As the ever-changing media moves forward, we have to understand how to set our students up for success in the future journalism industry and as civilians. An aspect of new media is social media. In “What Schools are Really Blocking When They Block Social Media” by S. Craig Watkins for DMLCentral.net, he states the benefits to incorporating social media into the curriculum and school day: “(1) to teach students about the inventive and powerful ways communities around the world are using social media, (2) for students and teachers to experience the educational potential of social media together, (3) for students to distribute their work with the larger world, and (4) for students to reimagine their creative and civic identities in the age of networked media.” There are many benefits to embracing this new media in the journalism classroom and by blocking or banning it’s use, we are doing a disservice to our students, especially when it comes to teaching them about the future of news.
Something that we can do to encourage a future-looking curriculum in journalism is to focus on creating student-centered civics lessons. In “Here come new sons and daughters of liberty,” author Nat Hentoff quotes Sandra Day O’Connor and Karen Theroux in their opinions of student centered education. Both challenge schools to encourage civics-based instruction and lessons. O’Connor states: “Schools should incorporate discussion of current local, national and international events into the classroom, particularly those that young people find important to their lives … Schools should offer opportunities for young people to get involved in their schools or communities outside of the classroom” and Theroux says: “ther research has shown that involving students in democratic deliberation has school-wide impact on civic knowledge and participation, including community service.” Hentoff concludes the article with: “The kind of reality-based learning that Theroux and O’Connor’s commission endorse will create citizens who find excitement, even fun, in thinking for themselves. It will also teach those politicians who represent them that their degree of independence and actual knowledge of issues will be regularly tested by the civic-minded students they serve who keep experiencing the Constitution from the inside.” Our journalism programs need to keep in mind that they should be student driven and serve students and communities alike.
One way that the future of journalism is changing is the role that journalists serve. In “Journalism isn’t dying. But it’s changing WAY faster than most people understand” by Chris Cillizza for WashingtonPost.com, Cillizza outlines how journalists are no longer the gatekeepers of information, but instead the context-givers and sense-makers: “And, as the “what” faded in terms of reader interest, the “so what” and the “now what” began to rise. Suddenly, people didn’t want to just read about a presidential debate, they wanted analysis of the debate, too. And they wanted that analysis delivered at the same time as the news. They didn’t want to wait for the next day to read about who did well and who didn’t. They wanted it in real time. And that went double for anyone younger than 30.” Journalist’s role changed as the availability of information increased for citizens.
Another way that journalism is changing is in the skills that journalists need to be successful. In “10 basics today’s journalists need” by Paige Levin for Medium.com, Levin breaks down what journalists really need to know to be successful: “We don’t need to be well versed in every single app and every line of code. But we do need to understand the bigger picture.” She then breaks down 10 different skills that are crucial for the success of a future journalist. She includes tips that may seem outside of traditional journalism training such as “learn basic coding,” “master math” and “understand the economics” Levin also encourages journalists to engage their audience on social media. Overall, her tip for journalists is to stay adaptable: “Most of the important skills are more like talents: the ability to generate original and meaningful ideas, critical thinking, collaboration, and general knowledge as well as specialized knowledge in areas of interest.” These are the skills that we are encouraged to teach students as 21st century skills and lend themselves to scholastic media.
Professional journalists and citizens must work together to accomplish a community of accurate and relevant news. Blur, chapter 9 “What We Need from the Next Journalism” by Kovach and Rosenstiel, the authors acknowledge the heightened role of the citizen and the lessened role of journalist as gatekeeper: “Individual citizens will create their own news diet and even their own content” (196). Because of this reduced role, “Citizens, who shape news production by the choices they make, have rights when it comes to news, but they also have responsibilities – even more so as they become producers and editors themselves” (291) according to Kovach and Rosenstiel for Elements of Journalism chapter 11 “The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizens.” By working together, public journalism can “create a learning community, one that discusses issues, not just on the basis of emotion but on facts about how things work” according to “Public Journalism and the Problem of Objectivity” by Philip Meyer for UNC.
In addition, it is not just journalists created journalism. In “Brands aren’t the only ones becoming publishers and doing journalism — advocacy groups are too” by Matthew Ingram for gigaom.com, the author acknowledges that there are other groups putting information out there as well: “That said, groups like Human Rights Watch and the ACLU now have the same ability to write, film and publish to a potential audience as any media company, thanks to the internet and the social web.” Additionally, political campaigns put out a lot of information without the press as well, as told by Kovach and Rosenstiel in Blur: “In the 2008 presidential race, videos produced by the Obama campaign staff were viewed more than one billion times on the candidate’s own YouTube channel, without any press involvement” (171). The amount of views shows that the political campaign was able to directly communicate with the audiences without the press.
It must be a combined effort. “The two sides, citizen and professional journalist, are not in competition. They must work in combination. The new citizen sentinel will not replicate the work of the professional journalist or even displace it, but rather inform, interact with, and evaluate it” (Elements of Journalism 289). In “Learn from the fake news factories” by Jeff Jarvis for Zeit Online, the author outlines why the two must work together: “Media should listen to the conversations online, fact-check those that are getting out of hand, and share that information with the social platforms, which should in turn share that with users so they can make better judgments.” By working together, citizens and journalists can create something impressive. “Truth, accuracy, impartiality and diversity of opinion are strengthened by being open to a wider range of opinion and perspective brought to us through the knowledge and understanding of our audience” (289). Both the journalist and citizen must take on this responsibility.
This week we are focusing on the responsibility of citizens in the viewing and understanding of news. While journalists hold a lot of the responsibility, in Blur chapter 8 “How to Find What Really Matters” by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel, the authors introduce the idea that the audience has more responsibility than ever: “Journalists still select [stories, act as gatekeepers], of course. But their choices have less impact on us. In the digital age, the front page of a Web site may easily have a hundred headlines… we consume the news now by topic and story, and less by relying on the judgement of news institutions to select for us” (149). Luckily, there are many digital tools that have been developed to help journalists and citizen journalists verify information. According to JournalistsResource.org, in “Tools for verifying and assessing the validity of social media and user-generated content”: “The speed of social media and the sheer volume of user-generated content (UGC) make fact-checking by reporters even more important now.” Besides using fact-checking tools, citizens can also find trusted news outlets and reporters, as stated by the Blur authors: “An essential step in efficiently seeking important coverage is to find outlets and individual reporters who do great work on a consistent basis – a network of trusted sources or brands we can look to regularly” (152).
Verification of information is very important for audiences, especially when it comes to breaking news. In “The Breaking News Consumer’s Handbook” from On the Media on Sep 20, 2013, the host and guest discuss how audiences can make sure they are interacting with correct info: “Rather than counting on news outlets to get it right, we’re looking at the other end. Below are some tips for how, in the wake of a big, tragic story, you can sort good information from bad.” Below are the tips they provide to citizen journalists:
- In the immediate aftermath, news outlets will get it wrong.
- Don’t trust anonymous sources.
- Don’t trust stories that cite another news outlet as the source of the information.
- There’s almost never a second shooter.
- Pay attention to the language the media uses.
- “We are getting reports”… could mean anything.
- “We are seeking confirmation”… means they don’t have it.
- “[News outlet] has learned”… means it has a scoop or is going out on limb.
- Look for news outlets close to the incident.
- Compare multiple sources.
- Big news brings out the fakers. And photoshoppers.
- Beware reflexive retweeting. Some of this is on you.
By using these tips, audiences can help to verify and avoid sharing out incorrect information. Andrew Beaujon for Poynter.com reinforces this in “Every American needs ‘the critical thinking skills of a journalist,’ university says” by quoting James Klurfeld and Howard Schneider from a paper published by the Brookings Institution: “In the Digital Age, the ultimate check against the spread of rumor, pernicious falsehood, disinformation, and unverified reports masquerading as fact, will never be just more and better-trained journalists and professional gatekeepers. Instead, it will require a generation of astutely educated news consumers, as well as native producers and distributors, who will learn to be their own editors and identify for themselves fact-and- evidence-based news and information.” This puts the responsibility on readers to verify the facts and encourage truthful reporting.
With the scope of scholastic journalism broadening, there is one thing that remains sure for both journalists and their audiences: skepticism is important. In “Study: People view information on Twitter as less credible than on news websites” by Jeff Sonderman for Poynter.com, the author explains a study that confirms that people are more or less skeptical of their news depending on the outlet where they get it: “Experiments gave readers news in three different forms: A tweet from @nytimes and a short or longer story on nytimes.com. The content was the same, but readers found the tweets less credible and less important.”
As consumers of media, readers must be skeptical of the information put in front of them. “Cultural production of ignorance provides rich field for study” by Michael Hilzik for the Los Angeles Times, the author dives into the tactic of manipulation which is carried out by so many corporations, including big tobacco: “When this sort of manipulation of information is done for profit, or to confound the development of beneficial public policy, it becomes a threat to health and to democratic society.” In order to not be deceived, Hilzik says readers must practice skepticism: “The effort needs to begin at a young age, he says. “You really need to be teaching third-, fourth-, fifth-, sixth-graders that some people lie. And why do they lie? Because some people are greedy.” Citizens, when being used as sources, must also understand where information that they provide may go. Arizona State University explains that “The informality of social networking sites makes it easier for potential sources to misunderstand your intentions and the impact of cooperating.” Both journalists and sources must be clear with their intentions.
In the same way that audience members must be skeptical of what they see, hear and read, journalists must be skeptical of what they are presented as well. In the Social Media Guidelines for Student Journalists from Arizona State University, the guidelines outline how confirming sources and information is even more important in the age of digital information gathering: “Recognize that use of social networking sites is just one way of gathering information. It is no substitute for face-to-face interviews and digging for information. Work offline to confirm information gathered via social networking sites. Seek through every means possible to interview sources in person or by phone to verify identities, claims and statements.” Some journalists may also find themselves jaded, thinking that readers don’t want in-depth stories anymore, but instead short pieces with lots of pictures for engagement. “Shorter isn’t better, photos aren’t always alluring and deep digging pays off, recent report concludes” by Rick Edmonds for Poynter.com contradicts that statement, in which Rosenstiel says: “Once a publisher has data about what content they are producing and what’s working and not working journalistically, the next step is try(ing) to change what they are doing to do more work that readers value inside key coverage areas and spend less effort on what isn’t working.”
There are many benefits of modern media tools: accessibility, immediacy, the connection of people from all around the world. However, while modern tools help in many ways, they also provide some challenges to journalists and our student journalists. In “Why journalists should be afraid of Trump’s media strategy” by Joel Simon for Columbia Journalism Review, Simon discusses the political system’s use of social media: “a media system with fewer gatekeepers is exciting because it allows unconventional forces to overcome the institutional barriers and get their messages out. But there is a big downside, which is that the continuous erosion of traditional media’s power in the United States is part of a broader global dynamic that is putting journalists at greater risk.”
One challenge that new media produces is that of the verification of crowdsourcing. The Online News Association Social Newsgathering Ethics Code addresses this problem by asking journalists to “Endeavor to verify the authenticity of user-generated content before publishing or distributing it, holding it to standards that are equal or equivalent to those maintained for content acquired through other means.” In “Best Practices for Social Media Verification” by Craig Silverman for the Columbia Journalism Review, Silverman outlines many ideas for making sure that crowd sourced information is accurate. Many of these ideas are similar, asking journalists to confirm location by looking to see if the account has location services enabled, to look at the network of the person (who they follow, who follows them and who they interact with online), to examine the content they are presenting and if there is a way to verify what they are tweeting, and to contact them to see what details they can provide in addition.
Another challenge provided by social media is the lack of context. With the quickness of social media and the increasingly shorter attention span of audiences, information, especially released on Twitter, can be shortened to a point that no context is given. Twitter accounts like UberFacts and OMGFacts fail to present sources or provide context for their “facts.” In “Do we really want our facts to be ‘Uber’ or ‘OMG?’” by Alexios Mantzarlis for Poynter.com, Mantzarlis warns against these types of accounts and how they are using the word “fact:” “Appropriating the term “fact” in this way to build up credibility and reach a broad audience is not just dishonest marketing. Given the reach of these accounts, it can cause long-term damage to our understanding of what a fact is.” Again, Simon for the CJR warns against this shooting from the hip type of information used by politicians: “Use dramatic and shocking action to get attention; rely on social media to control your message, engage critics, and mobilize support; depend on the feedback loop between social and traditional media to reach a mass audience.” Without context, there is more power given to these bits.
Many of the resources this week focused on investigative reporting and the watchdog role, especially The Elements of Journalism chapter 6 “Monitor Power and Offer Voice to the Voiceless.” In this chapter, Kovach and Rosenstiel introduce another tenet of journalists: “Journalists must serve as an independent monitor of power” (171). They proceed to explain that this means that power doesn’t just mean the government, but others in power as well and those in the unseen corners of society. They also warn against the role of the watchdog being weakened: “Much of this reportage has the earmarks of watchdog reporting but too often the stories focus on risks to personal safety or consumer pocketbooks, not to citizen’s freedoms” (184). Journalists must look out for citizens by performing this watchdog duty. One way to incorporate the community into reporting is by crowd sourcing information.
In “How Journalists Can Make User-Generated Content Work” by Katya Yefimova for FliptheMedia.com, Yefimova warns that when using content from others, journalists must still insist on the truth, quoting Eric Carvin: “If you don’t hold citizen journalists to the same standards, you are disrespecting social media as a tool for journalism.” She details a couple of ways to do this, the most beneficial likely being getting to know your audience and building trust. When you have citizen journalists you can trust, you can treat them responsibly and fairly. Additionally, in “5 ways journalism educators can teach students to use multimedia in breaking news coverage” by Katy Culver for Poynter.org, Culver offers many ways to incorporate multimedia while still engaging audience. One tool that she suggests is Storify, which allows users to cultivate social media posts. In this way, journalists can collaborate with their audience to help tell a story.
However, a downside to using user-generated content is the requirement of fact checking. In “5 True things about fact-checking” by Jane Elizabeth for the AmericanPressInstitute.org, Elizabeth states that fact checking is good for journalism: “The “chaos of [Internet] information…has made our independent fact-checking operations both more doable and more important than ever for the very industry that created it.” If we are going to use crowd sourced content, journalists have to continue to insist on the truth, regardless of where it comes from. While using your audience can help to build relationships and engagement, it should also be approached with caution. Kovach and Rosenstiel argue that the community also has a responsibility to truth: “The community also has a significant role as sentinel over journalistic integrity” (192).