On November 24, 2016 Ralph Jennings returned to NCCU to give a presentation about the ways in which journalists respond and report about high-tech markets. In his presentation he demonstrated the importance of reporting about technologies in a concise, explanatory, unbiased, and factual manner. Though writing accurately applies to all aspects of journalism, it proves to be more challenging when writing about emerging technologies. Thus it is the journalist’s duty to be able to understand tech language while also deciphering truth from marketing rhetoric.
Jennings started the lecture with an exercise demonstrating the challenges of how to describe start up companies and technologies. He asked the audience to examine two websites, hexsave and colorgy; then he had the participants try to describe the products in their own words. This proved to be more challenging than anticipated. Both websites used abstract language and did not have an “about section” to describe the application or product. It took everyone a few guesses before we were able to decipher and guess what theses companies were selling. Jennings used this example to show a common situation that journalists face when investigating new products and startups.
In the world of tech companies language is adapted for effective marketing strategies. Marketing jargon, new spelling rules for words, and numbers embedded into words are some examples of how strategists try to be innovative and noticed in the competitive markets. Journalists and writers have to interpret these new words and find relative meanings. Marketers may use terms like “innovative” or “upgraded” to state that their new technologies are better than the rest. The journalists then need to translate this terminology and write it in a way that is comprehensible for the mass public.
During the Q&A Jennings explained that sometimes it is best to ask engineers and designers interview questions in order to get the best depiction of the product. He also talked about how journalists should test and examine products to get a first hand account.
Jennings is an alumnus from IMICS and he is currently writing for the South China Morning Post, Forbes, the LA Times, Institutional Investor, and VoaNews.com. While studying at NCCU he studied the integration of blogs in news media. His presentation was very inspiring for any students who are aspiring to be a journalist or work in the marketing departments of technological companies and startups. Thank you Ralph Jennings for giving your thought-provoking presentation!