ddc and icm: sydette harry and nikole hannah-jones

on monday, sydette harry, the community manager for the coral project, spoke to our class. her approach was much more interactive than francis’s, and she really managed to get us to participate in a way that we hadn’t yet.

where francis mostly says information at us (a method i like, but mileage varies), sydette’s technique felt more like collecting information from us. it felt like we were all learning from each other. she asked open-ended questions, wrote responses on the board (!) with chalk (!), and let the responses dictate what content she covered next. i’m sure she already had a loose idea of what she wanted to go over, but she also struck me as someone who has experience/talent improvising and extracting compelling ideas from hesitant/skeptical audiences.

the primary question for the two hours was:

“how do you meet the needs of people who don’t know they’re part of a community (yet)?”

this is the state of affairs for commenters on news sites.

we talked about tuckman’s stages of group development: forming, norming, storming, and performing; and how the obstacle to forming community on the internet is that there’s not consensus about what the task at hand is. the “performing” step, the really important one, is interrupted or never accomplished.

this was all on my mind at the panel on civil rights reporting i went to tonight. at one point, nikole hannah-jones said (to paraphrase) that the public now has access to reporters through social media—that if reporters misrepresent a story, they now have to answer for things they might not have had to answer for in the past.

which i found interesting because in francis’s class, we’re often talking about a “don’t read the comments” paradigm of interaction between readers and journalists. i asked nikole in the q&a how she decides who to listen to, what the balance is between answering readers on social media and ignoring ugly comments. where i collapsed these two into the same category of interaction, she really emphasized the difference between social media and comments. she said she only ever reads five comments deep on a given article but that, in her experience, when there’s a hateful comment that she actually takes time to respond to, the tone of the commenter changes in the follow-up; commenters don’t actually expect their words to reach a human, and they don’t expect to be addressed by a human in response. and (still paraphrasing) she said that the kind of discourse that happens on social media is qualitatively different.

all food for thought, maybe for my icm final project. i’m excited to hear nikole hannah-jones again at the creative summit next weekend.

notes from sydette harry's lecture
notes from sydette harry’s lecture

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