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Industrial Journalism

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.

User-Generated Content in Dutch News Sites

After the very fruitful EDEM 2009 in Vienna I've once again entrusted my life to the dubious abilities of KLM to deliver me to the Future of Journalism conference in Cardiff, where the weather has turned out to be unseasonably warm as well - seems like it's following me! Unfortunately I missed the opening keynotes, so if there were any brilliant new insights into the future of journalism there, we'll have to wait until the recordings become available.

Digital News Usage Trends in Australia

The next speaker at Transforming Audiences is my QUT colleague Anna Daniel, who presents on Australian consumer trends in digital news. She also highlights the shift towards a participative Web and the confusion over the use of online news by Australian users, and points to the challenging position of news organisations in the face of declining advertising revenues in print and unclear revenue models for online news sources. The present resource was conducted in the context of a case study of the online-only newspaper Brisbane Times and the online-only entertainment site The Vine.

Critiques of News Media by Replay-Relay Audiences

The next speaker at Transforming Audiences is Christian Christensen, who begins by highlighting the emergence of what he calls the 'replay-relay audience'. One example here is the discussion between Daily Show host Jon Stewart and MSNBC financial host Jim Cramer about the quality of MSNBC's financial coverage; another is Stephen Colbert's White House Correspondents' Association dinner speech in 2006, which tore into both the Bush administration and the mainstream media for their coverage of Bush's administration; yet another is Jon Stewart's 2004 appearance on CNN's Crossfire, which ultimately led to the demise of that show after Stewart fatally critiqued the show's format and its effect on journalism and public discourse in America.

Changing Patterns of News Media Use in Austria

The next session at Transforming Audiences starts with Birgit Stark, presenting a longitudinal study of Internet and traditional news media in Austria. This operates in the context of the question of whether online news is replacing ot complementing print newspapers and other news sources. Here, current research is not yet conclusive, Birgit says - the phenomenon of media substitution, if it does exist, is still in development, and while there are some indications that especially younger users are replacing older news media with online news, it is unclear how far this trend may go.

The Power of News Agencies over Journalism

The final speaker in this ANZCA 2009 session is Jane Johnston, whose interest is in the economy of news agencies - and she begins with a couple of hoax press releases which were converted into mainstream news stories by the Australian-based press agency AAP. Such stories were widely published by a number of Australian mainstream online news sites and newspapers.

This is great success for the press release writers, but it was conversion into stories by the AAP which created such wide coverage; it highlights the role of press agencies, and points to the near-monopoly of the AAP as a news agency in Australia.

New Models for Journalism, beyond the Citizen

The next session at ANZCA 2009 starts with a paper by my colleague Terry Flew, who is also the chair of the conference. He begins by noting the old trope of the journalist as hero (as embodied for example by Messrs. Woodward and Bernstein in the Watergate affair), and its decline (Glenn Milne is the anti-hero in this context). There are substantial impacts of Web 2.0 technologies on contemporary journalism, of course, and there are serious questions about the future role of journalism. News organisations have most trouble, in fact, not in coming to terms with new technologies but with this new lack of deference to their once powerful position.

Editorial Independence versus Product Placement

The next speaker at Alcatel-Lucent Foundation / HBI 2009 is Volker Lilienthal, Augstein Foundation Professor at the University of Hamburg. He notes the reception theory-based definition of quality which Rainer Esser highlighted in the previous presentation, but himself continues with a production theory-based definition, which holds that journalists can also produce quality journalism even if their audience is no longer interested in such content.

Product placement, he notes, may be acceptable if editorial independence remain unaffected. But how can this work in a concrete case - editors and journalists, after all, are employees of their organisations, and are unlikely to be entirely independent from their economic agendas. Journalists must try, though, to make clear decisions about what content is relevant, what audiences should be confronted with, and what content is merely a result of particular business or other interests.


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