When Joanna Geary, Web Development Editor for The Times told Cardiff journalism students, “Most news doesn’t require journalists, because of press releases. It’s like someone with three PHDs flipping burgers.” It made me think about churnalism and how it affects the industry.
If the world of journalism work is based on PR people writing press releases only for journalists to rehash into their own words, you know mix the sentences around a bit, where is the originality? What’s the use in studying a post-graduate diploma, to learn the skills of the trade, if we get into a job just to churn out the same rubbish that PR peddlers want us to?
Also, thanks to the internet, everyone can be a journalist if they want. Ok, their articles probably won’t get printed in The Guardian or any other newspaper, but their stories/articles/ideas will be published online for all who want to read them. The main problem these people will experience is lack of money from their work, but if they’re only doing it as a hobby will it matter to them? The benefits they will have is freedom to write what they please with no press releases to churn out again and again.
But if hacks jump on the technology bandwagon it can lead to more individual writing, alongside the necessary writing of their job. Through blogging Joanna Geary estimates she has doubled her income in just 18 months and it’s something she started outside of her employment. Nothing to be sniffed at then. She says not many journalists are tech savvy nor are they willing to accept the industry has changed, significantly. So that’s where the new breed come in.
Journalists today need to be utilising technology to get ahead. If we do this perhaps we can pioneer in the industry instead of following other people’s leads.
The BBC’s technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones recently came to give a talk entitled: Typewriter to Twitter for Cardiff University journalism students. In the lecture he discussed how journalism has changed since he began his career in 1983, and what it looks like now in 2009.
Rory explained how audiences back then were taken for granted by TV execs as people could only really choose between two stations – in addition to no internet, Sky or cable TV – so they were almost guaranteed a large audience. He discussed that audience members were also seen as mad with station staff not really taking any notice of them when they contacted the station. One thing that surprised me was his scepticism of any original journalism going on in the 1980s – he said staff read newspapers earlier in the day, then reported that news later in the morning.
A couple of decades later and things are quite different. No audiences are taken for granted anymore as there are too many channels and media platforms all fighting for their share. The way we consume news is different too. A lot of people read news via the internet, which they can currently do for free, and they have 24 hour access. In present times there is so much choice that competition pressure has raised the quality of the main broadcasters – but with the rise of citizen journalists it has led to questioning of their output too.
So the world of journalism has changed a great deal with one glaring difference between now and the 1980s being the audience is no longer taken for granted. In fact audiences now actively take part in stories by providing User Generated Content or blogging, tweeting about events when they occur TV execs can no longer see as them as mad but perhaps more of a competition.
Not agreeing with all that is stated here in this Internet Manifesto created by German journalists I do find point nine The Internet is the new venue for political discourse interesting. It demonstrates how the internet is a powerful tool in maintaining democracy as it: “Thrives on participation and freedom of information.”
The internet provides a platform for debate on the media’s output as it enables the people, formally known as the audience, to engage in talks on almost anything and everything. As the Internet Manifesto explains it encourages active discussion which simply wasn’t possible not so long ago. The public are now able to express their opinions by using online mediums like Twitter and comment sections on articles.
In Alison Gow’s blog she talks about internet manifestos and how putting them on the web isn’t the answer because: “Too many of the people who need convincing aren’t looking there that often.”
Alison acknowledges the vital importance of the net and how every journalist needs involvement in its development. She understands that although the print media claim they are internet savvy, this isn’t always the case – especially with regards to the execs: “The focus is [still] on the money-making print product.”
So the problem lays with staff, as Alison states: “Higher up the editorial food chain” that aren’t internet literate. They refuse to learn the new ways of journalism, not grasping that the industry has changed forever.
In essence she is saying just because you understand how it once worked there’s no point having your head in the sand hoping that the industry will go back to the way it was. Until a time-travelling DeLorean gets invented, that’s not going to happen.
These people should embrace change and help foster democracy online. A manifesto won’t implement this, but it serves as a reference for those that should be paying attention.