Encouraged by this story demonstrating that academics are taking hold of technology potential to influence the world’s news:

When news broke that Osama bin Laden had been killed by US special forces, who was best placed to assess the global political impact: a rushed general reporter in a short-staffed newsroom, or an academic expert on the Middle East, terrorism and international relations?

After bin Laden’s assassination, hundreds of ill-prepared reporters around the world must have hammered the phones searching for an academic expert in international relations to comment while simultaneously trying to swot up on the subject by scanning a jumble of press cuttings.

As they scrambled around, an Australia-based experiment in online journalism that had begun just months earlier came into its own.

Putting their faith in the university experts, the founders of The Conversation website created a virtual newsroom of academics and offered them the chance to communicate their research to the public without fear of misrepresentation.

When its editors heard the news about bin Laden, they contacted one of their writers, Mat Hardy, a lecturer in Middle East studies at Deakin University. Within two hours, his expert analysis of the event’s ramifications was online.

For Andrew Jaspan, editor and co-founder of the project, this is a powerful example of how the site can not only provide specialist analysis on almost any subject, but also do so within the 24/7 news cycle – and possibly even faster than traditional media.

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