Lee Rainie speaks on use of data in journalism at Elon University

By Erin Valentine

For Lee Rainie, the Pew Research Center allows for un-bias data to tell the story.

“We’re just about generating information,” said Rainie, director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project,

Rainie came to Elon University today to spark a conversation with students about the changing world of journalism.

According to Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project’s website, the Pew Research Center is a “non-profit, non-partisan “fact tank” that studies social impact of the Internet. The Internet and American Life Project is one of seven projects that the Pew Research Center overlooks.

Rainie explained that the founding ideas were “to shed light on the world, and to tell the truth and trust the people.”


Lee Rainie, Photo by Erin Valentine

Rainie, who in the 1990s was managing editor of U.S. News & World Report magazine, has seen the world of journalism shift from an industrial era to today’s digital era.

“The majority of Americans at 6:30 at night, when I was growing up, watched news. It’s now down to about 20%,” Rainie said.

Advertising used to be the dominant source of revenue and drove the business of journalism. Now, storytelling and audiences are different. Anyone can become a storyteller and create content. Conversations evolve quickly and go in many different directions.

Rainie spoke about how the knowledge of great journalism can be applied to many things outside just the career.

“The editing process is perpetual,” Rainie said. “It’s not just fact-checking and editing before publication or broadcast. It continues on. And everyone gets to participate.”

With information coming from multiple sources and technology rapidly changing and advancing, companies are constantly trying to keep up with all of the change.

Rainie gives FourSquare’s recent facelift as an example.

“It’s less checking in and it’s more, here’s stuff around you that’s kind of cool and you might be interested in,” said Rainie.

In a world of bias and heavy opinion, Lee Rainie looks to boil down information to the cold, hard facts.


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