Archive for December, 2008

How has journalism changed?

December 10, 2008

I was born in 1987, and even in my short 21 years I can see how much change has taken place in the news industry, both in terms of broadcasts and printed material. Back when I first graced this world, citizen journalism was a freak concept, twitter was yet to be heard of, and the internet was still treated with suspicion. Now all three are embraced (some more than others) by journalists far and wide.

So just how much has the media industry changed in my lifetime?

The rise of citizen journalism is surely the biggest and most publicized development? The increasing involvement of the readers and viewers has fundamentally transformed the media industry. Sorry about that deep language there, but it’s true. Citizen journalism does to media fans what Tom Jones does to the Old Grannies- it excites them, it intrigues them, it turns them on and they just cant get enough of it.

When I had my first mobile phone it was a toy. I played games , I text friends (anyone help me as to why phoning people is just not fashionable these days?),  I spent hours choosing a ringtone and so on. It was a gadget that I would play with for a while and want a new one almost straight away.

Now, the mobile phone is used for a purpose which goes far beyond my attempts to beat my high score on Snake (what a great game that was!). The spread of cheap camcorders and photo-enabled mobile phones, have allowed readers and viewers to provide the news. Journalists are no longer competing against other journalists from a different newspaper or TV station, they are competing with their audience. And it is the mobile phone which is making this competition a very real one. If you add blogs to the equation, what we have is a truly revolutionary 21 years.

Oh, but it doesn’t stop there. So much else has changed. For starters, online journalism is now fundamental to any print journalist. Whether it is a facebook update, a twitter update or a blog post, the journalist has to distribute news online to be sure of reaching a large audience. A journalist can no longer trust that someone will tune into the 6’o clock news or will walk to the shop to buy a paper. What they can trust is that someone will click a mouse button and get news online.

One only has to look back to the Bridgend suicides to see the role social networking sites can play in providing news. Back in March 2008, the father of one of the young boys who committed suicide only found out about the tragedy when he saw an update on his ex-wife’s social network site.

RSS provides a crucial innovation in journalism. Readers no longer need to check back to dozen’s of websites for news updates. They now have the option of subscribing to one section of a newspaper, such as sport, or even to one writer. Different bits of news can be mashed together and given to the reader in one source.

And there’s more….

Mapping is being embraced more and more these days. The Manchester Evening News provides a great example when it mapped the shootings which happened there. The Grantham Journal also mapped the ‘killer heron`. I do not think mapping has been used to its full potential yet by newsrooms but it is certainly a revolutionary tool in the way journalists are publishing material.

When speaking about how the internet has changed journalism, Sreenath Sreenivasan, associate professor of professional practice at the Columbia University School of Journalism, said: “The question is so basic now it’s like asking how the telephone changed the world. The Internet has changed journalism in every conceivable way. It’s changed the journalists, the audience, the advertisers, the whole ecosystem. It’s had the single biggest impact on journalism since the telephone.”

By watching the two videos below you can get a clear idea of just how much the journalism industry has changed throughout the ages.

Journalists are no longer the gatekeepers they once were. Journalists once had the so-called God given right to report the news but the gate is long gone. Even the term fence keepers would not accurately describe them because viewers and readers are now so prominent in news reporting. In the Eighties no one was being encouraged to call in and say what they thought about a news report or article. People don’t just call in anymore, they publish.

Back then everyone closed themselves off to change. Journalists stuck to their individual roles and that was that. Now, if they do not have the appropriate skills to keep up with convergence, then their career is likely to be a short one.

I’m sure that if I was to ask any journalist who worked both in the 1980s and today how the industry has changed, I would get a reply of “How hasn’t it?” That would be a fair comment. But one thing which hasn’t changed in my opinion is the essential skills to being a good journalist. Yes, people now have to have multi skills which weren’t necessary back then such as video training, but the skills of accuracy, curiosity, law knowledge, an eye for the right story, approachable and so on, are as important today as they ever were. Perhaps more so with the competitive environment we find ourselves in.

So yes, journalism has truly revolutionised throughout my 21 years, but the skills needed to succeed in journalism are hanging around for a little while longer yet.


Blogs and Sport

December 2, 2008

Rick Waghorn said newspapers are facing two challenges: structural and cyclical. In the first case, the web is replacing the newspaper as the provider of news. In the second case, the current economic crisis means newspapers are laying off journalists and it is harder to get a job in the media industry. Annoying but understandable.

But the more newspapers are written off by people, the more I become defensive of them. I’m studying Newspaper Journalism. The last thing I want to be told is my chance of getting a job on one is next to nothing. But I will admit that where blogs blow newspapers out of the water is sports.

I am a massive tennis fan, it is my passion. I have played since I was five years old and follow it religiously (yes, I do think Andy Murray will win Wimbledon one day). But anyway…we all know Sky Sports channels are hugely biased to football. The only time Tennis gets a look in is during the Davis Cup, Master Series events or Grand Slams. So most of the time us tennis fans are left on the BBC Sports Site following numbers on a scoreboard. Now that is hardly the same is it?

But what instant blogging does provide is written commentary after every point. We no longer have to wait until the next day’s paper to see a match report. It is there in front of us as the match is happening. This is especially important for a sport like tennis which isn’t seen as popular enough to earn a lot of newspaper space (except of course during Wimbledon where everyone develops a 2-week passion for tennis).


The same goes for my beloved team- Swansea City FC.Only in Welsh newspapers would there be a detailed match report, and even then I’d have to wait until the Monday morning. But the internet allows me to keep track of the game, with updates every two minutes at the latest.


Maybe the conclusion I’m coming to is blogging is great for soft news and sporting news, but not necessarily for hard news? As Angelo Bruscas, Seattle Reporter, said:

Sports fans and more than a few self-professed fanatics are fueling a growing firestorm of electronic rants and raves that is burning up the structure of sports information as it once existed in the mainstream media. Nothing really can compare to the free-form exercise in sports-based freedom of speech propagated by a mushrooming field of Internet blogs.”

Everyone is, or should be, passionate about one sport or another. But journalists have to be neutral. This is where sports blogs prove valuable. Fans can express their views without them being edited. It gives them a place to vent their rages and frustrations.

We demand breaking news, be it sports or hard news, as it happens because the internet has empowered us to expect such things. Newspapers tell us what happens yesterday but the internet tells us what is happening right now. Even Facebook and Twitter updates are a form of news.

Just to divert from sports for a minute, Robert Peston, the name which falls on everybody’s lips when the credit crunch is mentioned, managed to dictate events from his blog. He was not waiting for the news programme later that evening or even the next day to give his view. He was waiting for as long as it took him to write his blog. peston-again

Now, those who accuse him of causing this economic crisis, will think that his blog was a dangerous tool. But I’ll admit this case shows the power of the internet and its usefulness for news. Blogging and the internet means news is 24/7, instant and worldwide. You can get it in the palm of your hand at the click of a button.

When referring to the state of the media industry, Rick Waghorn said: “There is a forest fire out there which is raging like nobody’s business. It wont get better next year either.”

I’m glad to say I don’t share this pessimism. Maybe I am scared of change and just will not admit that newspapers are dying out. How can I when my ambition is to work on one?  I know the web is rising to prominence. I just don’t think it has to mean the end of newspapers. The internet and newspapers can run side by side, enhancing one another, using one another and providing readers with better quality news than ever before.

Yet I will admit that when it comes to sports, newspapers have some real competing to do with the internet and as things stand, the internet is leaving newspapers far behind. Maybe what we have in front of us is a repeat of the hare and the tortoise race where the newspaper might just surprise us yet.