Published on March 23, 2010
Got something to say?
Share your comments with other journalists
Is news over?
Unlike other marquee talks with a doomsday-themed mantra, Brock’s lecture envisioned an optimistic lifespan for journalism. A former editor of numerous sections at The Times was in essence an affirmation of the adage, “If nothing ever changed, there would be no butterflies.”
While journalism may be in a time of uncertainty, it might also just be a time of growing pains.
Times of great change nothing new
Brock argued that three great shifts are taking place in the world of modern journalism, changing the “how,” not “what,” of journalism.
This transformation is in part the quantity of information available: the easy and frequent alteration of stories, which calls into question both the definitive authority of publishers and the role of readers in what is becoming a “conversation” style of reporting. Thanks in part to this “decentralization of news,” in a sense, the industry can no longer depend on advertising as its primary source of revenue.
Brock suggested that because of these shifts, the previous conception of the practise of journalism is over. He continued to say that this is not the first time that journalism outlets have seen change in the definition of “how.”
His examples included changes seen and felt following the advent of broadcast news, first with radio and then with television.
With a more positive mind frame than some of his colleagues, Brock sees the future of journalism not as one of imminent death. The only thing perhaps dying is, in his perspective, is how research is done and how information is disseminated. The need for reliable truth-telling does not disappear, after all; nor does the curiosity of readers.
A definition of journalism
The “pillars of trust”- no doubt a City University London classroom term intended to roll the major functions of a journalist of verification, sense-making, witness, and investigation into one phrase - must continue to exist in online news-telling, Brock said.
He argued that because there are even more sources available, there is a greater need for future journalists to seek out and quote reliable sources in a quest to be useful to readers.
But who exactly is a journalist? Technology has eradicated the barrier of entry. Anyone with the ability to publish online could potentially be a journalist. However, while anyone can publish, producing quality content is another beast altogether. A hierarchy of good, better and best will always exist in the ability to communicate.
Journalism’s role as a democratic check on society will also always exist. The world of public relations and press releases may be growing, but so is the world of spin. Brock said that journalists will be the ones who collect different views available and package the information in a comprehensible comparison; the risk of presenting one perception of an event or issue while excluding others is as dangerous as ever.
Relevancy received further consideration during Brock’s discussion. He suggested that part of the fall of journalism has been triggered in part because of its inability to give readers what they need to be responsible citizens, or better yet, relate to each other.
As always, the power of editing is crucial. It may be named “filtering” at this point, but editing still asks for verification, reliability of sources, personalisation and good storytelling abilities. New form of presentation or not, the best journalism is still the kind most easily understood. Journalism will always be a craft, and a journalism enterprise will be a stable of the best crafters.
But the financials?
Blogger, traditional, or hybrid model, Brock in his lecture left the idea of a profit-making business model ambiguous, only saying that he hopes to equip his pupils with the strength and ability to adapt.
This, however, is at the heart of the dilemma for modern journalism’s survival.
He reminded in the history section of the lecture that both radio and television also floundered in the early days to make money. Television’s rescue came when Proctor & Gamble helped to form “soap operas.” The company wanted to target housewives who would buy their soap products and so funded dramas during the midday hours when this group was most likely to be watching, thus starting the business model of television. Brock could only suggest that online journalism will stumble upon a similar serendipitous event.
A note that Brock stressed was that readers have never paid the full price of subscription, and to press this upon them might prove to be unrealistic. While it can be argued that readers will be less inclined to pay for Internet content after having received it for free for so long, Brock said that part of the problem now is that current journalism has yet to prove it is worth anything at all. If one can read multiple media outlets online or wishes to only one portion of the product, why should they be forced to pay for all or even anything from one source if they can get it for free elsewhere?
The current status of journalism must be highly experimental, Brock said. If there is no single model, state funding might be one form, philanthropy another, a change in how advertising space is sold still another.
“We’re entering a new communications age and no one can accurately predict what those needs of news, media and journalism will be. We can only equip ourselves better to navigate change,” Brock said. “You can only do that with a clear idea of the value you want to add, and the value is that systematic attempt to get at the truth of what matters. Making the argument of journalism all over again means a little more self-appraisal than we have been used to doing, for the worth of journalism is real and changes will have to be made often in the next few years.”
Brock also fielded a question and answer session after the lecture, covering questions dealing with such topics as the BBC, concentration of ownership and copyright law. The talk took place March 17 at City University London.
To view the full video, see the streaming video at the City University site, or see the twitter conversation at #isnewsover.
Flickr image from user Alex Osterwalder
Tags: academic, business model, city university london, daytime television, editor, george brock, hybrid model, news media, online journalism, professor, public relations, soap, soap operas, the times,
- De Pers: The end of a popular free Dutch daily that never made any money
- Lessons from Ireland: 5 Basic Steps For Analysing Online Activist Campaigns
- Last of the hot metal men
- Do school newspapers hold the future of print media?
- The New York Times’ evolving social media strategy
- The future of news: crowdsourced and connected
- Free European Tool Enables Independent Journalists from Yemen to Brazil
- Vis à Vis, a new iPad magazine in Spain, wants to be free forever
- The EJC Holds Back-to-Back Reporting Development Journalism Training Workshops in Nairobi
Subscribe to our monthly newsletter
Call for Writers
We’re looking for journalists from around the world to report on journalism and media trends and issues. Bring us original insights into innovations or challenges related to print, online, television, copyright, video and mobile journalism. Queries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Can a citizen’s initiative force the EU to formally protect media pluralism?
- A hacker considers one Saudi Arabia telecom’s surveillance pitch
- Last of the hot metal men
- Will Japan’s Fallen New Media Playboy Make a Comeback?
- Journalists Shrug Off President’s Inaugural Insults
- In the Netherlands, Subscribers Pay Per Journalist
- Instagramming the EU
- Dutch App Enables Context Curation
- Something Wiki This Way Comes
- Pope Francis, Shine the Light of Transparency on the Holy See
- Really, simple syndication
- Wikileaks report reveals corruption in Lithuanian newspapers
- Japan earthquake shakes Italian media
- Books that journalists should read: Edwin Black
- Blogskeptics ponder regulation in Europe
- Seven simple writing tips for social news
- Magazine layouts gain popularity with blogs
- New media and social change in the Arab and Muslim world
- Separating journalism and the media
- The public broadcasting license fee and public value