20 South by Southwest Interactive panels journalists won't want to miss

Many of this year's South by Southwest Interactive sessions tackle a central question: How can we adapt to, and be part of, the ongoing changes in technology? The festival features sessions on data journalism, mobile, social media and news consumption.

If you're one of the 27,000 people headed to Austin, Texas, for SXSWi, you can use the list below to plan your schedule. If you are not attending in person (or can't be in two simultaneous sessions at once), you can follow the hashtags below to learn from the panels.

Here are 20 of the best sessions for journalists, organized by day and time.

Friday, March 8

It's Reddit's Web. We Just Live in it.
5 - 6 p.m., Sheraton, #RedditsWeb

Journalists who want to learn more about Reddit should attend this session, which will look at Reddit’s growth and its role in news events such as the Occupy Wall Street protests and the controversy surrounding SOPA copyright legislation. It will also address a key question: “How is Reddit's power altering Web culture -- and should we celebrate it, or fear it?” Panelists are Gawker media pop culture/media blogger Adrian Chen; Slate technology columnist Farhad Manjoo; and SkepChick blogger Rebecca Watson.

Saturday, March 9

Too Long Didn’t Read: The Future of Indie Longform
11 a.m. -- 12 p.m., Convention Center, #tldrsxsw

This session will look at new, independent sites that publish longform stories. Panelists will look at how these indie publications are "fostering a new generation of writing talent, building new communities of readers, and displaying a new energy that sometimes outshines their old media counterparts.” Editors from The Bygone Bureau, The Millions and The Morning News will talk about longform’s role on the Web, and how tools such as Readability and Instapaper can both hurt and help longform journalism.

Beyond Work/Life: Changing the Debate and Making Change
11 a.m. -- 12 p.m., Hilton, #longgame

Anne-Marie Slaughter will discuss her piece, “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All,” which was the most-read story in The Atlantic's history. Specifically, she’ll talk about how women and men can excel personally and professionally by moving beyond a “simple career/family dichotomy.” Though not directly related to journalism, the session is likely to interest journalists interested in achieving a better work/life balance. Joining Slaughter will be Jezebel Editor-in-Chief Jessica Coen. (The related session, ”Ok, Women Can't Have It All, but Maybe No One Can,” also looks good.)

Is there a West vs. East Journo Battle Brewing?
12:30 - 1:30 p.m., Convention Center, #EastVSWest

This Knight-sponsored session will look at how the digital era has eclipsed geographical boundaries. Panelists, who include Politico’s Dylan Byers and Atlantic Editor Scott Stossel, will address the traditional notion that to be successful in the media industry, you have to spend time on the East Coast -- and how that notion's changing. “Los Angeles, San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Portland, and Seattle are becoming part of what’s now being referred to as the 'Great Crescent,'" the panel description reads. Panelists will answer these questions, among others: "Is there an emerging 'Western' voice? Is there a need for one?"

A Home on the Web: The State of Media Blogging in 2013
12:30 - 1:30 p.m., Hyatt Regency, #sxswwp

In this panel, All Things Digital’s Kara Swisher and WordPress Co-Founder Matt Mullenweg will talk about how the rise of social media sites has changed the way we think about blogging. Together, they’ll discuss “the future of blogging in a fragmented, social media-crazed world.” Here are some questions to consider if you attend this session: How has the definition of blogging changed in the era of Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr? How can you best adapt to the changes? What are the benefits and downsides to blogging on a platform like WordPress v. microblogging on social networking sites?

Make Me Care: Digital Storytelling to Affect Change
12:30 - 1:30 p.m., Convention Center, #makemecare

This session will address how we can affect change by evolving the way we tell stories digitally. NPR’s Michele Norris will talk about how she did this through her Race Card Project, which led more than 12,000 people to share their thoughts on race in America. She’ll highlight related projects and describe how they helped tell stories and build communities online. Joining her will be David Modigliani, creative director of Flow Nonfiction, and GMMB’s Susan Feeney and Joel Johnson.

Make it Rain with Mobile: Turn Data into Dollars
3:30 - 4:30 p.m., Sheraton, #hyperlocal

This session will talk about how to use mobile to target specific geographic locations. Panelist David Kennedy, CEO and chairman of The Weather Channel, will talk about how The Weather Channel has built its mobile audience and offer related insights. Specifically, he will “detail how brands can now target beyond the  ZIP code down to a city block, time of day and relevant message” -- and how this relates to local advertising.

The Information Diet
5 - 6 p.m., Convention Center, #infodiet

In his book, “The Information Diet,” Clay Johnson argues that just as people need to be conscious about the food they eat, they also need to be conscious of the news they consume. “The industrialization of food brought upon mass obesity,” the description for Johnston’s panel says. “The industrialization of media brings about a new kind of mass-ignorance that comes not from the lack of information but from the consumption of it.” During the session, Johnson will draw on the points he addresses in his book and offer insight on how to develop a better information diet.

Sunday, March 10

Is Women's Media Too Girly?
11 a.m. - 12 p.m., Hyatt, #womangirl

This panel will look at whether journalism is serving women's interests, and whether media created by women is too "girly." It will answer these important questions: "Do female journalists and writers undermine themselves (and other women) by publishing odes to frozen yogurt, writing about their breakups or creating a cable show about female friendship? Or does 'girly' media surface and acknowledge women's experiences as important and worth hearing?" Panelists include Jezebel Founder Anna Holmes and Margaret Johnson, women's editor at AOL/Huffington Post Media Group.

Hacking the News Around the World 
12:30 - 1:30 p.m., Omni Downtown, #hhworld

This Hacks/Hackers session will look at how the journalism-technology movement has developed globally. The panelists, who include Storify co-founder and Hacks/Hackers founder Burt Herman -- will talk about how to build a hacker culture in places where hacking is looked down upon. They’ll address the challenges of closed societies and data mining in countries where data isn’t readily available. They’ll also talk about some of the hackathons they’ve run and data-related projects they’ve created that have helped bring communities together.

Slap My Words Up: Language in the Digital World 
12:30 - 1:30 p.m., Omni Downtown, #writeway

“Googling and unfriending are verbs, no one knows what to do with a semicolon, and maybe it doesn’t matter.” Or does it? The session will touch upon how our understanding of Internet verbiage can affect what people think of our brand. It's ripe for debate and discussion about how language is evolving with the Internet. Panelists include Fast Company reporter Neal Ungerleider and Sean Carton, director for digital communication commerce & culture at the University of Baltimore.

The Signal & The Noise
3:30 - 4:30 p.m., Convention Center, #noisedata

FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver will draw upon his work with predictions and explain how we can "distinguish a true signal from a universe of noisy data." He'll also talk about why people mistake confident predictions for accurate ones, and how an appreciation for uncertainty can help us improve the predictions we make. "The more humility we have about our ability to make predictions," the panel description says, "the more successful we can be in planning for the future."

Monday, March 11

Digital Drama: Growing up in the Age of Facebook
12:30 - 1:30 p.m., Sheraton, #teendrama

This panel includes a star lineup of speakers -- Bill Keller, Danah Boyd, Emily Bazelon and Jason Rzepka. They’ll look at how social media and mobile technology have given teenagers a way to cultivate new personas and “connect to people they might not otherwise meet -- an especial boon for some gay kids and minorities.” They’ll also highlight research that shows how teen boys and girls spend their time differently online, and what parents, policy makers and educators can do to better understand the development of the Facebook generation. The information could be helpful to journalists who want a better understanding of how to reach a young audience online.

Censoring the News: Detector-Driven Journalism
3:30 - 4:30 p.m., Omni Downtown, #sensornws

This session will address the drawbacks of data that’s collected by the government, and answer these questions: What should you do if the government doesn’t keep the data you need? And what if the data you need is questionable or incomplete? The session will also highlight how some journalists and citizens are finding ways to gather their own data so they can better understand and report on issues affecting their local communities. Panelists are MIT’s Sarah Williams, Behavio’s Nadav Aharony, the University of Nebraska’s Matt Waite, and WNYC’s John Keefe. 

The Making of a Meme
3:30 - 4:30 p.m., Hyatt Regency, #photomeme

“How can traditional photography survive in an Internet world?” and “When does an Internet meme become bigger than copyright?” These are two of the questions this panel will address. Panelists will talk about the challenges that social media have created in the photojournalism world, and how professional photographers can get proper credit for their work. They’ll also talk about the photography meme Texts from Hillary and will discuss how Instagram, Tumblr and other photo-driven sites have changed the way we tell stories visually. Panelists are Adam Smith, co-creator of the Texts from Hillary Tumblr; BuzzFeed freelancer Stacy Lambe;  and Time photojournalists Diana Walker and Kira Pollack.

How Partisan Media Contributes to Healthy Politics
5 - 6 p.m., Convention Center, #polimedia

Is partisanship really so bad? This panel, which includes two journalists and a political scientist, will challenge conventional wisdom and explain the benefits of partisanship in the media. The panelists will draw on research in political science and psychology and talk about how journalists can use social media to “facilitate greater deliberation” instead of simply contributing to the rise of “closed thought bubbles.”

Confessions of a Community Moderator
5 - 6 p.m., Sheraton, #ModConfess

This session will be good for journalists who are frustrated by reader comments and want to get a better sense of how to foster a healthy dialogue online. Panelists -- who include Lizz Kannenberg, director of social media for Walton Isaacson, will talk about the role of a community manager and why it’s important to the growth of a site. “Come for the vent session; stay for the camaraderie and tips for staying sane.”

Fast Food and Fact-Checking: Lessons from PolitiFact
5 - 6 p.m., Convention Center, #fastfact

In this session, PolitiFact Editor Bill Adair will discuss what the fast-food industry taught him about creating a fact-checking news operation. Specifically, he’ll talk about how he “adapted techniques like secret tasters, in-depth training programs and a build-a-burger approach to accountability journalism.” He’ll also talk about why this franchise approach works and how it can foster collaborative journalism. Joining him will be The Lens’ Steve Myers (formerly of Poynter.org).

Tuesday, March 12

Location! The importance of geodata
11 a.m. - 12 p.m., Sheraton, #geodata

This session will look at what we can learn from geographic information and location-based devices that help us “visualize inequalities in media attention, develop epidemiological models to predict the spread of diseases, find dissident safe houses in times of political upheaval and coordinate crisis response.” The panelists will talk about how these devices are changing our social relationships, as well as who’s contributing data (and who’s not). The session would be good for anyone looking to find out more about how geolocation can factor into news coverage. (This related geolocation session with Foursquare Founder Dennis Crowley also looks good.)

The Big Power Shift in Media
12:30 - 1:30 p.m., Convention Center, #PowerShift

In this session BuzzFeed CEO and Founder Jonah Peretti will talk about the next wave in media innovation. He’ll explain how to spread your ideas to a wider audience, why banner ads are dying, and how to adapt to the changes that social media has wrought. He’ll also talk about how Twitter and Facebook “have become the new starting point for news, entertainment and culture,” and why it matters.

Three Poynter faculty members are also leading sessions/discussions: Kelly McBride -- "New Standards for a New Era of Journalism"; Ellyn Angelotti -- "The Copyright Era Meets the Open-Source World"; and Sara Quinn -- "Lean Forward, Lean Back: Tablet News Experiences." 

What other sessions should we add to the list? Share your recommendations in the comments section

  • Mallary Jean Tenore

    As managing editor of The Poynter Institute’s website, Poynter.org, I report on the media news industry, edit the site’s How To section, and moderate the site's live chats. I also help handle the site's social media efforts, and teach social media sessions on the side.


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