Tag Archives: traditional journalism

Disrupting the barriers of media in the 21st Century

This pre-internet installation was and remains a vital consideration in the future of media. It has been supposed for a long time that communication and media technologies allowed people who already knew each other to improve existing relationships. Alternatively, broadcast media were used to send corporate-owned messages to the ‘masses’. There has been very little in the understanding of communities and how they are built and morph through media. To date, due to the expense of entry to creating content for media communication technology, most middle class people have been limited to the telephone – and that form is one-to-one rather than the one-to-many formats offered by social media. This installation’s first day shows how people who did not know each other were able to create conversations and relationships – even for a short time.

People in the video respond a certain way because they realize people in the other location can actually see them. This created an ‘event’. In the 21st Century, when everything that happens in public locations could readily and easily be posted to the web, are we seeing a change in everyday public behaviors due to the fact that we are aware, more than ever before, that someone might be posting our actions? From music concerts to classrooms, from traffic accidents to natural environments, people are creating ‘events’. The greater questions are how have we as a community become the public entity we are creating, and what impact does this have on how we relate to each other. What has made people immediately reach for their cell phone to take a picture when something happens? This is a stage of history we’ve never faced before.

While we have come through an era where “the medium is the message,” we have moved on from this. The medium is still the technology. The message today is found in the resonance of community. One is not the other. In fact, the irony as stated by Steve Harrison in his essay on this particular video (found in HCI Remixed), is key. Separation does in fact, invite a connection. If we believe that human beings seek resonance with each other, eliminating some of the barriers to finding that resonance through disrupting the accepted norms of relationships and community will in fact deliver us to new ways of ‘seeing’ each other. Through these new ways of discovering resonance we will be able to grow an international array of communities. The international would relate not just to geographical space, but also class space. We have a media which will offer everyone an opportunity to find resonance of community with the homeless, the traditional-media famous, and their neighbor.

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More than deputies: A definition of journalism for the 21st Century

Let’s confirm who professional journalists are: People (trained or not), paid to produce content under the mastheads of traditional news outlets.

Let’s confirm what they’re supposed to do: This is a tricky one. No matter how many times I have asked, and how many people, across Australia, the USA and the UK, nobody can give me a core definition of journalism. Maybe it’s a secret. A magician’s code. Part of the smoke and mirrors used to convince everyone they’re worth being paid for over anyone without a mogul. Professional journalists promote their work as a noble art, one that demands a rigor most can not attain. With prompting, a professional journalist will usually agree you need training, you need balance, fairness, fact collection and analysis.
In a conversation I had on Twitter with people in Australia following the Twitter’s Impact on Media and Journalism mini-conference (actually a 2-hour seminar of sorts), Brad Howarth, a professional journalist who was attending says journalism will not be “harmed or replaced by Twitter.” Another Australian, Renai Lemay, followed his presentation at the same conference with a post for ZDNet where he likens his role as a professional journalist to a knight, protecting the honour of a “great lady of noble birth” and describes Twitter as a “playground for pleasure of journalists.” Somewhere to reconnect with the audience. While Renai seeks to support Twitter’s role, he demonstrates a very Lipmann-esque view – it’s still them and us, and being able to play amongst the great unwashed is a novel way of “cutting the fat out of journalism.”

Bringing it to the US, last night, on Lou Dobbs’ show on CNN, the Face Off segment featured a rather strange topical area of ‘Social Networks & Journalism: Is traditional media obsolete?’, Professor Robert Thompson of Syracuse University held the same line as Renai. He described citizen journalists as “acting like deputies … it’s just like we used to use eyewitnesses.” In what was supposedly a debate (which Dobbs pointedly remarked at the start he hoped would be won by Professor Thompson), Micah Sifryn, co-founder of the Personal Democracy Forum began well by saying “anyone can commit and act of journalism.” However he followed that up by agreeing with Lou Dobbs that it “takes more than just holding up your mobile phone and filming stuff and then putting it online to be a journalist.”

Oh really?

My issue is that all of this is either a. focused on the media used for journalism rather than what journalism actually is, or  b. garbled propaganda nonsense.

Let me be clear. For those who don’t know me, I was a traditional, paid journalist for 15 years. I then moved to Public Relations, and then into teaching journalism, marketing, PR, event management and advertising at college. Happily, I’m back in traditional professional journalism myself, as the Boulder Startup Examiner for Examiner.com. (I make enough for a cup of coffee a week). I’m even currently undertaking graduate research in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at CU in Boulder (on social media communities), and I TA on the Intro to Journalism and Intro to Advertising classes. I’m a co-founder of a startup which will enable people to create more content and make better connections online. I’m pretty well engaged on all fronts.

And my question is thus: If traditional, professional journalists (those I’ve identified above) want to say what they do is different to what is able to be done by anyone else, I believe they have to say what makes it so, in order to be understood. So let me help you professionals out. The book, Elements of Journalism, authored by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosentiel, provides 10 elements of journalism. They are:

1. Journalism’s first obligation is to the truth.
2. Its first loyalty is to the citizens.
3. Its essence is discipline of verification.
4. Its practitioners must maintain an independence from those they cover.
5. It must serve as an independent monitor of power.
6. It must provide a forum for public criticism and compromise.
7. It must strive to make the significant interesting, and relevant.
8. It must keep the news comprehensive and proportional.
9. Its practitioners must be allowed to exercise their personal conscience.
10. The rights and responsibilities of citizens to be media literate.

But I’m questioning these traditional elements. While the 10th Element only appeared in this text in 2007 as a direct response to the power of Web 1.0, I believe it’s time to entirely redefine the concept of journalism. To strip it back and challenge the notion of what it is – a notion that has root in the medium, not the craft. All of the above elements of journalism reflect a somewhat Lipmann-esque attitude. But at last in the 21st Century, John Dewey really gets a turn. At journalism’s very core is one thing – communication. So I’ve developed a new definition of what journalism is:


Journalism is communication through any means that enables two things – a. the transmission of factual information about all factors that make up society, and b. validation, authentication and discussion of opinions, beliefs and commentary.

In the past, given the limited and expensive range of tools open to people, journalists were defined as a separate group of people. Training in the media they worked in, and how best to ‘do’ journalism to communicate messages were the focus. But those constraints have left us. The best journalism does not rely on the old elements – nor the old media. It doesn’t rely on training, or a paypacket.

Will journalism still exist when the moguls move onto more profitable ventures? Yes. Is it noble and necessary for democracy? Yes. Does it need defending? No (from what?). Is it the realm of the few? No, not any more. It’s not Twitter that is changing it. It’s Web 2.0. All social media. It’s going to be even greater when even more people are creating the content. That’s democracy.

How to create a stir – write about women in startups

I’m writing for the online news site, Examiner.com as the Boulder Startup Examiner.

Why? Am I insane? Don’t I have enough to do?

I felt compelled to do it. Boulder is a wonderful town, with a fantastic tech community of people. It’s a really big community, for a small town. It’s exciting, vibrant and smart. It’s full of incredible people. And they’re all doing their own thing.

We’re all working with a similar environment. We see lots of familiar people every week, and there are lots of tech events focused on the community. But we have different lives, experiences and industries. There are lots of people here I’ve never met – and when many of those people are ones I’ve heard of and I know have heard of me in our ‘small’ community, that’s disappointing. We have a wealth of things to draw on that don’t get any focus, simply because there’s no professional journalism covering it.

So that’s what I’m trying to do with my Examiner role. I’m treating it as I would a professional journalistic venture. It’s not personal (that’s what my blog’s for). It’s actual journalism. The way I used to do it. It’s amazing how you never forget. And I’m really enjoying it.

I’m putting together a plan of writing one article a week on five different topic areas. (Let’s see how my time management works with that!) Today’s topic area was Women in Tech. I’ll be writing on that once a week. And today’s story relates to how women who work in Boulder startups simply don’t seem to have the same networking opportunities the men of Boulder do. A pretty self-evident post, I thought. I got to interview some wonderful women (another bonus of working on Examiner is chatting with local startups I’ve never run across, or have only met briefly!). I said to Tara and Grace I wanted to focus on women in Boulder startups. It wasn’t their idea, it was mine. And they came to the party. We had a lovely chat over coffee last week. I recorded the chat, and I wrote the piece.

It seems to have hit a bit of a nerve with some people in various elements of social media, and I couldn’t be happier. I believe the article is respectful of Boulder, the community and both men and women. If you read beyond the headline (as any journalism school will explain, the headline is just the foothold into the story) you get a balanced view of women in startups here in Boulder.

I invite you to read the article yourself, and leave a comment. I now know I’ll definitely be covering women in startups in Boulder every week. Because it’s a great topic, obviously close to my heart. And nobody else covers it.

Why I Stopped Following Guy Kawasaki

Twitter is a curious beast. It has morphed as it grows, due to the community of people who use it. And in researching the online social sphere for my graduate thesis, there are some key aspects of how people use Twitter that are indicators to how this is going to go.

Twitter is a tool used by a community. The tool of Twitter is no different to any other tool. The tool of Twitter exists as an infrastructure, and becomes what it is because of how the community uses it. Just as a knife can be defined as a weapon because people sometimes kill very effectively with it, so Twitter is a community because people interact on it.

Over time we’ve seen Twitter move on from being a post-modern, Web 1.0 Facebook-style status update of ‘what are you doing’. That whole status update thing had the whole broadcasting ethos of me! me! me! It was about telling the world about me and not really caring that much about what everyone else thought of it.

But Web 2.0, and beyond has seen Twitter’s ‘what are you doing’ develop to people actually asking each other ‘what are *you* doing’? And ‘doing’ for the Twitter community now really means ‘thinking’ and ‘wanting’ and ‘needing’ and ‘hoping for’, etc.

The community online uses social media to really connect with each other. To connect with people who you feel an affiliation with, or can learn from, or just feel close to. Not to broadcast.

And this is why I’ve stopped following Guy Kawasaki.

I’m sure Guy is a nice guy (sorry). He’s done a lot of good stuff, written some books that people rave about and stuff. He also gives a good party by all accounts. He certainly believes he’s extremely influential, and some other people do too.

so where’s the problem? A while back on Twitter @Guykawasaki was really him. He’d tweet stuff and interact with people. But as time has gone on, Guy’s Twitter account has morphed – much like most of Twitter. However, I’d argue the morphing that Guy has sought has been detrimental to his personal brand, and non-reflective of where the community of Twitter is heading. He’s introduced ghost twitterers, for which has received a lot of criticism – and he doesn’t seem to get what the issue with that is. He spends a lot of time on Twitter defending himself over this (it gets tiring). He’s also focused on the numbers and believes that putting out what he terms “good content” (ie: links to stories and ‘interesting things’ on the web that he has located and simply aggregates, not that he’s created) is all Twitter needs to be.

All of this means the stream of “Guy Kawasaki” really is about as authentically Guy Kawasaki as the fake accounts of myriad celebrities. When I started following Guy, that wasn’t the case.

And Guy, the fact is we use Twitter differently. I’m into conversation. Looking at my stats, I tweet an average of 13 times a day, and 70% of those are @ tweets. Connections and personal resonance is my focus. I’m not as into the numbers as you and all those traditional marketers and journalists and old-school bloggers with ‘number of eyeballs’ perceptions are. I have a relatively large number of followers and am extremely happy about that because it gives me the opportunity to talk with lots of different people, find out what they’re doing, how I can assist them, and vice versa. (To clarify: I gain followers in the old-fashioned way. No 3rd party tools, or requests for follows being broadcast. You won’t see me tweeting about my following as being a big thing for me.)

I’m interested in people individually. And I sincerely believe that’s where the future of online communication lies. Not in trying to elevate your own name by broadcasting what you think is ‘good content’ (no matter who created it), but by having conversations with people, everywhere. We’re not living in a Web 1.0 environment any more.

So time will go on and Twitter will continue to morph. I feel old school. The general real life community has heard of Twitter. People talk about “getting a Twitter” (which is strange phrasing to me). Mainstream traditional media is not only covering Twitter but is getting stories from its community.

The thing that’s driving everyday people to Twitter though, is not to just receive traditional mass media. The thing the people want is connections with other people, and real life celebrities such as Ashton, Demi and Kevin are using Twitter to connect with their fans. They have conversations with them. Really. That’s why they’re coming. That’s why Twitter’s growth is 30% a month. Connecting individually with resonance is everything.

Getting beyond “Do you want fries with that?”

So now the can of worms is opened. As expected, newspapers are closing. Many print journalists are inexplicably in shock. Their next paid employment may well include the words, “do you want fries with that?”

And that, truly, is devastating.

But we still have new people entering schools, wanting to be journalists. Play with me here:

Let’s say we have a new intake this year. They’ll be trusting us for the next four years to prepare them for employment. Beyond fast food. And so the question for educators is specific. What are the best journalism schools teaching now? What should they be teaching?

Be specific! I’m not interested in opinions that simply state “they need to be prepared for the web.”

Here’s a few of my views. We need to:

a. Teach the very real and vital aspects of the role of journalism, its values and role.

b. Equip students with these values as paramount, above and beyond the role of the media they work in. We need them to see the media they work within never compromises or changes their values as journalists.

c. Move away from teaching print media with a concentration on newspapers as the standard, and instead move towards the web as the standard media format.

d. Continue to teach content creation for broadcast and radio, and print magazines. And equip every student for a start in any of those formats.

e. In their first semester, teach students about the real possibilities of independent blogging, microblogging, podcasting and vlogging and insist they do all of them.

f. Instill in them all an awareness and practice of newsgathering and research in a new media environment.

What do you disagree with? What is missing?

A visit to the A pool

Following my previous post about unhappily swimming in the B Pool, I’m pleased to have been able to scramble my way through to a bit of a splash in the A pool. You know, that place where the cool kids are?  

My final paper for Media Ethics,  Twittering a Funeral: Social media’s challenge to professional journalism received a final A grade. I think my professor was just as relieved and pleased about it as I am. december-2008-001

I’ll be working on the paper further to prepare it for possible conference/journal submission, under the intuitive guidance of Professor Mike McDevitt. Without his assistance in structuring my paper all the stuff in my head would still be struggling for a voice.

Anyway, I’ll happily send it along to anyone who’d like the long, academic version. Just email me or DM me on Twitter. But for those of you with lives not academically focused, here are the key points:

Statement of Purpose
This paper examines the impact on the professionalism of journalism as it integrates the social networking tool Twitter in traditional news reporting. The paper considers the use of Twitter by the Rocky Mountain News in which a child’s funeral was “live blogged,” as well as the ensuing outcry and response from the editor, John Temple. It identifies the particular characteristics of Twitter as a communication tool, and proposes an ethical model which supports the use of Twitter in professional journalism.

The paper then outlines the case study of the Rocky Mountain News’ reporting of a child’s funeral using Twitter, and identifies why this use was not only unethical but a case of unprofessional journalism. This is journalism which doesn’t address the recommendations of the Hutchins Commission, and puts the autonomy of American journalists, as well as their credibility, in the firing line. There is a desperate need for reporters to be trained in the functionality of Twitter and fully understand it as well as the community (not audience) which supports it.

I recommend a model which outlines three ways Twitter should not be used, as well as three ways in which it supports professional journalism.
NO:

1. When the use of Twitter (either through implementing the tool or the result) is perceived as a possible invasion of privacy. 

2. When another journalistic tool would better serve the reporting need or the ability of the journalist.

3. When a journalist or media entity is unfamiliar with social media in its complete form, not just as a broadcast medium.

YES:

1. As a resource for newsgathering purposes, in preparing information for stories, getting leads, etc.

2. As a public journalism tool – where the journalist can attend an event and act as the mediator between the community and the event. Eg: a red carpet event, where the community can ask the journalist questions and she can filter them and respond accordingly (of course, this takes a different sort of journalistic training.)

3. For Amber Alerts (abducted children), especially when the child is suspected to have been abducted overseas; and for issues of imminent need or notice such as natural disasters, etc. The input would come from reliable sources, and media would then be able to aid in important efforts to communicate with the respectability of their professional branding adding weight to the message going out through the Twitter stream. 

I hope the A pool welcomes me back a few more times. It’s really nice.