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The Impact of Content Management Technology on Journalistic Practice

The final presentation at the Future of Journalism 2009 conference, then, is by Ivar John Erdal, whose interest is in the relationship between technological changes and journalistic practices, examined through a study of journalists; experiences with digital production systems. Media organisations now rely increasingly on content management systems, which embed some specific technological and socio-cultural constraints and opportunities; in line with Giddens's structuration theory, these institutional structures (determined by intangible rules and tangible resources) affect journalistic practice.

So, how are different media platforms utilised by reporters in different news organisations, and what constraints and enablements do they perceive in their own practice? Ivar examined two medium-sized news organisations operating in print and (public) broadcasting, respectively. Both rely heavily on content management systems (CMSs) to manage their online presences, of course, which are used to manage information, news stories, running orders, and other aspects of the news process; they also predetermine some of the stylistic features of stories (such as headlines and formatting).

The majority of Ivar's informants did not generally perceive technology as a constraint - other than when it breaks down - but do complain about the predefined layouts in these systems (limits to the lenght of headlines of story leads), and about their limited ability to include images or Flash content. Both news organisations also utilise user-generated content to some extent, but here, too, there were structural problems - submitted photo or video content needed to be edited by the broadcast staff, for example, because the Web desk staff didn't have the skills to deal with it, which substantially delayed its publication. Similarly, the Web desk depended on video and audio reporters to make their content available to them in usable formats, creating unnecessary barriers. This is perceived as a matter of training.

This points to a view of journalism as technogically embedded, of journalists as surrounded and constrained by technology; constraints are related less to the CMSs themselves, though, but to the use made of these systems. There is a need for further studies of the relationship between technological constraints and socio-cultural constraints as they impact on journalistic practice...

And that's it for this trip - hold the plane, I'm coming home!

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