Poynter Fellow Jeff Sonderman on Digital Journalism

Jeff Sonderman headshot

Jeff Sonderman headshotJeff Sonderman is the Digital Media Fellow at the Poynter Institute, where he blogs and trains journalists about using social media and mobile technology for better journalism. He has worked as a reporter and editor at print newspapers and as a community engagement specialist and editor in online local news. Ebyline asked Sonderman for his take on citizen journalism, e-publishing trends, and more.

How do you think the rise of citizen journalism has helped or hurt professional journalists and the outlets they write for?
I think it’s largely helped professional journalists. The rise of citizen, or amateur, journalism has not replace what professional journalists do, but it has in some cases freed them to focus more on analysis and making sense of the news rather than just reporting events. It has given working journalists and freelance writers many new sources and leads to use in their reporting, and it has helped fill some public information needs in areas where the business of journalism falls short.

In some circles, “aggregation” is a dirty word, but many reputable media outlets do it. Is there a right and a wrong way to aggregate content? Do you think this style of writing is a fad or will it persist long-term?
There are right and wrong ways, for sure, but each publisher should choose a precise approach that suits them. I wrote an extensive post about how to formulate your aggregation strategy.

Aggregation, plus curation, is an essential task of the modern news provider because the Internet enables abundance of content. That’s not going away, and so neither will the need for a news organization to comb through it all and decide what pieces its audience needs to know.

What, in your opinion, were the biggest changes in digital media during 2011? Any predictions on what we’ll see in 2012?
I labeled 2011 as “the year of the e-book” for news organizations, and I think we’ll see that trend grow in 2012 as many more e-readers are sold.

The increasing spread of smartphones and fast early adoption of iPads also made a big mark in 2011 and will be a big force on both the content and business models of journalism in the next few years.

Anything else you’d like to add about this brave new world of mobile and web-based journalism?
There’s never been a better time to do what we do. The Internet and now mobile tools are bringing us closer to our audiences, enabling us to learn more about what they actually want and serve them in new ways. It’s an extremely different media world than it was 10 or 20 years ago, but for those willing to disrupt themselves and challenge their old thinking, it’s a huge new opportunity.