Today the plan is to make a start on your career plans – which you have to complete for the third assessment on this module. Last week I asked you to pick a story by a journalist you admire and then try to work out what they had to do to be able to put that story together.
To help get ready for this, we’re going to try it with a few features I read over the weekend:
- An interview with Alicia Vikander
- Observer food critic Jay Rayner tries the food that’s big on Instagram
- Slate’s Amanda Hess on YouNow
- Fusion’s Ethan Chiel on the After School app
- The Atlantic’s Ingrid Burrington takes a journey into the heart of Facebook
- The Guardian on the Tunisian rappers taking on Isis
- Teju Cole in the New York Times on artists and photographers using Instagram
- Buzzfeed’s Taylor Lorenz on ‘how Pitbull conquered Facebook’
The lecture this week (Week 11) was all about preparing you for the final assessment on the Introduction to Journalism module – the professional development plan. The idea behind this is to get you thinking about what kind of journalist you want to be in the future and what you need to learn to have a chance of becoming that kind of journalist.
For next week’s workshops (December 14th), you should read Matt Thompson’s 4 Types of Journalists, which I talked about at the end of the lecture today. It’s an interesting attempt to outline some journalistic character types and the kinds of stories they do/incline towards. Try to find your own examples for each of Thompson’s four types (he gives examples but they are mostly American). Think about which journalistic type would suit you best.
Then try to identify a journalistic role model – someone who you admire who does the kind of journalism you want to do. Pick one of their stories and try to work out what they had to do to put that story together. Write up some notes about this on your blog and we’ll use them as a starting point in the workshops next week
The lecture this week covered online journalism, which was a slight change of schedule. The original plan was to do TV news but I thought about it over the weekend and decided it would make more sense to do online journalism now, so you can think about it a bit and get ready for the media monitoring assessment.
Here’s a few links to some useful pieces about online journalism – its history and recent developments.
Fungible is a really interesting essay by Stijn Debrouwere about how ‘journalism is being replaced online’. It was written a couple of years ago, I think, but still feels very current and relevant. Debrouwere’s key point is that journalism no longer plays the central role it used to re helping people find useful bits of information. One example – people used to read music journalism to find out about new music to listen to – but now there are so many other ways to that online, music journalists are being sidelined.
Live blogs (and the idea of the stream of updates as opposed to single stories) have become a dominant feature of online sites in the last three years or so. Alexis Madrigal’s 2013: The year the stream crested is a thoughtful critique of the stream and some of the things you lose in the flow of fast, quick updates.
Here are a few pieces about some key influential online news sites:
Six Degrees of Aggregation is a long but very readable history of the Huffington Post, which looks at how the site developed and why it became so influential online
Jonah Peretti played a key role in the development of the HuffPo and then went on to start Buzzfeed. Felix Salmon recently did an epic Q&A with Peretti which is a great read if you want to get a sense of where he’s coming from and how Buzzfeed might develop
The American magazine The New Yorker specialises in long form, in depth features – if you don’t know, you should definitely give it a read. A good place to start are its features on the news media – e.g. The Daily Mail, The Guardian and Vice – all key players in online journalism.
Nick Denton started Gawker Media, one of the first commercial blog companies to achieve success – several of his blogs (Gawker, Jezebel, Gizmodo, Deadspin) remain successful and influential. He did a long interview with Playboy earlier this year which gives a good insight to his approach to online journalism and how his sites will develop
The workshops in Week 3 focused on how newsrooms work and the news cycle in general – what drives it, and how it’s been changed by new media technologies. About a year and a half ago, Radio 4 broadcast Making News, an interesting series hosted by The Independent’s Steve Richards on how news was changing. All of the episodes are 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.
But Episode 2, The Endless Cycle, is very relevant to Patrick’s workshops and the Media Monitoring assessment, which you will have to do in around a month’s time. The episode focuses on how online news, in particular social media, have 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.
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 of the thing we going to talk about in the Week 2 workshops is the idea of the media diet. One question we’ll look at is how far you can push the analogy. For example, what counts as the media equivalent of junk food? Is all journalism like healthy nourishing stuff – the vegetables, brown rice and roughage of the media? Or is some journalism like the informational version of sugary treats? That’s what some people say about infotainment and celeb news and gossip. People also say that about some content that gets shared via social media.
But some people argue that all news is a bit like junk food. In his Guardian piece News is bad for you, Ralf Dobelli argues that if you give up reading it you will be happier and will also be able to think more deeply. His longer essay Avoid News (PDF) outlines his argument in more depth. What do you think? Should a serious information diet exclude the news?
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.
Another piece we might discuss today is My Blog, My Outboard Brain by Cory Doctorow – this piece is over ten years old now – but is still relevant and interesting. Doctorow is an SF writer/online activist/blogger for Boing Boing. This is an early piece about what he gets from blogging.
Today in Essential Journalism we’re going to have a quick look at lists and listicles, which means, obviously, we’re going to be looking at Buzzfeed in particular. A lot has been written over the last few month’s about Buzzfeed and online journalism in general. But there’s a small sub-genre of stories looking at how it approaches list stories and why we, as readers, like to read and then share them.
- The New Yorker on why our brains love lists and also on the six things that make stories go viral
- The BBC on 7 reasons why Buzzfeed is the death/saviour of news – by the way, this isn’t actually a list – it’s more of a dialogue, question and answer piece
- The Guardian on 18 traits that explain why readers love Buzzfeed
- The Nieman Journalism Lab on three key types of Buzzfeed lists to learn before you die – this one has the best advice if you want to try to write list posts on your blogs
- Noah Veltman’s Listogram – which lets you play around with research on the differing lengths of Buzzfeed lists