Inside PR 392: The algorithm called journalism

We start this episode with a burning question from Gini: Is lasagna pasta – yes or no?

Joe and I both say yes. And so Gini, armed with the information she desperately needs, is ready to take on her dinner menu. That is, unless you, our listeners, think otherwise. Please let us know.

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming…

Joe starts the show talking about the notion of who makes news decisions – editors or algorithms. This was sparked by an Emily Bell speech and spawned a discussion online as well as several posts, including one by Jeff Jarvis.

In her talk, Bell contends journalists, who once controlled the determination and distribution of news, have lost their hold or maybe they’ve been supplanted. Their replacements? In digital channels, many editorial decisions are made by people fine-tuning algorithms or the algorithms themselves.

Martin says on the editorial front, we’ve traded one concentrated group of publicly-traded companies (media) for another (social networks as new media).

Gini says there’s so much info out there that until something’s been confirmed by the fourth estate, we tend not to believe it. Traditional media is the filter.

Joe contends PR is in an ideal position to bridge the gap between journalistic decision makers and the way algorithms pick content. And by seeing both sides of the coin, we can still help get news in front of people either though media or their feeds.

And that’s where understanding influence and influencers comes into play. Martin mentions a new type of influencer: a young video game player with an engaged audience who was featured in an article in the NYTimes. And the profession needs to refine its approach to public relationship-building to take this into account.

Are algorithms the new equivalent of editors – we don’t know who/what they are and yet they make many decisions? Is that a good or a bad thing? We’d love to hear what you think.

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Inside PR is produced by Ashlea McGrath.