State of my Media

Posted: March 18, 2011 in Data Journalism, My Data Journey
Tags: , ,

This week the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism released its annual State of the Media Report. The findings are based on American media, which is the same species as the UK media but of a different tribe. Nevertheless, I think a lot of the findings ring true for the media sector here.

Unsurprisingly, newspapers are still in crisis and migration to the web gathered speed. But what struck me is the acknowledgement of what I’ve been realising since I started in the media around two years ago:

In the 20th century, the news media thrived by being the intermediary others needed to reach customers. In the 21st, increasingly there is a new intermediary: Software programmers, content aggregators and device makers control access to the public. The news industry, late to adapt and culturally more tied to content creation than engineering, finds itself more a follower than leader shaping its business.

The ideology which has kept the media industry bolstered as a self-regulating trade rather than a profession has crumbled. That is, news organizations are no longer the gatekeepers of information. Yes, the industry has changed. The market has changed. The users have changed. But what is key, which news organizations are frightened to admit, is that we are no longer gatekeepers. Journalism has lost its identity.

The report talks about data in the form of information on consumption. How, why and through what are people getting news. That’s no longer in the hands of the news organizations. We know this. We might not know what to do about it but we accept the reality.

What we haven’t accepted is that this is happening to the very substance on which we work, not just to the medium. We now have the community, formerly known as the audience. We now have the data, formerly known as information. And as a result we now have the platform, formerly known as the media.

What the social web has done is build a platform where users construct their own information gates. I didn’t realise this at the time, but that is what I was doing when I was exploring the web as a newsgathering tool. My media is what I’ve managed to create by social searching the web for applications and cultivating my data sources. Because I had access to the wires service, I found that not only was I able to be ahead of them on many occasions but the reality I was able to construct was a lot richer.

A tweet that recently got quite a bit of traction among the SXSW audience, was  this one:

@robinsloan The way to cover big news in 2011 is not “here’s what happened”. It’s “here’s how to follow the story”.

Because information is being made into data it can be uploaded, linked and shared. And because social media is making money at an alarming rate (more so than mainstream), it’s becoming easy for people to take information into their own hands and become gatekeepers.

Maybe it’s time for the media to start looking at data platforms as a new substance to use for reporting. That’s what I’m hoping to be about.

  1. asouthby says:

    I am a Communication and Media undergraduate at Bournemouth University, and I’ve been looking into the growing influence of social media on professional journalistic practices. I was wondering if you had any opinions on whether reliance on social media can be considered to trivialise reporting, in the sense of being driven by SEO-based headlines, increasingly emotive or colloquial (and thus attention-grabbing) tweets and statuses, and the emphasis of the audience’s active role in providing and processing information. Or would you consider this approach a form of journalistic snobbery?
    Many thanks for any help.

    • nicolahughes says:

      I’m very glad you asked. I’m giving a talk at News Rewired where I plan on saying ‘Now you know how it’s done, don’t do it!’. I’m exploring building platforms for journalists and not just hijacking social media ones. I left my last job because I found the ‘And this is what Joe Blogs said on twitter; And this is what’s popular on twitter, etc’ nature of social media reporting uninformative. Above all it is lazy journalism that has no news value whatsoever. Becoming a slave to a platform is bad for journalism. But it’s being done because management feels they have to embrace new media. The only way they know how is to mediate, copy and paste. They are confused and lost by new media because they still see themselves as information gatekeepers. It’s not just journalists but top management that need to start thinking not ‘What can we write/film/record?’ but ‘What can we building?’ Ultimately, ‘How can we add value to the data platform where this news resides?’

      So to answer your question, it’s not snobbery. Watch this:

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