Friday, September 03, 2010

"Journalism is about people, not technology"

SHOOT: What follows is an interesting treatise on the future of journalism, whether it's a career path worth following [something I've often asked myself] and how that path is evolving.  I disagree with the title though.  Journalism has become more than about people; it's become more of a dialogue, interactions that should be hyperlocal [but don't have to be].  So it's about people and place.  The problem with journalism is that it has become a shovelling mechanism, meaning the same shit got shovelled to everyone, everywhere.  The anti-dote to old media then is carefully coming up with a banquet that an audience in a particular place [recognising its idiosyncracies in other words] can appreciate, thus an editorial team brew and bake with all the local tastes and traditions on board, and these tastes are continuously tested, evolved and updated.

In addition to preparing coverage feasts tunede into a sense of people and a sense of place, there has to be waiting on the table [social media listening] and interacting with the audience [social media response], to the extent that audiences themselves will have their say [we the media] or respond to what is said [views on news is news], that will be the new Public Service News of the Future.  It's for the local people, and managed on behalf of the people to be about the people, about their conversations and interests [and not so much the editor's ability to guess].  A lot of idiots have to lose their jobs or catch-a-wake-up though before the New Media can fully manifest.

Read the full article here.

Following is an excerpt from Journalism Next, a 2010 paperback that students of Journalism should read to put in perspective the great opportunities ahead for the field. (To order go to )

By Mark Briggs

To survive and thrive in the digital age, I argue, journalists need to adopt a new way of thinking and approaching their craft. Learning the skills and technology is the easy part. Recognizing you are part of a new information ecosystem is the steeper hill to climb.

My first book, “Journalism 2.0: How to Survive and Thrive in the Digital Age,” was published in 2007 and written for working journalists with a simple message: “you can do this” and the “future is now.”

In the United States, that “future is now” message came true. Too true in some ways. Many working journalists in 2006, when I started writing the book, could still embace the illusion that it would be 5 or 10 years before real disruption come to their industry. That grace period evaporated quickly in the U.S. as more than 15,000 journalists lost their jobs in 2008.

The pace of disruption for mainstream media – daily newspapers, local TV stations and magazines – is in full force today. As a result, the evolution of the business model is (finally) receiving the focus it deserves, meaning we have already begun to glimpse what the next incarnation of sustainable journalism looks like.

Newspapers are dying. Why should I study journalism?

We are at the end of a golden period for publishers, where organizations grew large and consolidated, pushing profit margins up and supporting publicly traded companies. Mainstream news organizations, the commercial enterprises that have supported journalism in the U.S., haven’t always been like this. Prior to 1970, journalism was practiced by many more organizations of differing sizes.

But the people who run news companies today only experienced the best of times during the 1970s, 80s and 90s, so any historical basis for claims of a stable industry seem shortsighted when using a longer lens to view the history of newspapers.

More than 100 years ago, the newspaper industry was dealing with technological change on a comparable scale to today. In the 1890s, telephone service revolutionized reporting, while “one linotype operator could do the work of five men,” according to the Encyclopedia of American Journalism, dramatically increasing the speed of printing.

This led to an explosion of newspapers – and newspaper readers – that I see as emblematic of what we’re seeing today with online journalism startups.

Look at the landscape of the Progressive Era, according to the Encyclopedia of American Journalism:
- The number of English-language daily newspapers grew from 850 in 1880 to 1,967 in 1900 to 2,200 in 1910. An additional 400 of other types … were also published that year.
- Daily circulation totals grew from 3.1 million in 1880 to 15.1 million in 1900 to 22.1 million in 1910.
- Chicago and Boston each had eight newspapers in 1900. New York had nine.
- Newspapers began charging (one cent) per issue in 1833 and it wasn’t until the 1880s when advertising slowly began to replace sales and subscriptions as the chief source of newspaper revenue so that by 1914, 66 percent of newspapers revenue came from advertising.
- By 1911, some newspaper critics began to fear the influence of advertising on journalism, “One proposed solution, which had little success, was to create an ‘adless’ newspaper supported by subscribers. Another was to create a non-partisan, adless newspaper funded by city government.

If journalism and the business that supports journalism can evolve that quickly once, who can argue that it won’t happen again? The technology that allowed the number of newspapers to grow 123% in 20 years is similar to what we’ve seen this decade with the Internet and publishing platforms like Wordpress.

In January 2009, the Los Angeles Times announced it was making enough money from online advertising to cover its entire (albeit drastically reduced) editorial workforce. Five years from now we will look back on this development as the beginning of the new era, when news organizations made the switch from print to online ad dollars for financial support.

Read the full article here.

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