Aron Pilhofer, editor of Interactive News Technology at The New York Times, stirred his audience with stories of news technology Wednesday at the LBJ Teaching Theatre.
Cindy Royal, assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, said Pilhofer was chosen because of his background at The New York Times.
“The New York Times is doing some of the most innovative applications of data-driven interactive content on the web, so they are definitely the most forward-thinking,” Royal said. “I have a huge interest in how journalism and programming relate.”
Pilhofer began his career in journalism as a sports writer and he said the experience sparked his interest in the field.
“It was at that moment that I became hooked on reporting,” he said.
Pilhofer now works with a small team of specialized computer-science journalists.
“The idea was to build a group that would deepen and broaden the interactivity on The New York Times’ Web site,” Pilhofer said.
Pilhofer said he was surprised how quickly his team has developed.
“We built a team,” he said. “We are now 10 people including myself, and it is the most amazing job I have ever had, because it’s not often you are allowed to work at your dream job and are given some of the smartest people to do it.”
Pilhofer said the only setback was his lack of knowledge in the computer-science field.
“I am most entirely self-taught,” he said. “Most of my group has a background in computer science, and I do not.”
One of the first applications the team published was a Super Bowl Web site where users could reconstruct games’ play-by-play.
Pilhofer said the project gave rise to larger projects.
“We learned a lot from this piece, because it wasn’t particularly interactive,” he said.
Pilhofer focused on bringing readers into the Web site with interactive news feeds. He said the creation of such a feed is a “more engaging and much easier to get people into than a traditional format.”
Pilhofer explained how the application was used.
“You put in your address, and then it gives you a view that tells you all of the people in government who represent you,” Pilhofer said.
He said the team wants to continue the increase of interactivity on the Web in the future.
“One of the areas we know least about is what makes the Web the Web,” he said.
Pilhofer said the group needs to focus on expanding two main ideals.
“One is to support the work we are already doing, and allow us to do quicker turn around things,” Pilhofer said. “The other part is to do more applications.”
Royal said students need to pursue information to prepare for media changes.
“I think students need to have a strong curiosity for this stuff,” Royal said. “It is something that is constantly changing.”
Pilhofer said his experience getting to The New York Times was rough, but paid off.
“I got into journalism reporting at, maybe until now, what was the worst job market we have seen in 25 years,” he said. “This is also a great thing about being at The Times. It is by far the most collaborative news room I have ever been in my life.”
Sarah Garcia, mass communication graduate student, said Pilhofer’s ideals were insightful.
“I thought it was really interesting to get a perspective from someone who knows what he is talking about firsthand,” Garcia said. “(He) saw the newspaper industry being a difficult area to enter into when he did it and us being in the same situation now.