Thursday, September 29, 2016

Thesis Progress Post 1 (9/29)

My task for this week was to begin thinking about how to frame the subject of 21st century journalism with an eye towards possibly formulating a new language and thinking about different themes I could use for classes in the college course I'm putting together.  Some of my initial thoughts are as follows: as a professional, i am worried that the critical thinking and judgment used in putting together the old school news is lost when citizen journalists diisseminate news - in fact, it is in many ways fundamentally different from old school news. the context is often lost - old school news attempts to give you a fleshed out snapshot of what occured - what, when, where, why, how - relying on added content - spoken or otherwise to provide context.  CJ is often provided without context - and is provided with haste as foremost concern - the desire to provide people with a realtime experience being the top priority (it reflects out current culture where much of what we do is predicated on fast content or an experience can be provided) i will say that i believe the quality of the content still matters - the way something is shot, the esthetic, but it is less of a concern than the immediacy to those trying to get it out to the masses.  that said, as this morning's video of the train crash in Hoboken proves, often times the pictures themselves tell a good portion of the story.  I thought also about the fact that many old-school journalists have to consider the risk of putting out bad or misleading information.  Their jobs, livlihoods and reputations are at stake.  But mass narrators (a term im playing with as a description of citizen journalists on digital media) don't have the same kinds of concerns.  They often have anonymity and face no consequences if the information they put out is false or misleading.  Because of that, there is concern that their personal agendas are what is driving their decision-making, as opposed to the good of the masses they are trying to communicate with.  I believe an example of that is the Arab Spring when people used social media to spur protests and then others used social media to instill doubt about the rebel leaders, spread dissention and ultimately help put the military in power. 

Quote from the guardian

"(what we are witnessing is) changing the landscape of documentary filmmaking. This has been made possible by the technology they use, the distribution platforms that are now available and the passion of ordinary men and women to tell the kinds of extraordinary stories that were once the domain of professional documentary makers.

Factual filmmaking has in some senses become hostage to these new, "immediate" technologies. But many working in the genre praise the developments for adding a richer dimension to current affairs and factual documentaries and everyone seems to agree that the genre will never be the same again."

So in terms of language, we are looking at two different things:

traditional journalism - key is context

What if i called citizen journalism a kind of synchronicitous narration or synchro-narration???   although it can be argued that there is a causal link - the event causes the maybe this doesnt work) Synchronicity is the occurrence of two or more events that appear to be meaningfully related but not causally related.  Narration is telling a story as it happens. So this definition is meant to reflect the telling of a story while that story is going on, with the two events being related although not casually (meaning one does not cause the other to occur)

Perhaps "mass narrative" -  A narrative or story is any report of connected events, actual or imaginary, presented in a sequence of written or spoken words, or still or moving images.

A mass narrative (in my thinking) would be characterized by the characterization of what would typically be thought of as a news or current event but presented through the lens of social or mass digital media and not through the more narrow, filtered lens of the traditional media. A mass narrative can be the cause or the effect of current events - sometimes playing both sides of the same story (Black Lives Matter, flash mobs, etc)

We should be careful to point out that these mass narratives are not always organic and can be hijacked by corporate or political power structures (i.e. Obama email lists / social media outreach ahead of the 2008 election).  This raises the question of how, without traditional power brokers, the phenomenon of the mass narrative can remain an entity that can retain at least the quality of relative independence (the web allowing everyone to express themselves equally).

That said, digital media has its own way of policing itself and prevents certain themes or memes of grabbing hold. For instance. public shaming is a form of self-policing (that is also at risk of being grabbed by power brokers - i think of the way people were shamed who used water on their california lawns while the rest of the state was under a drought emergency a few years back).  But other people who use certain types of language that is considered hateful or prejudice can be "shamed" right out of the public sphere - stores that wouldn't serve cakes to gay wedding couples for example were publicly shamed - a store that used mattresses in the shape of the twin towers to mark 9/11 was so publicly shamed that it had to close its doors.  This wasnt just an example of mass narration - there was no story really until the masses made it into one.  The event wasn't purely manufactured, but the media buzz surrounding it was generated purely online without the help of the mainstream or traditional media (can we call it "manufactured media?")

In some ways, mass narration and citizen journalism has its roots in what they called "stringers" - funny that now they are saying news organizations are employing these kinds of people for the first time.  Not true.  People have been listening to police scanners, running to fires with the cameras, taking pictures and selling them to newspapers and tv stations for decades.

(here is a story from nypost that makes it sound otherwise)

But technology has given us far more immediate access to imagery of events as they happen.  Everyone has a camera. Here are examples of civilians taking famous news pics (janis krum  Even back in the 70's, it was a student photographer John Filo who captured the picture of the girl standing over the body of a student shot at Kent State.

Next up, I'm going to look more closely at university journalism programs

College factual rates journalism colleges this way:

  #1 Emerson College. Boston, Massachusetts. ...

  #2 The University of Texas at Austin. Austin, Texas. ...

  #3 Northwestern University. Evanston, Illinois. ...

  #4 New York University. ...

  #5 University of Southern California

Emerson has courses that touch on the growing field of digital media and its impact on journalism but its as much about getting the students to participate in that world than it is about understanding its impact. JR103 Digital Journalism - "Examines modern web practices...students learn how to use videography, audio to tell stories."  JR220 Interactive News - "students analyze best practices of online news publications and write their own blogs...(also) design a multimedia website."  JR485 includes a topic on blogging, conceiving and writing blogs along with legal and ethical issues.  But all of this seems to be a little behind the times.  I find it hard to believe college students don't know how to blog or maintain a digital/online presence and personality.  My sense is that these courses would need to be advanced to the point where you are taking into account the tools that students already know how to use and structure it to use =those= tools in any journalistic exercises. Also, ethical and legal issues are mention in looking at blogging, but what about other digital media elements? And there seems to be no indication that any of these courses are rethinking journalism itself - just talking about digital media as an element of the medium as opposed to reconsidering how digital media is transforming the way we think about, create and consume the news.

Interesting course at the University of Texas titled Social Media Journalism

But it sounds like they are still treating social media as an aspect, almost a featury element of a newsroom (it says "Students will use various channels to become highly skilled, engaged social media journalists who could step into any social media role in a newsroom).  But it does mention that students will "learn how to cover breaking news using social media and crowdsourcing" which could be informative for this thesis....

Also a fascinating Univ. of Texas story - Explanatory Journalism: Storytelling in a Digital Age. It says it does not explore new digital tools but tries to make best use of "our collective toolkit" to use the best tools to tell stories. A lot of it is about reporting, although they include one class late in the semester  titled "Virtual Reality: The "New New" Thing and mentions that The School of Journalism is working with Computer Science and the Washington Post to develop cutting-edge storytelling using virtual reality. Wow.  I haven't heard of that at all.  Something interesting to look into.

That's all for now.

Please forgive the choppy way this is written.  If I need to do a better job of smoothing it out, please let me know.  This is just the way I think :)

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