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Future of Journalism 2009

Conference in Cardiff, 9-10 Sep. 2009

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.

Swedish Business Journalists' Attitudes towards Blogs

The next speakers at Future of Journalism 2009 are Maria Grafström and Karolina Windell, whose interest is in business news and the portrayal of corporate images as influenced by the relationship between media and business, with bloggers throw in as another complication. This is connected also with research into the idea of corporate social responsibility (CSR), which has become better-known in recent years especially as a result of being promoted by the media.

The way the media have portrayed specific corporations is changing as a result; corporations are framed in different ways depending on whether a CSR perspective is included or not. To understand such different portrayal it is necessary to understand the production of business news, too, and to investigate the sources for different articles. Blogs now play a growing role in this context, and the study presented here especially examined articles about blogs in the business press (print, online, radio) as well as interviewing and surveying business journalists in Sweden.

Blog Discussions about the Framing of Science

The final session at Future of Journalism 2009 starts with Stuart Allan, whose focus is on science journalism. One important question here is one of framing - a discursive strategy used to define the nature of a public event; a contested process between journalists and their sources and within news organisations. Frames determine how claims made by sources are selected (or not) as newsworthy, and influence public perception - sources are very aware of this and will try ensure that their comments are seen in the appropriate light.

Citizen Journalism in the 1984/5 British Miners' Strike

The final speaker in this session at Future of Journalism 2009 is Tony Harcup, who shifts our focus back to the 1984/5 UK miners' strike and suggests that the reporting of this strike by alternative media may well provide a much better example of citizen journalism than what is described that way today.

The strike was about the destruction of an industry and of the communities which depended on it, and was reported in detail by alternative newspapers like the monthly Sheffield City Issues. Coverage here was less frontline reporting from the scenes of conflict than reports on solidarity efforts in the city (fundraising events, police watchdog efforts, etc.), and the newspaper sided quite clearly with the miners; it provided an alternative public sphere and acted as a community noticeboard for the strikers and their supporters.

Hyperlocal Community News: A Case Study of myHeimat

If it's Thursday, this must be Cardiff, and my third conference paper for this brief European tour; I'm here at Future of Journalism 2009 with a presentation drawing on the interviews with the myHeimat crew which I conducted in October 2008. As always, the Powerpoint is below, and I'll add the audio as soon as I can I've now added the audio, too; the full paper is also online already.

Successes and Failures of Citizen Journalism in China

The second session on the second day here at Future of Journalism 2009 is the one I'm in as well - but we start with Xin Xin, whose focus is on grassroots journalism in China in the context of the country's social and technological changes. This ties into the long-standing debate on the relationship between journalism and democracy, framed traditionally mainly around established democracies - so what's the story in a rapidly transforming society like China?

Xin suggests that the progressive role of Web 2.0 technologies and citizen journalism in the authoritarian society of China should not be overstated; rather, there is the need for a realistic assessment of citizen journalism in the wider journalistic context of the country. Current issues facing China are a growing gap between rich and poor, and attendant social injustices and conflicts; these divides are opening up in the context of technological changes which have led to China now fielding the largest - and on average, youngest - online population in the world (which remains somewhat disconnected from outside sources and critical voices due to the 'great firewall of China', though), and of a tightly controlled news media environment which is also increasingly marketised.

WikiLeaks and Its Relationship to Journalism

The final speaker in this session at Future of Journalism 2009 is Lisa Lynch, whose focus is on the WikiLeaks whistleblowing site. The site exists in the context of investigative journalism and the global transparency movement, and what is particularly interesting here is how professional journalists relate to it; this can also be studied by examining the composition of the follower community for the WikiLeaks Twitter feed (which contains a very wide range of groups from anarchists and activists through to Sarah Palin fans and white supremacists).

Twitter Practices of Mainstream US News Outlets

We move on to the next speaker at Future of Journalism 2009, Marcus Messner, whose focus is also on Twitter (and in fact, he and Alfred independently named their papers the same...). The focus here is on the use of this tool by mainstream media in the United States, however; such media use Twitter as a research tool, but especially also as a news dissemination tool, particularly for breaking stories, and as a means for building community.

Twitter was founded in 2006, and had some 6 million users by early 2009, this has grown to 20-30 million by now. Some 11% of Americans use Twitter, and the audience is comparatively older than for other social media forms; some journalists use it very regularly now, and there is a whole show devoted to it on CNN. Again, the disputed Iran elections were a major tipping point for the service, of course.

Twitter as Ambient Journalism

Up next at Future of Journalism 2009 is Alfred Hermida, who presents the first of two papers on Twitter and journalism. Twitter has grown massively in recent times, of course, and has attracted a great deal of popular attention, not least in the context of the disputed Iran elections. It has been rapidly adopted in newsrooms for tracking and disseminating breaking news, and UK newspapers alone now have 131 Twitter accounts and 1.47 million followers between them; Sky News now has its own Twitter correspondent.

New Journalism in Second Life

It's second and last day of Future of Journalism 2009 - and after Transforming Audiences in London and e-Democracy in Vienna, the last day in a long week of conferencing for me. Of the three, FoJ is the most multi-tracked conference, so I'll be able to see only a fraction of all papers here - but many of them will be available online as well. We start this morning with a paper on journalism in Second Life, presented by Bonnie Brennen. She begins by noting the current concerns about the future of journalism and views that facts and truth are losing their importance in the postmodern world. Still, there is good journalism being done, if not always in conventional formats, and this journalism is helping people understand key issues in their lives.


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