About this digital book and teaching tool

Searchlights and Sunglasses is a demonstration project designed to show how a digital book and teaching tool can be produced in months, rather than years, and in a format that can be constantly updated. It addresses the issue laid out by communications college dean and former editor Tom Fiedler: “The problem with writing a book about the changing state of journalism in the digital age is, well, the changing state of journalism. The subject flat refuses to stand still long enough for proper treatment in a book, a ‘content platform’ which, after all, isn’t much advanced from its 15th century roots.”

This is a supplemental text. It is not intended to replace primary texts, but instead to add material based on events that have happened since the printed books were last updated. Like its spiritual predecessor, the self-directed classes on NewsU.org, it is free. It may be duplicated, so long as it is credited. The book isn’t a bleeding-edge tech chronicle; it aspires to help journalists and educators in the middle of the bell curve, meaning most of us, by bridging bedrock journalism values and the new digital landscape.

Knight Foundation senior adviser Eric Newton wrote the book from his position as a grant-maker near the epicenter of the past decade’s media upheavals. To turn it into a demonstration textbook, he received a fellowship, along with a research team, from the University of Missouri’s Reynolds Institute. Contributors are listed in the Acknowledgment section.

Knight Foundation creative director Eric Cade Schoenborn and designer Chris Rosenthal conjured the book’s look, feel and format. What's more, Eric provided the creative vision that drove the project from the start, developing an open, collaborative team that inspired me to improve the words to match to the level of graphic storytelling. Its HTML 5 markup language allows for responsive design, fitting the book to different devices, from phones and tablets to laptops and desktops. Searchlights and Sunglasses is interactive, with hundreds of links, as well as connections to social media, where users can offer feedback and new content.  We realize HTML 5 will not work on every classroom computer. We use current technology because the book’s central argument is that educators should do the same. That said, teachers may download the lessons as PDF files or print them directly.

Scrolling the book reveals different graphic layers moving at different speeds, which creates a 3D effect. This is called parallax scrolling, from the Greek parallaxis ("alteration"). Though it is not a new invention, parallax has been gaining in popularity, most recently by The New York Times’ Snow Fall package.

How to cite: Before the book’s launch, librarians and scholars asked how they should cite an ever-changing document that has no page numbers. We suggest the following format:  Author, title, chapter, headline from the text article or the learning layer article, date retrieved and url.