TEDx on Journalism: The Evolution Continues


Maura Sweeney with Cheezburger's Founder and CEO Ben Huh at Poynter TEDx Conference


 “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”


                                                         ~ Mahatma Gandhi


I like to stay ahead of the curve.


The Poynter Institute for Media Studies, a journalistic resource and think tank now in its fortieth year, hosted its fourth TEDx Conference on the future of journalism.


Billed as a conference on disruption, it chronicled instead the evolutionary changes we’re experiencing as news reporting continues to move from the rarefied few to the general masses.


I was happy to revisit this annual event and learn how America is keeping democracy alive through freedom of the press, but in newer digital ways. 


A student of media and cultural shifts, I’ve enjoyed upfront seats at previous Poynter TEDx conferences. I’ve witnessed history as the old guard of newspaper and TV reporting slowly, if not grudgingly, gave way to a host of new and innovative voices.


As the general public moved into the digital space, venerated institutions reporting news and views endured a painful decline in advertising dollars, readership and social clout. I reported some of these changes when listening to social media pro Sree Sreenivasan at a previous TEDx conference. 


Along with others, I marveled while Sree explained how Twitter usurped the old newspaper scoop; how social media photos competed with professional news photographers; and how everyday bloggers were rising out of nowhere to deliver us the world as they viewed it.


As the population left traditional TV and newsprint to get their information, digital shifts left these once established news outlets wanting. America entered into a Brave New World of journalism.


People like Bill Gates and other architects of technology brought democratization into the sphere of reporting. Suddenly, every citizen – young and old, professionally trained or not – could offer their own brand of information and editorials to the digital universe of readers, viewers and listeners. The shift was as empowering as it was unsettling. That’s what I’d call disruption. 


Chapter Break Diamonds


Ellyn Angelotti Kamke, Poynter’s Director of Social Media and the Law, opened the conference with her story of disruption as the former petite teenager who joined her high school football team and completely disrupted the status quo.


Poynter’s VP and Senior Scholar Roy Peter Clark educated attendees on the meanings of disruption. We learned how disruption implies a tearing or bursting asunder, in literal as well as metaphorical fashion. It’s a great cataclysmic term, but likely better suited for previous conferences.


This latest TEDx journalism conference was not as disruptive as I anticipated because it lacked the shocks, breakthroughs and uncertainties I’d learned about in the past. However, it offered value to inquiring attendees like myself by featuring a host of bright minds. The day’s TEDx speakers crystallized where we are and illuminated where the path of journalism might lead us in the future.


The line-up launched with Mario Garcia, CEO of Garcia Media and instructor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Though well into his sixties, Mario is one of the hottest minds in journalism. Traveling the U.S. and the globe, he employs a keen mind and fashionable eye to redesign top magazines and news outlets for present day consumers. He promotes the concept of two tempos: “raw meat” (quick, digital headline bites) for those on the go and “cooked sirloin” (lean back, long form stories) for print and tablet use.  


Other TEDx speakers included Liz Heron, Head of News Partnerships at Facebook. Facebook recognizes that we’ve all become purveyors and commentators of news and wants to remain at the forefront of the trend. 


On a personal note, I enjoyed listening to Vox Media’s Yuri Victor. Clad in a wrinkled tee shirt and sporting long, uncombed hair, Yuri exuded humor and exuberance as the pied piper who helps modern day newsroom people get along. Employing digital, organizational and listening skills, he creates collective solutions for this uniquely human environment. He’s a fun magnet who could improve any collective culture,  journalistic or otherwise.


Chapter Break Diamonds


If there was one major disruptive force within the day’s conference, it came from Keren Elazari via a YouTube TEDx video. Keren represents a new tribe of well-intentioned digital hackers who discover and report on weaknesses in the internet’s immune system. Apparently, these present day cyber sleuths engage their on-line talents to help corporations, agencies and even governments stay better fortified in the digital space. Who could have imagined that hacking might become a noble and welcome profession?  


I enjoyed listening to each TEDx contributor. Hearing intelligent people deliver thought-provoking content always challenges me and helps me grow.


Though this year’s TEDx conference was more evolutionary than revolutionary, it was certainly worth attending. The disruption in journalism is an established historic event. However, the conference underscored how all of us can engage and influence others in the digital space.


Today, we’re well into a new era of journalism. We can all play a part and take heed to Mahatma Gandhi’s advice to be the change we wish to see in the world. 


I hope you enjoy the following video and think about how you can be a positive contributor in today’s Brave New World of Journalism.


Don’t miss other awesome TEDx presenters like Cheezburger founder Ben Huh; AARP’s Jen Lee Reeves; and the entertaining and brilliant digital futurist Amy Webb.






Maura Sweeney is a Podcaster, Author and Public Speaker


Find her on iTunes and Stitcher Radio. and


Follow her on HuffingtonPost


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