Syracuse University Magazine

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Dan Pacheco

Digital Edge

At first glance, Dan Pacheco’s work as a digital journalist may seem like a lot of fun and games. And in fact, he admits he’s having a blast. But as any responsible reporter could discern, there’s much more to the story. As an example, take a look at the Digital Edge Journalism Seminar Series in which Pacheco introduced Newhouse students to the use of drones—unmanned aerial vehicles equipped with cameras—as a tool for newsgathering (pictured above). While it was undeniably exciting for students to have the chance to fly a drone and even win one of their own, there was also a serious purpose behind the festivities: educating young journalists about the legal considerations and ethical responsibilities that accompany the use of such innovative devices. “Technologies like drones are pretty nice, because they make people think differently,” says Pacheco, the Peter A. Horvitz Chair in Journalism Innovation at the Newhouse School. “And we’re going to be seeing more and more of this kind of thing.”

Through such offerings as the seminar series and a class in launching a civic media startup, Pacheco shares his 18 years of experience in news and information startups and new product development. “My job is to work with students who are focused on nonfiction storytelling, to inspire them, and to show them the future is bright for them as individual journalists,” he says. “We get students to think about the ways in which we inform each other about real events. This is journalism. There are so many new and different ways to do that because of the pace of technology innovation.”

Having begun his career as a feature writer for The Denver Post, Pacheco says he earned his “web legs” at Washingtonpost.com, where, as one of the company’s original online producers, he helped launch its web message boards and business and technology sections. He later spent six years at AOL, working on web-based community projects, before becoming senior manager of digital products for The Bakersfield Californian newspaper. There he led development for social networks and citizen journalism sites that were among the first of their kind at U.S. newspapers, including Bakotopia.com. The work earned him a Newspaper Association of America “20 under 40” award and two Knight-Batten Awards for Innovations in Journalism.

“We are at a point in time when journalists are no longer needed for someone to reach an audience,” says Pacheco, who also runs BookBrewer, an eBook and print-on-demand service. “So the whole role of what a reporter does—the need that one fills—really changes.” For example, he says an increasingly important role for journalists is to point out the best, most accurate information in the sea of voices online, and also to correct false or misleading information.

Pacheco playfully uses the name “journovator” to describe the innovative thinkers and doers who make up today’s world of professional digital journalism. He counts himself among them, and is devoted to increasing their numbers through his work at Newhouse. “It’s not about training people in how to Tweet and make videos and publish, because that’s no longer difficult, and it’s free,” he says. “But how do you do it well? How can you be accurate and fair, and why is that important? How can you use this amazing power you’ve been given through technology to make the world better, to put sunlight on the important things happening in your community?”                              —Amy Speach



Peter A. Horvitz Chair in Journalism Innovation

 
Recipient: Dan Pacheco, S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications

Background: The Horvitz Chair, created through an endowed gift from Newhouse alumnus and SU Trustee Peter Horvitz ’76, chairman, president, and CEO of Horvitz Newspapers, was established to develop and teach new courses that allow students to explore the intersection of journalism and technology and work collaboratively to develop new content models and new forms of storytelling.



Digital Edge Journalism



drone009.jpgPhotos by Susan Kahn