Freelance Warriors

Thinking about the future of journalism means thinking about the position of freelance journalists. More and more of us take on a role as freelancer in the widespread media landscape. Verhalenmarkt is a new concept that might give us a glimpse in the future of freelancing.

Verhalenmarkt is an online platform on which freelance journalists and media meet each other. Journalists can pitch their ideas and stories on the website. It is a very simple supply and demand system, “something that is necessary in a time in which newsrooms are getting smaller and journalists work for several outlets”, the makers argue.

Burns and Matthews write in Post-Industrial Journalism as a Creative Industry that the internet offers grand opportunities for freelance journalists “to get beyond the freelance model” (Burns and Matthews, 7). and “to create small enterprises based on the creation of content to be distributed through websites and blogs.” (Burns and Matthews, 7). As it seems, Verhalenmarkt fits with the notion of the future of freelancing, Burns and Matthews describe in their study. 

Personally, I think it is a great idea to set up a place where freelancers and newspapers/magazines/online platforms can connect and share ideas and productions. It is something we desperately need in times of a growing number of freelance journalists combined with poor payments and closed work cultures (newsrooms). However, what is the function of a newsroom in this ‘story of the future’? Don’t we need the newsroom to have a sense of unity, a sense of understanding the audience and the medium you are writing for?

Bibliograph:

Burns, L.S. and Matthews, B.J. Post-Industrial Journalism as a Creative Industry. International Journal of Social, Behavioral, Educational, Economic, Business and Industrial Engineering 11(6) (2017), 1543-1551.

http://www.verhalenmarkt.nl/

Words: 282 | BY THOMAS DE MAN

 

Feeding trolls

Buzzfeed writes in the revealing article ‘Inside The Secret Facebook Group Of Quebec’s Far-Right “Wolf Pack”’ about an extreme-right group on Facebook that boasts with its 44 thousand members. However, through research, Buzzfeed found out that a large part of that number is non-existing. An interesting example how ‘trolling’ can lead to influence.

Alice Marwic and Rebecca Lewis conclude in their research ‘Media Manipulation and Disinformation Online’ that internet subcultures, like the extreme-right in Canada, “manipulate news frames, set agendas, and propagate ideas” and have ways of “attention hacking to increase visibility” (Marwic & Lewis, 1). Now, the Canadian La Meute extreme-right Facebook group is an example which coheres to the point Marwic and Lewis make. The “attention hacking” leads to more visibility, media coverages and even political influence (Patriquin, 2017).  

Even though the internet and platforms such as Facebook give room to framing, agenda setting and attention hacking, the media is not just a victim of it. Look at the Buzzfeed article, it completely debunks La Meute through some impressive investigative journalism. So, yes internet gives room to subcultures and overwhelming media attention, but there is also room for those same media to investigate and debunk trolls.

Thomas de Man

229 words 

 

Bibliography

Marwick, Alice, & Lewis, Rebecca. “Media Manipulation and Disinformation Online.” Data & Society. 15 May 2018. Web.

Patriquin, Martin. ‘Inside The Secret Facebook Group Of Quebec’s Far-Right “Wolf Pack”. Buzzfeed. 2017. Web.

Quality Clicks

Click-bait attracts eyeballs and generates income, but is rarely newsworthy. That is what Jeffrey Dvorkin says in a column for PBS Newshour. Dvorkin, currently director of the journalism program at the University of Toronto, worked as chief journalist at CBC Radio and NPR. Is the power of the click a threat to quality journalism?

In How News Media are Developing and using Audience Data and Metrics, Federica Cherubini and Rasmus Kleis Nielsen review how European and North American newsrooms use analytics. They state that journalists both need and want to work with online data. Earlier skepticism changed into interest in how to target their audience and improve their work. Nielsen and Cherubini see it as a positive development that journalists are actively involved in the evolvement of analytics and metrics. “Because if they are not part of that process, the tools and techniques developed will continue to reflect and empower commercial and technological priorities more than editorial priorities” (Cherubini & Nielsen, 7).

Dovrkin goes against this notion. According to him, digital first and the pressure of clicks has affected the notion of skepticism within the field of journalism. When it comes to digital, there is “unquestioning enthusiasm” (Dvorkin, PBS). In my opinion, it is a combination of both points of view. Yes, clickbait can affect quality journalism. Editors are often sensitive to a lot of traffic, but also (more and more) to the minutes people spend reading an article. And higher quality would in most cases lead to more reading minutes. In short, it is a positive development that journalist are actively involved with online data however clicks should not be the dominant factor within the data. The key is finding a balance in the fast evolving field of online journalism, data and metrics.

By Thomas de Man – 293 words

Bibliography

Cherubini, Federica, and Rasmus Kleis Nielsen. Editorial Analytics: How News Media Are Developing and Using Audience Data and Metrics. Oxford, UK: Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, 2016. Web.

Dvorkin, Jeffrey. Column: Why click-bait will be the death of journalism. PBS. 2016. Online.

Looking at history, we might understand Facebook better

“Protecting our community is more important than maximizing our profits”. A quote by Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, as a reaction to the surging profits of his company. The question is whether Zuckerberg is really willing to put profit second. The pressure on Facebook is building after Russian interference in the US elections and growing influence of the platform. What is their true priority?

In the study Learning from the History of the Field, Janet Wasko emphasizes the importance of being aware of the history of media industries. Historical analysis explains f.e. the initial focus on making profit in the early days of Hollywood. Wasko writes that in contrast to other countries, the film industry in the United States was “developed as a profit-oriented, commodity-based enterprise.”

By analyzing the past, one can better understand the present. Even though Facebook is not part of the film industry, it is part of the American media industry. The culture of capitalism is at the heart of (most) American industries, also the media industry as we can read in Wasko’s research. Thus, I think we should critically monitor dominant players in the media industry, like Facebook.

“Protecting our community before profit”, really? According to The Wall Street Journal the revenues of the company increased with 47 percent (to $10.3 billion) compared to this quarter last year. So, what is it going to be Mark? Admitting that Facebook has a responsibility to the society and acting accordingly or putting the main focus on growing profits? Looking at history, we might already know the answer.

By T de Man

Bibliography:

Wasko, Janet. Learning from the History of the Field. University of Oregon. 68-70. 2015. Print.

Seetharaman, Deepa. Facebook Profit Jumps 79%, Revenue Up. The Wall Street Journal. 2017. Online.

Popper, Ben. Facebook’s business is booming, but it says preventing abuse will cut into future profits. The Verge. 2017. Online.

Shifting tides

In the article ‘Facebook loses attention as publishers shift focus to other platforms’, DigidayUK touches upon a new trend in online news publishing. According to the website, news publishers are slowly shifting to other social media platforms to distribute their news.

Facebook is clearly still a big source of referral traffic for publishers overall, DigidayUK writes. But publishers are giving more attention to other platforms such as Google News, Apple News, Snapchat, and Instagram (owned by Facebook). Publishers who change their distributing are posting less on Facebook and when they do post, they make sure to refer people back to their websites. Also, publishers create more original content for specific platforms.

In ‘The Cultural Logic of Media Convergence’ by Henry Jenkins of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Jenkins describes the emergence of media convergence. In the 2004 study he writes: “For the foreseeable future, convergence will be a kind of kludge – a jerry-rigged relationship between different media technologies – rather than a fully integrated system.” (Jenkins, 34). However thirteen years later I think we could argue that the various media technologie are deeply integrated with each other.

Media are more and more intertwined nowadays but it is more of a dependency than a true cooperation. The absolute power of Facebook is showing some weaknesses as seen in the news article. If this trend continues, does that mean a potential change of the current media system? Or will another player take over the dominant position of Facebook? According to Jenkins consumers are expected to play a more active role in determining what content they want to see (Jenkins, 38). But I think the scholar didn’t spot the correct trend on this point. Consumers have little or no power what they see on dominant platforms like facebook. They are left to the will of an algorithm.

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

Thomas de Man

Let’s put the blame where it belongs, Peter

Dutch newspaper NRC recently announced the ‘retirement’ of their China correspondent Oscar Garschagen, after having made several ethical mistakes. The editor-in-chief Peter Vandermeersch concludes in an investigation that Garschagen violated the work ethics and is solely to blame.

Now, it is true that Garschagen has crossed the line, admitting himself, but by framing the guy as an old man suffering from mental illness, Vandermeersch beautifully removes the workings of his organization out of the picture.

In the study ‘News Framing Effects and Emotions’, Andreas R. T. Schuck and Alina Feinholdt state that news framing refers to the observation that media can portray one topic in various ways, focussing on a specific aspect at the expense of others (Shuck and Feinholdt, 2). The NRC investigation is a good example of framing. Garschagen is portayed as an old senile man, suggesting associations (Schuck and Feinholdt, 2) that led to making up elements in some of his stories on China.

It leaves no room for the aspect of possible wrongdoing of the newspaper itself, and especially the ones in charge. The investigation does not include or investigate the work ethics of its own organization, while there is enough reason to elaborate on these aspects as well.

Dennis Chong and James N. Druckman write in the study ‘Framing Theory’ that citizens often have found to have low-quality opinions. High-quality opinions, which you could say is applicable to the NRC editor-in-chief, are seen as connected to abstract principles and values (Chong and Druckman, 103). In my opinion Chong and Druckman underestimate the general public and overestimate ‘high-quality’ opinions. Vandermeersch’ decision to leave the newspaper, that facilitated the mistakes, out of the discussion, is in my eyes not high-quality at all.  

Whether it is priming, framing or both, editor-in-chief Peter Vandermeersch should try to be a proper journalist by being transparent and critical of not only his employees but also the organization in general.

Bibliography:

Chong, Dennis, and Druckman, James N. “Framing Theory.” Annual Review of Political Science 10.1 (2007): 103–126. Print.

Schuck, Andreas T, and Feinholdt, Alina. ‘News Framing Effects and Emotions’. Published Online: 15 May 2015. 1-15. Print.

Thomas de Man
350 words

 

The People’s Mayor

A long and steady applause was heard alongside the Amsterdam canals on Wednesday night. Hundreds of inhabitants gathered around Herengracht 502 to say goodbye to their mayor, who is terminally ill. It was broadcasted live on local television and written about in national newspapers. Why is this news?

In their study ‘What is news? Galtung and Ruge revisited’ Tony Harcup and Deirdre O’Neill introduce an updated version of news values; criteria used by media to determine what becomes news. The original research ‘The Structure of Foreign News’ dates from 1965 and is still regarded as a vital research to news production. But according to Harcup and O’Neill, a more contemporary set of news values was needed.

So how do these criteria set by Galtung and Ruge apply on people showing gratitude to their mayor? First of all, the mayor of Amsterdam belongs to what Galtung and Ruge would call the ‘power elite’; “stories concerning powerful individuals, organisations or institutions” (Galtung and Ruge, 279). Furthermore I would argue that this story has elements of both ‘good news’ and ‘bad news’. Both are potential criteria for a news story according to Galtung and Ruge. (279). The mayor having to quit his job due to illness is clearly the bad news element here. However I would argue that people coming together to show their respect is good news (Galtung and Ruge, 279). A last criteria that is relevant to this story is ‘follow up’; the situation of the mayor has been in the news for about half a year. This particular event was triggered by his announcement to step down from his post.

This example checks four out of ten criteria and thereby shows that the updated news values can be applied to current news stories.

Bibliography: 

Harcup, T., & O’neill, D. (2001). What is news? Galtung and Ruge revisited. Journalism studies, 2(2), 261-280.

Applaus en gezang als steun voor burgemeester Van der Laan. NOS. September 2017. https://nos.nl/artikel/2193986-applaus-en-gezang-als-steun-voor-burgemeester-van-der-laan.html

Dear colleagues, we are being replaced

Now that sounds more dramatic than it might be, plus a robot would never come up with that title. However automated storytelling is gaining ground. The Washington Post recently announced an expansion in their use of Heliograf, which is an automated storytelling technology.

From now on the Heliograf technology is writing articles on the results of high school football games in the DC-area. By using automated storytelling, The Post is able to cover all games. Something they would not do if they had to put in human labor, prioritizing other stories.

Napoli (2014) states in his research on automation in media industries that the rise of algorithms as content creators is not to say that we (human) journalists are being pushed out of the newsroom. According to the scholar, our role in the creation of content changes from a direct to an indirect role (Napoli, 2).

Scott Gillespie, Chief Technology Officer at The Washington Post argues that by giving room to automated storytelling, journalists have more time “to do in-depth reporting”. The question that comes up: do we want to have an indirect role? In my opinion humans should not be placed on a sidetrack in something so vital as independent journalism, especially these days.

Curious if a (damn) robot writes better than you do? Check this article to find out:  

Wilson at Yorktown 


Biography
:

Napoli, Philip N (2014). On Automation in Media Industries: Integrating Algorithmic Media Production into Media Industries Scholarship. Rutgers University. 1-5. Online.