State of the News Media

Considering the plethora of recent innovations to journalism in the age of the internet- including web-based news content, collaborative publishing, the emergence of micro-blogging, crowdsourcing, open-source reporting, etc. (see Mark Brigg’s JournalismNext)- it seems modern journalism exists almost wholly separate from journalism of the twentieth century. But let me suggest something: twitter and the like are just technicalities, and when it comes down to it, not a whole lot has changed in the way that Americans receive and interpret their news.

In Chapter 9 of Christopher Daly’s Covering America, we learned of Roosevelt’s censorship regime during WWII. Much like the WWI censorship regime, restrictions arose concerning what was appropriate to publish. Journalists were restricted on the home front and abroad. News coming from the war reported inaccurately positive results, “sugarcoating” stories of mild-success, or ignoring stories of failure (p. 270).

Though it’s difficult to track, I argue that today’s press is just as censored. One visible example is Washington’s outrage against the film ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ (though I don’t want to go in to details surrounding the investigation here– the point is, the government had major issues with the way the film depicted the U.S. military appear). Typing ‘press censorship’ into Google results in numerous stories about censorship in China, in Israel, in Syria, in Mexico, in North Korea, but finding stories about press censorship in the U.S. is not quite as easy. You might think that’s a good thing, as if there’s nothing to report on, but unfortunately I think it’s more of a sign that stories that might ‘rock the boat’ get covered up. But alas, hidden among the Google results was a story reporting on U.S. press censorship. Apparently, news organizations have been duping the American public since the beginning of the ‘war on terror’ on topics such as drone-assassination programs, secret prisons and the use of torture, and warrantless snooping (to say the least). Of course, occasional stories have burst forth, like the reports of torture at Abu Ghraib, but public outrage was discouraged and short lived. In fact, military judge Col. James Pohl issued a protective order in Dec. essentially prohibiting people to speak on the government’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” used throughout the ‘war on terror.’ The ACLU has challenged his protective order, and his decision is due out March 6. So stories on modern press censorship do exist, but they are not frequently talked about, known about, or worried about. The U.S. censorship regime is doing its job well, in other words.

Moving on. In Chapter 10, Daly outlines the creation of ‘Big Media.’ This is the moment in the history of American journalism where almost all the major institutions of news “were in the hands of middle-aged white men, and almost all of them were part of a broad conservative-centrist consensus” (p.320). Thankfully, the internet does allow other voices to occasionally seep in. But let’s be real, most people still get their news from the big news companies like CBS, NBC, ABC, TBS, FOX, or one of the many companies they own. As the market falls for newspapers, many of them are selling to companies who are snatching up newspaper companies by the dozen, resulting in consolidated ownership. Look up the CEO’s of the top companies and tell me much has changed from the 60’s (good luck).

Lastly, in Chapter 11, Daly describes how journalists worked to rock the establishment by more honest and creative reporting. He goes on to detail the New Journalism movement, where journalists covered more topics (including drugs, war, the American Dream, etc.) from their own subjective point of view. Here’s where I see an important connection to the future of news. Social media platforms encourage creativity and pro-AM reporting. They reduce allegiances to a “boss” or the “owner” of the publishing company. The internet may help to facilitate another push towards a “New Journalism” type of reporting, where the audience not only receives news on a given topic, but feels the emotion associated with it, potentially resulting in ‘armchair activists.’

In conclusion, though much seems bewilderingly new for news, I argue, it’s just another side of the same (albeit shinier) coin.

In his article, The newsonomics of zero and The New York Times, Ken Doctor presents the hard fiscal realities for all print media companies: the numbers are down, and they’re most likely down for the count. In fact, the numbers are so low, zero is considered high!

Print media, such as the newspaper, is down for two primary reasons: firstly, as more readers get their news online, they forego printed editions and circulation revenue falls; secondly, as online sites reach a wider viewer audience than their printed counterparts, advertising companies shift their focus to the online-reader, causing advertising revenue to also fall. When both circulation and advertising revenues are down, all a company can do is try to cut costs of its own, for example through technological improvements or staff lay-offs. Or, it can raise the cost of the paper (as many have done), but as Doctor points out, this practice is unsustainable, because you cannot expect to keep charging an increasingly smaller group of people an increasingly larger subscription fee. So, ultimately, it seems the company is forced to start self-destructing, to start ‘hacking’ off the very limbs that made it successful in the first place: its employees.

Something about this process seems unjust. It’s certainly ironic. As my Future of News class has been learning, journalism has a LOT to owe to advertising companies, historically speaking. Advertisement revenues provided the initial momentum for news publishing companies to break away from partisan ties, allowing the “watchdog” function of the press to come to fulfillment. The relationship between the two has worked pretty seamlessly up until this point. It could be argued that news as we know it would have never existed had advertisements not come to its aid. Yet now, the tables have turned, and it seems  advertising companies have the upper hand on the news agencies.

If advertising companies control the news companies, there is an increased risk of corruption within that print media. News editors may serve the interests of their advertisees before the interests of the public.

This analogy may seem off-handed, but work with me. Remember when the agricultural revolution happened, and a single tractor replaced ten farmers? Agriculture became absorbed into capitalism and its various processes reduced to the bottom-line: i.e. using GM seed to maximize crop-productivity, fertilizers to maximize yield, etc. In this process, major effects went overlooked or unchecked, such as potential damage to the groundwater, ultimate result of GM products on the human, extinction of the small family-operated farm, etc. Major ethical dilemmas resulted. Broadly speaking, power became centralized as fewer people could survive as farmers.

Is the same thing happening now with the news media? Is the move to online-media capitalistic? In a sense, it’s more populist. More people can reach the news now, technically speaking, and more people can even contribute to the news. Yet, generally, I see this as a similar situation to the agricultural revolution. With the news-media-revolution, more and more journalists are finding that they are unable to survive financially. Companies across the board are making huge cuts on the number of staff members. As journalists find themselves out of work, many started micro-blogging, like displaced farmers growing window-box gardens out of their cramped urban apartments.

The thing that worries me most is that a ‘Monsanto-Parallel’ will arise, where one news company will monopolize the news, demand extraordinary prices, and fail or neglect to validate the soundness of their stories. As companies lean towards cooperation in order to cut costs (i.e. sharing news stories) the effects of an un-sound news story could be catastrophic; imagine the repercussions of expanded readership mixed with decreased accountability, as is the case with online-media, especially with social-media news sites like Twitter.

So my questions for you: do you see the parallels between the agricultural revolution and the news-media-revolution? do you worry about a news-organization Monsanto-parallel? Comments encouraged! Until next time- peace.

Alright, so before I begin this entry, let me reveal the following aspects of my being: I am not a fan of American football, especially beyond-high school football; I do not agree with the celebritization of sports stars, or more broadly the celebritization of celebrities; and lastly, I think most people have weird priorities. Now, the Te’o story has been developing for about 10 days, and the major news networks have been following it the whole way through. As have local stations. I was almost interviewed for my opinion on the story Tuesday (luckily they caught the chap ahead of me- I certainly want nothing to do with it). It’s been discussed at length in two of my five classes, and mentioned at least briefly in all of them. It appears in conversation throughout the halls of DeBartolo and the booths of Brothers. The whole city, nay the nation, is buzzing about it. In short, it’s been made into a huge ordeal, and most ND students/staff/alum/affiliates are anxious to voice their opinions and converse with others about it. I’m not one of those. When people put me on the spot, I either dismiss them with a, “I don’t care about football” response, or if I feel patient I might explain how I think it’s a bit silly that this story occupies so much time on the air and time in people’s heads and for Christ’s sake aren’t there bigger things to talk or worry about? Thankfully, Beyonce lip-sung (past tense of lip-sing, anyone?) the inauguration, so at least there’s that to distract the Heads that Talk. Honestly, my feelings towards the media’s response to the Te’o scandal is much like my feelings towards most of what they cover these days: “Who cares! Move on! There’s plenty of worthwhile stories out there that may actually serve a purpose other than sparking gossip– go find them and meet the responsibilities of a journalist. Quit playing the role of Gossip Girl, quit trying to sensationalize every minute of your programming, and quit brainwashing the American citizenry into caring about things of no consequence, consequentially masking issues of huge importance!” End rant.

 

 

If you’re lucky enough to have an iPad, you better know how to tap into its full potentials. After all, what’s sillier than owning a state-of-the-art smartphone simply to make calls and text? If you’re going to invest in the product, you might as well get your monies’ worth by acquainting yourself with the tools that can expand your device’s opportunities. And truly, the opportunities are endless.

Whether you’re a journalist, an academic, a cook, a photographer, a mess-who-needs-to-put-her-life-in-order, or whatever kind of person you are, there’s an app designed specifically to suit your needs. The following blog entry reviews some of the apps Mark Briggs recommends for journalists, as well as a few other apps that I’ve stumbled upon that have managed to keep my attention amidst what is becoming the cirque-du-soleil of apps: my homescreen.

Twitter: As great as Twitter is for serving as a public forum board, it can be hard to follow conversations between people. Hootsuite makes that easier. It allows you to organize Tweets by hashtag, mentions, and usernames, which makes following certain trends easier than before. It also allows you to navigate through multiple accounts with the swipe of a finger. It’s free, user-friendly, and a good addition to any twitter-user’s iPad.

Ustream: This app is designed to broadcast and tune-in to live video streams. In theory, awesome! One downside is that you essentially need to be planning on watching something over u-stream, otherwise the “featured stories” will most likely be random and totally inapplicable to your life and/or interests. A second downside is that it seems there’s more non-English videos than there are English. Maybe you can filter that somehow that I’m unaware of.

Storify: This app has SO much potential, but there’s a few kinks that need worked out yet. On my MacBook Pro I had no problems using it, but on the iPad there were a number of troubleshooting issues. I’ll spare you the boring details, but know that if you ever need to make a multi-media presentation/report of some sort, Storify is your app! With it, you can add Tweets, Facebook posts, news articles, etc… virtually anything that’s been put on the web is up for grabs (so long as it’s public domain). Check out my storify on the Teo’ Hoax. Storify is cool and just the sort of thing that should exist, but for the average user it may be a bit more than what’s needed.

Dropbox: A must for users who have multiple devices, dropbox lets you store and sync your photos, docs, and videos across devices. It’s great for file transfers and easy on-the-go access to whatever files you need.

Evernote: Similar to dropbox, evernote lets you share files between devices. One thing it has over dropbox, however, is the ability to draft notes directly in evernote that you can then access and edit from other devices. Both are free, but if you want to de-clutter your homescreen, I would stick with evernote over dropbox.

Feedly: This. App. Rules! Totally customizable to your interests, feedly gathers the newest news-stories or blog-updates from whatever topics/people/sites you’re interested in. The user-face is interactive and attractive, full of color and visuals. It’s especially nice because the featured stories include a few lines from the body of the text, allowing you to glance at the story before committing to reading it.

Readability: This app allows you to “bookmark” articles that interest you but you don’t have time to read at the moment. With the simple click of an icon, you can re-visit them later when time permits. If you’re the sort of person that jumps around from site to site, readability is a great app for keeping tabs on interesting articles and saving them for later while you explore the day’s headlines.

All in all, if I had to push for you to get just one of the apps I discussed, I would say FEEDLY. You won’t regret it!

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