Monday, October 25, 2010

journalism

I have to admit that I get almost all of my news from Internet sources except the small amount of cable politics/news programs that I occasionally watch. Even my parents who subscribe to three or four physical newspapers get a lot of their news from the Web as well. With the loss of local, and major, newspapers, people will lose a source of current events and information; however, I think newspapers are losing out to newer and faster forms of information. People are becoming increasingly used to receiving news reports as the news is happening, and physical newspapers cannot compete with that level of reporting. By the time newspaper articles are written, printed, and delivered to consumers, the events have already been available on the Internet for hours. physical newspapers can offer in-depth articles that depend on research as opposed to news events, but then newspapers would begin to compete more with magazines and journals. In some situations, the newspapers may be able to transition to an online presence, but people, myself included, are not going to be willing to pay subscription prices to access information that they have become accustomed to accessing for free. I wonder how things would have turned out if newspapers had never offered free news online, i.e. always required subscriptions to access online information like the Wall Street Journal used to require.

I am often shocked at the way TV networks advertise the evening news as if it were some drama or fictional show; I also often find the stories ridiculous and obviously aired to try and draw in viewers. Personally, I think news shows should offer accurate news about what is happening locally, nationally, and globally rather than leaving out news in order to air stories that are intended to draw in viewers but provide little information. I think the fact that people expect to be entertained at all times and the fact that the Internet may be decreasing attention spans affects how news is presented. Personally, I tend to read headlines and skim through articles, jumping from website to website; I worry that future generations will become so accustomed to getting information fast and in short bursts that they will not have the patience to read beyond headlines, and therefore miss a lot of information and analysis about the world around them.

I thought it was interesting in the videos that there seemed to be differences in opinions about the definition of news and journalism. I do not think news needs to come from professional journalists through traditional news outlets (like newspapers), and I think the use of blogs to provide news and current events can provide an important source of information and opinion that we are currently losing through the demise of newspapers and the need to make news shows popular. One danger I see with blogs as sources of news and information is that people will not consider the underlying biases of the author and read a variety of sources to gain a balanced view of the situation.

I am not sure how news will be presented to people in the future, but I think something needs to be done to make sure people are able to access reliable information for little or no cost. Without access to information about what is happening around us, we will be unable to make informed decisions in our personal and professional lives as well as in our role as citizens in a democracy.

7 comments:

  1. Interesting thoughts, Joanna. Your points got my wheels turning some more on the topics for this week, having worked in both journalism and PR myself. In the Nichols and McChesney (2009) article, they write, "But what happens when the last reporter stops collecting a newspaper paycheck and goes into PR or lobbying? She'll leave cable an empty vessel and take the public's right to know anything more than a rhetorical flourish with her." This quote stood out to me because it really encompasses my views toward news media today, especially as things like investigative journalism near extinction.

    Despite my vested interest in the issue at hand based on former wishes to be a journalist, I am in shared opinion with many Americans today in my disappointment with the state of the "news" as we know it. However, I think the issue itself goes deeper than how fast people get their news, or how much they have to or are willing to pay for it, or even the type of news itself (information versus infotainment). Rather, I think there's a much greater topic of concern in that people are willing to relinquish their right to seek out and process information themselves, handing the reins to the mouths of the media.

    This whole phenomenon of getting the news as it is happening never ceases to amaze me, as somehow we've evolved into a society that thirsts for the fast'n'dirty, the speculation, the rumors, the hearsay, whatever it is that is thrown at us in the moment. Perhaps there is benefit in this new form of absorbing information. However, I think back on the familiar turn of phrase: garbage in, garbage out. In other words, the habits we as a society train ourselves to follow will inevitably manifest themselves in the actions we take, both on a personal and national level. So how can we - or even more importantly, should we - take steps toward information policies that support a more informed rather than immediate news media?

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  2. Joanna, you wrote, “I worry that future generations will become so accustomed to getting information fast and in short bursts that they will not have the patience to read beyond headlines.”
    This is an excellent point, but the quick access, touch-of-the-button information presented via online sources means that people are required to do less work to get information (assuming said information is accurate). I think the majority of people forget that someone on the other end of the blog – the one who researched, wrote and posted said blog – is still doing some form of journalism. We are all becoming consumers of information. What will the consumers do the day when we click and nothing appears because no one is doing basic journalism anymore to write the blogs? Can this become a reality?

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  3. The Frontline segment I watched had one part that really stood out for me, and connects with your statement, "I worry that future generations will become so accustomed to getting information fast and in short bursts that they will not have the patience to read beyond headlines." I can't remember who it was, but he worked for the Washington Post in the 70s, and he said that they did a study back then which showed that most people only read the first couple paragraphs of an article (on the front page) while ignoring the bulk of it buried further within the paper. The lengthy details weren't as important to people as the knowledge that somebody was paying attention to, and reporting upon, the issues. So I wonder if the worry over our short attention spans ruining journalism is overblown.

    While the articles did a good job of addressing the dangers of corporate monopolies over the news, I see a danger in the concurrent fragmentation of news and information occurring in the blogosphere and on cable news. Perhaps I'm only pining for a golden age that never really existed, but it seems to me there was a time when the local paper (like the network news broadcast) provided a more uniting form of journalism. Since nearly everyone in a community read it, there was a central forum whereby citizens of different political stripes could negotiate and put forth their arguments; it was a true democratic forum. Now, since it seems like everyone chooses a news provider that caters to their own preconceived notions, there is no central news source with which we all engage. Now we just have various echo chambers screaming at the other side, and a lack of forums around which to base more productive discussions. I'm not certain this is more dangerous than corporate centralization, but it worries me greatly nonetheless.

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  5. Joanna, I'm glad you mentioned the TV evening news and its ridiculous stories. Tecumseh also mentions how "entertainment" is a contributor to the decline of print media. I know we spent a lot of time with newspapers this week, but some of us remember when the TV newscasts were well-done and well-respected journalism. It was "must-see" TV before NBC (?) coined the phrase. Today's newscasts are laughable and maddening; I can't remember the last time I watched one. Fortunately, there are still a few programs like "Frontline" that exemplify the power of broadcast journalism. I am a person who reads a hard copy newspaper almost everyday and I hope the newspaper stays around for awhile -- but, I admit that once a year when the bill comes for a few hundred dollars, I wince as I make the payment. More and more, I expect the news to be free -- no matter how I obtain it.

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  6. My favorite quote (although I'm paraphrasing here) from the first Frontline video in the linked readings was: It's frightening that people today equate getting the news with entertainment. That the news should be entertaining.

    That is scary -- in order to keep ratings and viewership (on TV or in print) that they need to have the most shiny, flashy stories instead of reporting the facts. And how even news programs today are mixing entertainment and news to get ratings instead of uncovering and reporting on issues that could changes lives and once again show journalists as heros.

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