The University of Westminster and British Journalism Review is hosting a two-day event (8/9 June) discussing Journalism’s Next Top Model – the industry discussion takes place tomorrow (Wednesday). Wifi access is limited, but the Cover It Live blog below should pick up some of the tweets coming out of the event. Westminster students from the event are due to update their blog at this link. The University plans to livestream some of the event at this link.
Update: It’s Day Two (Wednesday), and the keynote by Professor Robert Picard from the Reuters Institute at Oxford University is due to start soon. The University’s video live stream from the main room was working yesterday; follow it here.
News media all over the world are failing as the traditional revenue from advertising bleeds to the web. Free news websites are discouraging the young from buying newspapers. So who will pay for what sort of journalism in the future?
The academic-oriented discussions take place on Tuesday 8 June; including presentations by Francois Nel from the University of Central Lancashire; Rasmus Kleis Nielsen and David Levy from the Reuters Institute; and Professor Steven Barnett from University of Westminster, who will be joined by speakers from all over the world – Sweden, Turkey, Norway and Macedonia, for example.
On the Wednesday, industry panellists will include: Jane Moore (the Sun); Peter Oborne (the Mail/ Channel 4); Roger Parry (former chair, Johnston Press); William Perrin (activist and blogger); and Claire Enders (Enders Analysis).
The conference concludes with the presentation of the British Journalism Review’s Outstanding Contribution to Broadcast Journalism prize; and a memorial lecture by Boris Johnson.
The conference will take place 8 June 2010 – 9 June 2010 at 309 Regent Street, London W1. Registration is via this form (download at this link) and we’re told applications will still be accepted on Monday.
“Skype has been a complete game changer for us. It genuinely is a revolution,” says the director of the MA and BA journalism courses at the University of Winchester, Chris Horrie.
This technology is enabling his team of students to do a live election webcast using Skype and Livestream, via its site winol.co.uk, drawing in teams of students from across the country – from Kingston University, University of Buckingham and University of Westminster.
The cross-university team plans to cover a range of constituencies in: Winchester; Eastleigh (Chris Huhne’s seat); Southampton (two constituencies); Isle of Wight; Devizes; Bethnal Green; Twickenham (Vince Cable’s seat); Battersea; Whitney (David Cameron’s seat); and Aylesbury.
While Horrie admits it won’t look as good as BBC or Sky, he says they’ve “made the £1 million sat truck redundant” with their Outside Broadcasting (OB) using Skype.
Their goal, based on promotion so far, is to have 1,000 viewers live online.
Each team consists of three: one to present; one to operate the camera; and one to run Skype. As well as the live outside broadcast, the team plans to run live output – interviews and packages – from the studio.
But Horrie stresses the process as well as the final product: “We are recording all of this so we will have hours of fantastic teaching materials which we are happy to share,” he says. Bloopers and mistakes are “the best part of the learning process”, he says – as long as they don’t cause legal problems.
Additionally, they plan to to publish a comprehensive “how to” video for producing the Skype OB.
In this video (below), WINOL election editor and second year journalism student Catherine Hayes outlines her hopes for the all-night continuous broadcast: “This project is absolutely massive. We’ve looked it up on Wikipedia and no-one has done anything bigger than this… The difference is we’re actually going out to a live audience – and this is what makes it real.”
“Fighting in Gaza and Sri Lanka and the recent unrest in Iran all raised questions about how journalists can do their job when governments deny access (…) With the Israeli government relying more and more on public relations management and an increasingly sophisticated use of new media to get its message across, what is the role of the journalist in 21st century conflicts?”
The panel included Richard Sambrook, director of the BBC’s Global News division: Adrian Wells, head of foreign news, Sky News; and Jean Seaton Professor of Media History at the University of Westminster’s Communication and Media Research Institute
Nuria Leon, a journalist and postgraduate student at the University of Westminster, recently demanded an explanation from BBC director-general Mark Thompson regarding the lack of varied BBC news content from Latin America. You can listen to the encounter here.
Now she needs journalists’ help: for her MA dissertation in media management she wants to find out what journalists think about coverage of Latin America in the UK. [NB: Latin American countries listed here, and UN information on the Americas here.]
So, if you think there is a hole in English-language reportage from that part of the world, please help her out. Here are her questions. Please leave your thoughts below, or email her directly: n.leon at my.westminster.ac.uk.
1. Given your own experiences:
a. What do you think causes a gap between between Latin America and the UK in regards to the distribution and production of news?
b. What would help create a direct link between both markets for the production and distribution of news?
2. What do you think about international news agencies and their service from Latin America?
3. Do you think there is a demand for customised news services, rather than homogeneous news packages offered by international news agencies?
4. What benefits would you see if both markets started to conduct direct, continuous and permanent business?
5. Do you think the UK would be receptive to more Latin American news content?
6. Do you believe there is a niche for such a service? A need?
7. More generally, what could help reduce the gap between Latin America and the UK news industry?
Professor Todd Gitlin’s keynote speech, given via Skype, on the first day of the Westminster University / British Journalism Review Journalism in Crisis event (May 19): ‘A Surfeit of Crises: Circulation, Revenue, Attention, Authority, and Deference’.
Gitlin, who is professor of journalism and sociology at Columbia University, talked about how four wolves have arrived at the door of journalism ‘simultaneously, while a fifth has already been lurking for some time’. These were the wolves no-one was expecting, because everyone’s been crying wolf for so long. Gitlin spoke mainly in regards to American journalism because ‘it is what I know best’.
The four wolves at the door, and the fifth one lurking: “One is the precipitous decline in the circulation of newspapers. The second is the decline in advertising revenue, which, combined with the first, has badly damaged the profitability of newspapers. The third, contributing to the first, is the diffusion of attention. The fourth is the more elusive crisis of authority. The fifth, a perennial – so much so as to be perhaps a condition more than a crisis – is journalism’s inability or unwillingness to penetrate the veil of obfuscation behind which power conducts its risky business.”
Circulation of newspapers: “Overall, newspaper circulation has dropped 13.5 per cent for the dailies and 17.3 per cent for the Sunday editions since 2001; almost 5 per cent just in 2008. In what some are calling the Great Recession, advertising revenue is down – 23 per cent over the last two years – even as paper costs are up. Nearly one out of every five journalists working for newspapers in 2001 is now gone. Foreign bureaus have been shuttered – all those of the Boston Globe, for example, New England’s major paper.
“I have been speaking about newspapers’ recent decline, but to limit the discussion to the last decade or so both overstates the precipitous danger and understates the magnitude of a secular crisis—which is probably a protracted crisis in the way in which people know—or believe they know—the world. In the US, newspaper circulation has been declining, per capita, at a constant rate since 1960. The young are not reading the papers. While they say they ‘look’ at the papers online, it is not clear how much looking they do.”
“The newspaper was always a tool for simultaneity (you don’t so much read a paper as swim around in it, McLuhan was fond of saying) at least as much as a tool for cognitive sequence. What if the sensibility that is now consolidating itself—with the Internet, mobile phones, GPS, Facebook and Twitter and so on – the media for the Daily Me, for point-to-point and many-to-many transmission—what if all this portends an irreversible sea-change in the very conditions of successful business?”
The Clamor for Attention:“Attention has been migrating from slower access to faster; from concentration to multitasking; from the textual to the visual and the auditory, and toward multi-media combinations. Multitasking alters cognitive patterns. Attention attenuates. Advertisers have for decades talked about the need to ‘break through the clutter,’ the clutter consisting, amusingly, of everyone else’s attempts to break through the clutter. Now, media and not just messages clutter.”
“Just under one-fifth of Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 claim to look at a daily newspaper – which is not to say how much of it they read. The average American newspaper reader is 55 years old. Of course significant numbers of readers are accessing – which is not to say reading – newspapers online, but the amount of time they seem to spend there is bifurcated. In roughly half of the top 30 newspaper sites, readership is steady or falling. Still, ‘of the top 5 online newspapers – ranked by unique users – [the] three [national papers] reported growth in the average time spent per person: NYTimes.com, USAToday.com, and the Wall Street Journal Online.’ One thing is clear: Whatever the readership online, it is not profitable.”
“The question that remains, the question that makes serious journalists tremble in the U. S., is: Who is going to pay for serious reporting? For the sorts of investigations that went on last year, for example, into the background of the surprise Republican nominee for Vice President, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska.”
Authority: “Journalism’s legitimacy crisis has two overlapping sources: ideological disaffection from right and left, and generalized distrust. Between them, they register something of a cultural sea change. The authority of American journalism has, for a century or so, rested on its claim to objectivity and a popular belief that that claim is justified. These claims are weakening.”
Deference: “We have seen in recent years two devastating failures to report the world – devastating not simply in their abject professional failures but in that they made for frictionless glides into catastrophe. The first was in the run-up to the Iraq war (…) More recently, we have the run-up to the financial crisis (…) Given these grave failures of journalism even when it was operating at greater strength not so long ago, one might say that rampant distrust is a reasonable and even a good thing.”
Resolutions: “The Project on Excellence’s conclusion is that ‘roughly half of the downturn in the last year was cyclical, that is, related to the economic downturn. But the cyclical problems are almost certain to worsen in 2009 and make managing the structural problems all the more difficult.’ Notice the reference to ‘managing the structural problems.’ They cannot be solved, they can only be managed. The unavoidable likelihood, pending a bolt from the blue, is that the demand for journalism will continue to decline and that no business model can compensate for its declining marketability. No meeting of newspaper people is complete these days without a call – some anguished, some confident – for a ‘new business model’ that would apply to the online ‘paper.’ The call has been issued over the course of years now. It might be premature to say so, but one might suspect that it has not been found because there is none to be found.”
“What I do know is that journalism is too important to be left to those business interests. Leaving it to the myopic, inept, greedy, unlucky, and floundering managers of the nation’s newspapers to rescue journalism on their own would be like leaving it to the investment wizards at the American International Group (AIG), Citibank, and Goldman Sachs, to create a workable, just global credit system on the strength of their good will, their hard-earned knowledge, and their fidelity to the public good.”
The Journalism.co.uk beat means that we cover a fair few industry and academic conferences, and so we get to compare the technology efforts of the hosts themselves. While Twitter conversation didn’t flow as much as at some events (not necessarily a negative thing – see some discussion on that point at this link) the students’ own coverage certainly made use of their multimedia skills. I contacted a few of the students and lecturers afterwards to find out a few more specifics, and how they felt it went.
“We streamed to the web via a system we borrowed from NewTek Europe, but might purchase, called Tricaster. It’s a useful piece of equipment that is a television studio in a box,” explained Rob Benfield, a senior lecturer at the University, who produced the students’ coverage.
“In this case it allowed us to add graphics and captions downstream of a vision-mixer. It also stores all the material we shot in its copious memory and allowed us to store and stream student work, messages and advertising material of various sorts without resorting to other sources.
“Some of our third year undergraduates quickly mastered the technology which proved to be largely intuitive. We streamed for two solid days without interruption.”
Conference participants might also have seen students extremely diligently grabbing each speaker to ask them some questions on camera (making Journalism.co.uk’s cornering of people a little bit more competitive). The videos are linked at the end of this post.
Marianne Bouchart, a second year at the University, blogged and tweeted (via @WestminComment) along with postgraduate student, Alberto Furlan.
“We all were delighted to get involved in such an important event,” Bourchart told Journalism.co.uk afterwards. “It was an incredible opportunity for us to practice our journalistic skills and gave to most of us a first taste of working in journalism. I couldn’t dream of anything better than to interview BBC director general Mark Thompson.
“We worked very hard on this project and we are all very happy it went on that well. My experience as an editor managing a team of journalists to cover the event was fantastic. We encountered a few scary moments, some panic attacks, but handled the whole thing quite brilliantly in the end – for inexperienced journalists. I can’t wait to be working with this team again.”
“I really wish I hadn’t decided to ask this question.
“I love the BBC and I’m a big beneficiary from the BBC, but I have to say listening to your [Thompson’s] critique, I thought you were showing some sort of guilt about what the BBC website is doing to other commercially operated websites, you know, run by newspapers and you were trying to say the BBC might paddle it, that guilt, by sharing resources online (…) I understand it would be a very good way forward.
“I don’t quite know how it’s going to work. I wonder if the simple solution might well be to carve up the licence fee and give a slice of it to the Sun, some to the Daily Mail…”
Thompson answered, to paraphrase, that it probably wouldn’t work very well.
A little more fully: there are countries where they’ve tried that, said Thompson. And the problem is, he said, that if you’re not careful, the ‘subsidy you need’ gets a bit bigger every year; and secondly, as a public service broadcaster one would ‘begin losing the critical mass’ in terms of the organisation’s culture, calibre of the output and public accountability.
In the meantime, enjoy the clip at the end of this post: when Paxman dipped his toes into YouTube waters for Newsnight (which, incidentally, BBC director-general Mark Thompson later confessed to never having seen till that evening: “I had no idea – I’d missed that”).
So Journalism.co.uk asked Paxman: you’re a little sceptical about social and new media, then?
“It’s a joke [his YouTube video – see below]! One of the functions of journalism, seems to me, [is that] it sifts and analyses – and it’s great to have a lot of raw material, but someone still has to sift it to make sense of it,” he said.
There are occasions, for certain stories, he said, ‘when one spends a lot of time looking at blogs… comments… it’s just time wasted.’
“We haven’t yet developed a mechanism for synthesising what comes out – we’re currently at a stage where someone goes to a rally and writes down the comments of everybody there. That’s no way to report an event – it doesn’t tell you very much,” Paxman said.
“We still need journalists forming perception and analysis of what’s happening – that’s getting drowned out by this Babel-like cacophony. But we’re at a very early stage of development with it. I think there are new things going to happen.”
“You do it [give advice] with a certain knowledge that those who are determined won’t be put off anyway. But, I think, overall, the prospects in this trade are not good,” he told Journalism.co.uk.
“Wages are being cut – [there are] apparently respectable newspapers which actually survive on work experience people – and not paid. This is no good! When you’re 21 you don’t think about it. You’ve got to think about it: the longevity of it, [being able to] afford to put a roof over your head and feed your kids etc.
“It’s always been a young person’s trade I think, but it’s even more that now.
“I personally believe in it of course – I think it’s a really worthwhile activity. But it is, I think, the case that there are more immediately socially worthwhile things that you could do with your life. I just think these are strange circumstances.”
We’ll be tweeting from @journalism_live when we can using tag #jic09 – the wifi is proving a little temperamental – with updates. Fuller updates on the blog and main site will follow – tagged ‘Journalism in Crisis 2009’.
The timetable is pretty big to paste here, so we’ll link to it instead. The only problem is choosing which sessions to go to – there are three varied panels for each set.
Observers from afar, let us know if there’s anything you’d particularly like to hear about.
Anyway, if you’re an attendee, come say hello: Journalism.co.uk is the one glaring at her laptop when the wifi dips out.