Sunday, March 04, 2007

Citizen Journalism, or The Decline of Standards, or 15 Minutes of Fame, Instead of Actual Money

At work we have been talking about ways to streamline our processes in an effort to add immediacy to our products. What good is news, if the content is a week old? A day old? boss and I have had some rather good debate on the issue. (Suck up time!) I like him! He's able to hear my opinion for what it is, and not attack the the person (usually me) delivering it when he disagrees. I also like the fact that this dude is SMART! I can't blow smoke in any direction without him calling my bluff. SO...I've done my research to support my point of view...(Back to topic)

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

My boss suggested we don't need to worry about quality so much because our society has accepted a lack in quality in favor of immediate reports. He's right! In "The Customer Is Always Right," Harlan Neugeboren says:
During the past year, we have seen many changes in the way that viewers use and consume news. Viewers know that they can search Google Video, YouTube and MySpace and find news content that they want. The key words are "what they want." Many viewers will search and find any type of news content--it does not necessarily have to be from traditional sources. Viewers are also willing to trade content for quality and don't know or care that it was shot on a Sony XDCAM or Panasonic P2, for example.
There are two problems with this...especially for military journalists.
1) According to Neugeboren, To compete with these other sources, broadcasters need to be in the content business and to provide viewers with as rich an experience as possible. We're not in the content business, some would argue, we're not in the news business. We're in the business of changing hearts and minds, by telling the Air Force story. (Side note...we're not doing this so well, and I feel we're trying to grasp at straws and implement change for the sake of change...and for some civilians to keep their kooshie jobs.)
2) When I write a story, it goes through a very lengthy qc process...hence the reason for the topic to begin to streamline. Bottom line, like it or not, when my product does hit the web, TV, or better be accurate. Not the case in Citizen Journalism...There is no QC process. Sometimes this is great. Like when the first photos of the tsunamis emerged and a global outcry for help was answered. However, sometimes this happens:
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Adnan Hajj took this picture. At first glance, it looks harmless. Media giants the world over started running the picture as proof of what was going on in Beirut. Hajj is a free-lance photojournalist. He has submitted some great photos...Not anymore! You see unlike me, Hajj has no QC process. He, like any citizen journalist simply submits, and we the people...ACCEPT! The above picture was "photoshoped!" It is not an accurate representation of what really was happening in Beirut. Here is the original picture:
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Japanese around the world were outraged that Hajj could be so insensitive!

Citizen Journalism is not new! According to Dan Gillmor's "We the Media,"(another kiss-up opportunity for my boss who is a huge history buff)
The roots of citizen journalism can be traced to the founding of the United States in the 18th century, when pamphleteers such as Thomas Paine and the anonymous authors of the Federalist Papers gained prominence by printing their own publications. Further advances such as the postal system — and its discount rates for newspapers — along with the telegraph and telephone helped people distribute news more widely.
What is the internet! Well relatively new...According to Frank Beacham's article "Corporations Co-opt Citizen Journalism,"
Advertising forecasters predict double-digit growth for online media outlets in the new year. Traditional media, including television and newspapers, are slated for flat growth, at best, during 2007.
THAT GOTS ME SCARED! Who will I turn to for help? How can I keep my job? Contacts?
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Probably not! Tracy Johnson in "Morning Radio," claims that anyone can be a radio DJ, (or broadcaster for the context of this post) but to be really good, you have to always strive to be the best...that is what will seperate you from everyone else.
This will also be true in Citizen Journalism v. Professional Journalism. Dan Gillmor recently predicted in an online blog that:
...professional photographers and videographers will soon see their ranks dwindle as the "the ability to make a living at it will crumble soon." He said. "They can't possibly compete in the mediasphere of the future. We're entering a world of ubiquitous media creation and access. When the tools of creation and access are so profoundly democratized, and when updated business models connect the best creators with potential customers, many if not most of the pros will fight a losing battle to save their careers." The good news is according to Gilmore...
there will always be in demand by a group of discriminating consumers who will pay for their services.

Here are some great links on Citizen Journalism:
Corporations Co-opt Citizen Journalism
Trust in the Age of Citizen Journalism
Your Guide to Citizen Journalism
The Customer Is Always Right

I leave you with a quote from Dallas Mavericks owner, Mark Cuban...of all people.
"Is there any more lame a comment than "You just don't get it". Its a simple, dismissive phrase that says more about the person saying it than the person/organization its directed to. Its a way of saying "You don't agree with me, but I don't have anything of consequence to say. "You just don't get it" stops any discussion where I might be asked to say something worthwhile dead in its tracks..
I have a simple question. Who does get it?"

I know I'm not smart enough to have the answers. Maybe some alternatives, which I will report with exactness, but not the answers. I only hope I can learn and master my craft so I can have a job. PS...Although I don't completely support Citizen Journalism...I am in fact...a Citizen Journalist...AHHHHHHH!


chrisvadnais said...

One of my favorite topics.

My thoughts:

Contrary to what Air Force photographers might think, I highly doubt people need 10 mega-pixel, super-fast lens, print-quality images of every news story. Point-and-shoot cameras are generally fine; they take great photos that get the message across very well.

Broadcasters can take these photos. If that won't work, if two cameras cramp your style, (I don't really buy this argument, but I'll humor it), we can grab still frames from our video and use these as thumbnail images to accompany stories on the web. However, I think this is as far as I go in agreeing with the "sacrificing quality for immediacy" idea. I don't read unreliable garbage just because it's easy to find.

I think what we need most right now is to hire more people who embrace technology and enjoy finding ways to exploit it. Ours is a business that is coming to rely on understanding the latest technologies, and in my opinion we are not even managing to keep up, let alone stay ahead.

These utopian employees also need to understand strategic communication very well. QC processes would not be so lengthy if people were skilled strategic communicators, able to construct messages tailored to objectives without the approval of nine other people.

Before we even think about changing our methods, we should change our mindsets and our expectations of ourselves.

We need to evolve as producers before we can expect our products to evolve.

AFN Broadcaster said...

What? No comment on Godzilla! I agree with you on how we as military journalist should evolve...or as I say, Roll! My true concern is that we don't knowingly decrease quality for the sake of immediacy!

Ayngels said...

Reading the post today makes me think of the word I hear so much at work. CONVERGENCE. We have even gone so much as to converge outside of the Journalist/Broadcast/photo arena. As we are going to start converged work processes.
I think if you can get people on board and trained it's a a great thing. However, if not all parties are on board then it's going to fail. This is just the opinion of someone somewhat on the outside looking in.

chrisvadnais said...

Found this and thought it applied nicely:

There’s a point at which quality becomes too costly — find that point with every project. If additional quality is both too expensive and unnoticeable by the client and its audience, it’s time to move on to other things.

Ayngels has a good point in the sense that we can't fire people for not wanting to learn, and that's always bugged me. In civilian markets there are people lined up to take your job if you refuse to learn how to do new things. Chances are they'll do it cheaper and faster, anyway.

Not so in the military.

Ayngels said...

Since we can't fire people in the military. We usually move them to another position. It could be something unrelated to their specialty or one in which the are removed from supervision. In doing this they are less likely to negatively incfluence the junior troops.

Anonymous said...

Journalism & media spark discussions among people. It has a huge influence on social in my opinion, you should choose quality over immediacy. Since one person’s fact is another person’s fiction, I love articles/reports presented side by side from 2 different viewpoints. No Photoshop please! Are you penpals with Stone now?

AFN Broadcaster said...

Stone and I are not penpals, rather secret friends. We share hair and makeup secrets. :)

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