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.

ArabSpring-Tweeter

Image source

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.

Media and Space

Image

This image represents something I’m sure most of us have done. Been on your phone while at work (when you’re not supposed to). The funny thing is, back in the day – prior to social media – when someone was on their phone you could assume they were reading or responding to an SMS. Now that is hardly the case. It sounds silly when you say it out loud, but a lot of people can’t resist checking Facebook, Twitter, posting work selfies on Instagram, or asking people to send you more lives for Candy Crush. In fact, I would even go on to say that because you know you’re not supposed to be looking at it, makes you want it more. Why do we feel like this? Because we are human. We strive for connectedness, we want to always be a part of something, and we feel the natural desire to belong to this magnificent online structure. By creating online identities we become an active audience of the online sphere. We can fulfill this urge to stay connected with peers, colleagues, friends and old friends. I feel lucky to have seen this transition to the digital age in my lifetime. While older generations are (stereotypically) technologically impaired, younger generations are able to use an iPod before learning to ride a bike.

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.

“The medium is the message”, “Worship at the altar of convergence”, “The machine is US/ing us”

 Humanity has been consistently enthralled by the methods used to present and communicate information. How individuals communicate defines who we are and constitutes a lot of what makes us unique. Marshall McLuhan introduced many observations about the impact of changing ways we express ourselves through media.

A valuable phrase stated by McLuhan is “the medium is the message” and that personal or social consequences of any medium is an extension of ourselves. The ‘medium’ is anything from which a change emerges – commonly through mass media communications such as radio, television, internet etc.

“Usually our senses bring the world to our minds, speech takes our sensorially shaped minds out to the world” I found this statement very significant in understanding the way McLuhan expresses the relationship between the medium and content; the content will always bind us to the source.

I was quite impressed with McLuhan’s points on communication and technology, it really opened my eyes as I never directly correlated the information we receive with the WAY we receive information. It seems so obvious when I think about it now though…

An article by Henry Jenkins further appended to my understanding of media change and its importance. It points out the way that convergence represents a cultural shift as consumers are encouraged to seek information and make connections. Participatory culture and collective intelligence is what propels the media along. Participatory culture can be defined as consumers of the media interacting with each other according to a new set of rules which nobody understands yet. Furthermore, collective intelligence can be seen as an alternative source of power in the media.

Convergence occurs within the individual and through social interactions with others. An obvious example, every morning the first thing I do is check my phone, respond to texts, calls, Facebook/twitter notifications, update my tumblr/twitter… etc. Before i’ve even gotten out of bed. It’s also the last thing I do before going to sleep.

The way I ‘measure’ convergence in my mind is comparing generation X to generation Y. I guarantee my parents’  daily routine did not consist of spending so much time interacting with one another through wireless devices. My dad is sickened with the amount of time I spend on the internet, and I can understand why. Although I think he gets so irritated about it because he can’t keep up himself; yet as soon as he is having some sort of technical trouble he is so grateful to have his technology dependent daughter by his side.

Jenkins mentions in a video that convergence culture is a world where every story, sounds, brand, image and relationship plays itself out across the maximum number of media channels. These channels or ‘platforms’ are all the popular websites/applications used today such as Facebook and Twitter. Being connected online allows you to send and receive information on an international scale. Information can now go further, faster.

Another interesting video I watched was one named “Web 2.0…The machine is US/ing US”. This was a quick and effective way of pointing out how we have more power than we think. We teach ‘the machine’ something every time we use it. Hence computers learning what they know from what we do with them. It is not apparent to enough people just exactly how much control we have. More and more sites are becoming user generated since the boom of YouTube, Facebook and the like.

ME & THE MEDIA

My name is Loren, I’m a 19 year old student studying a Bachelor of Communication and Media / Journalism degree at UOW.

I am very familiar with being connected online and have been since my early adolescence. Myspace, Bebo, Msn messenger, Piczo, Blogspot, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and Google+ are just some social networking sites off the top of my head that have come and gone since I have been a part of the online world. Sure, all of these sites still exist but the boom in popularity have differed. This just goes to show how rapidly the media is actually converging.

I find myself using Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and Instagram regularly (daily) because they are the easiest to access when on the go (via iPhone apps). I feel that these media platforms are also the most popular within my age group which creates an instant convenience when I feel the need to share thoughts, photos, videos and much more.

I love social networking and being a part of a ‘wireless’ generation. I feel it is the most powerful way in today’s society to communicate because it is easily accessible, instant, and not to mention global. Furthermore I think that people really underestimate the power in online media – one click of a button and it’s there for anyone to see. This is a major advantage to the media industry as they are able to get more information out there in a smaller amount of time with comparison to, for example, print media.

I am really looking forward to learning more about technological convergence. Hello and welcome BCM students.