Sunday, February 17, 2013

Some more discussion questions...

There were some questions that Mitchell and Melissa already asked that I want to second and, if I may, add to. 

Mitchell asked, “Should the demands of the audience 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?”

I found myself wondering similar things during the reading, though I may have a slightly different starting point.  What I want to know (which, I think, echoes Mitchell’s question) is What is a reader?  Specifically, do we assume that a reader is a “citizen” or a “consumer”?  Or are those the same thing?  Because it seems like an important difference.  I noticed a slippage between the two terms most in Kovach and Rosenstiel’s chapter (vid. 179).  But I also think this applies to Fallows’ piece which (as Benjamin points out) views Google as a benevolent disinterested entity and not a capitalist corporation.  I think there is a difference.  The citizen is the idealized reader, interested in what’s good for the public, while the consumer is the realistic reader, interested in what’s good for him or her.  How we define the reader affects how we think journalism must function.  In general, I was wondering why no one was addressing the fact that getting news from the internet feels less expensive.  I realize I pay for internet access, but I look for news online because it feels free.

Melissa asked, “What effect is [aggregated news tailoring] going to have on the public? Do most of the public even know this is happening? I tend to think it makes for a less educated and more polarized public. Do you agree? What are other possible benefits and pitfalls of aggregated news tailoring?"

This is something I was most aware of in Fallows’ article.  Fallows thinks it’s a great thing that the internet can collect data about you and uses that data to give you ads and news stories you want.  I’m tempted to call that “surveillance.”  I’m always freaked out when the grocery store prints me a toothpaste coupon the week my tube runs out.  My question is whether Fallows ultimately thinks the newspaper industry will be saved when people stop reading news and news starts reading people.  This is, obviously, connected to my previous question.  But I often wonder if I’m the only person who feels like half his friends on facebook link to republican articles and the other half link to democrat articles, and never the twain shall meet.  Are people actually interested in the kind of reporting that journalists think they have to offer?  A different way of asking this question, I think, is Is technology really what’s at the center of the debate? 

Finally, I’m interested in opening up the question from Reader’s article on anonymity.  Going into the article, I thought anonymous comments were basically what is wrong with the world.  Coming out, I was impressed by the way that they seem like one of the few spaces where people with conflicting views are meeting.  Is anonymity something that could benefit the kinds of civic engagement journalism aspires to?  Is this a place where readers' responses can accurately be measured?

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