Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Live blog New Media, Old News Journalism and Democracy in a Digital Age

I'm attending a presentation by Goldsmith Research Centre Spaces and blogging this live

It's reporting one one of five projects; Internet and Journalism. based on a 150 interview with journalists and ethnographers

James Curran
is going through examples

  • He says in 1982 Kenneth Baker tech and info minister said cable TV would have a huge effect in the future says James Curran. It was a flop he says.
  • Interactive Digtal TV is another example - it would put the user in control. But only a minority have picked it up
  • Local Tv also promised much but has not really delivered.

He says we must be cautious. So what did we find, says.

Yes journalism is better and quicker, it's connected journalists to new sources, its given rise to new voices, ezines, and grassroots BUT it has not fundamentally changed journalism - gatekeepers still there; blogs have not come up with new business model; dominant news brands are still the major news sites.

To their (the researchers) surprise somethings are worse. Journalists up against a blizzard of info and its become a follow the leader. The Net has also introduced more admin routines, news is longer, journalists are asked to contribute on diff platforms and there are budget cuts.

He says there are good and bad things and some things have not been changed. There is a hybridity. Curran talks about one chapter here: rise of ezine, nature of dialogue around the world influences dialogue.

But Ezines is largely a western model, driven by men, largely occupying privileged positions. The Net he says has not fulfilled some of the hopes.

Angela philips now talking

Utopians and pessimists she says underpin the sort of research on the internet.
She's talking about the more privileged reporters. She says she spoke to a number of news ed

Were journalists contacting new people for stories cuz the assumption is blogs open up new avenues for research etc. Is that the case? Only two incidents out of a 100 did she come across where a story had been discovered via the net, unsolicited making it into a news room.

She says the salient trend was cannibalisation of other news outlets. she says she was shocked.

She adds journalists are using the net to maintain contacts and are finding small groups of activists to get stories - a small margin of democracy.

She discovered that they are pressures of trying to find news stories and not being able to get out. She said it was obvious at the Times, in where it was based. But the telegraph in Victoria ( central London) should not have the excuse of not letting its journalist out.

All the journos she spoke to said face to face contacts generate original stories. She says young journo are chained to their computers.

She noticed there was very little debate going on about privacy. What she discovered was that power was moving to the hands of journo who can find people .

Questions over what is original content and what is a user. It's not the same as a piece of well researched info. If editors don't allow for original reporting they'll get shallower and shallower. Smaller sites feed of the big new sites - she concludes.

Aeron Davis now speak show bullet points and how his research was informed.

  • Sennetts the cultures of the new capitalism
  • Weaker social ties, a decline of craftsmanship and the specialist knowledge is being downgraded
  • Carrier and Miller - and virtualisation - talks about abstractness.
  • 9/10 people (journalist)they interviewed said they used the net for research.

Aeron talking about how journalists are expected to reproduce on several platforms - great expectations and politicians say they're swamped with info.

The drain of people's time is spoken about on the basis of the multiplicity of reportage, when quality time could/ would have been spent talking to people.

They (journalists) say a whole lot of things have changed.
  • Slide: a conservative MP is talking about exchange of news. Websites used in the same one to many transactions in the way broadcast media works - still very traditional MP/politicians complaining about the volume of e mails they get.
Journalists says Dr Davis involves cannibalisation. Many journos/ politicians say they meet less and less.. There is a creeping feeling that the net has made gathering easier but there's overload.
Tamara Witschge and Joanna Redden
The name of their research was A new News Order ? Online News content

They reviewed a number of traditional sites e.g BBC, The Telegraph and non traditional incl Current tv (CT), Indy media (IM) and Open Democracy (OD)

What they discovered assessing five main stories e.g Prince Harry in Afghanistan etc., is that there's a lot of recycling amongst mainstream. Alternative news sites OD and IM have far fewer news pieces but are unique in CT recontextusalises and IM provided multiple angles.

But this sites can't get a big audience. W hen you research google and yahoo for the big stories you don't see the alternative media.

She's concluding by saying there is a lack of diversity and homogeneousness of the web. Traditional TV is still running the news agenda, except she say on Youtube and Current TV, where main stream is being re purposed.

Only on these sites she says was there some blurring, but their research shows there's the same type of news online and they're similar and mainstream provides little room to participate. The potential for the net to open up news is therefore limited, even though there are slithers of unique contents.

Joanna talking

Talking about the entire project and that it was huge ( my words). Says they interviewed a range 200 people, mainstream and non mainstream, plus a degree of ethnographies. It is a work in progress she says.

She's going through a number of points

  • How journos make news depends on their environment. Social, political, technological.
  • They ( researchers) wanted to explore all these different factors and hence how that influenced the news.
Says they were sensitive to journalists subjectivity.

Conclusion: News matters or does it she asks, but she says something emerged from their research that suggested journos were looking for something else.
  • She disputes this golden age thesis of what they'd produced. She's asking what should news be in the age of the internet. What should journalism should be doing?
  • There have been massive changes to news and how its performed (caveat she says they're not supporting tech determinism).
  • News is a business and commercial pressures have led to cheaper news to the detriment of news. Almost impossible to talk to journos anymore say NGO. This fast and furious space is leading to less contact with faces ( said earlier) So much fodder around that UGC is not viable to be used in a constructive way. Journos talking about 2000 emails a day. They couldn't find the time to respond
  • However there are spaces where the lines are opening, which they are trying to explore.

applause -
Dr David Gauntlett asks question about the basis of their research. James responds. Says they started of from the premise of Charlie Becketts (Polis) image of citizen journalism - a wonderful romantic image which isn't true, they say. Complete opposite researcher say they found.

I ask question concerning their framework and whether they were surprised at results.

Bloggers James says don't hold the attention of public - they're marginalised. There hasn't been a redistribution of network journalism.

Angela says Big news events will be covered by citizen journalism, but they're rare, However everyday journalism is done by journalists and bloggers respond to that. And that they were surprised.

Prof Steve Barnett is challenging their research and saying he is pleasantly surprised that the researcher started of from the 'lofty' image of Becket. ( loud laughs in the room).

What is 21st century journalism?. Did they embrace that question, he asks? Prof Barnett is challenging the epistemology and the ontological basis of their research.

Angela replies talking about evidence gathering and transparency. Joanna is saying journalists as truth seeker can be challenged.

Qu from the floor .American student asking what have we learned from the exceptional cases.
Aeron replies. Intensity of news, but not of real value to news agenda.

I ask is part of the question a half full rather than half empty, and not that journalism, traditional journalism has been eroded but that blogs have made a change

Q and A

Angela talks about the biggest change. TV and news bulletins are short and can be changed. technologically there has been a far greater amount of cannibalisation because of the Net. She says we're seeing wholesale steals of copy and stories. That's a worry.

This was an issue that has led to one US newspaper being severely criticised by a Jeff Jarvis.

Journalists, Tamara says, have a prob with writing in a different tone, particularly for blogs.

Maria asks whether Brit Journalism will go the way of US and become opinionated. Angela answers that it is far more opinionated. Steve interjects saying she meant broadcasting.

Paul Dwyer a senior lecturer, asks whether the use of the word democracy in their research in framing question thus shaped the answer.

Aeron replies that they could have looked at social networks, but the question arose for them are these news sites or entertainment sites. James says US media entertainment is at the centre of news says something about ignorant culture .. alludes to a poll saying US citizen 41 percent believed weapons of destruction had been found.

Broadly the panelists are defending the charge with the use of the word democracy, which Paul spoke about. Paul interjects saying there is a narrowing of the debate.

Peter Goodwin, head of research suggests isn't this research too early. That we're in an intermediary stage. If we look on in ten years time, asks peter, whether they will be the same ones or different ones.

james: says they're two responses.

Yes there may well be a transformation in the future, but the short term study is important.
Steve ends saying how do you differentiate between the economic change, the fundamental change in business and in the process of journalism.

Huge applause - end address. They're retiring to the staff room.

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