“Fit to Print” meets with Susan Jacobson

Temple University journalism professor Susan Jacobson sat down with me on Friday for an interview, and what was slated to be an hour conversation, ended up running closer to three hours.  Jacobson began her career with The New York Times in the mid-1980’s, serving on an experimental computer news service staff.

Our conversation about the Times’ early experimentation into digital technologies was a fascinating one.  Details on that will have to wait until the documentary is complete, however.  She even provided me with a copy of one of the original VHS (yes VHS!) tapes the Times developed within this early experimentation program titled, “New York Pulse:  The Video”.  If you’re a sucker for cheesy instructional videos from back in the day, like I am, be sure to check this one out.

Following her position with The New York Times, she worked within the internet industry during the web’s early years.   She went on to work for Scholastic and GTE, where she was head of content development.  Within this position she headed up GTE Mainstreet, an interactive television service.

Little did she know at the time that the web and new media would dominate the news industry as it does today.  Well actually …she did predict that.  She made note that the newspaper industry has “traditionally been much too slow in adapting”.  And while her experimental computer news service staff was there to forge the way for the Times back in the 80’s, investments in developing digital media within newsrooms was behind pace with the tech-industry, which was, for better or worse, sidelined from interacting with major newspaper companies.

Jacobson now teaches courses in web and experimental reporting at Temple.  Speaking to her makes me truly believe in the future of journalism.  She has a real passion for the experimentation of new media within newsrooms, and believes strongly in the future of the news industry, not just the newspaper business.  During our conversation she made the very strong point that none of her students read newspapers.  “Not a single person”, she noted.  Her primary concern rests with the current state of investigative journalism.  “Even a Huffington Post or ProPublica is limited in staff and budget size.  And those are two of most highly trafficked sites on the web.”

She’s also concerned about the quality and readership levels of stories produced for content farms such as AOL’s Seed, Demand Media, Associated Content and others. “The quality of the content is simply not good.  And nobody is reading it either”.

Jacobson has a number of  new developments in the works, which inlcude original hypertextual video projects such as “Countless Stories”, which has been exhibited at such venues as Digital Video Expo and Streaming Cinema Festival.

You can check out her blog site at:

http://susanjacobson.livejournal.com/

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