I love Mitch Joel’s podcasts and I wanted to write about this one as I think it’s relevant to a lot of people following me. I wanted to use this post to expand on a few points made by NYU Journalism professor Jay Rosen but I’d highly recommend listening to the whole thing:
A great explanation of the changing face of journalism
In the Six Pixel’s podcast Rosen crafts, what I would call, a great explanation of the changing state of journalism and why traditional journalists have not fitted into the modern media easily. It fits around the idea that the production routine becomes the ‘God’ of the traditional journalist.
In the typical production routine the one-way conversation with the audience was taken for granted. This is deeply ingrained behaviour that has been drummed into wanna-be hacks since it became a subject that could be studied. The production routine kept the printing presses rolling and limited the feedback that the audience was able to give.
But new technology has changed the status quo in two very significant ways…
1. Anyone who has read anything on social media or journalism understands that the one-way conversation has been turned on it’s head. Instead of a small number being able to connect many can now connect both with the writers and each other.
2. The cost model has changed. There are now loads of free and accessible tools that allow the majority to get their opinions heard. The traditional classified ads model is no long viable and newspapers/magazines are trying to find ways to monetise their work.
I know from experience how attractive that sort of routine is, and can imagine how difficult it would be to suddenly process your work differently, publish fast and maybe without all the facts, produce work that hasn’t been through several hands for sub-editing and page design. I find this difficulty when I blog. Half of me wants to publish my thoughts and feelings on a subject but a little bird in my brain tries to stop me and says, spend hours doing to research. As a blogger in this instance I have to find a balance.
This doesn’t mean there’s no place for well-trained professionals though.
As Rosen points out there’s a clash between a) Bloggers who understand the medium and may have overnight ‘success’, but don’t necessarily understand their impact on the web and b) Journalists that understand how their work can have an effect but maybe don’t have a feel for new technology. Rosen explains that those who blog best are those who understand the principles of the media. So perhaps it’s a question of having a balance.
Of course it would be nice for all bloggers to have some training on media law and research but I think it’s interesting that there is suddenly this new challenge of gaining authority. Now anyone can publish and being authoritative is no longer about where you were educated or who you work for, but rather whether you’ve done the research or been at the event personally.
It’s interesting to think that the ‘blogging-revolution’ followed a period of doubt within journalism, which I think Rosen explains well with the graph on his site here. But look at the date’s, it’s hard to tell what came first? The tools? or the need for a new kind of reporting?
Authority is also affected by whether an individual is trusted, to quote Rosen’s piece:
“So the puzzle is: how do these things fit together? More of a profession, more educated people going into journalism, a more desirable career, greater cultural standing (although never great pay) bigger staffs, more people to do the work … and the result of all that is less trust”
He then comes up with eight reasons why trust in journalists has decreased so dramatically. Yeah it’s US-centric but it doesn’t take a lot to think of this in British terms. Below are four reasons I’ve thought of, but I know there’s plenty more, feel free to add yours in the comments:
Why don’t the public trust journalists?
High anti-press feeling following the hounding and death of Princess Diana.
The Leveson enquiry has been exploring the relationship between the press and the politicians. Whatever the impact on individuals, it’s clear that these relationships have led to bias in the traditional press. But there’s also other kinds of bias. Journalist’s were once seen as objective and fair to both sides of an argument but now I think few are. Perhaps an advantage the BBC could seen as having (if you trust them).
3. Celebrity culture
Reporting on pop culture has been based around gossip and rumour which does nothing to improve people’s perceptions.
4. Accessible research
The web has opened up a whole mine of data for people to access themselves. No not Wikipedia. It’s also meant you can find out the names, email addresses and Dog’s names of the people you might want to ask questions of. Research got easy, so ideas are quicker to write up.
I have no real conclusion to this article, just that the podcast raised some interesting points and I think if you’re entering or working in journalism or a keen blogger, it’s definitely worth taking note of this and Jay Rosen’s other articles.
- Podcast, “Adapting Journalism to the Web” with Jay Rosen and Ethan Zuckerman (cms.mit.edu)
- Jay Rosen: “I’m There, You’re Not, Let Me Tell You About It” or authority in journalism (nextlevelofnews.com)
- ‘Objectivity’? – Trust is the real currency of journalism (nextlevelofnews.com)