February 25, 2010

Nothings changed...much

I've just read John Bergin's excellent piece Is the Real-Time Web Really Changing the Rules of Journalism? on the Media140 blog and was inspired to write as I, unusually, agree with the majority of the article. Though I was initially a bit confused after our rather ragged exchange at the Australian Internet Industry Association Dinner last week.
I have continually disagreed that Journalism itself has changed. While I did some training and plenty of writing in my late teens, I'm not and never have been a practitioner, perhaps I'm not the one to comment. But when has that stood in the way?
I would actually say the inputs or noise around the story, the influencing whispers always have existed. The work has always been to ignore those noises or at least take them and mark them as relevant or irrelevant to the story? No doubt the amount of noise has grown, and the great difficulty is sorting the relevant and irrelevant in so much data. Though I'm pretty sure this applies to every profession as the ability to seek and get feedback from all stakeholders, real or otherwise has become easier.
While I agree the 'publishing' methods of the story may have changed substantially, I also disagree with various positions I have heard over the recent years that the quick buck style of publishing has led to a greater level of interference from Editors or Publishers. Without any evidence to support the contrary, knowing any business, you'd find me knocked over by a feather if someone proved prior to the internet, there never was pressure from Editors and Publishers on Journalists to produce stories that sell copy! This has been a regular point of most of those who I seem to continually hear bemoaning the death of journalism and the irrelevance of 'old media'.
I agree quite strongly with Chris Brogan on the Journalism is not Publishing argument and got the impression from John's article that he did too. As I'm sure do many other people in the industry. Jason Whittaker's article on what's not up for negotiation in the heady future of Journalism is also worth reading.
To get back to some of the points in John's article, especially the bit I was confused about. I don't mind people presenting their opinions - I do it enough - but presenting opinions as 'news' or as 'facts' deserves scepticism and questioning. I expect no less, and might get defensive if I'm told where I am wrong - the blessed human condition. But I'd be pretty sure I would do my best to clarify and correct as soon as I can once I confirmed what I've been writing is bullshit.
I firmly believe much of this has been sorely missing from a number of recent media storms, and until the journalism and/or editorial improves on this opinion dressed up as facts, this is will be one of the key reasons why the critics of 'heritage media' continue to have strong, valid arguments. Most recently and notably, the rubbish in the Media about the 'facts' in the Insulation 'debacle' here in Australia. Not to mention, as John alludes to in his article, the lack of hard questioning of certain "Nobel Prize winners" on recent visits to Australia - or even the feteing by some sections of the Media of the same person.
Finally, John touches on the "fair and balanced" situation, which has become ubiquitous across mainstream media in recent years. I encourage the decision makers at media publishing organisations - especially his own - read this article and others. For example, I just read an excellent piece from a presentation to a conference in South Africa a couple of years back which makes some salient points on the nature of 'Balanced' coverage of stories;
Sometimes one side of an argument has a better case than the other side, particularly in the case of victims versus perpetrators so is it really fair to suggest that the two sides are equal?
I'm hopeful those same media owners, publishers and editors return to our expectations about the delivery of news and opinion - and the value and place of both - very soon. The Public can tell the difference between news and opinion, its time to stop blurring the lines between them.

1 comment:

  1. We the readers do not need to be protected, we need to be stimulated, educated, challenged. My main gripe about most journalism these days is that it has had the grit removed. Reading it is like drinking reconstituted juice - it will do if there is nothing else.