen, will lead a panel to discuss the sustainability of the new generation of non-profit journalism enterprises created on the Web. The panelists will be Evan Smith, CEO and editor of the newly launched Texas Tribune; Scott Lewis, CEO of Voice of San Diego, Jim O’Shea, co-founder and editor of Chicago News Cooperative; and Matt Thompson, product manager for NPR Project Argo.

In all, the program for the 2010 symposium is one of, if not the best, in the 11-year history of the event, and will appropriately, feature speakers from 11 countries, including:

  • Belgium
  • Brazil
  • Canada
  • Czech Republic
  • Egypt
  • France
  • Norway
  • South Africa
  • Spain
  • Turkey
  • United States

It has been a big year for online journalism, and as things continue to progress with rapid speed, the symposium will once again bring together the big players in the industry to explore and get a grasp on the innovations and techniques that are popping up in seemingly unending fashion.