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Industrial Journalism

Three Challenges for Journalism in the Social Media Age

Rio de Janeiro.
My own keynote presentation started the second day of SBPJor. Powerpoint and audio are below; the full paper (which attacks the topic from a slightly different angle, but makes much the same points) is also online.

My sincere thanks to Carlos Franciscato and the SBPJor organisation for the invitation to speak at the conference; it’s been great to meet some of the many Brazilian journalism researchers whose work I’ve been aware of for some time now. I’m sorry that because of the language barrier I’ve not been able to participate more fully in the conference itself, but I hope my contribution has been useful – some good discussion in question time, certainly!

The Effect of Changes in Journalism on Democracy

Rio de Janeiro.
As part of my last overseas trip for this year, I’ve made it to Brazil for SBPJor, the conference of Brazilian journalism researchers – which opens with a keynote by John Pavlik. (My own plenary presentation follows tomorrow morning.) John’s focus is on the consequences of digital journalism for democracy: chief amongst these, disruption and innovation in the journalism industry; the emergence of a digital divide between those with and without access; the development of more robust interactive media; greater transparency in government; and increased civic participation.

Disruption and innovation is driven by greater access to high-speed wired and wireless Internet, as well as new (also mobile) technologies which enable us to connect to these networks. Additionally, the global economic downturn also presents great challenges for the media to reinvent themselves; this has been a problem for the mainstream media, but also provides opportunities for new media players to step into the breach.

Robotic Journalism?

Berlin.
In response to Chris W. Anderson’s talk at the Berlin Symposium, Lorenz Matzat now discusses the question of ‘robot journalism’ and its impact on newsroom jobs. There is a substantial increase in the amount of data being collected (and to some extent, made available) by all sorts of devices; these data would also be valuable for journalistic purposes, of course.

Understanding Algorithmic Journalism

Berlin.
The afternoon session at the Berlin Symposium, on intermediaries in public communication, begins with Chris W. Anderson’s presentation on data journalism (he’s not the ‘long tail’ guy, by the way). He begins by describing journalism as a media form that’s meant to bring the public together – to assemble the reading public. In a sense, Google, and data algorithms, similarly bring the public together – and intermediaries emerge in this process.

Algorithms are predetermined sets of instructions for solving a specific problem in a limited number of steps; one of the best known algorithms of recent years is Google’s PageRank algorithm, of course. They are hybrid entities, cyborgs, both human and machinic: they combine both human intentionality and social structure, and technological affordances. In other words, they’re part of the social world, not machines impacting on it from the outside – but they’re also not determined entirely by social and societal forces, but retain technological qualities.

Twitter as a Tool for Pro-Am Journalistic Practices

Seattle.
Wow – we’ve already reached the final session on the final day of AoIR 2011; time has passed very quickly. I’m in a session on Twitter, and Gabriela Zago makes a start. Her focus is on the possibilities of Pro-Am news media work on Twitter, focussing especially on the newspapers The Guardian and El País.

New tools and Web services appear online all the time; these tools are appropriated in different ways by different social actors. One possibility is appropriation for news-related uses, pursuing Pro-Am collaboration opportunities. Such Pro-Am models combine professional journalists and amateur news users and produsers. Twitter is currently being appropriated in this way – this is a form of extending news media for multiplatform news delivery as well as for other purposes.

The Phonehacking Scandal and the Future of Journalism

Cardiff.
The final session here at Future of Journalism is a roundtable on the News of the World scandal; as a panel session, it will be hard to blog, but I’ll try my best. Bob Franklin starts us off by highlighting the wide reach of the scandal, and notes that while journalism overall has been tarred with the abuses committed by News International, there also has been some excellent journalistic coverage of the scandal.

The first panellist is Labour Party MP Chris Bryant, shadow minister for political and constitutional reform. He says that it feels as if public debate in the UK has been changed massively by the scandal; it feels like being released from prison, he says. In fact, in his Welsh constituency, the only way to get digital TV is to subscribe to (the partly Murdoch-owned) BSkyB; and Murdoch has been using his newspapers’s political influence to protect BSkyB as a cash cow.

Chris’s own phone was hacked, and he knows that this has enabled News papers to find a great number of his contacts, who could then be contacted for any potential dirt they may have. The same happened in the Milly Dowler case, of course, and here Glenn Mulcaire even delete messages, which is ‘playing god with the family’s emotions’, Chris says.

Blogging Journalists, Journalistic Blogging

Cardiff.
The next speaker at Future of Journalism is Lex Boon, whose focus is on the changing context for journalism in this transitional phase. In particular, blogs have been driving this change, and as a result, of course, journalists themselves have also started their own blogs.

Lex examined media blogs (in the professional context of journalism, published on the Website of news organisations), and interviewed the journalist-bloggers behind them – from a broad range of news beats. Mostly those journalists essentially fell into blogging: their editors raised the need to start blogging, and they started their blogs as experiments, without much pre-planning. This also means that they’re not taking their approach to blogging too seriously at this point.

Social Media Users' News Consumption in Canada

Cardiff.
The next speaker at Future of Journalism is Alfred Hermida, who is interested in how news consumption changes as a result of the greater use of social networking platforms. Such users may now start to constitute network publics: mediated public spheres where networking technologies and social interactions influence one another. How does such a networked audience use the news?

The Pew Center has already shown that 75% of U.S. audiences get part of their news via email and other sharing; this mediated sociability is increasingly simply part of what we do, and social media have infiltrated our daily habits. What questions does that raise for the media industry, which has long managed to control its content distribution channels?

Alfred conducted a national survey in Canada to examine how people consume online news; of the 1600 people surveyed, some 1000 also visited social networking sites at least once per month. Half of the Canadian population is on Facebook, some 20% of Canadians are on Twitter. Do such networks play a role in the distribution of news, then?

'Ordinary' People in the News, before and after Web 2.0

Cardiff.
The next speaker at Future of Journalism is Jeroen de Keyser, whose interest is in how Web 2.0 has changed the presentation of ordinary people’s views in newspapers. Traditionally, journalists view citizens as sources only for anecdotal (eyewitness, vox pop) information; otherwise, they prefer elite actors as sources. As a result, few everyday citizens are visible in news output, and they are mostly positioned to be of low importance.

Web 2.0 has changed this situation somewhat, both through the introduction of citizen journalism practices and by making a wider range of everyday sources available to journalists. Does this lead to ‘ordinary peoople’ appearing more often and more prominently, then?

Jeroen undertook a content analysis of five daily papers in Flanders (two quality, two tabloid papers from three different companies), comparing samples of their news coverage from 2001 (pre-Web 2.0) and 2011. All articles which included ordinary citizens (through quotes or mentions) were included in the dataset.

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