The future of news? Bricks-and-clicks

25 10 2009

The latest trend for ailing news organizations is to adopt a bricks-and-clicks business model. What with evaporating advertising revenues, news organizations such as Corelio in Belgium are dipping their toes in online retailing. For instance, just last week Het Nieuwsblad launched their Nieuwsbladshop.be, hoping to lure their readers into buying wine, DVDs and books.

Nieuwsbladshop.be





“How Journalists Think While They Write”

15 10 2009

There is a relative paucity of academic scholarship on news writing across the social sciences. This is remarkable because (i) the news mediascape has changed dramatically over the last five years; and (ii) specialized tools are now (freely) available to study news production. So when an article appears that promises to reveal how “journalists think while they write”, my interest is sparked.

In their Journal of Communication article, Bu Zhong and John E. Newhagen (2009) present a model of news decision making. Using an experimental design, the authors examine how 120 (one-hundred-twenty!) U.S. and Chinese journalists make news decisions while writing a breaking news story from a “fabricated” press release. Zhong and Newhagen argue that their results point to a globalized, shared occupational ideology of objective news reporting. Lovely conclusion, but I don’t see how the authors arrive at this conclusion.

Theoretically, I do not understand why the authors fail to acknowledge the growing body of literature in cognitive psychology on writing process analysis that attempts to model exactly those cognitive processes that Zhong & Newhagen make claims about. Moreover, within journalism studies, the issue of reproductive writing (i.c. writing from press releases – which the Zhong & Bu elicit in their experiment) is en vogue. Nick Davies thinks it is the nail in the coffin of quality journalism, Lewis et al. 2009 provide a political economic account for this phenomenon.

Methodologically, I fail to grasp how the news values of conflict, importance, proximity and drama measure “cognitive information” (p597). And also, the authors seem to suggest that how journalists think can be “found out” by asking them in a post-experiment online survey. That seems a bit optimistic, at best.

Source:

Zhong, Bu and Newhagen, John, E. (2009). How Journalists Think While They Write: A Transcultural Model of News Decision Making. Journal of Communication 59 (3): 587-608. DIO: 10.1111/j.1460-2466.2009.01439.x





On transparency and Google Wave

2 10 2009

Google’s latest product has had the tech world buzzing (and agonizing) for some time now. Google Wave is “an online tool for real-time communication and collaboration. A wave can be both a conversation and a document where people can discuss and work together using richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more”.

L.A. Times tech writer Mark Millian shares his thoughts on how Wave could be used in journalism. He lists live editing, collaborative reporting, interview archiving, timelined story updates,  in-text comments and instant polling. Interestingly, Mark ponders about opening up the writing process:

What if we let readers watch the text as we write it? In our own testing, we found it to be a really fascinating peek into the writing habits and minds of our associates….Maybe we can go one step further and let the observers comment throughout the writing process. Readers could help shape a story.

Now that would be real transparency. And total chaos.





The contingency of academic labor

26 09 2009

There are a number of methodological and theoretical similarities (and differences) between journalism and what I call ‘soft’ science (i.e. mostly qualitative, social science like media anthropology or linguistic ethnography). In essence, journalism and soft science are eclectic sense-making practices that produce accounts which are situated (socially, geographically, topically) and interpretive.

There is another link between news work and academic work: the labor conditions in these two fields are becoming increasingly precarious, contingent or otherwise ‘atypical‘. The arts faculty at my alma mater no longer offers post-doc positions because it simply cannot afford them. External funding, downsizing, increased teaching loads and productivity demands (publish and perish) have become symptomatic of an ongoing trend towards the commercialization and marketization of tertiary education.

I am writing this down not just out of self-indulgent frustration over professional insecurity but because I share Mark Deuze’s concern that if the market orientation of the university

does not come with specific caveats, protections, checks and balances, the university as we know it becomes just another factory workplace – not a place for independent and critical reflection; a place that teaches people to make up their own minds.

This post is loosely based on Michael Bérubé’s feather-ruffling Op-Ed and Mark Deuze’s eloquent rant on the precarity of work in academia.





DiO Workshop day III: final plenaries

18 09 2009

Four, yes four, plenary presentations were scheduled on the Friday afternoon. Two corpus linguistic studies kicked off the written corporate communication theme. Birgitta Meex & Heidi Verplaetse (Lessius/KULeuven) compared German and English corporate mission statements. Berna Hendriks & Margot Van Mulken (University of Nijmegen) then presented an analysis of CEO communication.

The final two presentations were on…journalism. Ha! Martina Temmerman & Els Belsack (Erasmus University College Brussels) talked about positioning and self-representation during televised political interviews. Finally, Ellen Van Praet (Ghent University) and yours truly went the reflective/methodological route. We opted not to present micro data and instead focus on the pros and cons of secondary analysis.

Thank you: Geert, Katja, Craig, Chris, Sylvain, Priscilla and all the delegates for coming out. Hope to see you again at a DiO event.





How contemporary journalism works

7 09 2009

A number of forward-thinking journalists in Germany have issued a manifesto. I am reproducing an abbreviated version. The original version (in German) is available at internet-manifest.de.

  1. The internet is different.
  2. The internet is a pocket-sized media empire.
  3. The internet is society is the internet.
  4. Internet freedom is inalienable.
  5. The internet is the triumph of information.
  6. The internet is changing improving journalism.
  7. The network requires networking.
  8. Links bring value, quotes are a form of recognition.
  9. The internet is the new home for political discussion.
  10. The new freedom of the press is freedom of opinion.
  11. More is more – there’s no such thing as too much information.
  12. Tradition is not a business model.
  13. On the internet, copyright becomes a civic duty.
  14. The internet has many currencies
  15. What’s in the network stays in the network.
  16. Quality is the most important quality
  17. All for all.

Translation by Jeff Jarvis with some minor edits by me. Amendments welcome.
Updates:

  1. Denis Pelli was kind enough to point out that it should be civic duty (not civil)
  2. Tim Schlüter tweeted that the more appropriate gloss for ‘Gesellschaft’ in 3 is ‘society’ (not business).
  3. Jenna L. Brinning, a professional translator, has posted a proper English version of the original manifest.
  4. One of the authors, Janko Roettgers, says the manifesto was written in response to the Hamburg manifesto.
  5. Additional declarations have also been suggested by David Goldenberg

18. A viable Internet depends on media literacy and critical thinking.
19. Anonymity is the enemy of the Internet.





Belgians are of two physical types

29 08 2009

Having tossed me this personal-narrative bone, van Lierde strips down to his swimsuit. The Belgians, it has been said, are of two distinct physical types: the ample, rosy burghers famously depicted by Rubens, and the wraithlike subjects of van Gogh. Stomping around in rubber boots, complacently hosing down the pool deck, Damien van Houck appears pure Rubens. Lean and rope-muscled, his hair a severe black skullcap, van Lierde seems van Gogh to the core.

John Brant profiles Luc Van Lierde in Outside Magazine, November 1997.









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