All posts by Dave M

Beating the Press: Journalism in the Digital Age

The journalistic profession changed forever just before 3 AM EST on November 9, 2016. That's not a political statement, it's a philosophical and deeply personal one. Upon learning that Donald Trump had won the presidency, I began wondering how the mainstream media, of which I am a part, got the call so wrong. Just one of the last 20 national polls had Trump in the lead, and the final poll margins predicted Hillary Clinton would win by more than 3 points and NBC News analysts opined that Trump would have to pull "an inside straight" to win the electoral college. When my network broadcasting team held a pool to predict the winner and the final vote total, not a single person chose Trump. Plenty has been written since about why the media didn't get it right: the minority vote was overblown, Main Street America was underrepresented, her likability, the FBI letter, the desire for change.... It didn't matter. What mattered was that the people that were supposed to know the real story (the mainstream media), got the story wrong. That they got it wrong at a time when the man that would become president was warning that media was getting it wrong on purpose, only compounded the problem. The election cost the mainstream media its credibility. 

If you go back in history, the media has had its share of credibility problems. In 1948, the media overwhelmingly predicted victory for Thomas Dewey. The famous image of a smiling Harry Truman holding a newspaper predicting his own defeat foreshadowed a contentious relationship with the press throughout his time in office.  In more recent times, Dan Rather's deceptive reporting about George W. Bush's flight records cost the veteran anchor his job and cast a cloud over his network. Brian Williams' misrepresentations of his own experiences forced him to step down from his post at the most successful night news program in the country. The wounds were self-inflicted. But it's one thing to hurt your own credibility when you're the only game in town. Yellow journalism, the blatantly sensational reporting that characterized newspapers at the turn of the last century, weren't fatal for the profession since there was no other way for people to get their news. It's a different story today.
Today, the platform of digital media and the phenomenon of social media is dominating the information-sharing landscape. Nearly anyone can disseminate information at nearly any time, and have the potential to reach literally millions of people, as many as the best-funded, most professional news outlets. And they can do it without any restraints whatsoever. There is no app, no technological barrier to reporting a lie, whether it be intentionally or unintentionally. Lies mix freely with truths in cyberspace and often, it's tough to tell the difference. Sometimes the only way to tell the difference is to do a little research on your own, something many people are unwilling to do, particularly in an age where information intersects only briefly with our attention span before we are on to something else. Journalism, in its traditional form, is established to take the guesswork out of the job of determining the validity of a piece of information. In generations past, the news was the news. You didn't question it, you simply accepted it as fact and moved on. But what happens when you don't trust the media to distinguish a lie from the truth? And what happens when people no longer agree on a common source for the truth? Daniel Moynihan, the late U.S. senator, once said "everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts." That may not be true anymore. Plenty of people are unable to agree on the most basic facts of what's going on in the world. An NPR program described it as living in a "post-truth"  environment. The consequences are immense.  Polarized politics mean fewer people are listening to opposing viewpoints, and the ones they are listening to can carry messages that are hyperbolic almost to the point of hysteria. Truth has become a relative commodity, defined by the messenger instead of the message. If we believe that there are people that refuse to entertain the validity of facts if they don't jive with their predetermined view of the world, then how can anything ever impact their world view? And will these people build a world in which dissenting viewpoints are welcomed or condemned, even punished?  Napoleon once said that "History is a set of facts agreed upon." Perhaps that hits a closer to the heart of our current culture when it comes to journalism and the search for truth than the quote by the late Senator Moynihan.

Into this environment, we throw a new generation of journalists, intent on trying to shed light on difficult and complicated issues that face the country and the world. But how?  How do journalists do their job at a time when roughly half the country doesn't trust them? How do you pursue truth at a time when blatantly false "news" is created and perpetuated online by paid operatives? How do you distinguish between citizen journalists who can help spread truth and "yellow journalists" who are dedicated to spreading falsehoods? And how can you thrive in an environment in which social media gives nearly everyone access to everyone else, gives anonymous individuals just as big a mouthpiece as entire news organizations, and rewards sensational, hyperbolic, often negative headlines with clicks, followers and cash? The fact that broad distrust of the mainstream media comes at a time when there are so many alternatives available online complicates the challenge for journalists. It also invites a specific focus on the pedagogical challenges ahead for journalism professors who are trying to get ahead of the changes and prepare students for the profession in its emerging state, not the world of TV-first talking heads that held sway in the news business as little as five years ago. In this thesis, we will dig into the current journalistic environment, the factors that have contributed to it, the consequences for the profession and the path forward.

Historically, the press is one of the pillars of American democracy,  notable for its ability to provide a check on powerful government entities that may try to run amok. Examples of the press and the president going head-to-head are as old as the country itself. Political party newspapers operating as propaganda mouthpieces waged war on behalf of their candidates when Adams and Jefferson were squaring off. Grover Cleveland hated the press, Ulysses Grant felt he was slandered by the media. Even President Obama had a toxic relationship with the press, believing it to focus on the sometimes sensational details of politics as opposed to the big picture. As a Rolling Stone article pointed out in 2014, "The White House suspects that reporters intentionally sensationalize their stories; reporters suspect that the White House plays with the facts to get its message out. Both suspicions are correct." Obama was also the first President to use social media, joining Twitter in 2007 and using Facebook to help build a base of millions of voters during his initial run for the White House. In that same year, Scott Goodstein, who help Obama increase his presence on more than dozen social networks said, "These social networks are shopping malls that have millions of people already hanging out in them. So the question becomes, how to find the people that are going to be your advocates and have them talk about your message?" It was a lesson that Obama's successor, Donald Trump, would learn well.

For traditional journalists, the burden is heavier and more complicated. The speed of the news cycle and the sheer amount of information available to inform your reporting can overwhelm someone trying to verify the truth of the matter. It is increasingly difficult to find those who don't spin their side of the story. On the other side of the coin, many so-called "citizen journalists" may not even realize their level of responsibility to the discourse happening around the country, They can bypass traditional media and potentially reach thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people. What's more, many enjoy the ability to remain anonymous no matter what they post and thereby often avoid any kind of legal or ethical consequence for their information. As people who put information into cyberspace, we must reassess our responsibilities in doing so and as news consumers we must approach all information like this with eyes open. We, as journalists, can not pretend that the dramatic cultural and technological changes are happening outside of the sphere of what we do. The news is no longer confined to the traditional gatekeepers. The digital media has torn those gates down. Access once enjoyed by media conglomerates is now open to anyone with a twitter handle and online access.  What’s more, the number of people getting their news online has skyrocketed as well.  According to a Pew Research study , 62% of all American adults get news on a social networking site, with Reddit, Facebook and Twitter taking the top spots. In fact, among those asked where they "often" get their news, digital sources ran a close second to television, 38% to 57%. News websites slightly outpaced social networking sites as the primary source for digital users, but that may be changing. The number of visitors to all nine of the top social networking websites studied by Pew grew from a similar study conducted three years ago.  


As we speak, traditional (or mainstream) media is trying to navigate an increasingly complicated, interwoven relationship with digital media and its users. Because of the ubiquitous nature of I-Phone's, the number of people who can create and distribute news content has skyrocketed. Because that video can be shared instantly on social media sites, it can be more appealing for  those users for whom quick, easily accessible content is most important. Unfortunately, that often can lead to images being shared widely, without explanation and without any context. During the recent rash of shootings of African-American men by police officers, the vast majority of video, both of the incidents and the aftermath, came from individuals, which we will describe as citizen journalists. Those citizen journalists, it can be argued, helped in spreading the truth of what occurred, but hindered a full understanding of the situations and the circumstances that led up to them. The shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in the summer of 2014 led to weeks of protests and to the evolution of a hashtag: Black Lives Matter. The group, started three years earlier after the Trayvon Martin shooting, lived mostly online up until that moment. After the shooting, it became the platform for a real flesh-and-blood movement. In contrast, to past civil rights movements, the organizers were no longer reliant on traditional media, hoping that journalists were in the right place at the right time to capture developments. Instead the organizers were able to record and distribute the developments themselves. As an article in Wired put it, it demonstrated how, when it came time for the organizers to speak to the masses, they were able to bypass traditional media. "If you want to post a video of a protest or a violent arrest, you put it up on Vine, Instagram or Periscope. If you want to avoid trolls or snooping authorities and you need to coordinate some kind of action, you might chat privately with other activists on GroupMe. If you want to rapidly mobilize a bunch of people you know and you don't want the whole world clued in, you use SMS or WhatsApp. If you want to mobilize a ton of people you might not know and you do want the whole world to talk about it: Twitter." In addition, journalists relied on citizens inside the protests to post and send video, using it as the core of news coverage for weeks. But there was a downside to it too. Without traditional media to put a metaphorical box or frame around the information, some protesters allowed their personal agendas to shape the message they were sending. In ethical terms, this is something that journalists are taught not to do. But the protesters weren't journalists, nor did they pretend to be. They were messengers. And we can point to at least one part of that message, the symbolic chant of "Hands Up, Don't Shoot", as one that was based on a lie. Brown never said that, nor is there any evidence he ever tried to surrender. The media did its due diligence in working to debunk the lie, but the symbol endured. As one protester told the Associated Press, "Even if you don't find that it's true, it's a valid rallying cry. It's just a metaphor." Here we have those that were positioning themselves as the truth-tellers - as the ones that the traditional media became reliant on to deliver a true representation of the anger and frustration in the wake of the Ferguson shooting - basically passing on the job. But should we be surprised that citizen journalists are allowing their agendas to color what they send us? Of course not. We saw it during the Arab Spring as well, when citizen journalists became the key avenues through which the Western world understood what was happening. Of course they had a vested interest in knocking out the ruling governments. Syrian rebels have a vested interest in demonstrating the horrible actions of the Assad regime to gin up global opposition. The problem comes when there is no context or framework for the information. If we know that video of a certain incident is shot and distributed by a participating party, we can weigh what kind of agenda they may have, perhaps play devil's advocate.  But if we don't have that information, it's not possible for us, as news consumers, to accurately assess the truthfulness of the content. 

That's not to say that digital media is all bad. Journalists need information to report the news and through digital media and social media platforms, we have more than we could ever ask for. Yes, it needs context and yes, it needs explanation, but the act of news gathering has become vastly easier than it was when journalists still relied solely on shoe leather and knocking on doors. Crowdsourcing is a perfect example. When the Washington Post's David Farenthold wanted to find out if Donald Trump had really followed through with his promises to donate millions to charities, he realized quickly that he couldn't get what he needed through official channels. Farenthold instead decided to reach out via social media. In October 2016, he said he realized "I could publicly reach out to the big (charities), they would see what I was looking into and so might others. Maybe I would get answers from people I wasn't asking initially. So I then realized that I could do it (use social media) in a broader way..."  The benefit for Farenthold was that thousands of people essentially dig his digging for him, and he was able to uncover facts about Trump's charitable gifts that he likely would never been able to uncover on his own. To put the resources of an entire community or a society within reach of investigate journalists gives them tools they never had before. The collective knowledge of a entire group of people can be focused into answering a single question. And what if the conversation isn't directed by a journalist?  It can still be valuable. in the book, "Participatory Journalism", the authors write that "ordinary people... have provided intimate looks within the smallest of communities, sharing local and even personal information and ideas in depth and detail. They have carried on millions of topical conversations through discussion forums, comment threads and blog posts. In all of these online activities and many more, they have taken on roles and carried out functions that sound quite a bit like, well... journalism." What we see here is information in such an abundance that it becomes difficult to argue that it's a bad thing. 

But I would argue that a tool is only useful int he way that the person who wields it intends it to be. During the general election campaign during the last half of 2016, a phenomenon grew up around fake news. Fake news was a deliberate attempt by groups of people, some motivated by money, others by political ideology to intentionally plant false news stories. The idea was that those stories would be circulated by the public and they would either generate advertising revenue or fuel political animosity or both. A recent Washington Post article describes two creators of intentionally false posts and tweets the "new yellow journalists" and shares interviews in which the men, who went from unemployed restaurant workers to wealthy entrepreneurs, describe how they play on people's fears, religious beliefs and deep-seated anger about political figures to elicit reactions, including getting them to circulate the fake posts to their own followers and friends. As one says, "All successful journalism has shock value". And if you base the metric of success on the sheer number of clicks or likes or retweets you get, then they are definitely successful. You could also base success on how much of a reaction you generate. A man named Gregg Phillips posted tweeted two messages in mid-November, each alleging that three million non-citizens had voted illegally in the general election. Two weeks later, President-Elect Trump himself able to refer to use those tweets as the foundation for his claims that he would have won the popular vote if not for those 3 million illegally cast votes. Media outlets reached out to Phillips to ask him what he was basing his information on. He wouldn't tell anyone. Why not? He said he didn't want the media twisting his words. Trump's tweet was retweeted more than 53,000 times at last count. The fact that Politifact and other media outlets declared it patently false didn't stop the President-Elect from tweeting it and no doubt, won't stop many of his supporters from believing it. Why? Well, is you ask some of the people creating the posts, the audience simply isn't smart enough to know the difference between a lie and the truth, or at very least, they don't care to try to figure out the difference. Paul Horner, the head of a Facebook fake-news empire, said "People are definitely dumber. They just keep passing stuff around. Nobody fact-checks anything anymore - I mean, that's how Trump got elected. He just said whatever he wanted, and people believed everything, and when the things he said turned out not to be true, people didn't care because they'd already accepted it. It's real scary. I've never seen anything like it." But is that fair? How can people be "dumber" as Horner argues, when there is so much information around. One possible answer is that people simply don't want to take the time to check whether something is true or not. A second possibility is that when people see something they want to believe to be true, they will believe it, facts or no facts. There are certainly psychological aspects to this, and we will go into them later in this paper. But I would argue there is another reason why people might believe these "fake news" publications or anything, really, that purports to report information that has been otherwise repressed somehow. In other words, it leaks out into these "alternative" sites (alternatives to the mainstream media in other words) because the mainstream media has opted not to cover the stories, or to actively silence those reporting them. If the mainstream media was trustworthy, the chain of logic goes, the major television networks would tell you all of this stuff. But they aren't, so they won't. That lack of confidence in the truthfulness of journalists and the media at large is one of the most critical components to the changing environment surrounding the journalistic profession and, quite possibly, poses the biggest challenge.

In September 2016, Gallup asked people whether they trusted the media. Less than a third were willing to say they even had a "fair amount" of trust in the media to "report the news fully, accurately and fairly." In the 44 years that Gallup had been asking the question, the number had never been lower.  And why not? Cable news media has become increasingly polarized in recent years, representing the right and left wings ideologies of our political system, often at the expense of more moderate views. Donald Trump made media bashing a central tenet of his campaign, calling debate moderators unfair, and calling journalists "the worst people I've ever met." While I tend to believe that many journalists try to be fair, my own experiences in the newsroom haven't always borne that out. Several years ago, while sitting in the newsroom, a Supreme Court decision was announed that was seen as a victory for cultural liberals and a great roar of applause rose up from the "journalists" sitting around me. I was stunned. How could people who were supposed to be working hard to report the news without bias wear their bias so openly. While I don't believe that such ractions preclude people's ability to report fairly, I have also seen political ideologies more openly expressed inside the newsroom today than ever before. Those ideologies tend to bleed through on air, whether it be through the phrasing of a question or the kind of context and additional information that's provided to the viewer. 

The election of 2016 will also go down, I believe, as a critical moment in which the mainstream media lost a lot of credibility with the average American. The argument that the mainstream media had the real story, that all the stories indicating that Hillary Clinton was surging and Donald Trump was flailing could be taken together as the most accurate representation of what was going on in the country, was proven totally wrong. The average American that had believed all along that the media was misleading them suddenly had their proof - powerful proof that will be used as a hammer to bludgeon the mainstream media for a long time to come.

(COULD INCLUDE KATY TUR/KRISTEN WELKER INTERVIEWS HERE....)

Of course, we don't just have to make a counterargument against the mainstream media. We've already discussed a bit about how digital media can tell a story that mainstream journalists simply can't tell, whether it be because of a lack of resources or simply not being at the right place at the right time. Would the police-involved killings of Philando Castile or Eric Garner ever made the news if someone hadn't filmed the incidents and put them online?  In the case of Walter Scott, a black man shot by police in April 2015, the media reported the police version of the shooting which claimed there was a "physical altercation". Not until video of the incident was posted online, showing Scott running away from the officer, did the mainstream media change its reporting and question the official narrative. The patrolman was later charged with murder. It's an extreme example. The media was forced to change its story in the face of obvious evidence contrary to what it had been reporting. But what if the media was the sole gatekeeper? Late in the presidential campaign, video and audio of Trump making inappropriate comments during an NBC taping in 2005 was "leaked" to the Washington Post. NBC raced to put the video out first, but only after it was forced to, to avoid looking like it had sat on the tape. In fact, the network had sat on the tape, trying to figure out how to protect an employee rather than fulfill its ethical obligations and release the tape regardless of the impact on the network's reputation or that of its employee. Unfortunately, that's the case of dealing with the world as we hope it is as opposed to the world as it really is.
Agendas are just as relevant to media outlets as they are to individuals posting pictures or stories online. Of course there are some significant differences. News organizations have a reputation to protect, for example. Any kind of failure to live up to the ethical standards as perceived by the public can hurt its credibility. While we may question whether the ethics are the same across the board and the severity of the media "spin", it is hard to argue that the vast majority of news organizations don't try to put accurate information on the air or in print.  Journalistic ethics go back as far as the development of the printing press in the 15th century when editors assured readers that they "printed the impartial truth based on 'matters of fact'".  Consider the guidelines of ethical journalism, as explained by the Society of Professional Journalists: Seeking truth and reporting it, minimizing harm,  acting independently (without real or perceived conflicts of interest) and being accountable and transparent. By that definition, every single person that distributes "news" or information without revealing their name and their methods is violating journalistic ethics. In the cases of "fake news" that we discussed above, all four tenets are violated repeatedly. Many are faceless; anonymous and in situations where they have conflicts of interest or they aim to maximize as opposed to minimize harm, the anonymity protects them from consequences as well. And while cultural and technological factors will always contribute to who pays attention to what and what form of "news" gains traction  , you could also argue that credibility will be the make-or-break factor when it comes to the long-term health of the journalistic profession. The reason is that credibility is a characteristic that real-life journalists can still claim (or reclaim) in a way that gives it an advantage over digital and social media.  While we mentioned earlier that few have confidence in the mainstream news organizations, even fewer seem to have confidence in the news coming to them via social media.  By not being afraid to take responsibility for their reporting and by being transparent about their methods and findings, mainstream journalists still have an opportunity to claim the mantle of credibility. 
It's fair to take a minute here and wonder about who we can fairly define as a journalist these days. As Scott Gant put it in his book, "We're All Journalists Now", "the lines distinguishing professional journalists from other people who disseminate information, ideas and opinions to a wide audience have been blurred, perhaps beyond recognition, by forces both inside and outside the media themselves....It is harder than ever to tell who is a journalist." The book was published nearly a decade ago, but the implications are staggering. If the definition is someone that disseminates information, then the pool of journalists in America has become unfathomably large. Gant goes on to question whether those same people shouldn't just be afforded legal protections under the First Amendment guarantees of the Freedom of the Press, but journalistic "privilege" that often prevents journalists from being forced to reveal information they would typically have to reveal if they were ordinary citizens. But what if an I-Phone in your pocket and a Twitter account makes you a disseminator of journalistic information? Where do the rights of a journalist that works at the New York Times end and yours begin?  But if those protections should apply to you, what if you looked at the coin from the other side? Should you,a s an individual, be held to the same standards as a newspaper or a TV network? 
(COULD ADD MORE FROM LEGAL EXPERT HERE - )
Let's say, for the sake of argument, you can avoid the legal implications, either through luck or anonymity. Why should the average person care whether they uphold the standards of a traditional journalist? One reason might be a version of the Golden Rule. If you represent others accurately and fairly and express your best understanding of the world around you, others will do the same. This is particularly important when reinforcing social norms and mores online. The reason why things like body-shaming are frowned upon is not because of a rule or guideline distributed by the World Wide Web. Instead, the online community relies on a measure of self-policing. Some may argue that it's a naive approach to dealing with the glut of misinformation out there, but if spreading false information takes on the same stigma as, say, racial slurs, we could see people start curbing their own behavior. 

For those who defy ethical standards because they get paid to do so, the obvious answer is to dry up the pool of revenue, much of which comes from advertising. Facebook is already working to do so. But Facebook is not a journalistic gatekeeper, nor is Twitter or Reddit or Tumblr, or any of the social media sites that have become the platform of choice for disseminators of "fake news". So in the end, the job may fall on journalists themselves. 
DISCUSS JOURNALISTS ROLE IN GATEKEEPING
ALSO DISCUSS WHERE "EXPERTISE" FITS INTO ALL THIS - IS IT OK FOR SOME PEOPLE TO BE "EXPERTS" IN DISSEMINATING FACT? JUST BECAUSE EVERYONE HAS EQUAL ACCESS (AND EVEN A POTENTIAL CLAIM TO THE TITLE OF JOURNALIST), IS THAT A GOOD THING? 

Thesis Outline

Digital media
Traditional media in a war with digital media, even if they don’t know it yet
Show statistics and shifting trends

Digi media vs traditional media – complicated relationship
Citizen journalists – pros: speed, on the scene,  cons: no context, anonymity
-          Contrast with traditional media
-          Use crowdsourcing as an example of positive impacts
-          And what’s the relationship between CJ and TM?  (are there ethical responsibilities?)


Recently its become more dire – spread of fake news
-          Same things that make digital media attractive to users being used to manipulate them
-          Info sharing websites trying to cope
-          Compare to yellow journalism?  - but at least at that time, someone (or some paper’s) credibility was on the line

Legal issues?
Ethical issues?

So it seems obvious that if people want real truth in the news, they come to traditional media, except…
-          Lack of trust in the TM (polling)
-          Exacerbated by polarized political climate – creates vicious cycle
-          Anger at TM has grown – journalists themselves are targets
-          Tur/Welker experiences
-          Election cost TM a good chunk of credibility, Pres-elect continues to fuel anger

Where do we go from here?
-          Napoleon: History is a set of facts agreed upon (set up the problem – no agreement on facts)
-          NPR: Post-truth society
-          How do we push through the polarization and find the truth?
-          Where does investigative journalism fit in? (John Oliver)

The Future
-          So much information – James Burke says there can’t be another Dark Age
-          Individuals must use digital media to solve digital media
-          Journalists must use digital media tools to be transparent as possible – raise the bar
-          Stop treating digital media as a passing fad – address pedagogical shortcomings

Reflections on my thesis in the wake of Trump’s election

I have spent the last 36 hours or so considering what Donald Trump's election means for me and my country. I've also spent a fair amount of time considering what it means for my profession as a journalist. Consider this - for the better part of the past year, there have been no competing narratives involving what is described as the mainstream media. The first has been perpetuated by the media itself since it has been part of its mission and mantra since "the media" was a thing. Namely, that we (meaning journalists that get paid to do the job) are the truth-tellers..  that we are the gatekeepers of fact and, although admittedly there are bad apples in our bunch, that we are the American public's best bet as to getting the real scoop on what's happening in the world. To say it more bluntly - our version of the world around you most closely comports with the way reality actually is. The version perpetuated by conservatives, alt-right websites, many Republicans and, frankly, a lot of Americans period - is that the media has an agenda. That we deliberately twist stories and coverage and "facts" to fit the reality we want them to see; that at best ,we cherry-pick facts and at worse, make things up out of whole-cloth. Throughout the past year, I have felt and seen my profession increasingly come under attack by people who have no idea what we go through on a regular basis to try and present things even-handedly and with as little bias as humanly possible to prove to them that we really are the truth-tellers we claim to be. Then Tuesday happened. And it handed every person who doubt's the media's veracity a silver bullet to shoot us with - right between the eyes. The America that was revealed in Tuesday's election was the world they always believed was there - the world they accused us of trying to cover up; a world that we insisted DID NOT EXIST. We can blame the polls all we want. We can blame all kinds of things and people, and we will. But the media and journalism came out on the losing end of our election Tuesday - because we lost our credibility. And it will take a long time to get it back.

I think it remains to be seen how much our profession will change in the coming months and years. Like anything, time has a way of easing your worst fears and revealing ideas you'd never imagined. My hope is that as President, Trump doesn't continue tweeting at the American public. Cogent ideas and policies can't be explained in 120 characters or less. It also feeds the laziness we have of getting our information as quickly as possible (and consequently with as little context as possible). But context and full explanations begin with us too. The media failed to explain what a Trump presidency could mean to America because it never considered what the possibility it might happen. It largely failed to dig into his policies and proposals (and he did put them out - in fact, the Trump team begged us to look at them more closely). Would either of those things impacted the way people thought about him? Maybe so or maybe not, but it sure would have made me sleep a lot better at night if we had. More than once, I pitched questions - not full segments - just questions to address issues like trade and entitlements. The questions rarely if ever made it to air, consistently dropped because we spent too much time on the latest insult or bizarre action that Trump had just dropped. And yes, it made good television. But being a journalist has to go beyond good television. A producer said to me today that no one would've watched if we had a segment on trade. Maybe. Or maybe they would have. Point is that we share responsibility - not for the fact that Trump was elected - but for a failure to fulfill our duties of trying to fully inform the public. Sounds like old-school whining over ethics, doesn't it?  And it is, to a point. Ethics and an adherence to the duty your profession demands is important, even if it doesn't get ratings. But here's the other problem. The public doesn't need us to show them Trump's latest antic. They can get it on YouTube or Facebook or anywhere else. It requires no context, no explanation (if you don't want any).  Moving forward, the role for journalism =has= to be as the provider of context that is missing from so much of social media. In doing so, we risk taking heat from those that don't like what we say. But at least we would be providing something that people won't get from the rising tide of digital media. That, as the laws of supply and demand dictates, is absolutely vital to our survival.

All of this brings me back to where I began: the waves that have been threatening to swamp the boat of traditional (or mainstream) journalism over the past two years now threaten to sink it. A President Trump has the ability to completely circumvent the media, either through social media or through a network/mouthpiece of his own making ("Granma" anyone?). It's not just him, of course, the exponential growth of digital media has made it nearly impossible for the traditional media to respond to or actively fact-check the tide of garbage and lies that get through out there. But who is going to believe us now? What we said was up turned out to be down. So if some blogger out there with 10 million followers says Trump is going to buy everyone a new car, what does it matter if the Washington Post says it's not true? Are they going to be believed? There is no truth-tellers out there anymore - at least not ones that we can all agree on. My father told me that back in the 1960's and 70's when they watched the news, it was the news. It was fact - no one questioned it, no one took issue with it. It didn't mean that everyone was on the same page or shared the same ideas, of course. But it was the reason people were actually able to have a reasonable discussion - a shared set of facts upon which to hash out a disagreement. As the politician Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said, "Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts." I'm not sure everyone would agree with that these days. That reality is largely gone. And it's not just Republicans. Passions are high on both sides. There are conservative-leaning publications doing good work as well. If they presented a die-hard liberal with facts - and i mean that literally - that contradicted their long-held beliefs, would they be able to re-examine those beliefs? Perhaps we are in an age where passion or conviction trumps (pun intended) fact. After all, the dictionary defines "fact" as something that is "indisputably the case". Outside of death itself, what in our public sphere can be considered indisputably true? People instead are opting to believe their gut, their conscience - there are plenty of words for simply believing what you believe. Belief vs. fact - when one is something you feel in your gut and the other is something that contradicts that feeling?  I'm betting many people will side with their own convictions. It's difficult to fight that. So where do we go from here? Do we, as journalists, simply pack it up and go home?  No. But I do think that it's time to recognize that the fight for truth is, indeed, a fight. Reason, empathy, persuasion - these are tools in the future of journalism. And I don't mean as tools to convince someone of a particular side. I mean to simply get them to listen. Many will simply dump "facts" or shout them or tweet them or scream them from the virtual rooftops. That won't work. But to try and stand for the truth and argue for it as passionately as those who cling to incorrect or uninformed beliefs (whatever political party they belong to), then we are fighting passion with passion. And maybe then we have a chance.

Thoughts on a Thesis

A thesis as to why this is necessary:

More than print or television, digital media is the future platform for the news. However, digital culture is more than just a platform. It is changing the way journalism takes shape, inviting masses of people who've never considered journalistic ethics or the consequences of distributing information to thousands of people, to become a part of the formerly small pool of gatekeeping journalists who bring the "news" to the rest of the world. The result is that the pool of those that can be counted among the "media" or "journalists" has grown dramatically. The amount of information out there has exploded. And yet, at the end of the day, people want to be able to trust that what is being purported to be news, whether it comes so-called "traditional" journalists or "citizen journalists" who are distributing their information online or through social media. Multiple cultural and technological changes have made that increasingly difficult. The rise of right wing and left wing media as well as polarizing politics has cast doubt on all forms of "mainstream media". That doubt is compounded by the ability for people to bypass any kind of "mainstream" media and go right to sources online that support their views, regardless of whether the news being distributed by that source meets even the most basic thresholds for fact. In some cases, the manipulation is subtle (like news "spin). In other cases, it is dramatic (manipulating or omitting facts to deliberately support a political or cultural agenda). Either way, it puts the onus on the journalists to fact-check their own work. For traditional journalists, the burden is heavier and more complicated. The speed of the news cycle and the sheer amount of information available to inform your reporting can overwhelm someone trying to verify the truth of the matter. It is increasingly difficult to find those who don't spin their side of the story. On the other side of the coin, many so-called "citizen journalists" may not even realize their level of responsibility to the discourse happening around the country, They can bypass traditional media and potentially reach thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people. What's more, many enjoy the ability to remain anonymous no matter what they post and thereby often avoid any kind of legal or ethical consequence for their information. As people who put information into cyberspace, we must reassess our responsibilities in doing so and as news consumers we must approach all information like this with eyes open. We, as journalists, can not pretend that the dramatic cultural and technological changes are happening outside of the sphere of what we do. The news is no longer confined to the traditional gatekeepers. The digital media has torn those gates down. Access once enjoyed by media conglomerates is now open to anyone with a twitter handle and online access. So how do we as journalists adapt to the new landscape? How do we retain our integrity? How do we use the information out there to aid in our efforts to inform our audience instead of confuse them? And how do we uphold traditional ethical and journalistic goals when they are openly flaunted by others who share our medium and threaten to denigrate what we do?

As a secondary point, we need to look at the implications of digital media when it comes to how news is distributed. This is particularly important now because even leading journalism programs tend to treat digital media as a sidebar to journalism, focusing on reporting and fact-checking and discussing blogging only in passing. All too often, the news is treated as a TV or print enterprise with a digital component. It must be re-imagined as a digital entity with text, audio and visual components. That is true both for the way we create news and how it is distributed. Educators say that the technology is changing so quickly, in fact, that they can barely keep up - that lessons developed one year may be outdated a year later. A recent study found that more than a quarter of 18 to 24 year old's use social media as their primary source for news - more than television for the first time. We must meet these viewers where they live in terms of how to deliver them accurate information quickly and in the medium they prefer. This has implications for "traditional media" because it requires us to rethink how to provide facts and contexts in a different medium than has been traditionally used, as well as how to meet ethical and legal requirements for distributing information when the speed of the news cycle and the sheer amount of information available means it may not be possible to accurately check facts or verify sources.

All of this will provide the backdrop for a comprehensive college-level course that looks at the changing landscape of "traditional journalism". It will also look at how journalism itself is transitioning to a new age in which digital media is transforming both the content and the medium by which it is provided, As it does, we must also reassess the responsibilities that lay with traditional journalists, citizen journalists and the audience they are trying to reach. Areas of interest include traditional journalistic pedagogy, evolving pedagogy, the clash between traditional & citizen journalists (including sometimes competing goals and motivations) and how the two entities can work together (including how information is co-opted through phenomena like crowdsourcing), as well as assessing ethical and legal responsibilities moving forward.

Lit Review (in progress)

Pedagogy (also courses that are currently offered)

Fire in the Hole: Curricular Explosion, Fearless Journalism Pedagogy and Media Convergence. Michael Longinow. Fall 2011 Symposium.
This presentation explores what we know and don't know about how young people are consuming media and how it informs how educators need to teach journalism. What are people looking for in the "news" they consume and why?  Does imagery trump text? Where does context fit? Convergent media, meaning media that includes text video and sound, is ascendant. Also explored: how do you teach news judgment in an environment where context is in some cases non-existent.

Multimedia Journalism Professors on an Island: Resources, Support Lacking at Small Programs
Elia Powers & Jacqueline Soteropoulos Incollingo Vol. 6 no. 1 pp-1.17 Winter 2016
Calls are increasing to "blow up" journalism curriculum to more rapidly embrace the teaching of social media, web media skills. Research study reached out to multimedia journalism university professors to discuss their goals for their students, the challenges they face and the support and resources they receive from their institutions.

A Review and Model of Journalism in an Age of Mobile Media
Oscar Westlund
Explores systemic changes the mass media has gone through to try and embrace digital media and make it more accessible for people using mobile devices. Can be interesting to explore the way content is created and distributed as well as potential concerns about necessary context.

Citizen Journalism vs. Professional Journalism
News, Public Affairs and the Public Sphere in a Digital Nation
Edgar Simpson. Lexington Books. August 2014
Discusses many aspects of where the two types of journalism collide including the lanes they fill, the legal responsibilites of traditional journalists and citizen journalists.  Explores the legal protections for journalists as well and the holes in current law that don't cover the digital actor (p141)

Do Mainstream News Outlets have a Moral Obligation to Citizen Journalists?
Glenda Cooper. Nieman Lab. July 15, 2015
Explores what responsibility the mainstream or traditional media has toward supporting or compensating people who are not employed by them but create content that is then used in the mass media.Also whether mass media should actively try to restrain citizen journalists from putting themselves in harm's way.


Ethics & Best Practices
Online Journalism Ethics. Cecilia Friend and Jane Singer. Taylor & Francis. 2007.
Over eight chapters Friend and Singer attempt to summarise how journalism ethics are being changed by the ways new media technologies are being used. They begin by highlighting the culturally-specific and indeed technologically-influenced nature of ethics – how that the emergence of objectivity as an idea, for instance, was derived in part from the development of the telegraph, while new media technologies are reshaping these ethics once again

Media Literacy: Citizen Journalists
Susan Moeller. Report from the Center for International Media Assistance. Oct. 1, 2009
Argues that citizen journalists must be educated about "best practices in standards and ethics." as well as "how to use new technologies". Recognizing that this was created in 2009, it is interesting to juxtapose it with professors' insistence that they can barely keep up with changing technology and certainly it can be argued that the citizen journalists themselves are far more educated on available technologies than the mass media that Moeller argues should be providing instruction.

Creating Ethical Bridges From Journalism to Digital News
Nieman Reports Sept. 17, 2009
Explores ethical issues that arise including authentication of sources, assessing the reliability of information and dealing with conflicts of interest. Granted this is a little old, but I believe many of the concerns are still present.

Legal 
We're All Journalists Now: The Transformation of the Press and Reshaping of the Law in the Internet Age.  Scott Gant. New York. Free Press. 2007
I am concerned this source is a little old to draw relevant conclusions on where the law should fall when it comes to digital journalists. However, it provides a good overview of the questions raised by the unregulated flow of information that can end up informing our mainstream media.

Crowdsourcing
Participatory Journalism Guarding Open Gates at Online Newspapers
Jane Singer (Book) Hoboken John Wiley & Sons.
Offers insights into how journalists in Western democracies are thinking about, and dealing with, the inclusion of content produced and published by the public. Interviews journalists to discuss how the news-making process.

Crowdsourcing in Investigative Journalism
Johanna Vehkoo (August 2013)
Includes a number of anecdotal examples of successful crowdsourcing from various countries. Points out incidents in Russia, Finland, the U.S. and references the work of NPR's Andy Carvin who used Twitter and crowdsourcing to separate fact from fiction during the Arab Spring.

This article looks at multiple cases of journalists using crowdsourcing to gather data, pointing out the pros and cons. Specifically, it explores the problem of what happens when so much information comes in from the web that the journalist is unable to independently verify it all.

Motivation Factors in Crowdsourced Journalism:Social Impact, Social Change, and Peer Learning
Tanja Aitamurto, Stanford University Vo..9 2015
Talks about the characteristics of crowdsourcing and differentiates it from other types of collaborative effort. Looks specifically at the motivations for the crowd participants, including recognition, enjoyment, acquiring news skills and knowledge, even financial motivations.

Hypertext
Hypertext, narrative and the future of news writing
Holly Cowart UTC Masters Thesis
Looks at how hypertext can be used as a narrative tool, how it plays with different audiences and whether or not hypertext compromises or supports text in which it is used. Also looks at the role it has in trying to support online newspapers and making them more relevant.

Future / Impact on Democracy????

http://library.kean.edu:2048/menu

Looking at Legal Issues for my Thesis

As part of this month's task for working on my thesis, I was trying to explore possible topics for the class I am proposing. One of those topics came to me in a most unexpected way last week. Following the revelations about women that say Donald Trump touched or kissed them inappropriately, I found myself in a conversation with Karen Desoto, an NBC News Analyst and defense attorney. Although not a pundit, she had an interesting take on the reports. In her opinion, they should have never been reported in the first place. Her argument was that the allegations coming out failed to meet what she believed should be the basic standard for reporting, which is whether the allegations would meet the legal standard for being admissible in court. In her opinion, allegations that were 20+ years old, that had not been verified or reported at the time, would never be admitted in court. Therefore, she thinks the New York Times (that is the case we were discussing) should have never reported it. In addition, she made the case that the editors of the paper should have known that the allegations would have a direct impact on the election less than a month off and that that should have played a role in them keeping the reports under wraps unless and until further verification came to light. I was intrigued?  Did she believe the writers at the New York Times failed to uphold their responsibilities as journalists? Yes, she said. Did we, at MSNBC, failed to uphold our responsibilities as journalists by reporting their reports?  Yes again, she believed. And she also felt that even citing the NYT didn't absolve us (a well-worn trick of journalists to pin the responsibility for stuff like this on someone else). Not only did the conversation pique my interest when it came to the legal and ethical responsibilities that come specifically with reporting events that we didn't actually see happen, but it raised questions to me about how those responsibilities should extend to citizen journalists - people blogging or posting things into the public. I asked Karen - do you believe they should have to adhere to the same standards?  Yes, she said - particularly since they have the potential to reach audiences at least as large as some TV networks.  Perhaps there should be some sort of threshold for the size of someone's online reach before opening the floodgates to potential libel litigation, but even those thresholds would be difficult to pin down. What if someone reports something when they have just a handful of followers, then the story picks up traction and they go over the arbitrary threshold set forth in our argument. Can they be sued or not? Essentially what we are asking here is: what are the standards for fact-checking and verification before its fair to report something about someone?  And once the "story" is in cyberspace, do we (either as journalists or citizen journalists or just citizens) take on legal or ethical responsibilities for the factual content of that story simply by retweeting it, or adding it to our blog?  Should we?  And should people who are putting original content online meet some sort of standard for their own content?  And if so, how should it be enforced? I think the legal/ethical questions about what Colbert used to call "truthiness" would be a key part of my thesis and an important topic that can be explored in my future class.

Thesis Progress Oct. 13 – Working on an Intro & looking at research

I'm exploring a couple of ideas for the start of my thesis.  One is to lay out kind of a historical sketch of how journalism and media have co-existed and how this is a different age than any other that came before.

Here's an idea....
Journalism in its traditional form had several roles:  it spoke truth to power, helping unmask corruption and fight for the rights of the common man and it helped bring news from disparate parts of the country and the world into the homes of average people to help them better understand the world around them and the events that would affect their lives. But the medium has always been important. It is clear that the capabilities of the medium play a critical role in how journalism has evolved. Newspapers provided lots of information, but was forced to keep up with the news cycle. Magazines could afford to be even slower (weekly or monthly) because their information and reporting was so much more in-depth. Radio was faster than newspapers but television was even faster than that and had pictures. Moving images were critical and it was obvious early on that the images themselves could strike a deeper chord with the public and reach a wider pool of them. It also sparked a renewed sense of journalistic mission - whereas the newspapers of the 1800's and 1900's fought for the end of slavery as well as women's and worker's rights, television had a key role in sparking the civil rights movement and bringing people the truth of what was happening in Vietnam. Context, in other words understanding what was happening, was in some ways secondary to the impact the pictures had all by themselves. The rise of the internet and digital media has done a few things: even before social media, the internet itself provided so many sources for news that the "context" of a piece of information could be manipulated, even subtly so, depending on where you got your news. The images themselves were still powerful enough to tell a story, but there was less weight given to understanding. Social/digital media has now allowed it so that the visual component of a piece of information may be all there is and the context may be zero. And disturbingly, the source of that information may be completely unknown to the consumer. The consumer is reliant almost completely on the provider's desire to display something accurately and with context in order for the consumer to correctly understand it. More traditional media had previously been a relied about source to at least check the boxes for showing something in an accurate light, but that notion has been so widely disputed that whatever context is provided by traditional media can =also= be dismissed as being unreliable. So where does that leave us? With sources that are unreliable and context that is unreliable.  Because of this, there is much more responsibility put upon news consumers than ever before: to seek out as many disparate news sources as possible, to try to reconcile their information to come up with what you believe to be a common truth and to use common sense to try and cut through white noise and spin.  Social/digital media has also added responsibility to those on the news creation side - journalists have to work harder to make transparent and even-handed and representative of all sides of a story. But those responsibilities now pass down to social media users who themselves have become part of a vanguard of new citizen journalists. They too, bear responsibility for not misrepresenting the images and information they provide, as to allow social and digital media to still function as some form of journalism....

As supporting text for this:
From an historical perspective, whenever a new medium reaches critical mass it threatens to, and does, displace existing media to some degree.   While specific types and segments have and will continue to be negatively affected by new media, as a whole, and over a lengthy period, old media have found ways to survive in the presence of new media.... new media can certainly displace existing media (as with television and the general interest magazines), but it can also have a complementary effect as well (computers, for example). 

This underscores the need for journalistic pedagogy to incorporate new digital/social media into lessons.  In fact, I would argue that an understanding of journalism needs to be made more widely available to students beyond our traditional sphere of education.   So-called traditional journalists are no longer the only ones contributing in the public sphere, and young people of all stripes have a responsibility (as discussed above) to understand the responsibilities they carry with them as civilian journalists.

(Using Google Scholar for my research)

This is discussed in this journal entry in which it discusses the need to rethink our traditional audience, arguing for a more "convergent" approach that takes into account the need to teach news judgment while still taking changing behaviors into account (including the fact that fewer consumers read or are interested in reading about news - they just want to see it). Convergent journalism is defined (by the Univ. of Missouri) as converging two or more mediums to create a stronger story. The challenge is to take into account citizen journalists who want to create, respond and interact with media. Those students need to understand the media options, storytelling, reporting, editing and managing information.  (My take on this is...) Those who want to be "serious journalists" have to also see this new group as resources.. resources to be culled, taught and when possible, used to help other news consumers have a broader understanding of the news. That doesn't mean co-opting these citizen journalists, it means working with them and not treating them as second-class journalists.

One question: where does writing fit in?  Is it still important to be a good writer?  Or do you just need to be a good communicator in some medium?
Longtime journalist William Zinsser says it's still important - even if it's just for a blog.
(The role of writing could be a very interesting part of this).


 
 
 
 




Thesis Progress (10/7)

I apologize for being a little late on this post. My research over the past week focused on pedagogy, trying to determine the best way to teach students about the new brand of journalism that I'm looking into,  The first thing we need to understand is more about the students we are focusing on.  We are focused on the younger audiences, both as creators and consumers of news. A symposium at Teaching Journalism and Mass Communication in 2011 described these people as "convergent" thinkers - interested in news, even if it's only a scrap here or there, looking for visual and audio components as well and not necessarily interested in the longer, in-depth read that their parents and grandparents like. They point out that the audiences are so still emerging and that it's difficult to draw conclusions as of yet, but there are some new attempts at teaching with the idea of the "convergent" audience in mind. One possible approach allows the students to guide learning, instead of the teachers who, frankly, may struggle more to be in front of trends. We can allow students to make discoveries through "self-guided experimentation and innovation with multiplatform storytelling, sharing discoveries with each other on digital platforms." This is interesting but it does little to enforce any hard and fast guidelines,,,, unless we determine that the old guidelines no longer apply. When I looked into current curriculum at some of the top universities, I found that much of it focused on what I considered traditional journalistic lessons - fact-gathering, reporting, interviewing, media analysis, etc, Digital media seemed to be only a sidebar in the classes, and not all of them contained a digital component, This seems to be like it ignores the emerging trends. I found another article that shared this view, in which the author argued that digital literacy should be the foundation of journalistic study, with lessons about writing, reporting and editing wrapped around the digital course. Taking this one step further, I looked into ideas for bringing a deeper understanding of social media into journalism education, A study by Stephanie Bor looks more deeply at this question, laying out suggestions for pedagogy while arguing that current journalism educators have been hesitant to embrace the new technology. My initial investigations seem to bear this out, This study is one I plan to dig into more deeply. To underscore the need to look at social media and its role in how people consume the news, we can see in the latest Pew Study of Journalistic trends that 38% of people say they get their news from digital sources, while another 18% get it from social media. Together, they nearly match the 57% of people that get their news from traditional television. This information can help provide a foundation for my thesis in that it can demonstrate why a deeper study is needed into pedagogies for teachers who want to understand how to reach these social media and digital audiences, particularly when it comes to getting them their news, This is just the start of my look at pedagogies, but already I have found several sources worthy of deeper study as I try to get an idea of how I would like to pursue my own thesis.

Thesis Progress Post 1 (9/29)


My task for this week was to begin thinking about how to frame the subject of 21st century journalism with an eye towards possibly formulating a new language and thinking about different themes I could use for classes in the college course I'm putting together.  Some of my initial thoughts are as follows: as a professional, i am worried that the critical thinking and judgment used in putting together the old school news is lost when citizen journalists diisseminate news - in fact, it is in many ways fundamentally different from old school news. the context is often lost - old school news attempts to give you a fleshed out snapshot of what occured - what, when, where, why, how - relying on added content - spoken or otherwise to provide context.  CJ is often provided without context - and is provided with haste as foremost concern - the desire to provide people with a realtime experience being the top priority (it reflects out current culture where much of what we do is predicated on fast content or an experience can be provided) i will say that i believe the quality of the content still matters - the way something is shot, the esthetic, but it is less of a concern than the immediacy to those trying to get it out to the masses.  that said, as this morning's video of the train crash in Hoboken proves, often times the pictures themselves tell a good portion of the story.  I thought also about the fact that many old-school journalists have to consider the risk of putting out bad or misleading information.  Their jobs, livlihoods and reputations are at stake.  But mass narrators (a term im playing with as a description of citizen journalists on digital media) don't have the same kinds of concerns.  They often have anonymity and face no consequences if the information they put out is false or misleading.  Because of that, there is concern that their personal agendas are what is driving their decision-making, as opposed to the good of the masses they are trying to communicate with.  I believe an example of that is the Arab Spring when people used social media to spur protests and then others used social media to instill doubt about the rebel leaders, spread dissention and ultimately help put the military in power. 

Quote from the guardian

"(what we are witnessing is) changing the landscape of documentary filmmaking. This has been made possible by the technology they use, the distribution platforms that are now available and the passion of ordinary men and women to tell the kinds of extraordinary stories that were once the domain of professional documentary makers.

Factual filmmaking has in some senses become hostage to these new, "immediate" technologies. But many working in the genre praise the developments for adding a richer dimension to current affairs and factual documentaries and everyone seems to agree that the genre will never be the same again."

So in terms of language, we are looking at two different things:

traditional journalism - key is context

What if i called citizen journalism a kind of synchronicitous narration or synchro-narration???   although it can be argued that there is a causal link - the event causes the narration...so maybe this doesnt work) Synchronicity is the occurrence of two or more events that appear to be meaningfully related but not causally related.  Narration is telling a story as it happens. So this definition is meant to reflect the telling of a story while that story is going on, with the two events being related although not casually (meaning one does not cause the other to occur)

Perhaps "mass narrative" -  A narrative or story is any report of connected events, actual or imaginary, presented in a sequence of written or spoken words, or still or moving images.

A mass narrative (in my thinking) would be characterized by the characterization of what would typically be thought of as a news or current event but presented through the lens of social or mass digital media and not through the more narrow, filtered lens of the traditional media. A mass narrative can be the cause or the effect of current events - sometimes playing both sides of the same story (Black Lives Matter, flash mobs, etc)


We should be careful to point out that these mass narratives are not always organic and can be hijacked by corporate or political power structures (i.e. Obama email lists / social media outreach ahead of the 2008 election).  This raises the question of how, without traditional power brokers, the phenomenon of the mass narrative can remain an entity that can retain at least the quality of relative independence (the web allowing everyone to express themselves equally).

That said, digital media has its own way of policing itself and prevents certain themes or memes of grabbing hold. For instance. public shaming is a form of self-policing (that is also at risk of being grabbed by power brokers - i think of the way people were shamed who used water on their california lawns while the rest of the state was under a drought emergency a few years back).  But other people who use certain types of language that is considered hateful or prejudice can be "shamed" right out of the public sphere - stores that wouldn't serve cakes to gay wedding couples for example were publicly shamed - a store that used mattresses in the shape of the twin towers to mark 9/11 was so publicly shamed that it had to close its doors.  This wasnt just an example of mass narration - there was no story really until the masses made it into one.  The event wasn't purely manufactured, but the media buzz surrounding it was generated purely online without the help of the mainstream or traditional media (can we call it "manufactured media?")


In some ways, mass narration and citizen journalism has its roots in what they called "stringers" - funny that now they are saying news organizations are employing these kinds of people for the first time.  Not true.  People have been listening to police scanners, running to fires with the cameras, taking pictures and selling them to newspapers and tv stations for decades.

(here is a story from nypost that makes it sound otherwise)


But technology has given us far more immediate access to imagery of events as they happen.  Everyone has a camera. Here are examples of civilians taking famous news pics (janis krum http://twitpic.com/135xa).  Even back in the 70's, it was a student photographer John Filo who captured the picture of the girl standing over the body of a student shot at Kent State.

Next up, I'm going to look more closely at university journalism programs

College factual rates journalism colleges this way:

  #1 Emerson College. Boston, Massachusetts. ...

  #2 The University of Texas at Austin. Austin, Texas. ...

  #3 Northwestern University. Evanston, Illinois. ...

  #4 New York University. ...

  #5 University of Southern California

Emersonhas courses that touch on the growing field of digital media and its impact on journalism but its as much about getting the students to participate in that world than it is about understanding its impact. JR103 Digital Journalism - "Examines modern media....best web practices...students learn how to use videography, audio to tell stories."  JR220 Interactive News - "students analyze best practices of online news publications and write their own blogs...(also) design a multimedia website."  JR485 includes a topic on blogging, conceiving and writing blogs along with legal and ethical issues.  But all of this seems to be a little behind the times.  I find it hard to believe college students don't know how to blog or maintain a digital/online presence and personality.  My sense is that these courses would need to be advanced to the point where you are taking into account the tools that students already know how to use and structure it to use =those= tools in any journalistic exercises. Also, ethical and legal issues are mention in looking at blogging, but what about other digital media elements? And there seems to be no indication that any of these courses are rethinking journalism itself - just talking about digital media as an element of the medium as opposed to reconsidering how digital media is transforming the way we think about, create and consume the news.

Interesting course at the University of Texas titled Social Media Journalism

But it sounds like they are still treating social media as an aspect, almost a featury element of a newsroom (it says "Students will use various channels to become highly skilled, engaged social media journalists who could step into any social media role in a newsroom).  But it does mention that students will "learn how to cover breaking news using social media and crowdsourcing" which could be informative for this thesis....

Also a fascinating Univ. of Texas story - Explanatory Journalism: Storytelling in a Digital Age. It says it does not explore new digital tools but tries to make best use of "our collective toolkit" to use the best tools to tell stories. A lot of it is about reporting, although they include one class late in the semester  titled "Virtual Reality: The "New New" Thing and mentions that The School of Journalism is working with Computer Science and the Washington Post to develop cutting-edge storytelling using virtual reality. Wow.  I haven't heard of that at all.  Something interesting to look into.

That's all for now.

Please forgive the choppy way this is written.  If I need to do a better job of smoothing it out, please let me know.  This is just the way I think :)