Networks and the news process

As the nature of news-making changes in the digital era—becoming more of a dynamic process than creating a static product, more fluid than fixed—we need to get a grasp on what all of this means for the two key players here: the journalists, and the people formerly known as the audience (TPFKATA). As the models for creating and funding journalism change, new roles and responsibilities are emerging for both groups.

In class today, we discussed TPFKATA, primarily in terms of citizen journalism and crowdsourcing. Thursday, we try to see things from the perspective of the journalist. By that I mean something particular: We’re going to look at how journalists need to recast their role in the context of networks. Social networks. Information networks. Digital networks.

The Web, of course, is one big network; it’s a horizontal, non-linear form of communication, as opposed to the vertical, linear, hierarchical production process of the 20th century mass media model. And so to do journalism on the Web implies thinking about journalism in a fundamentally different way. Put another way, to replicate the one-way flow of journalism via a medium that, by nature, is a multi-way mode of communication … well, that is to invite all sorts of incongruities and awkwardness—which, in fact, we see with many online news sites today.

So, Thursday’s topic begins with networked journalism (related resources here, here and here). Let’s learn the basics of this concept: What is it, and why is it “new” to journalism? How does it propose to make the process of journalism better, more adaptive, better suited for the digital age? Looking ahead, can this kind of journalism work financially? How would it get funded? Give us your take on this new mode of newswork in the comments section (by classtime Thursday), and come prepared to discuss it.

Please read the Intro and chapters 1-2 of “SuperMedia: Saving Journalism So It Can Save the World,” by Charlie Beckett. You can find PDFs for each of those chapters under “Table of Contents.”

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13 Responses to “Networks and the news process”


  1. 1 Katherine Robinson September 23, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    I liked the term distributed journalism from the bottom of Jarvis’ blog. When you look at what so many citizens are doing, journalism is being distributed in some many different forms. In newsrooms, sometimes the reporters rely on citizens for tips or stories suggestions. The journalist then uses the suggestions from the citizen to help advance the story and possibly personalize the story with their contact.
    It seems that networked journalism has been around a long time. I don’t think there was an actual name for this type of journalism, but I would have considered it a little like gossip—which has been around forever. I think the concept of now recognizing bloggers as story generators, might be the only thing “new” to journalism. Accepting this form of network journalism is a positive situation with everyone winning. Amateurs get involved and express what’s on their minds with issues in the community. Reporters can help with these issues by using the idea to write an article, having creditable sources, and publishing it for everyone to see. As more issues in the community are being solved, everyone is happy. The journalist can have a great story while satisfying their readers. Network journalism will work in today’s digital age. Media sites are always growing and new trends come out daily. I think that if this form of journalism could somehow tie the 21st century of model into its process, then it would be financially successful.

  2. 2 billbowmanut September 23, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    Networked Journalism is the collaborative process of pooling information, producing quality content and editing that content for mass distribution. This has been made possible due to advamces made in the past decade. Sharing photo, video and documents is as easy as a click of the mouse. This is a wholly new invention. Before journalists could collaborate face to face or via telephone but their actual content was trapped geographically.

    Revenue is needed for every endevour. For quality content to be created, journalists must be compensated. The revenue models for new journalism will be similar to the current models but modified to fit the medium. There could be no centralized force guiding these peoples so ways for getting revenue will need to be innovative.

    A third party advertising company might be brought in to compensate these networked journalists if they work independent. This method would likely be on a case by case basis. This type of journalism could also be funded by a tip jar system. The sources of revenue will be more difficult to navigate than traditional methods (one company paying to advertise in newspapers and people paying for content).

  3. 3 Tiffany Tso September 23, 2009 at 6:49 pm

    First of all I would like to say that Charlie Beckett made some unnecessary sexist comments that were based off of nothing. Listen to this: “Women have always been put off by the Internet’s geeky image.” Is he meaning to say that women are also put off by intellectual pursuits, or that we are more prone to care about image rather than functionality and knowledge? I want to know how his lame little stereotyping anecdote about women being shoppers and social butterflies was really beneficial to his book. It was totally pointless.

    Anyway, I am in love with the idea and development of networked journalism. I find it important to have the skills of networking in order to make it in the journalism field, let alone any communications field. The fact that we have this global community online should obviously be taken advantage of, and as should our access to so many things we had no means of getting before – like citizen voices, stories from various parts of the world, other people’s research, etc.

    What also needs to be addressed, I suppose, is a creative way to capitalize on journalism, when it seemingly has become a huge net of information that is available to everybody free of charge. This seems to be an issue for all news organizations at this point, obv. I like what Bill said above, that the business model can basically stay the same but needs to be modified to fit the medium. I suppose paid content would be out of the question in this new era of networked journalism. However, due to this inter-connectivity and the convenience of the internet, it should be simple to show advertising companies the high amount of traffic one gets on each individual page on their site – hits for stories, how much they get linked, etc. From this data, they should be able to prove the worthiness of their presence and thus appeal to advertisers more (especially when content relate to product.)

  4. 4 austintries5 September 23, 2009 at 8:44 pm

    Reading the other posts, I like Bill’s definition of networked journalism as a collaborative process of pooling information to produce quality content. I think a lot of times when we talk about citizen or networked journalism taking over real journalists, we forget about what makes good journalism and the level of writing and reporting that should occur in order to tell a good story. I absolutely love networked journalism and the value in hearing from others that have a passion for news and a desire to see change. I also agree with Tiffany about Beckett’s sexist comment towards women “being put off by the Internet’s geeky,” and I wish I knew where he came up with that statement. In fact, I think it is a perfect example of the media’s failure to appeal to the change in times because the Internet penetrates both genders, depending on their niche and interests.

    Beckett does point out that print and online are basically interconnected and thrive off each other; however, journalists do need to continue to develop new ways of telling the story on the web so it will attract viewers and inadvertently advertising. I think blogging is huge and the basis behind linking could be what keeps heavy traffic on newspaper sites. If journalists can establish credibility with popular bloggers, the relationship will be symbiotic and it will work even better than now.

    I think Rosen’s definition of network journalism being a joint effort between professionals and amateurs to discover truth is spot on and I can see him now looking awkwardly into the camera shouting, “get it?” By focusing on the process and not the product, I think stories have the potential to be better, but my one concern is deciphering which citizen journalists are worthy to listen to and which are simply out with an agenda. I also agree with Beckett that the mobile phone is the device for the future and what network journalism will spring from.

  5. 5 Leigh. September 23, 2009 at 9:04 pm

    Tiffany! I was just about to comment the exact same thing about Beckett. He sucks!

    Furthermore, how did Jeff Jarvis become a living encyclopedia on new media? Everything I read that he has written seems to articulate so tactfully the thoughts that are running through my mind. Well played, Jarvis.

    I found it funny in the second part of the .pdf reading how Jarvis states that “the more that journalists behave like citizens, the stronger their journalism will be” because this seems to be precisely what “journalists” have been trying to avoid for the history of reporting. And this is where I think that, in order for networked journalism to work and thrive, a big part of what has to happen on the journalist’s part is the abandonment of ego. We’ve touched on this in class, but I find it important to note that the wall needs to be broken between the “journalism” and the “citizen.” The two need to not only collaborate, but learn to find a trust in the citizen and vice versa. In this way, I see and am really excited about networked journalism. As someone who, right now, honestly identifies more with the “citizen” side than the “journalist” side, it makes me feel optimistic about the future that my voice has the potential to be heard.

    To slightly change topics, regarding Seth’s question about where the funding for networked journalism are going to come from, hopefully the answer will be that the lack of funding in proportion to the huge mass of information being put out there translates to meaning that eventually, only the best information will survive.

  6. 6 Cassandra H September 23, 2009 at 9:46 pm

    Networked Journalism is a collaboration between journalists and citizens to get different perspectives of the story out there. It is a shift from what was once a very expensive ordeal of an international story to now getting those stories from people from that area of the world contributing through the Internet. With the emergence of the web, networked journalism allows citizens to get more and more in touch with the “agenda setting” of society. They have a voice as to what they want to see in the paper and what issues they would like addressed. If before they had felt that they didn’t have a voice, networked journalism gives them that opportunity.
    This “remarkable social utility,” can be a breakthrough for the negative image of the media. Personally, my father has harped on me for pursuing journalism as a degree. He sees the tailspin of cable news and how they have not been the most objective in covering issues and I catch myself constantly defending journalism as a while. With networked journalism, I feel it gives people more of out: if you do not like the way we are issuing news, than here is your shot to give your version of how things should go.
    As Beckett discusses in his book and as we have in class, getting people to pay for news on the Internet is challenging. He lists various reasons such as loss of audience, issue of paying for Internet in the first place, and people finding journalism for themselves through search engines and RSS feeds. So how can Networked Journalism work financially/how can we get it funded? I think it goes back to Beckett’s belief that this kind of journalism can mend the trust that citizens will have in journalism again. If TPFKATA believe enough in what they are doing and what the journalists are doing to propel the new collaborative news, will they want to pay for it? I think so.

  7. 7 jwhitcomb September 23, 2009 at 10:05 pm

    I think the hardest question to answer about networked journalism is how we can make this kind of journalism work financially. The idea of networked journalism is great – I love it. It really encompasses all of the aspects of citizen journalism I find appealing and tosses the parts that don’t work. I really enjoyed how well Jarvis articulated the idea on Buzz Machine (“in networked journalism, the public can get involved in a story before it is reported, contributing facts, questions, and suggestions. The journalists can rely on the public to help report the story…”). This makes networked journalism make even more sense to me – journalism is not only naturally developing in this way but it is almost necessary for its success.

    But back to what I was trying to get at, the financial aspect of making this work is a challenge. I think funding has to come from people who genuinely care about news and who value GOOD reporting. I think models like NPR are a good example of this. Honestly, I don’t see many other ways funding could work itself out. When consumers because more involved in the news process, they also gave themselves more of a vote in what they wanted out of news. By making journalism valuable to the consumer, I think the market will respond. This can be a good thing (and I think Leigh mentioned this as well) because it well in a sense weed out journalism that is substandard. All in all, this new form of newswork is exciting. I see its pros outweighing its cons and I think if we can figure out how to make it work financially it will serve journalism well.

    P.S. 100% agree with you Tiffany. Wow.

  8. 8 timgarlitz September 23, 2009 at 10:13 pm

    The most basic definition of “Networked Journalism” is similar to what Jarvis outlined in his piece. It is essentially some combination of the professional and citizen journalist working together to come up with the best possible product for the public. I also like the expanded version of the definition that was proposed by Charlie Beckett to include the constant and ever-changing technologies that will inform how journalism is produced and consumed in the present and near future. It will also include the increasing social activity and public feedback that so many blogs and social networks currently rely on. Because technology now allows the journalist to do most of the production and packaging themselves, funding will be inexpensive due to the fact that extra positions such as cameramen, video editors, and delivery specialists will no longer be needed.

    Two quotes from Beckett that stood out to me in the reading, the first of which is in regard to network journalists of the future: “They have to know what kind of journalism is needed and wanted and how to deliver it.” Since he pointed out that focusing on the technology that delivers news would be pointless since whatever is the rage now could soon be obsolete, the primary task of the journalist for now should be finding new ways to improve the quality of their reporting and how to increase speed and efficiency in this manner. The other quote that jumped at me: “If you concentrate too much on the structure of the business as it is or the profit projections in the short term you will fail.” I think it is a wise idea for journalists to focus on how they can best work together with their peers inside and outside of the profession. They can worry about a method of delivery later on.

  9. 9 James September 23, 2009 at 10:44 pm

    I think the previous comments have given solid definitions of networked journalism: a form of fluid journalism that is constantly created by means of the two-way flow between consumers and producers of information. This form is different from the ghosts of journalism’s past because it has broken the barrier between producers and consumers and has instead made each, both.

    In the introduction to Beckett’s, Super Media, I was glad to see another reference to the importance of diversity and narrowing the digital divide of this new journalism. Beckett writes:

    “There is no hope for Networked Journalism if the practitioners and the public are not equipped for the task. This is partly about the skills of journalists. This is a particularly big issue in less-developed economies and less-developed civil societies but the need for greater media literacy applies globally.”

    In addition to this, I start to envision an easier platform that might be created in which people of different languages can communicate easier and exchange ideas. I’m not really sure how this would work. On a large level it may require advanced software, but on a small level I wonder if crowd sourcing would do the trick? I have seen some sites online that translate news articles, but I’m sure that something more interactive could be created. Can the language barrier be broken online? Not sure, but if it could, the world news conversation could grow exponentially.

    How will this kind of journalism work financially? I don’t know, but it seems that network journalism and technology will help to lower the cost of creating news. Perhaps network journalism will give people more trust in journalism, thus more traffic to sites, and more potential ad revenue. Or maybe the web + print combo might have a good chance. Networked news sites could have a print version that they charged for and offer to publish the best stories from amateurs. This combo move could potentially bring more print readers and thus more money.

    The financial part is always the toughest in these comment posts.

  10. 10 Lonny.A September 23, 2009 at 11:30 pm

    Ditto on Tiffany’s comment about the “Women have always been put off by the Internet’s geeky image.” Women are online and have created some awesome web components to their magazines AND some women magazines (Nylon) offer digital subscriptions.

    As far as network journalism goes, I love the idea. So many people complain when a journalist doesn’t capture what the interviewee is trying to convey but by putting these people in a journalist’s shoes, they too can (sort of) understand what being a journalist is like. However, I don’t think that network journalism is anything new. People of all sorts of occupations are already blogging.

    Alot of the things he talked about I felt that I either read before, learned in class, or just already knew.

    When Beckett introduced the idea of “linking journalism with lifestyle” as a way to get revenue, I didn’t see how that could be possible until I thought of a number of personal bloggers starting to make careers out of their blogs through adsense. I’m not exactly sure though, how much money can be made from selling hard copies of photos in newspapers.

  11. 11 brandonfried September 24, 2009 at 12:17 am

    Initial thoughts – I’m not digging Jay Rosen’s blogging style. Too many links, all over the place. I’m far more partial to Jarvis’ style. Anyone else?

    But, now that I think about it, isn’t this what everyone’s been getting at tonight? Networked journalism is, like many of us have already stated, bridging the gap between the professional and recreational world of reporting and delivering news. It’s making the content stronger and deeper for news consumers. Journalism’s value, I believe, is strengthened by this practice as it places more integrity and support behind one’s writing or opinion. Look here – someone agrees with me or check out this person’s blog for a differing view. It educates the readers and at the same time forces the writers to look around more for what’s being reported and discussed. It holds us all accountable because if a reader doesn’t like what they find on your site or agree with what you’re saying, they’ll likely go elsewhere and find what they are looking for. Like I mentioned in other posts, organizations have to collaborate to get ahead these days (again – thanks, Shirky!) The notion of networked journalism just reinforces this claim.

    As Beckett and many others before him have pointed out, the barrier to entry these days is significantly lower, if not non-existent all together. Anyone can write and publish their thoughts. But is this really journalism? We have to truly redefine the practice before we can move forward and make a profit or at the very least sustain ourselves with just enough to get by. So, what constitutes journalism? He says that 40% of online content is “life and experiences” – is this what we all want to read now? Is this really news? I don’t have an answer – yet. And I know a lot of people don’t either.

    As for the money part, I still don’t know what is going to work. But I just don’t think the money is in ads. It seems like such a thing of the past. I know the Internet advertisement hasn’t been perfected yet (most are just downright horrible) but I don’t see it. I’m going to stick behind my non-profit/NPR idea. Beckett points out that, “The business of journalism promises relevant information that people can use to construct their lives. In increasingly affluent societies people will pay a premium for good information.” I hope he’s right.

    For the record though, I still don’t like Rosen’s style.

  12. 12 Samantha Borger September 24, 2009 at 1:24 am

    “Networked Journalism is a return to some of the oldest virtues of journalism: connecting with the world beyond the newsroom; listening to people; giving people a voice in the media; responding to what the public tells you in a dialogue.”

    I think Beckett puts the definition of networked journalism simply here. Just add in the new technology and there you have it. I thought it was interesting how he described the idea that in the past our lack of technology was only holding journalism back. Whereas before the audience “stayed tuned for film at 11,” now we have so much technology that media can get overwhelming as it streams in almost real-time.

    With networked journalism, everything is connected. It could mean writing a story, then connecting it to television by filming a segment about it, then publishing both the video and story online. It also means that one person probably did all that work.

    Beckett says “One of the key challenges for the news media in the future is how it creates and sustains online communities around their work.” To me, that’s the most important part of networked journalism. The idea that the PFKATA can interject and respond at any point breaks down that wall between citizen and journalist and the journalist becomes a facilitator and leaves behind the position of gatekeeper. And it doesn’t end after the information is published– you can’t just let people comment and then ignore what they have to say. The continuation of the relationship is what will keep networked journalism working. That story can be linked to, the story can be quoted on other blogs. It doesn’t die the same way that print journalism is often thrown away at the end of the day.

    But when we break down that barrier between “professional” journalists and citizens, we have to be able to figure out who is actually qualified to write good journalism– who has the skills, who should we be listening to. A lot of people have mentioned this already so I won’t expand, but I would say this is one of the glaring problems with networked journalism.

    So all of this can be great, and everyone will love it, but will anyone make money? For now it will rely on advertising and donations, in the meantime we just have to keep thinking and experimenting about the rest.

  13. 13 Erin Harris September 24, 2009 at 6:29 am

    In chapter 2, Beckett shares a list of the key differences between New and Old Media. The comparison I’d like to expand upon is: from deadlines to continuous news.

    When I see this, I think of the red writing next to a link on a news site that says “breaking news” or “developing story.” News organizations are beginning to admit the nature of the news gathering process: we can’t get all the facts the minute a story breaks, and we definitely can’t get all our facts right.

    We as journalists can’t be afraid to be wrong. People are looking for instant information, and if this means only the basic premise of a “developing story,” they appreciate the knowing the little that is known. If a story ignites interest, a person will follow it until all their questions are answered, and until the facts are right. People appreciate feeling like they are “in the know” especially when a story is breaking news.

    The audience has always been involved in the process… in the beginning. People have for a long time written and called-in news stories, but it’s the continuation of this that is networked journalism… the continued relationship and joint effort between TPFKATA and “journalists” to develop a story. There is almost always a reader who is closer to the story than a journalist, and it’s up to the journalist to engage these readers.

    In a time when people have so many other channels to watch, websites to visit, places to share their thoughts and ideas… now it is critical that news organizations engage citizens so they are involved in the news-gathering process. When people feel a sense of ownership, they will be more inclined to appreciate journalism.


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