Trees: tracing Serial?

Trees is a Dutch interactive app that launches in March 2018, it is built for investigative journalism and investigative stories. The app displays the search of journalists and the public for ‘finding the truth’. This is then translated into a podcast, with visual additions, the ability for the public to participate, photos, graphs etc. Very new, very cool. Hansje van de Beek, on of the inventors was invited to talk about the app a couple of weeks ago.

My first thought on this app was: this is very inventive. Hansje told us they were inspired by Serial, the podcast everybody I know is hooked on. She also mentioned two motives for the app idea: media users getting more trust and attract a younger audience. The idea is that the method used by the journalists is transparent (users can participate in the search), which generates more trust. That sounds interesting and original.  But it didn’t become quite clear to me how the latter was going to be done. You cannot just attract a younger public because you have an iPhone friendly podcast app with visuals, it takes more than that.

But my real doubt was about the example Hansje gave: the Serial podcast. If you compare your to be podcast app to something that exciting, thrilling, deepening and interesting, you can never live up to the expectations of the public.

Sozan Toksoz

Supportive literature

Naldi, Lucia, and Robert G. Picard. “‘Let’s Start an Online News site’: Opportunities, Resources, Strategy, and Formational Myopia in Startups.” Journal of Media Business Studies 4 (2012): 47-59. Web. 11 August 2015.

Modernizing online journalism through Web Analytics?

With websites such as Facebook and twitter, the online news stories of media companies have become increasingly popular. News should be available at any second, in any form. To keep an eye on what the public wants to read, media companies use Web Analytics. In their article Thomas and Tandoc discuss their concerns with this development and its influence on Journalism as a profession. I can see the logic in their arguments but I think this Web Analytics isn’t all bad, it forces journalists and ‘journalism’ to change, to modernize, something that is much needed from time to time.

Consider ‘De Correspondent’ as an example, a news platform that is exclusively online. This new form of online journalism became very popular. Not because they had short, snappy, sexy, sensational news items, but because they had a new concept: longer pieces on topics that are always relevant.

With Web Analytics there is a risk that all of the online news will look the same, after all one can see which topic or subject got the most ‘clicks’, but journalists can also take on the challenge to come up with better ideas when the traditional (online) broadcasting of news isn’t working. Video’s, interactive news games, exciting podcasts. Web Analytics can make journalists try new things when it comes to online news through the influence of the audience; in that sense I think it’s a good development.

Sozan Toksoz


Tandoc, Edson C., and Ryan J. Thomas. “The Ethics of Web Analytics.” Digital Journalism 3.2 (2015): 243–258. Taylor and Francis+NEJM. Web.

Media organizations love their own productions. Is that a bad thing?

‘The process of gaining the access to conduct long-term observational research within media organizations is usually challenging’ is argued in Paterson et al. (2015: 18). In their article the author write about the difficulties to ‘confront’ media (and thus journalists) with their makings. Why is this so difficult? It is, in my opinion, because most media organizations like their own productions better than the public.

NOS op 3 is a good example: the former news program which broadcasted every day, shifted towards an online platform two years ago. Why? Because the ratings sucked.
But this wasn’t a sudden development, since their start in 2007 the show was not received well by the public. Nevertheless NOS op 3 only started changing their course in 2015, eight years later. Even then, half of the staff did not agree with the ‘online plan’. The journalists couldn’t evaluate their own productions critically anymore.

I think that’s a very interesting development in media organizations, especially with the non-commercial channels. What is the difference between what ‘we’ want to do, and what the public wants to see?
On the other hand the statement that I’m making is a very tricky one: aren’t journalists or media organizations responsible for making news that has not reached the public yet? Isn’t it their job to search for falsehoods that they find interesting and bring it under attention? So if you look at it that way, I guess I’m still not sure what my opinion in this ‘dilemma’ is.

Sozan Toksoz


Chris Paterson, David Lee, Anamik Saha, and Anna Zoellner. “Production Research: Continuity and Transformation.” In: Advancing Media Production Research (2015). Print.

News liveblogs are so on point

Media industries keep innovating themselves. They’re trying to address the news they are producing as easy as possible, and to an audience as young as possible. These innovations are certain newspaper apps, news video’s, websites such as blendle and topics, and, as Mierzejewska and Shaver (2014: 47) ‘instantaneous updates’. One example of these upates is the rise of liveblogs, used by both written and visual journalism and new mediums. Especially The Volkskrant and NOS nieuws are fervent users of liveblogs. Of course, they can be very informative, making sure the public can keep track of the latest news, but sometimes these liveblogs look like they are just filling up space:

Do we have to have an update of the current events every few minutes? Even if sometimes journalists themselves don’t really know what they should write? Like the Volkskrant in this liveblog  Or these ones from NOS: the oscars and sport


Media industries are struggling, especially the traditional ones. Innovations like these help them to keep the public interested in their publications. And of course, modernizations need to be encouraged. But, as we say in Dutch: overdrijven is ook een vak.

Sozan Toksoz


Bozena Mierzejewska & Dan Shaver. “Key Changes Impacting Media Management Research.” International Journal of Media Management 16 (2014). Print.


It’s not about who decides, but what is decided

“They (consumers) 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.” This is what Jenkins argues in his article on media convergence (2004: 37). Big media companies might have ruled the industry once, but if we look at the last couple of years, it is the ‘consumers’ who decide which potential newsitems really become news. When Jenkins writes about the clear distinction between consumer and producer, one can argue that this isn’t the case (anymore?). I am a consumer, but I’m also a producer. Both roles can be fulfilled through for intstance social media.

The question is, is this a good or a bad thing? I think it’s both. In this way ‘the public’ is able to make news. When looking at the disappearence of Dutch girl Anne Faber for instance, lots of people shared the facebook message of her boyfriend stating he was unable to reach her. The attention this case got from social media reached the newspapers. Eventually this caused the Dutch army to help with the search.

But consumers being producers also have a bad side: fake news. A small example when looking at the recent events in Las Vegas fake messages were spread about the perpetrator of the shooting. Most through social media and popular websites. And with this example, the consequences are’t even that shocking.

I wonder what Jenkins things about this entanglement of the traditional media/news roles and what she things about the pros and cons.

Sozan Toksoz


Jenkins, Henry. “The cultural logic of media convergence.” International journal of cultural studies 7.1 (2004): 33-43.



Everything Trump does is ‘ridiculous’

Donald Trump is definitely not my favorite president. And actually, he’s no one’s favorite president, right? At least in Europe. Or should I say in European media? Most leading newspapers, television programs and other sources of news in Europe share the same (sometimes covered) frame when it comes to news about Trump: he’s no good, he can’t rule and Europe stands against him. This tendency was especially visible in newsitems on Trump’s handshake. More (other) articles herehere, and here

According to Schuck and Feinholdt, through interaction between journalists and news organizations, political elites, and the public, news frames eventually take shape (2015: 2). One can argue if that interaction is actually taking place here. That the media, the elites and the public are sharing an argument, instead of having a dialogue.

Does it matter? Yes to me it does. Because even though I agree with this dominant frame about trump, I find myself in an inner conflict. Is the journalists integrity at risk when reporting news in such a frame? One the one hand it could be argued that a journalist should always be as objective as possible. But on the other hand one can believe that by using different frames, journalists remain critical. So the question here is, what is the relationship between framing and objectivity?

Although Schuck and Feinholdt present relevant theories and concepts on framing, the question whether or not the objectivity of the media and journalists is at risk in using frames, unfortunately remains unanswered.

Sozan Toksöz


Schuck, Andreas R.T., and Alina Feinholdt. (2015). News Framing Effects and Emotions. Robert Scott and Stephen Kosslyn (Eds.), Emerging trends in the social and behavioral sciences.



The Guardian

Why can’t student societies leave me alone?

In the Netherlands there is a distinction between student associations (studievereniging) and student societies (studentenverenigingen). Where the first is a designation for an association of students who study the same subject at the same university, the latter’s definitions is broader and more intense: a society where the members are students, who in most cases live in the same house, and participate in mandatory activities. News about these student societies keep popping up in the media, they have become controversial. Especially since 2016, when the student society Vindicat was involved in scandals of sexual intimidation and physical abuse, every new bit of information about the societies becomes a self-contained news item.

In the newspaper NRC Handelsblad alone, in 2016 and 2017 131 articles were written about news, information, stories and rumors on student societies. Compare this to a total of 13 articles on student associations in the same newspaper, same years.

Articles about student societies that appeared in the NRC Handelsblad. Highest amount in 2016: 78 articles

Articles about student societies that appeared in the NRC Handelsblad. Highest amount in 2006: 13 articles

I am subscribed to NRC Handelsblad, and I’m wondering why I have to keep reading about all the updates on this subject.

Galtung and Ruge (1965) explain in their article how events become news. They introduce different criteria, or news values (1965: 65). One of these news values is so called continuity, specified in ‘What Is News? Galtung and Ruge revisited’ (Harcup & O’Neill, 2010). When a certain subject has become a headline, the item will continue to be newsworthy. Why? Because the information will be easier to understand and to interpret.

As for me, this subject has been exploited enough for the last two years. Instead of providing new interesting, grounbraking information, news on this subject has become a mediahype. Let’s come up with a new headliner, let’s pick on someting else.


Sozan Toksöz


Galtung, Johan and Mari Holmboe Ruge. “The Structure of Foreign News.” Journal of Peace Research 2.1 (1965): 64-91. Print.

Harcup, Tony and Deirdre O’Neill. “What Is News? Galtung and Ruge revisited.” Journalism Studies 2.2 (2001): 261-280. Print.

NRC Handelsblad, 2016. Slachtoffervontgroening vindicat doet alsnog aangifte.

NRC Handelsblad, 2016. De bangalijst van vindicat.

Who’s afraid of algorithmic recruitment?

Thank you for your interest! Unfortunately you are not the right fit for the position…

An algorithm that predicts what your chances are on being invited to a job interview, how beneficial! Suggests NRC Handelsblad in this article of July 2017. Youngcapital, a Dutch recruitment agency, will probably use this technique in 2018 developed in cooperation with Marcia Goddard.

With machine learning, as it is called, a system will determine for YoungCapital which candidates are suitable for the job and which not. But an algorithm that decides such an important decision is very influential and powerful. As Frank van Luijk argues in NRC Handelsblad in August 2017: these kinds of systems leads to the ‘cloning’ of existing employees.

Caplan and Boyd (2016: 13) argue that computers have greater influence in our lives, for instance in the types of jobs that are available. Later they state: “(…) dominant modes of communication, including code, can leave many individuals feeling silent and thus create or perpetuate inequalities” (Ibid: 14). Although their plea focuses on algorithmic manipulation of news and information, this argument is especially applicable on this new job-recruitment system.

One would think organisations need new, innovative, creative and diverse employees, is that achievable using an algorithm that chooses profiles based on big data of the company’s existing patterns?



Caplan, Robin, and boyd, danah. Who Controls the
Public Sphere in an Era of Algorithms? Data & Society
(2016). Online.

Don, Christel. “Algoritme geeft werkzoekende sollicitatie-advies”. NRC Handelsblad. 27 juli 2017. Online

Luijk, Frank van. “Algoritmes leiden tot behoudzucht en conservatisme”. NRC Handelsblad. 1 augustus 2017. Online