Towards a bright future by reinventing the past

“News has to become cheaper to produce, and cost reduction must be accompanied by a restructuring of organizational models and processes”, Bell tells us in her 2007 manifesto on the future of journalism. An obvious way to go about reducing cost in news production is by cutting on the biggest expense modern media companies have: human labor. The automation and computerization of production processes outside of media companies has been widely implemented already.

While being the biggest expense, human labor makes up the most important asset of media companies as well. It may seem daunting, therefore, that human journalists could be at risk of becoming obsolete due to AI taking over their jobs. This fear however is not entirely rational.

Let’s look at Automated Insights. This startup, founded in 2007, produced 1.5 billion automated pieces of content in 2016 alone. They provide different tools for creating automated, data-driven media. The Associated Press, among many others, uses their tools. Their spokesperson claims that the automation provided by Automated Insights does not lead to job displacement. Quite the contrary, AI helps to free up resources and time for journalists to focus on important things.

When automobiles were invented, horse coachmen feared for their jobs. The same goes for paper printing companies at the time of the invention of the personal computer. The list of examples goes on. Although reinventions that cause changes in commercial processes may be disruptive to the working environment on a small scale, new labor arises out of new opportunities. In the end, it’s very likely that the working environment will stabilize one way or another. This means that we have to consider these kinds of changes with just the right amount of scrutiny; we have to critically assess organizational restructuring while simultaneously regarding new production processes as new opportunities.

By Victor Berndsen

Word count: 300

References

Bell, Emily, C. W. Anderson, and Clay Shirky. “Post-
Industrial Journalism: Adapting to the Present.” Geopolitics, History, and International Relations 2 (2015): 32–123. Print.

Epic Adventures, Profitable Journalism

Delivering non-fiction stories as an exciting film script; Epic Magazine turns long narrative journalism into a rollercoaster ride and, perhaps even more important, a profitable business. Journalists Joshua Davis (Wired) and Joshua Bearman (This American Life) search for – almost unbelievably – weird stories and turn them into beautifully designed longreads. Yet, these “Epic True Stories” mainly focus on text, and hardly integrate any other media (except for photographs). So why is Epic Magazine such a success?

First; the stories live up to their promise. They are weird, touching and at times newsworthy. The titles include: “The Cold War” (about a local fight between icecream trucks) and “Arab Spring Break” (about a burn-out Wall Street banker who joins the freedom-fight in Libya) Second; they are incredibly well-written. They read like short novels. Often when reading a longread, I scroll to the end to see how long it will takes – even when it’s interesting and well-written. Here, I didn’t feel the need once. However, they are long – very long. I am curious about their statistics. Do people often complete them or not?

Have you seen “Argo” with Ben Affleck? Good. It’s based on one of Bearman’s stories. This is part of their business model (as they explain in this FastCompany article); selling their longreads as film scripts. And it’s working. Eighteen of them have already been sold to Hollywood, which is not surprising; there has been a significant surge in “based on true events” movies. However, do they just make stories to sell them as movies? No. Not unlike Vice, they also approach possible sponsors and ask them if they would like to finance a certain story. It’s kind of like a network selling its shows to advertisers before it has even started filming.

Does Epic Magazine represent the future of long narrative journalism? In her article, Bell argues that “good journalism has always been subsidized.” I think Epic Magazine proves that this isn’t necessarily true. Unlike Vice, Epic Magazine does not allow their sponsors to determine content. Instead, they approach sponsors with a story (and audience) that might fit with their brand. While any collaboration with advertisers is tricky, it’s also necessary. As long as it doesn’t intervene with the content, it’s not that much different from an advertisement in the paper. And, after all – we cannot do it for free.

Bibliography

Bell, Emily (2007) “The Future: Journalism and Media as Post Industries”. Tow Center for Digital Journalism.

Gitmo: A New Form of Reporting?

Rather than entirely closing themselves off to new technologies which is often seen as a major factor as to why quality journalism is being eradicated (Van der Haak et. al 2925). There are examples where new technologies are being used to create a new form of information dissemination, an example being Gone Gitmo.

It is an “An immersive docu-game based on the Guantanamo Bay prison camp, originally designed for Second Life and now available in Unity, based on actual reporting and facts.” It attempts to create a docu game version, akin to an MMORPG, where the player gets to experience what it would happen if they were a prisoner in Gitmo. The purpose of this is to make them realize what it would like to have their civil rights and liberties stripped away.

While for many this may feel controversial, it is a way of converging the medium of reporting with gaming to create an immersive experience, that could work advantageously to give the player a tiny insight into how it could be for a person to lose their basic human rights.

Word Count: 180

 

Van der Haak, Bregtje, Parks, Michael, and Manuel Castells. “The Future of Journalism: Networked Journalism.” International Journal of Communication 6 (2012): 2923–2938. Print.

Citizens’ Investigation

In 2008 the Chinese human rights activist  and Nobel Peace Prize winner (2010) Ai Weiwei launched a participatory journalism and crowdsourcing project. The project aims to discover the number and the names of the schoolchildren who died in the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake.

On May 12th, 2008, an 8 Richter-scale earthquake occurred in Sichuan province, China. Among the dead were over 5,000 schoolchildren. Weiwei traveled to the disaster zone to document the post-quake situation with his camera. He wanted to obtain more information about the death toll and the names of the children, but local officials obstructed his investigation.

The strength of Weiwei’s project is also his weakness. Because there is not anything like free press in China an independent project could really get some good results, but if the results would hurt the Chinese government the project will be obstructed, as already happened.

But there will never be free press in China if the society does not take action themselves. A citizens’ investigation is the only possible way to find the truth about this earthquake. Ai Weiwei recruited 100 volunteers for his investigation,  he won the Nobel Peace Prize but he was also placed under house arrest.

Economically the Citizens’ investigation isn’t the best project, but ideologically these kind of start-ups can be of great meaning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audience in the Pocket

Bell, Anderson and Shirky (2015) talk about the ‘restructuring of organizational models’ being vital to the survival of journalism in a business model sense. Let’s zoom in on one of those new structures.

Pocket is an app, before known as Read it Later. In 2012 the app was redesigned, but the idea remained the same: when you come across content you like, but you don’t have the time to read at the moment, you can save for later in the app. Also videos from youtube or vimeo can be downloaded to the app and saved for later.

Now you could do a SWOT-analysis on the app to see if Pocket is a fruitful way of restructuring the medialandscape. A strength of Pocket would definitely be that it’s easy to use, it has a pretty lay-out and you can use in on all devices with just one account, which is very comfortable. A weakness however is that not all content can be downloaded to Pocket. Not all articles, youtube- or vimeovideos can be downloaded, due to technical problems the app didn’t solve thus far. An opportunity thus lies in developing the app to an even higher technical level. A threat would be that the app gets too complicated to use. Already now there’s an option for following people on Pocket, connecting to twitter and connecting to facebook. In my opinion all these features are a threat to the app, which I think works best if it stays as simple as the idea sounds.

Pocket is surely not answering the more difficult questions of our time, like who a journalist is nowadays or the future of journalism as ideology, prompted by Burns and Matthews (2017). But I think apps such as Pocket can be helpful in keeping journalistic content accessible and relevant for a highly individualized audience.

References

Bell, E., Anderson, C. W. and Shirky, C. Post-Industrial Journalism: Adapting to the Present. Geopolitics, History, and International
Relations 2 (2015), 32–123.

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.

On the sixth day of journalism..

In their text “Post-Industrial” Journalism as a Creative Industry”, Burns and Matthews focus mainly on the new developments in labor, but they also ask a more general, and very important question that I want to talk about. They say

“Content is, with growing frequency, created for delivery via the internet, publication on web-based ‘platforms’ and consumption on screen media. In this environment, the question is not ‘who is a journalist?’ but ‘what is journalism?’ today.”

According tot them, the new platform Dag6 might be a perfect example of the “viable post-industrial future for journalism”. Dag6 is an online collaboration of Volkskrant and the deep religious Nederlands Dagblad, targeted towards young adults.

Nederlands Dagblad is becoming less and less popular, in average selling 7% less every year since the beginning of this millenium. Of course they’d like to attract new, young readers and improve their image. Dag6 is a way to keep relevant.

But the collaboration is interesting. Why would Volkskrant be in for a collaboration with Nederlands Dagblad, other than for the money? And: how transparant is this new medium about the journalistic values? They don’t lie about their religious background, but they do pretend a bit that the articles are nót opiniated or one-sided, which they partly are. Taking more and more journalistic projects tot the web, the lines between what journalism is and is not, begin to fade. So what are the consequences then, in the long run, and fort he Volkskrant?

Burns and Matthews write about how journalists should be protected from the market, but what if new platforms are becoming slaves of the market already?

By Aybala Carlak, 269 words

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.

‘Inshorts’ has you informed in just 60 words  

Journalist startups are not only rising from hip north California. Take India, for example. Last year, Reuters and the University of Oxford published a list of new journalist platforms from the country of curries and cricket.

Inshorts is one of these startups. Through an app, the platform serves users with news stories that only take a minute to read. Inshorts doesn’t produce news as such; they rather take articles from other platforms and shorten them. The cool thing about Inshorts is that it works a bit like Blendle. The user gets to tell the app which sources and genres he or she in interested in, and Inshorts makes sure the user gets a personalized newsfeed that only takes minutes to consume.

Whenever really interested, the reader can also read the full stories within the app. So Inshorts kind of works opposite to the clickbait mechanism. Where clickbait always leaves you wondering and craving for more, Inshorts tries to satisfy your information needs while giving you the option to more in-depth and nuanced versions of the summaries you’ve read.

Maarten van Gestel

How media start ups try to secure the old rules of Journalism

There are new ways of exchanging, selling, and buying news items. But there is a great deal of important info and content that is just adapted from the internet, embedded twitter links, instagram links etc. are functioning as supporting content for the newsfeed of big media companies. “Everybody suddenly got a lot more freedom”, as Emily Bell puts it (2007: 1).

But this freedom also means that professional journalists have difficulties reporting their stories or selling their content to media firms. Partly, the job of professionally reporting an event has lost its urgency because of the fact that ‘everyone’ can be a reporter by using their social media devices. Journalists depend on content selling in order to secure payment. The overwhelmingly presence of social media reports can cause difficulty to this very practice.

Cont3nt.com is a company that wants to help journalists get their monopoly on the news back. Its goal is to create a platform for journalists to exchange, sell, and buy content. In this way the copyrights of professionals are protected.

But since journalists can profit from their saliency on social media it is not clear if they will turn to the new initiative. They could adjust to the changes and create a profitable base by putting content on social. Beside this, using twitter will always be more easy and cheaper than paying for professional journalists, media firms could simply ignore the initiative, it is not clear if their is any need from their perspective.

So, in a lot of ways, cont3nt.com seems a promising project, but maybe the changes are getting ahead of the initiative. It could be questioned if the freedom that Bell et al. described isn’t already gone ahead of the communicative freedom that cont3nt.com wants us to get used to.

Word count: 296

Bibliography:

 

Bell, E. (2007). The Future: Journalism and Media as Post Industries.

Company.cont3nt.com

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

A bright future

As I read the manifesto The Transformation of American Journalism Is Unavoidable written by Emily Bell, I was thinking to myself: ‘Do I really want to be part of an industry without a future?’ Bell argues that because there is no ‘similarity of methods among a relatively small and coherent group of businesses, and an inability for anyone outside that group to produce a competitive product’, we are no langer able to speak about a news industry anymore. Furthermore, she quotes William Gibson: ‘The future is already here. It’s just unevenly distributed.”

But then I saw this article on Newsweek.com. The last two sentences of the articel read: “The best days of journalism aren’t in the past. They are just beginning.” It was written by a 10-year old girl named Hilde Kate Lysiak (probably with some help of her father Matthew). Hilde runs her own little newspaper, called The Orange Street News. “People will still continue to tell me that it’s such a shame that I’m in an industry with no future”, Hilde writes. “But I know the truth: that reporting the news is not only important, but the best job in the world.”

Ofcourse, there are many arguments to think of and say: ‘You little girl, you don’t know anything about the real world’. But I’d rather take the optimistic approach and stand by her. Yes, journalism as a profession is under pressure, but are we to go down without a fight? Rather not. Let’s focus on seize the opportunities the modern world offers journalists instead of constantly focus on its shortcomings.

(words 255)

References

Bell, Emily., The Transformation of American Journalism,. Columbia Journalism School,. 3th december 2014.

http://www.newsweek.com/10-year-old-reporter-future-journalism-699133