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Industrial Journalism

Twitter-Based Coverage of the Olympic Games

The next speaker at ECREA 2010 starts with Jennifer Jones, whose focus is also on Twitter: she was an embedded journalist at the Vancouver Winter Olympics. There is a significant historical connection between the Olympic Games and technology, and new media have been especially prominent in recent years; there has been substantial growth especially in alternative media coverage (by non-accredited journalists and others). In Sydney, there even was an alternative media centre for the Olympics.

Independent media were prominent in Vancouver, too – people set up their own media centres, and printed their own unauthorised media passes, which were eventually tacitly accepted as valid media passes. The more people printed their own passes, the more ‘official’ they became. A number of Twitter lists (official, as well as fan-curated or adapted) were set up to aggregate the various alternative journalists covering the events.

Comparing User Participation Functionality in Flemish and German Newspaper Sites

The final speakers in this very engaging morning session at ECREA 2010 are Jeroen de Keyser and Annika Sehl, presenting a comparison of German and Flemish efforts to encourage public participation in the news media. To begin with, there clearly are increases in the online activities of ‘ordinary’ people, for example through blogs, social networking, and citizen journalism; some traditional media offer similar tools to also encourage participatory journalism activities. Such participation may take place at various stages of the journalistic process (input, output, commentary), and tools which enable participation at different stages are differently popular amongst journalists; there still is relatively limited conversation of journalists with the public overall.

The present study examined the current situation in Flanders and Germany, then. In 2008 and 2010, it analysed the participatory tools available on journalism Websites to examine the structural characteristics of audience participation, comparing eight national newspaper Websites each in Flanders and Germany.

Expanding Journalism Theories to Address User Participation

The next speaker in this session at ECREA 2010 is Mirjam Gollmitzer, whose interest is in audience participation in journalism. Such participation can take any number of different forms, of course – from commenting to the creation of whole new articles and other forms of content. Such types of participation can be conceptualised in relation to the degree of audience control over content, can be categorised into different forms of interaction and creation of content, and can be evaluated with reference to the overall visibility of audience contributions, for example.

What is interest here is what happens when such typologies enter into a dialogue with various established journalism theories – Bourdieu’s field theory, which examines the media as a field with its own structures and institutions; Habermas’s public sphere theory which establishes an ideal of public communication and political debate; and Shoemaker & Reese’s hierarchy of influences, which postulates concentric circles of influence extending from the media content at the centre through journalists, their routines, organisations, and extra-media influences, to ideology as the wider background. The impact of the audiences could be mapped at every level here, for example.

Mainstream Media Use of Amateur Footage during the Iran Election Aftermath

The next speaker in this ECREA 2010 session is Mervi Pantti, whose interest is in the role of amateur images in the Iran election crisis. This was a key moment for using citizen-created content in mainstream news coverage, and such images became a focal point for the public response to the election aftermath. Such images were also very difficult to verify, however, raising questions for the journalistic process. Mervi examined the coverage of these protests by CNN, BBC One, and the Finnish broadcaster YLE.

Citizen-provided images are used to support the journalistic mediator’s claims about the truth of the event; they are valued as evidence of the events, and provide immediacy and a heightened reality effect. At the same time, they also present a risk to the journalist’s trustworthiness, especially if there is confusion about the origin of these images. Additionally, there are questions of responsibility here – some of the images show scenes which journalists themselves would not have covered or shown, for ethical reasons; amateur footage of violence, for example, can be used as an excuse from standard journalistic ethics. Transparency is the new strategic ritual in journalistic justifications in this context; it serves as a means of letting the audience know where these images come from.

Understanding Media Watchdog Blogs

The second speaker in this session at ECREA 2010 is Tobias Eberwein, whose interest is in media watchdog blogs. This is part of a larger pan-European/Arab research project, MediaACT (media accountability and transparency), which is engaging in comparative research across 13 nations.

Media accountability means a number of things, but can be summed up as any non-state means of making media responsible to the public. This may include press councils, ombudspersons, media journalism, blogs, social network commentary, entertainment formats (like news critique shows), and others; some of these are institutionalised (and some of those are facing various institutional crises), while some operate from the grassroots but nonetheless can have significant impact.

Coverage of Breaking News by UK News Sites

The next speaker in this interesting ECREA 2010 session is Kostas Saltzis, whose focus is on the coverage of breaking news by UK Websites. Online journalistic practices here tend to focus on updating and maintaining online stories; this is a break from the newspaper approach that necessitated stories to be finished ahead of sending the daily paper to the presses.

24/7 news cycles mean that breaking news must be covered immediately, at any time, however, and this challenges the status of the news story as a finished product. Debate here may sometimes focus more on the speed rather than the quality of journalistic work; this is due also to increased competition. There are now no deadlines associated with continuous coverage, but certain newsroom routines remain unchanged.

How News Media in Latvia and Russia Cover Each Other's Countries

The next speaker at ECREA 2010 is Inta Brikše, whose interest is in Latvian and Russian news media’s coverage of each other’s countries. Russia is still seen as a major enemy of Latvia, for historic reasons, so it is interesting to examine how each country is framed by the news media of the other.

The study examined the Websites of three Russian and three Latvian newspapers, as well as of three Latvian newspapers which are published in the Russian language. This content was examined for issues, sources, source types, causes for coverage (events, opinions, …), and levels of neutrality in coverage.

Trends in Video Content on Spanish News Websites

The next speaker at ECREA 2010 is Pere Masip, whose focus is on the multimedia content of Spanish online newspapers. There is a growing presence of video on such sites, indication new content as well as business models. Why and how is video used on news Websites, then? This study examined the Websites of three of the biggest Spanish newspapers, as well as of the most visited online-only news site in Spain.

Between 14 and 17% of stories on the three newspaper sites had videos; just over 10% of the online-only site. Such videos are mainly integrated with text news on these sites; only one site placed many of its videos in a separate section. Usually, these videos were professionally produced news videos; citizen-generated video content is rare. Such videos include a news organisation ident, but tend not to include bylines or other identifications of the journalists responsible.

Difficulties in Sustaining Hyperlocal News

The final speaker in this ECREA 2010 panel is Angela Phillips, who highlights the disappearance of local news; this is a significant challenge to democracy, as it makes it more difficult for citizens to participate in democratic processes in an informed fashion. She highlights hyperlocal blogs as a potential solution here, but these sites are in the main run by enthusiasts without any financial base, and this means that their quality and reach remain limited.

Finding hyperlocal news information is difficult: we don’t know what we need to know; there is no obvious equivalent to a front page of newspaper poster; there is no obvious equivalent to a news bulletin; and there are homogenising effects of online search. So, the hyperlocal sites which do exist could be seen as speaking only to a small elite of the already converted.

Technological Determinism and the Future of News

The next speaker at ECREA 2010 is Tamara Witschge, who examines the debates around the future of news. New media technologies are coupled with an idea of progress, and are sometimes mythologised as the answer to dwindling audience figures for journalism; this needs to be critically examined. There is very little space for working journalists to challenge how technology is implemented, which is driven often by technological determinism.

Technological determinism is rife in journalists’ understanding of current changes, in fact; technology is seen as the only way out of the current crisis in journalism. First, there is the perception of an imminent threat; second, audiences are going online, and journalists perceive a need to chase them; embracing new technologies is seen as the only way to do so. So, technology has been coupled directly with progress, and this is seen as the only salvation for the industry.


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