Online local news- Who really wants to write about this?

Found it very interesting reading some of the articles by Roy Greenslade on the local newspaper crisis. You can find these pieces here.

The second one is what interests me particularly. This is because it basically sums up my views on local news. At times interesting, often boring and certainly not financially viable.

Online news has a small audience, interesting stories can drum up a lot of hits no doubt about it. But just how big are these audiences and how loyal are the public going to be? You may go to an online site to get a big local story but will you go back once this event has finished?

As I’ve said before the problem for online news is there are papers that cover these stories and can also be seen on the television. Without statistically backing this up I would be fairly certain that most people who are interested in local news are an older generation. Would they swap the local papers for local online news? I doubt it.

Then ask anyone young about local stories and I’m pretty sure the majority will say they are not really bothered about it. Especially those from big cities.

These hyper-local websites which I admit can gain some interest but the reality is they are not long lasting. Advertisers are not putting any money into them because they no there is a much safer bet in their local newspapers.

Journalists are not going to invest a lot of time in boring news that not too many people read especially if they are not going to make much money from it.

Which has lead me to the conclusion that the only future for local online news sites are those run by journalists who want a bit of part time work or students who want somewhere to start off with in their career. There is a small audience for local online news but nowhere near big, or glamorous enough to attract reporters to write about it.


Social media has made news fun for everyone

Social media has changed journalism and for the better! Without backing this up statistically I am pretty sure that a lot of people who were previously not interested in news have now become engaged because of social media.

Facebook, Twitter, UGC have all changed journalism. If you wanted news before you had to either get a newspaper or in the latter years go on a news website.  Nowadays how many of you go to your Twitter to be updated on the news?  When I woke up the other day the first I did was log on to Twitter to see who had won the American presidency election.

It has also made news more conversational.  Comments under Facebook and YouTube engage readers whilst retweets on Twitter can show your point of view without even having to type anything.

Reading the rise of social media and its impact on social media on mainstream Journalism, Nic Newman makes the point that we are halfway through the social media experiment. I would agree with this as what will happen to it in the future is unclear.

I don’t think it could ever replace the traditional format of news. The main reason being you can never be sure how official a story that breaks from social media is. 

A good example for me would to relate it to a form of news I’m very familiar with – football transfers.  Many times you get people who claim to be “in the know” break a transfer story. Sometimes they are right sometimes they are wrong. Yet most people will say they will wait until it’s on a more official site before believing it.

This illustrates a problem with social media. It’s quick, way quicker than any news broadcasters. The death of Michael Jackson was a good example of this. However it will always have those trust issues. 

This was summed up nicely in the article when it stated that social media is a nice alternative but it will not replace rolling TV coverage or proper considered analysis of an event once the dust has settled.

Janine Gibson of the Guardian said: “Social media tools help coverage come alive in a way that has been previously difficult for newspaper.”

I think this is spot on and links to the headline about social media making news more fun.  Social media gives journalists the tools to really paint a clear picture of what they are witnessing, which can be much easily illustrated compared to a news report where you have time to think and reflect on your thoughts.

As stated earlier people do eventually want those analytical pieces but they also want the chaos and madness of what is currently happening on events such as riots, presidential debates and award ceremonies to name a few.

Furthermore social media are coming together. How many times have you seen an event advertised through Twitter, shown on Facebook with the video recorded via YouTube?

When you read articles whether online or in papers you will see that next to the journalist name is also the Twitter address. This shows that companies are recognising the impact social media is having on news and want to be a part of it.

Citizen Journalism – here to complement other forms of reporting not replace them

Our reading this week focused on citizen journalism.  We read the rise two pieces; one was called challenges and value of citizen journalism by John Kelly. The other Quality Control perceived effects of user generated content on news room norms values and routines by Jane Singer.

Personally I am a fan of citizen journalism. I think it contributes a lot to Journalism for two main reasons.

Firstly being the simple fact that Journalist will not be able to cover all stories. To have someone to cover the news that’s not a journalist is better than no one at all. When the disaster of Tsunami happened in 2004 what made it such a spectacular story was the remarkable video footage that was recorded by a tourist on holiday. Without this we would not be able to relate to the story as much.

Secondly, and this is looking at it from more of a user generated comment view, I think it’s great that the audiences can add to what is news, after all they are the people that consume it. People who contribute to these through discussion boards, polls, blogs etc all have their personal opinions. I think it is interesting to see how these different views can form a conversation which results as a form of news reporting.

However citizen journalism, for me, cannot be considered ‘official journalism’. That’s not to say that the content they produce is not worth reading because they are not proper journalist. More the fact that Journalist know more about the industry they’ve studied. Of Corse they do as they practice it for years at university learning and developing skills whilst building knowledge and sources.  

In a survey that Jane Singer did experienced journalists saw themselves as ‘better then citizen journalists’. I would not go as far as this but I would certainly say they are more knowledgeable due to the skills they have picked up.  

There is then the issue that citizen journalism and UGC is not accountable.  If a non-journalist starts producing content they may make some excellent points and even have evidence but that is never going to compare to a journalist with solid sources. Many people may even prefer to see what the citizen journalist has to say, as this fits better with their version of events was but I think the industry could become dangerous if people were to use UGC as an official source.

The main thing I concluded from these texts was that whilst citizen journalism is certainly contributing to Journalism it will never replace it.  I even think that those who are massive fans and even participate in citizen journalism would agree with this.  Citizen journalism is a great option to have it’s something you would often read and help you to form an opinion. Nevertheless you would always want the official journalism with it, where you can to some extent get a neutral version of events written by people whose skills you can trust.

Time for students to take over the journalism online world?

For this week’s reading we had a look at the ‘online revolution’ in the local press.  We did this by analysing Turning around the Tanter: Implementing Trinity Mirrors online strategy.

I have to start by saying it was no surprise to me that, like the national papers, circulation and sales figures were declining in the local print world. I personally don’t see the appeal of buying local newspapers. Most of the big stories are already covered in the national press, can be seen in a similar paper which is free or even watched on the local news.

However advertising is what is keeping this sector going. Advertising is so high that it means that actually many of the local papers are profitable. The question is: How much longer will this last for?

Companies and importantly advertisers now want multi-media content. They believe it’s essential in helping newspapers become a brand. They want to see websites with video footage, interviews, audio slideshows, podcasts etc.  The problem is how is this going to be implemented successfully?

From the case studies we looked at in the reading, a strong majority of the staff that Trinity Mirror agreed that there had to be some focus on their newspapers becoming multi media. Truthfully it would be hard to argue this. People are getting use to consuming media in different ways, for local press to keep up they simply have to do this.

This is not the issue the staff had. The issue was the lack of training and resources put into becoming an online paper. Not only that but workers were unhappy that despite having to do more work they were not going to be rewarded financially for their efforts and who can blame then?  To be expected to write stories for print and then use them online in a video content way is asking a lot. To do that without any extra financial incentive is even more ridiculous.

There is also the worry of the quality of journalism suffering. Video content is used heavily in entertainment and sport due to the strong visual effects, yet seem less effective in things such as politics.  How are they going to strike a balance between reporting the important stories and getting good online content for the less serious issues?

One of the women from the case study said that ‘digital and video are definitely the future but we’ll need more resources to do it right’. Referring to more training and staff in order to do their jobs properly. 

What I saw from this case study is a real opportunity for people who are studying journalism right now. We (I say we as I’m a student myself) don’t need to be heavily trained on how to use multimedia content because that’s what we have been doing for the last couple years.

This leads nicely to my title. If the future for journalism is online then the future for students is looking a whole lot brighter.  Maybe getting a job in this industry won’t be so hard after all! What are your thoughts?

Who knows what the future of journalism holds?

In life many people predict things, occasionally they get them right but more often than not they get it wrong.  

I just read James Curran: The Future of Journalism. Predictions varied from: Journalism not in crisis just in transition, to closing of papers being a good thing to bring a fresh start for journalists, to end of print journalism being an end to democracy. Such different views but who is right?

To say journalism is in crisis is wrong because simply there will always be a need for Journalists. People want news, they want to know what is going on in the world and they want sources they can trust.  There are jobs out there!

That is in part what contributes to being a democratic country. Journalism is struggling at the minute but that’s more to do with the harsh economic conditions that are going on.  Most organisations are suffering and going through transitions it’s how long these transitions last that really matter.

Could more papers being closed down be a good thing? Well in my opinion no but it would be hard to argue that citizen journalism and blogs have not created a breath of fresh air for the industry. I think these are the sort of journalists that people want to see in the future.

The end of print journalism being a threat to democracy, I’m not sure about that. I don’t think you could ever argue that until it really is the end of print journalism, which looks to be a while off.

So what is the future? Pay walls, blogs and citizen journalists thriving, funding to boost the number of journalist or even a mixture of all of them until a proper solution is found.

In chapter 1 of Technology Foretold by James Curran he discusses a few predictions in the 80s and 90s that were meant to revolutionise Journalism. Quite frankly they didn’t happen and what I’ve got from James is that we can make bold predictions to the future of Journalism, but in reality nobody really knows.

What do you guys think?

How the web changed the economics of news

We discussed this reading by Paul Bradshaw on the online journalism blog.

Paul has summed up what he feels has changed in Journalism in the last ten years because of the internet.

The message being portrayed in the article is how online journalism will; if not already take over from print.  He has lost faith in print journalism for a number of reasons.  The reasons seem to stem from two things: What audiences want to see and what advertisers are willing to do. This is in favour of online journalism and that if you want to be a journalist these days you have to adapt yourself to these changes.

At face value the article is basically saying what many people are predicting. Online Journalism is the future.  I agree with most of what he says but points four and six are particularly flawed in my opinion.

Everyone going to Amazon for a book review? Amazon will give you a review of popular public opinion but many people still want quality journalism. Will they get that from Amazon? Unlikely. How about from a journalist who has studied many different books and has knowledge in this field? Probably.

Also the point about reduced cost of newsgathering. Paul really needs to be clearer in what he’s saying here.  Once again if people want quality news, and many of them do, then they are not going to get that from not having limited sources. Who is going to get these sources because they don’t just magically appear on the web!

More on the future of Journalism in the next blog post.