Bedtime reading for the NUJ…

…and for any journlist who wants to get to grips with the future of journalism.

I’ve been following Paul Bradshaw‘s recent posts about blogging and investigative journalism with great interest. Currently there are five – all draft sections of a chapter for a new Investigative Journalism book.

I think they give a fascinating picture of just what can be achieved online – not just for investigative journalism, but perhaps other forms of reporting too:

  1. Blogging and Journalism 
    Explores the relationship of blogging to journalism.
  2. The Amateur-Professional Debate
    Questions whether the subjectivity of blogs is really corrosive to the search for “truth”. 
  3. Sourcing Material
    How online material can make readers part of the investigative process and help to “fine tune” stories.
  4. Publishing
    How online work can provide greater transparency and a wider distribution.
  5. Fundraising 
    How blogs have provided alternative funding streams for investigiative jourmalism. 

In his fifth draft, Paul also puts forward examples of interesting economic models for this style of journalism.

If would be nice to see the NUJ debating how such issues could be better exploited by professional journalists and, perhaps, provide us with a bit of training to boot.

Here’s hoping.

6 thoughts on “Bedtime reading for the NUJ…

  1. That is a desperately petulant article, trying to ignore the inevitable. However I wish more commentators would just be open and say what everyone squirms around: web-based journalism will mean job cuts at newspapers, more work for no more pay, and a move from professional news gatherers to amateur.

    The NUJ has to accept that it’s what the audience wants, there’s no alternative and they’re deluded if they think they can stop it happening. But it’s their job to protect the jobs and working conditions of their members, so it’s disingenuous to talk about them (as many web commentators do) as if they just oppose change because they’re grumpy old dinosaurs who fear change they don’t understand.

    Just as a final technical point, to be fair that article is written in a personal capacity as a comment piece, so it’s a bit unfair to cite is as representative of the union’s views.

  2. Yes, you’re right. I should have made it explicit that the comments on that link were not intended to be taken as representative of the NUJ, rather that it is hosted on the NUJ site – I shall edit it. Apologies.

    On your other comments:

    “…web-based journalism will mean job cuts at newspapers, more work for no more pay, and a move from professional news gatherers to amateur.”

    I’m not sure I totally agree with this.

    Yes, there will be job cuts at newspapers – I think you’re right. But more work for no more pay? I’m not sure. I’d agree that in newspapers it may be different work for no more pay, certainly.

    I think newspapers will train their staff on a variety of media platforms (web, print, video, audio) and then will expect them to multiskill.

    Does that constitute more work? Yes, if the newspaper expects you to be able create content on more than one of these platforms for every story and assumes your story count will remain the same. But I can’t see how any right-minded editor would be able to ignore that post-production of audio and video(for example)will add time.

    Does Web 2.0 signify a move from professional newsgatherng to amateur? Again I don’t think so. I just think the number of sources that a professional journalist has to exploit will be greater.

    Personally, I’m relieved that a new medium has popped up that can circumnavigate the PR wall that has built up over the last couple of decades. There are too many papers relying too heavily on press releases.

    But you are right that in newspapers where staff are cut there will be fewer professional journalists and they may have to rely on amateur sources (as well as press releases and wire copy) to provide them with news.

    But the traditional mainstream model of disseminating news is just one slice of the Web 2.0 pie. Yes, newspapers, televsion and radio news services may shrink – but that does not mean there is not going to be new business models emerging that will provide a satisfactory income to good professional journalists.

    See journalism as manufacturing: the mass production of news is being squeezed in this country. Big news factories are downsizing and outsourcing, but that doesn’t mean news production is dead. It is just adapting and diversifying and those made redundant from those factories will have to adapt too or stagnate.

    Many of them have skills that are still desirable and, with a bit of entrepreneurial spirit, it is quite possible that they can find themselves a niche, high-value market in which to operate. I’m not denying it’s a scary prospect and there may be casualties, but that’s why I think we should prepare and start exploring the possibilities now. I think if I saw that happening in the NUJ, I’d feel more secure that it was trying to help save my livelihood.

    I can imagine a day when traditional newspapers will be just aggregators of work produced by a sea of independant professional journalists or collectives who are winning their own marketing budgets/donations/grants to operate within a specialist area. It may not come to pass, but if it did, I’d like to think the NUJ would still be there championing quality journalism. But my fear is it won’t be if it continues to appear out of touch.

  3. I’d written out a ludicrously long-winded reply to this, but when I hit 1,000 words I realised I’d be wasting both my time and yours. Brevity is the soul of genius, so I won’t reply to everything you’ve said.

    I don’t disagree with much you’ve said. Just to pick out a few things very quickly.
    -Multiskilling, means the same amount of butter spread across more toast. You get more buttered toast to eat, but what you get is toast thats dry, flavourless, and lacking in hard news values
    -video journalism is a skilled job, I should know, I’ve lived with two of them. The cheap camcorders and 48 hours to a week of training, will not lead to quality video coverage, but rather trained, skilled writers using their time to produce tat. Viz Private Eye on Telegraph TV this week.
    -I think the aggregating of “work produced by a sea of independant professional journalists or collectives who are winning their own marketing budgets/donations/grants to operate within a specialist area”, sounds suspiciously like the “wall of PR” that you hate. It’s reproducing copy straight from sources with an axe to grind because there’s no time to look for facts.

    Wish I had more time to get my points across, but oh well…

  4. You can always bend my ear, you know that! Plus I don’t think you’d be wasting my time with a long answer. It’s nice to have people to think through this stuff with. I certainly have no confidence I’m right – I’m just exploring.

    Again I’ll reply more later (got to get dressed for work!) but I take your point about multiskilling. I guess there will be a lot of great writers who are rubbish camerapeople and vice versa.

    But then in journalism there are already excellent writers who are weak researchers, or good researchers that are useless networkers. What I’m saying is that, just because it’s a skilled job, it doesn’t mean there will be some journalists that will do reasonably well at it. It’s another tool in the box, is all.

    My idea of independant specialists… why would they have any more axe to grind than the paper? True, I’d imagine they would be funded by advertisers and groups that are interested in their target market and so will sponsor their blog/site. How is that any different to the pressures put upon newspapers currently?

    I think the general belief that the traditional mainstream media is somehow more likely to be unbiased than smaller independant outlets is rot. Look at the Daily Express or the Daily Mail, are they without agenda or an ‘axe’? Plus there is always the other, rather devastating, agenda of pleasing the shareholders.

    Personally I think it would be a good thing for the UK to have a proliferation of news sources and for some of them to be operating not-for-profit.

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