Read & Respond – Week 5

Since next week’s focus is on new ways for journalism to function, I’m setting you up with some readings by heavy hitters in this area.

First, a classic: Clay Shirky’s Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable. While you’re there, have a look at some of Shirky’s other ideas (he’s on the course blogroll). The man doesn’t update often, but when he does it’s usually worth reading (he’s also got a book, Here Comes Everybody).

Next, something new. Dan Gillmor, the author of our course text, just put up this essay on the future of journalism education. What do you think of this list of principles? Does anything seem strange? What would you add?

Finally, a perspective on how journalists may have brought their current troubles upon themselves. Chris Hedges suggests that, rather than the Internet, twas objectivity killed the news. His assertion is that objectivity became less of an ideal than a way to maximize profits while avoiding angering the public and the powerful. Harsh? Perhaps, but what can we use here to build our own craft?

As always, responses are due by noon next Monday, Feb. 8. That’s MONDAY. Post them to the comments of this thread, and be prepared to discuss the future of journalism in next Tuesday’s class (no pressure).


13 Responses to Read & Respond – Week 5

  1. blackedoutblog says:

    Clay Shirkey

    I think micropayments would never work because anything on the Internet can be pirated especially text. It would be next to impossible to prevent someone from copy and pasting a news story to a free channel.

    I agree with Shirkey when he says the death of newspaper is not the internet so much as it is the newspaper’s old technology.

    Like he said, printing presses are expensive in today’s economy.

    I like the part where he speaks to how fast the internet can grow. He realizes journalism isn’t dead because it will exist in a new form like blogging or “mailing lists.”

    Dan Gillmor
    For the most part this sounds like an ideal school that I would want to attend. At the surface it seems like if a school like this existed, it would be the Harvard of the journalism world.

    I like that he said journalism needs to be a blend of print and online media. No more distinction between the two.

    What I find strange about this is Gillmor’s hatred towards PR. He calls it BS reporting and said that he would practically do away with it at his school.

    Adding a class on how to set up a news paper page or the history of journalism is important and I would add that.

    Students of journalism shouldn’t forget their past but learn it before they can embrace the craft in its new Internet form.

    Chris Hedges
    I think Hedges argument might be a little harsh because I definitely think the Internet had a hand in print’s downfall.

    On the other hand I agree with him because in my own writings, I’ve struggled to create a conflict where there wasn’t one.

    As many an editor has told me: conflict breeds good journalism.

    I’ve pitted the “dog” and the “cat” people as Molly Ivins from the New York Times has said.

    Instead, journalism should be more subjective. Especially in the internet age people are asking for different view points not the objective view.

    We should develop our craft with an original voice that adds to the conversation and makes people want to continue it. Objectivity creates a wall that hinders this conversation.

  2. Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable

    The very first thing that struck me was when Shirky quoted Gordy Thompson:

    “When a 14 year old kid can blow up your business in his spare time, not because he hates you but because he loves you, then you got a problem.”

    That was a bit jarring. Dave Barry, one of the most popular columnists of all time, was losing money because a kid in jr. high loved him so much.

    What could happen if someone really hated you? And what if that someone had a little more world experience than your average 14-year-old?

    As we discussed in class, a lot of bloggers seem to have some kind of personal vendetta against the traditional media.

    Secondly, I was fascinated by Shirky’s discussion of Elizabeth Einstein and publishing. It’s interesting how much publishing has influenced the development of society.

    Before Gutenberg, everyone was ignorant of current events by force; the only way information could travel was by word of mouth. Now, people are ignorant of current events by choice; how can you know the accuracy of what you read when you’re only selecting the news you want to hear?

    We went from publishing hurting society due to the lack of its existence, now its hurting society due to its omnipresence.

    But I think we will eventually adapt to this change. As Shirky points out, over the course of history we have overcome and adapted to all sorts of communications technology.

    In ancient times, information was controlled by scribes and storytellers, but after a while the rest of us learned to read and write, and we ended up okay.

    Then only a select few (the rich, the royal, and the Church) had access to the printing press. Yet we peasants eventually started printing too, and we ended up okay.

    We can think about the origins of television and radio, and how they were used for spreading propaganda by governments during WWI and WWII. But now NPR and PBS use those same forums to educate and enlighten people worldwide.

    So yes, the blogosphere is going to change things. I think we all realize that. We’re in the infancy of a new technology, and it’s scaring us silly. That’s human nature. But it’s also human nature to learn how to use a new technology to better survive the future.

    Although it saddens my heart to say this, I agree with Shirky when he says ”Society doesn’t need newspapers. What we need is journalism.”

    It’s true. Although many of us cringe at giving up such an old friend, it comes down to this in the end:

    If the ancient scribe had been given the opportunity to spread his story across the globe with one click of a mouse, do you really think he would have cried about giving up his parchment paper and quill pen?

    The Future of Journalism Education

    This article reminds me why I love the Perley Isaac Reed SOJ so much. Our curriculum is based around the majority of Gillmor’s ideas.

    Despite still having a “track system” our classes delve into the world of merging media, teaching us how to prepare for it, rather than shying away as some do.

    Our Journalism 101 introductory course (and TVJ 215, et al.) fulfills a GEC requirement for non-journalism majors, giving them the insight to the world their news comes from.

    And in lieu of my usual protesting, I must admit that the Business, Economics, and Statistics requirements a Broadcast News major must take have actually been pretty useful, and I will probably be happy I suffered thro… ahem, “took them” in future.

    The Creed of Objectivity Killed the News

    Christiane Amanpour once said there are three rules of journalism:
    *Be objective
    *Be objective
    *Be objective

    As my idol, I tend to listen to what this woman says. But, at the same time, I can’t help but agree a little with what Hedges has to say.

    Objectivity is good, but when does it go too far?

    I can’t help but think about insults about Anderson Cooper getting “too involved” in his news coverage.

    What are we supposed to do instead? Stand around and let people die like we’re watching a lion take down a gazelle in a nature documentary? Nick Ut, one of the greatest photojournalists of the Vietnam War sure didn’t act like that.

    Since when did we become these “dispassionate and disinterested social scientists” Hedges talks about? Since when are journalists not allowed to be human?

    I whole-heartedly agree that we shouldn’t let our own opinions muddle the clarity of the information we provide, but in some cases it has gone too far.

    How else can you explain the popularity of the blogosphere or the Daily Show ?

    Media consumers are flocking to this more conversational type of journalism not because of any social revolution. They’re doing it because they’d like to hear a real human being with emotions similar to their own give them the news instead of the androids we journalists are turning ourselves into.

  3. I think it’s been clear for a while now that the internet has been the future of journalism. I agree with a lot of the points made by Dan Gilmor in his article about the future of journalism education. The school he described seems like an excellent place to learn how to become a journalist in today’s society. His point that the individual categories/majors like Broadcast News and News Editorial need to be combined into one category. To get a job in today’s world of journalism, you have to be able to do it all. You need to be able to work a camera, talk in front of a camera, be a good writer, take pictures and then be able to post all of that up on the internet. You should need to know broadcast style of writing, newspaper writing, and internet writing.

    The article titled “Objectivity Killed The News” I really don’t agree with. The media, in my opinion shouldn’t give their opinions in actual news stories. I think that type of stuff should be reserved for blogs. The whole point of the news is to inform people of the facts, not insert your own opinion.

    Anyway, the views of are that journalism is dying as a whole. Well, I don’t necessarily agree with that either. The way we once thought of journalism may be dying, but a new way is coming about. Actual journalism is still clearly around – it’s just more based online rather than in a paper.

  4. I think it’s amusing that newspapers didn’t foresee the Internet and all that it has introduced. The Internet has flourished with its multifunction to provide users with more interactive content. I also like Dan Gillmor’s article which adapts digital media into the journalism degree. It’s extremely frustrating to have a professor tell you that they’re more than likely teaching you something that you will never use rather than accommodating their curriculum to include more relevant classes.

    I think the “Objectivity Killed the News” article makes some interesting points. The whole idea of opinion and bias in reporting is becoming more common with extremely targeted channels. The example within the article about politics is a good one. When you have a channel that’s targeted towards conservatives the viewers are going to share those same views and not mind having biased or slanted opinions because it reflects their values. While I would disagree that this is how all reporting should be done, I understand and to a point am not bothered by having television stations that push their views and opinions of their audience because I can choose whether or not I want to listen to those opinions.

    I think television stations can get away with the opinionated reporting more so that newspapers. Highly targeted newspapers which probably not going to be as popular with the general audience could also get away with it, but not so much the more popular newspapers. I think the idea that people will accept lies as truth is unfortunately going to become more acceptable with the Internet. People will neglect to separate websites that report truth from ones that report gossip and incorrect information.

  5. austindrizzy says:

    Clay Shirkey- Newpaper and Thinking the Unthinkable

    I think it was hard for journalists to see the internet coming and furthermore they did not know how to deal with the internet and all of the effects of the internet so they in turn died. If they would have seen something like this before then they could have handle it, but they have not, and thus this is why they are losing the battle. Many people and things do not know how to react when they home or family is suddenly removed from their life.
    I think he is trying to say that JRL is moving into a new relm and newspaper, such a staple in society for years, is now becoming obsolete and now the journalists and new-comings will have to adapt to the change by a collection of experiments that will transform journalism.

    Dan Gillmor Mediacitve:

    There are a lot of things that I agree with in his principles. I like how he has the local aspect where he is trying to make a class about the community and how that starts with teachers from the community. I like how encourages his students to try hard and learn as much as possible because it may benefit journalism in the future. He explains his theory on journalists;’ major flaw of the inability to be able to understand what they are reading. I also like how he reflects that all journalists need to have ambiguity, which is something that I cherish as well.

    Chris Hedges-Objectivity killed the News

    I thought this quote really epitomized exactly what I think when I have to write stores sometimes. These same thoughts and emotions run through me.

    ‘Well, we’re being attacked by both sides so we must be right’—stems from the curious notion that if you get a quote from both sides, preferably in an official position, you’ve done the job. In the first place, most stories aren’t two-sided, they’re 17-sided at least. In the second place, it’s of no help to either the readers or the truth to quote one side saying, ‘Cat,’ and the other side saying ‘Dog,’ while the truth is there’s an elephant crashing around out there in the bushes.”

    I understand what Chris Hedges is talking about how in every story there is the one side of the penut butter and then the other side of the story is the jelly. You get a story saying the shot was in and a perspective that the shot was not in. This is something that is common in today’s society and because the journalists are being not biased and objective it is cool with society.

  6. ecmoore19 says:

    I liked some of Gillmor’s ideas but I think he forgot about us. I searched the document for the words, “internet,” “blog,” and “interactive” and came up with nothing. I think most of his ideas centered on entrepreneurship which would most likely include new media, but I didn’t see anything explicitly mentioned.

    Also, I disagree with the removal of the “track” system. I’m not saying I think the system in place is perfect, but it serves a structural purpose. All students need a focus when studying journalism but that focus shouldn’t be so confining (like it is today). I should be able to take a core group of classes and then supplement them with classes from different tracks.

    I agree that the lines that separate them are merging but journalism shouldn’t be a general studies degree. That being said, the traditional tracks (print, broadcast, PR, etc.) may be a thing of the past and need changed. Let’s overhaul the track system to meet the challenges of new media (even though this will be harder than just getting rid of it).

    As for Hedges, I agree with a lot of his article but it can get a little extreme at times. I think objectivity is a great way to make a lot of people happy but not necessarily the only reasonable way to report the news. As a business model, objectivity keeps (or kept) the money rolling in the direction of the media outlets with the smallest amount of controversy. I don’t agree that it has literally killed the industry but do sympathize with the idea that it was developed as a way to make money and then later as the only “moral” way to report.


    “Society doesn’t need newspapers. What we need is Journalism.”
    Well i ll be the one to say it.. I agree. and although it will be sad when newspapers become a thing of the past, I definitely see it happening in the near future. Inventions like the Ipad and Kindle allow you to store many newspapers( as well as books) on one tiny devise. Technology here we come!

    One thing that i found odd about Gillmore’s rules is the fact that he wants to do away with the “track system” to get rid of the teaching of print, broadcast, and online jounalism because “they are meargning” .

    well yes i agree that they are mearging technologies but i beleive they ( at least broadcast and online) will be around for quite some time now. )
    Even if we were to do away with all of these journalistic styles tomorrow i still think it is important to teach them.

    I commend the J-school at WVU for covering/ teaching all aspects of Journalism.

  8. nochickflickmoments says:

    Clay Shirky
    It’s not really news to me that newspapers are desperately behind the times. I’ve been in the J School for 4 years and I still only pick up a hard copy of the DA when I get out of class early and have time to fill. Like he said, even 14 year olds know as much about the internet as the professionals. That’s why I never pursued the news ed major. It doesn’t take long to learn to write in the inverted pyramid style…a semester to perfect the skill, maybe. Newspapers are worn out. No one wants peruse through a newspaper when the internet is faster and fits in more with their lifestyle. The internet is only going to take over more of what newspapers used to do in the future.

    Dan Gillmor
    I agree with Gillmor. The concept of having print, broadcast, and online in separate tracks isn’t practical anymore. To get a job in PR, you have to know how to deal with the online part just as much as the print part or the personal interaction part. We can’t afford to be taught just one thing. It won’t help us at all in the real world. That’s why I think this blogging class is important. These kinds of skills are what employers are looking for. In 4 years at WVU, sure I’ve learned to write press releases and that type of thing (which is important) and crisis communication (also important), but the internet and newer technology hasn’t been stressed as much as it should have been.

    Chris Hedges
    I agree with a lot of what Hedges says, but he’s a bit extreme. Objectivity would be the most honest way to go about journalism, but being void of all passion? What’s the point of having that career if you aren’t passionate about anything that you do? Maybe I’m a little naive about actually getting a job you love, but shouldn’t journalism be something we’re (the class) all passionate about?

  9. I really liked what Shirky says near the end of his article: “Society doesn’t need newspapers. What we need is journalism”. It really ties the ideas in all three sites together well. Shirky’s post makes me think of, again, the Seattle PI and how it has turned into an experiment for a print paper gone digital, and how this is just one idea in how to bring about the next thing in Journalism.

    I liked what Gillmor was suggesting, but the idea that all of his points will be integrated into a university curriculum (and expanded into local non-university structures) seems almost too idealist. I hate to think what Hedges would make of Gillmor’s call for the fusion of business education and journalism. While this may bring about a better understanding of each, it may also teach future journalists better ways to manipulate the system, to maximize profits and support those most likely to succeed in business, thus bringing success to the journalists behind them. Even if this tendency is educated out of us in the Gillmor system, there will always be a select few who try to take advantage while the rest of us are playing fair.

    I agree with Hedges on the point that Journalists need stronger ethical backgrounds. Even at the graduate level here at WVU, very few graduate students decided to take the ethics course offered this semester, and those who didn’t justified this by taking classes that were functional – directed at teaching a skill that can be used in a job – rather than theoretical, as most perceived the ethics course to be. What is concerning here is that so few journalism students, who are being taught how to operate as professionals, see ethics as a practical part of their job. Ethics apply to the reporting and social science sides of journalism, and are essential, in my opinion, to good journalism. Perhaps the downplay of ethical education is what needs to be corrected more so than the fusion of journalism with other fields, as Gillmor suggests.

  10. Shirky—It seems that most people are in agreement that newspapers are old technology. This makes me think of a blog I read the other day about how NYT is may start charging there readers to view the publication online. If people will pay for it at a news stand why wouldn’t they pay online, if newstands were no longer availible? Like Julia said with the invention of Kindle and the Ipad I can see newspapers disappearing all together in the future.

    Gilmore–“◦Advise and train citizen journalists to understand and apply the principles and best practices. They are going to be an essential part of the local journalism ecosystem, and we should reach out to show them how we can help.” I thought this part of the essay was interesting because we have been discussing this topic a lot in class. If we help these citizen journalist can it help or hurt our careers? I mean again, will it give us journalist more to work with or will they just be doing our work for us?

    Sorry this is a little late, this snow is really messing with my internet connection.

  11. ourgoldenlife says:

    The Future of Journalism Education:

    Dan Gilmor’s gave a list of principles he would focus on if he ran a journalism school, and I agreed with most of the points that he brought up. Some in particular really resonated with me…

    “Do away with the still-common “track” system for would-be journalists where students focus on print, broadcast, online, etc. These are merging.”
    –One of the reasons that I agree with this point so much is because I have struggled with it during my education. What is happening today and will only continue to occur into the future is that various mediums and aspects of journalism are going through the process of assimilation. The sooner that universities recognize this, the better it will turn out for students going through the education process.

    “Require all students to learn basic statistics, survey research and fundamental scientific methodology. The inability of journalists to understand what they’re reading is one of journalism’s — and society’s — major flaws.”
    –I agree with this point, as each internship that I have worked at has proven to me that there is a negative relationship between a person’s PR skills and their ability to do math. However, I think that WVU is doing an adequate job of this. Each PR student is required to take not only a math course, but a statistics course as well. Also, in PR 422 we spend half the semester learning about survey research and how it will apply to our careers in the real world.

    “Require all journalism students to understand business concepts, especially those relating to media.”
    –I think that this is dead on. There were a lot of concepts that I just didn’t understand in relation to the business world, and how those concepts translate to media is imperative knowledge to someone perusing a career in journalism. Again, I think that WVU has done a good job of educating me with such knowledge, requiring that I take 2 ECON classes as well as 2 different business classes to graduate with my PR degree.

    Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable:

    I’m sure that Clay Shirky is correct when he states that “Society doesn’t need newspapers,” but there are a lot of things that our society acts like it desperately needs when it truly doesn’t. Maybe I’m just being bitter because I love newspapers. Don’t get me wrong, I get a lot of my news online, and I think that it’s an easy and fast way to catch up on current events. However, for me, nothing will ever replace the act of sitting down and reading a newspaper. I find it relaxing, and it is something that I look forward to every day. Doing the crossword, a section of the newspaper which I also do every day, is just an added bonus. Nothing will ever replace that for me, and I know that I can’t be alone when I state that.

  12. kenziekat says:

    In reference to the The Future of Journalism Education blog….

    What is this man thinking? I mean I get some of the things he suggest, but I do not think most are feasible or intelligent.

    Really?! Journalism degrees as liberal arts programs…yea ok that makes sense, we need to be well-rounded. BUT where are we broadcast students going to learn how to shoot video, edit packages, and interview subjects? More liberal arts means more time spent in college as far as I’m concerned. And really, if journalism degrees were like Liberal Arts programs, why wouldn’t someone just major in liberal arts or multidisciplinary studies?

    DO AWAY WITH THE TRACK SYSTEM? Again when are we Broadcast students going to learn how to edit, shoot, tape, broadcast etc? Broadcast Voice and Newspaper voice are two totally different things. There is a plain reason for tracks…so you are good at one form of media. If you want to be good at two, double major. Again, this idea seems like it would extend time spent obtaining a journalism degree. Isn’t it better to have one really good broadcaster than a semi good newspaper writer who can also kind of broadcast?

    ….those are just his first two ideas and I’m already out of my 200 word allotment. I find this post ridiculous.

  13. In response to Shirky’s blog, I think one thing he is leaving out is as generations change so does how people get their news and with how expensive printing presses are its cheaper for some one to start up their own website because all they need is a computer and do what we’re doing in this class. I mentioned in our last class I feel the Ipad is going to change the way many people receive their news, just wait five or ten years and see what happens. Kids are growing up receiving their news through the internet and that’s how they will continue to do it.

    As much as it may seem rued to say this, but print newspapers are dying because there is no way ten or twenty years from now when this generation gets older are going demand print papers when they can just go online like they have their entire lives.

    When reading Dan Gillmor’s blog one thing think is a great idea is to make sure all of the students have understanding of the complete way media runs. I think this man would be a great person to talk to about the changing world of the media because it seems like he has an idea of where this business is going and has been around long enough to have experienced what journalism has been like when print newspapers and other dying forms of the media were big.

    One thing I always tell everyone in this business is to learn what ever you can because this business is heading somewhere and no one knows where, but I think people do realize the internet is going to be a big part of it. Journalism will still be alive with the internet because there will always be news organizations that people trust, it’s just with all of the information that is present on the internet it will be tougher for people to know what’s true and what’s false.

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