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Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Media Reinventing Journalism

It's become increasing clear that digital media has enabled citizen journalism to become more and more popular. Guardian journalist Emily Bell, wrote a very interesting piece on the 25th February regarding the new connections between the press and the public. She states that the relationship is 'taking on a different, but perhaps even more radical shape than that which we imagined a decade ago'.

In some senses I agree with this statement. However, it lead me to to think about how the various forms of media now so accessible to us has transformed the ways in which we discover and take in news.

With video recording equipment available on most modern phones, it is now so easy for a member of the public to record an event thats happening around them. The most famous example being 9/11 where alot of the more engaging footage is taken from the ground amongst the public.

The power of the people has had a huge impact on how we are now given the news. We have become as interested in opinions as much as we are interested in facts. Whilst some may argue that this helps prevent bias’ journalism, it could also be suggested that it causes the media to sway away from providing us with facts, and only showing basic evidence of certain news stories which therefore lead us into believing we are supporting the right side when in reality we are simply believing what we’re told (whatever it may be).

News is becoming a lot easier to access. It is available to us on various forms of media, ranging from newspapers and radio to television and the internet. This also means that we have a wider choice of how we receive it, meaning that the different forms now need to expand how they present news in order to become more appealing. This has included newspapers creating their own websites which have frequent updates (more than the newspaper itself). This enables readers to express their views through the newspapers by posting onto online forums.
As well as online forums, social networking websites such as facebook and twitter have also provided a voice for the public. An example of this is the huge reaction of disgust and anger towards an article written by Jan Moir concerning the death of Stephen Gately. In the article, she claimed that his ‘strange and lonely’ death was ‘unnatural’ and was a result of him being gay. Twitter users in particular were very vocal at watch she wrote, and the article itself (which was on the mail website) received over 500 comments within hours.
The combined power of the public’s voice eventually lead to an apology from Jan, despite her determination to still stick by the term ‘sleazy’ which she used when describing Gately’s death.

The use of websites such as twitter has expanded to companies such as the BBC, ITV, and sky news to report news as it happens, as well as some connecting their twitter updates to their official website. This gives the public much more frequent news updates, in some cases receiving them as the events are happening.

Another way that the news has advanced is another technique revolved around the public’s view on news. Camera phones and mobile internet means that anybody can now record and report news from wherever they are. This has been shown through public footage of events such as the tsunami, hurricanes and even footage from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This sort of footage is now used frequently and in many cases it is preferred to professional filming as it seems to provide a closer, more personal view on the news story as we are seeing it from the viewpoint of somebody involved in the event. Also, at times it shows footage that would otherwise be unavailable for journalists to film. Many members of the public also use cameras to project their views on subjects, posting ‘vlogs’ onto websites such as YouTube. Publicly recorded news has now become such an asset that the BBC has designed a department to specifically focus on these clips through the ‘News generated content department’.

Even though the public now have more control in some areas of journalistic media, we still remain very much under the control of journalists. Many stories are exaggerated and distorted to create fear amongst us to appeal more, and gain bigger interest. The public paranoia also means that we are likely to read further stories that link to what we are told to be afraid of. This can range from crime rates to politics to global warming. The key story that seemed to create this effect of how news is now presented was the 9/11 attacks. We saw both phone-camera footage and public reaction as the planes were colliding. The sheer size of the attack made it a world-wide story, and sparked fear amongst everybody regarding terrorist attacks. It has lead to wars, and fear amongst citizens of not only America but also the United Kingdom. This fear has made us willing to accept any story which allows us to force blame on anyone and anything to feel better about ourselves, and to feel safer. Blame has shifted throughout the last few years including anger aimed at immigration, politicians and celebrities. So the news latches onto these factors and escalates them as they receive the most interest (and in newspaper terms they are what sell copies).

Michael Moore is one person who has shown the extent of damage that the fear created has had on the minds of people. In his documentaries studying the corrupt minds of American’s shows how fear caused the media has escalated so high that in itself, it is creating the problems. In ‘Bowling for Columbine’ he shows how readily available guns are in America, including being given a ‘complimentary gun’ when you open an account with certain banks. At the time of the documentary America had suffered over 11,000 shootings in a year compared to just 68 in the UK. He explored various possibilities of why this was the case, he came to the conclusion that it wasn’t because of bad lifestyles, destroyed marriages or any of the factors that occur in nearly every country. The media in America seems to be the big problem, and now in the UK we can relate to that view to some extent. Instead of covering stories with less of a ‘fear factor’ towards each other (such as Michael Moore suggesting to report the pollution), they are consistently reporting shootings, drowning and any death-related story they can find. When asking a journalist at the scene of a drowning, he admitted he would report a shooting opposed to the drowning of a child. One even stated ‘we’ll wait for events to unfold, and then there will be more to say’. This shows the huge public interest in shootings, because they are in fear. In crime shows, they are shown so many criminals being chased down, which is something that is not completely realistic to many of the crimes that occur. It is expanded and made to look even more dangerous than it usually is. The media does not make an attempt to change this view as it is what creates high ratings. Marilyn Manson tells Moore ‘keep everyone afraid and they’ll consume’.

While the internet has enabled everyone to gain a voice and to speak their opinion, we still remain controlled by journalists and the enormous power that media has. Our desire for celebrity gossip, and numerous rumours and worldwide reports has kept us taking in every word that the news tells us. The creation of global fear and panic through the escalated horror that surrounds us has forced us into a corner. The problem with making our voice heard is that now so many people want to be heard, so there isn’t enough time to read every blog, or watch every public recording. So even though we can now speak our minds as much as we wish, who is listening?

You can read Emily Bell's article on digital media here -http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/feb/25/digital-media-social-media


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