Scouring the Media

Posts Tagged ‘journalism

In the eras before Google’s founding, journalists had to go out and search for information. It took time to gather information on a person’s occupation, hobbies and interests. Since the invention of Google, journalists have had access to a tool that streamlines their research.

However, while Google has helped journalists, many critics speculate that its power of immediately gathering information overrunning journalism. The iPod industry, built on the stilts of Apple, is also seen as a threat to journalism–especially with reports that Rupert Murdoch is starting a newspaper exclusively for the iPad.

But Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, spoke recently, and said he refused to allow his empire to take over journalism.

“One of my beliefs, very strongly, is that any democracy depends on a free, healthy press,” Jobs said in an interview earlier this year. “Anything that we can do to help the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal find new ways of expression so they can afford to get paid, so they can afford to keep their editorial operations intact, I’m all for it.”

Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, forecasted the future of journalism himself in an interview with The Atlantic reporter James Fallows.

“It’s obvious that in five or 10 years, most news will be consumed on an electronic device of some sort,” Schmidt said. “Something that is mobile and personal, with a nice color screen. Imagine an iPod or Kindle smart enough to show you stories that are incremental to a story it showed you yesterday, rather than just repetitive. And it knows who your friends are and what they’re reading and think is hot.”

Jobs believes it’s Apple’s responsibility to give journalism the room to succeed that it deserves, saying, “I don’t want to see us descend into a nation of bloggers myself. We need editorial more than ever right now.”

Google offers a News Archive Search, which, according to Google, “provides an easy way to search and explore historical archives. In addition to helping you search, News archive search can automatically create timelines which show selected results from relevant time periods.”

Ultimately, newspapers will have to adapt to the environment around them. With technology booming and Google and Apple showing no signs of stopping, newspapers will simply have to find new ways to engage their audiences.

News stories have always been sources of information for the public to intake, digest and evaluate. Now, however, many people are beginning to notice that the amount of serious news coverage is dwindling, and that more stories are chosen for by their debate factor.

In a post from the American Journalism Review, Senior Contributing Writer Paul Farhi wrote about Orly Taitz, a lawyer and dentist from California, who is part of the “birther” movement. Birthers believe President Obama was not born in America, and is therefore ineligible to hold the oval office. Farhi wanted to know how such unimportant news became such a media frenzy to begin with.

“Why does a crank like Taitz rate so much attention in the first place?” Farhi wrote.

News outlets are becoming more comfortable with fewer hard news stories and more soft news stories–but the question is why.

“Is a story about the private life of a politician ‘politics’ or ‘entertainment’?” an article from the Media Awareness Network asks. “Is an article about the importance of investing early for retirement a ‘business’ story or a ‘lifestyle’ story? Judging solely on subject matter, it can be difficult to tell.”

Subject matter has always been important for journalists, but with the rise of the World Wide Web, many unfounded underground news stories are starting to gain popularity. Once people notice that the stories are popular, those people may be unable to discover that the source that published the story is misinformed or biased.

“Stories that might have been dismissed as marginal or kooky in an earlier age now command serious scrutiny from mainstream news organizations,” Farhi wrote. “Before there was an Internet, before the explosion of sources of news and commentary, mainstream news organizations could maintain something like a gatekeeper role, downplaying or ignoring stories they deemed unfit for public consumption.”

Farhi cited theories ranging from the birther movement to the ignorance towards Muslims as being some of the topics that often allow for uneducated commentary to get out of hand. Politico writer Ben Smith offered insight as to why.

“[B] elief in obscure, discredited theories is a constant in a country with a history of partisan division — a country in which, a recent survey showed, 34 percent of the public believes in UFOs and 24 percent believes in witches,” wrote Smith.

Even though internet has given rise to many claims, theories, and news stories, it’s still the responsible journalist’s role to sort through the mountain of dirt in order to find a story with real value. Mark Jurkowitz, associate director of Pew’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, commented on Farhi’s article.

“We’re in the business to tell people what’s real and what’s not. I know it sounds a little arrogant, but our job, whenever possible, is to tell them the truth,” Jurkowitz wrote.

As Farhi wrote in his article, journalists used to be able to decide the majority of news the public heard. Journalists had time to sift through rumors and weed out the falsehoods in order to make truthful and accurate stories. In this era, journalists still must sift through the bad to find the good–but they also must convince their readers that journalists are trustworthy and have the correct answers. In the end, journalists must continue to present their stories honestly and without bias, while remaining honorable. Sensationalist stories and theories have a place, and it’s not in journalism.

Journalists have started to use Facebook as a valuable resource, and they’re right in doing so. Because millions of people using the social networking site, millions of personal statuses and great amounts of information are available for the public’s digestion. For journalists, the idea of someone in the news having a Facebook is exciting. Facebook measured 500 active users in July of 2010, so chances are, if there’s a suspect in any journalist’s story, they have a Facebook. This public diary of statuses and moods is often put on display by journalists to give audiences an idea of who the suspect was and what he or she was interested in.

Not only is Facebook invaluable for leads, but it’s also a great place for networking. Groups like Help a Reporter, or HARO, have made the process of finding sources easier said Mashable’s Leah Betancourt, who described the Facebook group in her article “The Journalist’s Guide to Facebook.” According to the group’s Facebook page, its is “[to] heal the rift between journalists and publicists, to allow journalists to find the sources they need, while allowing sources to reach journalists in a SPAM-free, socially connected way.”

Help a Reporter, or HARO, started on Facebook in 2008.

Jane E. Kirtley, Professor of Media Ethics and Law and director of the Silha Center at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota offered some advice through an email interview with Betancourt.

“Verify, verify, verify. Facebook is a great source for story ideas, but no news story should be solely-sourced through social media,” Kirtley wrote to Betancourt. “Seek corroboration. And if at all possible, interview the person either by phone or face-to-face. It is so easy to lie on the Internet, and to misrepresent oneself. No journalist wants to spread falsehoods or be taken in by a hoax.”

Elizabeth Losh, a director of academic programs at the University of California, San Diego, wrote in her blog about the trouble with using Facebook as a source of information for articles, “in which newspapers cobble together accounts, particularly involving crime stories, from data contained on the parties’ profiles on social networking sites,” she wrote.

“My own Los Angeles Times, to which I have a strong sentimental attachment as a local, has become increasingly reliant on this practice, perhaps as a response to cost-cutting measures or perhaps as a salacious tactic to seem to be sharing hidden knowledge with nonmembers from exclusive communities involved with new digital practices. Many of these articles are the journalistic equivalent of the papers I see from unmotivated students that are mostly made up of Wikipedia entries. ”

Facebook is still gaining popularity, and while it may be an ethical issue for journalists to go combing through the social site for leads, it’s each journalist’s choice to make. Facebook is a powerful tool that offers some story leads as well as other opportunities to personally network with other professionals in the industry. But with the potential of fake accounts, falsehoods or hoaxes, journalists take a risk in using Facebook as a reliable source.

The newspaper industry has been the target of a lot of pressure.

More and more people are openly commenting on how newspapers are going out of date, and how blogs, web columns and web sites are quickly growing to be the most rapid ways to share information. While it is easier to make information accessible by posting it online where anyone can see it at any time of the day, newspapers are still important to our country.

The most important thing for the staff of every newspaper to do is to pinpoint the reason why they feel that they are in such a bad position. Is it because they’re not advertising their paper well enough, or because they are not covering the stories people want covered? Newspapers are reliable and accepted sources of information; the internet is full of falsehoods and news channels often carry a significant political bias. Since there are only a handful of national news stations, it is not easy to find a story without some form of spin. Unlike television’s large media outlets, newspapers are known for generally unbiased reporting. Many people prefer to read newspapers because reporters cover all sides of the story. Unlike a standard two-minute television report, it’s a journalist’s duty to research a story thoroughly and present it as it stands without any commercial interruptions or time limits.

The idea that newspapers have been slowly drowning in the last decade may be a legitimate concern. The rise of mobile journalism has not gone without a toll on the newspaper industry. Clayton Christensen of Forbes.com wrote that newspapers are still worthy of attention.

“Newspaper companies do, however, have real assets to bring to the table,” said Christensen. “Despite declining circulation, the daily paper still produces cash flow that many other industries eye with envy. The core content produced by newspapers is the basis for many of the industry’s disruptors. Without newspaper content, there isn’t much news for television to report, bloggers would have less to blog about, and Yahoo! News and Google News would be blank pages. Furthermore, newspapers have strong brands and highly skilled employees.”

What matters now is how newspapers react. Will newspaper staffs accept the challenge or will they struggle and fail? Unfortunately many newspapers may fear any change, even if that change would ultimately keep papers afloat. As Michael Kinsley of Time Magazine put it,
“Some [newspaper staffs] are going to find the answers. And some are going to fritter away the years quarreling about staff cuts.”