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/

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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>

Citizen Journalism

Media convergence has challenged the way journalism has been operating over the past few generations. Citizen journalism is when participants of information play an active role by gathering, analysing and distributing news. This is now integrated into our culture as society is changing the way we receive information by transferring from print media to digital media. Why? Because it’s convenient. Instant. Free. The best part about it all is – you can interact. We as consumers are becoming the producers through blogging, vlogging, and even social networking. Media platforms (i.e. YouTube, Tumblr, Twitter, WordPress, SoundCloud, Vimeo) allow us to contribute to collective intelligence in the comfort of our own homes, if desired.

I like to receive my news online because it’s usually from people which I know personally. There is no thorough editing process for the information presented to the public. One click and boom. It’s there, online for EVERYONE to see, at any time. I feel information online can be more reliable because you can discover more about an issue by commenting on the source, and there is usually multiple web pages where the story will overlap, OR alternatively you may know the source personally. For example there was a car crash near my house a few months ago. Because many of my Facebook friends live in my area, or pass through here on a daily basis, I knew about this crash within minutes after it had occurred, before I had even gotten out of bed that morning, and before any news station journalist had written or even knew about it. I read details about the car and passengers on various status updates from people who had driven past, or knew the people in the accident. This is where citizen journalism differs from traditional journalists – reading about incidents online from locals you somehow have a connection to – whether it’s someone you knew from school, a colleague, a friend, a friend of a friend… you get my drift. Traditional journalists are struggling to keep up, and I am interested to see what citizen journalism can do in the future.

I’ve got the power

To upload and share almost anything I want through this WordPress account, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and various other media platforms. We are all citizen journalists. Isn’t that extraordinary? Today, we don’t think about it that much. But in comparison to say, a decade ago, we have come a long way into a very different, amazing and continuously evolving form of communication. We are active prosumers, participating in mediated culture more than ever before. Why? Because we want to be heard, and we can.

There are little to no gatekeepers monitoring what you share online and this is why social networking, blogging and vlogging have become so popular. Monologic media journalists have to be very cautious about what they write and how they present their information. Everything stated in newspapers, magazines, television or on the radio goes through a rigorous editing process. This ensures that the media can control what and how we receive information, although now this control is shifting. An example of this would be Han Han, a chinese blogger who became extremely popular online so he created a magazine, which was shut down after the first issue (selling over a million copies) because there was too much controversial information.

A case study in ‘The mobile Phone and the Public Sphere’ by Janey Gordon investigates the London bombings. Gordon states that those involved were providing “direct accounts from their mobile phones” of information and images through phone calls, SMS, MMS and social networking. I’m quite intrigued that it has actually come to this; being surrounded by danger a horrific event and yet the first thing people do is upload and share what they can see/what is happening. I personally think it’s a way of reaching out. All humans want to be heard and seek interconnection.