Quality journalism in the digital age

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  • 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
  • Two myths to forget (1) Journalism doesnt need thinking about; it just needs doing (2) The internet is destroying journalism
  • Myth No 1 The way people learn about the world they cant 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • Smartphones
  • Tablets!
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • Work on the quality of diagnosis Whats 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)?
  • Journalists dont like experiments Failure isnt seen as useful In experiment, failure is often educational and illuminating Todays 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 isnt there any more
  • Principles before procedures Four core tasks: Verification (changed) Sense-making (changed) Eye-witness (not much changed) Investigation (changed a bit)
  • Before you worry about revenue Anthropologists + explorers Gather intelligence from everywhere Dont 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
  • Heres 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
  • Revenue streams: experiment Ads Subs Premium price stuff Events Crowdfunding Micropayments Philanthropy
  • More here
  • And here www.georgebrock.net www.city.ac.uk/journalism @georgeprof