Monthly Archives: April 2011

Going beyond the dead journalism frame

It has been said so often that it has begun to lose its impact – journalism is dead. The glory days are over.  Never again will we see in-depth thoughtful investigative journalism. The big, scary internet has been the sinister killer.

If everyone just took off the rose-tinted glasses for a second and turned around to face the future, or at least the present, they might get a more realistic view of the state of journalism.

Thinking transversally, what is journalism? What is its purpose and what does it aim to achieve? In a survey of journalists conducted by Jeremy Adam Smith of Stanford University, meaningful journalism was held to be that which had instigated policy or social change. Others have claimed that journalism provides citizens with the ability to be free and self-governing (Kovach and Rosenstiel in Craig D A, Excellence in Online Journalism) and some point to the characteristics of quality journalism, that it is accurate, independent, bias-free etc. Fundamentally, quality journalism should be an integral part of democracy, allowing citizens to discover and know their society.

So with this in mind, is journalism dead? Do citizens no longer have the ability to know their society? Do the numerous journalistic sites and articles proliferating on the net not subscribe to these characteristics and ideals of journalism? Did the traditional media ever do this?

I would argue that the long-held goals of journalism are being achieved in numerous ways online in the 21st century. Frameworks alleging the trustworthy properties of traditional media as opposed to the fickle and biased nature of new media are far too simplistic and often simply incorrect.

Towards the end of traditional media’s primacy, in-depth investigative journalism was sadly more an ideal than a reality. The business nature of newspapers, television stations meant quicker, less labour-intensive stories often took priority over extensively researched, investigative journalism. Despite this, various frames enamoured with ‘the good old days’ have inspired some to forget the realities of traditional media. As one particularly cynic commentator has put it ‘we tend to forget that journalism grew up to fill pages between ads’ (http://timberry.bplans.com/2009/05/is-journalism-dead-dying-or-just-faking-it.html#ixzz1KVsClaip).

One of the key issues raised in the death of journalism debate is how to finance meaningful journalism online and this is taken up in a Knight Garage blog article by Jeremy Adam Smith. For Smith, the future for funding meaningful investigative journalism seems to be in grants, donations, crowd-funding and nonprofit collaboration. I think this idea is fascinating and promising. Taking journalism away from its traditional commercial ad-driven habitat is surely a good thing. As Smith states ‘the combined predominance of social motivation and charitable support clearly suggests that journalism has become a social venture, not the bottom line business it once was’. I personally have more faith in journalism as a crowd-funded social venture than an advertisement funded commercial business.

There are far too many issues regarding the changing nature of journalism to tackle in a short blog post, but in short, it is unwise to frame the issue as simply traditional media good, new media bad. Or for that matter, the converse, that all old media was corrupt and all new media is a utopian charitable dream. The new journalism landscape is complex and exciting.

Whilst traditional media formats may be dying, quality journalism is far from dead.

References:

Craig David A, 2011, Excellence in Online Journalism

Smith Jeremy Adam, ‘How We’re Financing Meaningful Journalism’ http://knightgarage.standford.edu/2011/03/how-were-financing-meaningful-journalism

Benton Joshua, ‘Eight trends for journalism in 2011: A Nieman Lab talk in Toronto’, http://www.niemanlab.org/2011/02/eight-trends-for-journalism-in-2011-a-nieman-lab-talk-in-toronto/?utm_source=feedburner

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Reality and Virtuality

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Mediated_reality_continuum_2d.png)

It’s easiest to start with a picture. Especially a picture which attempts to put reality into a little box. Here we have the spectrum of mediated reality, from unmodified reality in the bottom-left corner to severely mediated virtuality diagonally opposite. In between we come across mediated virtuality and augmented reality, all of these terms blurring what truly constitutes pure reality.

What is unmodified reality? What could this possibly mean?

Surely every aspect of our reality is modified by some extent and new media is achieving this ongoing modification in increasingly inventive ways.

Virtual reality has dominated public consciousness for a long time, particularly focusing on the supposed benefits and dangers of virtual world games such as Second Life and World of Warcraft. Increasingly though, attention is turning to Augmented Reality and the opportunities this poses for not just gaming but social networking, business, commercial activities (particularly e-shopping), music creation and much more. The various directions of Augmented Reality are explored by Chris Grayson in his blog post Augmented Reality Overview.

I agree with Grayson when he states that he doesn’t believe Virtual Reality will really take off until we are “in there versus looking there”. This is where Augmented Reality is so exciting. It is a far more immersive bodily experience. By incorporating computer generated data into our physical environment the sense of reality is far greater. The various videos linked to on Chris Grayson’s video stretch from cute novelty, to useful and informative to what I believe has crossed the barrier to creepy . The Loopt i-Phone app in particular was a little much for me. This app involved discovering the exact locations of your friends, what and where they were eating, how they felt about what they were eating and where they were. Sam Altman, the CEO of Loopt stated that this app was ‘making serendipity happen’ but I believe this was killing the very notion of serendipity, the idea of an unexpected pleasurable discovery is well nigh impossible with this app. In this reality everything is known beforehand.

Slightly more positively, the following is one of my favourite examples of augmented reality –  not life-changing or with any particular utility but just really beautiful.Here reality and virtuality are wonderfully blended into a media form which has become hideously stagnant, the music video.

Arcade Fire – The Wilderness Downtown