A K-pop ‘ARMY’ might show us a way forward in the ‘War on Media’ (no, really)

Journalists, at their core, are supposed to be representatives for their fellow citizens. They’re afforded a Willy Wonka-style ‘golden ticket’ to enter board rooms, factory floors, and the streets of our communities to show and help explain what the heck is going on.

The public expects journalists to use that access and special status to get the public information they need to understand our world better, and know where they might want to advocate, or protest, or investigate more.

This may seem obvious to say, so why say it? The on-going ‘War on Media’ is adding to the already crippling deficit of trust between journalists and some segments of society, and it doesn’t need to be that way.

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Perils in aggregation journalism: public or ‘public’

Twitter is inherently a social networking site for making short but unquestionably public statements about everything and anything.  As you likely see in my Twitter feed to the left of this post, my Tweets are mostly about journalism, media, or international relations–my dominant fields of interest and study.  My comments are ones that I would defend in person, because they are made in the public sphere.  There is no expectation of privacy in Tweeting, unless done through the moderately helpful “Direct Message” system.  Twitter might be compared to a bullhorn letting its users send brief thoughts into a noisy and confusing web space.

There is an increasing trend in journalism to aggregate Tweets by topic or user into “news stories.”  Chief among the tools for this Twitter journalism is Storify, which organizes selected Tweets to form a narrative.  This example from Canadian CTV news shows how it works…you list the Tweets to tell a story, and the journalist doesn’t necessarily need to talk to anyone directly.  The Tweets are taking the place of interviews, in some cases.  This is annoying, and a result of a race for posting “news” quicker in the digital age.  Why talk to someone when you can just post their Tweets? Continue reading “Perils in aggregation journalism: public or ‘public’”

‘Journalistic Outsourcing:’ Not the journalism I grew up with..

[You can support an updated version of this ‘outsourcing’ article on Medium. You can also send a donation.]

It’s now almost cliche to talk about the death (or metamorphosis) of newspapers, and the evolution of journalism, but maybe we should talk more about skill outsourcing. 

Ink-stained reporters and editors used to be the true gatekeepers of information, able to amplify or suppress stories, scandals, and secrets simply by printing information or not. 

This is obviously no longer the case, as Twitter, Facebook, CNN iReporters, bloggers, hobbyists–you name it–have all become some form of news agent. I am reluctant to use the term “journalist” to describe some of these actors, or “journalism” to describe what they do, because these terms are something special to me…a journalist. 

I have proudly called myself a journalist after mixing in different media, paying my dues, to learn what responsibility and influence a microphone or notepad can have.  It is true many types of people can report events, but are they all journalists? 

The Poynter Institute’s Kelly McBride said news organizations (and their journalists) can provide needed context to information, when the role of gatekeeper has been changed or abolished.  She was specifically commenting on the ‘manifesto’ of a still-at-large LAPD “renegade cop,” but I think the observation of a market-driven change in what journalists do and are is important.

Just as journalism has been facing epic transformations, my views of the industry have soured.  It is not breaking news to say a journalist is disappointed in journalism–it is almost a honed skill to complain about the decline of quality in between the rare journalistic triumphs. 

But I am ever more bruised by the realization that what I learned about journalism, and have come to identify as the ideals supposedly supported by my noble profession, may no longer hold true most of the time. 

And the tasks, duties, and truly ‘noble’ parts of journalism, are often outsourced to other professions or industries, only to be reported on after-the-fact by journalists.

And if journalists are not the ones doing the true journalistic work any more, then is there any reason to defend journalism as a profession?  Or just journalism as a craft practiced by anyone?

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Reflections on a falling crucifix

CBS

I’d like to begin this post by expressing my regret that, after enduring the pain and emotional exhaustion of a wife battling cancer, a man lost his leg in an accident involving a falling crucifix.  I begin with that expression of regret because I want to be clear that I don’t bear any negative feelings toward the man described in this CBS 2 story from New York

It was tragic. 

But in reading this story I was presented with a few theological considerations, perhaps prompted by poor or unclear writing: “David Jimenez believed his devotion to a crucifix was responsible for his wife being cured of cancer,” it says.  This sentence infers the man had a devotion to a particular object, a crucifix.  And in his desire to show reverence for that object, it dislodged and crushed his leg.  What is this story saying, or not, about faith, and about God?

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Analysis: The state of journalism and multiculturalism in German public radio

Journalism's changing

Editor’s Note:  This is a personal narrative and commentary about German public radio, and multiculturalism therein, based on my experience in the last years.  I offer my observations, suggestions, and hopes, perhaps to prompt further thought or consideration from journalists and newsreaders alike.  Warning..this is a long one!

“You have no idea what you are talking about, Luka*.“  The small Greek colleague pushed a harshly dismissive comment toward Luka, incensing something primal in the latter.  I had not yet met this colleague, after all I was just considered a Praktikant, an intern, a visitor, a stranger and kept more or less to myself unless prompted.  I sat at the back corner of the meeting table in a German editorial meeting.

“How do you know what I have an idea about?” Luka shot back in his thick accent—Bosnian or Hungarian, I wasn’t quite sure.  The other members of this multi-cultural editorial staff shifted their eyes nervously, some chuckled, not sure what to do.  I stopped moving all-together, frozen in a pose for observation: my posture slouched, my chin buried in my hands, my eyes fixed.  A discussion about refugees from Eastern Europe quickly turned heated.

“You don’t know what the refugees need.  You don’t know who they are, or what they are doing.”  The Greek colleague looked sure of himself, almost taunting the situation to escalate.  A soft winter light shone in through the windows behind me, and story ideas pinned to a tack board fluttered slightly.

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Journalists and Playing “Hardball”

Chow
Chow
Your correspondent (center left) enjoys fruit and pastries with the French minister of immigration. (not pictured) (Photo: Aurelia Figueroa)

It has been a fascinating year as a Bosch fellow in terms of group dynamics.  I was told before the fellowship began that journalists tended to be chosen to spice the group up a bit and keep things interesting.  During Bosch meetings with policy makers, journalists, politicians, etc I didn’t really remember that I was supposed to “spice things up.” 

It just sort of happened naturally.

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Restoring Journalism

Though our time in Germany is great for seeing sights, and making personal breakthroughs (like learning to eat bananas and spaghetti: good work baby) there is a more serious reason I am here: Journalism.

I am listening and learning as much as I can about the radio system in Germany, but also on the state of journalism in general.  In the States the numbers are grim, but Germany’s problems are different, and may be tougher to solve.

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