Living in a time of infobesity

Dialogue Journalism?

When the World Wide Web was created it opened the gates of communication, it erased the once existing boundaries that prevented or rather made it difficult people from interacting.  Now no matter what part of the globe you are located, at the comfort of a keyboard, you can be a part of any conversation or discussion, you can be a creator of information, since time is not an obstacle either.

And if people one relied on journalism, then now, journalism is the part of the online conversation since the world wide web wiped away the concept of the public being an audience, allowing the public to create, interact and communicate more efficiently than ever before.

Now, with everyone able to provide their point of view on the internet, we have found ourselves to be living in a world where material explodes by the minute which as John Kelly notes in Red Kayaks and Hidden Gold overwhelms our finite attention spans.

User generated content or UGC which is the term used to define the concept of technology giving the ability for users/audience to produce the product has cause debates and several speculations as well as raised new issues and concerns in the journalism industry in the past few years.

Even though, when it comes to listing the advantages of such an evolution in the industry, such as boosting the websites traffic and having readers provide ideas, sources and coverage according to Taylor and Francis Quality control, there is always the other side of the coin.

Taylor and Francis debatably point out that UGC and online content can cast a shadow over the factual accuracy of news and negatively affect depth and substance.  Furthermore content provided by readers must be edited by trained journalists in order to keep the quality of journalism high – referring to both language use and information reliability.

UGC, can cause more problems than just damaging a firm’s reputation, it could land the whole company legal troubles and endless court case, thus increasing pressure even more.  However with recession that hit the industry how can fewer journalists manage more tasks, for less pay and time?  According to a study conducted by Singer, local journalists believe that “UGC can undermine journalistic values unless they are carefully monitored – a gate keeping task they fear cannot fit in within newsroom routines threatened by resource constraints of increasing severity.”

Maybe the traditional profession of a journalist seems more valuable than ever before even though it is often undervalued and depreciated; Kelly argues, “How can so much of the public believe that journalism is untrustworthy at a time when quality journalism seems ‘better’- more responsible, more even-keeled than it ever has even been before?”

These issues left aside, UGC does in conclusion show that journalism is still a profession; journalists still play the most vital role of being gatekeepers and as Kelly mentions, “non-journalists who find themselves in newsworthy situations will turn to the BBC, CNN and other well-known players who have proven that they can widely distribute news”.

And if we shift to a more say developed example of UGC, blogs that were and are under the scrutiny of the mainstream media, similar theories could be applied.  While bloggers can produce material that potentially be perceived as to being newsworthy, the percentage is small and in addition most blogs target a niche market – because they tend to write for a variety of personal reasons and focus on what interests them instead of covering stories and information and basically performing the full-time work that is expected from a professional journalist.

On the contrast blogs, can be a good source of ideas, in-depth coverage and sources. Kelly notes one advantage of blogs:  “it makes possible the coverage of events that the mainstream media might otherwise miss”

Yet, even to that, another question is posed: There is so much information out there but does the public provide enough information, or information that is in fact valuable or of some worth to the news agency, or is the public simply overwhelmed and easily swayed by imprecise information that flows online?

According to a survey presented by Cardiff University BBC study in Red Kayaks and Hidden Gold, only 5 per cent of Britons would contact a news organization if they witnessed a large factory fire and knew that emergency services had been contacted.

In that case is it better to have volunteers in order to obtain reliable and regular information?  If so then another issue would arise.  The issue of payment and in the current recession this also would not be an option.  For now publishers find that their “volunteers are more citizen than journalist”.

For now the mass media is indeed causing more and more issues and speculations for which solutions have not yet been found.  Every coin after all does bear to sides, and for now can the news industry tackle and afford to witness the consequences and the less pleasant side?


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