Tao Nguyen, founder of WeChat Journalism, on future of digital news

Written by by By Amit Agnihotri, for CNN Tao Nguyen is the co-founder of WeChat Journalism, a multimedia organization that teaches the next generation of journalists and media workers how to be successful in…

Written by by By Amit Agnihotri, for CNN

Tao Nguyen is the co-founder of WeChat Journalism, a multimedia organization that teaches the next generation of journalists and media workers how to be successful in social media.

The 34-year-old Vietnamese American is an experienced journalist and an expert on the use of data in search of stories, and he trains journalists and media organizations in collaboration with investors and entrepreneurs to build world-class news products and tools

Recently, he co-founded a startup called MindTree Media, which provides print media with virtual newsrooms that consist of all the tools and technologies necessary to build a digital media business.

Visual:

Describe your favorite album, and why?

The visual experience of music is stunning, whether that be something on a big screen, in a car, or in the living room. It’s the representation of an emotional experience in space.

D-Gap, “Twist,” MTV. Photograph by Karen Bienhoff.

Other than music, what other video categories would you make top picks?

I’ll start by saying that the annual video awards at the Academy Awards is by far the most coveted in our community. There are a lot of great award shows for film, but the visual experience is incredible in a way that very few people can experience.

If I had to narrow it down to just one category, I’d say some of my favorites are shorts, because so much of what we produce becomes more relevant to our daily lives, through social media, GIFs, etc.

When I travel, I never walk through airport security without a camera in hand or a VR headset on. Take a look at the personal website of anyone who does a foreign film festival. Not only does it have beautiful photography from each place, it has incredible VR visuals from each film and Instagrams from the festival to give you an overview of the director’s story and universe.

Going forward, what’s the most pressing issue facing journalism today?

In the early 2000s, we saw major data and technology advancements in newsgathering, local election reporting, and campaigns in America. Then as traditional media capabilities in newsgathering, etc. began to erode, the ground shifted under our feet, and we began to see offshoots of companies like Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, etc.

These companies are constantly collecting and analyzing data on their users, they’re constantly aggregating that data and using it to make data-informed decisions about where the news should go, and how it should be produced.

This shift is not going to happen overnight, but it will eventually happen, and the winner of this battle is going to be the one who can best manage that shift in how we gather and produce content.

If you were given a lifetime achievement award, what’s your advice for someone graduating from college and just starting out in journalism?

You have to get away from a traditional career path and start making all your own stuff. Take some breaks. Make mistakes. It takes time to build the skill set and expertise to become an expert at doing things you like.

The size of your audience determines how often and often you get featured on other websites

What’s one thing you wish your high school and college journalism teachers knew about how the world works?

Truly, in the world of tech, where things are constantly evolving, the size of your audience determines how often and often you get featured on other websites — a better audience will more easily get your work featured and shared among your friends, and on the pages of other tech publications.

And the lesson there is, when you set out to start a new company, you’ll almost always need to convince other people that your idea is a good one. Just make the case for it.

What other books have you read recently that changed how you view the world?

This might sound harsh, but I recently finished Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe. It really nailed the intersection of politics and personal ambition, and how it spreads out to make a mess of everything. It’s really frightening to see what these people do with power. I’m deeply interested in this future, I’m interested in how we move in a post-fact world.

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