Journalism Is Changing (in Arabic and English)

Posted on July 21, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

Here’s the slideshow I gave on the first day of the workshop. The notes I wrote to go with it are “below the fold,” but surely they differ somewhat from what I actually said. Feel free to use the slideshow/notes for education purposes. I’m kicking myself for not recording the presentation so that we could have uploaded the interpreters’ Arabic. But having a presentation with Arabic is a great start. Not sure if there’s another one out there. If there is, and you know about it, please let us know. I will add the links at the end of the workshop (July 25, 2008)—no time now.

I was especially pleased with the discussion that we had about Arab journalism today. For instance, I didn’t know that Arab journalists often don’t work with a style guide, like the ones beaten into many U.S. journalists by their copy chiefs.

I learn so much from the participants in these workshops. I hope they feel the same way.

Journalism is changing. Has been changing for about the past quarter-century.
Personal computers brought desktop publishing into the newsroom. Type was no longer set by hand.

The Internet made it possible for people to access news about anywhere from anywhere; newspapers and other media outlets responded by launching websites, most of which were just online versions of what you could find in print.

Mobile phones meant we could talk to anyone from just about anywhere, and SMS meant it was inexpensive to send a short message around the world.

Then, as the prices of laptops, digital cameras, audio recorders, and video cameras dropped, more and more people began using them to document their lives.

And now a wide range of Web 2.0 tools and open-source software, from telephony products to mapmaking applications, are changing the way we interact with each other and technology once again.

Now anyone with access to a device or two and an internet connection can use them to share not only bits of themselves but also what’s happening around them.

These developments are profoundly changing not only the way we practice journalism but also who is practicing journalism.

More and more frequently, the stories we read and videos we watch—even when they are distributed by mainstream news organizations—aren’t produced by so-called professionals.

Rather, they are captured by what NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen calls “the people formerly known as they audience.”

This means your readers, viewers, listeners are also telling stories.

The journalists, editors, and producers being paid by networks and newspapers don’t have the monopoly on what’s considered news anymore.

The drop in TV news ratings and the proliferation of alternative media and citizen journalism sites attests to this.

In addition, in the United States, newspaper journalism in particular is suffering from a sharp decline in classified advertising revenue caused by a lack of foresight on the part of newspapers and an excess of foresight on the part of a man named Craig Newmark, who founded, an online community where people can post ads for free.

The result of these changes is that traditional journalism all over the world is in the midst of a radical evolution that can be seen from the boardrooms to the newsrooms.

Business models are changing and so are reporting and editing models. The way we gather and organize our information, how we find and interview sources, how we draft our stories and the phases in which they are published are all being transformed by not just by the digital technologies themselves but because they are getting into the hands of more and more people.

One quick example, 3.5 billion people have mobile phones. More people now have a mobile phone than don’t. This is an amazing statistic, given that mobile phones have only been around for about 30 years.
In the 100+ years that landline telephones have been around, the average penetration rate was never that high.

When we consider that many mobile phones do more than allow people to talk to each other—they can send messages, broadcast information, access the Web, send email, take photos and upload them automatically, these statistics become remarkable not only for the new potential for one-to-one communication that they represent but also for the possibilities implied for one-to-many and many-to-many distribution networks that they can form at an incredibly low cost.

In short, with phones, digital cameras, etc., and the software that runs on them and on the web, what we are seeing is a convergence of technologies and applications that are allowing for not only a lot more content, but also increasingly diverse and decentralized representations of our world.

More content means that our audiences—our readers, listeners, and viewers—have a near infinite choice of content. Less revenue means that journalists are increasingly being asked to contribute more.

So the essential question becomes how do we as journalists, editors, and producers adapt our methods and our training to this environment so that we can keep earning our living? And so that we can continue being of service to the societies we live in?


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