Aside

Shift to new media should mean readjustment in all aspects of journalism

8 Feb

I found Jay Rosen’s “The People Formerly Known as the Audience” fascinating. He recognizes an important shift in the way readers interact with information: They no longer receive it in isolation. Now, they receive it on their own terms from whichever sources they want. They are no longer at the mercy of a handful of networks broadcasting on a few frequencies or of a newspaper with little in-depth reporting and analysis. Because of the ease of access that the Internet provides, the “former audience” is much more capable of going after information from all kinds of different sources to find the one source that suits their needs best.

But it’s not that media as we know it will go away. People will still be willing to partake in one-sided media consumption, as Rosen says, but they’ll do it on their own terms because they can. It’s not up to Big Media to dictate what we see, hear and read as it once was. The tone of Rosen’s post captures the rebellious nature of the former audience, perhaps mirroring the chants of the Occupy protesters to some extent in the way he chooses to vilify Big Media and band together with his fellow former audience members.

Web-centered journalism is where the industry is headed, and the sooner journalists and newspaper companies adjust to that idea, the better. Journalism as a business will have to come up with new ways of keeping itself afloat, perhaps by having readers pay for online content, and that may also mean getting back to its roots by giving rise once again to privately owned, individual publications.

What I get from David Carr’s post about newspaper bonuses and payouts is that if media conglomerates like Gannett can’t be trusted with the newspaper business,  it should be put back in the hands of smaller, independent owners. Digital media pioneer Howard Owens argues that success lies in independent online publishers, not chains. If the future of journalism is in online publishing and not print, perhaps the outcome of the “online revolution” is that big companies will no longer be in charge and chains of publications won’t exist.

Before the business of publication can be successful, however, the content of the publication itself must be successful. Writers of online content should be held to the same standards as those of print. Once the newsroom workforce breaches the online barrier, there will, of course, be a need to develop new protocol for the Web. Policies surrounding use of social networking sites like Facebook will be essential to maintaining objectivity in reporting. These sites can be very useful to reporters source-wise, but they can easily do as much harm as good if used without care.

Readership in small towns isn’t declining, and I think that can largely be attributed to the niche local newspapers have in providing specific, in-depth coverage of smaller areas. National news is important to readers, but what they will most likely be more concerned with is what affects them at the local level.

Patch.com seems to me to be a content farm masquerading as a source for local information. It is not comprehensive in that it doesn’t have pages for every sizable city in every state, and it seems to be limited by the number and location of people who produce its content. Patch editors attempt to gather the same information about a city or region that local news sources report on, write up their own quick blurb about it and publish it on their pages. The result is a Web page facilitated by one person with little to no input from anyone else; the site may as well advertise that it hosts a variety of personal blogs from around the country.

I think what Patch does counts as journalism in the sense that it dispenses news to readers, but its coverage is not very in-depth. The content of each local page is subject to the discretion of one person who is paid by the company to focus on one area. It’s more than likely that that person — hard as they may try otherwise — will end up picking and choosing content subjectively, which undermines journalism’s standard of objectivity.

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One Response to “Shift to new media should mean readjustment in all aspects of journalism”

  1. Ronald R. Rodgers February 8, 2012 at 2:44 pm #

    Excellent re Rubric
    What I get from David Carr’s post about newspaper bonuses and = AGAIN, RECALL MY DISCUSSION LAST WEEK ABOUT BEING MORE ARTFUL IN REFERRING TO YOUR LINKS. I WANT YOU TO WRITE THESE FOR SOMEONE WHO IS NOT IN OUR CLASS – THUS NO REFERENCES LIKE THIS.
    I think what Patch does counts as journalism in the sense that it dispenses news to readers, but its coverage is not very in-depth. I MIGHT ARGUE THAT IT IS MORE INFO – WITHOUT THE DEPTH AND INTERPRETATION IT IS NOT NEWS.

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