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Online Journalism

reflections on a changing medium

Tag Archives: Clay Shirky

Here Comes Everybody is a book that I’ve referenced already in other blog posts. I read it about a month ago and it’s one of the most inspiring books that I’ve read so far this year.
The chapter “Everyone is a Media Outlet” describes my biggest fears and my greatest hopes about journalism. The idea that amateurs can serve as media outlets is both frightening and extremely exciting.

I think that Shirky’s discussion of professionals is very interesting. As we are seeing today, those already in the field of journalism might be at a disadvantage as they see the role of a journalist “through a lens created by other members of their profession” whereas people just entering the field have the opportunity to create a new lens through which to view it. Some traditional journalists are resisting the changes of the times as scribes resisted the changes brought about by the printing press long ago.

Shirky’s discussion of “mass amateurization” is exciting because with the increasing opportunity for everyone to produce media there will be more people determining what is newsworthy and setting the public agenda. Therefore, the news that is widely available is becoming is more of a viewpoint mosaic than several voices coming from the same viewpoint. Aggregated blog sites like The Huffington Post along with the increasing number of independent blogs on WordPress, Blogger and similar sites are good examples of this. Rather than the hashing out of arguments and critical evaluations of different viewpoints being limited to the editorial page of newspapers, amateurs are able to take to the Net, carving up their own editorial pages and speaking their minds. This is possible because, as Shirky points out, now everyone has access to a publishing platform which is free and easy to use.

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This post is in response to chapter three of Richard Craig’s Online Journalism.

This reading really seemed to highlight something that I discussed in my last post: that, above all, it is important to have a strong foundation of journalistic skills. While Craig describes many ways of using the Internet (search engines, emal lists, news sites, blogs, and Web pages among others) to procure solid story ideas, the rest of this chapter, and Craig’s tips, can be applied to traditional print journalism techniques.

For example, Craig suggests things like seeking out local angles, doing follow-ups and previews, and feature stories that examine and convey the vivid details of a subject. These are standard jounalistic methods of creating story ideas when reporters seems to be running low on hot news stories.

One of the things that Craig briefly discussed as an advantage of using the Internet to track down story ideas was the feedback-friendly aspect.  Here, he talks about things like feedback pages, message boards, chat rooms and polls. These types of interactive spaces allow the consumers room to provide their own input and to have a say in the type of information product that is being delivered to them. Previously, before the Web journalism phenomenon, consumers of news didn’t have this luxury. The news was determined by professional journalists who were were part of a “professional class,” according to Clay Shirky in his book, Here Comes Everybody. The rules of such a class, he says, are determined by the way in which the elite members who all experience the benefits and challenges of the particular profession choose to see the world.

On page 65, Shirky writes:

“In a world where a dozen editors, all belonging to the same professional class, can decide whether to run or kill a national story, information that might be of interest to the general piblic may not be published, not because of a conspiracy but because the editors have a professional boas that is aligned by the similar challenges they face and by the similar tools they use to approach those challenges.”

This is where the importance of Web journalists–especially amateur journalists and bloggers comes in. With more media outlets existing on the Web and more independent voices, the bias that Shirky writes about will not be a limiting factor in news that comsumers will have access to. It is especially important for the increasingly independent, varied pool of Web journalists to utilize the feedback devices that Craig describes in order to avoid this very problem and to report the stories that traditional print media outlets might not see as being things worth covering.

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