Quality journalism in the digital age


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Quality journalism in the digital age

  1. 1. Producing Quality Journalism in the Digital Age George Brock Professor and Head of Journalism City University London WAN-IFRA Twinning Initiative Workshop Turin, June 2014
  2. 2. Two myths to forget • (1) “Journalism doesn’t need thinking about; it just needs doing” • (2) “The internet is destroying journalism”
  3. 3. Myth No 1 • The way people learn about the world they can’t see and hear for themselves has always changed • Journalism – the attempt to work out the truth of things that matter to a community – has always had to adapt • Adapting is always happening: writing, print, trains, telegraph, radio, TV
  4. 4. Myth No 1 (cont) • Adapting needs thought • It may require experiment • It certainly does not require fixed ideas and beliefs • Late 20th century was misleading and unusual period: plenty of income for news publishers and very little change
  5. 5. Myth No 2 (“the internet destroys journalism”) • Print was under pressure as an efficient, profitable way of conveying news long before the internet was thought of • What the internet does endanger is the newspaper business model • It also tends to undermine journalists’ sense of identity • But that is not the same as saying that it destroys journalism
  6. 6. To the contrary… • Digital technology is an engine of opportunity • We have hardly begun to explore the possibilities • Long-lasting multiple waves of change to come • But it seems to me likely… • …that journalism will not only survive… • …but get better
  7. 7. Smartphones
  8. 8. Tablets!
  9. 9. • “It is the imagination, ultimately, and not mathematical calculation that creates media; it is the fresh perception of how to fit a potential machine into an actual way of life that really constitutes the act of ‘invention’.” Anthony Smith, 1980
  10. 10. Quality of the diagnosis counts • Tired media businesses try to prescribe before they diagnose • Those likely to survive and win reverse that order • Diagnose, then prescribe
  11. 11. Things to be realistic about • Capital-intensive technology of print gave journalists a dominant position in the information chain. That position has been lost, or at least altered • Commercial and editorial separated out in mature businesses driven by cost-efficiency • Digital does not favour bundles • The nature of impact has changed
  12. 12. Work on the quality of diagnosis • What’s changed? • What are we trying to do and why are we trying to do it? • What value do we add (in a world in which anyone with a smartphone can summon information in any idle moment with their thumb)?
  13. 13. Journalists don’t like experiments • Failure isn’t seen as useful • In experiment, failure is often educational and illuminating • Today’s deadline and emergencies take precedence over exploration of the future • Journalism is seen as a mission and a vocation: heresy is punished (by other journalists) • Ordered to “innovate” or “think outside the box”, people (usually) freeze. • The “box” isn’t there any more
  14. 14. Principles before procedures • Four core tasks: –Verification (changed) –Sense-making (changed) –Eye-witness (not much changed) –Investigation (changed a bit)
  15. 15. Before you worry about revenue • Anthropologists + explorers • Gather intelligence from everywhere • Don’t “innovate”: experiment! • Technology and data • Voice • Purpose must convert to value (ie strip out what is being done by custom and habit) • Aggregation/curation • Collective vs individual judgement • Try, fail, drop it, try something else
  16. 16. Here’s an example • http://www.buzzfeed.com/miriamberger/a- 22-step-guide-to-understanding-how-crimea- voted-to-join-ru • Note picture/words ratio • Note “voice” • First win the audience; then add more journalism (old formula) • Buzzfeed slogan: “error is useful”
  17. 17. Revenue streams: experiment • Ads • Subs • Premium price stuff • Events • Crowdfunding • Micropayments • Philanthropy
  18. 18. More here…
  19. 19. And here • www.georgebrock.net • www.city.ac.uk/journalism • @georgeprof