Teaching Examples

No, the medium doesn’t matter — and yes, it does
January 4, 2007, 2:01 pm
Filed under: audiences, business, future, journalism, news, online, photojournalism

Sion Touhig wrote this about photojournalists, but I think it applies to journalists of ALL types (writers, TV reporters, etc.):

Bizarrely, the enormous audience drift from print to the online space is seen in some photojournalistic circles as a ‘crisis’ … it ignores the massive audience potential of the Internet and seeks to solve the crisis by retreating further into a hermetically sealed world of books, galleries and subsidies from various grants and competitions.

There’s a message you’re trying to send, a story you’re trying to tell. Who cares if it’s not printed poorly on cheap paper? Why are so many people so HUNG UP on the medium?

That said, you do need to think about what the medium does well and what it does badly. And also, what a particular person knows how to do well, and what that same person has no idea how to do well!

The Internet isn’t a panacea, of course — so newspapers getting into ‘multimeeja’ by throwing videocameras at their journalists and expecting that to do the trick for them on the Web … just isn’t going to work.

I recently spent nearly two days painstakingly trying to edit together some video taken by a journalist, because with the best will in the world, his main job is writing, so shooting video was probably pretty low on his priority list. But that’s not the journalist’s problem — it’s the newspaper’s problem, by having a ‘convergence’ strategy which (IMO) is deeply flawed, because at its heart, it’s bean-counter led.

Touhig has hit the nail squarely on the head. The key is that newsroom strategy is not aimed at meeting goals that serve the readers/viewers and the community. Newsroom strategy is not aimed at informing, challenging, intriguing and — yes — helping people. And it should be.

Being useful and interesting must be the goal of the newsroom.

The “bean counters” are not evil. Journalism operates as a business, and it must pay its own way. But if your only goal is to make money, you lose sight of what the product is and WHY people choose to buy it or not.

Wall Street does not understand this. Wall Street operates on a pure profit principle. But in a media-saturated, 24/7, always-on, time-shifted, mostly free world of almost unlimited information, journalism cannot. Journalism must compete on merit alone, on its ability to satisfy people and prove its useful to them, day after day after day.

The anti-competitive and protectionist practices of Wall Street no longer apply in this medium.

You can no longer buy up all the competitors, kill them off, and get the people to pay money for junk, blather, filler. The people will not do it anymore.

Touhig wrote:

So the newspaper’s ‘content’ had better be good, because if it ain’t … well, there’s plenty of other places on the Web to check out, and I won’t be coming back to your paper anytime soon.

Newspapers are not YouTube. If they wish to keep their existing readership, and expand that readership into the Web, they need to produce visual content that reflects the existing ethos and qualities of the paper.

Touhig has got a lot more to say about how visual information crosses linguistic and cultural boundaries too. It’s a great post; it says a lot about where we ought to be looking — beyond the bottom line and the short-term profit-taking. Here’s the link again.

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2 Comments so far
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Hi Mindy McAdams,
You Wrote
“Being useful and interesting must be the goal of the newsroom.”
I admit what you have said. But don’t you think that we need to decide who is in the receiving end!
What are your views regarding “perspectives” – Which part of the frame is shown and how it is shown to whom! What about political pressure and motivation!
Please answer:

Comment by K. Roy

In general, the audience for a newspaper is assumed to be members of a geographic area. Within that area live lots of diverse people — and one of newspapers’ traditional failings has been that they ignore broads swaths of that community. That’s one of the improvements the newspapers need to make.

Comment by Mindy McAdams

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