«Mixed News: Media, its challenges and governance in a changing world By Rashmi Vasudeva Student Id No. 6199704 FINAL PAPER TRANSFORMATIONS IN ...»
Mixed News: Media, its challenges and
governance in a changing world
By Rashmi Vasudeva
Student Id No. 6199704
TRANSFORMATIONS IN EUROPEAN MEDIA,
JOURNALISM AND GOVERNANCE
PROFESSORS: JO BARDOEL AND KEES BRANTS
ERASMUS MUNDUS MASTERS IN MEDIA WITHIN
GLOBALISATION: A EUROPEAN PERSPECTIVE
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. Introduction……………………………………………………………….. 3
2. Who is a journalist and what is journalism? ……………………………… 4
3. The ideal of a ‘proper’ journalistic performance …………………………. 5
4. Challenging times ………………………………………………………… 6
5. Governance: Why and how ………………………………………………. 10
6. The argument for true convergence and give-and-take …………………... 11
7. Conclusion ………………………………………………………………... 12
8. Bibliography ……………………………………………………………… 13 Introduction If he were alive, Charles Dickens would not hesitate to apply his iconic introduction of ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ to media and journalism today. “It is the best of times, it is the worst of times…” It is indeed the age of wisdom and the age of foolishness and we have nothing before us and everything before us.
In today’s increasingly interconnected world and the media landscape, new questions are being raised about who a journalist really is (or who is not) and old conundrums about whether journalism is a business or a service are surfacing with more vigour in the changing interactions between the State, the market and the public. This is also leading scholars to wonder about media as a profession and what it means to defining journalistic performance and formulating policies.
It is to be stated at the very outset that there can be no right answers for such questions and the essay will not attempt to provide simplistic solutions to such mutating, complex, global problems. What the essay hopes to achieve, with empirical and anecdotal evidence, is to reflect upon what it means to be a journalist today and how to make sense of the changing nature of journalism within the framework of media systems in liberal democracies. It will examine the challenges faced by the media in a politico-economic, technological and socio-cultural context in this age of convergence and globalization and analyze what this might mean to media policies and governance.
The essay will argue that only a true collaboration between the traditional and the new media will sustain journalism’s credibility and relevance and thus help it exercise its enormous power responsibly. It will suggest that a hybrid of the old and new forms of media is possible if the new learns something from the old and the old learns to better accommodate the new, to ultimately ensure that the beauty of journalism – a business that is also a mission – is not lost forever.
Who is a journalist and what is journalism?
Before we proceed any further, it is vital to make clear how journalism and media is understood in this context. This very basic definition has tied up media scholars in knots, especially at present. The question, a fascinating one, only leads us to more questions.
What is ‘real’ journalism? What should be journalism? Is it a culture? Is it a business?
An ideology? Who is a journalist or in today’s times, who isn’t? No wonder then, it has posed problems for researchers throughout the history of journalism studies. (Bardoel & Deuze 2001) While Deuze defines journalism as an ideology, for the purpose of “understanding journalism in terms of how journalists give meaning to their newswork”, (Deuze, 2005) other scholars like Dahlgren define it in more concrete terms as something that is “carried out in specific institutional circumstances, within concrete organizational settings and under particular technological conditions.” (Dahlgren, 1996:60 cited in Bardoel & Deuze,
2001) A definition like this, as both Deuze and Bardoel argue, is rendered somewhat weak when it comes to the online media. Dahlgren himself fears so and admits that cyberspace may indeed “colour how we define what journalism is.” (ibid) Author Ann Cooper mentions Scott Gant's 2007 book title, 'We are all journalists' and goes on to say that a more accurate title could have been “We can all be journalists, if and when we choose to be” (Cooper, 2008) The point she is making, as is Gant, is this -- that touchstone of media -- freedom to express -- is now the right of not just people working in the traditional print and broadcast media but also literally to those who own cell phones, video cameras and have access to the world wide web. Essentially, both are doing the same thing -- delivering news and views to the world via technology.
To circumvent this problem, Bardoel goes on to define journalism as “as the professional selection of actual news facts to an audience by means of technological distribution methods” (Bardoel & Deuze, 2001). He further clarifies that technology has “taken centrestage in the modern journalistic theatre and should therefore serve as essential or even starting point of any scholarly venture into online journalism.” (Deuze, 1998 cited in Bardoel & Deuze, 2001) The ideal of a ‘proper’ journalistic performance This kind of definition serves as a good starting point for this essay in its endeavour to examine how one might understand journalistic performance, its power and responsibilities. It also ties up with the problems of defining who a 'professional journalist' is (and thus proper journalistic performance) as researcher Singer discusses in her paper. There is an obvious discord, as she says rightly, when attributing professionalism to journalism. For somebody like Glasser, it denotes a stifling of diversity and implies homogeneity and standardization while for others like Kimball, the mark of a professional is in the attitude rather than particular criteria (Glasser, 1992 and Kimball, 1965 cited in Singer, 2003) Scholars and journalists alike vary greatly in their interpretation of journalistic performance but one area where most seem to agree is that the central function of a journalist is to provide information to people who are not just consumers of a product but are also citizens of a nation so that they can act and in fact 'govern themselves wisely'.
(Singer, 2003) This in effect assigns that singular role to the profession, one that elevates journalism from being a mere trade – the role of social responsibility. As Blumer and Gurevitch say, “in liberal democracies, providing information and a platform for voicing and exchanging ideas, critically controlling power holders, and guaranteeing a diversity of opinions for the citizenry, is both the task journalists set for themselves and what democracy expects of them.” (cited in Brants, 2007) This view of professionalism inexorably binds the journalist to the State as well as to the civil society, not to mention the market. And precisely because journalists in the traditional media have perceived this obligation to be a core part of why they are professionals, there have been governing codes and ethics of which we will come to later.
As Singer says, codes that prescribe 'ideal professional behaviour' for journalists -reporting fairly, truthfully and independently and without obligation to anything but the public's right to know and crucially, to be accountable to its audience -- do not necessarily ensure their adherence nor do they guarantee professionalization.
(paraphrasing Singer, 2003) Market pressures and power politics have always been in the picture despite the umbrella of public service that journalism takes shelter under. Which is why, questions have always been raised about the ideal of a ‘proper’ journalistic performance but today, the concerns have only intensified. In the next section, the essay will examine what these concerns and threats are and how they challenge such notions of 'real' journalism.
Challenging times It would be useful here to employ Brants’ framework of four structural changes that challenge journalism in present times – political, economical, technological and sociocultural. (Brants, 2007)
1. Political That globalization is a complex process and there are all sorts of theoretical conundrums involved in trying to grasp it is quite established now. But as John Tomlinson says, globalization involves rapid social change occurring simultaneously across a number of dimensions -- in the world economy, in politics, in communication, in the physical environment and in culture. At its core, there is “something going on which is quite simple to describe” he says and calls this something “a process of accelerating connectivity.” (Tomlinson, 2006) This instantly connects with Bardoel's analysis of the threat posed to traditional notions of journalism by the erosion of the nation state, which was till recently “an important breeding ground and source of support for the journalistic profession.” (Bardoel, 1997) Indeed, it is perhaps obvious that globalization and the “diminishing significance of the nation state” has both practical and psychological implications.
Bardoel calls it a post-modern media culture where politics occupies a much less prominent place than before, where entertainment and information have no distinct boundaries and where individualization, supranationalism (especially in the case of Europe) and interconnectivity has perhaps given the State less role which has direct implications on the “special social status and protection upon which the profession of journalism has always been able to count.” (Bardoel, 1997)
2. Economical There is a long-standing debate about the content and legitimacy of journalism and how it is (or it is not) affected by the profession’s market and ownership structures. Fears are now being raised with regard to the recent economic liberalization and changes within and outside the media sphere which for many has resulted in what is termed in newsrooms as a ‘market-over-matter’ policy. The media’s oligopolistic tendencies, diminishing returns and increasing competition have given increasing cause for concern that a homogenous market is being created which is tailored to audience interests. But other scholars like Cuilenburg believe that ownership concentration has in fact saved newspapers and strengthened internal diversity but it is the “extremely competitive media markets” that is resulting in “excessive sameness.” (Cuilenberg, 1999 cited in Brants, 2007) Brants tells that both proponents and opponents of the political economic theory agree that the media is moving (or has moved) from a supply market to a demand market.
(Brants, 2007) In other words, if proper journalistic performance works with the old axiom of publishing/broadcasting what is in public interest rather than what interests the public, the fear is that the opposite is occurring now. Ultimately this puts the ‘professional’ journalist in more of a fix than ever – adherence to ‘idealistic professional behaviour’ is put to test due to severe market pressures. After all, a journalist ought to earn his bread as well, which is why some scholars perfunctorily dismiss claims of journalistic professionalism by stating that “corporate [media] owners are concerned less with public service than with maximizing shareholder returns (McManus, 1997 cited in Singer, 2003)
3. Technological It is essential here to make it clear that for the purposes of this essay, online journalism is differentiated from other journalism by its technological component as the determining factor. (Bardoel & Deuze, 2001) According to Kees Brants, the changes wrought to journalism from the new technology are four-pronged: “consultation, interactivity, hypertextuality and multi-mediality” (Brants, 2007) This classification effectively sums up how journalists today are not just ‘information brokers’ for his consumers as Bardoel calls them but are also themselves consuming information, re-sending it, responding to reader queries, sending across video blogs and also deliberating with audience; in short, “producing beyond information”. (Bardoel & Deuze, 2001) The irony is that all the positive and revolutionary aspects of new technology -- its instantaneous quality, its speed and its scope -- are the ones that are creating challenges to journalism, which itself, one can argue, has many revolutionary and positive aspects to it.
Many scholars have even predicted the profession’s ‘death’ or at the least an inevitable redundancy. On the other hand, convergence is demanding more out of the media person than ever. To recount a personal anecdote, on a visit to the Sunday Telegraph office in the UK, it was made clear that a staffer is not only expected to cover a story, but also take pictures when deemed necessary, write a blog and speak into a video camera for the web edition and write a story for the newspaper edition the next day.