Tuesday, November 17, 2009

How to Maintain Good Journalistic Values While Keeping the Convo Going

The role of the press is changing from one that tells their audience the news to one that engages their audience in conversation.

Crowdsourcing was initially seen as a great new way to really connect with our audience, and even find out about news that reporters missed. However, because some news organizations became too dependent on the audience in recent years and many argue this dependence has caused the quality of content to suffer, I feel it now has a negative stigma attached to it that journalists can, and should, change in order to broaden their audience and coverage.

In “The Wisdom of the Crowd Resides in How the Crowd Is Used,” by Jeff Howe, he argues crowdsourcing, also known as citizen journalism, can still be a positive thing for journalism, it just depends how journalists utilize it.

Instead of relying on the crowd to determine and help create content, he says the audience should be thought of as a single spice in a bigger recipe. In this sense, journalists can continue delivering valuable information to the public, but crowdsourcing and other forms of media participation will actual benefit both parties because the audience will be more engaged when they can offer their own voice.

In “Journalism and Citizenship: Making the Connection” by David T.Z. Mindich, he says, “Not only do citizens benefit from good journalism, but also journalism gets a boost from having engaged, news-hungry citizens.”

Mindich gives some sad statistics on how disengaged our generation is with the media, citing information from his equally optimistic book “Tuned Out: Why Americans Under 40 Don’t Follow the News.” He says the majority of students in his research could not even name a Supreme Court Justice. He argues this is not because our generation is less intelligent than past generations, but severely disengaged.

“I don’t find that today’s young people are ‘stupid’ or ‘dumb.’ Quite the contrary: I find them to be just as idealistic, thoughtful and intelligent as their parents and grandparents were (and are). And while they’re not dumb, most Americans, particularly those under 40, do have what Michael X. Delli Carpini and Scott Keeter once called a “thin” citizenship; this means they only follow the outlines of democracy and, in many cases, don’t bother to engage at all” –Mindich

So how can we engage our generation in news?

In Professor Gade’s class today we had a very heated debate on what draws people to check their computers and phones for Facebook updates so frequently, since every single student in the class has an account (with the exception of one who cancelled his because he said he was too addicted). Some said it was a constant need to see what is going on in their friends and families’ lives and others said they loved to comment, post pictures, and spread their thoughts. I think this was a great example of how our generation wants to be engaged in the conversation and how we use the new media technology differently, offering new opportunities in how the journalists can connect with their audiences.

If news organizations would format their news in an interesting, personal, engaging fashion like Facebook, I think there is hope for our generation to be much more aware of current events.

 “The future of content is conversation.”- Michael Maness, the Gannett executive who helped craft the company’s recent newsroom overhaul said.

In “The Elements of Journalism” by Kovach & Tom Rosenstiel they argue this new conversation can also improve journalism by placing new responsibilities on the public, which they refer to as the tenth amendment, to keep a watchdog role on the journalists by making sure the news is “contributing to their ability to take an informed part in shaping their society (248).”

The value of journalism does not have to suffer by opening up the conversation, but instead it can improve by allowing the media to reach new audiences and allowing the audience to challenge the media. 


  1. Jackie,

    I agree. Conversation is all that the news organization ever wanted to begin with. The better we become at communicating, the more we understand each other. Much like baby boomers don't understand much about Lady Gaga (get it... baby? gaga?), they don't know how to communicate news to a pop culture age. This is the essence behind older journalists being laid-off. Formatting is key. It's like packaging on any other product. Lots of good thoughts in this essay.

  2. I like the connection this blog makes between the reading and class discussion. Gade was right when he said the social media discussion was the most engaged our class has been this semester. Most of us had pretty strong opinions and good insight into why people our age do what we do.

    I have read a good portion of Tuned Out, which is referenced in this blog. I don't think our generation is necessarily tuned out. I think we are somewhat alienated from traditional media. We did not grow up consuming information in the traditional way. We did not have to go to libraries and look through books and periodicals when we researched papers. We didn't even have to write hand written letters to middle school pen pals. We grew up getting information and communicating in a much faster, specialized way. It is going to take a different type of engagement with media for us to "tune in."

    I think Jackie is spot on when she said, "If news organizations would format their news in an interesting, personal, engaging fashion like Facebook, I think there is hope for our generation to be much more aware of current events."