Jun 11

Is the article a luxury, a byproduct, disintegrating or simply over?

There’s been a splurge of stuff in the American blogs about “the article” and whether it still has a place in journalism. At first I thought this was just another missable debate provoked by the peculiar urge of some commentators to prove that the web is so exceptional and revolutionary that it alters the world, the universe and everything. Then I thought that there were a few things to say.

This discussion began, as many do, with a post by that carrier-to-the-extreme Jeff Jarvis on buzzmachine.com. The opener gives the flavour: “A few episodes in news make me think of the article as not as the goal of journalism but as a value-added luxury or as a by-product of the process.”

Jeff didn’t argue that people were going to stop writing articles, just that they were going to be less central to journalism. Because so many more people now capture and distribute news, more of that news will be in little pieces. Background can be linked to, synthesis is a luxury and reporting is what counts. I hope this is a fair summary. (If it isn’t Jeff will let you know, as he did with Matthew Ingram.) There’s also been a parallel and closely related discussion about whether “news” and “analysis” are going to be divorced and separated by these changes (see here and here).

One could quibble that “the article” wasn’t ever the “goal” of journalism. One could point out (and commenters on Jeff’s post did) that value-added luxury is a contradiction in terms. But the basic issue here is the relationship between fragments and the whole. The new trend right now is for refining ways of streaming bits of news at you in more interesting and enriched ways: expert Twitter curation, liveblogs and so on. In other words, the fragments are where peoples’ attention is directed just now. That’s an exploration of the possibilities of new platforms and applications: there’ll be yet more of them next year, and the year after that. When the innovation wave has washed away – and that may be a long time yet – what will be left? Continue reading →


May 11

Things to be optimistic about

So many discussions about journalism in the past few years have featured journalists from established media crying into their beer, I often forget how refreshing it is to have a different kind of conversation. One where people are working out for themselves how to rebuild the business model for journalism.

It is hard to convey the happiness you can feel when you hear people describing how they are taking a simple, empirical route to discovering and delivering what people need to know – and then finding ways to keep doing it.

I had one of these moments at City University a few days ago when a conference gathered to look at new ways of sustaining local journalism, arguably in much more immediate economic danger than the national and international varieties. An energetic group of our students, Wannabehacks, used Storify, as well as a liveblog, to record the day.

The point wasn’t agreement – there was very little on what works and what doesn’t – and speakers varied from Will Perrin of talkaboutlocal and the King’s Cross blog to Jeff Jarvis, of City University New York’ entrepreneurial journalism programme and the buzzmachine blog. Perrin illustrated what might be called the “pure, simple need” origin of a local blog: a local community identifies a problem and gathers to try to solve it, puts pressure on various local authorities and eventually ends up with what Will called a “community information burden”.

Continue reading →


Jul 10

Weekend miscellany: Wales, bogus trends, death knocks and Google skewering the FTC

What follows belows is a collection of links worth reading which I’ve rounded up as the weekend approaches.

  • The well-worn rhetoric of the “crisis” in journalism tends to focus on national newspapers, distorting perspective a little. The most serious financial position of all is in the regional papers; television news outside London isn’t in good shape either. That’s the significance of the argument that has been pinging back and forth this week about Wales. Thankfully, I can put it all in one link to Martin Moore’s blog because he’s very kindly summarised it in a single post.
  • More Jack Shafer skewering bogus trends.
  • Journalist Chris Wheal has blogged this week and appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on the ethics and practice of interviewing the bereaved. He suddenly found himself on the other side of the fence, handling reporters on behalf of close relatives. His fierce distinction between the behaviour of the local and national media echoes the Cumbrian MPs who made the same distinction after the recent Lake District shootings. Some reflection and more links on this conversation from Dominic Ponsford.
  • There’s been an American debate running about possible government subsidy for printed news media mostly around a discussion document favouring this produced by the Federal Trade Commission. Google has now replied, reading – to judge by the Buzzmachine post – the FTC a lesson in both economics and history.

Nov 09

Post-page, post-bundle

Some meditation from Jarvis on “hyperpersonal news streams”: http://www.buzzmachine.com/2009/11/30/media-after-the-site/

Look past the neologisms: some of this may only get coherent in the penultimate paragraph, but there’s important stuff being floated here even if no one’s quite worked out the shape. I think Jeff is wrong about editing now being “prioritising”. That’s part of it. But an even more important function is making it something you can rely on.