Fresh fourth wave feminism

Vileine is a feminist online magazine. As they state themselves, they believe in in ‘women empowering the world!’, rather than the world having to empower them. The magazine, with Dutch journalist Hadjar Benmiloud at its helm, aims to investigate and interpret the new feminist wave.

It took Benlimoud three years to make her dream reality. After endless meetings with big publishers she came to realize that if she wanted to ensure that the magazine remained hers and would not end up in the hands of big corporations she would have to eschew large investments and do it on her own. This means earning less (or no) money but having the creative freedom she sought.

This touches upon the very basic problem that many media startups face: how to start making profits? Cook and Sirkunen (2012) discuss several ways to make startups profitable. The first and most obvious is revenue from advertisers. This is usually combined with other bussiness models.

Cook and Sirkunen identify two main categories in such business models. The first contains service-oriented business models. These do not aim at monetizing journalistic output. One can think of startups specialized in selling technology or those that collect articles from other outlets. The second, the storytelling-oriented business model, has traditionally been the most popular. These startups aim to make money by creating fresh and original content that attracts readers that are willing to pay.

Vileine’s business model is clearly oriented at storytelling. In their case it aims to fill the perceived gap in quality feminist writing and giving strong women a voice. Although it is as yet not profitable, Vileine has gathered a lot of positive critique and can only go forward!

 

Literature

Cook, C. & Sirkunnen, E. (2012). Revenue sources. In: Sirkunnen, E. & Cook, C. (eds). Chasing sustainability on the net. Tamperre Research Centre for Journalism, Media and Communication.

Journalism with/vs/for society: what is our mission?

MacQuail (2005) describes the relation between society and journalism. This is a subject Katherine Viner, editor-in-chief at the Guardian, also touches upon in her essay ‘A mission for journalism in a time of crisis’. In it, she chronicles the history of the Guardian and shines a light on the changing nature of society and with that of the newspaper itself.

In 1821 John Edward Taylor started a newspaper, the Manchester Guardian, which was devoted to enlightenment issues, as well as reform, justice and liberty. Viner explains that the ideals upon which the newspaper was built, like educating people, engaging people in politics and doing so for people from all classes and ages, still form the backbone of what the newspaper sets out today.

Both MacQuail (2005) and Viner address the issue of journalists becoming too far removed from the society. By losing touch with everyday lives distrust against journalists can grow, something that is becoming increasingly clear in this day and age.

Viner advocates a journalism that is in touch with the people, that is not snobbish, that speaks to people’s imagination, that provides them with facts in an ever more chaotic world. And with that, she describes exactly what I could see myself doing as a journalist. Hers is a journalistic mission I would gladly be a part of.

Literature

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

A more diverse future for British Vogue

Tandoc Jr. and Thomas (2015) warn journalists for getting too occupied with public opinion by solely choosing subjects based on what is ‘click-worthy’. The authors think if media starts working in this way some of the key roles journalists play in society will be lost.
Although I agree that journalists must be wary of over-popularizing their work, I think the increased influence of audiences can account for some positive and much-needed change within the realm of media.

Last April, Edward Enninful, was confirmed as the new editor-in-chief for British Vogue. As a black and gay man his positioning was quite a change from his predecessor, Alexandra Shulman, who served as editor-in-chief at the magazine for 25 years. In recent years, British Vogue, as well as other countries’ issues, have been under fire from the public for holding on to a notion of society that is seen by many as outdated: very little diversity, a focus on white and skinny models. Of the 306 covers she made, only eleven featured women of color.

Take for example her final cover, the September 2017 issue. It featured a group portrait of five models, all of them willowy, four of them white. The public was not impressed. As one reporter put it: “it may feature one Moroccan model but aren’t we sick to death, in 2017, of seeing white, willowy models on the front of the magazine?”

With Enninful, Vogue has chosen to take readers’ comments serious. Enninful is a Ghanian immigrant. Where Shulman’s team was very white, Enninful has been quick bring more diversity to the Vogue office. The first issue shows a diversity of women in terms of color, background and shape. I think this shows how the growing influence should not just frighten journalists, but perhaps push them to move away from historical, exclusive models.

Literature:

Edson C. Tandoc Jr. & Ryan J. Thomas (2015). The Ethics of Web Analytics. Digital Journalism, 3:2, pp. 243-258.

Journalist, activist, or both?

From the advent of newspaper journalism, political advocacy has been an important function of media. By the late 19th century a new model for political journalism arose, in which the journalist performed more of an objective role, not taking a particular political stance. This was connected to commercialization of press, which led to a focus on making money from consumers rather than receiving funds from political actors (Hallin & Mancini, 2004).

Throughout the years the role of media changed. What can be seen now is a renewed interest in investigative journalism, with an emphasis on the workings and failures of democracy, laws and inequalities within society, to name but a few examples.

But when do journalism cross the line between reporting and activism? These were questions that were frequently heard when the Correspondent, in response to documentary series ‘Schuldig’ came with a petition to make an end to the so-called ‘debt industry’ in the Netherlands.

Rob Wijnberg, editor-in-chief at the Correspondent, argued that all journalism is activist in nature. Rosan Smits, deputy editor-in-chief at that same publication, even went as far as to state that her goal is to influence politics. Not everyone agrees with this point of view, as many see journalism and activism as separate worlds that should not be woven together.

I myself applaud this development. From what I see, journalism can have a large influence on politics: when something is given media attention, politicians will be more eager to act swiftly. Of course we have to keep in mind that all sides of a story have to be highlighted and not start reporting with only one goal in mind but if proper journalistic work lies at the bottom of a petition like the ‘Schuldvrij’ one, I don’t see the harm.

Literature

Hallin, Daniel C. & Mancini, Paolo, “Chapter 2. Comparing Media Systems” & “Chapter 4. Media and Political Systems.” Comparing Media Systems: Three Models of Media and Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2004. Print

Genesis’ Pan-African Expansion

Nollywood is Nigeria’s answer to Hollywood, coming second in terms of the number of films produced. Although Nigeria’s film industry is traditionally segregated along regional, ethnic or religious lines, the advent of English spoken films has made it possible to make films that can be distributed throughout the country and even outside the country’s borders.

Playing into this, Genesis cinema’s, one of Nigeria’s biggest cinema devlopers, has stated its plans to expand into new territories. As an avid supporter of Nigeria’s film industry, Nnaeto Orazulike, the company’s director has stated that: “At Genesis cinemas, it is of utmost importance that we support the progress of Nollywood by playing our part as exhibitors.”

By moving away from the obstruction of regional borders this development mirrors the shared discourse of place and it’s mixing with discourses around heritage, ritual and authenticity as mentioned by Mayer (2016). By focusing on a pan-African block of cinemas and distribution this expansion makes it possible to move away from neocolonial structures like the ubiquitous influence that Hollywood has traditionally had. Or as mister Orazulike says: “I look forward to an era where Nigerian films will compete with the rest of the world, not only in quantity but in quality as well.”

Literature

Mayer, V. (2016). The Places Where Audience Studies and Production Studies Meet. Television & New Media 17.8 (2016): 706-718.

Away from the telly, on to the (You)Tube!

 

Media is changing, that much is clear. The rapid development of new technologies has led to a diffusion of segregation between media platforms. Whereas traditionally such platforms had their own domain, divisions have faded away (Mierzejewska & Shaver, 2014). Many of my peers don’t even own a television anymore: there simply isn’t any need to watch annoying commercial breaks when you can access practically every show or movie from your laptop.

Dutch cable services have long been unwilling to accept such developments. Presenters like Arjan Lubach and Tim Hofman have had to convince heads of public television to let them create their own Youtube-channels. And with success, as both have over 250K followers. This has arguably led to greater popularity on traditional channels too. Point in case: Zondag met Lubach has been nominated for a prestigious Dutch tv-prize this year. Furthermore, by placing the Zondag met Lubach videos on YouTube, its influence is reaching far beyond our national borders, with his Trump and NRA videos being picked up globally. Such successes are not without financial gains: it has been estimated that the Trump video, with over 50 million views, has yielded around €20.000. It must be noted that this is far from enough revenue to cover the costs of making the show.

This brings me to a small piece of criticism on Mierzejewska & Shaver (2014), who state that consumers can now easily make their own content and gain a large following. Although this is true, the quality of this content can be questioned. A show like Zondag met Lubach requires staff that puts in many hours of labour and this requires financial resources.

When asked what he would do as head of the public service, Lubach answered: ’embrace new media’. And that might just be the right way to go.

Literature

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

 

The Trump Effect: Convergence Culture in Action

Reuters has launched a new online multimedia project to gauge what they call ‘The Trump Effect’. By working with interactive graphics, a news archive and opinion polls its goal is to measure the impact that President Trump’s administration policies have on American society.
The decision to make such a tool stems from the wish to cut out the noise surrounding political news and to enable the public to see for themselves what the real impact of Trump’s policies is (Allsop, 2017). It is then up to the readers to decide how they truly feel about these policies.

The launching and felt need for such a tool can be seen as an example of ‘convergence culture’ (Jenkins, 2006 in Lewis, 2012: pp. 847), which highlights the development of breaking down dividing lines between media creation and media consumption.

Lewis mentions the “enduring impediment to journalists’ capacity to change their perceptions and practice in the digital age” (Lewis, 2012: pp. 845). However, the willingness to create a platform that incorporates rather than excludes participation from the public, in this instance mainly by incorporating opinion polls, proves Lewis wrong in this instance. In my opinion, a lot has changed since 2012, when Lewis wrote this article. Media platforms are acknowledging the need for change and are actively searching for ways to include consumers in a way that is constructive for both journalism and the public itself. As such, they move away from the stance that the public needs journalism for independence and truth-telling (Lewis, 2012) and open up ways for consumers to enrich such goals that were previously seen as exclusive to the field of journalism.

References

Allsop, J. (2017). Reuters sets out ambitious plan to measure ‘the Trump Effect’. Retrieved from: https://www.cjr.org/analysis/reuters-trump.php on September 30, 2017.

Lewis, S.C. (2012). The tension between professional control and open participation. Information, Communication & Society, 15:6, pp. 836-866.

http://www.reuters.com/trump-effect

 

Discriminated by computers: how algorithms and big data adopt and replicate inequality

‘Weapons of math destruction’ is what mathematician and writer Cathy O’Neil calls them (Janssen, 2016): big data and algorithms, both of which are increasingly used in media, politics, education and many other fields that shape our everyday lives.

Although algorithms are blind, they always bring certain assumptions with them. As machines are fed by data that reflect the historical inequality that dominates societies worldwide, these programs have the possibility of not only repeating but even amplifying such unjust social structures (Slob, 2017).

Recent experiments with new technology confirm such fears: from an image recognition program by Google that identified several black persons as gorillas to Microsoft’s chatbot that only needed one day of learning from Twitter to start spewing antisemitic comments (Buranyi, 2017). A study of Google searches revealed “significant discrimination” (Sweeney, 2013 in: Caplan and Boyd, 2016: p. 7) in the online ads that Google provided with black-identifying names as opposed to white-identifying names, with searches for black names having a much larger likelihood of returning ads for arrest records. By using feedback given by users, the algorithm adopted existing racist structures and replicated them (Caplan and Boyd, 2016).

Although algorithms can be seen as ‘accurate’, since they work with feedback from real people, that does not mean that they are fair, O’Neil argues. The blind trust that people put in algorithms can be very dangerous as they can be ‘destructive and secret’ (Burack, 2017). As such, much can be said for increasing ‘algorithmic literacy’, also put forward by Caplan and Boyd (2016). By making data and their workings accessible for a larger share of people, unwanted features could be weeded out quicker and transparency can increase. By investing in such education we can hopefully shift towards unbiased data that helps society move forward rather than replicating our historical downfalls.

Literature

Burack, C. (2017). Algorithms are ‘existential threat’ to shared reality, says Cathy O’Neil. Retrieved from: http://www.dw.com/en/algorithms-are-existential-threat-to-shared-reality-says-cathy-oneil/a-40167802 on September 13, 2017.

Buranyi, S. (2017). Rise of the racist robots: how AI is learning all our worst impulses. Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/inequality/2017/aug/08/rise-of-the-racist-robots-how-ai-is-learning-all-our-worst-impulses on September 13, 2017.

Caplan, R., Boyd, D. (2016). Who controls the public sphere in an era of algorithms? Data and Society, 1-19.

Janssen, G. (2016) Wiskundige Cathy O’Neil en de ‘weapons of math destruction’. Retrieved from: https://www.vn.nl/cathy-oneil-en-weapons-math-destruction/ on September 13, 2017.

Slob, M. (2017). Ingebouwde aannamen in algoritmes houden sociale ongelijkheden in stand. Retrieved from: https://www.volkskrant.nl/opinie/ingebouwde-aannamen-in-algoritmes-houden-sociale-ongelijkheden-in-stand~a4515920/ on September 13, 2017.