I’m in session 2 of the second track of the BBC CoJo / POLIS Value of Journalism conference. This one is chaired by Charlie Beckett with his colleague Dr Damian Tambini, Times web development editor (business) Joanna Geary, and Mark Oliver of Oliver and Ohlbaum.
Oliver has done research into news consumption. Audience behaviour doesn’t necessarily reflect news silos of old, he says. For example, if they paid for all the sites they consume in one month, it would start adding up. On public value he says: if you don’t have professional intermediation of content it could undermine public value. He’s written a paper for Polis on public service broadcasting, but I can’t find it – I’ll link to it when I can.
Now Damian Tambini: there seems to be a crisis in good journalism. But, some – like Charlie Beckett – are saying it’s an opportunity for a golden age. So, there seems to a crisis but also an opportunity. Crucial to that, is understanding that journalism is not simply an individual activity or a commodity on the market. It’s also a set of institutions, rules and rights. The lobby system for example, has won a “privileged access” in society.
We see that journalism serves a social purpose. Journalism is not just a set of individual practices, Tambini says. It’s an “institutionalised profession”. “This idea of journalism as a profession recognised in law is familiar”. In part this debate is about how new forms of journalism can access funding and other privileges journalists have.
In regards to ‘saving journalism’ Tambini explores a few ideas – and whether/how ‘new media insurgents’ can access those privileges of old. “We need to think more innovatively about how to support [journalism],” he says. “We need to think about creating new kinds of privileges and support…” He refers to his paper with some suggestions for how to do this (again, I’ll try to update with a link when I find it).
Joanna Geary says she is a ‘networked journalist’. She asks: why is she trusted? And why does she trust sources of information? She has formed a relatively good idea of how to trust people, as a result of observation. She talks about why she started in journalism. She went into it because she wanted to be “useful”. She felt strange to give her opinion on something she didn’t feel that qualified to talk about. So blogging, where the answer is not definitive, suited her. But when she was wrong, her audience didn’t leave her. She realised that that was how she would like to consume journalism herself. She thinks that by being at the Times, which is about to introduce a paywall around its content, she has the opportunity to create a “space” online where journalists can contribute as they haven’t before. Geary says it will create “a much closer relationship” between the Times and its readers.
Now we’re onto questions… some highlights…
Oliver talks about “self-correcting” and says he’s worried about viral marketing, in which people are under-estimating the way companies have worked out to use the web to sell products.
Will Perrin, in the audience, suggests Ben Goldacre as an example of ‘networked’ journalism and community. He says Goldacre has shown how you can use the web effectively to show up articles as “bunk”.
Kevin Anderson (who is a pioneer in social journalism) says that even for people have all the multimedia skills there aren’t enough jobs. Geary meanwhile says she’s seeing a skills gap between technology and journalism.