Interactive journalism

“The only way to get the journalism we need in the current environment is to take advantage of new possibilities. They [journalists] have new tools for creating visual and interactive forms of explanation. All these developments have expanded how the public can get and process the news.”

This year Submarine and VPRO launched an interactive documentary (interactive map) called The Industry, a perfect example of what Bell calls “taking advantage of new possibilities”. It shows how drugs are everywhere and everyone has to deal with them – from electrician to pizza delivery, from farmer to mayor. It offers a glimpse in some small personal stories of how the drug industry in the Netherlands works.

To me one of the biggest strengths of this start-up is that it gives viewers the opportunity to get information about locals. So you can specifically search on your own neighborhood for example. To me it is very interesting to read and listen to people’s stories from my own city. For me as a user it is very nice to be have this focused information. At the same time this can be a weakness, because it you do not expand your search that quickly. That way you do not get the overview of information you might be looking for and also.

In my opinion an opportunity that lies ahead of interactive documentary in general is how you reach people. So how do you create a great group of users? I ask this question because these documentaries are mostly published no websites still. While the largest online public is mostly active on social media platforms. Which is a threat to interactive documentaries in the sense that it has to compete for the attention of the online individual.

By Laura Das

Wordcount: 289

Literature

Bell, Emily (2007). “The Future: Journalism and Media as Post Industries” – Tow center for digital journalism

Fact-checking: a matter of responsibility

According to McQuial (2008) the basic expectations of the press – “namely the regular provisions of relevant and reliable information about current issues and events” keep their relevance, despite the fact that journalism is getting divided in different dimensions of variation, such as “profession versus trade or craft” and “print versus other media”. To me it, anno 2017 it is precisely this provision of relevant and reliable information that is at stake in the field of journalism.

As many newspapers reported on, fake news is being spread and influencing society, whether we like it or not. Last week Sam Levin published an article in The Guardian about how factchecking news messages on Facebook is failing. Facebook hires external companies to fact-check their stream of news. Ineffectively, according to a fact-checker: “The relationship they [Facebook] have with fact-checking organizations is way too little and way too late. They should really be handling this internally. They should be hiring armies of moderators and their own fact-checkers.”

In the end, it is all a matter of responsibility. Facebook provides the platform to spread (fake) news very quickly, but it won’t acknowledge their role in spreading fake news. By having external companies fact-check news messages, Facebook is, as Sam Levin put it, “silencing those in the best position to investigate the way the platform facilitates fake news”.

So how can we take a stand against fake news? Maybe it is society, and with this I primarily mean the online society (is there really a difference?), that needs to be made more aware of the possibility of fake news. And in addition actively and critically participate in news consumption. To me this shows that platforms like Facebook, entail a shift in responsibility. A responsibility that not only lies with journalists, but more and more with individual members of society.

By Laura Das

Literature

McQuail, Denis. “What is Journalism? How is it Linked to Society?” Journalism and Society. London: Sage, 2005. 1-26. Print.

Fighting fake news by spreading it

Russian interference in the last US presidential elections. Fake troll accounts on social media to create a positive image of Donald Trump. “Fake news, post truth, alternative facts; it is easy to experience a kind of cynical fatigue when hearing these terms.” A few weeks ago the start-up DROG came up with the idea to fight these kind of fake-accounts who spread fake news, with fake-news and fake-accounts. With a game and a workshop this start-up wants to create awareness about fake social media accounts (trolls) and fake news. According to the founder Ruud Oosterwout “the effect does not lie in the content, but in psychological and emotional influences, partly due to the constant flow of fake news. Encapsulation is not an option, we must learn to live with it.”

This to me shows not only the concept of instrumentalization, but also the concept of professionalization in a way (Hallin and Mancini, 2004). The media are in a certain way controlled “by outside actors-parties, politicians, social groups or movements, or economic actors seeking political influence – who use them to intervene in the world of politics.” (Hallin and Mancini, 2004) The new start-up also shows that “control of the work process in journalism is to a significant extent collegial, in the sense that authority over journalists is exercised primarily by fellow journalists.” (Hallin and Mancini, 2004)

I would like to add to this that I think that review of the accuracy of the information spread online will shift more and more towards the individual consumer. In my opinion, making individuals aware of the existence of trolls and fake news, can contribute largely to a more critical view to what we see online.

By Laura Das

Literature

Hallin, Daniel C., and Paolo Mancini. Comparing media systems: Three models of media and politics. Cambridge university press, 2004.

Out of love

In a blog called ‘How lack of love breaks up NPO (public broadcasting)‘   writer Hay Cranen makes a comparison between the online distribution platform of Netflix and the NPO. Netflix being this huge commercial company and NPO serving the public.

According to Cranen, NPO’s lack of love for their own content expresses itself in the way they distribute their media productions. His points of critique focus on the online platforms (app and website). Not only is the resolution of the video’s very low, the structure of the content is not user friendly at all. The first content you see is “Day 3: Alice Springs”. You have no idea what this program is about. Next: “Conversation of the day”, what kind of content is this? A series or a television program? Netflix on the other hand is very user friendly and makes sure you get personalized content.

So Cranen argues that the core of the problem is the attitude of the production company towards their own (purchased) productions. According to Paterson et. al. (2015, p. 15) citing (Berger and Luckman, 1966; Tuchman, 1978) “our ‘shared reality’ is shaped by the production practices of media professionals and a wide range of other cultural producers, and it is impossible to comprehend the nature of that manufactured reality without getting to the heart of the manufacturing process and the shared culture of the manufacturers.” Although Cranen did not conduct academic research that confirms this, his blog makes clear to me that research about media production has shifted towards the level of distribution and takes the structure of a company into consideration.

 

By Laura Das

Literature

Berger, P. L. and Luckman, T. (1966) The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge (Garden City, NY: Anchor Books).

Paterson, C., Lee, D., Saha, A., and Zellner, A. (2015). “Production Research: Continuity and Transformation.” In: Advancing Media Production Research.

Tuchman, G. (1978) Making News: A study in the Social Construction of Reality (London: The Free Press).

Make it visual

For a long time mediaplatforms like newspapers, television and radio had their own specific way of storytelling. According to Mierzejewska & Shaver (2014: p. 47) “the introduction of digital technologies and new content consumption devices has changed the content format dominance of each of these models and broken down the silo-related competitive advantage of dominating a particular delivery system.” There is not one way of storytelling for each news platform anymore.

Tristen Ferne from the BBC made a useful overview of new ways of storytelling, out of frustration with the 500 to 800 words norm of online articles. Ferne argues that “developing and popularising useful and attractive new formats could make news stories more recognisable when aggregated and consumed on other platforms, and provide more compelling reasons for people to visit the source sites and apps.” I would like to highlight one of the new ways that was most outstanding for me. This is not so much a critique, more like a practical adding to the literature, because the literature is slightly outdated.

An upcoming trend in storytelling is the visualization of data. Most outstanding to me last week was the visualization of the gunshots in Las Vegas by The New York Times. By analyzing the amounts of gunshots per second they came to the conclusion that the shooter modified his rifle to act like a semi-automatic weapon. To me, not only the way of storytelling is new, but also the content itself is different from telling news stories a few decades ago. According to Ferne “right now, we [journalists] are starting off by looking at ways to combine text, images and video in a complementary and flexible manner, and at thinking about how to personalise news stories.”

By Laura Das

 

Literature

Mierzejewska, B., & Shaver, D. (2014). Key Changes Impacting Media Management Research. International Journal on Media Management, 16(2), 47-54. doi: 10.1080/14241277.2014.954439

Power to the people?

Apple released a new iOS 11 operating system. Priyanjana Benhani wrote an article about it in the Columbia Jounalism Review focusing on the consequences for publishers and readers. I would like to highlight some of Behani’s remarks about the iOS 11 operating system, in light of Jenkins’ (2004) article in which he identifies major sites of tension and transition that have and will continue to shape the media environment.

First of all, it will be much more difficult for advertisers to follow you. So difficult even that they are angry. Adding cookies is also harder (with the result that you must log in again in each in-app browser). You can set the reading mode in Safari as a default. Last but not least, if you share a link, Apple picks the original link. All campaign info is thus taken out of the url.

To me this clearly reflects Jenkins’ (2004) point that “consumers are learning how to use […] different media technologies to bring the flow of media more fully under their control and to interact with other users. They are fighting for the right to participate more fully in their culture, to control the flow of media in their lives and to talk back to mass market content.”

What I think is most striking about this, is that although it seems that consumers gain more control over their media consumption, they easily overlook that the power of what they read is still in the hands of a technology company. So to me, although Jenkins (2004) provides us with interesting questions about how the relationship between existing technologies, industries, markets, genres and audiences will determine the balance of power, he neglects the fact that the power of media consumption will continue to lie in the use of the technological device.

By Laura Das

Literature

Jenkins, H. (2004). The cultural logic of media convergence. International journal of cultural studies, 7(1), 33-43.

That special someone

A few days ago Rob Wijnberg wrote an article for The Correspondent, stating that the news is ruled by the highly exceptional. He argues that journalists generally cover news about extraordinary events and people, leaving the general majority underexposed. Despite this it is this news that is read or watched by the vast majority and makes an impact on our way of thinking about the world.

Harcup and O’Neill (2001) evaluate the news values posed by Galtung and Ruge (1965). Their conclusion contains a contemporary set of news values: the power elite, celebrity, entertainment, surprise, bad news, good news, magnitude, relevance, follow-up and newspaper agenda. If we take the argument of Wijberg in consideration at least 8 out of the 10 proposed news values are about exceptional groups of people or events.

I think it is our duty as journalists (in spe) to critically reflect at our methods of searching for news stories and storytelling. Not only can we question the adversarial way of covering news, we can take in consideration why we cover certain stories and why we do not cover other. In other words, do the news values we consciously or unconsciously take in consideration when we choose our news items, contribute to the truth of our worldview?

Literature

Johan Galtung and Mari Holmboe Ruge (1965) The Structure of Foreign News, Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 2, No. 1 , 64-91

Tony Harcup & Deirdre O’Neill (2001) What Is News? Galtung and Ruge revisited, Journalism Studies, 2:2, 261-280

Laura Das

What you see is what you get

You are constantly confronted with news. The amount of apps, sites and platforms you can follow on the internet is so overwhelming sometimes, that you don’t know where to start looking. This is when you check your Facebook newsfeed. Here you find a beautifully (although the beauty of it is arguable) arranged overview of the news you might be interested in. This overview is created by a smart algorithm, which according to Caplan and Boyd (2016) can be seen as an editor who shaped the news to your interests. But can we trust the news we see?

In an episode of Tegenlicht last Sunday, a television program of the VPRO, this trust is taking into consideration. On the one hand, it is clear that if we allow ourselves to become a collection of data, we will obviously be manipulable. And if direct-targeted advertising on social media can respond to the subconscious mind, it means that we can also be influenced by political influence during elections. On the other hand, Facebook makes it possible to share knowledge and discussions about politics, which makes participation in democracy more accessible. The news on which you base your opinions is filtered by Facebook. So the question is how can you be sure that what you see is what you get?

Sources

Boyd, Danah, and Caplan, Roy. “Who Controls the Public Sphere in an Era of Algorithms?” Data & Society, 13 May 2016, pp. 1-19.