Archive for October, 2008

Read a story or watch it? You decide…

October 28, 2008

A multimedia story is “some combination of text, still photographs, video clips, audio, graphics and interactivity presented on a Web site in a nonlinear format in which the information in each medium is complementary, not redundant”. Scary isn’t it?

Hopefully this explanation will be better; it’s the same story that could be told in print being told through a picture or video or both. Feel calmer now? Right…

When you think of telling a story, you think of telling it through words, correct? What if I said stories could be told through pictures or video? That is blasphemy to a print journalist but we must get our heads around it because a new digital age has arrived and is here to stay.

Is it replacing print media? Will print journalism soon be a redundant occupation? The same old worries are constantly creeping up aren’t they?

Yet not even professional journalists could deny the existence of a digital media. Not only is it possibly more engaging than learning about a story through the reading of words, but it is allowing imaginations to run wild. Human beings are naturally creative, and the best thing of all, you don’t need to have the talent of Steven Spielberg to be a part of this new media. It is open to everyone.

Yes, the key word is about to crop up again…democracy. Not everyone can get their story in a newspaper but everyone can put up their video online. Everybody has some story to tell and each story will be as individual as the person who produces it. People love having a voice and multimedia storytelling is giving people the chance to have it.

Andy Cowles, editorial director of IPC media, back in 2007 said: “To be able to produce images and create video, will be just as important as good writing. Design, in its widest sense, is going to be at the heart of the new journalism.”  The Guardian has proved that his statement was true. The Guardian is now training its print journalists to acquire broadcast skills.  In her blog Jemima Kiss discussed how she was in a Guardian digital training awareness workshop, learning the skills essential to an online world. Journalists can no longer get by with just a notebook in hand and a pen in pocket.

The video below shows how print journalists are now having no choice but to develop the broadcast skills which are so essential now. It is showing a journalist in America but the same rule applies to journalists here, there and everywhere.

In the 19th Century, Charles Darwin said: ‘It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the cleverest, but the most responsive to change’.

If journalists want to remain successful in these early years of the 21st century then they must accept the unstoppable changes that are happening. Video didn’t kill the radio star so why should it necessarily kill journalism as we understand it? A talented journalist producing gripping articles will still get his material read so what is the worry?

Let’s sum up… Why do I think digital media will capture the public? It gives a voice to the creator’s experience which evokes more feelings, be it sympathy or happiness, simply because of increased identification. The power of voice means that the story reaches out to people more. Take this story about David who passed away. As sad as the story is, if we were told it through words on a paper it wouldn’t make us feel quite as strongly about it as we do when we watch it. It is a personal story told through that person’s words and visions, which makes it much more memorable.

So grab your popcorn and let’s keep watching….


How Is The Internet Affecting Journalism?

October 22, 2008

Is the internet shaping journalism? Yes I believe it is.

The internet is unique, extraordinarily powerful, and, lets be honest, a great form of distraction too! Seriously though, it provides journalists with the ability to contact people anytime, anyplace and anywhere. They can interact immediately with fellow journalists and readers all over the world. It is allowing for `networked journalism`, where the professionals and amateurs are coming together to report a story.

Excuse me if I sound too political here, but the internet is a hugely positive resource for our democratic society because it is allowing people to interact and engage with one another on an unprecedented scale.

I can almost hear the rip-roaring sound of the professionals screaming at me that it is not such a great thing after all and I agree. There are indeed some downsides. A startling feeling is etched inside me, continually making me ask myself the question- What if mainstream journalism continues to decline and all we have left is UGC?

How can the mass of amateurs online ever hope to mirror the ability of those with years experience in the news industry? Will they be as willing as professionals to do the hard work of investigative journalism? How can we ensure that the information we read is credible and accurate? These are the questions which must be answered before we even confront the horrifying possibility that it will not be democratic at all. What if the news is simply produced by those with the confidence and articulacy to report it, leaving behind a mass of unheard voices?

In a certain sense, journalists should not be worried. The fundamental need to report the news will remain a constant. It will not change. People everywhere are still going to want their daily fix of news. What the internet is allowing however, is for that news to be produced by those people other than the qualified, and so the media unfortunately has no choice but to adapt to what is happening and must realize as soon as possible that the relationship between themselves and their readers is undergoing a permanent transformation. The internet is doubtlessly posing a major challenge to the monopoly which journalists once held as conveyors of news.

To reiterate, a world with no professional journalists is an alarming thought but the trend is clearly moving journalism into becoming a more participatory media. Sites like Wikipedia prove that access to information and the ability to publish is no longer confined to the privilege of the few journalists out there. Journalism is now a job open to the masses, as proved by YouTube which shows just how many people can produce and publish content. This is a popular alternative to the confined world of text which print journalists offer.

The internet is making journalism a two-way conversation and skeptical journalists (myself included) have to join in with this conversation because the public are going to be talking for a long time yet….

Will Citizen Journalism Work?

October 14, 2008

The concept of citizen journalism sounds great doesn’t it? People with no journalism skills are able to play an active role in reporting and publishing the news, all in the name of our great democratic society.

For its 2006 Person of the Year, Time magazine chose “you, the public – for seizing the reins of the global media, for founding and framing the new digital democracy, for working for nothing and beating the pros at their own game.”

Call me a cynic or a traditionalist but whatever happened to the good old fashioned method of journalism; reporting left to the professionals? That way the consumers are assured of a factual and structured piece of journalism. Surely only trained journalists have a grasp of the precision and ethics which are involved in reporting news?

I’m in no way accusing the public of being mindless. Yet in this complex and uncertain transition to a new multimedia phase in journalism, it does not surprise me that professional journalists are intolerant of this new medium.

Does anyone remember Taylor Hicks winning American Idol? Whereas 63 million votes were cast on the night that Hicks won, only 54.5 million Americans voted in 1984 when Ronald Reagan won the presidential race. And this was the most votes ever recorded in a Presidential election.

Facts like these which make me wary of trusting the public to report hard news. Some people have their sense of important news all wrong.

I agree that citizen journalism provides an outlet for people to get their voice heard when it would otherwise remain silent. The disenfranchised and minorities are included here. It provides people with alternative views and opinions and makes news a two-way operation where the public is able to respond to what they read.

What concerns me is the inaccuracy and unreliability which hides behind a citizen report. With no skills, no necessary training, and no experience, what they report is more akin to chitchat than journalism. There is no accountability and no editor to validate the story. Isn’t this opening up a world of deception? .

I’m a big supporter of democracy. Yet I’d much rather read an article by someone with the necessary training and experience, giving me the confidence that what I am reading is hard fact. Reporting hard news is not a place where amateurs belong, it is an arena for those who have worked hard to give themselves the title of a journalist.

Yet citizen journalism is not simply a phase; it is here to stay and professional journalists need to accept it and find the best of way of working with it. I understand that even professionals can get it wrong, i.e. Jason Blair! . Maybe an ideal solution would be to get these citizen journalists and professional journalists to work together to correct each other’s stories?

Has Online News Reporting Replaced Newspapers?

October 14, 2008

Remember the days of walking down the stairs in the morning to see your Mum or Dad sat at the kitchen table with a newspaper in front of them as they ate their breakfast?

We might do, but it is highly unlikely that our children will.

They are more likely going to see us sat at the table with our laptops, using RSS feeds to get news coming directly to us.

Online news reporting was once just a supplement to the television broadcasts or the daily newspaper, but it has now become a major player in journalism because more and more people have turned to the internet to get their daily fix of news.

Both the number of newspaper readers and the number of viewer figures for the news are slowly slipping away due to online editions.

( The internet was only invented in 1969 but just forty years later it is creating a storm in the journalism industry. Once, the internet simply acted as a supplement to newspapers, it is now a primary source for information, which gives a clear indication of just how much the media environment has changed, since newspapers once held a monopoly on news.

As trainee journalists, we are in a time of major change and it is very exciting to be a part of it.

Why do I think more and more people are using the internet instead of buying a newspaper each day? A key reason is that it is time efficient. Instead of walking down to the corner shop and taking twenty minutes out of your day to buy a paper, world news is sitting at home at the click of a mouse.

The internet is easy to use, fast and convenient. By submitting news online, it means that people are able to access information and news from any part of the world. Someone living in Swindon has access to just that one local paper, but with the aid of the internet, a Swindon local is able to research local news for all parts of the UK (or the whole world!). Videos are also becoming important, with videos being published on websites as an aid to a news story. Journalists are no longer the first to file and are not always the first eye witnesses.

For example during the 7/7 London bombings it was ordinary people with mobile phones who first captured the moment. This is another component of what is fast becoming a multimedia industry.

Blogging is also ending the monopoly of comment which newspapers previously held.

Comment is now much freer. Why spend 60 pence on just one opinion when you can get an unlimited range for free?

Newspapers no longer have a unique selling point, and bloggers are able to grab editors by the throat and tell them that they are wrong in what they have said. Online reporting has often provided breaking news, such as the Clinton/Monica affair.

By reading news online, people can filter what they are interested in and so just receive the news which is of relevance to them.

Yes, it is dangerous because it may cause them to be shut off from the rest of the world, but some will no doubt see this as a positive.

Jonathan Klein once said that, “Blogs have no checks and balances. It’s a guy sitting in his living room in his pyjamas.”

Yet the internet is giving people like that the opportunity to voice opinions which would have remained unheard if news remained strictly on paper or television. We are now in an age where news is available through the internet, webcast, podcasts, blogs and 24-hour news channels, and print journalists need to start facing these facts, if they haven’t already.