Saturday, February 16, 2013

Some Discussion Questions for Feb. 18

I noticed a few themes across this week's readings that would be worthy of discussion, but these three jumped out to me as the most developed, and also the ones most fraught with imbedded assumptions:

1) Gatekeepers. I thought it was interesting that all of the authors were concerned with the idea of gatekeepers, but they all used the term somewhat differently and with somewhat different views on the topic. Reader looks at the online newspaper as the gatekeeper to the audience's response to articles, while Boczkowski used the concept of gatekeeping to describe the role of traditional editors in deciding what content gets published in the first place. Meanwhile, Kovach and Rosenstiel seem to be concerned with the gatekeeping role in how news, once produced and published (in whichever medium), makes it to the reader, looking past the gatekeeping of publication editors to the role social media, email and other communication methods play in directing content to readers. Which gatekeeping functions does a democratic society need in current media environment? Should news outlets be involved in any or all of the three types of gatekeeping discussed in the readings? Are legacy media outlets, operating in the new world of online news, in the best position to act as a gatekeeper in these realms? Considering, as Kovach and Rosenstiel allude to, that the vast amount of online news (aggregators, blogs, etc.) comes from a small pool of sources (the New York Times, AP, etc.), has the gatekeeping function of news (at the level Boczkowski is looking at) really changed at all?

2) Old processes v. new technology. The authors all take on the idea of how the traditional processes of journalists have an impact on how new technology is incorporated into the news process. For many of the authors, there seems to be an assumption that an embrace of traditional practices acts as an impediment to the development of potentially new and innovative ways to present news with new technologies. For example, Boczkowski argues that old media practitioners looking to protect their ways of life "react to social and technical developments rather than more proactively contribute to these developments" (p. 171). Similarly, Kovach and Rosenstiel talk about the need for new journalistic entities to preserve the ethics of old journalism, but nonetheless call for a complete reshaping of journalistic processes, including the inclusion of the reader in the process and the end to looking at news stories as a "lecture." Reader sides with those supporting anonymous comments (taking the power out of the hands of the media outlets), and the Google engineers are seeking to isolate the function of news production from the physical process of print. Is this assumption that old media practices are a hurdle to be overcome a fair one? Put another way, should the demands of the audience (who presumably, according to Kovach and Rosenstiel, want to be included in the process) necessarily drive how journalism develops going forward? Is including readers in the journalistic process actually good for journalism and democracy, or is it a form of pandering? While popularity is presumably necessary for journalistic outlets to survive, at what point should news outlets draw the line between looking for consumers and upholding standards of journalism? That is, where is the line between, say, the New York Times and Perez Hilton?

3) Information in the new age. Kovach and Rosenstiel argue: "Technology may change the delivery and form and may create different economic incentives for people and companies that aspire to deliver news. But it will not change human nature and the imperatives of what people need to know. The more pressing issue is how journalism changes to maintain those values for a new age" (p. 3). What would the news-interested engineers at Google say about this? What about Boczkowski?

4) A (comic) aside. This is how I envision a social conversation with Boczkowski going:

Me: Did you like Argo?
Boczkowski: My reaction to the motion picture Argo was affected by three cinematic and societal factors. And those three factors each have four process-based facets worth considering. First, ...

(The guy really likes lists.)

1 comment:

  1. I tend to agree with number four. As a reader, I often felt impatient with his writing style.


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