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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.

European Journalists Views on Their Profession

Finally for this session at Future of Journalism 2009 we move to Henrik Örnebring, presenting some preliminary findings on newswork across Europe that are coming out of a Swedish study. The countries targetted here were Sweden, the UK, Italy, Poland, and Estonia, as they are representative of a range of different media systems. The study conducted 61 semi-structured interviews with journalists involved in daily news production in various media, contexts, and institutional settings, and an email survey with some 2200 journalists across these six countries.

Same Old, Same Old Challenges for the Journalism of the Future

The next speaker at Future of Journalism 2009 is Milissa Deitz, presenting a paper on behalf of Lynette Sheridan Burns. She notes the shift from journalism as transmission to journalism as communication, and the rise of various technologies which facilitate this. Much as TV and radio changed the newspaper landscape, so online technologies are changing the news landscape across all other media - and users divide into digital aliens, immigrants, and natives.

Audiences have become active, and no longer like to be told what to think, so they have turned to social media and are active content creators; they are multitaskers snacking on content. This undermines the information gatekeeping role of journalists, and creates problems for journalism's democratic role - and such concerns have been taken up by various journalism and journalism studies bodies, of course.

Changes in News Report Formats in US Newspapers in Recent Years

The next speaker at Future of Journalism 2009 is Kevin Barnhurst, whose focus is on reporting form(at)s on US newspaper sites. News reports are expressive of historical processes, forms of production, and other factors, and historical changes in radio, TV, and print reports can readily be observed; this work can also be translated to the online environment, of course. US news has been redefined in the 20th century, from denotative (factual) reporting to interpretative and opinion-based analysis; this is an ideological process reflecting the way that power to control societal discussions has moved towards journalists in the 20th century.

International Perspectives on the Political Economy of Participatory Journalism

The second session at Future of Journalism 2009 starts with Marina Vujnovic, presenting on a ten-country study of political-economic factors in participatory journalism by interviewing journalists and editors. There are a number of questions here - the place of user-generated content in the wider information production processes, the role of citizens as informational labourers, the vanishing distinctions between information production and consumption, and between work and play, the emerging convergence culture, and the rise of communicative capitalism and the threats for more democratic forms of participation which follow from it.

Local Journalists' Attitudes towards User Contributions to the News

The next speaker at Future of Journalism 2009 is Jane B. Singer, who presents a study of local journalists and their engagement with user-generated content. Such journalists are potentially a very different group, as they're already closely connected with the local community, but similar to other colleagues have to come to terms with changing news values, norms, roles, and processes. Like their colleagues elsewhere, they are concerned about how the rise of user-generated content is affecting the news.

No Revolution: User-Generated Content at the BBC

The next speaker at Future of Journalism 2009 is Andy Williams, who shifts our attention to user-generated content at the BBC, with a study based on interviews with BBC staff conducted in 2007. Andy, too, notes the substantial shift in perceptions towards a more active role for audiences (journalism as less lecture and more conversation), but in practice, journalist/audience roles at the BBC seem to have ossified rather than opened up.

BBC news has wholeheartedly embraced audience content (footage and photos, eyewitness accounts, audience stories); beyond this, however, also lie other forms of user-generated content, including audience comments, collaborative content, networked journalism, and non-news content. To embrace such content, there is a need for a new institutional framework; BBC journalists are now trained in engaging with UGC, and the phrase 'have they got news for us' is emblematic for this.


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