No Future! A pessimistic and money-grubbing view of journalism

October 13, 2009

The Philistine phase of the digital age is almost over. The aggregators and the plagiarists will soon have to pay a price for the co-opting of our content. But if we do not take advantage of the current movement toward paid-for content, it will be the content creators, the people in this hall, who will pay the ultimate price and the content kleptomaniacs will triumph.

Rupert Murdoch, Beijing, October 2009

The writing is on the wall…but actually the content creators were not in Beijing with Rupert Murdoch; they’re scattered across the globe and Murdoch wants their content, he just doesn’t want to pay for it.

Can you imagine a future without journalism: a time in which journalists are replaced by “content directors” and amateurs?

As journalist and commentator Peter Kirwan put it in Wired magazine:

If traditional journalism is too expensive, and if user-generated content really is “good enough”, the way forward seems obvious.

For some news industry managers, this is a happy prospect: they can legitimately get rid of the expensive journalists, take your amateur copy for free and rake in the profits.

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Journalism education ‘down under’: A tale of two paradigms

September 17, 2009

My article on similarities and differences in journalism education in Australia and New Zealand has been electronically published and is now available online.
The print version will be in Journalism Studies (11)1 published in January 2010. Here’s the published abstract and a link to the online version (I  think you have to pay for access, or go through a library)

AB – Journalism studies is currently undergoing one of the periodic renovations that is characteristic of an active and diverse community of scholars. This paper examines aspects of this renewal debate among journalism scholars by focusing on the situation in Australia and New Zealand. It argues that the debate “Down Under” mirrors global differences on the issues of “theory” and “practice” in journalism education and that an understanding of the key fault lines in this context can provide useful insights into the wider arguments. In Australia and New Zealand a key area of discussion is around attitudes towards the concept of professionalism in the practice, training and scholarship of journalism. These tensions are apparent in both the news media and in the academy. The contradictory positions of those who favour greater industry involvement in curriculum matters, including accreditation of courses, and those who are less sanguine a bout the normative influence of industry on critical scholarship are explored in relation to differing attitudes to professionalism and the political economy of news production. The paper concludes that rather than pegging the debate to an unstable definition of professionalism, journalism educators should instead focus more on journalism scholarship founded on a political economy approach.
UR – http://www.informaworld.com/10.1080/02615470903217345
TY – JOUR
JO – Journalism Studies
PB – Routledge
AU – Hirst, Martin
TI – JOURNALISM EDUCATION “DOWN UNDER” — A tale of two paradigms
SN – 1461-670X
PY – 2009 –


Global news meltdown and Kiwi exceptionalism

May 17, 2009

I’ve just come in from the New Zealand Writers and Readers’ Festival. I was on a panel this afternoon with Rhonda Sherman of the New Yorker and Pamele Stirling, editor of The Listener. The chair was Nicola Legat and the crowd was great. I reckon about 300 people; which was more than I’d expected. So, if you were there, “thanks for coming”.

And, if you were there and you want to take up my offer for “citizen journalism” training or would like to help kick-off the “Let’s buy the Herald” coffers with a donation, get in touch.

The session was billed as the “publishing revolution”:

Want to know more about how the publishing industry works? Get the inside word on the pitfalls, peaks and politics of journalism and publishing from leaders in their field. The New Yorker’s Rhonda Sherman, New Zealand Listener editor Pamela Stirling, and AUT Associate Professor of Journalism Martin Hirst sift through the silt of the last decade, and look ahead to the impact of the global economic melt-down and digital age on publishing in the next. Chair: Random House Publisher Nicola Legat. [Progamme note]

Really, given there was a panel of four journalists, it was about the future of the news industry, particularly newspapers and magazines, and therefore, also the future of journalism.

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Tom Tomorrow’s Take on the death of news

March 9, 2009

Nuff’said

Thanks Mr Tomorrow and "hat tip" Mo.

Thanks Mr Tomorrow and "hat tip" Mo.


“Sorry” is indeed the hardest word: Facebook faux pas leads to apology

March 6, 2009

A number of British news organisations have been forced to apologise and pay damages to a woman after wrongly reporting that her daughter’s 16th birthday got out of hand because people turned up to her house after the event was promoted on the girls’ Facebook page.

As Nelson would say: “Ha ha!”

The case was covered in the Guardian a few days ago:

David Price, of London law firm David Price Solicitors and Advocates, told Judge Charles Gray at the high court in London today that Amanda Hudson had been “extremely shocked and distressed” by the false picture that had been painted of her daughter Jodie’s birthday party in Marbella, Spain.

Allegations that the party had got out of hand first appeared across the national and international press in May last year, with claims that the house in Marbella had been “trashed” or “destroyed” by gatecrashers.

However, Price told the high court today that “only very minor damage was caused” and that Jodie had promoted the party on social networking website Bebo – not Facebook. [Oliver Luft, Newspapers sorry for ‘Facebook party’ story]

I’ve been concerned for some time about journalists free and easy use of Facebook as  a source, but it seems that in this case the news media concerned didn’t even do any basic fact-checking. It supports my argument that using Facebook is basically a lazy way to get a story, particularly if you’re just taking stuff from the site, or not checking when someone tells you something was “on Facebook”.

If we’re going to use social networks as a journalistic tool, I think we need to have a much more rigorous debate about it. Not just assume that the technology “can” and therefore we “should”.

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Social networking and the NYT – be careful what you sign-up for

February 3, 2009

Thanks to Poynter Online for posting the New York Times guidelines for reporters using social networking sites as a journalistic tool.

The first guideline is about politics or controversial groups and flagging your own political beliefs

If you have or are getting a Facebook page, leave blank the section that asks about your political views, in accordance with the Ethical Journalism admonition to do nothing that might cast doubt on your or The Times’s political impartiality in reporting the news. Remember that although you might get useful leads by joining a group on one of these sites, it will appear on your page, connoting that you “joined” it — potentially complicated if it is a political group, or a controversial group.

This kind of defeats the purpose of being on Facebook. Surely one of the benefits is being able to “meet” with like-minded people and to share your views. Also, if you don’t join a group, how are you going to find out what its members are thinking and doing?

I think this could lead to problems of another ethical variety — reporters using an alias to join controversial groups and not disclosing that they are working for a news organisation and then using material in the paper or in their journalistic work.

The constraints that the Times puts around its staff use of social networking seem a little overbearing. At the sme time they don’t seem to take into account the real journalistic abuses of Facebook and the other sites.

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When is a newspaper no longer a newspaper?

February 2, 2009

There’s been some movement over the last year of newspapers dropping their print edition and becoming online-only. Which raises an interesting philosphical question: When does a newspaper stop being a newspaper?

For example, the Christian Science Monitor will stop publishing a daily print edition in April 2009 while offering a weekly subscription print product and a continuously updated online version (edition? publication?).

Does the CSM then stop being a newspaper? More importantly is this how newspapers will “die”?

While discounting for the inevitable puffery of self-reporting, this is how the CSM described its shift in an October 2008 online editorial:

While the Monitor’s print circulation, which is primarily delivered by US mail, has trended downward for nearly 40 years, “looking forward, the Monitor’s Web readership clearly shows promise,” said Judy Wolff, chairman of the Board of Trustees of The Christian Science Publishing Society. “We plan to take advantage of the Internet in order to deliver the Monitor’s journalism more quickly, to improve the Monitor’s timeliness and relevance, and to increase revenue and reduce costs. We can do this by changing the way the Monitor reaches its readers.” [Monitor shifts from print to web-based strategy]

Three things about this:

“improving timeliness and relevance”; “increase revenue” and “reduce costs”.

The first is not really questionable. Of course continuous editorial updates are timely and relevant. But how is the Monitor going to increase revenue? Obviously by reducing costs – newsprint, delivery, etc – but this does not equate to an increase in online advertising necessarily.

It seems that the jury’s still out on that whole issue. According to an analysis piece in the LA Times, the CSM strategy is risky because online advertising revenue is not guaranteed and the paper takes an immediate hit in subscription income.

But the change will present considerable risks. Unlike most daily newspapers, the five-day-a-week Monitor receives the bulk of its revenue from subscriptions, not advertising.

The Monitor plans a new weekly magazine to maintain its print presence, but that is expected to bring in only a fraction of the $9.7-million circulation revenue it receives annually. To compensate, the publication will have to increase online advertising dramatically. [Monitor to discontinue daily print edition]

The whole shift also raises another question. If it’s no longer a newspaper, what does the newsroom look like? Read the rest of this entry »


Newsy.com launch – A Kiwi in “Mizzourah”

January 22, 2009

While I was in Columbia, Missouri last September I met Charlotte Bellis, a young woman from Christchurch who’s doing a Masters degree in the Missouri School of Journalism.

Mizzou has an impressive set-up including state-of-the-art media labs.  Of course it helps to have deep pockets and wealthy benefactors. The Reynolds Journalism Institute was launched while I was there and I want one.

I also visited a start-up new media organisation with a difference, Newsy.com.

Charlotte has been hired as the “face” of Newsy which promotes itself as “The News With More Views”. The central idea is to provide short video packages on the major news stories of the day, with some analysis built in.

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A last little bit of England

January 12, 2009

I’ve been back from the UK for about three weeks and I’ve just finished marking the project work my City University students completed last (UK) semester.

I’m actually quite proud of them. We had about 11 weeks to get our heads around a totally new (to them) topic and to learn the rudimentaries of journalistic writing in a web environment.

The paper they did is called “WEEM” – Writing and Editing for Electronic Media. So not only did they have to read up on convergence and new media journalism, they had to learn to write in an online environment and then to rustle up some half-decent HTML so that their projects could sit on the web.

Like all student work, this is a bit eneven. Some bits are better than others. But, overall I think they’ve done a very good job.

Some interesting topics were covered and I think it’s worth sharing.

Convergence Culture.UK.ORG

There’s no way for you to leave comments on the project pages unfortunately; it’s all rather static. However, feel free to comment here on the work as a whole, or on individual projects. I have let the class know that this link is here and that they should come back now and again to see who’s commented.

I would appreciate if you keep the commentary positive. All dribblejaws comments will be swiftly deleted, so don’t bother.


Gopalan Nair free on bail – still facing charges

June 6, 2008

I just saw an AFP news feed, 8 hours ago [around 7 on Thursday evening Sydney time], saying the Singapore blogger Gopalan Nair has been released. As of now I can’t find any coverage in the NZ Herald or the Dominion Post.

Nair posted $5000 bail and walked out of prison after four days, but without his US passport. Nair arrived in Singapore on 25 May and challenged authorities to come and get him from his hotel.

He had posted his room and phone numbers on Singapore Dissident [link inside]. Gopalan’s charged with insulting a judge in a defamation case involving two of his political allies. His blog, regularly criticises the government.

The Committee to Protect Journalists is protesting Nair’s arrest. He was in Singapore to cover the defamation trial involving Democratic Party activists Dr. Chee Soon Juan and Chee Siok Chin.

That trial is also a story worth following as Nair is trapped in Singapore and now facing serious defamation charges himself.

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