Research seminar: “New Media – New Journalism?”

Between a very productive writing retreat in Bologna (got home yesterday) and my stay at New York University Steinhardt (will leave Sunday), I had found the time to present a paper at the research seminar “New Media – New Journalism?” on the university today.

Our special guest star was associate professor Adrienne Russell from the University of Denver who has just published the book Networked. A Contemporary History of News in Transition. Her book describes how non-organizational actors influence newsmaking processes. The central concept is “networked journalism”, i.e.

“journalism that sees publics acting as creators, investigators, reactors, (re)makers, and (re)distribution of news and where all variety of media, amateurs, and professional, corporate and independent products and interests intersect at a new level” (p. 1).

I think the book is good and I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to get a grip of one of the most important developments of contemporary journalism, namely the increased role of who Jay Rosen famously refered to as the “people formerly known as the audience“. For an academic book, Networked is very well-written, and it contains a number of great examples of “best practice” of user participation; Russell’s comparison of the coverage of the Gulf War (1991 – covered by traditional mass media) and the Iraq War (2003 – covered by networked journalism) is particularly enlightening and illustrative of the changes she deals with. Nevertheless, I do have some reservations with regard to both her strong faith in the power and quality of the publics’ contributions to newsmaking and to her dismissal of the value of established media organizations; I think she might overestimate how ordinary people help journalism and simultaneously underestimate the continued importance of institutions. I’ll write a proper review of the book later.

Apart from mrs. Russell, my good colleague Mette Mortensen gave a presentation on the impact and consequences of ordinary people’s use of digital technology to disseminate images and video clips from unfolding events where no journalists are. And I presented a conceptual clarification of “participation” and a tentative typology of reader participation in online news production; this typology is the pivotal point in my contribution to a forthcoming book about social news-production (to be published this Fall).

I think it was a good seminar with though-provoking presentations by my fellow researchers and interesting discussions, so I’m glad I took the time for it. Next: MCC, NYU.