The Reporting Crisis: Validation


“As language barriers break down and cell towers rise, there will be no end to the number of new voices, potential sources, citizen journalists and amateur photographers looking to contribute. This is good… The effect of having so many new actors involved, connected through a range of online platforms into the great, diffuse media system, is that major media outlets will report less and validate more… The role of the mainstream media will become primarily one of an aggregator, custodian and verifier, a credibility filter…” — Eric Schmidt & Jared Cohen in The New Digital Age (John Murray)


Multimedia: The State of the Industry

The short answer: all change.

The short term: no money.

Key insight: Good journalism has always been subsidized.

That’s my quick-and-dirty summary of a report into the state of the multimedia and visual storytelling industry recently released. But don’t let that put you off. What’s also clear is that there is some hope for the visual storyteller. The way ahead might be murky, but some will find a route through it.

In his hour-long presentation to a World Press Photo gathering in April, report author Dr David Cambell summarized the key findings. Listening to the podcast of that presentation, I found Campbell’s clear, measured presentation of the information primarily pragmatic, yet imbued with elements of hope — both for the future of journalism and for the ability of news gatherers and individual practitioners to earn a living from their craft.

Visual Storytelling in the Age of Post Industrial Journalism: download the full research report.


The Automaton has no emotion, thus no responsibility?


The Automaton has no emotion, thus no responsibility?

I was sickened this morning, while reading an NBC story via Pulse about the “traumatic amputations” and legs being blown off at the Boston Marathon, to see an awful ad placement that illustrates both the pros and cons of content-specific advertising.

Set right into those paragraphs describing the extent of the horrific lower leg injuries, we have an ad for colourful boots. Even the wording – and perhaps it’s my sense of humour here that is sick – left me aghast in the context of bombs going off (“POPS of color”) and parts of limbs being lost (“up to 90% off”).

Surely, surely, if we have tech geeks with the brilliance to come up with ad specific advertising (which I am generally very pro), there can be some kind of mechanism to ensure more appropriate placement of ads within content of a sensitive nature?

Perhaps it starts with the advertiser? Should this one be putting pressure on NBC, considering how poorly this reflects on them? (Because, illogically and unfairly, it does initially seem to cast them in the poor light, rather than NBC, or would you not agree?)

Or does it start with us? Should I be complaining to NBC now instead of whinging publicly?

Or perhaps – and I do think there is merit in this argument, much as I don’t like it –  I don’t have a right to feel offended by a mismatch that helped pay for the content that I obviously found of sufficiently good quality to keep me reading to and beyond the third para? Content that I received for gratis.

C’mon code dudes: surely there’s an easy solution that short circuits even the need for an ethical debate on this?

The state of journalism in the soundbite age

“… they highlight slam dunks and fancy passes,” says White House comms guy Dan Pfeiffer in March 15 Time mag. “The current media culture doesn’t reward getting things done in government. It rewards saying the most outlandish things.”
Ouch! What an indictment, but sadly so true, I reckon.
Time mag’s writer describes the news cycle as having mutated into “a more ferocious beast” which, in a case of mixed metaphors, he calls “the news cyclone, a massive force without beginning or end that churns constantly and seems impervious to management.”
That might be so; it might seem scary to old-timer journos and the entrenched establishment, but this scary beast is also a good ride: I read that Time mag on the loo this morning and am now blogging the good old-fashioned print journalism from my iPhone while I make coffee.
Long live journalism! Long live solid commentary that helps us make sense of wild times! I don’t want us to tame the beast. I merely want to be able to hop on for a ride at my whim.

Blogging vs Journalism

This just in: ‘Blogging is dead. Long live journalism!’ A powerful piece in today’s Fast Company newsletter gives some interesting numbers on remuneration: it looks like bloggers are making some good salaries in the US, while journalists still continue to be retrenched. Which leads of course to the question: what constitutes ‘blogging’ as opposed to ‘journalism’?

“So here’s the radical suggestion: Let’s redefine what blogging means. If you’re writing self-absorbed or inexpert opinions about the minutiae of daily life, without hyperlinks, fact checks or any pretence at engaging with the news, you’re a blogger. You probably fall into the lower categories of pay in the Technorati survey if you in fact make any money at all. But if you’re a writer for an online publication, one that takes real-time stories, updates them as events unfold, reference your quoted facts, break stories and produce original writing then shall we just say you’re a journalist? An online one, but a journalist all the same.

“And when you maneuver your thinking in this direction, you come to a strange new conclusion: Journalists who write for online versions of their (perhaps historic, perhaps not) newspapers are the same as journalists who write for totally different online news portals. Even the Pulitzer committee has said online entities can consider themselves eligible for its prestigious prize, with some limitations.”

The part that surprises me is that journalists are surprisingly slow to see this potential. Or certainly many of those here in South Africa are, judging by a Southern African Freelancers Association meeting I attended recently, where the general whinge seemed to be: “it’s not fair. I don’t have time for all this social media stuff. I need to be paid for every word I write.”