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Week 1 Summary

This week, we read The Death of the News, by Gary Kamiya; Bloggers vs. Journalists is Over, by Jay Rosen; and listened to Brooke, Clive and Ethan at Aspen from “On the Media.”  I’ll take them one at a time.

The Death of the News

Kamiya begins his article with a bold statement: “Journalism as we know it is in crisis.”  He writes about how traditional media, and newspapers in particular, are seriously threatened by new media.  The picture he paints of the relationship between online journalism and traditional reporting is bleak, and Kamiya uses some hyperbole to get his point across.  There are several major issues he sees with online news, and I paraphrase:

-There is no profitable business model for online journalism – although some newspapers are starting to charge for online content

-Online journalism is a parasite of traditional reporting, meaning that many online stories originated in print

-As a result of having/using fewer primary sources, online media writers will have “tunnel vision”

Bloggers may have tunnel vision

Kamiya does manage to point out some positive aspects of what he calls “the Internet media revolution.”  More people have more access to be able to publish their opinions at will, and bloggers make use of their secondary sources and are often great fact checkers.

His main concern is really the death of reporting.  That is, a trained journalist who strives for a nonpartisan point of view, conducts face-to-face interviews and checks their facts.  His claim that “if field reporting dies out, the world will become a less known place,” is an interesting one.  As we’ll see in the rest of the summary, Rosen would disagree.  Rosen writes about citizen journalism during the tsunami and how the bloggers had lots of one-on-one interviews but lacked an overarching story.

Kamiya sounds to me like he is from the old school: “The Internet gives readers what they want; newspapers give them what they need.”  I would argue that newspapers need to find a way to adapt and do both.  Just like we are struggling as a country with how to overhaul healthcare, we need to struggle with how to overhaul newspapers.  He mentions the idea of subsidizing newspapers and turning them into “nonprofit, endowed institutions – like colleges and universities.”  Who knows whether that is the right or wrong answer, but we need to start trying something out instead of just sitting back and waiting for the world to come crashing down.  For all of his complaints about the death of reporting, I don’t see any proposed solutions to this problem.  It’s great to raise a flag and say that something catastrophic is going to happen, but it would be great if he could try and at least throw some ideas out there as to how to begin fixing it.

On the Media

This was an interesting discussion about the idea of homiphily – essentially, it means that birds of a feather flock together.  People with similar interests (or socioeconomic backgrounds, education, etc) tend to stick together.  Brooke, Clive and Ethan discuss this idea and how it relates to new media.

People, especially those in the media, often pat themselves on the back for how much broad exposure you can have on Twitter to everyone, everywhere – but when they looked at some actual user statistics they found that the vast majority of users are well-educated white males.

They gave a music industry example, noting that people often tend to listen to the same five bands over and over.  So, iTunes introduced its Genius feature, which is essentially collaborative filtering.  If I enjoy listening to these five punk bands, it’s going to find 10 other people out there who like them and I get their recommendations.

Pandora is a music genome project that suggests new music based on characteristics you choose.

Pandora radio is another great example of this that they didn’t mention.  This is an example of the music industry finding ways to adapt and meet both their needs and their customer’s needs.


With music, it’s easy enough to get someone to listen to something new, if it comes with a trusted recommendation.  In the case of news, although it’s easy technically to get information around the world via the Internet, Twitter, etc, people actually have to want to hear what you have to say.  The challenge, they say, is to make information accessible without sugar-coating it.

Bloggers vs. Journalism is Over

This piece was written five years ago and I was struck while reading it at how we are basically still saying the same things about traditional and new media.

“Big Journalism” vs citizen journalism
Rosen is saying that we don’t need to compare one to the other, they can have a symbiotic relationship.   Each has strengths and weaknesses.  Overall, he claims that bloggers have to earn the trust of their readers in a way that bigger media sources already have.  I would argue that people don’t necessarily trust big media sources either, though.

Not Sovereign
Professional journalism no longer has a “singular influence.” Editors used to have reign over the op-ed pages, but now every blog is an op-ed and they no longer control the conversation. When public figures want to make some sort of announcement, they contact bloggers instead of journalists. The balance of power is changing and newspapers feel threatened – that’s why they fall back to the “are bloggers ‘real’ journalists?” debate. Some say that people don’t buy the claim that newspapers are objective sources, and perhaps that is just not valuable anymore.

The paper doesn’t have a voice.
People may feel more connected to blogs than newspapers if they can pinpoint an individual writer or editor that represents what they’re reading.  Rosen gives an example of a man whose “hometown” paper is the Winston-Salem Journal, but he feels more connected to the Greensboro News-Record, one town over, because of the blogs he reads and the editor’s consistent voice.

The cartoon dialogue
“Change is not coming from traditional competitors but from the audience [newspapers] serve. What could be more frightening?…The rise of blogs does not equal the death of journalism.”  Kamiya would beg to differ.  Speaking of cartoons, check out this Wizard of Id cartoon that I thought was funny, and fitting:

Traditional print media needs help finding ways to stay relevant to their audience.

Conclusion
Blogs are often vivid first person accounts, but they don’t tell the broader story. “Arguing about whether blogs would replace the major news media is like asking ‘will farmer’s markets replace restaurants?’… blogs lack the level of trust that has been earned by more established media.”  I would say that five years ago, that may have been true.  Today, there are highly trustworthy blogs and very biased major media sources and Rosen might revisit his conclusion.

And here’s:

Presentation from class

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9 Comments

  1. ElzbthMllr 20:26, Jan 25th, 10

    These three articles centered on a couple of themes, including the importance of social networks, news objectivity and the tension between so-called “old” and “new” media. First I’d like to take issue with the concept of objectivity in news. I’m not sure that it’s every really possible for there to be objective news, particularly with respect to big media, or more traditional forms of media such as television, newspapers, radio. I think there is always going to be some sort of financial bias (forget the questions of whether institutions have inherently liberal or conservative bias), that is going to take precedence over the quality of news that gets reported. That’s why I think, in part at least, there is the popularity of blogs. People are going to have preconceived notions of the kind of news they want to get, where they want to get it from, and how and when they want to get it. Of course, this does lead to the problem of “homiphily” as discussed by Brooke Gladstone On The Media piece, but I think it’s naïve to think that we weren’t necessarily living in that kind of environment with respect to more traditional kinds of media, or that’s how we exist in society more generally. I also think that this can be a way to expose people to more news and ideas, as was discussed in the same piece, you’re more likely to be interested in news and events that your friends, co-workers, and general social circle are interested in. Jay Rosen’s piece on bloggers vs. journalists illustrated some key differences between the two types of. I agree with Alexandra who in her summary writes that people don’t necessarily trust “big media”, but I think Rosen makes valid points about the respect for long-standing media institutions such as The New York Times. I also agree with Rosen in that there are plenty of examples that we can point to where websites, blogs etc often influence the kind of news and reporting that we see coming out of mainstream media. I also wonder to what extent we will see generational shifts with respect to how younger generations are interested in accessing media, and for what purpose. For example, we see a huge increase in celebrity culture and celebrity “news” (really more infotainment than anything else). Is this a trend that’s here to stay, or as younger generations grow old, will this phenomenon inevitably fade?

  2. mushon 12:46, Jan 26th, 10

    Nice work on the conclusion, be sure to come up with some bullet points to go through these and some provocative questions to lead the discussion.

    cheers,

    Mushon

  3. juliette b 16:54, Jan 26th, 10

    These three documents seem to adopt a kind of realistic approach to new media.

    Kamiya is definitely very pessimistic regarding the advance that new media have brought. Actually, he considers that new media are a danger for society. He is too negative though.

    The conversation on the media seemed much more accurate to me. They look at new media as a tool with its drawbacks (like twitter is not used by so many people etc.) and also the new way of communicating that it has allowed.
    They beleive that new media humanize the news while Kamiya warns us on the “increasingly virtual and solipsistic age” that new media are contributing to.

    I would be much more likely to buy into the humanized touch brought by new media!

    But am I too enthutiast?

  4. Ryan 17:23, Jan 26th, 10

    Great summary by the way. I think the thing that we see to reiterate one of your points was the shift of power and trust between large media companies to an ever-growing first-person account of the blogging. What interests me even more would be to see the degree of filtering with traditional news media. Because blogging and other new media journalism in one respect calls it like people see it from their perspective. This is not to say that their own preconceived bias or proclivities are removed similarly to old media journalism. Yet objectivity is always far often removed because everyone sees things differently. Still, the level of trust that differs between old and new media can vary like elizabeth said e.g. New York Times vs. some renowned blogger. What I believe to be at the heart of news and journalism are the reputations of who’s telling what to whom and what is often being reported.

    Given the recent example of the Haiti earthquake disaster there was an rss feed on our site that explained how new media was right there (thanks honeih) utilizing twitter, facebook, images, youtube, that blended old and new media working simultaneously to open up the avenues of reception to what’s going on whether it is via television, internet, or phone.

    The big issue which I think Alexandra was right about was how the traditional media feels threatened. They need to adapt to the changing environment of today’s journalism and look for new and creative ways to compete against new media. Consequently, there are pros and cons to both sides. It is up to the person who’s receiving the news, wherever they get it, to be informed about both sides. Lastly, the best way to achieve objectivity is to look at multiple accounts. I would argue that this is where the news is headed towards. Instead of one source telling all, now we have multiple sources and more of the ‘same news’ to sort through.

  5. nadine 17:40, Jan 26th, 10

    Alexandra, thank you a lot for the link to Mashable, I didn’t know this site, it’s really a great guide to see what happens on social media!

    The financial sustainability of traditional media, especially newspapers, is of great concern. The idea to adapt a non-profit, sponsor-funded business model seems like an interesting alternative, but is it? The first reaction of any journalist is to reject such an option for reasons of Independence and objectivity. The question remains open. Of course, there are state-funded institutions that are well known for quality reporting, like PBS, Deutsche Welle, but how would a large transfer would effect this objectivity? Would they publish a Watergate scandal?
    However, several non-profit start-ups have been launched in the US, for example http://www.minnpost.com, or http://www.propublica. org, a site dedicated to investigative journalism. What do you think?

  6. HoniehBarak 18:05, Jan 26th, 10

    “The Internet gives readers what they want; newspapers give them what they need.”

    This quote also sparked my interest Alexandra. I have to say your summary was quite insightful to read.

    The Internet not only gives readers what they want, but also does give them what they need. Many reputable newspapers have an their own online version, which some don’t charge for.

    Ie: http://www.nytimes.com

    After reading these articles, I did find that my opinion on bloggers had not changed. I personal don’t blog often but I do find that because of the bloggers the field correspondent is no longer as important.

    Journalists such as Christiane Amanpour or Andersen Cooper are constantly in different countries doing field work, but they are the only people I see that stand out.

    http://www.cnn.com

    Other journalists have either been laid off or decided to start their own blogs. My only reason of being negative towards blogs is that they may tell you “what is happening” but they also add their own personal tone to it. The twitter revolution in Iran was something that I personal engaged in on a day to day basis. May of the reports that were coming in I would translate for others and repost. There wasn’t a single correspondent in Iran at the time who could VALIDATE these occurrences. There is a need for journalists from credible organizations and I believe there will always be a demand for them.

    Thanks!

  7. lindai 18:52, Jan 26th, 10

    thank you for a great summary, alexandra!
    reading through all the follow up comments i wonder what else is left to contribute to the discussion? the media landscape is definitely changing and moving away from traditional media. the journalists – blogger debate has been going on for a long time and one cannot generally say (anymore) if newspaper or blogs are more credible. i think that if one wants to have an accurate picture, one has to research it at the micro level. e.g. it has to be looked at for individual cases, or newspapers, and different countries as well. if i take malaysia as an example, where traditional media are all censored and the majority pro-government, it is a blessing to have bloggers who report on the uncensored internet. that does not mean that bloggers are automatically more trusted but they offer an alternative to the biased newspapers and other media outlets.

  8. agmichaels 19:33, Jan 26th, 10

    Great summary, Alexandra–the cartoon was a nice touch :)

    I’ve heard both sides of the blogger v. journalist debate, but the one aspect I never considered was the threat to actual sources of news that Kamiya points out. I worked as a local news journalist for a few years before going the grad school route, but I never actually considered until now where all my tips came from. The Internet was clutch for background info and phone numbers and the like, but most of my stories came in the form of, “Hey, So-and-so mentioned this event, why don’t you see if there’s anything to it?” Now, because blogging is so reliant on links to other sources for valid information, you have to wonder where the ‘Origin Source’ is going to be. Are we going to hit a point where TMZ is our most trusted news source? Of course, they *did* know about Michael Jackson before anyone else . . .

  9. Harris 19:44, Jan 26th, 10

    Why is it an either/or question anyway? Why can’t newspapers and blogs complement each other?

    Let newspapers investigate facts, let bloggers put them in perspective. Let bloggers tell personal anecdotes, let newspapers use them to expand their information sources.

    Is there no sustainable business model for online journalism? Or are newspapers closing down because traditional media are not profitable any more?
    If this debate is so important in shaping the future of our society, why do we leave the decision on the market?