…t, were this a film, you’d hear that perennial screech of the phonogram needle across vinyl because for what its worth, at its most simplest and strip down form, its most floor level understanding, at its most core whether dressed up with one fancy tech or another, journalism is simply telling a story accurately, with probity and you telling the story, you with your mind, matter.
Dr. David Dunkley Gyimah
I can’t quite tell, but you seem to poke-fun at the ‘extraneous’ facets of journalism — social media, audience engagement, the democratization of information production and consumption, etc. If so, you’re completely missing the point: The definition of journalism, as you know and describe it, has been commoditized. The web has disintermediated media, and consequently, the act of “simply telling a story” faces no barrier to entry, infinite supply, zero cost, perfect substitution, no differentiation, etc.
“Journalism — storytelling with codified rules often by consensus, sometimes by self interest groups — is a Facebook addled, 140 character primed, mainstream totem in some cases, and hence presumably is impartial to boot... throw in some HTML 5 tags, a 360 camera for that evanescence film, and take a break at the Kool aid counter… Oh and don’t forget those conferences you need to attend — how to build 1m on Instagram? What’s not to like about journalism? Shiny happy journalism.”
Listen, I agree that journalism is trying to jam a lot of square pegs into its round hole. (I mean, there are innovative opportunities out there; and then there’s VR being billed as a panacea for current events 🤦) Nevertheless, don’t miss the forest through the trees. The industry still bemoans the seemingly extraneous processes that accompany the core function of writing, but things like social media have become the ante for engagement, reach, and distribution. Again, the core function of writing is a commodity because supply is abundant, competition is infinite, etc. This tech — your sardonic “shiny happy journalism” — is how journalism makes itself discoverable amidst all the noise. Resistance prolongs the industry’s malaise.
“Journalism is about an interpretation and comprehension of events. Some paper and a pencil if you must, will do… This is the mind we bring to journalism — the technology is merely a conduit…”
Again, it sounds like you’re eschewing everything but the act of composition. Regardless, this is a particularly interesting excerpt, because saying that ‘journalism is about the writer’s mind’ is not only an overused cliche, but also the ultimate truism. Neatly, I’m arguing that Web 2.0 tech has become so fundamental to the practice of journalism that saying ‘journalism is about social strategy’ is a truism of similar magnitude — despite the industry’s snickers.
I’m careful to call these an “ante” for journalism, because things like social media are no longer a competitive advantage for marketing content, for example. No, no, no, social media is not a blue ocean anymore. Yet, if a benefit of the free and open web is the ability to reach anyone and any interest in the known universe, social is the funnel through which all of this infinite, fractured, distributed media is sorted — such that all of that consumer demand can find it (and vice versa).
Good journalism, good ideas, good writing, and good minds are not enough any more. It’s romantic to insist that the cream will always rise to the top, but you and I would already be moguls were that the case :)
I think your larger point was that ‘journalism is failing because of its lack of diversity.’ Yes, homogeneity in major newsrooms is definitely a systemic failure, and it’s a huge problem that needs fixing throughout media and society… but ‘diversity is why journalism is failing’!? 🤔 That’s not the silver bullet.
I understand there’s an urge to take ownership of our problems — to say they’re within our control. I can appreciate our need to explain our disposition with endogenous, rather than exogenous causes. That’s why elevators have “Door Close” buttons. That’s not to say we can’t change or control the industry’s fate, but it’s important to understand there are more powerful, top-down forces at play:
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Finally, understanding those forces helps us understand their antidotes. The solutions therein inherently tame the media industry’s other headwinds, like giving rise to niche voices such that issues of diversity are cured organically. Yes, diversity needs focused attention in its own right. In the meantime, I’d love to see homogeneous newsrooms get modularized and disrupted by the very diverse voices they shunned.