The Mario Blog
Meditations on Google, narratives and (?) computational journalism

TAKEAWAY: So a Google exec thinks we should do away with narratives and go for “computational journalism”? ALSO: It is a new look for Australia’s regional daily, Illawarra Mercury

This is the weekend edition of TheMarioBlog and it will be updated as needed. The next new post will be Monday, April 30.

Update #4: Saturday, Rochester, NY: 18:14

TAKEAWAY: So a Google exec thinks we should do away with narratives and go for “computational journalism”? ALSO: It is a new look for Australia’s regional daily, Illawarra Mercury

blog post image

Google should stick to searching!

Here is a piece that caught my eye, starting with the headline. Perhaps it is the fact that I have spent part of my week participating in a a WAN IFRA Latin America conference, where the notion of re-invention of everything from the way the newsroom architecture is set up, to the way the economics of charging for content are evaluated, to the way we train journalists to think multimedia, was all part of the two-day discussions.

However, here is another type of reinvention: how we write, and, more importantly, how we teach journalism to a new generation of journalists.

According to this piece, Google’s head of news products and Google+ programming Richard Gingras told media executives the following:

“We need to rethink how we teach journalism, There will be a day – and it should not be far from now – where we can create persistent forms of stories not written in narrative form but in (Google) Fusion Tables and query strings, status updates and tweets.”

Then, he added:

“This is a renaissance of media and journalism,” explaining that “computational journalism” can amount to “the reinvention of the reporter’s notebook”

I am doing a mini meditation on this.

Two publishers from very large Latin American newspapers approached me Thursday to ask me how I saw the state of journalism education generally, with one of them saying:

“Based on what we have learned here in Santiago the past two days, including from your lecture, our journalism schools are not sending us graduates who are prepared to tackled the challenges.”

That is one big general statement, and I am sure that there are very good journalism schools that are doing it right, including several I have visited in the past 12 months in the United States, and, some from around the world where my contact with their students leads me to believe that there is a smart dialog about the state of the industry, the requirements of the new breed of journalists, and, indeed, the new forms of writing that are going to be important in a multi platform world.

However, I am not so sure I understand what “computational journalism” is all about, and maybe I do not wish to know. Will every story be told through numbers? (Boring and impersonal). Will info graphics be the only storytelling tool? (Works in some cases, but not for all).

I have no question in my mind that a good, solid, old fashioned narrative is as good today, in almost any platform, as it was when Ernest Hemingway was writing for the Kansas City Star
Google’s Gingras may not favor the narrative, but in my 40+ years in this business, I have sat through enough gatherings of readers to tell them that, indeed, those readers value a good narrative that engages them.?

I prefer to keep using Google as the search engine to find those good narratives, but perhaps Google should let someone else write them.

A couple of articles on “computational journalism”

A new framework for innovation in journalism: How a computer scientist would do it

Can an algorithm write a better news story than a human reporter?

New look for Australian regional daily

blog post image

blog post image

blog post image

blog post image

blog post image

blog post image

It was last August 2011, during a trip I made to beautiful Australia, to speak at the PANPA conference in Sydney when I met Steve Cassell, production editor of the regional daily, Illawarra Mercury. The Mercury is published in Illawarra,,a coastal city situated immediately south of Sydney, in a region in the Australian state of New South Wales.

Steve and his team asked me for a little “special time” to show me the work they were doing on an in-house redesign of The Mercury. This was one of those meetings of which I have dozens during the course of a year: you are speaking at a conference, and a group of editors, usually from a small regional daily or weekly, asks ahead of time to show you their handy work. Such was the case here.

I remember that I looked at what Steve and his team had and made some suggestions. I forgot about this until this week, when Steve wrote me with an attachment of the new Mercury, of which he and his team are very proud.

Here is what Steve wrote:

“You may remember giving an hour of your time to myself and Illawarra Mercury editor, Stuart Howie, while visiting the PANPA conference in Sydney, Australia, in August last year. Your advice was extremely helpful and was applied in many areas of the redesigned Mercury, which was launched on March 25 this year. “ 

 I think the new Mercury uses photos well and the content has been organized to make it easier to navigate. Steve has sent the “before” pages for a comparison.

Although I do not recall the specifics of this redesign, I do see that this what one would call a mild redesign, with nothing to shock the reader. However, in my view, the new Mercury seems a bit more upscale, with a more focused approach to story presentation, photo use and, particularly, the front page design, which was the most dramatic change .

My only recommendation: I wish the team had done more with story structures. All stories carry the basic headline then jump into text, there is a lack of texture here, but this is something that can be implemented even after the redesign has been launched. Go for it, and thanks for sharing these.

Pages of the Mercury BEFORE the redesign

blog post image

blog post image

blog post image

Weekend reads

Weekend reads:

-President Obama: ‘I read all of the New York Times columnists’ | Poynter.
– UK: Rupert Murdoch predicts newspapers could die out in 10 years

First paragraph:

Rupert Murdoch has predicted there may be no newspapers in 10 years’ time because of the competition from the internet, and urged the government not to “over-regulate” them out of existence.

– Flipboard is ‘head-on competitor’ on Economist’s road to all-digital

First paragraph:

The Economist’s CEO thinks news publishing will go all-digital at some point in the near- to mid-term.

– Researchers: There will be twice as many tablet owners in 2014

First paragraph:

Carrying on from a raft of new figures on how tablet ownership is about to explode, Futuresource Consulting has now said that there will be twice as many tablet owners in USA and western Europe by 2014.

– Vadim Lavrusik: 10 ways journalists can use Facebook


Facebook’s journalist programme manager has been in the UK telling journalists how he thinks they should best use Facebook

– #Tip of the day from – build your news brand on Foursquare

blog post image

Today’s pop up comes from Bild: celebrating the first year since the Royal Wedding of William and Kate, and asking: you sure they want babies?

Where in the world is Mario?

April 27, Rochester, NY—speaking at Digital Reading Symposium at RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology). I am honored to be in this gathering which explores the art and science of reading on screens .

April 29-May 7: at home in Tampa, Florida

The iPad Design Lab: Storytelling in the Age of the Tablet

blog post image

Video walkthrough of the iPad prototype of iPad Design Lab

TheMarioBlog post #1005
Blog Post02.21.2017—3am
In Dubai: Gulf News launches Sponsored Content
Blog Post02.20.2017—2am
Newsroom technology survey: important to participate
Blog Post02.17.2017—8am
Trumpian front pages
Blog Post02.16.2017—2am
Ties that bind: storytelling, design, coding
Blog Post02.15.2017—2am
Wanted: A Bring-Back-the-Copy Editors campaign
Blog Post02.14.2017—2am
Trump chaos incites newspaper marketing strategies
Blog Post02.13.2017—2am
In the era of fake news, fake photos?
Blog Post02.10.2017—6pm
The Economist does it again
Blog Post02.08.2017—1am
Voices in the news
Blog Post02.07.2017—2am
The quickly disappearing art of copy editing
Blog Post02.06.2017—2am
Some of my favorite e-mail newsletters
Blog Post02.03.2017—3am
Behold the Apple Watch : it’s still here, going strong
Blog Post02.02.2017—3am
News as a 24-hour event
Blog Post02.01.2017—3am
Visual storytelling innovation: key to progress in 2017
Blog Post01.31.2017—2am
Digital Design Challenge: Those article pages move up front
Blog Post01.30.2017—3am
Pages we like: Spain’s ABC
Blog Post01.27.2017—2am
It’s a new sports printed newspaper in Germany
Blog Post01.26.2017—3am
The new Axios: worthy of a look
Blog Post01.25.2017—3am
Mobile storytelling: fast, furious and simple
Blog Post01.24.2017—2am
New semester, new emphasis on visual storytelling
Blog Post01.23.2017—2am
The role of WED in creating a rich palette of visual storytelling for mobile
Blog Post01.20.2017—3am
Digital storytelling, Part Two: A linear fusion of narrative, imagery
Blog Post01.19.2017—5am
Digital storytelling, Part One: The fusion of writing/editing/design
Blog Post01.18.2017—2am
Designers of all ages: Let’s rethink, reinvent and recharge
Blog Post01.17.2017—2am
Those email newsletters (or briefings) gain importance
Blog Post01.11.2017—6pm
It’s always been about change
Blog Post01.03.2017—2am
Brutalism in web design: hoping it is not a forever trend
Blog Post12.19.2016—3am
Two predictions for journalism in the new year: Virtual Reality and Sponsored Content will thrive
Blog Post12.16.2016—3am
‘Tis the season for good media news
Blog Post12.15.2016—2am
Haptical, virtual reality and subscription service
Blog Post12.14.2016—2am
These media predictions resonate
Blog Post12.13.2016—2am
Austin Design Summit today
Blog Post12.12.2016—3am
In Denmark: great redesign of mobile, website for Politiken
Blog Post12.09.2016—3am
Sponsored content: Getting started (Part Five)
Blog Post12.08.2016—2am
Sponsored content: how much to charge (Part Four)
Blog Post12.07.2016—2am
Sponsored content and the local newspaper (Part Three)
Blog Post12.06.2016—3am
Sponsored content: who produces it? (Part Two)
Blog Post12.05.2016—3am
Sponsored content: the promising new frontier (Part One)
Blog Post11.27.2016—6am
The death of Fidel Castro: how newspapers covered it
Blog Post11.26.2016—11am
Adios to the man who made me a refugee
Contact us with speaking requests, questions or to discuss a project.