What did you think of the reading? Who was most convincing, and which of the stories stands out the most? How did what you read jibe with how Michael Seale described the work he does? What, if anything, did Michael say that surprised you about his work? What questions would you like Michael to answer about the work he does?
Massing’s deep dive into digital journalism was enlightening. It’s a subject matter that I’m interested in and learning how these websites have evolved is worthy of study. I did have some issues with some of the assertions and conclusions. I readily admit, that I come into this with my own biases and I’m trying to check them at the door, but while reading both parts, I just kept wondering what Massing was expecting. It felt like because digital media was so new that he was expecting some sort of magic bullet to explain success or failure.
When I look at who’s running those newsrooms and who’s staking those ventures, it’s no surprise that they are falling into some of the same traps as heritage publications. Plenty of these writers have grown up in a world where those standards were the norm. They are still in some instances passing down the same directives and choices that heritage publications use. If Massing were to do this experiment again in 10 years, I think he would see more change. By then another generation will have passed through with newer-fresher ideas.
That being said, there were two things that really stood out to me as deserving more study.
1) How readers consume stories. Massing covers the delivery system when quoting his friend: “Like so many other news consumers these days, she says that she doesn’t actually go to sites but instead receives feeds arranged through Facebook and email that deliver a steady flow of information form a multitude of sources,” (Massing, 2015). In my own work, I find that to be true. I rarely seek out sites unless I’m at my laptop. This might be a function of how clumsy phone keyboards are. Usually, I’ll let my news feeds take me to stories where I need to go—which speaks to Skok’s point about putting stories and consumers ahead of platforms. In many cases, being story driven opens up business model innovation (Skok, 2017).
2) Having no central, agreed upon place to get facts. When Massing writes about fragmentation (Massing 2015) in regards to impact, it’s the sum of all my fears for Journalism going forward. Somewhere along the way, as we decided as a culture that discussion of “why” was more important that the “what.” Our opinions become more important than the facts themselves (Yes, I see the irony in me making that statement in my opinion on the readings).
One more thing about Massing’s piece: “…Omidyar’s venture seemed to augur a new era in which Internet moguls would apply their ingenuity-and dollars-to reinventing journalism on the web.” This sentence really bothered me because it seems to ignore the idea of the rich being able to control the narrative. Perhaps it’s the skeptic in me, but I don’t see any of these moguls doing this for altruistic reasons. Controlling the media is another way they can increase their own power and influence.
I found Skok’s work more convincing, mainly because I felt like he offered solutions to some of the problems. To be fair to Massing, I think he was trying to chronicle what was going on first. There was one passage from Skok that left me in deep thought: “At some point companies exceed what the consumer really needs from that product. When this happens a company “overshot” the needs of the consumer.” He goes on to make the point that we should be giving the consumer what they want. I think there’s an inherent danger here. If consumers control journalists, then are we really journalists anymore? We’re supposed to be serving the community, which means sometimes they’re gonna get vegetables. Not everything can be dessert. I will admit though, that when it comes to my show, there is a tailoring of content to create the highest amount, of listeners. So, in that sense, I’m a hypocrite, but I’m striving to be better.
I’ll be forever grateful to Skok for providing me with the perfect comeback for those consumers who don’t want to pay for content. When you look at the number subscribers to Netflix, Spotify, HBO Now, etc…it’s clear that if your content is good enough people are willing to pay for it.
“At what point aren’t you at work anymore?” – Michael Seale
This was one of my big takeaways from the chat with him. When your newsroom is virtual and open 24 hours, how does one strike the proper work/life balance? I would want to ask him what type of policies are in place to protect the workers from being overworked? It seems that he has a good handshake agreement with his bosses, but anecdotally, those agreements get violated all the time.
It was inspiring hearing how much he does to put out the end product. The concept of the “one man band” is terrific. I’d also love to know how much trial & error he had to put in with the technology to feel comfortable with it. As I’ve gotten more experienced I’ve realized how important that personal interaction is to my work. As more and more radio people create studios at home, I find myself wanting to be around my colleagues more. Mainly for the reasons that Michael said—being able to bounce ideas off of each other. The casual conversation works wonders in that regard. It’s just not the same in a planned meeting, or skype or even phone call.
What’s really heartening about Michael’s work is that I think there’s a market for hyper-local news. The world has gotten so big, that it becomes difficult to sift through the noise to find out what’s really important to you. While people wag their finger at what’s happening nationally, there are plenty who don’t know who their Alderman is. In Chicago, we had a brilliant hyper-local news service called DNA Info, that was doing terrific work, but the billionaire who owned it got into a dispute when the writers wanted to unionize and he shuttered it instead of giving in. That’s another thing I would ask Michael about, how do we keep reporting like that alive in a way where those reporters can serve the public, while earning a living.
Massing, M. (2015, June 25). Digital Journalism: The Next Generation. The New York Review of Books, pp. 1-7.
Skok, D. (2017, April 2). Digital transofrmation means focusing on readers, not platforms. Retrieved from Medium.com: https://medium.com/startup-grind/digital-transformation-in-newsrooms-means-focusing-on-readers-not-platforms-ae7dc6b6262a