How the digital revolution is affecting what you read

After having read Currah What’s Happening to Our News (2009) I can once that what I believe was once again verified;  the internet even though is a genius tool to news expansion, has brought a lot of doom and gloom to the industry, doubts and uncertainty.  Of course it is not all bad, however the problem with the negative points is that the points are rather serious for the media industry in terms of the way the industry is managed and the effect of the material output.

The journal argues that to a certain visible extend the media affects and shapes the public’s mindset, the government’s decision making and direction of public policy as well as the global economy and financial markets.

From what I have extracted the future of how the media industry will be economically sustained is still in working progress.  It seems that media moguls will expect journalists to rely on technology, multi-task and extended working hours for a smaller team with greater results across the multifarious media platforms that currently exist.

Daniel Franklin ( Executive Editor of the Economist) states that the once known authorative media is now moving towards a bigger more open and dispersed platform.

The journal argues that the reasons behind news distortions (accuracy, depth, breadth, quality)are a result of:

  1. Time constraints facing journalists
  2. Cultures and interests of the newsrooms
  3. Professional and organizational rivalries
  4. Demand of speed in breaking news stories (due to rivalries)

However to some point journalism has always been an “exercise in imperfection” (Alan Rusbridger).  There have always been some kinds of flaws and half-truths (partial truths) so this is not a shocking new life –threatening disaster.

“The newspaper that drops on your doorstep is a partial, hasty, incomplete, inevitably somewhat flawed and inaccurate rendering of some of the things we heard about in the past 24 hours..distorted despite our best efforts to eliminate gross bias by the very process of compression that makes it possible for you..to read it in about an hour..If we labeled the paper accurately then we would immediately add:  But it’s the best we could do under the circumstances, and we will be back tomorrow with a corrected updated version.” – David Broder

The statement which dates back to 1981 shows that there has always been a particular tension between speed and accuracy even prior to the emergence internet.

Further good news, the report suggests that the quality overall of the British media remains high in spite of the newsrooms integration and extensive workloads.

So is the merging of platforms, shrinking deadlines, more workload less pay and therefore the rising of quality issues still easy to cope and potentially deal with?

“We just have to be flexible..it’s about dealing with the challenges on a case by case basis, rather than being Draconian.  We’re trying to build in flexibility to the system and the new way of working, to make sure that we have choices, to make sure that the productions remain high.”

I am just wondering though, to what extent this is realistically achievable – sounds easier said than done to me.

Which leads to my favourite part – accuracy examination.

The journal states indeed a rather eye-opening point that I have never come across before.  “Combined with the insatiable demands of the 24/7 media, that inevitably means that journalists have less time to travel and meet the people in their coverage of stories.”

The internet and the social media in particular becomes therefore an important medium of communication and source gathering sometimes casting a shadow over the factual accuracy of the news.

Errors even though easily deleted or corrected on the web, travel and multiply much faster than in print because of the nature of the web and social media.  So if let’s say we were to talk about an integrated newsroom where a journalist works both online and in print, assuming that staff force is low ( recipe for disaster), what would be the potential result?

“It is very difficult at this stage to determine whether we can really achieve the savings without a deterioration in the quality of what we do..the main impact of the budgetary changes overall is time.  There’s a wear and tear effect on the people..that’s the biggest concern; that we lose that depth, that reflective journalism.” ( Editor in Currah, 2009)

What we can withdraw from this statement is that the effects would probably be in the lines of:

  1. Less staff/editors potentially results in making more mistakes (factual & grammatical)
  2. Losing depth of stories
  3. Losing reputation in the long run

More platforms and outlets for journalism combined with the urge to publish promptly is the result of more and more occurring inaccuracies, is the view of Director of the PCC, Tim Toulmin.

“I don’t know what the public would think if you asked them to make a choice between getting all of the news accurately but later, or get it all immediately but the story may have to be revised.  I suspect they would say that they would want accurate information and wait for it, but in practice I am not sure that this is right.”  Tim Toulmin.

It seems that everything is easier in theory.  To find the balance is literally impossible, in fact it has never been there.  However it is vital to stop this gap from expanding even further because we already see an identity crisis in the media industry and journalists still need to be viewed as professionals, and trustworthy individuals who do their best to inform the public factual happenings.

I think the biggest concern, is that because of the merging between platforms we see the standard newsroom structure falling apart and this causes chaos and confusion.  What to do first rather how to do it has probably become the leading ideology.

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