Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A journalism in crisis - not really!

Snatch the toast, down the orange juice, last check of my case.. laptop, charger, hard drive.... I'm off.

In minutes my university will open the floor for a two day event examining many facets of questions and thesis that journalism is in crisis.

It's a loaded statement full of vim.

Newspapers are closing, tv is losing figures, traditional journalism as you might know it looks under threat, the fourth estate is having its teeth wrenched out with pliers; there is no hope.

But does this receding pulse in journalism as you know it signify a crisis? And if not ( I don't what planet you're on, someone's thinking) what does?

Could I suggest perhaps that it's not journalism in crisis, but the custodians of a genre we have become familiar with that is badly feeling this era. The loss of jobs anyway you cut it is deeply wounding. But there are also new jobs, that had not been invented five years ago emerging for a new breed of info gatherers.

Yes, they may not have the attributes of a Murrow or Paxman, but then we all started somewhere.

Journalism always in crisis
And by the way journalism-as-you-knew-it has always been in crisis. Addison and Steele's equitone approach would not have bode well in eth 18th century, as did the first time pictures were featured in newspapers 20th C., or when radio and TV were born, and more acutely still cable and satellite flung itself onto our laps.

Sometimes too, the fat we live off requires genuine intro-reflection. As one newspaper exec put it recently, the fact that some UK newspaper groups are pulling in a £1m profit every month is in their eyes simply not good enough.

Damn! There goes the CEO's purchase of that new yacht around the Caribbean.

I may or may not be required to speak tomorrow on how TV has been affected by all this new change. My head of department has been wound up like a toy on stand by; nervous energy brrr, nervous energy.

Frankly, as a general view, I'm likely to say very little has changed. That is with a caveat.

If 2005 it looked dire, a hang-over from 2000 when as a dot com executive I too think I smelt the whiff of napalm in the morning, in 2009 there's a sense amongst TV that we're riding this thing.

There was a time you couldn't squeeze a conversation about who was coodling whom at the last Christmas party without wondering if there would be another one - Christmas party.

But then, the caveat - the execs with stabilising pockets and an expansive strategy, often shielded from the ravages of advertising's flight syndrome, got busy innovating.

Whatever you knew as a new media boffin, they wanted to know. Conferences charged £1000 a delegate and they flocked to learn social media, the new plug in, the rationalisation of irrational behaviour, this thing called videojournalism, and this "bizarre" thing called Multimedia.

Bizarre because we already do multimedia. Doh!

Last year a BBC friend showed me an internal memo listing twelve points at how they were taking new media head on. It was impressive to say the least. Next week I'll bring you an interview with the recently appointed head of BBC multimedia news, Mary Hockaday.

So given the correction, long overdue in the media industry, a b**ch if you're in the stock broking business as it happens every seven years, the media is undergoing some form of transformative correction. Yes you too can get it in on the act, with linitations, if you're a twitterer or blogger.

Question? have you noticed that when the banks collapse, it's those nasty pesky banker CEO types, but when journalism goes belly up, it's new media's faults. What perverse psycho analysis! brilliant!!

The Margaret Thatchers said
Youtube if you will, but we're not for tubing. Bar humbug! Four years on everyone's youtubing and more. And the clever ones are leveraging their existing media, whilst cracking down on copyright infringement.

But if my tone comes across as "meeja land's all hunkeedoree", it would be a wiser TV exec still who would know complacency is a word in the media dictionary behind "compost".

That many of the traditional media have realigned their thinking is testament to Darwin's laws. But the radicalisation of change, whilst it's slow down in momentum, does not mean its not stirring for a new wave.

Note: slow down in momentum is not the same as companies closing. The big changes in 2005-7 are only now really taking affect.

So this new wave we simply don't know what that is, yet. There are few citadels of the new media e.g. Huffington Post to emerge and challenge the guard of traditional media. But the trend analysers would have us tread carefully.

Computers more intelligent than people, IS on the cards. It's a matter of calculus and a few micro chip laws. Newsgathering will find new pathways. You and I as consumers will be better served, because... because.. some bright spark is already looking at ways to make news you can use, truly usable.

So right now, I'm emerging from the tube station, having penned this on my iphone.

Journalism in crisis? By the sounds of the British MP debacle, journalism looks like being in good health.

Granted it's one incident, albeit a soap opera series, but if anything as the academics and industry folk gather at this conference, the story here for me is how to look at the glass half full.
To those who don't see a crisis, but an opportunity to solidify journalism's new growth. Journalism in crisis? Ah no, there is a crisis in journalism, to some at least.

Last minute changes occuring, but here's where you can catch up with the two day event