Is there really a ‘crisis’ in journalism?

It cannot be denied that the journalistic environment has, and still is, rapidly changing. Those that chronicle the development of new media forms like to focus on the decline, the melodrama, the ‘collapse’, the so-called ‘crisis’ that has become a catch cry for the death of the news industry altogether. However while jobs may be going in newsrooms, there is an undeniable growth in digital news operations.

This is not a black and white case of out-with-the-old-and-in-with-the-new. Yes, journalists have found themselves in the midst of a glacial shift towards online content and digital forms. Does this diminish journalism as a profession? Or merely encourage professionals to embrace a convergent media culture? Journalists, by nature, should want to be ahead of the crowd, blazing the way and guiding the future of journalism, not struggling to catch up. Media magnate Rupert Murdoch himself explains ‘the world is changing very fast. Big will not beat small anymore. It will be the fast beating the slow’.

In our new digital age, there needs to be an appropriate balance between the traditional and the fresh in order to create well-informed citizens no matter their chosen medium. Indeed John Pavlik notes ‘the key to the viability of news media in the digital age, as demonstrated by both long- and short-term patterns, is innovation’ (Pavlik, 2013).

Take for example Farida Vis 2012 study ‘Twitter as a reporting tool for breaking news: journalists tweeting the 2011 UK Riots’ focusing on the use of twitter by journalists Paul Lewis (The Guardian) and Ravi Somaiya (The New York Times). Both actively tweeted throughout the four-day riot period embracing Twitter as a reporting tool and the two became the most frequently mentioned national and international journalists on Twitter during the 2011 UK summer riots.

One of the most accessible, and affordable, means of building an online presence is through creating a Twitter account. As of 31st of March 2014, there are approximately 972 million existing Twitter accounts. Not only does Twitter allow journalists a platform on which to promote their articles and break news, but it also gives them the opportunity to collaborate with citizen journalists, their sources, and audiences in a way they never have before. While this may in fact destroy the traditional media business model, it can also enhance the quality, reach and availability of news content for a global audience. Where is the catastrophe?

So perhaps we should quit with the over zealous use of  ‘crisis’ and start embracing the change. Watergate was not the mythical highpoint of journalism – there is still hope.  Journalism is not a dying form, it is an evolving one. In order to stay relevant, the profession must stop trying to revive the traditional and instead embrace the digital.

References

Farida Vis (2013) TWITTER AS A REPORTING TOOL FOR BREAKING NEWS, Digital Journalism, 1:1, 27-47

John V. Pavlik, 2013, “Innovation And The Future Of Journalism,” Digital Journalism, 1:2, 181-193,

 

Constructing truths in the public sphere

With the growth of new media forms our mediascape has gradually shifted. We are no longer forced to rely on traditional journalistic mediums to tell us what is happening in the world around us. Indeed Dan Berkowitz in his article Journalism in the Broader Cultural Mediascape notes that ‘journalism no longer dominates the mediascape as the source for helping a society learn about itself. Instead, journalism has become part of a holistic mix of media elements that intentionally or unintentionally provide people with varied glimpses of the world around them’. (Berkowitz, 2009)

What is left is the ability for citizens to construct our own truths in the public sphere. How people choose to represent society in the media sphere, one that is not regulated or mediated in the traditional sense, can challenge who we think we are a nation, and the values that we uphold. Take for example the 2013 social media uproar surrounding a video posted on the internet of Jamie Jackson, an 18 year old partygoer, as he was assaulted by a NSW police officer at the Sydney Mardi Gras. Footage of the events revealed police handcuffing Jackson, gripping his neck in a lock-hold, slamming his head against the ground and stepping on his back, sparking a flood of outrage against NSW Police.In the footage, Mr Jackson is seen crying and repeating that he “didn’t do anything wrong”. Another woman is overheard: “They just slammed his head. There’s blood all over the ground.” The video, which went global after it was uploaded, has since been viewed almost 2 million times.

Why is it that this video shocked Australians so much? Presented to us without any context, the small clip affronts us as it subverts everything we are taught to know and respect of our police force, thus challenging social norms in the public sphere.

The dangers of this kind of citizen journalism is this lack of context and gatekeepers that, albeit sometimes bias, filter illegitimate stories in our traditional media forms. In a court hearing last September police alleged Jackson kicked a female partygoer before punching and kicking several officers, a arguably vital element of this story that was unavailable to viewers of the clip in the first instance.

The rational discussion in particular public spaces described as ‘characterising the public sphere’ is now being supplemented by a range of artistic, emotive and other ways of moving these ideas around in the media and in discussions which has important consequential effects on the way we effect change in our society.

References

Berkowitz, D. 2009, “Journalism in the broader cultural mediascape”, Journalism, vol. 10, no. 3, pp. 290-292.

YouTube. 2014. SYDNEY MARDI GRAS 2013 | POLICE BRUTALITY. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wxtFtVfAeeE&feature=player_embedded [Accessed: 26 Mar 2014].

The Art of Selfies

Image

Selfies have become the universal term for digital self-portraits supported by the explosion of smartphone cameras, photo-editing and social media platforms. Social media is overflowing with millions of them. Everyone from the pope to the Obama girls has been spotted taking a sneaky selfie. Who can forget Ellen Degeneres’ 2014 Oscars selfie (pictured above) that in fact became the most retweeted photo of all time with over 3.2 million shares.

Western civilization has a rich history of self-portraiture. Where once they were reserved for the elite, smart phones and Instagram have democratized self-portraiture, making them ‘less precious and more fun’. Indeed In Jerry Saltz’s article ‘Art at Arm’s Length: A History of the Selfie’ Saltz notes that selfies have in fact ‘become their own visual genre- a type of self portraiture formally distinct from all others in history. Selfies have their own structural autonomy’, to which he claims is ‘a very big deal for art’.

While the notion that your drunk best friends, duck face pout, uploaded to Instagram in a vodka haze is a form of art is somewhat unsettling, and mildly insulting to the world of creative arts as a whole, it cannot be denied that selfies are in fact a form of art. Albeit a product of our obsessive, narcissistic, participatory culture, Saltz describes selfies as  a powerful, instantaneous ironic interaction that has intensity, intimacy, and strangeness’.

Whether you view selfies as a side effect of digital culture or a sad form of exhibitionism, perhaps it’s better off seeing selfies for what they are at their best — a kind of visual diary, a way to mark our short existence and hold it up to others as proof that we were here.