Response to Readings Week One: Journalism and Disruption

Please respond to the following questions in a comment on this post. Length is not as important as THOUGHTFULNESS.  This week’s questions are pretty easy – mostly just asking you to reflect on what you have read or heard thus far.

1)Describe, briefly, one key takeaway you got from the Tow Center report on Post Industrial Journalism. What did you find most interesting or most important? Yes, you can skim over the report. Be sure you are not just repeating one of your classmate’s takeaways (incentive to post early). Hint: Here’s a list of my own takeaways, if that gives you any ideas. Be specific.

2)This is a review question, so if were paying attention in class, it should be pretty easy. Of course, you can use the readings too. Name one way in which media has been disrupted by technology…e.g. how did Google disrupt the New York Times? How did Apple disrupt the music industry? Be specific.

3)After watching Page One, describe one way in which The New York Times has faced either negative consequences OR opportunity from disruption.

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12 thoughts on “Response to Readings Week One: Journalism and Disruption

  1. Lori Shull says:

    On the Tow Report: I think the most important takeaway was the need to create ways to get around the process. On the ground, it makes the most sense in changing the way a reporter works – of course you’re going to scour Twitter for local and personal impact or find a friend with a GoPro and a model helicopter when you can’t get to the site to write your story. But the need for workarounds has to go further than that. What does that mean for the cub reporter who is going into a newsroom job for the first time? She goes to her editor (probably a middle-aged white man) for advice and the editor says, “Well, kid, figure it out. The old ways aren’t working anymore so good luck with that.”? No pressure there. There is no denying that (portions of) the rulebook needs to be thrown out and that, to some extent, we need to recognize (if not embrace) the wild west we find ourselves in. But how do we protect the institutions that the industry does so desperately need to maintain our professional reputation and, more importantly, the public’s trust? This is larger than crowdsourcing a story or creating a workaround for a poorly designed CMS, because it is heralding a new way of thinking. But at the same time, it’s not an entirely new way of thinking because there is nothing wrong with journalistic values and the larger purpose of journalism. I believe and agree with the Tow report, but it’s one thing to say what needs to be done and do it, individual by individual and institution by institution across the entire ecosystem. Good luck with that, indeed.

    Google certainly did the New York Times no favors. In creating an environment where people could search for one specific thing and have the engine curate the internet for them, there was no longer any need to go to any one place and seek out the information that person wanted. The gathered links contained information that probably wasn’t as good as the NYT coverage, but to the undiscerning or rushed person, it was good enough. And that person no longer had to buy the entire paper to get the section she was interested in. Google also played a large role in the decline in print advertising dollars because suddenly there were so many more places to advertise but also that audiences were more fragmented, so fewer eyes were landing on each ad.

    In watching Page One, one of the disruptions I noticed was the power of the aggregator, especially during the debate with David Carr and the newser guy. If an aggregator exists, the source doesn’t matter – something from the NYT is as valid as something from Daily Roll Call (http://dailyrollcall.com). You can get information from anywhere, delivered to your email or smartphone and designed to suit your interests. So the conversation changes – it’s not about a great story about X that I read on the NYT but about a great story about X I read somewhere on the internet. All of a sudden, all information is as valid as every other piece of information and the other participant in that conversation has no way of suggesting that maybe that story is incomplete, inaccurate or spot on. What does that mean for citizenship and democracy?
    That said, there may be an opportunity there to get stories from traditional media in front of young eyes. Most 20-somethings aren’t going to the NYT, but they are going to Twitter and other apps. If they see a story there and remember where it came from, it may help to breathe new life into an organization that is overwhelmingly middle-aged and white. Not enough life to save it, not by any means, but enough life to maybe add a few fighters to its corner of the ring.

    • Carrie Brown says:

      Excellent, Lori, good thoughts. Heh, I remember that EXACT situation when I was a cub reporter with a middle-aged white editor. We’ll talk more in class too about KNOWING what you need to do and then actually DOING it, which as you say are two very different things.

  2. 1) As I was reaching the end of the Tow Center report on Post Industrial Journalism, I approached a particular metaphor that grabbed my attention. In the “Ecosystem” portion of the report, the news business of the 20th century is compared to a pipeline. Reporters, producers and editors all functioned “upstream.” The process of the news reaching the people was on their time. They investigated, perfected stories and delivered the news to the audience when they felt that it was equipped. The audience acted as the “downstream” of the pipeline. We just received the news. We talked about what the professionals were distributing and we did not push to broadcast our own thoughts. This is still the case in some establishments, but unfortunately amateurs are making their way into the mix with professionals. There was once a major distinction between professionals and amateurs, but it is slowly fading. I find this extremely scary, yet interesting to witness in my generation.

    2) One of my favorite topics to discuss with other journalists is the effect that Apple has had on the music industry. I am 22 years old and I remember being younger and begging my mother to buy me a CD. The majority of the time she responded, “I am not buying you this CD just because you like one song!” Apple fixed this problem for listeners in full force. We are now able to purchase as many individual songs as well as albums that we desire. However, is this only benefiting the listener? How are the artists being affected? Some artists suggest that Apple has destroyed the music industry because no musician has the desire to make a great album when the audience can simply buy individually. On another note, other artists argue that Apple saved the music industry by helping to prevent illegal downloading. I also have friends who get in their car, immediately connect to their phone and stream iTunes radio. This proves as a huge threat for local radio stations; as if they weren’t hurting already. Either way, Apple has completely disrupted the music industry.

    3) “Page One” was very interesting to me. There were moments when I felt like I understood the severity of the situation of print journalism and there were also times when I questioned my own thoughts. It definitely made me challenge my own thinking. The New York Times has been and will continue to be effected by disruption. Disruption has affected the newspaper negatively, but also positively. A positive example of disruption is the use of iPads. When experiencing the iPad for the first time, New York Times journalist, David Carr describes the iPad as a “great reading experience.” Rupert Murdoch, Chairman of the News Corporation even termed the iPad as the saving grace of the newspaper industry. Even though there is some debate on whether or not the iPad is restricting the use of newspapers, I strongly believe that this is an opportunity for newspapers such as The New York Times to make a comeback. I really enjoyed getting a “day in the life of” experience from the New York Times.

    • Carrie Brown says:

      Lines are blurring between professions and amateurs, but I would say to look at both the positives and negatives of that. Having trained, skilled, paid professionals is important, but amateurs have also in many ways given us the opportunities to see more perspectives, report on communities that previously were largely ignored, and in many cases break news.

      In terms of Apple, you are correct, although think too about the economics, because that’s an important piece in addition to how consumer behavior changes. It’s not that artists don’t have DESIRE per se, it’s that it’s more difficult for them to make a living, especially the non-top 40 types.

  3. Kimberly Exford says:

    1- For me personally, one key interesting point or take away was found in section 1. Here the writers talk about a few things that social media does do better as well as what things machines do better. For example, dealing with amateurs or crowds. In both instances, social media can be used to more effectively deal with these people. For example, the report mentions, “one thing that crowds do better than journalists is collect data.” As a user of social media networks (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.), I have witnessed the amount of information that can be found on these sites at any given time. When a story happens, many times people will know about it via social media BEFORE they hear about it on television or read it in the newspaper. In regards to machines, they create value to large amounts of data at a high speed. Finally, the report gets to what journalists do better. This entire section was interesting to me because each participant has a role. Whether it be the journalist, social media, or machines. Each has something that they do well and could be shared with the other roles. Do we need all parties active and present to be good journalists?

    2- One of the examples from class that we discussed was the interruption Apple had on the music industry. Being a 27 year old, I can clearly remember using both cassette tapes and CDs. As the years have passed, cassette tapes have dwindled to a level of non-existence and CDs are not too far behind. A big issued discussed with these is that you need to purchase the entire CD even if you like only 1 or 2 songs on it. This means you end up with several songs that you may not even want to hear. Apple helped to correct this issue by allowing users to purchase as many or as few songs as they want. The problem with this is that it only seems to provide a benefit to the listeners. As an artist, are you making the same amount of money you would have if people had purchased your entire CD? There can be fights on either side of the argument regarding Apple and its impact on the music industry. On the one side, they have required that listeners purchase their music, thus helping with piracy, illegal downloads, etc. However, on the other side, you have artists that are upset because listeners can now pick and choose what songs they want to listen to. Personally, I never used to download music for free, I would always purchase CDs or listen to it on the radio, however, once iTunes was introduced, I have purchased my music from there every since. Regardless of if you agree or disagree with Apple and what they have and continue to do, they have truly interrupted the music industry.

    3- I enjoyed the movie, Page One. I think one of the opportunities they have gained is the chance to now transition into some more up-to-date technology. For example, you have the mention of the iPad and other digital technology in the movie that is clearly providing a benefit for the users. Before this tool, readers could only read the newspaper in print format, now that has changed. I think that instead of causing a full on disruption and losing readers, NYT has stepped up to the plate and joined in on the latest. In the beginning of the movie, viewers see so many newspapers going bankrupt and out of business because of the change in demand. People don’t read print versions like they used to. And many cities that once held multiple newspapers now only house 1. Although it is not directly stated, I feel that NYT deep down, has some of those same fears.

    • Carrie Brown says:

      To your first item, I’d like to see a little bit more specificity. E.g. For example, dealing with amateurs or crowds. In both instances, social media can be used to more effectively deal with these people.” I think I understand where you are going, but it’s not quite clear what you are talking about.

      In point two, I think word you are looking for is disruption, and not interruption. Artists aren’t upset that people can pick and choose what they want to listen to – what they are upset about is the economics that have resulted from this, which makes it difficult to support their work. This is going to be a constant theme of media disruption, you will see – yes, in many ways, consumers benefit, but changes in the economic structure make it difficult for producers.

      For part three, again, think about economic imperatives there. I’m not entirely clear which fears you are speaking about at the end, but if you mean fears related to sustainability, I think that yes, that is probably true. New technology is, again, good for consumers, but may cause economic disruptions in old business models.

  4. Nicholas Beshiri says:

    1) While reading the TOW Center report, I found the section “Institutions” to be the most interesting. This section of the report covered a subject that we touched on in class in that the industry is always evolving. The Columbia Journalism Review and the Nieman Journalism Lab are the two leaders in discussing professional journalism, but reading them individually they seem to have completely different views on the outlook for the future. Although the reporting in each does has a different outlook, they are both correct. The industry as a whole cannot be described as going in one single direction, it is always evolving. The report also likened it to three or four stories being told at once. I thought this section went along very well with the story being told in the documentary Page One. The print industry may be struggling but other aspects of the industry are on the rise.

    2) In terms of Apple’s effect on the music industry I think that it can be looked at in two different ways. The introduction of iTunes has made it possible to buy single songs, allowing the customer to pick and choose without having to waste $15 on an entire CD for one song. This does have a detrimental effect on the artist’s paycheck and makes it much harder for artists to make a living. However, some of Apple’s introductions can be looked at in a positive light for the music industry. The introduction of iTunes Radio, Apple’s version of Pandora, has brought several artists to my attention as a listener that I probably would have never heard of otherwise. Listening to songs streamed on iTunes Radio has caused me to purchase entire CDs of new artists in order to hear more of their music. In both a negative and positive way Apple has been very disruptive to the music industry.

    3) Page One is a documentary that has been on “My List” on Netflix for a long time, but I have never gotten around to watching it until now.The documentary was very well done and David Carr was an excellent character to base the documentary around. There was one scene in particular that caught my attention, the scene which follows Carr to a conference to sit on a panel to discuss “What happens when the New York Times dies?”. During this scene the question of how many people would care if the New York Times disappeared was posed to the audience and only about ten members of the audience out of a couple hundred raised their hand. With the increasing ways in which people are able to consume news, they have forgotten about the print papers or think of them as old school or “behind the times”. It is very easy to read different economic reports on the financial state of papers like the New York Times and realize that they are in a lot of trouble, but this scene was able to depict in a very different way how far the paper like the Times have fallen.

    • Carrie Brown says:

      Good thoughts, especially vis a vis Apple and the ways in which the effects are complex and good in some ways and potentially disruptive in others. I’d be interested to hear more about how you think Nieman Lab and Columbia Journalism Review differ in terms of how they view the future of news. I think you are right, although there’s quite a bit of diversity in terms of the kind of articles they run, too. I’m a fan of Carr in the movie as well.

  5. Andrew Doughty says:

    1) As a young professional with little experience in the wonderful world of journalism, I have never navigated the changing dynamics, culture and availability of resources therefore also found the Institutions section to be particularly interesting, specifically the small section titled New Forms of Evidence. While I cannot relate to the changes in this larger media ecosystem or expectations to master new skills in an organizational structure that may or may provide proper support, I did appreciate the politely defensive stance on increased requirements of journalists. With thousands of competitors, most of which are writing or reporting on the same exact story, it is imperative to first be put in a position to provide reliability, authenticity and responsibility by steering through the plethora of sources before you can actually master the process.

    2) Apple brought customization to the music industry. Never before, with the exception of the occasional single track release, were consumers able to purchase individual songs for a fraction of the price of a full album. They eliminated controversial music sharing networks such as Napster by providing a clean and reliable platform. While the negative impact on artists is controversial and will be forever debated, many believe this consumer model has opened the doors to artists otherwise unknown. Because the investment of $0.99 for one song is borderline irrelevant, consumers are able to diversify their interests by sampling tracks from many different genres, regions, artists, etc. and thus giving new artists a previously unobtainable level of exposure.

    3) Near the conclusion of the film, Bill Keller says the following, “News organizations that deploy resources to really gather information are essential to a functioning democracy.”

    Most start-ups, blogs and other small websites cannot afford to send journalists to Iraq, Syria or Afghanistan, amongst many others; therefore the New York Times has a significant advantage in providing the facts. With thousands of opinions floating in cyberspace, confusing many readers and eliciting mass frustration as to what is actually true, the Times can help mediate the sifting of that garbage to bring superior journalism.

    • Carrie Brown says:

      Good. Even though you don’t have much experience yet as a producer of journalism, your experience as a media consumer should shed some light on the way media companies are being disrupted. I do think in an ideal world, we’d do less duplication and more “do what you do best, and link to the rest” journalism online. Good working noting the complexity of the Apple and the music industry issue…it’s not necessarily black and white for any of the stakeholders.

      Good point re: the Times…there is an important role for news orgs to play to help us make sense of what we are reading, even if they are no longer traditional gatekeepers that control what we can and can’t see. There are some cool new startups, tho, covering foreign news…check out Syria Deeply.

  6. Cheryl Hayes says:

    Tow Center: After scanning through the Tow Center, I can understand why so many journalists are going into business for their self. However, I also understand why it may be better to work for a journalism agency as well. As an individual journalist, one has more control over what it is he/she wants to report and how, when it is reported. When working for the news conglomerate however, one must adhered to the guidelines of the company. But this can be a good method as to insure accurate information is being reported. Legacy news organizations are important and I believe will continue to thrive even with disruption. However, if the opportunity presents itself for a journalist (a journalist with great reporting skills) to strike out on his/her own, then that is best.

    Media Disruption: Printed news has experienced disruption by way of advancing technologies. Twitter, Facebook, Wikimedia are only some examples of new social media technologies that are taking the world by storm. The New York Times is one example of this disruption with the introduction of Twitter and Wikileaks. News is now immediately accessible to individuals via the internet verses the newspaper, which one would have to wait till the next day to get to learn the news. The internet offers individuals the ability to instantly access the news at any time of day, or night from domestic internet news media outlets as well as international internet news outlets. Another example of such media disruption was by way of another media conglomerate called Apple. Steve Jobs introduced the iPod, iPhone, iPad and iTunes. iTunes allows individuals access to the music world in an instant. This technology of instant music access disrupted the CD world greatly as iTunes offer the purchase of the entire CD, or one, two, or as many songs on the album as one likes. Plus the costs for instant music is considerably cheaper than purchasing a CD. Too, instant access by download allows the user to be anywhere in the world and able to search and buy music of one’s choice.

    Page One: Page One was very enlightening for me in regards to the world of news media. According to the movie, it was reported that The New York Times would go bankrupt and close its doors. However, The New York Times did not have to do this. Instead, many employees were laid-off and this news giant had to forgo offering free online news access to its customers. The New York Times long time reporters like Mr. David Carr is passionate about “old school” news reporting and was, is not willing to change how he captures the news. The New York Times hired a young reporter who is also passionate about capturing the news, but goes about it very differently than Mr. Carr. So, The New York Times had to fastly learn how to connect with various online news media outlets and adapt some of their reporting methods. In essence, The New York Times was about to take the disruption in news media reporting, immediate changes within it company in an attempt to capture new audiences while keeping loyal audience and keep it doors opens.

    • Carrie Brown says:

      I might go back and read a little bit more of the Tow Center report, because I think it’s a little bit more complicated than what you are presenting here. For example, the report argues that in some cases, being part of a larger institution gives you more freedom to report what you want because you have institutional backing.

      When thinking about disruption, also think about the economics as well as how it changes the consumer experience.

      This statement isn’t accurate: “it was reported that The New York Times would go bankrupt and close its doors.” Yes, there has been speculation and fear about that, but it certainly hasn’t been “reported” as a possible fact. David Carr is passionate about reporting and he challenges Vice in the film, but it should be noted he is an avid Twitter user and has experimented with all kinds of new technologies including video, so it is also not accurate to say he is unwilling to change the way he reports the news.

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