A Response to the Changing Structure of Journalism

This week I watched two intriguing videos online. One was a discussion between New York Times columnist David Carr and Bloomberg Media Chairman Andrew Lack, the other was a TED Talk presented by author, journalist and media critic Tom Rosentiel. Both videos explored issues surrounding digital technologies, journalism and media.

I consider myself lucky, belonging to a demographic that has had the privilege of witnessing (and being a part of) this massive, global transition to online media – at such a fragile time of mental and physical growth. These overwhelming, crazy changes to information and communication technologies came about at a curious time of my adolescence. Between the ages of 11-13 I was only just beginning to find my place, attempting to identify myself in this world. I enjoyed reading and writing, and the idea of being a journalist interested me (although I did not quite understand the role of journalism back then). I remember picking up a popular teenage girls’ magazine, Girlfriend. I knew that journalists produced the content, so I would flick through not only recreationally, but also for a sense of guidance I suppose. What struck me, and made me never pick up one of these magazines again, was a giant, bold phrase on the front cover, accompanied with an unblemished, beautiful woman, “SKIPPING BREAKFAST MAKES YOU SKINNY”. This was a confusing message for me, because I had never thought about the number on the scales at this age. In addition, it contradicted my previous knowledge (from school and family) of breakfast being the most important meal of the day. So I was at a crossroad – believe these words and images; from a source I have no personal connection with, or ditch it and vow never to purchase the magazine again. I chose the latter. Looking back, that title still rubs me the wrong way. It also tainted my perception of commercial journalists, and my desire to be one. To think that there was a whole article inside a magazine targeted at teenage girls, blatantly attempting to convince them to compensate a healthy diet for an idealistic reality (a body which most young girls are not aware they wanted). This is one of the only magazines I ever picked up when I was younger, so I dread to think how many inappropriate articles were falsely educating the minds of girls.

I digress; this long-winded story did have a point. I simply wanted to express my gratitude and appreciation for the modern structure that journalism is steering towards today, thanks to the participation of consumers. No more authoritarian, one-way process between journalist and audience. I wanted to use my experience with the magazine to demonstrate some of the limitations in traditional media forms. As I stated, my only two options were to continue reading and purchasing those magazines, just ‘cause that’s all that was available to me at the time… or ditch it and find something else. Now, in 2014, if an organisation were to publish that exact headline, I can only imagine the stir it would cause online; aggressive posts on their Facebook profile, abusive mentions on their Twitter page, and comments from people around the world who work in nutrition and health, all putting their two cents in.

When I come across material that explores journalistic practice in a digital age, there is one recurring thought that stays with me, to try make sense of it all. I think of journalism as a system – it involves ethics, hierarchy and provides a service. Much like a democratic government. We elect our government. In a sense, this same logic is being applied to the structure journalism. For so long journalists have provided citizens with a service, without actually engaging them. Audiences and journalists can now work together to create a system that utilises tools from both parties, ultimately (hopefully) aiming to achieve a consistent, convenient, trustworthy and reliable industry.


Reference List:

Rosenstiel, T 2013, The Future of Journalism, TED X online video, YouTube, accessed 17 April 2014 <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RuBE_dP900Y&gt;

bu, 2014, NYT’s David Carr on the Future of Journalism, online video, YouTube, accessed 17 April 2014, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=WPlazqH0TdA&gt;

Comments:
http://20freethoughts.wordpress.com/2014/04/19/journalism-graduate-seeking-employment-good-luck/
http://inconspicuousblogaddress.wordpress.com/2014/04/19/is-journalism-dying/

Devices in Australian Schools

Modern devices and software offer many educational benefits, with Australian schools opting to take advantage of the mobility that new technology can provide. We haven’t quite landed on an ideal setting that includes equal access to devices for students across Australian schools. In 2007, Kevin Rudd jumped straight into the deep end, when he proposed a scheme for all high school students to receive a laptop. The cost and maintenance of this program was well overlooked, with students consistently having issues with laptop functionality, placing greater strain on schools and government funding (Wright, 2013). Six years down the track, Australian education communities are trying to come up with their own systems for equipping students with devices, which begin to raise concerns of access and equity.

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Following Rudd’s unsuccessful laptop scheme, the Department of Education has introduced a new policy for high school students, BYOD – “Bring Your Own Device” (Smith, 2014). Many schools have adapted this new policy in various ways, with some requesting that all students must have the same operating system (e.g. students can only bring in devices manufactured by Apple). While it may be more convenient for schools to run and maintain appropriate software and Wi-fi access for one operating system, it places financial strain on families. However, schools that have an open BYOD policy then struggle to ensure the quality of resources among students, as there may be gaps between devices functionality. Additional limitations include a school’s location and socio economic rating. There is also concern that too much technology can hinder the significance of interpersonal communication and cognitive function, being a major distraction for students. High school curriculums are undergoing a dramatic transition, being consistently challenged by the tendency of IT models in learning and teaching (Foo, 2013). Devices aid learning for students, whom can also help teachers with modern technologies – ultimately, we need to create an educational infrastructure that can achieve a balance in access, as well as usage.

References:

Foo, F 2013, Schools Make a Move to BYOD, The Australian, weblog post, 7 May, viewed 11 April 2014, <http://www.theaustralian.com.au/technology/schools-make-a-move-to-byod/story-e6frganx-1226636277661&gt;

Smith, A 2014, It’s BYO Laptop now as Schools End Free Program, Sydney Morning Herald, weblog post, 21 February, viewed 11 April 2014, <http://www.smh.com.au/national/education/end-of-free-laptop-program-means-its-byo-device-now-for-many-high-school-students-20140220-334bz.html&gt;

Wright, J 2013, Computer Cash in Lap of Chaos, Sydney Morning Herald, weblog post, 3 February, viewed 11 April 2014, <http://www.smh.com.au/digital-life/computers/computer-cash-in-lap-of-chaos-20130203-2dr65.html&gt;

Aesthetic Journalism & Public Media Spaces

‘This society is involved in a constant search for strategies of authenticity as a source of real experience and assessment for the quality of existence.’
– Alfredo Cramerotti, 2011, p64

Public media spaces provide valuable opportunities to gain insight and experience cultural practices of civilisation. These spaces are all around us – museums, galleries as well as street art and installations. An example would be Sydney’s annual ‘Vivid festival of light, music and ideas’. Vivid Sydney takes place over 18 days between late May and early June, and is an inspiring, accessible media space. The city transforms into a canvas of creativity and innovation, consisting of outdoor installations, performances and illuminating iconic architecture to generate an immersive experience.

vivid 2013 A photo I took at Vivid Sydney 2013. Families engaging with the flashing neon lit seesaws.

Aesthetic representations are effective tools to communicate a message or meaning. Artists present content in unique ways, and every respondent encounters them differently; each experience comes with existing cultural knowledge, which is then used to critically reflect and build on the images presented. The result is a one-of-a-kind cognitive process that can modify fabricated perceptions of society and self-identity.

This publication by Alfredo Cramerotti (2011) explores the influence and progression of Aesthetic Journalism. In medieval times, artistic imagery was commonly used in religious practice as a tool to educate the masses about morality and maintain control. Traditionally, artists represented theoretical knowledge and practical realisations, often predicting images of the future. Post WWII, westernisation prompted a new form of aesthetics, facilitating more contemporary approaches to art. Aesthetic culture transformed into an instrument to investigate the living. Themes surrounding capitalism, consumerism and pop-culture began to blur the boundaries between art and life, paving the way for artistic representations to mirror society’s structures and mass media aesthetics.

Journalistic art entertains, informs and constitutes change. Modernist art was classed as elitist and considered “high culture” as it conveyed complex layers of meaning. Andy Warhol is an example of a famous pop icon of the 20th century, who challenged modernism and cultural perceptions of how art should be displayed. Warhol presented commercialism of culture through the commodification of himself and his works by implementing techniques such as repetition, to celebrate consumer culture unifying citizens. By using consumerism as a subject, Warhol shattered modernist stereotypes, through the transmission of consumer art into high art.

warhol soup

Campbell’s Soup Cans – Andy Warhol 1962

Warhol replicates the cans to symbolise American culture, in a world dominated by mass production and consumerism. The repetition suggests that lack of variety in consumer images dulls the senses and emotions. Viewers are saturated with the same image until it gradually loses significance, corresponding to the discourse of media saturation (Indiana, 2010, p84-86; Zainal Abidin, 2013).

Reference List:

Cramerotti, A 2011, ‘What is Aesthetic Journalism’, in A Cramerotti (ed.), Aesthetic Journalism: How to Inform Without Informing, Intellect, London.

Indiana, G 2010, Andy Warhol and the Can that Sold the World, Basic Books, US.

Zainal Abidin, ND 2013, ‘Andy Warhol and Consumerism’, Slideshare, Slideshow, 31 January, viewed 10 April 2014, <http://www.slideshare.net/akudena22/andy-warhol-and-consumerism&gt;

The Future of Journalism

The line between conventional journalists and their audiences seems to be blurring. Participatory culture has added a whole new dimension to journalism and the way information circulates, challenging traditional boundaries and definitions of professional institutions. Docile journalists are attached to the time-honoured social functions within these institutions, by having the “gatekeeper of information” status and authority. The what, when and how of transmitting news to the public, has until recently always been maintained and enforced by conventional routines. Access/observation, selection/filtering, processing/editing, distribution and interpretation of content, are the five routines of communication that are no longer restricted by a gatekeeper (Domingo et. al., 2008, p326).

Audiences are now involved in the circulation of news more than ever before, purely due to the fact that we’ve been provided with the ability to do so. Hello modern technology. Major news corporations are in the midst of a power-struggle, between their traditional practices and the abundance of social networking platforms. This ubiquitous battle, in my opinion, can only mean one thing – the public WANT to be able to participate, and finally, they can. This doesn’t have to mean a great shift in control, but an opportunity to consider the varying perspectives, ideas and reflections of society. How can one decipher exactly what, when and how the public want to know something, without involving them in the process? Contemporary critics base their argument surrounding this precise notion. Journalist Risto Kunelius believes that news should be more like a conversation rather than a lecture (2001). Since the emergence of social networks, many traditional institutions have resisted complying with this participatory culture. However this is slowly changing, with corporations recognising the potential of audience interaction, they are beginning to utilise participatory methods in some ways. Stemming from the popularity of talk shows and community-engaging program formats, more and more newsrooms are incorporating social media platforms such as Twitter. Informative television programs, such as ABC’s Q&A and SBS Insight, function more like a discussion. While the information and stories remain mediated, there is still a sense of authenticity because of the conversation-like structure. Online, a majority of institutions haven’t fully utilised the tools of citizen media, however, have enabled some features within their news stories including ranking, sharing, commenting, and forum threads. While this is still restrictive to exactly what is being reported, it aims to encourage collective discussions and criticisms in a controlled environment (Domingo et. al., 2008, p334).

This video is a collaboration of television programs, events, and news desks that are using social media (Twitter) to create an ongoing relationship with viewers.

 

 

References:

Domingo, D, Quandt, T, Heinonen, A, Paulussen, S, Singer, JB & Vujnovic, M 2008, ‘PARTICIPATORY JOURNALISM PRACTICES IN THE MEDIA AND BEYOND: An international comparative study of initiatives in online newspapers’, Journalism Practice, vol. 2, no. 3, pp. 326-342.

Kunelius, R 2001, ‘Conversation: a metaphor and a method for better journalism?’, Journalism Studies, vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 31-54.

Twitter, 2011, The Best of Twitter TV, online video, 2 May, YouTube, viewed 3 April 2014 <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jc8TQppzORE>