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>

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Social Media – A Revolutionary Tool

The Arab Spring is a term expressing the revolutionary movements in 2010, which began in the Arab region. What made the Arab Spring so unique was the utilisation of social media to establish and promote uprising agendas, as these were the first collective movements in the Middle East since Internet and social media revolutions. A journal article by Richard Lindsey explores the significance of social media during the Arab Spring, allowing individuals to influence public opinion and gain international support through the global distribution of news. Lindsey assures that techniques and procedures via social media will affect future revolutionary tactics in globalised societies, however the degree to which is questionable.

Sharing mass amounts of uncensored and accurate information through social networking significantly prompted the rise in Arab Spring activists. Not only did they obtain supremacy to overthrow powerful dictatorship, but also Arab civilians were now conscious of underground communities whom they can connect with. This may have not been possible without the significant role social media played, “We use Facebook to schedule the protests… Twitter to coordinate, and YouTube to tell the world.” – Arab Spring activist from Egypt. Stories of shared grievances and hopelessness was overflowing over these networks. The use of digital storytelling through social media is what drew people into the streets to protest.

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A blog post on PolicyMic describes the use of social networks as assisting to remove the psychological barrier of fear for Arab civilians by connecting and sharing information. The consistent flow of news provided a sense of reassurance that they are not alone, and that there are others experiencing hardship, prejudice, and similar accounts of brutality. Professor of mass communications from Cairo, Hussein Amin, stated that social networks “for the first time provided activists with an opportunity to quickly disseminate information while bypassing government restrictions”. It is worthy to note that new social networking platforms were not the reason for the Arab Spring but function in serving future revolutions with regard to communication.

Convergence Culture

Communication between individuals constitutes a lot of what makes us unique. Mark Deuze explores participatory culture and media convergence in his journal Convergence Culture in the Creative Industries. Deuze states that the emergence of a media environment where we are not only consuming, but also our whole online behaviour involves participation, co-creation and collaboration to some degree. Engaging with content through social networks can be defined as citizen journalism. When commenting on a YouTube video or sharing something on Facebook, you are propelling the flow within this online ecosystem. A clip by Henry Jenkins explores convergence culture as a world where stories, sounds, brands, images and relationships plays itself out across the maximum number of media channels. For those of us born in the digital age, this technological shift is one that we can adjust to and advance with little effort required. We are so used to doing everything instantaneously, at the click of a button. One of the most significant themes of media convergence is the ability to send more information further and faster.

Technology is so intertwined with our lifestyles now that we consider traditional forms of media as being “old” and useless on some levels. Why go out and buy a newspaper when I can read it on a website? Why rent a DVD when I can stream it online? Cartoons such as South Park often reference technological convergence in a humorous way. South Park’s episode A Nightmare on Facetime (Season 16, Episode 12) mocks physical media distribution when the character Randy buys a Blockbuster video store and is certain it’s going to bring his family into wealth. ’We’re going to have customers up our ass!’ Randy is proven wrong while the store poses as a “haunted” and “creepy” place that everyone avoids. This was a clever imitation addressing the death of DVD’s and video rental stores.  While Randy’s son Stan is stuck at the Blockbuster with his family, he is still present with his friends trick-or-treating via Facetime on his iPad. The use of the iPad was quite witty – throughout the episode Stan is constantly streaming videos and chatting to his friends, which really contrasted well with the eerie feel of the DVD store. While he was physically stuck in one place, he was also using multiple media platforms and entering cyberspace. South Park really utilised the relevance of convergence culture and this idea of an online environment.

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