In the Week 3 workshops we will be looking at newspapers and analysing the different forms of news content journalists create for print. We’ll start by looking at the front pages of the main UK newspapers – a good place to catch up with these online is the BBC blog The Papers, which usually has a round up of all the front pages of the day and some thoughts on which stories are being covered and how.
The Week 3 lecture is, in part, about the news cycle – what drives it, and how it’s been changed by new media technologies. About five years ago, Radio 4 broadcast Making News, hosted by The Independent’s Steve Richards, which looked at how news was changing. All of the episodes are still worth a listen, if for no other reason than it will give you an introduction to longer forms of documentary on radio, which I imagine many of you haven’t listened to that much.
Episode 2, The Endless Cycle, is a a good introduction to recent debates around the news cycle. When the episode first aired, people were just beginning to think more (and worry a bit) about how new media technology had changed how news works.
The episode focuses on how online news, in particular social media, combined with 24 hour news channels to speed up the news cycle and create an environment in which it can be hard for journalists to step back and spend more time actually reporting and investigating stories.
Things have only got worse since then, especially now that politicians and other people in power attempt to deliberately play to the speed and outrage that dominates the news cycle now.
This is something to think about in connection with ‘hamster wheel journalism’ analysed by Dean Starkman in the Columbia Journalism Review (this piece was referenced by Felix Salmon in his blog post Teaching Journalists to Read, which you wrote about in Week 1. Starkman argues that the speed of online media and the modern news cycle is squeezing out in depth journalistic storytelling.
It’s quite an old post now, and not everyone agrees with him, but he makes a powerful case here.
One thing we might look in Week 2 is using an RSS readers – we’ll discuss these more in class. These allow you to subscribe to sites and information sources and then read new stories in your reader. They used to be very popular – but were fell out of favour as people began to use social media more to keep up with the news. Big names like Google and Digg used to run RSS readers but they gave up on them (Google a while ago, Digg last year).
However, though RSS readers never managed to shed their geeky image, they do let you control what you see – you can customise them so that you see exactly what you want in your reader – in contrast to more algorithmically driven feeds like Twitter and Facebook.
This has led people to argue that RSS readers might be due for a return – the latest example being Brian Barrett’s Wired story this year, It’s Time for an RSS Revival. There are still lots of free RSS Readers out there – Zapier’s Vicky Cassidy posted a good round up of the ten best last month. During class today we may experiment with Feedly – which is probably the best known RSS Reader – it has a free service but you have to pay for some features. It’s a good way to see if RSS Readers might work for you.
In the first week of the Intro to Journalism module, I mentioned a couple of pieces by the well-known journalist, Andrew Sullivan: Why I Blog and I Used To Be A Human Being. We didn’t get chance to talk about them in the first week but do have a look over the next week and we will discuss them in the Week 3 class.
Sullivan started blogging early and built his own mini-media business from his blog – the first piece he wrote is quite old now and comes from a time when he felt very optimistic about blogging. It’s fair to say he has changed his mind a bit now – as you can see from the second piece, which he wrote a couple of years ago.
Have a look at both and think about how and why he has changed his mind about blogs and online media in general.
Last week I asked you to start logging your media consumption and to think about how much of it was actually journalism. We’ll talk more about this on Monday during Session 2. One thing we will discuss is a deliberately provocative piece by Ralf Dobelli – Avoid News (you can download a PDF of the basic piece too).
The subtitle to the piece is ‘Towards a Healthy News Diet’ -Dobelli’s suggestion is that to move in that direction, you need to radically cut back on the news you consume.
He has also posted a kind of FAQ at the end of the piece, in the form of an imaginary interview with himself, in which he deals with objections to his idea. We’ll look at these in class and discuss them in more detail.
One of the things this module is designed to do is to get you reading/consuming more journalism. According to Felix Salmon, who used to blog about finance, journalism and online media in general for Reuters, most journalists don’t read widely enough, especially online. Have a read of his post Teaching Journalists to Read and think about what he says and whether you agree. It was written quite a long time ago now – is it still relevant? How have things changed? Does his argument still stand up?
Another piece we will discuss in the first class is My Blog, My Outboard Brain by Cory Doctorow – this piece is over ten years old now – but is still relevant and interesting. Unfortunately, the link above no longer works – the piece has gone behind a paywall, which is a pity. It’s worth seeing if you can find a copy – Doctorow is an SF writer/online activist/blogger for Boing Boing. This is an early piece about what he gets from blogging.
One thing we might do today, to start things off, is look at a couple of ads for The Guardian. ‘The Three Little Pigs’ was done quite recently – in 2012 – and won lots of awards. ‘Skinhead’ was made just over thirty years ago – in 1986 – and also won awards, I think. Have a look at both and have a think about what the vision of journalism presented by each one and how those visions differ.