Sunday, February 17, 2013

"Next Journalism"

The final chapter of “Blur: How to Know What’s True in the Age of Information Overload” sums up a work dedicated to calming the storm surrounding the future of journalism. Authors and journalists Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel emphasize the change of the newsroom as the gatekeeper and the regulator of the flow of information, to the facilitator of the varied voices which create and mold the news. They lay out eight new roles for newspapers; authenticator, sense maker, investigator, witness bearer, empowered, smart aggregator, forum organizer, and role model. The authors discuss the ability for better journalism and in particular, storytelling, though the advances in technology. The use of multimedia platforms and social networking allow for varied personal experiences while obtaining the news and instant feedback about stories. In the future, for journalism to survive and prosper, the following actions are suggested: the level of proof in regards to the validity of stories must be higher, journalism must be more transparent, the press must develop or access more expertise, newsroom must be reorganized and new skill sets added, and the editor will become more important. Finally, Kovach and Rosentiel set a new paradigm of journalism, the idea that the news will morph into a growing and changing enterprise. Newspapers will become more like wikis or “knowledge pages”, allowing everyone to add and change the story.

Kovach and Rosenstiel’s main argument consists of the idea that journalism will not die out, but that we needs to re-think its purpose in the modern, technology society. Instead of being the “gatekeepers” to the news, they will have a combination of three different functions; gatekeeping, dissemination and mediation. A new definition of news if offered on page 190, stating, “a news gathering organization is a place that accumulates and synthesizes knowledge about a community, either a geopolitical community or a community of subjects and interests, and then makes that knowledge available and interactive in a variety of ways”. Note in the definition that the authors start by stating news gathering and not new creating. This terminology is important to the framing of this reading. Is the role of newspapers to create news, collect news, or synthesize news?

Many of the arguments presented in this chapter assume that those who take in news are also active participants in regards to creation. It is important to distinguish the difference between active and passive participation in the creation of news especially as the digital realm creates different types of participation. Is reposting an article on your Facebook page the same type of active participation as commenting directly on the article? Also, there are many instances, especially within the digital realm, in which the news is catered to the user’s particular interests via mathematical algorithms. What effects could the algorithms have in regards to participation in the news? Finally, what issues will journalists face as more and more users become news “grazers”?

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