‘What do we mean by local?’

When people ask me if I think local newspapers are a dying breed I have to say yes. Yes I do think they are, and that’s because people want to earn money for what they do. They need to. Local newspapers are dying out as hyperlocal blogs are on the rise. These blogs are free, and give the information we would have once read in a paper, but faster, and probably with more detail through reader involvement (comments, images etc.).

For me a hyperlocal blog is made by someone who is interested in a local community and this interest removes the need and desire for lots of money generated from the website. As Richard Jones highlights in ‘What do we mean by local?‘ he set up his a website for his local community for personal reasons, not his drive for a huge pay cheque.

The idea that people set up websites and blogs locally will ensure that we maintain to receive local news. It does mean however that the local print papers will slowly disappear as the technology advances and more people become involved with the online revolution.

Also in the book ‘What do we mean by local?’, Ross Hawkes makes a true, and slightly disheartening, statement that people now feel closer to their online community than they do to their actual neighbours. And it’s true. We know more about people through online social media and news sources than we do by actually speaking to the people we live around.

It doesn’t surprise me local newspapers are dying. I like to read my local newspaper, the Northwich Guardian, but that’s only when it’s sat next to me at a relatives house or on a bus. I wouldn’t go out of my way to find it – and that is exactly what the majority of people know think with the rise, the ease and the free nature of online news.

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Telling the News #everyoneisinvited

If I want to know about a story I look for the details, and how can I do that when I’m only given 140 characters? The rise of Twitter has suggested that established news organisations will lose some of their readers. I don’t think so.

Twitter is there to give the facts of a story, but more importantly to redirect you to the full piece. That’s it’s job. Likewise the figures showing the amount of tweets is just that – the amount of tweets. The majority of which may not even get read. In Nic Newman’s The Rise of Social Media and it’s Impact on Mainstream Journalism it is implied that readers choose to go to citizen journalists for information as opposed to reputable sources. Speaking for myself, although probably for many others, if I see a story on Twitter I don’t always believe it until I have visited a trusted website.

I think that social media is a positive for journalists. Yes it can sometimes take the attention off professional journalism, but the younger generation probably get all their news from Twitter and Facebook and in turn visit a reputable news website. As Nic Newman suggests in another piece of his, Mainstream Media and the role of the Internet, “tools” like Twitter and Facebook are a starting point for news stories, that are then developed elsewhere.

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Qualified or unqualified – Does it matter?

Citizen journalism, user generated comment (UCG), participatory journalism, ‘we-media’. All of these imply that you don’t have to be a journalist to produce journalism as we read in John Kelly’s Red Kayaks and Hidden Gold: The rise, challenges and value of Citizen Journalism.

The idea that “users aren’t users but producers” is a scary notion as where does that leave ‘professional’ journalists?, but as Kelly states within his piece, “journalists need to accept it [citizen journalism]”.

People argue that citizen journalism is for unqualified people, and therefore not as trustworthy. This statement causes a stir when we have the likes of journalist’s Jayson Blair and Andrew Gilligan who have admitted or been caught to fabricate the truth. So does being qualified really mean that much more? I think it’s the person, journalist or not, who has to gain credibility, regardless of their qualifications.

With newspapers they set their own agenda. They select what to write about and how to write it. Citizen journalism removes these restrictions and dismisses the idea of a gatekeeper as there is the now the opportunity and freedom to write anything. And in turn, read anything. In my eyes this highlights the positive aspects of citizen journalism. Similarly, as quoted in Kelly’s work:

“We will do for ourselves what the news media will not do for us.”

It’s now users that create the content

Kelly references Andrew Keen who compares untrained people doing journalism to monkeys banging at a typewriter. This in my opinion is a ridiculous statement to make. Sure citizen journalism has it’s negative points but not everyone is incapable you know? There are lots of people out there who share news and share it well.

Towards the end of Kelly’s work there is the predication that websites that neglect to allow reader participation will risk losing readers. Predictions are valid but I don’t know if this statement stands its ground. There could be 200 students in a lecture, but not all of them will want to contribute.

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Not All Things Move Slowly

Reading Steen Steenson’s blog post The Revolution That Never Happened it states that people use technology different to how revolutionists predicted. I think this is a brilliant way of summing up predictions from over the years, although there are some things I cannot agree with throughout his post.

By saying online journalism is mainly written text and that multimedia, hypertext and interactivity are “rare” I can do nothing but completely disagree. I’m not sure what websites Steenson surfs but the majority of websites I view have lots of interactivity. Almost every website you go to has multimedia, hypertext and interactivity – otherwise why would you go to it? Websites need these to keep its readers.

Steenson also says “things move slowly…”. Things? What does that even mean? He says that after reading a book from 1925 it could have been written only 20 years ago, which is a fair statement to make. The word “things” however is too ambiguous – some “things” take off rapidly. He needs to say this.

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“Death for the couch potato”

“Cable TV will have more reaching effects on society than the Industrial Revolution 200 years ago.” – A quote by Kenneth Baker the Information Technology Minister in 1982.

We read this quote and many like it in James Curran’s Technology Foretold. His piece tells us about predictions made that were to form our future, but are not around today. All these predictions, that flopped.

Who can predict the future?

Cable TV, Digital TV, Interactive TV and the Dotcom bubble are all things we were told to await but with no final product. Not one that meets our expectations anyway, which may be a good thing considering the idea of these technologies being “death for the couch potato”. But who are we to blame in all of this? The computer geeks ‘bigging up’ their technology can be put down as one culprit. The other, authoritative figures and organisations, particularly Murdoch’s empire. With their power they can influence the media, and all that is needed is one persuasive piece and the hype goes spiralling. With all these broken promises, I personally wouldn’t want to believe any hype surrounding new products. That’s unless I see it for myself.

One thing Curran does seem to highlight throughout The Future of Journalism is that although these hypes didn’t work, it has introduced ideas for new facilities.

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Who goes to iTunes for a review?

Do you? Really?

Recently reading Paul Bradshaw‘s blog about how the internet has changed journalism in what he thinks is a negative way, left me asking lots of questions.

He argues that technology has reduced the cost of newsgathering, and that publishing is ‘as easy as a phonecall’. Quite right he is, until you begin to question the quality of what is produced. If something is published from a non reputable source, and instantly like you can get on the internet you could argue it was published as a spur of the moment. Putting together a newspaper takes time and money as we know, and at least with a paper you know its been researched for purpose, unlike the rise of citizen journalism. So yes production costs are reduced, but anyone who still wants to read quality news would be going somewhere to get it where it’s ‘newsgather-er’ gets paid.

Stating that specialist types of journalism, and in focus here reviews, are losing value I think is a bold statement to make. We all know Amazon offers book reviews and that you can find out how good the new Sting album is from iTunes, but you can’t expect quality. Anyone and everyone can update and comment on sites like these – so how correct can they be? Not to mention that the writer generally has no skill in the art of reviews. I’d take Paul into the ring on this one on the basis that the majority of people would go to reputable places for this kind of information.


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