Mirko Lorenz is the Innovation Manager on the New Media department of Deutsche Welle, the most important German media outlet. He is also a coach for innovation programs, a talented lecturer on technology and journalism and a restless entrepreneur. Besides working with DW, he is the CEO of Journalism++, a data-driven storytelling agency. Mirko is an advocate of meaningful use of data by the newsroom – his most recent work is Pollyvote, an analytic tool which aims to predict the US Election results.
1. Can you explain a little bit about your job at Deutsche Welle?
I am part of a team which has a double role: we are looking for technologies that might be relevant for the newsroom and we look at what newsrooms are doing in order to connect them with technology.
2. How do you think technology has changed the way we do journalism in the last few years?
There was always a technology element enabling media, whether a printing machine or satellites. Now it is more fragmented: there are more tools out there and it takes some time to go through them. But in the end they are just tools – a new hammer, a new saw, a new drill. The trick is to find a power drill. And I think that when you use them wisely and connect them with journalists with expertise, you can do big things. And that is a big change. It takes more time to dig into it and at the same time not being too confuse, because the tools don’t make better journalism per se. If you smartly use them, you can differentiate yourself. It is more a calibrating job that is changing very quickly. I can potentially tell you some tools now and then another few tools in six months will come up, for the pace is relatively high.
3.How do you see the role of social networks on providing data and information to journalism?
I see it as a bit critical. I understand that social networks are really popular, because they provide a mobile way of seeing stuff and connecting with your friends, but the role of news media in that needs to be defined. I am critical of that because, by using some content and sharing tools on some social media, I am giving away too much of my thinking. The problem is, in my point of view, journalists are too inactive. They wait for Facebook, for instance, to simplify and distribute their content to the audience and then the content is away. It is a good way to reach people, but innovative technology used to tell really relevant stories should be reinforced.
4.Our platform, Horyou, is a social network for social good, and it supports organizations and non-profit projects. How do you see the marriage between social networks and social innovation?
I think we can learn from the success of Facebook, specifically for NGOs, public relations, journalism, which are all flavors of trying to reach out for some causes. Some are better, some are commercial, some are social, but what we can learn is that users will decide. A lot of NGOs are still trying too hard to push their causes and thinking old school, like “we do a press release, provide photos and so on, and then somehow we will be picked up”. That is changing. A very smart NGO can by now think like a journalist and reach out audiences on their terms. You don’t need media as much as you needed it five years ago. Because if you really find a good way to connect with an audience informing them, drumming them up for your cause, that is a million followers. You don’t need a press release to do that. On the other side, it shouldn’t be degraded into something that is just PR. It is always a balance act to do that right. What is the right way to work for this cause? Are we making misjudgment? Are we doing it right? Are we achieving our goal? And another thing I see on NGOs is that they don’t share their practices enough: if one NGO is thinking of its causes in Brazil for deforestation and there is another one in Vietnam talking about deforestation, why don’t they join courses on the technology base?
Our conversation with Mirko Lorenz was very inspiring! We, from Horyou, also believe in the power of connections and technology to building meaningful and positive projects. As the social network for social good, we keep developing innovative tools and content to support our community to connect for good.