Part 1: Tool Report
Description and Instructions
What is News360?
To put it simply, News360 is a news aggregation tool. This news analysis tool provides a unique touch to the art of news compilation when it is being compared to other news aggregation tools. Roman Karachinsky, News360’s co-founder maintained that the tool’s differentiator is a background in scientific analysis (Beling, 2011) as opposed to prioritising personalization and social aggregation. Based on the tool’s use of scientific analysis, News360 provides users relevant and fresh news (News360team, 2011) which are of respectable quality. It does this by taking note of the user’s online activities and interests. After doing so, the tool delivers tailor-made news articles specific to each user. Credibility is associated with the tool which boasts publishing partners (Tech Europe, 2012) such as The Chicago Tribune, The Atlantic as well as FOX Sports. Apart from that, News360 is also available in app form which makes it convenient (Webster, 2012) to utilize because of the mobility aspect. The app version of the tool also exhibits impressive features as a News Reader app. It includes an attractive browsing interface, and a strong emphasis on the news-scanning algorithm (Needleman, 2012) which sets it apart.
How to Use News360?
On the top right hand corner of Figure 1, the purple boxes indicate links to articles which have been saved and liked. Apart from that, it shows how recent the tool has been updated. There is also the option of providing feedback. The middle of the page depicts the list of news stories. The green boxes beside the stories exhibit the multiple sources available for the same piece of story. On the left portion of the page; users have the option of reading articles on specific topics.
When users click on the “Add new section” button on the topic selection bar, it will lead to the topic selection page as seen in in Figure 2. Users have the choice of adding or deleting topics from their personalized topic selection bar.
Figure 3:Screenshot of the politics page.
Figure 3 portrays an example of the results page when users click on a certain topic, for instance, politics. The orange boxes indicate stories pertaining to politics. The green boxes on the top and left of the page allow users the option of selecting different topics on politics.
Figure 4: Screen shot of the page portrayed once an article is selected by the user.
Once the user selects a certain news article to read, a page similar to the one in Figure 4 will appear. The green boxes on the top of the page portray videos and photos in relation to the news article. The purple boxes below the green boxes on the other hand portray different news sources on the same story.
Figure 5: Screenshot of the story selected in Figure 5 by an alternative news source.
Figure 6: Screenshot of suggested stories that the user may be interested in based on the news article selected. This is located on the bottom of the page.
Figure 7: Screenshot of the results attained after searching for a topic in the search box located on the top left hand corner.
Figure 7 depicts the page users will arrive at if they make use of the search engine. Conveniently, News360 has churned up topics related to the topic searched on the search engine. These can be located in the purple box on the top right.
How is News360 relevant to a 21C Media Professional?
The 21st Century has ushered in a digital age which allows practically anyone with a computing device and internet access (Fleming, Hemmingway, Moore, & Welford, 2006) to be a journalist. This convenience brought about by technological innovation provides advantages and disadvantages to a media professional. Scholarly work (Bruns, 2011) done by media researchers has pointed out the challenges faced by media professionals and how news aggregation tools can help them face these challenges.
With that said, the following will be an analysis pertaining to the affordances, constraints, pros, and cons of News360 for media professionals doing research for news writing. Hutchby described technological affordances to be “functional and relational aspects which frame, while not determining, the possibilities for agentic action in relation to an object” (Hutchby, 2001), which essentially means features that allow action (Rintel, 2012). For instance, a bed affords resting and sleeping whether or not someone intends to. On the contrary, constraints could simply be described as features which limit action.” (Rintel, 2012) Physical constraints limit some actions entirely, but cultural and logical constraints can be disregarded or violated (Norman, 1999). Hence, technological affordances and constraints can either be technical or purposive. They are stable and they control what users can or cannot do (Rintel, 2012). Apart from that, technological affordances and constraints can be design preferred, design dispreferred, design dependent or design independent. Purposive affordances and constraints, on the other hand, are actions the user interface encourages or discourages, how the user interface coincides with social and cultural practices, and may be independent of the design’s intention (Rintel, 2012).
Dover informs us that online news is characterized by three main types of content provider. The first group is traditional media sources such as The Washington Post and The New York Times, which combine significant original reporting with a smaller amount of news-agency content (Dover, 2007). The second group is “disintermediated” producers of original news content, which bypass intermediaries. This group would include the relatively fresh high-profile websites of news agencies such as the AP and Reuters, which provide agency stories direct to news readers (Dover, 2007). The third group is comprised of intermediaries such as CNN Interactive and MSNBC, which, for international news at least, convey stories written by wire services with little or no editing. This group also includes news aggregator sites like AltaVista, Excite, Google, and Yahoo! where the AP and Reuters provide the lion’s share of the news, despite what Paterson calls an “audacious pretense at source diversity” where end users are “falling for a conjurer’s trick. . .duped by more brand labels on the same very limited news content” (Dover, 2007).Apart from that, Wilcox states that two key issues in news writing are choosing newsworthy topics and targeting fragmented audiences (Wilcox, 2009).
With that in mind, news aggregation tools such as News360 could make the task of gathering reliable news more feasible for media professionals. Due to its ability to sieve out unreliable or unrelated content, it makes the task of gathering trustworthy information easier. This eradicates the phenomenon described by Turner who mentioned that the advent of the digital age triggered celebrities out of ordinary people. These “celebrities” are hyped-based and are only working towards virtual fame (Turner, 2006). Hence, News360’s algorithm function is extremely useful for media professionals who intend to attain specific types of information. The following will explain in detail how News360 is a useful tool for media professionals.
Figure 8: Screenshot of search engine.
News360’s search engine is extremely useful because it is a designed preferred, technical affordance which allows users to conveniently search for news or topics. It is a particularly suitable tool for media professionals who are looking to search for specific information. Apart from that, searching for news in the search engine leads to a page which affords the user several options of topics and sources relating to the news searched in the search engine, apart from news stories relating to what was searched of course. This obviously allows the user to compare news pieces which turn up in the results portion. Hence, this affordance is fluid and purposive because it takes the purpose of News360, which is to provide credible news, and employs it through a technique that is independent of the design’s purpose.
Figure 8.2: Search results page.
Figure 9: Topic Selection page
The freedom to add or remove certain topics from your personal account is a purposive affordance. Since News360 is a personalized news aggregation site, it encourages users to browse according to their interests and edit the topic selection bar according to their individual tastes. By hovering on the mouse above each displayed topic, users will be able to view whether or not those topics are in their personalized topic selection bar by observing the cross or the tick. The tick indicates that the particular topic is already a part of their topic selection bar. These options afford the user the choice of personalization. This is very useful for media professionals who are looking to tackle specific niche areas such as fashion and music. The convenience afforded by the topic selection option is definitely a pro which helps media professionals to take away irrelevant information, making it faster for media professionals to attain specific information. Since Galtung and Ruge have provided media professionals with a set of news values to determine the worth of news stories which include relevance and timeliness (Galtung & Ruge, 1965), topic selection afforded by News360 is certainly a useful tool for media professionals to stay updated conveniently.
How News360 can be integrated into the production of reliable news content?
In April this year, Frank Lake wrote an article on the LAPD’s (Los Angeles Police Department) intention of purchasing jetpacks to help maintain Law and order (Lake, 2012). The article was published in Weekly World News. The information provided by Lake however, was false. The carelessness of providing unreliable news could have been avoided if Lake had done more research and consulted different sources. If used during the time the article was about to be published, News360 could have helped Lake in more ways than one.
Firstly, Lake could have mentioned the consultation of his news sources and realize that what had been assumed was false. Secondly, Lake could have made use of the topic and source selection tools afforded by News360 to attain more information regarding the topic. Apart from that, Lake should have analyzed the different sources to conclude what really took place as well as the newsworthiness of the topic. Assessing the level of newsworthiness can be done by selecting news from the ‘Top Stories’ topic of the topic selection bar.
|Selecting a Topic||Pros||Cons||N/A|
|Media Research||Recommended. The usage of scientific algorithm makes it convenient for journalists researching for specific topics.|
|Newsworthiness||Recommended. By utilising the ‘Top Stories’ topic selection, journalists can easily gauge which stories are newsworthy.|
|Angle||Recommended. The ease of attaining different sources of the same news makes it easy for journalists to attain different perspectives of a story, hence, making it convenient for them to select an angle to work with.|
|Defining Topic||Recommended. News360 is fortified with different topics to choose from, making it easy to define any single topic.|
|Choosing Sources||Recommended with caution. The availability of sources makes it very easy to pick out which sources they would want to work with.||At the same time, choosing sources from a variety of reliable sources may be tricky as well because the issue of news agenda for specific news agencies may come into question.|
|Facts and Figures||Recommended. Facts may be easily attained from a variety of sources. Journalists can also specifically select (add or delete) which sources to get their information from.|
|Anecdotes||Recommended. Personal anecdotes can be attained from personal opinionated sources such as blogs provided by news agencies.|
|Documents, photographs, video and audio information/content||Recommended. A multitude of photos and videos are attached to any one topic or news story. This makes it easy to verify the credibility of certain content.|
|Checking Credibility||Recommended. News360’s ability to provide a variety of credible sources makes it easy for journalists to look through the information to analyse the authenticity of the news. This also allows journalists to make their own informed conclusions.|
|Selecting most important data||Recommended. By utilising the ‘Top Stories’ topic selection, journalists can easily gauge which stories are deemed important.|
Part 2: Story using various sources provided by News360
Behold, the Tractor Beam!
Figure10: USS Enterprise
Brace yourselves, Trekkies, because you’re in for a hell of a ride once you find out that a real life tractor beam has recently been created by David Ruffner and David Grier, scientists from New York University. This remarkable technology makes use of energy to attract objects towards a source had been inspired by the technology in the Star Trek franchise.
The secret behind this creative innovation lies behind Bessel beams. According to Phys.org, Bob Yirka explains that Bessel beams are essentially types of lasers that emit light in concentric circles around a single dot. Bessel beams are named after its creator, Friedrich Bessel. The amazing feature of Bessel beams is that unlike common light beams, it doesn’t diffract after being focused on to a single point. With that said, Bessel beams also possess self-healing properties. For instance, if the beam is somewhat obstructed, it can reform at another point down the beam axis.
Once this was realized, researchers sought to take advantage of this unique property. The Bessel beam was used to attract an object back toward the source of the beam so that the object partially interferes with the path of the beam. If this process takes place with precision, the beam will inadvertently push away the back of the object while it reforms, miraculously enabling a tractor beam effect.
Figure 11: Bessel beam
Although the concept of the tractor beam sounds pretty uncomplicated, there is more to it than meets the eye. It takes a lot to go through the process with precision. Ruffner and Grier have tried and failed for several times before succeeding. Both Ruffner and Grier only perfected the process after a few attempts of trial and error. It was just a matter of coincidence when the both of them decided to make use of two beams. It is done with a lens that bends the beams just a little to ensure that the beams overlap. This, on the other hand, creates something much stronger than a single beam called the strobe effect. The strength created from this process is powerful enough to attract the object backwards.
Figure 12: Tractor Beam
As marvelous as the technology sounds, you better hold your horses, Trekkies, because the supposed tractor beam is only fully functional on tiny particles. Nevertheless, the future prospect of the tractor beam is as exciting as the possibility of teleportation, which was also inspired by Star Trek. Who knows, in the future we could possibly have the real-life USS Enterprise, a dream come true for all Star Trek fans out there.
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Figure 1-9 retrieved from http://news360.com
Figure 10 retrieved from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2222525/Real-life-Star-Trek-tractor-beam-developed–wont-dragging-space-ships-time-soon.html?ITO=1490&utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=Science%20%7C%20Mail%20Online&utm_campaign=twitter
Figure 11 retrieved from http://phys.org/news/2012-10-physics-duo-tractor-dual-bessel.html