Tag Archives: NEW MEDIA

BBC developing app for reporters to use in the field

JIM TUCKER, June 17: The BBC is developing an app that will allow its reporters in the field to file video, stills and audio directly into the BBC system from an iPhone or iPad. READ MORE>

Where we’ll all be going for our news – mobile devices

IMAGE: Dailymobile.se

JIM TUCKER: MOBILE devices – aka cellphones – are where we’ll all go to get our news in the foreseeable future.

So, Jim, you’ve finally caught up, I can hear the “wired” saying. Martin Hirst (News 2.0) will be laughing out loud.

Truth is, I’ve been using a Nokia N95 since 2008, mainly because it cost a fortune and it had a very good camera for stills and video. There seemed no need to change.

Hmmm, how things have moved along in three years.

Although the N95 still performs admirably as a phone and camera, I took a punt and bought the latest Nokia super-phone, the N8, last month, and…WOW!

Having had some downtime to explore it over the past few days (I usually spend man flu time reading or sleeping), I’ve discovered a whole new online world.

It’s my first brush with touch phone technology, which has taken a bit of adjustment, but now I’ve got it sorted (removing the protective film from the front and the camera helped), I’m amazed at how even someone with my dodgy old eyesight can manipulate the screen to read anything (who needs an iPad?).

This baby does everything – phone, texts, email, still and video camera, web browser, radio receiver, music player, social media, live TV monitor, GPS, etc. Pretty much everything you can do on a PC (although editing pix and vids might be stretching it).

It has three home pages, which I’ve loaded with RSS feeds from all the major news outlets in the world.

That was an interesting mission, by the way. For ease of RSS loading, Stuff beat everyone. I gave up on NZHerald, it was so clunky, which suggests the people running that site have yet to notice the revolution that’s upon us.

I can do Facebook on the phone with relative ease, altho my drift into short word forms – like texting – has already brought one complaint from a colleague who reckons I can’t spell.

And I’ll say this for Nokia – the manuals in both print and on the device are easy to follow. I’ve avoided reading manuals for years because they are usually badly translated and incomprehensible.

So, the big question: how will this affect journalism and the teaching thereof?

For a start – clever headline writing, intros that sing and strong images are going to be more important than ever.

Story extracts will need to be very reader-friendly if they are going to attract distracted browsers into the full texts.

Journalism teachers will have to monitor their students online habits to find out where they get their news, and then look at the popular sites to see what they’re doing to attract people.

As always, the textbook that best informs is what’s happening in the news media itself.

For a luddite, I’m damned excited about it all. Just hope the eyesight holds up long enough to see the full effects of what’s going to happen.

The new news symbiosis (rather than just convergence)?

NBR: This video of the Egyptian unrest – presumably taken by a citizen – comes via Facebook and National Business Review. Is this the reality of convergence – citizens report, social media alerts, mainstream distributes? VIEW HERE>

Egypt’s Facebook ‘girl’ – the Web 2.0 revolution

CARNEGIE CORPORATION: Digital technology is bringing rapid change to Arab nations, from protests to social interactions, and the effects will be felt far beyond regional borders. READ MORE>

Early online news reports said Giffords died in shooting

INDE ONLINE.COM: FOR a brief period after US politician Gabrielle Giffords was reported shot, many news organisations said she had died.

How and why they made that mistake reveals something important about the modern media environment. READ MORE>

Google taking steps to block content farms

SEARCH ENGINE LAND: Google has fired a warning toward “content farms” — you’re in our anti-spam sights in 2011. READ MORE>

That message was made loud and clear in Matt Cutts’ blog post today, a post in which Google also says its search quality has improved due to new spam fighting techniques.

Cutts points out that Google has already taken steps against content farms (which he defines as “sites with shallow or low-quality content”), pointing out the so-called “Mayday” update and other algorithmic tweaks made last year. But he also promises a renewed effort in 2011:

Top journalist talks about the future of journalism

ARABIC INTERNATIONAL DAILY: The Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s lead reporter Angus Stickler is interviewed by Asharq Alawsat.

While delivery methods may change via online or hard copy, there will always be a place for strong impartial journalism. I will always buy my preferred …

How ‘satellite journalism’ played its part in coverage of Tunisia

ALJAZEERA: THE Listening Post programme discusses the impact of “satellite journalism” on the unrest in Tunisia. SEE HERE>

Can journalism survive the Internet? Yes, probably

REVIEW: News 2.0 – Can journalism survive the Internet?

By Martin Hirst, 2011. Allen and Unwin, Australia.$45.

Reviewed by Jim Tucker

This is an excellent book, a must-read for every journalism student, tutor, journalist, media manager and academic media-watcher.

There. That said, I’m obliged, in the way of the reviewer, to tell you what I think is wrong with it. There’s some, but not a lot.

In an age when everyone with a passing interest in journalism is frantically looking for insights into where the craft is headed (I call it “craft”, disagreeing with Dr Hirst’s tendency to confer on it the label of “profession”), to find such a thorough review of literature on the current state of flux is nothing short of a Godsend.

As is the wont of communication studies academics, he has read everything going in the way of research and commentary related to the Web and journalism, but also invokes knowledge well beyond the latest outpourings.

For example, his final pages draw on pre-World War II musings by Italian radical thinker and journalist Antonio Gramsci to lead us through to his thesis, about which – for fear of frightening everyone – I’ll tell you later.

Every NZ journalism studies class for the last 40 years has probably begun with a discussion entitled something like “The Role of the Journalist”. But these days the theme has changed to the rather more enervating: “What is the future of Journalism?”

Given the poverty of recent NZ-based research into journalism and news, Hirst’s contribution to this debate is valuable indeed.

His chapters outline the history, effects and probable future of all the recent manifestations of media convergence and technological change, from YouTube, Twitter and Flickr to alternative/citizen journalism, Indy media, social networks, blogging, globalisation, democratisation, crowd-sourcing and a host of other surges in the digital tsunami.

He traverses diverse views on the supposed death of mainstream media and capitalism’s fight-back, and offers his own commentary on where it all might wash up.

There is no great revelation here on what might be the new economic media model to replace a decaying old industrial one, but his detailed research and lucid discussion give the reader insight into what’s been and being tried, what works and what doesn’t, and where journalism sits within the maelstrom.

Like others, he thinks it’s too soon to know the result of such revolutionary change, and he is not predicting the imminent death of mainstream media, nor newspapers – nor journalism.

But his rider is clear: journalism risks losing its remaining diminished credibility if there is no effort to move away from “churnalism”, the Nick Davies-defined shell of journalism’s former semi-respected self. Semi-respected, because according to Hirst, journalism has only ever been a construct of capitalism’s need to embellish what former Washington Post journalist Ben Bagdikian called the “selling environment”.

He concludes that, so far, the inhabitants of cyberspace have failed to replace “industrial journalists” as the grudgingly trusted sorters of information age chaff. Those hailing the Web coming as a new media democracy were premature.

Like most things, it all comes down to the money. The “rivers of gold” (mostly advertising, but also paying audiences) have migrated online, and the analysis of Hirst and others in this field show there is no obvious way for mainstream media to recover them, given the digital generation (and now its older cousins) have got used to getting free news and information.

He says until a new economic model is found (presuming that it will be, given capitalism’s resilience), there is ever greater danger of public service journalism being lost for good, as mainstream outlets cut costs and take easy harvests, such as centralised content and processing, celebrity pap and an over-whelming flow of public relations spin.

One thing mystifies me a little about this part of the discussion: why has nobody worked out how to get the rivers of gold back?

Those with a print journalism background understand the term doesn’t apply to the form of advertising that remains in print media, albeit in shrinking measure, the display advertisements.

The rivers were the classifieds, acres of them in papers like the NZ Herald and the Melbourne Age as recently as the 90s. Traditional newspaper 10-column designs were expanded to 11 columns in the classified sections because that way they could squeeze thousands of dollars more from the charge-per-centimetre or charge-per-line fees.

A page of classies brought in many thousands more than a full-page advert, which is usually bought by a big company that has screwed down a special deal in return for its regular business.

Aside from entertainment, public notices, hatches/matches/despatches and a remnant of once-massive car and real estate sections, most days of the week our daily newspapers have no classified advertising. Dried-up rivers.

But people still buy and sell, and they still pay something for the transaction. Yes – Trade Me (or E-Bay and Craig’s List off-shore) has diverted the flow away in NZ and made millions for non-media entrepreneurs.

So far as I know, NZ is the only country in the developed world where there was enough time lag in the media revolution for local media companies to see this coming, hence Fairfax’s purchase of Trade Me a few years ago for what seemed like an outrageous sum ($750 million).

So can someone please enlighten me: why is Fairfax – owner of half the country’s newspapers and its best news website – having to downsize its newsrooms and slash costs while it still has the good fortune of owning the former classified advert cash flow?

It conjures up a vision of the NZ Herald’s former vast classified ad department declaring secession and deciding to head out on its own, something that didn’t happen, of course.

I would have liked to see Hirst address this conundrum, especially on a global scale. He points out that Rupert Murdoch made a wrong turn buying MySpace just before Facebook took off, but he fails to tell us why Murdoch (who coined “rivers of gold”) hasn’t bought Craig’s List and E-Bay so he can reunite his news outlets with their former sponsors?

For all I know, Murdoch may have tried that, and – for the same reason Trade Me doesn’t appear to cross-subsidise journalism at Fairfax – the bean-counters insist on keeping the books separate.

I think I can anticipate Hirst’s thinking if he were to discuss what appears to be happening at Fairfax. He would dismiss it as predictable behaviour by the capitalist system, using the recession and a generally accepted notion that newspapers are dying as an excuse to change industrial newsroom conventions, slash costs…and maximise returns.

For there is a strong ideological tone to Hirst’s writings. As he publicly declared to those attending a crisis conference on journalism’s future called by the EPMU union a couple of years ago, he is a Marxist.

Most of those attending probably thought that meant he is a communist, but it refers to the research paradigm to which he adheres. Among other things, it hews to the belief that capitalism is destructive of social wellbeing.

To his credit, direct Marxist references are scarce in News 2.0, but there is always the suspicion that his methodology has in some way influenced his choice of reference and what he quotes.

One irritating declaration is that those who eschew political economy analysis can have no understanding of what is going on. Such diatribe shows disdain for those of us from a practical journalism background.

That said, Hirst for the most part writes in an accessible style, lapsing into academia-speak on only rare occasions. Unfortunately, one of those is the latter part of his preface, where he outlines reasons for adopting  a “dialectical approach”. Avoid the preface and you’ll avoid being put off reading the book.

The last few pages of News 2.0 have an optimistic tone. He says journalism has stopped being a lecture and is becoming a conversation between journalists and audience.

“..we cannot wish away the current conditions, but we can take advantage of the ‘critical juncture’ that we have been presented with. It is in our power to change the world, but it won’t be easy.”

And the scary bit? Well, it doesn’t scare me particularly, but the capitalists might take some fright from what Hirst calls his “radical suggestion”. It is to “argue and agitate for workers’ control of the newsroom and the news production process”.

Not a new idea. A great French newspaper began like that, with anybody on staff allowed to hop down to the “stone” and change type. The F word appeared a lot. Today it is a model of capitalist industrial news production.

We approached a similar state when I went back to the Auckland Star as deputy editor in 1983. The owners had written it off as another casualty of the global evening newspaper pandemic (a minor version of today’s malaise), so the editorial staff was given unprecedented freedom to experiment.

We almost succeeded, and in the process birthed an instant triumph, the Sunday Star (mother of today’s Sunday Star-Times), the only successful newspaper launch since Sunday News in the 60s, and not matched until 2004’s appearance of the Herald on Sunday.

Many claimed credit for the Sunday Star’s success, but in my opinion it came from the very thing Hirst writes about. The first edition incorporated 45 ideas that had come from an editorial staff of very high quality.

But it was too late for the Star. The rivers had dried up, and early gains at holding the rot led to a re-lowering of the conservative capitalist cone. From being allowed initially to gamble with the asset, our success led to shareholder fears about going too far and putting it at risk.

Perhaps, as the panic spreads, such conditions will arise again in media outlets, and the industrial slaves will be allowed some real say. Hirst may yet get his wish.

Martin gave me a copy of this, his latest book, at the 2010 journalism educators’ conference. I will be recommending it to my students. It will bring them focus in their struggle to view a picture that is far from clear. It will hopefully inspire them, as it did me.

And I did have to laugh at the chapter heading: “It’s journalism, Jim, but not as we know it”…

This ‘journalist’ ought to be toast

TOP NEWS.COM: How to butcher a perfectly good yarn – the perils of online churnalism. Thanks to Mike Flyger for alerting us to this gem. READ MORE>