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February 10 2012

18:00

Still shaping the way people think about news innovation? A few reflections on the new KNC 2.0

As someone who probably has spent more time thinking about the Knight News Challenge than anyone outside of Knight Foundation headquarters — doing a dissertation on the subject will do that to you! — I can’t help but follow its evolution, even after my major research ended in 2010. And evolve it has: from an initial focus on citizen journalism and bloggy kinds of initiatives (all the rage circa 2007, right?) to a later emphasis on business models, visualizations, and data-focused projects (like this one) — among a whole host of other projects including news games, SMS tools for the developing world, crowdsourcing applications, and more.

Now, after five years and $27 million in its first incarnation, Knight News Challenge 2.0 has been announced for 2012, emphasizing speed and agility (three contests a year, eight-week turnarounds on entries) and a new topical focus (the first round is focused on leveraging existing networks). While more information will be coming ahead of the February 27 launch, here are three questions to chew on now.

Does the Knight News Challenge still dominate this space?

The short answer is yes (and I’m not just saying that because, full disclosure, the Knight Foundation is a financial supporter of the Lab). As I’ve argued before, in the news innovation scene, at this crossroads of journalism and technology communities, the KNC has served an agenda-setting kind of function — perhaps not telling news hipsters what to think regarding the future of journalism, but rather telling them what to think about. So while folks might disagree on the Next Big Thing for News, there’s little question that the KNC has helped to shape the substance and culture of the debate and the parameters in which it occurs.

Some evidence for this comes from the contest itself: Whatever theme/trend got funded one year would trigger a wave of repetitive proposals the next. (As Knight said yesterday: “Our concern is that once we describe what we think we might see, we receive proposals crafted to meet our preconception.”)

And yet the longer answer to this question is slightly more nuanced. When the KNC began in 2006, with the first winners named in 2007, it truly was the only game in town — a forum for showing “what news innovation looks like” unlike any other. Nowadays, a flourishing ecosystem of websites (ahem, like this one), aggregators (like MediaGazer), and social media platforms is making the storyline of journalism’s reboot all the more apparent. It’s easier than ever to track who’s trying what, which experiments are working, and so on — and seemingly in real time, as opposed to a once-a-year unveiling. Hence the Knight Foundation’s move to three quick-fire contests a year, “as we try to bring our work closer to Internet speed.”

How should we define the “news” in News Challenge?

One of the striking things I found in my research (discussed in a previous Lab post) was that Knight, in its overall emphasis, has pivoted away from focusing mostly on journalism professionalism (questions like “how do we train/educate better journalists?”) and moved toward a broader concern for “information.” This entails far less regard for who’s doing the creating, filtering, or distributing — rather, it’s more about ensuring that people are informed at the local community level. This shift from journalism to information, reflected in the Knight Foundation’s own transformation and its efforts to shape the field, can be seen, perhaps, like worrying less about doctors (the means) and more about public health (the ends) — even if this pursuit of health outcomes sometimes sidesteps doctors and traditional medicine along the way.

This is not to say that Knight doesn’t care about journalism. Not at all. It still pours millions upon millions of dollars into clearly “newsy” projects — including investigative reporting, the grist of shoe-leather journalism. Rather, this is about Knight trying to rejigger the boundaries of journalism: opening them up to let other fields, actors, and ideas inside.

So, how should you define “news” in your application? My suggestion: broadly.

What will be the defining ethos of KNC 2.0?

This is the big, open, and most interesting question to me. My research on the first two years of KNC 1.0, using a regression analysis, found that contest submissions emphasizing participation and distributed knowledge (like crowdsourcing) were more likely to advance, all things being equal. My followup interviews with KNC winners confirmed this widely shared desire for participation — a feeling that the news process not only could be shared with users, but in fact should be.

I called this an “ethic of participation,” a founding doctrine of news innovation that challenges journalism’s traditional norm of professional control. But perhaps, to some extent, that was a function of the times, during the roughly 2007-2010 heyday of citizen media, with the attendant buzz around user-generated content as the hot early-adopter thing in news — even if news organizations then, as now, struggled to reconcile and incorporate a participatory audience. Even while participation has become more mainstream in journalism, there are still frequent flare-ups, like this week’s flap over breaking news on Twitter, revealing enduring tensions at the “collision of two worlds — when a hierarchical media system in the hands of the few collides with a networked media system open to all,” as Alfred Hermida wrote.

So what about this time around? Perhaps KNC 2.0 will have an underlying emphasis on Big Data, algorithms, news apps, and other things bubbling up at the growing intersection of computer science and journalism. It’s true that Knight is already underwriting a significant push in this area through the (also just-revised) Knight-Mozilla OpenNews project (formerly called the Knight-Mozilla News Technology Partnership — which Nikki Usher and I have written about for the Lab). To what extent is there overlap or synergy here? OpenNews, for 2012, is trying to build on the burgeoning “community around code” in journalism — leveraging the momentum of Hacks/Hackers, NICAR, and ONA with hackfests, code-swapping, and online learning. KNC 2.0, meanwhile, talks about embracing The Hacker Way described by Mark Zuckerberg — but at the same time backs away a bit from its previous emphasis on open source as a prerequisite. It’ll be interesting to see how computational journalism — explained well in this forthcoming paper (PDF here) by Terry Flew et al. in Journalism Practice — figures into KNC 2.0.

Regardless, the Knight News Challenge is worth watching for what it reveals about the way people — journalists and technologists, organizations and individuals, everybody working in this space — talk about and make sense of “news innovation”: what it means, where it’s taking us, and why that matters for the future of journalism.

December 30 2011

16:00

Alfred Hermida: 2012 will be the year social media gets boring

Editor’s Note: We’re wrapping up 2011 by asking some of the smartest people in journalism what the new year will bring.

Here’s Canadian news pioneer Alfred Hermida, a founder of BBCnews.com and currently an assistant professor at the University of British Columbia School of Journalism.

I am always hesitant to make predictions, but 2012 may just the year that social media starts to get boring. And this is a good thing.

Bear with me while I explain. Social media is largely still seen as a new, shiny entrant into the world of media.

As with all new communication technologies, there are those who argue social media is changing everything, creating a more open and democratic media space. Others take a diametrically opposed viewpoint. For them, social media just offers new ways to do old things.

Both are right and wrong at the same time. There is no doubt that social media technologies do offer new affordances, creating an open, networked, and distributed media ecosystem at odds with the one-way, broadcast model of mass media that dominated the 20th century.

At the same time, history shows us how dominant institutions, be they governments or media conglomerates, appropriate new technologies and cancel out some of their innovative potential.

The problem is how we frame new technologies. There is always a degree of hype that greets a new technology; we’ve seen it in talk of Twitter revolutions and Facebook uprisings.

Initially we are enchanted by the novelty of what these tools and services enable us to do: upload funny videos, post updates of our lunch, and share links to worthy articles.

Technologies reach their full potential when we forgot about the novelty. Instead they become boring and blend into the background. How often do we think about the technology behind the telephone, or the television set in our living room?

With any luck, this is what will happen with social media. Social media tools and services will be so ingrained within our everyday experiences that we forget that they are such recent developments.

Essentially, the technology will become invisible as we shape it to meet our political, social, and cultural needs.

Mediated sociability will be with us at all times, no matter what we are doing. Arguably, for younger adults, this is already happening. Facebook is part of their lives, just like the telephone is simply there.

For journalists, what this means is that social media will become part of everyday routines. Facebook or Twitter won’t be simply add-ons, but an inherent component of the media environment for journalists.

September 01 2010

14:00

All the web’s a stage: Scholar Joshua Braun on what we show and what we choose to hide in journalism

Joshua Braun is a media scholar currently pursuing his Ph.D in Communications at Cornell. His work is centered at the intriguing intersection of television and the web: He’s currently studying the adoption of blogging software by network news sites, and the shifts that that adoption are bringing about in terms of the relationship between one-way communication something more conversational. At this spring’s IOJC conference in Austin, Braun presented a paper (pdf) discussing the results of his research — a work that considered, among other questions:

As journalistic institutions engage more and more fully in interactive online spaces, how are these tensions changing journalism itself? How do the technical systems and moderation strategies put in place shape the contours of the news, and how do these journalistic institutions make sense of these systems and strategies as part of their public mission? What is the role of audiences and publics in this new social and technical space? And how do journalistic institutions balance their claim to be “town criers” and voices for the public with the fact that their authority and continued legal standing depend at times on moderating, and even silencing the voices of individuals?

The whole paper is worth reading. (You can also watch Braun’s IOJC talk here.) But one aspect of it that’s especially fascinating, for our purposes, is Braun’s examination of TV-network news blogs in the context of the sociology of dramaturgy (in particular, the work of Erving Goffman).

News organizations are each a mix of public and private — preparing information for a public audience, but generally doing so in a private way. As with a theater production, there’s a performance going on for the audience but a big crew backstage. Blogging represents a potential shift in this dynamic by exposing people and processes that would otherwise be kept hidden behind a byline or a 90-second news piece.

And the blogging interplay — between presentation and communication, between product and process, and, perhaps most interestingly, between process and performance — is relevant to any news organization trying to navigate familiar journalistic waters with new vessels. I spoke with Braun about that dynamic and the lessons it might have to offer; below is an edited transcript of the conversation.

Megan Garber: I’m intrigued by the idea of theater dynamics you mention in the paper — in particular, the distinction between backstage and front-stage spaces for news performances. Can you explain that in a bit more detail?

Joshua Braun: This is Steve Hilgartner’s idea. He took this idea of stage management from classic sociology, which has normally been an interpersonal theory, and decided it worked for organizations. He looked at the National Academy, and noticed the way in which they keep all their deliberations effectively secret and then release a document at the end that gives the consensus opinion of the scientific community. And there are two aspects of that. One is that it’s intended to protect the integrity of the process. So when you’re a big policy-advisory body like the National Research Council, you have senators who will call you and tell you they don’t want you working on something; you’ll have lobbyists who’ll want to influence your results; you’ll have, basically, a lot of political pressure. So there’s this aspect in which this system of enclosure — in the Goffman/Hilgartner metaphor — this keeping of things backstage, really is meant to protect the integrity of the process.

But it also has the other effect, which is that it also gives the illusion of the scientific community speaking with a single voice. So basically, all the messy process of sausages being made — and all the controversial issues that, by definition, the National Research Council is dealing with — you don’t see reflected in the reports. Or you see it in very official language. So it gives them a tremendous amount of authority, this illusion of the scientific community speaking with one voice, and they cultivate that. I was actually a graduate fellow at the National Academies, and they definitely want that — they recognize that the authority of the documents rests on that.

And many organizations that deal with information and knowledge production, including journalism, operate in this way, frequently. The publication of the finished news item and the enclosure of the reporting process — there’s a very real sense that that protects the authority of the process. So if you’re investigating a popular politician, you need that. And at the same time, it protects the brand and the legal standing and the authority of the organization, and bolsters that. Those things are very reliant on this process of enclosure, oftentimes.

And so what you see in the new media spaces, and these network experiments with blogging, is that sort of process. They’ve taken a medium that they themselves talked about in terms of accountability and transparency and openness and extended it to this traditional stage management process. They continue to control what remains backstage and what goes front-stage. And there are good justifications for doing that. But they’ve also extended that to the process of comment moderation. You’ll get pointed to a description of why comments are moderated the way they are — but you’ll never see exactly why a comment is spammed or not. That’s not unique to the news, either. But it’s an interesting preservation of the way the media’s worked for a long time.

And this has been described by other scholars, as well. So Alfred Hermida has a really neat piece on blogging at the BBC where he talks about much the same thing. He uses different terms — he talks about “gatekeeping,” as opposed to this notion of stage management — but it’s a pretty robust finding across a lot of institutions.

And I don’t want to portray it as something unique to journalism. This process of self-presentation and this performance of authority is widespread — and maybe necessary to journalism. I think the jury’s out on that.

MG: Definitely. Which brings up the question of how authority is expressed across different media. Does broadcast, for example, being what it is, have a different mandate than other types of journalism?

JB: Right. One of the remarkable things about broadcast news is the amount of stage management that you see in the traditional product. So if you look at an organization like ABC News, for instance — before their recent mass layoffs — they have several dozen correspondents: 77 or so people. But they have 1,500 total staff. And when you’re producing for a visual medium, you’re very selective about what appears on front-stage — this mise-en-scène of network news: what appears on camera and what ends up on the cutting-room floor, and so on. The vast majority of their newsgathering operation — the desk assistants and the bookers and the people who do all the pre-interviewing and the off-air correspondents — are people who never appear on-air. No network is its anchor.

So there’s that aspect, in which a large portion of the news ecosystem isn’t visible to the public — and there’s an argument to be made that having a small set of news personalities with whom audiences can identify is good for the product — and there are a lot of organizations where the vast majority of people involved in things don’t really speak. So that was one of the interesting aspects of looking at the blogging efforts of network news: Once that somewhat natural distinction between on-air and off-air talent and support staff disappears, who becomes visible online?

And you do have a lot of producers, a lot of bookers and other types of professionals who appear on the blogs, which is a really fascinating thing. The blogs are an extension of the stage management thing, but also a challenge to that model.

Image from daveynin used under a Creative Commons License.

August 31 2010

10:35

MediaShift: Teaching social media should go beyond the basics of Twitter

Great post of ideas from Alfred Hermida, assistant professor at the University of British Columbia’s graduate school of journalism, on how journalism schools should approach the teaching of social media, from newsgathering and verifying social media channels to managing an online presence as a professional.

Teaching social media is more than showing students the mechanics of Twitter. Rather, they should learn how to build a network of relevant followers and how to interact with them to be a better journalist.

In the classroom, we need to stress that social media technologies do not just offer journalists new ways of doing old things. They offer the potential to explore new ways of telling stories, of collaborating and connecting with audiences, of rethinking how we do journalism.

Full post on MediaShift at this link…Similar Posts:



July 09 2010

19:31

Rethinking the Role of the Journalist in the Participatory Age

news21 small.jpg

Education content on MediaShift is sponsored by Carnegie-Knight News21, an alliance of 12 journalism schools in which top students tell complex stories in inventive ways. See tips for spurring innovation and digital learning at Learn.News21.com.

Students who dream of a career in journalism are entering the profession at a time when the question of who is a journalist, and even what is journalism, is open to interpretation. The function of journalism is still to provide independent, reliable and accurate information considered vital to a vibrant democracy. But defining who is a journalist is much harder.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a journalist as "a person who writes for newspapers or magazines or prepares news or features to be broadcast on radio or television." The definition is less about what a journalist actually does and more about whom they work for. It reflects how the profession of journalism developed in a mass media system, based on the production of news by paid professionals who decided what the public needs to know, when it needs to know it and how it will know it.

The media industry is going through a profound transformation that is disrupting just about every aspect of the business. Journalists are at the center of a transformation that is challenging norms and routines that have remained, until now, highly consistent. It all amounts to, in the words of media scholar Mark Deuze, "one of the biggest challenges facing journalism studies and education in the 21st century."

The new journalist needs to learn and understand how news and information works in a digital world, instead of simply applying established norms and practices that may no longer be effective.

New Technologies, New Mindset

Studies show that journalists have been reluctant to give up their traditional gatekeeping role. BBC News executive Peter Horrocks has described this mindset as fortress journalism (PDF) -- seeing the profession as a practice to be defended. As a result, journalism as a profession largely considers the media environment to be the same as before, only now more technologized.

New media technologies do not just offer journalists new ways of doing their old job. A newspaper online is not the same as a newspaper in print. On paper, the newspaper delivers a bundle of stories, ads and amusements, such as the crossword puzzle. On the web, the newspaper package is unbundled into individual fragments. The stable, hierarchy of information in the printed newspaper falls apart online.

Literacies.jpg

Scholars Colin Lankshear and Michelle Knobel have researched what they describe as the shift from a physical-industrial mindset to a cyberspatial, post-industrial mindset. They write that "the world is being changed in some quite fundamental ways as a result of people imagining and exploring new ways of doing things and new ways of being that are made possible by new tools and techniques."

Literacy has traditionally been described as the ability to read and write. New literacies generally refer to new forms of literacy made possible by digital technologies, such as blogging, uploading photos or sharing videos. According to new literacies, media is collaborative, distributed, and participatory nature.

Participatory and Collaborative Journalism

Let's look at one of the ways this applies to journalism. Traditionally, journalism has been about producing finished products by designated individuals and teams, based on individual expertise and intelligence, operating in a shared physical space. However, new literacies research suggests that the changes taking place challenge fundamental norms, conventions, and routines of journalism.

One example is the ability of the audience to report and distribute the news in photographs, videos, and text, which undermines the monopoly on reporting that journalists traditionally enjoyed. Anyone can do an act of journalism, from sending a tweet about a G20 protest to uploading a photo of police and demonstrators.

tom-rosenstiel.jpgSeen through the lens of new literacies research, digital media is more participatory, collaborative and distributed, and less finalized, individualized and author-centric than previous forms of media. The journalist still matters. But as Tom Rosenstiel has suggested, they shift from being the gatekeeper to being an authenticator of information, a sense-maker to derive meaning, a navigator to help orient audiences and a community leader to engage audiences.

Both those taking their first steps into journalism and those who have already followed a well-trodden path need to figure out where they fit in. The role of the journalist is being determined by the complex interplay between media technologies, professional practices, and societal factors.

Journalism developed as a relatively closed culture for the production of knowledge, based on a system of editorial control. Yet new media are characterized by their connected and collaborative nature. The challenge for journalism, and the journalist, is to find a place along the continuum between control and connection, and between a closed and a collaborative media culture.

This piece is adapted from a chapter appearing in The New Journalist: Roles, Skills, and Critical Thinking, a new textbook for journalism students.

Alfred Hermida is an online news pioneer and journalism educator. He is an assistant professor at the Graduate School of Journalism, the University of British Columbia, where he leads the integrated journalism program. He was a founding news editor of the BBC News website. He blogs at Reportr.net.

news21 small.jpg

Education content on MediaShift is sponsored by Carnegie-Knight News21, an alliance of 12 journalism schools in which top students tell complex stories in inventive ways. See tips for spurring innovation and digital learning at Learn.News21.com.

This is a summary. Visit our site for the full post ».

July 01 2010

15:00

From Bryan Adams to Neil Young: Canadian Music Wiki

Wondered what Neil Young’s been up to lately? Or k.d. lang? Or Avril Lavigne?

If so…meet Canadian Music Wiki, the collaborative site dedicated to, yes, Canadian music. The project, the brainchild of the Vancouver-based j-school student and music journalist Amanda Ash, adds a new dimension to the crowdsourcing-of-information ethos behind projects like Wikipedia: It’s crowdsourcing culture. “This project,” the site explains, “is dedicated to using collaborative and social media to enrich Canada’s music scene by creating a comprehensive guide to Canadian music. We welcome your contributions.”

So the site’s not fully comprehensive yet (Justin Bieber’s not in there, for example, which means that the site is both incomplete and tasteful) — but, then, it’s also young. It came about as Ash’s masters thesis, part of the arts and culture journalism program at the University of British Columbia Graduate School of Journalism; the wiki was one aspect of a broader examination of public media’s new mandate in the digital world. (The digital journalist and UBC professor Alfred Hermida was Ash’s — and the project’s — adviser.) In August of 2009, Ash received a $15,000 grant from the internship facilitator MITACS Accelerate to develop her idea for a music wiki into a full-fledged, public site, in conjunction with CBC Radio 3. In September, she began her internship with Radio 3, working with the network to develop the wiki into a site that would become both a resource and an outlet for music fans in Canada and beyond.

The wiki had its public launch just over a month ago, in late May. Since then, it has generated around 14,000 page views, Ash told me, and — probably a more meaningful metric for a wiki — 2,300 pages of original, crowd-sourced content about Canadian music (everything from albums to songs, labels to venues, stores to studios). Ash and Hermida attribute that response in part to the wiki’s topic itself: Music is one of those things that, whether you’re into Broken Social Scene or the Crash Test Dummies or Shania Twain or even Justin Bieber (the hair, the hair, we get it), people tend to feel strongly about — and committed to. “It seems like people are happy to have a resource out there where the average fan can contribute,” Ash says. The wiki adds an extra element of democratization to music culture. “It’s kind of this two-way dialogue.”

That puts the wiki on the receiving end of one of the most sought-after resources in journalism: engagement. One mystery for news organizations — and, if solved, probably the closest we’ll come to a financial silver bullet — is how to leverage the interests, and the passions, of the crowd. And, yes, if there’s anything people tend to be passionate about, it’s music. But not just music, the product, tellingly — but music, the community: the concerts, the camaraderie, the shared knowledge of a group’s history and sensibility. Music is “one of those niche topics that people can create communities around,” Ash says. And while there’s no shortage of online outlets that serve those communities — MySpace, Pitchfork, and on and on — what a wiki offers is centralization by way of information. “MySpace is fragmented,” Hermida points out; and, on the other side of the scale, much of traditional music journalism focuses on pushing content out rather than pulling communities in. A wiki is a kind of middle ground: it gives and gets at the same time.

In that, the Canadian Music Wiki — a resource for journalism, more than a strict product of it — puts a culture-specific spin on the Wikipedia effect we’re seeing in journalism: It hints at a future of news that marries content with context, information with conversation, old news with new…all in a single platform. A wikified approach to music “flips the broadcast model on its head,” Hermida says. But it also fulfills a broader, and perhaps even more relevant, mandate: It “helps Canadians express themselves.”

May 07 2010

15:00

This Week in Review: Newsweek on the block, Twitter as a journalistic system, and more paywall rumblings

[Every Friday, Mark Coddington sums up the week’s top stories about the future of news and the debates that grew up around them. —Josh]

Has Newsweek’s time come?: This week was a relatively quiet one until Wednesday, when The Washington Post Co. announced that it’s trying to sell Newsweek, which it’s owned since 1961. A possible sale doesn’t always signal the demise of a news organization, but in this case, as the folks at The Wall Street Journal’s All Things Digital noted, this move was the equivalent of “hastily scrawling out a ‘Going Out of Business — Name Your Price’ sign and plastering it on the front window.” The New York Times has the details, including a j-prof’s pronouncement that “the era of mass is over, in some respect.”

PaidContent’s Staci Kramer talked to Washington Post Co. chairman Don Graham, who boiled Newsweek’s profitability problems to one telling statistic: Newsweek’s staff split its time about evenly between print and digital last year, but print brought in $160 million in revenue, while the digital side drew $8 million. Newsweek’s digital operation was good, Graham said — just not good enough to stand out from the hundreds of other news sites out there. Still, he was confident the Post would find a buyer (though he hasn’t talked with anyone seriously), and that Newsweek and newsweeklies in general would live on.

Newsweek editor Jon Meacham talked to the New York Observer, saying he’s going to see if he can save the magazine, possibly by rounding up bidders to buy it. Meacham’s conversation with Jon Stewart the day the news broke was laced with both optimism and gallows humor, and New York magazine examined Meacham’s decision to try to make Newsweek the American equivalent of The Economist.

In a well-written piece, The New York Times’ David Carr summed up two bits of conventional wisdom about Newsweek’s downfall: The economics of weekly publishing simply aren’t feasible anymore, and the Washington Post Co.’s Slate, with its snarky, knowing tone, has taken Newsweek’s place. MarketWatch’s Jon Friedman suggested that the Post combine the two. Slate’s Jack Shafer said it wasn’t the Internet that killed Newsweek, but instead an ongoing game of musical chairs that someone had to lose. (Slate and Time, for example, seem to be doing just fine, thanks.) Meanwhile, Derek Powazek, who’s edited several web magazines, gave his recipe for newsweekly success in the digital age.

The next question, of course, is who will buy Newsweek. News business analyst Ken Doctor examined two possibilities: TV-based news orgs like ABC, CBS, and NBC looking for a print distribution point, and “firebrand owners” like media moguls Mort Zuckerman or Marty Peretz. Either way, Doctor said, Newsweek will probably be all but extinct before long. Poynter’s Rick Edmonds, Media Alley, and Mediaite all throw out some combination of Zuckerman, Meacham, Bloomberg, and Rupert Murdoch. as possibilities.

Committing journalism with Twitter: Many of Twitter’s users have understood and used it as a medium for breaking, spreading and consuming news for quite a while now, but some research presented within the past week adds some backbone to that idea. Four Korean researchers collected all of Twitter’s data over a month’s time last year and released their research on it — the first quantitative study of the entire Twitterverse.

What they found, according to PC World, was that both the structure of Twitter (with its asymmetrical following system, creating a world with some incredibly influential users and many other more peripheral ones) and its messages (85 percent are about news) give it more of a resemblance to a news medium than to its fellow social networks online. Our Jason Fry also gave his take, noting the potential value of reciprocity even in an environment that doesn’t require it.

MIT’s Technology Review zeroed in on two particularly interesting findings illustrating the breadth of this new news system: First, two-thirds of Twitter users aren’t followed by anyone that they follow, meaning they use it for information consumption rather than social connections. Second, despite the wide disparity between the Twitter “stars” and typical users, anyone’s tweet still has the possibility of reaching a wide audience, thanks to the usefulness of the retweet function. “Individual users have the power to dictate which information is important and should spread by the form of retweet,” the researchers wrote. “In a way we are witnessing the emergence of collective intelligence.”

Also this week, Canadian j-prof Alfred Hermida put forward his argument in an academic paper for Twitter as an “ambient form of journalism” — a medium in which the former news audience creates, disseminates and discusses news, performing acts of journalism that were once performed only by professionals. In a more technical paper, Alex Burns delved into the definition of “ambient journalism,” especially as it relates to Twitter. Here at the Lab, Megan Garber also looked at the way news organizations in several countries are using Twitter and other social media for news.

The paid-content beat goes on: A few quiet indicators this week of the move toward news paywalls: Rupert Murdoch said News Corp. will be announcing their paywall plans in a few weeks. Those plans apparently include anchoring a consortium of paid-content systems across various media companies, using technology that powers the Wall Street Journal’s paywall, the Los Angeles Times reported. Meanwhile, the number of publications that Journalism Online’s execs say they’re working with on paywall plans has increased to 1,400, including the sizable MediaNews chain of newspapers.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s new publisher/CEO, Mike Klingensmith, talked to MinnPost about his plans for a new metered-model system (like what The New York Times announced in January), and from the sound of it, he’s looking at charging primarily for local news — the paper already charges for some of its Minnesota Vikings coverage — and wants to allow traffic from links to come in fairly uninhibited. A decision on the specific plans sound like they’re at least a year off, though.

Advertising Age’s Nat Ives also took a look at paywalls for smaller newspapers (here’s the link, but Ives’ article is also under a paywall). Ken Doctor says that for smaller papers, a paywall may be a good short-term wait-and-see strategy, but papers still have to be proactive about ensuring long-term growth.

The pros and cons of Facebook’s spread: There wasn’t a lot of news involving Facebook this week, but the grumblings about its privacy issues rolled on. The New York Times used Facebook’s latest (relatively minor, it seems) privacy glitch to give another overview about those concerns, and TechNewsWorld pegged their overview to a Consumer Reports survey about Facebook information sharing that was released this week.

Social media guru Robert Scoble wrote a depressing piece about why Facebook’s disregard for privacy can’t be regulated, concluding that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg “just played chicken with our privacy and it sure looks like he won.” New media expert Jeff Jarvis suggested that Facebook turn their bad privacy PR into a service for users (with some help from their ubiquity), offering them a simpler way to see what’s being written about them across the web and manage their online reputation.

The New York Times’ digital chief Martin Nisenholtz was pretty impressed by Facebook’s spread across the web, giving a sharp analysis of the importance of engagement and identity to publishers online. Those are things that Facebook has mastered, he said, but news organizations haven’t, and that’s a shame when the Times’ most valuable asset is “our audience as knowledgeable participants in the life our web site.”

Reading roundup: This week, I’ve got two news items and a few other good ideas to chew on.

— EBay founder Pierre Omidyar launched his new local news site, Honolulu Civil Beat, this week. It’s being run by John Temple, who was at the helm of the Rocky Mountain News when it shut down. The biggest distinctive of this project: It’s almost entirely behind a paywall. PaidContent and NPR both have the details.

— The Audit Bureau of Circulations reported the most recent set of newspaper numbers a couple of weeks ago, and here at the Lab, newspaper vet Martin Langeveld punched a few holes in the Newspaper Association of America’s declaration that the results are the sign of a turnaround. And after the announcement of the first quarter’s newspaper profit numbers, the Lab’s Ken Doctor explained why newspapers aren’t going to be investment those profits in much-needed innovation.

— Publish2’s Greg Linch put together a great case for incorporating more of a computational mindset into journalism, identifying several common elements between journalism and programming and urging the two groups to work more closely together. English professor Kim Pearson followed that post up with some proposals for ways to integrate computational thinking into curriculums.

— We’ve been hearing a lot about online comments over the past few weeks, and Poynter’s Mallary Jean Tenore took a close look at the ways several news organizations are working to improve them.

— I’ll close with two simple but thoughtful pieces on online media, one from the production standpoint, and the other looking at consumption. First social media entrepreneur and blogger Ben Elowitz gave a fine summary of the way the definition of quality has changed in online media versus traditional publishing, and Slate’s William Saletan had some helpful tips to make your media consumption broader, deeper and altogether smarter. It’s hard work, but it’s necessary, Saletan said: “In the electronic echo chamber, it’s easier than ever to shut out what you don’t want to hear. Nobody will make you open the door and venture out. You’ll have to do that yourself.”

April 30 2010

09:18

Reportr.net: ‘Does new media require new journalism ethics?’

Professor Alfred Hermida reports on today’s conference at the Center for Journalism Ethics at UW-Madison’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication, which will look at changing media ethics in an online environment.

At the heart of the ‘New Journalism, New Ethics?’ conference is whether new forms of media require new standards. Or do established ethical principles still apply?

Ahead of the event, the Center has released a report – ‘Ethics for the new investigative newsroom’.

You can view the report at this link [PDF].

Full post at this link…

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