Tech & newsrooms meld with use of tools for accuracy and community building

By Sharon Dunten, SPJ Region 3 Assistant Regional Director, editor of

The digital/technology and editorial mix for newsrooms is not as complicated as you might think. It’s becoming a unique cuisine for journalists who might be seeking a more techie area of the news industry, or at least becoming more tech savvy, or learning what pertinent digital tools may enhance your news coverage and engage your audience.

Dorrine Mendoza

“I wish every journalist could work for one year with a tech company,” said Dorrine Mendoza,  from Facebook at the NAHJ Atlanta Newsroom Panel on Feb. 7. The program was sponsored by Facebook and Banjo.

Mendoza, a former senior social media producer for CNN Digital, joined together with other CNN ex-pats for an evening of talking “digital and technology” as the revolutionary partner in newsrooms.

Other panel members included: David Clinch, Storyful; Rick Martin, CBS46 Atlanta; Juan Munoz, CNN Espanol; SPJ member Victor Hernandez, Banjo; and panel host Mark Luckie, Souled Out Cinema.

The hot topic of “fake news” was quickly addressed by the panel

  • david-clinch
    David Clinch

    David Clinch, Storyful, said his organization was an example on how digital monitoring and alerts help ID original sources and provide double checks for journalists and newsrooms. “Don’t trust anyone” when receiving information and “don’t trust yourself because you thought you were right,” said Clinch. “Always have others check your work.”

  • rick-martin
    Rick Martin

    Rick Martin, Assignment Manager at CBS46 Atlanta said he asks one question when he is presented information in his newsroom, “How do you know that?”

  • Tools for news literacy and the use of third party agencies to find articles’ factual or inaccurate information are already in place within three large news organizations, said Facebook’s New Partnership team member Dorrine Mendoza. She said it is easy to identify information when a post is motivated by only money. “It is easy to spot.”
  • victor-hernandez-mug
    Victor Hernandez

    “Fake news is a vague term. Raw content and click bait have consequences,” said Banjo’s Director of Media Innovation Victor Hernandez and SPJ member. For example, the well-received photo of the Empire State Building draped in purple went viral on the internet after performer/songwriter Prince died suddenly April 2016. But the photo was actually taken three months earlier at another event, said Hernandez. “With the right tools there is context to what the story is telling.” He also introduced as a movement to address ethical dilemmas faced by media technology companies by providing training and resources. Hernandez is a familiar face at SPJ EIJ events where he introduces the latest technology for journalism.

  • juan-munoz
    Juan Munoz

    CNN Espanol’s Interactive and Social Media Director Juan Munoz added the word, “skepticism” to the panel conversation. Like the old adage, “Is it too good to be true?’ might apply to investigating possible inaccuracies. He said to check your instinct and to understand people lie and might be embarrassed to admit it. “It takes investigative work and the understanding of human nature very well,” Munoz said.

  • Check out Twitter Preferred Partnership Program to cultivate good social media practices and even Reddit is starting to have rules on the back end to block fake news, said Hernandez

Smart technology and journalism can plug into the power of community

  • For instance, Munoz mentioned how the coverage of the lives of taxi drivers in South America created a unique community following. By asking the drivers about their private jokes, handing traffic situations, their health issues and how to handle their customers, it led to an undiscovered niche community.
  • poilitibotMunoz also said to look at the use of messenger apps. “Consider the use of a ‘bot'” to keep your audience engaged. “Send a quote, an info graphic, a (distinct) sound … but with a sense of humor,” he said. One example of a bot is PolitiBot which evolved from a journalism conference at the University of Texas in Austin.
  • The use of a smart board on a new site has been successful, said Martin. He said CBS46 posted people’s images of ice and snow during a recent Atlanta winter storm and kept their audience very engaged with the news site.
  • The use of Facebook Live and Periscope provides a way for people to connect, said Hernandez. “People actually become engaged in the news coverage,” he said.
  • “Live streaming is placing people on the ground as part of the coverage,” said Munoz. They are part of the action not like on Live TV, he said.
  • Mendoza said there are many reasons people like Facebook Live. 1. Immediacy 2. Unique perspective 3. Social connection – engage with your audiences. This is a unique feature of FB Live. 4. Authenticity – People want to connect with people and 5. Excitement and surprise. There are also video types we know people will watch. Weather – weather broadcasters are the rock stars and have done well connecting with people successfully during threatening weather. Localizing big events is another way we’ve seen local news rooms experience success.
  • Mendoza announced the Facebook Journalism project that provides online courses for journalists. She also encouraged attendees to join the closed Facebook group, News, Media and Publishing.

There are very cool things happening for inspiration

  • nasa-image-of-space
    NASA image

    “Look at NASA for space fans”, said Clinch. And talk to young people in your family and at work. “They have great ideas.”

  • Martin said he was grateful to God everyday. He said covering people’s worst nightmares is not easy. Through prayer he said he is able to let go of the emotional part of the news before he goes home every night.
  • A suggestion to investigate Richard Branson’s philosophy “Be List” instead of “To Do” list was suggested by Munoz. “Keep looking into your heart for guidance and your broadcast favorites,” he said.
  • Discovering the art of generosity through altMBA, an intensive leadership workshop, “pushed me to every limit,” said Mendoza.
  • “We don’t want to stop being students,” said Hernandez. “Technology is breadcrumbs and opens a new door to chase after and to a new tool kit.”

But then again, you have to make money

  • mark-luckie
    Mark Luckie

    Mark Luckie offered his webinar, “Transitioning to Tech.”

  • Stay relevant. “I am a newsletter nerd,” said Hernandez. Look at Nuzzle as a great curation, knowledge tool, he said. Also find  the nearest teenager in your life. Find out where they find their news and why a website like Twitch is so popular for their age group.
  • Need to have a strategy when your story goes national or viral, Clinch said.



nahj-logoFor more information about the Society of Professional Journalists visit or want more information about the National Association of Hispanic Journalists visit

Sharon Dunten

Sharon Dunten is a freelance journalist and photojournalist based out of Atlanta, Georgia. She has been published in the Washington Post, WebMD, Georgia Health News, SPJ Quill Magazine and She holds more than 20 years of newspaper and online news experience. To contact Dunten, email her at or She is SPJ Region 3’s Assistant Regional Director.