Thursday, September 01, 2011

New Journalism: journalism-of-self but at what cost?

The Journalism-of-self, but there are costs
We can all take stock now. Some already have and I know I have written around the subject before. Yet some of its themes and my understanding have grown.

It comes in many guises, but ultimately it's the journalism-of-self. This is different in ways to other journalism, because the journalist-of-self is the Brando of the unfurling profession which professes all the world is my stage. Its actors are rebellious, adventurous, soloist, at times wary of company.

But for all their flaws, the actor-of-self, starting out on their career recognised Stanislavski, as much as they did Strasberg or at least the techniques they passed on.

Journalism-of-self is now embedded into our psyche, prefixed by such conferences and training manuals as "Everyone is now a journalist, "Twitter and Facebook journalism"  and the 'hail videojournalism".

Any argument to the contrary is drowned out within the sphere. But the conversation or truthfully enquiry is a philosophical one which often negates asking what journalism is or its function today.

Philosophical because systems undoubtedly change via socio-cultural, technological and the historical and thus any interrogative question seeks to understand the core.

The latter, "history" implies even the best history academics, through their own narrative discourse rarely tell the same story in its whole. In years to come Berners-Lee will still be the father of the web, but antecedent's and protagonists will change as new information becomes available.

Take Mike Conway's superb book on the history of broadcasting published two years ago. I mean who would have thought there was still a treasure trove of info to acquire for a subject that's been so fastidiously combed over.

So whatever constituted journalism in the 80s, compared with now may have general variables: inverted triangle n' all but different specificities. One reason why Bradshaw's rework on the triangle has lit up academia and the workflow of institutions. These are philosophical enquiries.

This however is not a treatise on what is journalism, but a side spin of its rump. If we can do it all, why do we the association of others and note I distinguish between associative journalism and social. A post for another time. captured me talking about associations in  in 2005. And even though I advocate the "wisdom of crowds" approach, we assume and hope the crowd has proponents who can intelligibly deconstruct our wishes.

Old Journalism reworked values
So moored with a presumed new function of defined journalism; and if you haven't in the face of Murdoch's crisis, Schmidt's MacTaggert Lecture on google's interface with TV, or Dan Gillmor's now lengthy dog-eared We the Media, then this means nothing to you.

This quest assumes stories and their genesis are becoming an irrelevancy. What riled the outsiders, within the onset of convergence culture circa late 1980s looking for change in story plurality, contextually, interpretation and analysis hasn't quite been the seismic change.

Change which says "I kick you, you kick me, and then a third party sees if he can kick both of us", can be a tad tiring.

Our attention, quite rightly turns to its distribution in that if the best story in the world can't reach an audience and fails to attract anyone, it fails a primary function.

But the journalism world as it unfolds according to one good friend has metamorphosed into the "google journalist". And herein lies the danger for the journalist-of-self.

Google journalism is perhaps a harsh term, given what the proponents have done in using search as investigation et al, but the name conjures up  an indelible image of the vampirish journo who never sees the light of day or night for that reason.

If we're relying on the vortex of stories weeded into our filter-bubble - so eloquently explained here by Eli Pariseri- that's a concern. If we're not hammering from the ground, or not consulting wise counsel in at least the mechanics of traditional journalism [for want of a better world], we're not fit for 21st Century purpose.

This figure merely serves as a model for enquiry,  translating Mathematics to social issues. So I'm simply taking a view of an issue and positing how it might be viewed when thinking of an issue in journalism. This method is not uncommon. Journalism invariably fuses multiple disciplines; more recently data journalism in computing and trends. I'm trying to understand how something as formidable as imaginary numbers I learnt in my grad days can have some application to what I'm doing now. An abstract which will hopefully develop further critical thinking.

Looked at it through the prism of maths, at least, that's how I rationalise change, we're used to the x-y axis and elements of the z have appeared but where's the "i"? In Maths the imaginary numbers quotient as brilliantly explained here. It's an attempt to see past the obvious as an integral means of new enquiry.

Witness how Paul Lewis from the Guardian says even reporting from the ground, journalists covering the riots in London largely got it woefully wrong. How so? I've not seen any study to confirm this view but I respect, as many other journos do, Paul's view that something's wrong in Dodge.

The internal review that purports to answer what the best of journalism does and then how, a more testing question, in the "holy cow - everything goes world" can be quite elusive. Question: has any journo institute dissected what could have been a model of reportage for the riots place. Paul proffers some answers.

And in speaking of wise counsel, when was the last time outside of a $695, 40 minute talk sprint, you heard some of the giants of the profession discussing their craft?

This all infers something, which we knew but elided through a dash of supposed schadenfreude.   Schmidt hits on. Any system relies on the savvy of new and currency of tradition (old) to survive - particularly when tradition has a stake in the status quo.

So, for instance that television screen is not about to disappear anytime soon, and those newspapers the minute they do watch how trend-setting companies will introduce us to vintage 2015 - and what newspapers looked like.

So what does this all mean for the journalism of self, that incidentally I have been an ardent apostle?  It says the discourse needs to shift from tech to language, the art, the practitioner sans po-faced and some of the practices of evaluation Carrol elegantly records in On criticism Thinking in Action.

That within this discourse which heaven help us should be dialectical rather than solipsistic, there's room for good practices to be the source for us to chew and reflect over. And one that doesn't reduce factual storytelling to exclusively assuming its anyone's game.

My head of department SMS'd me this morning, saying how he'd read a citation of me at a conference saying "leave me alone".

If there ever was an aphorism for the journalism-of-self it would be this. Yet it hides a fallacy, in that "Leave me alone" only ever makes an impact when the time leading up to that has been an inculcation of many association.  When Brian Storm talks of collaboration, this is what he's alluding to.

Brian Storm, Jesicca Stuart, Tom Kennedy and David Dunkley Gyimah

We both agreed collaboration is the new, er old black, even in the face of the the Dietrich's I want to be alone.

In a few weeks new cohorts of future journalists will start their journey into the known-unknown and many of us will enthuse about the new new thing.

But the danger and one that has seen its roots sprout furiously since the convergence culture took grip, is the you can do it by yourself comes with a note of caution.

For the soloist figuring out the planes of journalism, there's another older reality beyond the journalism-of-self. As many actors sometimes end up musing about their partners, the best performance comes from studying others, and via the generosity of the other actors.

We can all push this out, but it takes a bit more to get it in - in the first place, and I am mean proper in.