The times, they are a changing

26Jan07

Michael Hill “35 years left for newspapers” (prof. Mayor) and “You don’t need newspapers to get news anymore” were the opening statements given by Michael Hill, Trinity Mirror plc. Not a positive outlook, but don’t despair: Hill is one of a new wave of media figures who accept the changes occuring in the modern newsroom.

Newspapers have had competition for a century, fighting off threats from television and radio, but Hill admits that the internet has ‘new powers’. The only difference being he plans to use these powers to the print medium’s advantage.

News can break at any time and the partnership of online and print news has allowed the print media to compete with other outlets such as radio and television in delivering news first. But Hill outlined that this has repercussions for the traditional journalist.

A new breed of multi-skilled “Web Savvy” journalists are seen as the future of the industry, and while news organisations are not trying to create a divide in the newsroom, the acceptance of modern technology and its effects on journalism cannot be ignored. This may be a concept less supported by the elder, more traditional journalist, and Michael Hill quoted one who asked: “How can you kill the goose who laid the golden egg?” Hill’s response: “The goose has got bird flu”.

This leads us to the growing trend of ‘Citizen Journalism’, an area where people can give their view on news to a worldwide community. News organisations such as Trinity Mirror and the BBC, who recognise the popularity of these ‘blogs’ have, instead of fighting against them, accepted them and incorporated them into their own news outlets. Michael Hill said in his presentation that “the future belongs to people who can adapt to the changes and make them work to their adavantage”.

‘Citizen Journalism’ has been around for a long time, featuring in traffic reports on the radio and feedback in newspapers, but recent events have spurred a phenomenal growth in the trend. Events such as the London bombing have allowed the public to contribute to the news with their own footage obtainable with the help of modern technology such as mobile phones, an example being the picture of the London bus with the roof blown off, taken by a member of the public.

Hill stated that audiences don’t care about who produces the news, they are just interested in the relevance and the reliability. The modern newsroom needs to build on the strengths that the internet can give them in addition to their reputation as a reliable outlet of information, more so in the case of local newspapers.

With news contributions coming from the public and being published on online news sites a form of monitoring of the content has to be put in place This is where the skills of professional journalists are needed to monitor the content and its quality.  Another feature of news that has progressed with technology is the feedback on news stories, with the ability to comment on stories within seconds of them being published online. This creates the concept that news is no longer a monologue and now is a dialogue between author and reader.

Asked by Paul Bradshaw, UCE Birmingham lecturer, whether a story online being more popular than the proposed lead story would change the editor’s decision on the final print order of the newspaper, Hill answered: “Yes, it probably would”. This raises issues of journalistic judgement, whether to give the ‘best’ news to the public, or give in to their demand and potentially fall into what academic Bob Franklin calls the growing trend of “McJournalism”.

Hill also spoke about how online news has allowed for more news to be published, especially for niche markets, which possibly wouldn’t reach a printed edition, and so the modern news organisation can accommodate a wider audience.

The dismissal of the concept of ‘dinosaur’ news (print) and the promise of partnership between online and print news should fill all journalists with hope. The fact is that at this current moment online news cannot compete with the revenue from print newspapers, but can aid news organisations to deliver news instantaneously and give news organisations such as Trinity Mirror plc. an advantage over other media outlets.

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3 Responses to “The times, they are a changing”

  1. There seemed to be a fear that the role of the “professional” journalist would be under threat by the rise of CJs. But instead of under threat, the role of the journalist changes to:
    Ensuring completeness: UGC is a mass of niches which will leave large gaps in the overall picutre. The journalist can seek and fill those gaps
    Investigating: What is realy going on is not always obvious. Bloggers and CJs investigate but the real pros are journalists
    Collecting: Journalists can bring the niches togather, ,inking one to another to make patterns which again may not be obvious, and
    Commenting: Readers often come to publications for news but stay for opinion. The opinions and analysis of trusted people will always be read.

    And more?

  2. Agree completely. I also think, if news organisations allow it to, it provides an opportunity for journalists to ‘delegate’ some of the routine newsgathering to trusted CJs, or tap into the readership as a resource of local and expert knowledge as they explore crowdsourcing. Could they use the freed up time to pursue bigger stories? Well, if you’re optimistic…

  3. 3 Neil Sumner

    …..and I prefer the opinions and analysis of the “untrustworthy” so it works both ways.


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