SXSW’s big themes to follow: surveillance, social and rise of self

Editor’s Note: Poynter will be at South by Southwest, the annual music, movie and interactive festival, March 7-16, in Austin, Texas. Look for our Poynter faculty members, Roy Peter Clark, Ellyn Angelotti and Kelly McBride, and digital media reporter Sam Kirkland.

Earlier we looked at sessions journalists should plan on attending. Here are the media-oriented themes we expect to play a big role at the conference, which starts today.

Government surveillance

Snowden, Assange and Greenwald (AP images)

SXSW has brought three cybersecurity bigwigs to the party — and they’re big enough they can only join via video conference. It’s the first SXSW since Glenn Greenwald published stories in the Guardian based on Edward Snowden leaked NSA secrets, so these two are the marquee names. Each has his own session at SXSW, and so does WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

The three men haven’t been shy about expressing their disdain for the media — Greenwald has called the U.S. and British press the “most loyal, devoted servants” of surveillance agencies — so we’ll be listening closely for how much of their ire is directed at the news.

Meanwhile, reporters from Re/code, TechCrunch and The Next Web will answer a tough question: Why didn’t tech journalists like themselves didn’t break the PRISM story? And a Friday session explores how journalists can become better transparency reporters.

New ethics of social media

Most news organizations don’t need to be convinced of the importance of social media and blogging anymore. But what about the newer wave of social networks and publishing apps? And how do we deal with complicated ethical challenges now that we’re embracing new-media tools in our news gathering?

The AP’s Eric Carvin and Digital First Media Mandy Jenkins will talk on Sunday about “the responsibilities news organizations have to citizen journalists.”

Other social session topics include how defamation law applies to tweets; whether there’s a sheriff in town when it comes to ensuring journalistic integrity online; how to push social media to its limits and take storytelling risks on social platforms; and why news gatherers and professional photographers should embrace Instagram.

Viral’s impact and future

As the viral bubble grew in 2013 — and then perhaps weakened as Facebook changes its News Feed algorithm — content from the likes of Upworthy has been alternately mocked for its lack of seriousness and praised for its ability to resonate with readers.

On Monday, David Carr of The New York Times talks to Upworthy’s CEO about, among other topics, “whether there should be a Pulitzer for most viral content.”

Another Monday session focuses on how journalism can monetize mission, not memes. But before that, today, there’s “Viral Sucks,” with a hashtag that could perhaps endure long after SXSW is over.

My personal brand

Bill Simmons of Grantland and FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver talk on Saturday about their personal brands and how they are developing sites based on their unique voices under the auspices of ESPN.

On Sunday, “Are We All Producers Now?” covers the rise of the personal brand and future of media from a Silicon Valley-Hollywood perspective. Dana Brunetti, who produced The Social Network and House of Cards joins Randi Zuckerberg, former Facebook executive and founder of Zuckerberg Media.

Poynter at SXSW: Welcome back to the WED dance | The ins and outs of Twibel | Algorithms, Journalism and Democracy | Schedule of sessions focused on the news media

We have made it easy to comment on posts, however we require civility and encourage full names to that end (first initial, last name is OK). Please read our guidelines here before commenting.