Tag Archives: journalism

Investigative journalism to make an online come-back?

Following on from Tom M’s mention of Spot.us, the New York Times has an article on the organisations that may well end up replacing it. Local news websites like VoiceOfSanDiego.org are looking to beat both the current newspaper and web news models by returning to solid original journalism on the matters that matter:

Voice is doing really significant work, driving the agenda on redevelopment and some other areas, putting local politicians and businesses on the hot seat,” said Dean Nelson, director of the journalism program at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. “I have them come into my classes, and I introduce them as, ‘This is the future of journalism.’ “

The problem being that, currently, online advertising doesn’t provide enough income to run a proper newsroom, even with the lower overheads of the straight-to-web model. But will that always be the case? I’d be a lot more tolerant of internet advertising if I felt I was getting decent content as a result of it.

Tomorrow’s news: Journalism’s future will look like … ?

As Ed Wood said, future events such as these will concern you in the future. With newspapers shriveling up on our breakfast tables, and TV spewing out tabloid and opinion, what’s going to happen to investigative journalism? Reporter-maven DigiDave says:

What we need right now is 10,000 journalism startups. Of these 9,000 will fail, 1,000 will find ways to sustain themselves for a brief period of time, 98 will find mediocre success and financial security and two will come out as new media equivalents to the New York Times…. I don’t know what that organization will look like or who it will be – but that’s what we need and we face some serious challenges along the way.

Dave’s behind Spot.us, a venture in “community-funded reporting.” People submit tips and fund pitches, and the resulting stories can be used by anyone under Creative Commons. About 10 projects are on the boards. A pitch on the after-effects of a year-ago oil spill on San Francisco Bay’s beaches has raised $500 and needs $300 more. Sounds like slow going, but it beats whining about the good old days.

[Story tip: Journerdism]

Investigative journalism 2.0

newspaper_journalismSelf-described new media whore Paul Carr has an interesting take on the future of investigative journalism and publishing – the problem:

Talk to a random sample of journalists and they’ll tell you the same thing – no one commissions investigative journalism any more.

Talk to any editor and they’ll tell you why; it costs a fortune to produce and rarely adds anything in terms of circulation or bottom line.

In an era of plummeting circulation and competition from free online news sources, as far as a cost-benefits analysis of newspaper investigations goes, it’s all cost and no benefit.

Basically another example of the problem of monetizing content that costs a lot to produce but little to reproduce. After dismissing one Web 2.0 business that attempts to address the problems of investigative journalism called Spot Us Mr Carr proffers his own solution:

I’d kill it. Take it out to the shed and put a bullet through its brain. Its been sick since the mid-80s and watching it try to struggle for twenty more years is embarrassing at best and cruel at worst.

Walk in to any bookshop and go to the politics, culture, biography or current affairs section. Now tell me investigative reporting is dead.

Of course these are the big stories – what of the smaller, more immediate ones? TV news. It’s there first, it has money and access and it has a 24 hour cycle to fill, meaning that every lead gets followed and reported no matter how apparently inconsequential.

Online news sources have their part to play too, although, frankly, they can be divided into two camps – brand extension for established media companies or total horseshit. Blogs have a role – but it’s confined to fact checking and uninformed gadflyery.

This gadfly likes Carr’s idea of idea of a cheap, subscription book-service, slightly more in-depth than a typical article in The Economist but less heavy than (for example) the 464 pages of Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army and you would also get a tighter, more focused, and original piece of reporting:

I’d approach an established publishing house with a business plan – a new imprint that publishes short (40,000 words maybe), low cover price (£4.99 tops) books, each written by a recognised investigative reporter and each dealing with a single investigative subject.

Also recommended is Paul Carr’s recently published book Bringing Nothing to the Party: True Confessions of a New Media Whore. It combines hilarious gonzo journalism with genuine insight from Paul Carr’s experience as a wannabe Web 2.0 entrepreneur.

[story from Paul Carr’s blog][image from dsearls on flickr]

Flux of facts – the fate of news in a wired world

TV-journalistSteve Rubel points us to an article at American Journalism Review that discusses the hazards of newsrooms relying on Wikipedia for research and citations. [Image by rabbleradio]

This is hardly a new story (though usually we hear about the horrors of students rather than journalists citing the online encyclopedia), but it’s not going away any time soon – in the always-on 24/7 culture of the web, the only constant is change. As Rubel puts it:

“The big question in my mind is this: when journalists cite Wikipedia articles, what happens when the facts they reference from the wiki entries change (assuming they do)? Do the reporters go back and update their articles? The news reports call more attention to the articles, potentially opening up a can of worms each time they source Wikipedia.

Seems like a big vicious cycle. Perhaps in the future these stories will carry some of the same disclaimers that Wikipedia lists.”

And if you think that’s a symptom of postmodernism running wild, what about CNN handing over the reins of iReport to the community of citizen-journalists who contribute to it? [Via SlashDot]

Are the definitions of “truth” and “consensus” converging? Were they ever really different?

Mixed messages: Wired in two minds over Estonian “cyberwar” story

For me, the most interesting thing to come out of the so-called cyberwar DDoS attack on Estonia back in May this year is the different ways that different media have approached the story. Nowhere is this more obvious than with Wired; the magazine ran a long and beautifully written piece that completely overstates the issues for the sake of sensationalist warnings about potential risks to the US, while blogger Kevin Poulson cheerfully dissects and deflates all the hyperbole while sitting in an office at the same company headquarters.

Of course, I’m not suggesting that bloggers are inherently less prone to sensationalising a subject … but I’m increasingly finding the web is a better news source, precisely because I can get a broad selection of angles on a story with ease. How about you?