You are here

Industrial Journalism

Do Social Media Affect Journalistic Story Sourcing?

The next paper session at Future of Journalism 2011 starts with Megan Knight, whose interest is in the impact of social media on newsgathering. She’s already examined the level of social media-based sourcing of mainstream news reporting in the context of popular protests in the Middle East - which appears to remain relatively low; however, does such low overt use hide a greater amount of use of social media not as direct sources, but as generating story ideas and providing background which is then pursued further my journalists sourcing information from more powerful sources?

Megan pursued this question by observing the reporting processes at a major national daily newspaper in the U.K., as well as interviewing key actors and conducting content analysis. She found that stories originated overwhelmingly with state institutions, corporations, and government bodies; indeed, journalists increasingly appear to wait for power elites to approach them, rather than contacting them directly.

The Inevitability of Public Funding for U.S. News Media

Day two of the Future of Journalism conference starts with a keynote from Robert McChesney. He begins by acknowledging yesterday’s keynote, but also notes that he has a somewhat different view on matters; pointing to The Guardian as a special case, endowed by a trust, and publicly funded media in Britain in general, he notes that there aren’t all that many such news organisations left – and these and new initiatives may not be enough in their own right to sustain the future of journalism. More and other approaches are needed.

The world is filled with young people who want to be journalists, and they need to be given the opportunity to do so. There’s no lack of talent or enthusiasm, but a lack of resources and institutions that enable this – this is a political problem first and foremost; the labour market for journalists in the U.S. is now the worst it has ever been – worse even than in the Great Depression –, and this will not change unless major changes are made. And things may get even worse in the coming years.

Journalistic Professional Ideology as Boundary Maintenance

The final speaker in this session at Future of Journalism is Helle Sjøvaag, who shifts our focus to the role of the classic news ideals in a changing journalistic environment. Professional journalistic ideology remains an important part of journalistic professional life, and is mobilised in distinguishing professional journalists from other groups.

Digitalisation processes challenge the established news business model, of course: income streams and audiences are dwindling, and competition between news outlets increases. Journalistic ideology is the sum of journalistic professional beliefs, and is recycled through daily journalistic practice; branding of professional journalistic products as professional through such ideology becomes ever more important in this highly competitive space, therefore. This is a process of boundary-maintenance to sustain professional identity and difference.

Open Innovation in the News Industry

The next speakers in this session at the Future of Journalism conference are Tanja Aitamurto and Seth Lewis. Their focus is on open innovation in the news industry: the use of purposive inflows and outflows of knowledge to accelerate innovation. Such innovation is necessary in news, due to the continuing increase in media platforms, the shortening of product lifecycles, the rapid change of consumer habits, and the diminishing resources available.

Tanja and Seth have identified three cases which exemplify such innovation. How does such innovation manifest in the news industry, and what implications does it have in research and development work? At the macro level, one such example is the Knight News Challenge. It is a high-profile competition examining the future of news, and can be seen to be setting the agenda for journalism innovation; overall, it has wide influence in journalism. Knight follows an inside-out process by providing funds, reports, and signals to the industry, as well as an outside-in process that taps into the wisdom of actors outside of journalism; this results in a coupled process which straddles the boundaries of journalism by linking journalists and technologists.

Understanding the Market for News

The next speaker at the Future of Journalism conference is Arne Krumsvik, who says that new media are important and will continue to be so, but that old media will continue to fund journalism. Digital news media products will have strategic value in the future, but fail to generate substantial funds, so the main source of finances will continue to be conventional media products.

Porter suggests five key market forces: immediate competition in the market, the bargaining power of buyers, the bargaining power of suppliers, possible new entrants to the industry, and substitute products that come from one industry but fill a need in the other, to the other’s detriment. Traditionally, none of these have been strong in the news market: competition is limited, and therefore news organisations have strong bargaining powers; they often own their own supply chains. New entrants into print or broadcast are comparatively rare, and rarely successful, and few substitute products from other markets are available.

Four Reasons to Be Optimistic about the Future of Journalism

The first speaker in the next session at Future of Journalism is my QUT colleague Stephen Harrington, whose question is not only whether journalism is in crisis, but how we might be able to tell. He suggests that there may be four basic criteria for journalism’s health. The first of these, in ascending order of importance, is the number of outlets which exist in the media ecosystem. This is also least contentious: journalism is healthy when lots of it is being produced.

On this measure, though, journalism cannot be said to be in crisis today, and this is also an argument raised by Brian McNair in Cultural Chaos: there has now been an explosion in the amount of news being produced and shared, if not necessarily by professional journalists.

Twitter as a News Source during Natural Disasters

Leslie-Jean Thornton finishes the session at Future of Journalism by discussing the spread of information on Twitter. She points us to the San Diego fire and the #sandiegofire hashtag, which really was a breakthrough for the use of hashtags on Twitter; this was the first time that hashtags were successfully used for the coordination of discussion around major crisis events.

It is interesting for such breaking news stories to examine the timeline of events on Twitter, of course; this also requires detailed qualitative, even ethnographic work. Early on, journalism on these events hasn’t even emerged yet, so we can study how events are being characterised by the users who just raised them; especially at these early stages, gatewatching and citizen journalism practices may be able to be observed particularly clearly.

Tracking Mentions of Social Media Sources in Mainstream U.S. Newspapers

Tim Baikjewicz is the next speaker at Future of Journalism 2011, and his interest, too, is in social media in journalism. They have now become an obsession for many news media; news organisations are focussing mainly on pushing content, cultivating sources, and building ‘communities’ (though their understanding of community might be substantially different from those of actual social media users).

It is also interesting in this context to examine the social media sources that news media now draw on. This follows the trajectory of previous work examining the use of blog-based material by major news organisations. How do newspapers use social media sources, then, how often and prominently do they do so, and are there obvious differences in how they are used?

Journalistic Use and Verification of Twitter-Sourced Information

The next session at Future of Journalism 2011 starts with the fabulous Alfred Hermida, whose focus is on the shift of news organisations to digital, networked environments, with specific reference to Twitter. How do journalists find a place in this, and especially, how do they deal with verifying information on those platforms?

Twitter is used for a variety of purposes, of course, and the volume of messages on this platform is immense. This represents the lives, interests, and views of its users – and includes acts of journalism; Twitter can be seen as a platform for ambient journalism, therefore. This challenges established ways of communication for journalism, usually about current things, and it disrupts the way we think about space and time, private and public. For journalists, it disrupts truth (or the pursuit of truth, which they have elevated to their ultimate professional goal): discovering and reporting truth by journalism is seen as essential to the profession.


Subscribe to RSS - Industrial Journalism