Future Media series
Future Media series
Thursday 22 May 2008
In an essay based on his introduction, Take Two Steps Back: A Society Gets the Journalism it Deserves, 16 Mar 2009, Bill Thompson notes that “we should not mourn the passing of the newspaper, but ask instead what function it performed and look to see whether we are in need of a similar system in the new world”. In the Journalism.co.uk editors blog Laura Oliver’s report Finding the ‘new new journalism’, May 23, 2008, picks out some key points from the presentation and the discussion. In her Strange Attractor post, Picking out patterns in the chaos, Suw Charman-Anderson provides an extensive overview and critique of some of the key points, and argues for a more pragmatic agenda. See Nico Macdonald’s reflections on the post-event discussion.
The Forum was attended by people from organisations including Global Voices Online, guardian.co.uk, Channel 4 News, BBC Radio and BBC Future Media & Technology, Thomson Reuters, Nature, IBM, LSE, UCL, SOAS, Goldsmiths, and the University of East London. An attendee list can be found on the registration page.
Documentary produced, filmed, presented and edited by Newspepper.com
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This Innovation Forum event is supported and produced in collaboration with POLIS and the LSE Media Group.
The title of this event refers to Tom Wolfe’s and Edward Warren Johnson’s The New Journalism (1975), which proposed that a new kind of journalism was surpassing the novel as (non-fiction) literature
The roles of journalists and commentators is changing: driven by citizens’ greater wariness of authority and the changing character of politics, and drawn by the new possibilities of networked digital media. The widely held belief that anyone can play these roles has riled some and brought new resolve to others, who have embraced blogging, mobile video, bookmark sharing, and now micro-blogging – along with all forms of user-contribution and -engagement. But how much has the product of publishers, broadcasters, and their hybrid relations, actually evolved, and to what extent have they seriously investigated and embraced the new possibilities?
At this event we will examine the changing role of the journalist in society; the new possibilities presented by technology and design; and the nature of the story in a dynamic medium. We will also consider how journalists and editors are researching and sharing information, and collaborating with and debating the people formerly known as the audience. And we hope to provide some pointers to the Fourth Estate on how it might better, and more ambitiously, engage with its future.
To this end we have brought together a smart group of thinkers and doers across the disciplines in the media sector to set the scene (beginning with position statements). However, the event will focus on informal debate and discussion, and the participation of attendees – you – will be critical. Please join us.
Charlie Beckett is the founding director of POLIS , the thinktank for research and debate into international journalism and society, a joint initiative between the LSE Media and Communications Department and the London College of Communication. POLIS hosts public lectures and seminars for journalists and the public. It runs Fellowship and Research programmes, and publishes reports on a range of topics including new media and journalism, media and development, financial journalism, and public service broadcasting. Becket has been a programme editor at ITN’s Channel 4 News, and a film-maker and programme editor at BBC News and Current affairs. He was also a Reuters Fellow at Oxford University, where he wrote a field-work based paper on New Technology and Journalism in Uganda. Beckett’s book SuperMedia: Saving Journalism So It Can Save the World is published by Blackwell on 20 May. It describes the crisis facing mainstream journalism and argues that ‘professional’ journalism must be transformed through the integration of the public into the production and dissemination of news. [Read on on his Weblog... Read on on his LSE staff page...]
Tessa Mayes is a campaigning investigative journalist based in London and New York. Her investigations cover subjects ranging from pressures on illegal immigrants in prostitution to problems with the UK criminal justice system. Mayes’s reports have been broadcast on or appeared in: BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Five, the Spectator, The Sunday Times, the Guardian and spiked-online. She has written and spoken on legal, political and media issues and appears on CNN as a commentator. Mayes also campaigns in favour of free speech.
New media pioneer Bill Thompson is a journalist, commentator and technology critic based in Cambridge. He has been working in, on and around the Internet since 1984. He currently writes a weekly column for the technology section of the BBC News site, and contributes to other publications, both on and off-line, including the Guardian, The Register and the New Statesman. He writes a monthly column for new ’net users for BBC WebWise, and a technology column for Focus magazine. Bill appears weekly on Digital Planet (formerly Go Digital) on the BBC World Service and occasionally on other BBC radio and television programmes. Bill is a visiting lecturer at City University where he teaches Online Journalism in the Journalism and Publishing department, and is an external editor for openDemocracy.net. [Read on at Bill’s site...]
Julia Whitney is responsible for the design and user experience for BBC News, Sport and Weather on digital platforms. Before joining the BBC Julia was Director of Interactive Design at WGBH in Boston, a national producer of public service media for PBS. She received a BA in Mathematics from Brown University and an MFA in Graphic Design from Yale University, where she later taught graduate level interaction design. [Read Whitney’s Weblog post on the recent News and Sports site refresh...]
Nico Macdonald has been consulting in the media sector since the late 1980s, around digital production and, since the mid-1990s, models for online publishing and design. Media organisations he has advised include Euromoney Publications, the Guardian newspaper, Haymarket Publishing, IAC/InterActiveCorp and BBC Future Media & Technology. He writes on media, design and technology for publications including the Online Journalism Review, Silicon.com and The Register. [Profile on LinkedIn]
Tom Wolfe’s New Journalism was essentially about a revolution in style rather than substance. I would argue that New Media, combined with other socio-economic forces, is going to reinvent journalism in a much more thorough-going way. Style will change but so will news gathering and news dissemination. And as journalism becomes more networked, the whole production process will change. Some of what we currently understand as journalism will look the same. Indeed, some ‘Old Media’ formats such as feature- length documentaries and non-fiction books are thriving amidst the new technologies.
But Polis research with media practitioners and the public into the future of news over the last two years indicates that journalism is undergoing a kind of revolution. Some of it will become radically ‘disintermediated’. The journalist will disappear. But our research suggests that the bulk of the news media will hybridise into something called ‘networked journalism’. It will still carry out the editing, filtering and packaging functions. It will still report, analyse and comment. But the whole production process will become much more open and participatory.
As the power shifts from the professional to the public this will challenge a whole range of journalistic assumptions about authority, impartiality, accuracy and quality. Instead of relying on a narrow concept of trust, the journalist will have create relevance. As the journalist’s monopoly over news is shattered, the media will have to justify its social value in a free marketplace of data and ideas. The new journalist will be a network facilitator, a marketeer of meaning, a channeler of information flows.
Politicians must address a democratic deficit produced by long-term social shifts and the bankruptcy of the old model of political organisation. Likewise journalism must regain public attention. This is partly by changing style and formats, but underpinning it must be a change in the very relationship with the public and the idea of news itself.
Investigative journalists are presented with an opportunity as well as a mindfield as the internet gets uber-interactive. New technology allows journalists to mine new sources of research, quicker, cheaper and from all over the world. It has changed the content of some investigations and given birth to all kinds of new collaborations whose content is interactively ever-changing. Fantastic. At the same time, however, the role of the investigative journalist is in danger of being transformed from a journalist who gathers evidence to reveal the truth about reality as he sees it to being a manager of information, frequently flagging up a technical method as the key, vibrant, ‘new’ element of the story. While there is a place for all kinds of approaches – and investigative journalism isn’t ‘dead’ but alive and kicking and winning prizes – there is a problem. Why are there so few investigations that challenge the new orthodoxies such as the censorious laws on hate speech, the consensus on political solutions to global warming or, the assumption that legal, military interventions in to other countries are justified? Technology isn’t king, it’s just a means to an end. An essential ingredient of investigative journalism should be critical thinking and we shouldn’t forget that.
Karl Marx tells us that changes in the economic base of a society inevitably lead to changes in the social, cultural and political superstructure, even if we cannot predict the shape of the resulting society. Joseph Schumpeter tells us that innovations in manufacturing processes create opportunities for new entrants to seize opportunities that incumbents deny themselves because of their aversion to risk, resulting in creative destruction. And William Gibson tells us that the street finds a use for technology.
The digital revolution has brought us a globalised economy, low or even zero cost ways of collecting and distributing information, and a range of tools that would surprise even the most imaginative SF writer from the 1970s, and so it is hardly surprising that the business of journalism has been transformed. The new technologies have turned every eyewitness into a potential reporter, challenging professional journalists to reinvent themselves in order to remain relevant. They allow stories to be assembled and published as they happen, putting new pressures on old editorial structures and processes. They question the assumptions of expertise and privilege that were embedded in twentieth century journalism. And they undermine the business models that made journalism profitable in the industrial world.
The technology-powered wave of creative destruction that has swept through the newsrooms and editing suites is already crashing at the boardroom doors, and the innovators now are not only competitive businesses but every citizen with a cellphone and a Blogger account. And it is far from certain that anything remotely resembling a ‘journalist’ will be around to watch it recede.
Just as new technologies don’t replace the old, but rather alter the ecosystem in which both then co-exist, so too the practice and output of old and new journalism is in constant inter-relationship. The essential user needs for news remain the same (to be informed, to understand the world in which we live, to share a common experience, to use knowledge as social currency, and so on.) We must continue to meet these needs, just as we always have. But added to the mix is an undeniable shift in possibility, roles and expectations of how news is gathered, delivered, found and filtered, and the user’s role in all of these activities. As a result, we need to meet emerging needs as well – often all on the same page. The forms and practices of the new new journalism are constantly evolving, along with the affordances of new media platforms, and every shift should be met by the closest of collaborations between technology, editorial and design, so the potential within each discipline can contribute to a sum that is greater than each part.
In response to the optional registration question ‘Is there a theme or issue you would like to be considered in the programming of the event?’, the responses we have had so far include: social marketing a la Federated Media; the future of curating and anonymity; ‘slow’ journalism, or any other antidote to the herd mentality of swarming around a particular story to the exclusion of related and equally worthy issues. Other issues:
Sites suggested in response to the optional registration question include Correspondent.TV. In preparation for the event, you may be interested to read:
Supermedia: Saving Journalism So It Can Save the World by Charlie Beckett (WileyBlackwell, 2008) Available to read online on the Berkman Center media re:public preparation page
Flat Earth News: An Award-winning Reporter Exposes Falsehood, Distortion and Propaganda in the Global Media by Nick Davies (Chatto and Windus, 2008) Flat Earth News site
Can You Trust the Media? by Adrian Monck with Mike Hanley (collaborator) (Icon Books, 2008)
The New New Journalism: Conversations with America’s Best Nonfiction Writers on Their Craft by Robert Boynton (Vintage Books USA, 2005) [Search Inside available]
The New Journalism edited by Tom Wolfe and Edward Warren Johnson (Picador Books, 1975)
November 16, 2007: The New Journalism: Paperless, Global and Free? (Nuffield College, Oxford)
February 28, 2007: Panel debate: The Fall and Fall of Journalism with Leslie Bunder, Editor, journalistic.co.uk; John Lloyd, Editor, Financial Times Magazine; and Professor Robin Mansell, Dixons Chair in New Media and the Internet, LSE; and Suw Charman (London School of Economics) [Audio recording (MP3)]
2007: POLIS Future of News Seminars: reports available
Reflections on the Poynter Institute Critical Issues Conference The Future of News (2006)
Networked journalism: For the people and with the people, Charlie Beckett, Press Gazette, 18 October 2007. Report from the Networked Journalism Summit in New York. [Discusses use of blogging in print and crowdsourcing.] This is networked journalism in action, doing things that conventional journalists could not do on their own. [Discusses payment models.] Jay Rosen of New York University... warns that only one per cent of any group of people who volunteer to get involved are truly creative and only 10 per cent produce anything journalistic... Networked journalism... means we are going to have to change the way we work and treat the public as partners, not punters. [Shared bookmark]
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If you have queries about the event please email Nico Macdonald
The Innovation Forum is intended to facilitate progress by bringing together researchers and academics, technologists and designers, business people and marketers, policy makers and administrators to share knowledge about their skills and current insights and projects. It supports the free exchange of ideas towards the end of improving people’s lives at home, at work and in society.