Here’s a very interesting post by, of all things, a Belgian linguistic researcher, about the differences between print and online journalism.
I like its academic slant (something which often puts me off), as it actually helps to illuminate the murky way that news journalism is constructed and then passed off as something whole and authoritative.
Often web content (news, semi-news, rehashed news, comment, vitriol etc) is condemned by “real” journalists for being a mess. But Tom Van Hout points out the hidden intervention that conceals exactly the same process going on in the print newsroom.
In essence, he is saying that print journalism shares a lot of the so-called failings of web journalism, but is much less transparent about it. Or, more crudely:
The messy, opinionated, incomplete, rumorladen, shit-show that is actual news production is hidden away.
[Update: in the spirit of process journalism, Tom Van Hout reminds me that the quote is not directly his, but is from a post by Cody Brown on similar topics. My fault for blurring Tom’s post with his authorship. I was a bit sloppy, in other words…]
I also really liked this quote [which is from Tom]. Comparing the process of journalism with sausage-making, Van Hout says:
Online, ‘readers’ can see how the sausage is being made and promptly start making sausages themselves. This inevitably leads to discussions about sausage making.
In essence, his point is that online journalism is about process, not the perfect finished object. And that authority evolves online – through a kind of peer review of linkage and comments.
This view of the web as mutable and living very much chimes with how I see journalism (content/services) evolving to meet technological, and social, change.
There’s a link to a very good account of process journalism here, which is referred to in the Tom Van Hout blog. In it, TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington outlines how the site often uncovers the truth of a story by an iterative process that sees foggy rumour crystallise into hard news over time – something that print media outlets are often loath to allow.
Crucially, for all the critics who say that underfunded or volunteer web journalism can never compete with the professionalism of the print newsroom, the process of process journalism also drives the uncovering of truth.
The fact is that we sometimes can’t get to the end story without going through this process. CEOs don’t always take our calls when we’re asking about speculative rumors. But when a story is up and posted, it’s amazing how many people come out of the woodwork to give us additional information.
It’s a new environment, and I’m sure there are kinks to be ironed out. But while the new world of web journalism will be fragmented and lack the instant authority of old-style media, it has a real future – despite, or perhaps because of, the web’s perceived limitations.
[HT: Bill Bennett]