A COMPROMISED FOURTH ESTATE?

 

Report by Justin Lewis, Andrew Williams & Bob Franklin

  • Pressure on Journalists to increase productivity
  • The impact of these changing journalistic practices on the quality and independence of journalists’ output (Lewis et al., 2006b)
  • Pressures have prompted desk-bound journalist to develop an increasing reliance on pre-packaged sources of news deriving from the PR industry and news agencies.
  • “More often than not, sources do the leading” (Gans, 1979 p.116)
  • Journalists object to this formulation on two grounds:
  1. Signals source supremacy in news making
  2. Offends journalists’ professional culture which emphasis independence and editorial autonomy.
  • Relationship with source that is too cosy: potentially compromising of journalists’ integrity.
  • assumption: if the media are to function as watchdogs of powerful economic and political interests journalists must establish their independence of sources or risk the fourth state being driven by the fifth estate of public relations (Baistow, 1986, pp.67-77)
  • Journalists have typically been wary of the motives of PR professionals (Greenslade, 2005)
  • Conflict model: “trading” relationship in which journalists, working under-resourced and under-staffed newsrooms; rely on PR sources for editorial copy in return for access to editorial columns for PR stories. (Davis 2002; Jones 2006; Larsson, 2002 and Hobsbawm, 2007)
  • Everyday relationships between sources and journalist are much less adverbial than the latter suggest.
  • Journalist and sources are “inextricably linked”, working in complementary ways since each has professional ambitions, interests and needs which can be achieved most readily if they can win the co-operation of the other group (Blumler and Gurevich 1981, p. 473)
  • Gandy 1982: argues that PR practitioners and other suppliers of pre-packaged news offer a subsidy to news organisations: through press releases, press conferences, video news releases , etc.
  • Subsides reflect “efforts by policy actors to increase the consumption of persuasive messaged by reducing their costs” : controlling the message?
  • “There are information specialists who’s responsibility is to ensure that the nation’s public media carry the desired message forward to the general public (p.74)
  • Subsides assist news organisations to maintain profitability by squaring the circle between cost cutting ( wages and number of journalist employed) while sustaining if not increasing news output through greater pagination, more supplements and development of online editions and other news services. Case study?
  • Research suggests that newspapers receptivity which subsides reflects directly the financial and journalistic resources which different newspapers possess: well-resources daily newspapers with specialist journalists are more resilient to PR initiatives than poorly resourced weekly (especially free) newspapers with few journalists and little budget. (Franklin, 1986, 1988, 1997, 2005) essay question & case study?
  • The drive for profit maximisations thereby compromises the independence of the press. essay question
  • The line between journalism and PR= between factual reporting and partisan narrative-becomes blurred.
  • Applying empirical tests to some of the claims made about the current state of British Journalism
  • The difficulties involved in devising solid measures to establish journalists’ reliance on PR and agency copy.
  • All domestic news items and articles analysed to establish to which extent, it any, to which they were based on pre-packaged material; copy drawn from PR and/or agency sources, or content from other media.
  • PR leaves few traces!
  • E.g. Noel Edmonds making a “comeback”: didn’t seek any publicity, instead “seeded” interviews in a few carefully chosen media outlets, focusing on tightly controlling the flow of information and rumours about the growing popularity.
  • Emphasised the importance of “understanding how journalists think”  from a PR perspective, thats why it is hard to trace.
  • “at least 60% and more commonly 80% of any broadcast of broadsheet outlet has got a PR element in it”
  • most common editorial focus is crime (20% of press stood and 26% of broadcast news)
  • business/consumer news (12% and 13%)
  • Health (10% and 7%)
  • Entertainment: more prevalent in the press than broadcast news.
  • 72% of newspaper articles were written by named journalists
  • quarter of cases there was no clear indication of who had written the story
  • 1% of stories were directly attributed to the Press Association
  • Newspapers give the impression that they depend on their own journalists rather than agencies or outside sources. Case study?
  • Nearly half of all press stories appeared to come wholly or mainly from agency services. Essay question
  • Churning out news-PA copy from the day before and remaining information replicated information reported in two articles in The Sun and Evening Standard the day before
  • Daily Mail: often attributes agency stories to a “Daily Mail reporter”
  • E.g. story about the health risks of eating oily fish (Daily Mail reporter, 2006) directly replicates facts and quotations taken from PR stories and another from a regional news agency by Mercury. Case study?
  • The Mail uses much of the basic information provided by PA, but writes an advertiser piece which uses additional country research and opinion provided by health campaigners.
  • agency stories themselves be based on PR material: PA reporters complain of a heavy workload based on writing up to 10 stories a day, making them, in turn, heavily dependent on pre-packaged news (Lewis et al., 2006b p.49)
  • Example of PR playing an agenda-setting role
  • Nearly 1 in 5 newspaper storied and 17% of broadcast storied were verifiably derived mainly or wholly from PR material or activity
  • Mail: new hay fever vaccine reproduced a private press release from the drug company Cytos without adding any additional material (Montague, 2006) Case study
  • Both press and broadcast: shorter items are particularly likely to be based on PR material. Case Study

Setting the agenda:

  • 11% press 14% broadcast still verifiably reliant on PR for much of their content, but consult a range of sources, PR is playing an agenda-setting role on these occasion
  • Independent uses a range of press releases to tackle to complex subject of international trade negotiations. (Thornton, 2006)
  • where PR material was used, more contextual information was found in the broadcast media than in print
  • data suggest that while broadcast news often uses PR to prompt a story, they are more likely than the press to develop that story independently
  • ‘take a sample of stories in business, politics and a couple of other sectors and see how often the phrase ‘‘sources close to’’ appears … on the one hand it’s an absolutely admirable and necessary pillar of journalism that sources remain anonymous … on the other hand it’s become a by-word for not having to justify insufficient research because you can just rely on one source.’ (Lewis et al., 2006b, p. 21)
  • 37 per cent of stories are based mainly or wholly on PR material- reflects the volume of PR material that comes from the health and pharmaceutical industries, as well as pressures on health reporters to produce a high volume of stories.
  • . News, especially in print, is routinely recycled from elsewhere, and yet the widespread use of other material is rarely attributed to its source (e.g. ‘‘according to PA…’’ or ‘‘a press release from X suggests that…’’). Such practices would, elsewhere, be regarded as straightforward plagiarism.
  • ESSAY: most journalists operate under economic, institutional and organisational constraints which require them to draft and process too many stories for publication to be able to operate with the freedom and independence necessary to work effectively.
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Week 10: The rise of social media and its impact on mainstream journalism

A study on how newspapers and broadcasters in the UK and US are responding to a wave of participatory social media, and a historic shift in control towards individual consumers.

 

  • Extensive linking to commentary in the mainstream media particularly to reports about the role of social media.
  • Role of technology: how to get around the internet censorship by setting up proxy servers and how to protect the identity of protesters from the authorities.
  • Authorities had difficulties with shutting down the flows of information.
  • Twitter:

Multi-headed hydra: does not operate through one set of internet address, hundred of different applications and interfaces.

  • Most people still continue to get news through traditional TV and radio.
  • Media confined to citizen journalism and social networks.
  • “One in every twenty mainstream stories about Iran dominated by social media footage or news lines about social media.
  • User generated content into mainstream media:

(assessing how to integrate user-generated content into their coverage)

Huge amount of noise and false information generated by these networks, some of which were deliberately placed to influence the debate.

Little balance on Twitter and other social networks: conversation was overwhelmingly in favour of the opposition’s candidate.

-> attract the supporters of younger, more computer-illiterate Iranians, as well as activist in the West.

“All the blogging, the twittering, the Facebook activity…is from a self-selecting demographic- media switched on, westernised, reformist/ We are getting the social media and user generated sites aiding and abetting the mainstream western media view of this as a massive liberal explosion in Iran.”

New York Times, Guardian, CNN and the Huffington Post made the information emerging from social networks a central part of their coverage, allocating specific resources to provide a filtered take of the activity on Twitter, FB and blogs.

— technique is known as ‘live blogging’ or ‘live text commentary’

TV: involves allocating a social media correspondent to monitor and report directly on activity.

Positives of going online:

  • live blog reporters engaging directly with networks
  • single copy-tasting function for social web activity, saving time, reducing scope for mistakes
  • accumulation of credit within communities like Twitter, including a significant number of links back to their websites or broadcasts.

Journalist using crowdsourcing techniques and credit within networks like Twitter allow them to find out more information and background.

Twitter used to share information around the world, to link to and highlight mainstream media reports and user-generated content.

Twitter becomes the real-time glue for highlighting and filtering all of the activity on other websites and social networks.

“Twitter is a great real-time tool for distributing opinion, ut its no replacement for curated media coverage of the crisis” Andrew Keen, author of Cult of the Amateur

Future: news organisations are going to need to get used to the fact they will always be running behind the social networks. Social media evangelists will need to recognise that there will always be a deficit of trust, context and perspective within these networks.

Consumers will decide how they wish to balance these factors and where they wish to place their trust and their eyeballs.

Web 2.0 platforms and the work of newspaper sport journalists

An article by Merryn Sherwood and Matthew Nicholson

Reports on the research that explores whether Australian newspaper sport journalist use Web 2.0 in their work and, if they do, how.

  • Journalism is regarded as “a dominant force in the public construction of common experience” (Schudson, 2003: 13)
  • Changes in the way journalist do their work often driven by technology- the printing press, typewriter, telephone, radio and TV all impacted on researching, sourcing and reporting news.
  • Web 2.0 has had the most impact ( Hirst 2011; Rosenberg and Feldman 2008)
  • “second generation”
  • “There is a clear separation between a set of highly popular Web 2.0 sites such as FB and Youtube and the ‘Old web'” (Krishnamurthy, 2008)
  • Web 2.0: platform on which innovative technologies have been built and a space where users are treated as first class objects.” (Cormode and Krishnamurthy, 2008)
  • Biggest difference from 1st Generation of internet: level of interaction and accessibility for users.
  • Internet no longer a system in which most users can simply be regarded as content consumers- now anyone can be a content creator.
  • “all participants have become produsers” – both consumers and producers of content (Bruns, 2008b)
  • Defining feature of Web 2.0 is social networking.

(FB) The social networking service allows users to ‘friend’ other users, share text updates, photos and private messages with a large emphasis on interacting online through ‘liking’ and commenting on the ‘status’ of friends.

(Twitter) microblogging service that allows users to publish ‘tweets’ of 140 characters, and interact through tools such as ‘@replies’ which allow a user to tag another user, and ‘hashtags’, whereby placing a hash(#) in front of a word or phrase turns it into a searchable link.

(YouTube) an online video service that allows people to discover, watch and share originally created videos (YouTube, 2011)

  • Social media and traditional media: These Web 2.0 platforms have fundamentally changed communication in the 21st century and therefore, as an industry whose primary message is to communicate, it is not surprising they have been quickly adopted by the media.
  • The effect of the internet on journalism: what the new level of interactivity means for: the role of journalists as gatekeepers; source relationships; ethics in the online space; how online platforms have impacted work practices; how speed is impacting on journalistic values; and the use of Twitter to research, source and report. Overarching theme of research is that while journalists are essentially adopting these new Web 2.0 platform within the boundaries of traditional journalistic values, the boundaries are shifting.
  • Some suggest that these changes in traditional journalistic paradigm have changed newswork and values for the better, making it more transparent and based on what audiences want (Anderson WB, 2011)
  • Essay: The rise of Web 2.0: some are calling it the death of journalism and the rise of ‘churnalism’ (Davies, 2008; Rowe, 2011) where speed is more important that fact-checking.
  • body of research that suggests that Web 2.0 platforms are perhaps having the most impact on newspaper journalists.
  • Changes to the way journalists do their work is often driven by technology- the printing press, typewriter, telephone, radio and television.
  • definition of Web 2.0: “both a platform on which innovative technologies have been built and a space where users are treated as first class objects” (Cormode & Krishnamurthy, 2008)
  • major difference between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 the level of interaction and accessibility for users.
  • UGC: All participants have become ‘produsers’- both consumers and producers of content. (Bruns, 2008b)
  • The concept of journalism as a newswork contends that journalists work to a routine, which is organised according to a set of shared cultural ideas, professional guidelines and systems of news values.
  • “organisations has been a fundamental part of the newsroom since its inception, a journalist’s work routine is predetermined, there are rules for gathering and selecting news.” (Altmeppen, 2008)
  • Creating a work routine for unexpected events simply ensures that covering them is possible.
  • Pavlik, 2000: Technology has changed journalism in 4 ways-

the content of news; the structure or organisation of the newsroom; the relationships between or among news organisations, journalists and their many public; and how journalist do their work.

  • Two largest areas of research have examined the relationship between news organisations, journalists and public (with the rise of citizen journalist threatening traditional media roles)  and how journalists actually do their work.
  • research examines the rise of the audience as a content producer.
  • How citizen journalists create news and challenge the traditional gatekeeper and how journalists have reacted to this new development.
  • How journalists do their work–  O’Sullivan and Heinonen, 2008: journalists from 11 different European countries used online platforms as their primary research tool, a positive development in a profession that is time poor.
  • Web 2.0 has changed work practices for the worse- Reinardy, 2010:

the speed required to file stories for online platforms, rather than a later newspaper deadline, clashed with traditional journalistic values.

  • New platforms like Twitter are ‘awareness systems’- Herminda, 2010:

Concept of Twitter as ‘ambient journalism’ provide journalists with more complex ways of understanding and reporting.

Twitter “helps to facilitate a new model of the accepted news model, one where sources are no longer always official”

  • New technology has simply been adapted into traditional journalistic practices.
  • Despite the blog platform calling for a more opinionated, less formal and more interactive style, journalists remained gatekeepers and adhered to other traditional norms and practices.
  • Study of journalists on Twitter– Lasorsa et al. 2011: while some journalists expressed opinion more frequently on the microblogging website, journalists who worked for elite news outlets e.g. national newspapers, were less likely to engage in the features that Twitter allows like interacting with other users, linking to external websites and sharing personal information- all prominent features of all Web 2.0 platforms (Cormode & Krishnamurthy, 2008)
  • Twitter gave an extra personal dimension that allowed them to further to develop stories, or hook onto another story.
  • credibility of twitter: journalists wouldn’t break news on Twitter because it wasn’t directly associated with their respective newspapers. “you break stories in newspapers because you are paid by the newspaper to do that. Twitter doesn’t pay you to do that”
  • Twitter was the use of the micro-blogging service as a source- seek to verify something said on Twitter before using it in their own story.
  • Fan forums:

used for research to gain public opinion, but not for hard news

seeking to understand fans thought

ideas from fans- valuable opinion and knowledge from fan community “I think that probably the days where the journalists could be a class of experts and everyone else would sort of take their opinion, well they are long gone.”

fans on fan forums were actually club insiders- good sources

sometimes ‘left field’ and the ‘hardcore’ type of fan.

reasons not to use fan forums: often contained personal criticism of journalists and not as important for a journalists who did not have a beat.

 

  • Facebook:

Journalist deemed FB to be a private social media platform, and not for work whilst Twitter was public and often only used for work.

Use FB to research and report but information was obtained from public profiles and accessible to everyone.

Unethical to use anything from someone’s profile without seeking permission first.

 

  • Twitter used to research and monitor news
  • main use of Twitter for journalists is breaking and disseminating news or soliciting sources (Hermida, 2010)
  • Journalists reluctant to use Twitter as the only source
  • “A single user may have multiple intentions or may even serve different roles in different communities” (Java et al. 2009:63)
  • Using fan forums reinforced the traditional journalistic practice of gatekeeping, or selecting, transforming and focusing information into “manageable subset of media messages” (Shoemaker and Vos, 2009)
  • Journalist have an important role for themselves as sensemakers in the online age, using their expertise to tell public what is news.

 

How live blogging has transformed Journalism

Notes taken from Matt Wells, The Guardian

 

  • Live blogging has rapidly become the dominant form for breaking news online.
  • Online answer to 24/7 TV news.
  • Reward: traffic spikes, comments
  • One blogger: live blogs as the “death of journalism”
  • Live blogs give the ability to post significant developments quickly.
  • Link out to other coverage, include comments from Twitter and Facebook- display multimedia and include audience in the comments all in one place.
  • Live blogs can get long and confusing “you are more or less providing readers with raw material rather than telling them a story” Robert Mackey who writes live news blogs for the New York Times.
  • “a type of news reporting that is emerging as being native to the web” Martin Belam, web information architect
  • Benjamin Cohen, technology correspondent for C4 news:

live blogs need “a lot of content” to work.

“Live blogs don’t work for everything, they give an instant reaction but they’re not authenticated like website news stories.”

  • The result is that some feel the format needs to be rethought
  • More consideration given to the types of stories on which it is deployed.
  • The best elements of live blogging is how it is so transparent about sourcers, how it dispenses with false journalist fripperies and embraces the audience
  • The live blog is surely the embodiment of its future.