In the past we have profiled the innovative work of people like Adrian Holovaty who does some exciting things through programming that allow data to tell their own stories.  For instance, he set up the Campaign Tracker for the Washington Post, and he is now running his own site Everyblock – the database driven hyperlocal news site.  Further, in our newspaper studies we have examined how news organizations use the Internet.

While at the CIO Perspectives Forum here in Washington, DC last week, I was wondering about what kind of role CIOs should play at news organizations.  Their organizations may already use them as I am thinking (at least I hope).  However, it is important to note that in an October 2008 white paper titled “The CIO Profession: Leaders of change, drivers of innovation” IBM reports that most organizations mainly view and use CIOs as implementers and not as strategists.  Hopefully, news organizations turn to CIOs for planning and strategy and not just technical execution.  Of course, a CIO with a journalism background could help even more; Adrian Holovaty is so innovatively partly since he has a background in both programming and journalism.

If CIOs are involved in strategic planning, they can help the business and editorial staffers not only understand what is realistic, but they can also introduce them to new ideas that someone without technical expertise would know.  Further, a CIO could also identify potential problems and other issues in advance and help either avoid them or prepare other organizational stakeholders in advance. 

Here are a few examples of how a CIO can help news organizations strategically plan: 

  • Broadcast journalists are now going out to the field with recording and editing equipment with fewer producers and camera people accompanying them.  Before such equipment and software is purchased, the CIO could help determine the requirements for such equipment and software and then help identify applicable products.
  • A CIO with a decent understanding of database management could help find new application ideas like the ones that Adrian Holovaty has developed.
  • During our newspaper studies we look at the website features that news organizations use by examining the different features (i.e. blogs, RSS feeds, video sections, etc.) they harness.  A CIO would have a valuable perspective on helping developing a strategic plan on what the organization’s website should do. Further, he or she she can help evaluate content management systems (CMS), applications, and vendors to determine how well they meet the organization’s needs and desires.
  • A CIO can help an organization envision and deploy an API – like NPR’s API — which allows members of the public to use its data in interesting ways that the organizations itself did not image.  This is one way that a CIO can work with the business and editorial people at a news organization to help them find ways to profitably exploit an API.
  • The CIO could help find ways to organize content for the public in many different ways.  For instance, tagging enables people to find information in ways other than the traditional divisions like News, Sports, International, etc.  In fact, The Guardian newspaper wanted a tag editor back in October 2007.  This would help make the news organization’s site more easy for the public to use.

These are just a few examples of aspects of journalism in which news organizations can turn to their CIOs for strategic planning, and considering the dire state of media companies, they can use all of the help that they can get.

How else can news organizations harness their CIOs to help strategically plan?