The Future Of Journalism Involves Recognizing The Community Exists... And Talking With Them

from the about-time dept

One of my biggest complaints about the way some old school journalism folks view "the news business," is that they still have trouble recognizing they're in the community business. They're so focused on delivering the "news," they forget the bigger issue. The news business has always been a community business. It was a way of bringing together a community of people with something in common (usually locality), and then selling their attention to advertisers. The big problem facing the industry today is that there are many more ways for communities to form. They used to be one of the few games in town. These days, however, there are many, many more places for communities -- and most of them treat the communities much better, and provide a lot more value. And yet, too often we hear newspaper folks talk down to and insult the idea that they should ever be expected to actually rub virtual shoulders with their community. They don't like using comments. They don't want to talk to fans or critics alike. They just want to report the news and move on.

Obviously, there are many, many exceptions to this. And the number of exceptions are growing and that's a good thing, because eventually they won't be exceptions at all. For now, though, it's nice to highlight stories of journalists recognizing the importance of actually communicating with their community. Pickle Monger points us to a piece by a long-time BBC reporter, Paul Reynolds, talking about his experience embracing the community rather than shunning it, and recognizing that this involvement of the public really is "the future of news." He admits it wasn't always pleasant, and it did require establishing something of a thick skin, but he seems to feel that it's worth it.


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    Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), Mar 16th, 2011 @ 2:52am

    "Comments Off" means "Read Elsewhere"

    My opinion may be nothing more that second-hand information mixed with LaRouche-like conspiracy theories, but at least give me the opportunity to express it in ALL CAPS.

     

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    surfer, Mar 16th, 2011 @ 6:35am

    more Facts..

    I read yesterday on arstechnica that individuals getting their news online has finally surpassed individuals getting their news from physical subscriptions. Television still leads in this category, however, their 'share' is also diminishing rapidly.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2011 @ 6:53am

    Ah the Walrus

    "The time has come,' the Walrus said,
    "To talk of many things:
    Of shoes -- and ships -- and sealing wax --
    Of cabbages -- and kings --
    And why the sea is boiling hot --
    And whether pigs have wings.'

     

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    Overcast (profile), Mar 16th, 2011 @ 7:05am

    One of my biggest complaints about the way some old school journalism folks view "the news business," is that they still have trouble recognizing they're in the community business.

    See.. on this.. I could care less. Like the RIAA/MPAA they can just continue their 'old model' until they fade into obscurity.

    Nothing really sucks worse than this 'perception' of some type of 'official capacity' of the press or whatever. When news becomes 'official' then we have a 'free flow of information' - kinda like China. Only here, it's corporate run, along with the government.

    *Anything* that helps take the big corporation element out of news and puts it back in the hands of the people, is a great thing indeed.

    And yeah Surfer - it's been over a year since I've sat and watched network news for more than 10 minutes - literally.

    All this Japan news - *I* was informing co-workers of events they had no clue of because I was getting most of my info from the web and not 'official news sources' on the web.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2011 @ 7:13am

    The Future Of Journalism Involves Recognizing The Community Exists... And Pandering To Them

    Fixed that for you.

    In between ignoring the community and moving in with them and eating their food, there is a place in there where there is respect for the community, and understanding of it, all the while keeping enough distance to be able to report on it "warts and all" without feeling excessive pressure.

    When journalists are too close to a topic (of the subjects of the topic), they stop reporting and start trying to cover up, to protect, to ignore the bad story. It is like everyone ignoring the drunk uncle at Christmas.

    Knowing your community and being known in it is fine. Being too much of a part of it is not going to give unbiased reporting.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2011 @ 9:51am

      Re:

      "Knowing your community and being known in it is fine. Being too much of a part of it is not going to give unbiased reporting."

      That can depend entirely on the community that is cultivated.

      Perhaps not the most highbrow of examples coming to mind is Gawker.com, a gossip site that I browse over daily. Not for the Snooki or Sheen related stuff (snore) but political or societal subjects. I always go through the comments. Most are at least literate, articulate, or amusing. Those three attributes are valued by the commentariat, sets a standard. No matter how I feel or think about the subject, the discussions are usually interesting, entertaining, or informative somehow. Article authors are active in comments as well. There is some fawning, but I've also seen criticism.

      (See Gawker and its associated sites for a lesson in how to piss off those commenters with an ill-advised site redesign - it's been months and complaints keep coming, they've possibly lost a number of regulars)

      Contrast that to a major newspaper or two, where I've gone to the comments section (if there is one), and any coherent commentary is ignored or lost in a sea of CAPSLOCK RAEG! or general nonsense. Authors absent. Community not built therefore standards not set hence expected to be met.

      (I can't say if moderation of comments is necessary; if the core community members set the tone, self-policing seems to result)

      The blogs/forums I read most are fairly liberal with rules and allowing people to express themselves freely within reason, don't let spam clutter up the place, and welcome expanding or further informing on the topic. Perhaps they verge on crowdsourcing a bit? I think that would prod an author to be more unbiased, if they've got a good community of commenters with diverse well articulated points or frames of reference or expertise.

      As someone said above, Comments Off is a dead end anymore. Not because I'm dying to holler about something, but because comments can give me something else to consider beyond what's been reported.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2011 @ 10:34am

        Re: Re:

        I don't have anything against discussion communities. What concerns me is that the media can end up being "part of the community" in such a way that they can no longer objectively report on the members of that community.

        Moreover, it can become increasingly easy to report stories biased to the community you are serving / being supported by to the point that it is no longer news, but rather opinion masking as news. Please to consider how often Fox News appears to be wandering over that line, as they pander without any self-restraint to the conservative community that supports them. Heck, they appear to have hired half of the potential Republican candidates for President in 2014. How the heck can they honestly and intelligently report on the process without significant bias?

        Notice of course too in your example that Gawker isn't attempting to claim any unbiased standing. That is sort of how you side step the issue, don't even pretend to be unbiased. None of the "Earth flat, we report, you decide" mentality.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2011 @ 12:54pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          I see where you're coming from. I'd say Gawker is left-leaning, but their bias, if there is one, is poking at hypocrisy in general, and maybe a bit of reductio ad absurdum akin to the Daily Show. That's my take, anyway.

          Fox News strikes me as a bit different, in that they declare themselves a serious news organization, which bestows a commonly held presumption of at least the attempt to be non-biased, yet they do pander, and they do it with straight faces. Is this because they don't permit or entertain or validate pointed questions? I can't say, having never visited their forums.

          It brings up a question of job description, too. I was recently at a municipal zoning board hearing, chatting with a local newspaper 'reporter' before the meeting started. She corrected me and said she was a 'correspondent'. I didn't have the time to ask about the difference. Reporter, correspondent, journalist, writer, pundit, news anchor, investigator, contributor, fact checker...

          Got me wondering how many of those terms could be attributed to folks who post a helpful link to further info in a comment section? ;)

          It's impossible for any human to be completely unbiased in some way, but good community feedback is perhaps the best check upon personal bias or just plain unawareness for an author.

           

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2011 @ 3:09pm

      Re:

      The Future Of Journalism Involves Recognizing The Community Exists... And Pandering To Them

      Yep. That's something Faux News knows well: Get to know your target community, find out what they want to hear, and then tell it to them. Works like a charm. Seriously, who really just wants the truth these days? Those old dinosaurs that don't understand that will die off.

       

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    Hephaestus (profile), Mar 16th, 2011 @ 8:16am

    "They don't like using comments. They don't want to talk to fans or critics alike. They just want to report the news and move on."

    You forgot to mention they have political agendas and do not want people to point that out. They do not want the press releases they are spouting as fact to be commented on in a negative light. They do not want people to see their agenda being pointed out.

     

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    lrobbo (profile), Jun 12th, 2012 @ 10:22am

    Community feedback is undoubtedly a reliable method that more of us should try . . .

     

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