It’s Journalism Jim, But Not As We


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The paradox of professionalism in journalism today

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It’s Journalism Jim, But Not As We

  1. 1. Professionalism, technology and the future of journalism A/Prof Martin Hirst, School of Communication Studies, AUT University, Auckland, Aotearao/New Zealand Paper at The end of Journalism? University of Bedfordshire, 18 October 2008
  2. 2. <ul><li>Professionalism is the common ideology in journalism </li></ul><ul><li>Doing a ‘professional’ job </li></ul><ul><li>Professional – problematic category for journalists because it has both economic and socio-cultural aspects </li></ul>Journalism will be reinvented, but judging by what is currently done in journalism schools and in the name of journalism studies, the last people to know may be professional journalists. (Hartley, 2008, p. 50)
  3. 3. <ul><li>Journalism has core values that are often expressed in explicit Codes of Ethics and revolve around the public service role of the news industry </li></ul><ul><li>Journalism has a distinct body of knowledge and a range of technical skills—from shorthand, to a supposed facility with language </li></ul><ul><li>thus, it is argued, journalism has a particular intellectual and quasi-scientific claim to being a profession </li></ul>… the professional community calls upon the journalist to tell a story that will be, or will appear to be, factual, objective and balanced. Although it is known that this cannot be fully achieved, these values are still at the core of the profession’s ideology. (Zandberg & Neiger, 2005, p. 131)
  4. 4. <ul><li>like all ideological constructs, professionalism in journalism has material aspects </li></ul><ul><li>it takes the form of a set of social relations—the social relations of news production </li></ul><ul><li>masks real social forces that dialectically interact within the newsroom and between the newsroom, the economy and popular culture </li></ul><ul><li>a contradictory class consciousness </li></ul>
  5. 5. <ul><li>a shift in the editorial function of newsrooms—from the gathering and publicising of new information, to what Hartley calls “redaction” </li></ul><ul><li>the process of collating, sorting, ordering and editing information that is generated elsewhere </li></ul><ul><li>motivation has been the need to respond to the Web’s hunger for copy and incessant/non-existent deadlines </li></ul><ul><li>also has a commercial/competition imperative </li></ul>
  6. 6. <ul><li>more “flexibility” from journalists and editorial staff and noted “that means that jobs will change” (Jarvis, 2007b) </li></ul><ul><li>such redactive measures in the newsroom also increase the productivity of individual journalists by reducing the time it takes to get a story from the “finding” state to the point of publication </li></ul><ul><li>cuts in staffing ratios, loss of collective memory (subs,etc), less time for reporting, outsourcing layout and subbing tasks </li></ul>
  7. 7. <ul><li>the ideology of professionalism has a blinding effect on news workers in terms of class </li></ul><ul><li>inhibits their ability to respond appropriately to the problems and contradictions in the new convergence culture (Jenkins, 2006) that is emerging inside and outside the newsroom </li></ul>I do believe, most sincerely, that journalism matters. I also think the act of journalism matters. But the brave new world opened up by the internet makes protectionist organised labour on the lines of the NUJ outdated. (Greenslade, 2007)
  8. 8. <ul><li>Where the new digital multimedia world should be exciting those starting off in their careers, instead many are being put off by the prospect of gross overloading of tasks. (Chris Morley, quoted in Townend, 2008) </li></ul><ul><li>Suffers from general decline in militancy, union density and from legal hand-tying over past 20 years </li></ul>
  9. 9. <ul><li>“ Contradictions, confusions, and multiple perspectives should be anticipated at a moment of transition where one media paradigm is dying and another is being born.” (Jenkins, 2006, p. 170) </li></ul><ul><li>convergence is a social process—driven as much by economic imperative as by invention of new technologies </li></ul><ul><li>process of combined and uneven development, contradictions express at all levels (base & superstructure) </li></ul>
  10. 10. <ul><li>the majority of journalists are workers—relations of production situate them in working class </li></ul><ul><li>the dual nature of the news ‘product’ allocates them to contradictory class locations with resulting ambivalence in their consciousness </li></ul><ul><li>journalists: “identifiable, on the level of production relations, as proletariat and which is petty bourgeoisie on political and ideological grounds </li></ul><ul><li>… the proletarianization of this section of the petty bourgeoisie means it’s returning to what it already is on the level of production relations” (Carchedi 1975, p.100) </li></ul>
  11. 11. <ul><li>class nature of news—both ideological construction and in production process—a feature of digital capitalism </li></ul><ul><li>redactive functions are product of economic necessity (falling rate of profit, etc), not just technology </li></ul><ul><li>Can news move out of the commodity circuit? </li></ul><ul><li>The promise of digital optimism, D-I-Y, “journalism from below”, blogging, social networking news </li></ul><ul><li>Digital pessimism—media capital needs to monetize the clickstream </li></ul>