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Online Journalism

reflections on a changing medium

Category Archives: Responses

Upon reading chapter 12, “Opportunities and Challenges,” of Foust’s Online Journalism, I began thinking of slightly more recent current struggles and issues that I have recently read about that relate to his discussion of the business model of online journalism.

Foust noted the success of the Wall Street Journal in selling subscription fees to readers, and the failures of other news sources from attempting to use the same model. Now, with e-readers such as the Nook, the Kindle and the iPad, the format of the traditional newspaper is changing even further, along with the business model. This new form of accessing news media is allowing journalism giants the chance to re-establish a business model that might just work. By charging subscription fees, news outlets such as the New York Times, USA Today and the the Wall Street Journal  are hoping to rake in a bit more cash instead of giving their content away for free. Other journalism sources are following suit.

On December 11, 2009 Ravit Lichtenberg commented on the future of social media and journalism in the article 10 Ways Social Media Will Change in 2010 on In one section of the article, Lichtenberg writes,

 “Last month, Rupert Murdoch announced he may opt News Corp out of Google, instructing it to de-index its publications from the search engine and giving exclusive rights to Bing for a fee. This means that content publishers will be able to determine where they make their content available and at what cost.”

With such holdings as the New York Post, the Wall Street Journal, The Times (UK), FOX, Hulu and Myspace, Murdoch’s decision to force Google to de-index these materials could be an essential driving force behind the changing business model simply because he weilds so much power. Murdoch has also proposed the monitoring and limiting of click-through’s (as mentioned by Foust) available to users who are viewing content through an indexing, aggregating site such as Google or Bing. Though these changes have not occurred yet, over the past year Murdoch has been very vocal about the power that he holds over the indexing and search engine business and has further established his foothold in the profits garnered from the creation and distribution of media content.


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In “Case Studies: Blogs and Journalism,” Chapter 9 of Axel Brun’s Gatewatching, the question of whether or not blogging is “journalism” is discussed. After reading the entire chapter and considering my own experiences with blogging, reading blogs and reading aggregated blog news sites I have formed my own opinions about this issue. I believe that blogging is journalism, but like many others, I feel that blogging is very different from traditional “journalism.” Blogging is more of a form of grassroots citizen journalism. Now, with the wide availability of simple computers and high-speed Internet service, almost everyone has access to the tools necessary to digitally record and publish information for the world to see. Of course the digital divide does keep some underprivileged and working class Americans and others in different areas of the world in the dark, without a platform to express and share their ideas and opinions, but in America this is becoming less and less of an issue.

Now, with blogs and blog aggregation sites it is easier to find news about a specific topic from a wide spectrum of viewpoints. Also, the news that is being disseminated today is of a wider subject variety as the public agenda is no longer being set by an exclusive class of professional journalists. Rather, grassroots journalists and ordinary people are harnessing more informational power and setting the public agenda themselves.

While large, professional news outlets are still revered by many as accurate and trustworthy sources of news, blogs and blog sites such as The Huffington Post and The Drudge Report are gaining readership and notoriety in the world of news media.

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In the article “The Video Explosion,” Charles Layton says that young journalists who have the skills to shoot photos, video and to write traditional print stories could be the future. With the leading medium of online news journalism changing from print to multimedia content like audio, video, and photo slideshows, it is important for emerging journalists to be prepared for any sort of assignment. While the role of future Web journalists is still not completely well-defined, it easy to see that more is expected of them than ever before. ‘I didn’t want to be someone who just wrote stories and only did that because that’s the only way I know how. I see a journalist being able to write, to shoot video, collect audio… Or, at a minimum, a journalist should know how this whole thing works,’ says reporter and video producer Evelio Contraras.

In news media today, journalists have a wide range of proficiency in regards to these new skills. In regards to online video content, Layton says, “….much of it disappointing, some so awful it makes you cringe, and some reasonably well executed but trivial… but a small proportion is excellent by any standard…” This variety can be seen in the videos that we have had the opportunity to view in class. The Buffalo News video “Jeff Miers reflects on the Grammy Awards night”, for example, was an example of something cringe-worthy while most of the LA Times video work featured on their site  is excellent

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I used many of the videography techniques discussed in Herber Zettl’s Video Basic 3, “Chapter 5” when I shot video for my final video project. When I interviewed Debbie, an avid bingo player, on-camera I kept several things from this reading in mind. First, I practiced using different fields of view, angles and focal lengths. For every few questions that I asked Debbie, I altered the position of my camera getting close-ups, medium shots and wide angle shots. This variety of shots enabled me to capture detail in facial expressions, body language, and her surrounding environment. In all of my shots, I tried to leave enough headroom and room in front of her face as “proper leadroom.” These are both compositional elements that Zettl discusses the importance of. Also, I was sure to include Debbie’s face and shoulders in most of the shots to allow for what Zettl calls “psychological closure.”

At one point, I tried to zoom in on Debbie’s mouth as she talked about a time when one of her teeth fell out while eating pizza at a bingo hall. The zoom was very sudden, and Zettl advises against this, but I hadn’t yet grown accustomed to the zoom feature on the zi8 and was surprised by the speed of the zoom. Next time I will keep this in mind.

I did not focus much on depth while getting my interview footage as Debbie’s surroundings were ery bland and it was a fairly straightforward video shoot. Two techniques that I did use that Zettl doesn’t mention, however, involved camera stabilization and the length of individual takes. When I was shooting video of Debbie, I stabilized my elbows on the back of a chair that I positioned to face her in hopes that this would minimize the shakiness of the video. Also, when I began and ended takes, I left the camera running for at least ten seconds after she or I had finished or begun speaking in order to capture establishing and closing shots that would make the video easier to edit and less choppy when watching.

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Social networking sites are everywhere. Almost everyone I know has either a Twitter, a Facebook, a LinkedIn, or a Myspace. Some people have one of each! Not until recently, though, have these tools become widely used by businesses and news outlets. I never really thought much of having profiles on these sites. I just saw it as a fun activity that I took part in in order to connect with my friends, especially the ones who now live across the country. Now employers at media organizations are frequently asking job candidates about their social Web media skills.

“‘In the old days, most journalists thought it was their job to write a story, and it was someone else’s job to distribute it, market it and find an audience for it,’ says Alan Murray, executive editor, online for the Wall Street Journal. “In the new world, the journalist has a responsibility for the whole set.”

Here, Alan Murray, an online editor for the Wall Street Journal is talking about the changing role of journalists and the blurring of lines between the roles of reporters, photographers, videographers, Web designers, marketing and advertising. This could be a positive thing as the journalist who produced the story, gathering information firsthand and interacting with subjects, would also be producing and displaying the rest of the media package that their written work might be part of. This could lead to more cohesive media packages and less of a disconnect between the creative ideas of individuals working on different parts of the project.

On the other hand, though, there’s a reason why, historically, journalists have been separated from marketing and advertising sections of news outlets physically and otherwise. If the journalist is made responsible for these tasks that hold economic consequences, as well as gathering and reporting information, it is possible that the stories that are being reported upon could be influenced by advertisers or those whom the news outlet has a stake in pleasing for the sake of profits.

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This is a combined response to Sides of the Wire: America in Afghanistan, The Long Haul, and How I cover the Afghanistan war with the 5DmkII.

These three stories, taken together, show the increasing availability of war photos from overseas, particularly in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. It is easy to find these photos in print and broadcast media, on the internet and, increasingly, through the blogs and Web sites of independent journalists and journalists from smaller news outlets. With such coverage, it’s becoming harder to ignore the reality of the situations–and that’s a positive thing, in my opinion. Making such media available can serve as a strong form of activism, forcing American citizens to be aware of our conuty’s foreign affairs. These photos give a human face to war. It can also be extremely historically significant. These images are reminiscent of photos and documentary work exposing the horrors of the Vietnam War (BBC, Hearts and Minds).

The lengths that journalist Danfung Dennis goes to in order to capture images, sound and video are extraordinary. He mentions 120 degree heat, lack of light, issues with stabilization, the need to wear safety equipment and other various circumstantial and environmental forces that he must overcome. His story also highlights the improvements in portable camera equipment and the ways in which they enable things like war overseas to be covered by journalists in new and efficient ways. Newer versions of compact DSLRs are more impressive than ever, enabling journalists to make multiple media projects (like Dennis’s photo sets and documentary footage) and to stray further from the confining roles of a traditional journalists and photographers.

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In chapter 7 of Fieldwork, Bruce Jackson writes about the intricacies of interviewing. Bruce Jackson is a distinguished professor teaching courses in UB’s English and media study department. He specializes in documentary, photography and ethnography among other things and has contributed to many influential texts that I have read for courses thus far. I’m already fairly familiar with his writing. Knowing what I know about Jackson, and that he has written extensively about documentary filmmaking and cinema verite – the art of filming life as it occurs-makes this especially interesting to me. A lot of the same issues about what “truth” is arise in different media forms. While this chapter was about interviewing, beneath its surface, it was about truth: how to find it, how to recognize it when you do and how to avoid the things that threaten truthfulness of nonfiction media. First, Jackson says, “Having a conversation about a part of life and interviewing someone about a part of life are not the same kinds of event; they’re not even the same kinds of discourse.” This speaks for the artificiality of the interview construct. People get “weird” when the camera/audio recorder is on. They become, for better or worse, the person that they would like to show the world or the person that they might think that you want to show the world. Jackson refers to this type of thing as creating “a parody instead, something that was neither interview nor conversation.” When you allow yourself and your subject to get lost in the interview, forgetting about the recording machines, you are able to have a conversation, and this is vital. Again, Jackson says, “Charlie remains Charlie rather than some other person in the distant past Charlie is reconstructing for the recorder….”

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