Web vs Print

Its a bad time to be a journalist. Not that they would ever admit they were losing the fight. The Green Guide from The Age on Thursday had an interesting article about ‘citizen journalism’ but stuck mostly to the uploading videos of events as they happen side of things while pondering the morality of documenting a crisis instead of taking part in it or helping. An issue journalists have faced for years, of course. And as you might expect from a print journalist, all forms of ‘citizen journalism’ were undermined as not being proper, because they were not ‘trained’ to write about things with an unbiased eye, as they themselves had been.

I found the article to be lacking depth and highly questionable, especially in motive. Journalists find their way into the field without degrees all the time, there is no set of qualities one must fulfill to become a successful writer, all you have to do is write well. Anyone can research, anyone can be at the scene of the crime to make an account of it, anyone can conduct interviews. Hence, freelance writers are often people with no ‘qualifications’ other than shit loads of experience, especially when it comes to fields like travel writing.

Also, the unbiased eye? Since when has that been a factor for journalism? The entire article reeked of print media bias, and I’ve gotta tell you, if I can read your article and pick which side you are on then your ‘training’ has amounted to shit. This applies to a lot of the mainstream media we come across, the media companies profit remarkably (sometimes in ways more indirect than through profit) by subtly influencing our opinions on certain topics, and of course in advertising. In the case of Today Tonight and A Current Affair it is not so subtle, and perhaps thats better, because at least we can see through it.

The fact of the matter is that circulation of newspapers is in decline. The state of magazines is volatile, because the content can be found online and due to a monthly or weekly printing, it is almost always out of date by the time it reaches the consumer. In the same Green Guide, I found an article about Britney Spears small guest star role in ‘How I Met Your Mother’, a popular sitcom, which I had known about months ago, from accessing websites such as PerezHilton.com and TheBosh.com. Magazine articles are often stale, so they must push away from current issues to stories that are less influenced by a need for fresh information, like ‘Ten ways to spice up your sex life’ and so forth. Also, print media is suffering because it makes most of its revenue through classified ads which have all moved to the web, creating websites like JobSeek and the Trading Post Online.

Myself and the youths of today can be described as ‘digital natives’, we’ve grown up with the net. It is often our first information source, not the second or third as it is with older generations. Fewer young people are buying print and older readers are moving to the web. We are seeing fragmentation of media audiences, falling into smaller niches that interest them, like Middle Eastern politics or gaming news.

Blogs are increasingly popular and accessible. They are now fulfilling a journalistic function with the most recent post getting prominence and equipped with the eye witness aspect, they are strong first account sources and often provide very sophisticated analysis on a broad range of topics. A better article to read on ‘citizen journalism’ from The Age is this slightly older (2005) article, a profile of sorts on Al Gibes, the online editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He argues that newspapers are no longer the ‘gatekeepers’ of information and must change to avoid being superseded.

Journalists basically have double the workload now. Before they had to write an article to be handed in at the end of the day, to be published for the following mornings print, now they have to cover both the online and print editions. So they will be working on that article for tomorrow, while finding sources and conducting interviews, and on top of all that they must update their website with the new information every couple of hours or so. This isn’t happening in suburban media or magazines yet, but its definitely affecting the larger print media.

So really, I’m not surprised to come across journalists who are grumpy with our beloved blogs. If I was them, I’d probably do some underhanded biased article writing myself. But then again, I’m from the internet – we’re all about integrity here!

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7 Responses to “Web vs Print”

  1. clubwah Says:

    While blogging is a form of journalism, the difference between blogs and mainstream media are plenty – the main being that blogs are mostly opinion, while reporting in say newspapers has to be objective and goes through the wringer of at least three sub editors who check for everything from grammatical errors to potential legal issues.

    Bloggers get away with defamatory comments that would see newspapers in court. They also rarely provide two sides to a story and make sure that facts are correct before publishing

    Where journalists get on their high horse about people not properly trained is more in reference to knowing the responsibilities that come with journalism rather than whether or not someone can write – for some people writing is a skill that comes eay, and for others no amount of training will make them write fluently.

    I read blogs for a person’s opinion and to get a more grass roots or inside view of events. And rather than replace more traditional forms of journalism, ‘citizen journalism’ will help keep professional journos to account.

  2. Andy Says:

    Great blog, Luli.

    Like Clubwah, I think that blogging will end up complimenting the mainstream media, rather than replacing it. Just as TV news didn’t replace radio, and radio didn’t replace newspapers, they will end up adjusting and redefining their core function.

    I think the major media outlets are dropping the ball a little on the subject, though. They seem to still only be dipping their toes into the blog format, whereas I think they should be expanding their blog footprint massively.

  3. This Devil's Workday Says:

    Adding to what Andy is saying, I’ve noticed that the newspapers tend to hold off on a lot of online articles until they reach print edition. So it’s sort of like all the major articles from the newspaper can be accessed online, but not until they come out in print. Then things that are a lot more breaking are likely to hit the website first, because if they don’t, another newspaper’s website will, and they will lose integrity and seem an unreliable source of news.

    The main problem is that they lose profits, but surely as online reader numbers increase they can charge more for advertisements?

  4. kaboose84 Says:

    Yeah internet isn’t exactly gonna replace print and radio…not in Australian anyway, our internet coverage isn’t exactly 100%…citizen journalism isn’t all bad..getting away with defamation and slander, how is that not a good thing?!

  5. LuLi Says:

    Wah – I agree with you, they are very different mediums, but I think they cross over a lot as well. Some blogs take a purely journalistic style and some papers can have a lot of opinion infused into their articles.

    Andy – Definitely, we could never fully replace newspapers, but in the future who knows? I agree with you that one will adapt to the other and tv and radio is a good example of that. The media is seriously underestimating the blog as a resource though.

    TDW – I’ve noticed that as well. It kind of annoys me to be honest, because I only really read a newspaper two or three times a week, whereas I’ll check new sites daily, so I miss out on a lot of little stories that would be in the print versions. Not sure about the advertising, I guess theres only so far they can take it before it gets too much on a website, compared to in print where you could fill up every few pages or so.

    Domino – I love citizen journalism with or without the bias, its like Wah says, I won’t take it for gospel but its good to get a feel of personal opinions and community values.

  6. gullybogan Says:

    It feels like every time i read a journalist writing about the blogosphere, i can smell the fear.

    You’re spot on about how they run down citizen journalism. I agree with clubwah’s points. I have nothing new to add, i just want to say “hear hear”.

    I find this journalist vs citizen journalist thing so interesting that when i write my Great Australian Webnovel, i’m going to have at least one character in it who is conflicted over the paradoxes inherent in the clash of the two forms of expression.

    That and competition diving.

  7. LuLi Says:

    I find it fascinating too, I love all ‘how the internet is changing us’ kind of topics. And citizen journalism just hits close to home, so it felt perfect to discuss.

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