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December 08 2010

17:00

Oxford study: What’s the future of foreign reporting?

Are foreign correspondents redundant?

Our friends across the pond, at Oxford’s Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, ask that provocative question in a report they released this morning: a rigorous study of a globalized (er, globalised) ecosystem of news.

“All news organisations are undergoing turbulent change and must ask where the risks and the opportunities are,” the report notes. “And against this background, where does the primary public interest rest in ‘bearing witness’?”

If you’re at all interested in the changing shape of global journalism — and, in particular, the effect of technology’s sources-go-direct empowerment of world citizens on the news landscape — then I highly recommend reading the report in its entirety. It’s long, but worth it: It’s chock full of illustrative state-of-the-landscape overviews, personal anecdotes, and economic analyses, all placed in helpful historical context. (Plus, it’s written by Richard Sambrook, currently of Edelman and formerly of the BBC, and one of the smartest thinkers you’ll find on the effects of globalization on news production and consumption.)

So: read it! In the meantime, though, here are a few highlights:

The days of information centralization may be over.

“The model of a foreign correspondent, working from a fixed overseas bureau, is well established across all forms of international newsgathering – newspapers, wire agencies, broadcasters. It is a feature which grew from the industrialisation of news production in the late nineteenth century, when a limited number of organisations had sufficient resources to gather and distribute news, with owners seeking the prestige and influence that reporting international events brings.

However, here was news from abroad before there were correspondents and bureaux. And we are now entering a new era where they may no longer be central to how we learn about the world. A wide range of pressures are undermining the role of foreign correspondent and providing opportunities – and imperatives – for news organisations to adopt a very different approach to reporting international news.”

The downward spiral in the amount of foreign news coverage we’re familiar with in the U.S. is primarily a Western phenomenon.

“In Asia, with the prospect of major economic growth, news organisations may be set for an era of expansion. And in the developing world countries and continents are building their own journalistic capacity – with long-term consequences for the global flow of information and the character of public debate.”

Social media help reporting…but can also hurt it.

“Social media are leading, supplementing and complementing what professional news organisations offer, providing fresh source material for reporters, but also competing with them for public attention. Many other organisations have taken the opportunity to contribute directly to public debate by introducing their own information services – from governments, to NGOs to commercial companies – speaking directly to the public in favour of their own interests. This challenges the capacities of news organisations to sort, verify and contextualise a torrent of digital information.”

Globalization helps reporting…but can also hurt it.

“Globalisation has also led to significant changes in how the world is reported. In multicultural societies the notion of ‘foreign’ is more complex. International and domestic news agendas have merged to a significant degree. More organisations are relying on local staff – with advantages and risks attached.”

All this would seem to suggest that the real title of the report, rather than “Are Foreign Correspondents Redundant?”, might have been: “Are Foreign Correspondents Obsolete?” But the answer in either case would be no. This isn’t a matter of extinction, Sambrook concludes; it’s a matter of evolution. “Are foreign correspondents redundant? By no means,” he writes. “But they will be very different from their predecessors and work in very different ways to serve the digital news environment of the twenty-first century.”

June 04 2010

08:10

Robin Hamman: Why I’m joining Edelman as digital director

Robin Hamman, who is leaving business consultancy Headshift to join PR firm Edelman, as director of digital, explains why he’s enthusiastic and excited about the move, on his blog:

[I]f you’re not familiar with the thought leadership coming out of Edelman Digital, or the Edelman Insights, Case Studies, or the Global Peace Index and the Edelman Trust Barometer, do take a look – Edelman’s websites are a treasure trove of great content.

Full blog post at this link…

Hamman, who was head of blogging for the BBC before joining Headshift, is following the BBC’s former director of global media, Richard Sambrook who recently became Edelman’s first ever chief content editor.

Robin Hamman will be be speaking at Journalism.co.uk’s ‘grassroots’ media session at next week’s POLIS / BBC College of Journalism Value of Journalism (#VOJ10) conference (11 June 2010).

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February 24 2010

15:08

Richard Sambrook on the past and future of journalism


The outgoing director of the BBC’s global news division, Richard Sambrook, looked back at a career in journalism spanning 30 years in a conversation at the Frontline Club with Vin Ray, of the BBC College of Journalism.

Sambrook is leaving the BBC to join PR company Edelman as “there’s not another job for me. I’ve run out of road”.

Among his key points:

The internet for breaking and daily news is going to be more important but where is the space on the web for current affairs and investigative journalism? I don’t really see it at the moment.

Here is the full video of the event:

November 11 2009

19:03

Why journalists are uneasy talking about Twitter as journalism


Putting the words Twitter and journalism into the same sentence seems to provoke a spasm from professional journalists.

At a “curated unconference” hosted by Reuters Thomson in London, the value of Twitter in journalism was once again under scrutiny.

The report in The Guardian suggests there was a deep-seated level of unease in talking about Twitter as journalism.

The head of the BBC’s global news division, Richard Sambrook, argued:

Twitter is good at gossip, promoting people’s interest, and entertaining, but it is also good in some news-related fields. It isn’t journalism, but it is good in transporting eyewitness pictures and live tweets, as it is in providing links to sites of interest.

And Jeremy Gaunt from Reuters also looked at Twitter from the perspective of a professional journalist:

Twitter is not an alternative to journalism. The role of the journalist changes from a gatekeeper of information to a gatewatcher. In case of an event or a catastrophe it might be his role to curate the live stream of Twitter and social media platforms. So he is still fact-checking.

While both of these are valid points, I would suggest that they miss the point.  The argument “Twitter isn’t journalism” reminds me of the way journalists used to say “blogging isn’t journalism.”

The important point to note is that Twitter is a communications platform, much like the magazine is.  A magazine may or may not be a platform for news and information. Similarly, Twitter is a platform on which journalism is taking place – it is just happening the way journalism has taken place in the past.

Twitter provides a platform for distributed journalism, where the value lies not in the individual tweet, but the combined and networked nature of the platform.

I have called this ambient journalism in an academic paper I presented at the Future of Journalism conference in Cardiff in September, and due to be published next year.

Rather than arguing about whether Twitter is or isn’t journalism, we should shift the conversation to understanding the journalism taking place on this platform and its relationship to established journalism norms and practices.

Let’s avoid a rerun of the “blogging isn’t journalism” debate.

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