Tag Archives: online

Defining Journalism…

I recently completed a paper for submission to the AEJMC conference in Denver proposing a typology for online journalism models. In doing this, I spent a lot of time thinking about journalism and its changing definition. But my instructor, Norm Lewis, correctly pointed out today that I tried to classify changes in journalism as being prompted by technology rather than its practitioners or audiences.

So what really does prompt changes to the definition of journalism? Is it the preferences of the audience or the framing of those telling the news? The chicken or the egg?

I think what is interesting about journalism now is that audience members have become the journalists, using the Internet to shape the news in ways that they see fit. No technological innovation has ever before extended this possibility of interaction, blurring the lines between audience member and journalist.

The Kansas state legislature just extended journalism protections formerly enjoyed solely by “professional journalists” to journalists online, including those who work for media outlets as well as bloggers and other independent reporters. They defined “journalists” as anyone:

“in the regular business of newsgathering and disseminating news or information to the public.”

Wow! That certainly opens some doors.

Many researchers link the definition of journalism to ideologies adhered to by its practitioners. But online journalists don’t have to adhere to those ideologies of accuracy, objectivity, and general journalism ethics.

So where does that leave us? Standing at the crossroads of a new type of journalism model that makes interactivity unavoidable and information fair game for all to disseminate and interpret as they see fit.

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It’s Alive!!!

Check out this interesting article from Columbia Journalism Review touting the resiliency of print newspapers.

This adds to the piling evidence (including a recent study conducted by the Nieman Journalism Lab) that print newspaper readership is long from dead. It also lends some credence to the argument that newspapers, like most other American industries, are victims of the recession.

Most assuredly, there is some truth to that. If someone loses his or her job, the newspaper subscription would probably be high up on the list of non-essentials fingered for cancellation. Also, when everyone is affected, businesses can’t afford to advertise.

Newspaper shareholders, like John Rogers Jr., seem to think the end of the recession will signal renewed life at newspapers. Others, like Alan Mutter, aren’t so optimistic.

I think the author of the CJR piece, Ryan Chittum, makes several excellent points. This quote is probably the article’s central thesis:

But this is fifteen years into the age of the online newspaper—and going on a decade into the high-speed Internet era—and you can spin it a couple of ways: It points to the surprising resiliency of print, or it signals the pitiful job newspapers have done online.

Editor & Publisher regularly publishes statistics regarding online newspaper readership. June was a tough month for online newspapers, with year-to-year readership at some prominent papers (New York Times, Chicago Tribune, etc.) either down or stagnant.

My feelings about all this are bittersweet. Part of me is cheering the continued, albeit more modest, success of print products. The other part of me knows that online journalism is the future, and we are already screwing it up (in ways outlined in this UMass Journalism Professors Blog post).

I take solace in the fact that, if nothing else, this is proof that a legacy print product of some kind will be around for awhile. As one of my readers posted in a comment last week, “Sunday morning with coffee and a paper sounds good to me.” (Thanks, Melissa!)

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What Now?

A new study conducted in Europe found turning over newspapers to a Web-only format may not drive readership online: http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2009/04/15/one-papers-online-only-move-had-little-effect-on-web-traffic-study-says/.

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It’s a Micro-payment World After All

Sorry for the sabbatical from blogging. I was wrapping up a tough spring semester, and I am just now attempting to get back into my media-monitoring habits.

Here’s a good one to start with: (See FT.com story, here.)

I’ve mentioned micro-payments before, and I just don’t think the proposed system will work. Here’s part of the problem:

Pricing for individual articles and for premium subscriptions had yet to be decided, [Robert Thomson, editor-in-chief of Dow Jones and managing editor of the Journal] said, but would be ‘rightfully high.’

For me, the real appeal of online newspapers is that I can pick and choose my news from a variety of publications. I can get my financial and health news from nytimes.com, my government news from washingtonpost.com, my local news from jacksonville.com, and my sports news from miamiherald.com.

Clearly, I would not be willing to pay for online subscriptions to each of these papers (plus the many others I scan from day to day). Nor would I be willing to pay astronomical fees for individual stories scattered throughout the newspapers.

Maybe there is some alternative. John Temple, former editor, president, and publisher of the Rocky Mountain News, offers this analogy:

Costco charges a membership fee before customers can take advantage of the great values it offers. Users pay it willingly once they see the benefits. I think newspapers could take a page from Costco’s book.

Temple, now a blogger at www.johntemple.net, suggests readers will pay a “membership fee” for a resource only a newspaper can offer: useful information. Temple says newspapers can be “an information company that can help people do everything from save money on groceries to pick the best school for their child to report road conditions in real time.”

People will pay for niche services. It’s true. And no blogger could ever hope to wield the networking power that a newspaper can. It’s an asset we seem to have forgotten we possess.

It will be interesting to see how this WSJ venture unfolds. I doubt it will have the same success as online newspaper ventures, such as minnpost.com, which has raised more than $10,000 via micro-payments (see article here).

The thing that makes us want to contribute to ventures like minnpost.com and indenvertimes.com (the Rocky Mountain’s Post’s endeavor to live online) is the grassroots appeal. We want to see that underdog, second-city paper rebound and grow.

But how much pity will we muster for Rupert Murdoch and his newspaper titan chronicling the happenings of Wall Street (which isn’t exactly winning over the American public right now)?

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