DiO Workshop Day II: plenary talks

17 09 2009

The second day of DiO was kicked off by Gerlinde Mautner (University of Vienna). Her presentation showed how (neo-liberal) marketing and entrepreneurial discourses have penetrated both the religious and the secular in organizations. Gerlinde has a book coming out on market discourses.

Next, Sarah Scheepers (KULeuven, Public Management institute) talked about competency discourses in diversity management of the Flemish public sector. Looking at diversity action plans, Sarah found that competency discourses are full of administrative neologisms, do not mention notions like inequality and discrimination and are geared towards homogenizing (and de-politicizing) individual differences.

Three presentations then followed on meetings. Jo Angouri (University of West England) took a Community of Practice approach to how professional identities are performed during meetings – “the practical alternative to work” – at a British multinational engineering company. Harry Mazeland (University of Groningen) took a meticulous conversation analytic approach to Dutch-language business meetings. Finally, Jonathan Clifton (Université Lille 3) and Dorien Van De Mieroop (Lessius University College) focused on identity construction in decision-making talk (based on audio records made in 1962) between President John F. Kennedy and a NASA chief.

The afternoon was organized around two thematic slots: communicative competence in language learning settings and oral interaction in institutions. I took a program break to practice my own presentation and prepare for my ahum ‘mentoring’ role (more on that tomorrow). Birte Pawlack’s (University of Hamburg) talk on ad-hoc interpreters in healthcare settings deconstructed a number of ‘knowledges’ (reflective, interpretive, linguistic). Holger Limberg (University of Oldenburg) concluded the plenary sessions with a presentation on student talk during academic office hours.

Newspapers will fail in spectacular ways

5 07 2009

[Newspapers] will fail in spectacular ways when asked to cope with shrinkage. And make no mistake, the scale of any news business that asks its readers to take primary responsibility for underwriting the costs of journalism will be tiny when compared with the fat times at the end of the last century.

Steve Yelvington debunks the American Press Institute’s report on models of paid online content. You can read the Newspaper Economic Action Plan as a .pdf document here.

[via @cshirky]

Churnalism as new media literacy

29 06 2009

In his now widely cited Why journalists deserve low pay lecture (.pdf, blog post, CSMonitor), Robert G. Picard examines how traditional (i.e. Media 1.0) journalists create economic value primarily through the distribution of the knowledge of others:

In this process three fundamental functions and related skills have historically created economic value: Accessing sources, determining significance of information, and conveying  it effectively. Good journalists possess secondary skills, of course, but these three constitute the core value-creating functions and skills.

Picard is not breaking new ground here: media-source interaction, news judgment and news writing have been on the journalism studies research agenda for years. And deservedly so.

Further down, Picard talks about how the digital revolution has de-skilled professional journalism. Source access is no longer exclusive; everyone with an internet connection has become a potential news source. Likewise, source selection has also become a public good, thanks to Google (here’s to you, Jeff Jarvis). Lastly, software like the one I’m using to write up this blog post has allowed ‘the people formerly known as the audience’ (heads up to Jay Rosen) to publish information and comment on events as they please.

This leads Picard to conclude that

If value is to be created, journalists cannot continue to report merely in the traditional ways or merely re-report the news that has appeared elsewhere. They must add something novel that creates value. They will have to start providing information and knowledge that is not readily available elsewhere, in forms that are not available elsewhere, or in forms that are more useable by and relevant to their audiences

This is a conclusion I can dance to. Let me explain why. Churnalism – the  practice of churning news from press releases and news agency copy – is often seen as the nail in the coffin of print journalism. However, in an online environment, I see churnalism becoming capital – a form of new media literacy if you will.

Online, news is a process (rather than a finished product). This renders the practice of churnalism visible and hence turns it into a yardstick. We can now gauge the added value of this transformation. What did the author add/substract/change/edit?

My point is this: online, churnalism becomes transparent. This opens up the dreaded side-effects of churnalism – reproduction of corporate spin, falsehood and distortion – to public scrutiny. Crucially this (source) transparency enables reporters to really show their mettle by providing information and knowledge that “is not readily available elsewhere” to quote Picard’s conclusion once again.

Crucially, the skills involved churning information fast, efficiently and effectively boil down to appropriation (“the ability to meaningfully sample and remix media content“, aka re-entextualization or, more fashionably, retweeting), a crucial new media literacy skill. I see a market for beat reporters who shed their light on events as they happen.

If I was an (online) journalist, the main question I’d ask myself is: here is a piece of information that will get picked up instantly. What can I add to this piece that goes beyond merely reproducing? In short, how can my professional expertise and knowledge contribute to the news production process?

Globalized emotions: WeFeelFine.org

22 06 2009

Am doing backflips over Judy Sims’ presentation about new media economics. She draws mainly on Havas Media Lab’s Umair Haque (whom I had not heard of previously, thanks Judy). In Media 2.0, abundance rules supreme, as opposed to scarcity in Media 1.0. This abundance creates endless niches which can snowball (a crucial word) into mega niches.

Judy talks about 3 types of snowball triggering entities: smart aggregators, micro-platforms, and

Re-constructors – Sites that take the micro-media chunks and reconstruct them into something of new value.  My favourite example of this is We Feel Fine, …

Go ahead. Click the link. Wait for the application to load and enjoy this “artwork authored by everyone“. Re-entextualization. That’s what’s up.

How business reporters blow it

15 06 2009

Nice article on MotherJones.com by former Wall Street Journal reporter Dean Starkman about the inward state of business journalism.

Increasingly, business coverage has addressed its audience as investors rather than citizens, a subtle but powerful shift in perspective that has led to some curious choices. The Journal, for example, at times seemed to strain to find someone other than Wall Street to blame for the mortgage mess: A December 2007 story announced that borrower fraud “goes a long way toward explaining why mortgage defaults and foreclosures are rocking financial institutions,” though no such evidence exists.

There is another trend too. Business coverage tends address its audience as consumers more than citizens. The market for business-news-for-citizens has dried up a while ago and consumer-oriented news coverage (product reviews, marketing news, personal finance advice, …) caters to a larger (read: less financially literate) and thus easier to reach audience.

Print journalism as emotion, on weekends

30 05 2009

At last month’s European Newspaper Congress, Juan A. Giner and Mario Garcia introduced their so-called 30/30 model of print journalism. Basically, it’s what The Economist has been doing for some time now: an online, 24/7 news hub and a high quality print news mag on weekends, focusing on analysis and opinion.

Giner calls this ‘news caviar’ (as opposed to ‘news porridge’ I guess): an aesthetically pleasing, selective and easy to read, pocket sized newszine, written in a crisp, ‘newsy’ fashion. My takeaway from all this: journalism is here to stay. The medium is changing. That’s all. Is there still a market for print journalism? I think so, but not for the newspapers we know today. You know, the ones that regurgitate yesterday’s news or that ‘please politicians’.

NY Times unveils TimesReader 2.0

16 05 2009

Clever, innovative, but somehow not radical enough. In a nutshell, that’s what I think of the NY Times’ latest attempt to weather the storm in newspaper journalism. In an attempt to deliver “a digital experience that reads like a newspaper, updates like a website and delivers like, well, like the New York Times”, the newspaper is revamping its website.

While I applaud the NY Times’ entrepreneurial spirit, I wonder though, how effective is it to transfer a newspaper design to an online environment? If newsmedia go online, how much longer will we need/expect/rely on newspaper sections, news beats, editorials, and the like? That being said, crossword lovers rejoice!

[Via Julius]

In a world of cold harsh truths…

30 03 2009

Parodies of journalism require talent, time and money. Just ask “Raoul Djukanovic” and “Philip Challinor”, two financial journalists who caught London commuters off guard last week by handing out a free, spoof edition of the Financial Times (FT). According to the Guardian, Raoul and Philip

put thousands of pounds of their own money into the publication. … It took the pair “about a month” to write about 150,000 words at the same time as working full time and they say the publication, called Not The Financial Times, was partly designed to show other journalists that they seldom write objectively.

In a world of cold harsh truths, we rescue stories from the facts

The fantasy edition headlines and articles a joy to read (BBC ‘swear quota’ gets journalists cursing, G5 unveil new oligarchitecture, World survives Equal Rights Day) and remind me of the fake news genre that The Onion has down pat. The bulk of the content however, criticizes the practice, role and responsibility of news media. A lengthy analysis of news making practices, written by the Why do they hate us correspondent, articulates churnalism commonalities and offers this biting critique of the news industry and its truth claims:

Freedom from corporate culture doesn’t abolish groupthink, nor guarantee insight, entertainment or basic accuracy. So if churnalism’s the norm wherever you turn, is reframing a solution, or part of the problem?

Late modernity, education and journalism

29 03 2009

According to Zygmunt Bauman, we are living in a state of permanent impermanence. The social forms and institutions which organize human experience, are losing their referential frame. In Education and the press, the same struggle, Roland Legrand sees an interesting parallel between education and journalism which bears directly on Bauman’s theory of  liquid modernity.

The learners – consumers and producers of knowledge and skills – are getting used to free learning and knowledge. Just as is the case for news, it will become increasingly difficult to make people pay for courses and workshops.

Professional teachers and professors will be confronted with teachers and facilitators from outside the profession. Many of those newcomers will be amateurs, but some will be recognized specialists in their own professional networks who have other and possibly more interesting things to teach than the professors in the established educational institutions.

I think that many debates about news gathering – can bloggers be trusted, how to determine whether information is trustworthy, how to earn a living as a professional journalist etc – will run along the same lines for the educators.

This is a debate that institutions of higher learning should be having. As far as I can tell, Flemish tertiary education is not. On the academic agenda in Flanders are concerns about institutional concentration, ‘output financing’, tenure tracks and productivity demands (publish, or else!). All these topics seem but small piece meals compared to the all-you-can-eat buffet of a de-professionalized arena of higher learning.

A review of a Smart ethnography

27 03 2009

The second issue of the (open access) Journal of Writing Research came out today and includes a book review by yours truly. Superlative book reviews are strenuous, but Graham Smart’s Writing the economy deserves one. In brief, Smart provides an eye-opening, behind-the-scenes look into a central bank’s attempts at keeping a nation’s economy afloat.