After seeing him speak and meeting him a couple times I’m a big fan of Adrian’s work. He was one of the first people to “mash up” google maps at chicagocrime.org; has set the bar for local online media content at lawrence.com; created the Congressional Votes Database at the washingtonpost which allows you to (among other things) get an RSS feed for your representatives votes; and has created probably the most popular web framework for python.
But the thing that really impresses me the most about him is how he mixes the role of technologist and journalist. If you are curious take a look at the commencement speech he just gave at his alma matter, University of Missouri’s School of Journalism. Now if you work in/for a libraries/archives (which is likely given this blogs focus) just substitute ‘journalism’ for ‘libraries’ as you read the piece. You may be surprised to learn that the field of Journalism finds itself in much the same dire straits that Librarianship is in:
Then there’s this whole Internet thing – which is clearly evil. Some guy in San Francisco runs a Web site, Craigslist, that lets anybody post a classified ad for free – completely bypassing the newspaper classifieds and, therefore, chipping away at one of newspapers’ most important sources of revenue. Why would I post a classified ad in a newspaper, which charges me money for a tiny ad in which I’m forced to use funky abbreviations just to fit within the word limit, when I can post a free ad to Craigslist, with no space limitation and the ability to post photos, maps and links? Google lets anybody place an ad on search results. Why would I, the consumer, place an ad on TV, radio or in a newspaper, if I can do the same on Google for less money and arguably more reach?
The foundation that you got here is important because it will guide you for the rest of your journalism career. It’s important because, no matter what you do in this industry, it all comes back to that foundation. No matter how the industry changes, no matter how your jobs may change, it all comes back to the core journalism values you’ve learned here at Missouri.
But, most of all, the foundation is important because you need to understand the rules before you can break them. And now, more than ever, this industry needs to break some rules.
You’re going to be the people breaking the rules. You’re going to be the people inventing new ones. You’ll be the person who says, “Hey, let’s try this new way of getting our journalism out to the public.” You’ll be the PR person who says, “Let’s try this new way of public relations that takes advantage of the Internet.” You’ll be the photographer who says, “Wow, quite a few amateur photographers are posting their photos online. Let’s try to incorporate that into our journalism somehow.”
So think about how exciting that is. Rarely is an entire industry in a position such that it needs to completely reinvent itself.
What are the rules of the library profession that we need to break? In my conversations with fellow library technologists we often talk about how the profession needs to be advanced, like we are uniquely effected by the massive changes in media/information in the last 10 years. I think we should draw some comfort from the fact that we’re not the only ones dealing with this new terrain–as we kick ourselves in the pants. Perhaps some new professions are being born out of this melange.
Adrian is the type of professional I’d like to be, that’s for sure.