Good journalism is good for journalism

Distribution channel will change in future and we have no control over what people will use. They may use something we don’t know today. At the publishing house, we have to specialize on producing good stories.

When I was in Hamburg, Germany to attend the first of three phases of the Journalism in Digital World at the International Academy of Journalism – Intajour, one of the big question amongst the fellows there was ‘how the upcoming technology going to change journalism.’

The advent of the Internet followed by the development of mobile devices- such as smartphones, e-readers and tablets – which people increasingly use to read the news has to change journalism someway, many of us believed. For a media house, and journalists the possible further development of new platforms poses a big opportunity (to become early adopter of profitable venture among upcoming developments) and a threat (how to remodel journalism to perfectly harness the capability of the platform).

The good news about these developments is that media houses can look forward for business. While the Internet and the free content pushed back media and for some predictors to predict the death of journalism in a few decades; the new platforms such as e-reader and tablet seems to have a profitable new modal with an old name ‘subscription’.

And, iPad – the Apple tablet – and it’s popularity is spreading like bush fire. In such scenario, for the fellows who mostly come from countries where ‘credit card’ is distant and development of Apps for smartphones, e-readers and tablets is either unheard of or still in very primitive stage, the question on what lies ahead for journalism is a natural one. Among many good answers we received during our visits to various news outlets, the best, rated by myself, was given by Joachim Dreykluft, the journalist with Financial Times Deutchland online:

“The most important thing is to know is how to present the story. As journalists, we should master the art of good storytelling, rather than worrying about platform. Good stories are good everywhere.” – Joachim Dreykluft

Wow! That is the answer!

When Katya Gloger, senior reporter of Stern magazine, and a board member of Reporters Without Borders, interacted with us, for various reasons she suggested us to remain away from social media. Her words were harsh (‘Stay away from Twitter’) but with all the reference she had given it’s a concluding terms. I agreed that the Twitter-journalism that’s being practiced is hampering journalism, however I objected her saying that to say social media is bad for journalism is illogic because it’s not because of social media that journalism is being hampered, but by the way journalists are using it (and forgetting the old craft of journalism such as verification), the journalism is being hampered.

In the spiral of latest development of technologies and services based on that, we the journalists sometimes are so overwhelmed that we forget the basic principles of our craft. The use of social media is an example.

Social media is like a mass gathering, where everyone is saying something (some are facts, some half-facts, and some just rumors, opinions, predictions and ‘conspiracy theories’). The difference is that, at mass gathering, journalist at a time could only listen to a few with no or little possibility of hearing what unheard others said. In social media, everything is recorded and archived; and journalists have the opportunity to visit back to theoretically listen to all of them.

At mass gathering or meeting with people, journalists could also assess the mood of the person spreading the information, while on social media, it’s difficult. The biggest difference is however that while reporting on the field, the journalists have the feel of the situation (which not only help them better understand the situation but also easily assess the possibility of truth of any statement) but accessing information via social media means the journalists are likely to be detached from the reality and is less likely assess the truth of the information.

However, it’s should also be noted that social media provides vast resources of people’s voices that was not possible earlier and journalists could use them for producing best results if they understand that at some position social media puts them on weak position and ensuring basic journalistic principles are taken care of. A couple of the basic journalists principles effective in social media is multiple sourcing and verification.

Social media is not an evil itself for journalism; it can be if journalists ignore the strength of it; and use it from the weak position forgetting the basic journalistic principles. Sometimes the best answer to complicated problem lies in the simplest (and oldest) principle!

Thanks to Gayane of JNews of Armenia for the names, quotes and inspiration.

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