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McAdams / New Forms of Journalism

New forms of journalism: Digital, mobile, visual

By Mindy McAdams Professor, Journalism University of Florida Gainesville, Florida, U.S.A. September 28, 2011

Everyone understands that digital technologies provide new ways to find and share news and information. A common view is to compare the new platforms to radio and TV, which challenged printed media half a century ago. However, the different capabilities of digital media surpass the devices used to transmit and receive news. This paper presents some examples of how journalists have found ways to collaborate with their audiences and the everyday participants in events to share news. The old style of print and broadcast was top-down and one-to-many. The new style opens the door to a two-way flow of information and sources. Three important aspects of the new style are digital, mobile, and visual. Digital means that all kinds of information formats (video, maps, charts and graphs, audio, text) can be transmitted to the news organizations as well as from them. Digital opens the world to immediate transmission and to collaboration across vast distances because it is cheap and widespread. Mobile means that the transmission of news and events can come from anywhere and from anyone who has a small camera or a mobile phone. Visual means that the audiences of today are more in tune with images than text. They appreciate a visual approach to information, whether it is video from a live event, a chart that explains economic data, or a map that explains environmental impacts. The old style or old forms of journalism can be characterized as journalist-driven. The journalists decided what to report. They gave it to the audience as a package. Journalists had the power to gather and transmit the news, and the people did not. That has changed now. So the audience has different expectations today; there are more choices for news and information, and the audience can expect more from the news organizations.

McAdams / New Forms of Journalism

The effects of the Internet on journalism and journalists have been documented for more than 13 years (Boczkowski, 2004; Deuze, 2003; Scott, 2005; Singer, 1997). Few would argue that these effects have been anything less than profound. In particular, the audiences continuing migration away from printed and broadcast platforms for news and information has called into question the economic future of news organizations (Picard, 2008). How will journalists be paid if the advertisers abandon the newspapers and broadcast news programs? Without paid journalists, how could journalism survive? It might be helpful to consider the ongoing changes in journalism from a perspective other than one focused on the medium. Instead of looking at printed media, broadcast media, and online media, one might look at the channels or pathways that carry information both to and from the journalists. Immediately it is clear that audiences have access to news and information from additional sources. Many of the pathways that carry information to journalists are equally available to the public. For example, public officials and government agencies are able to communicate directly with citizens via their own websites, blogs, Facebook and Twitter feeds. The White House publishes its own photos on the Flickr photo sharing site (http://www.flickr.com/photos/whitehouse). If the public is able to access news and information without the intermediary of journalism, what role exists for journalists in the future? Journalists and the news organizations that employ them must recognize that members of the public can be collaborators or even colleagues in the production of journalism. The old style of print and broadcast was top-down and one-to-many, because

McAdams / New Forms of Journalism the pre-digital technologies were expensive to own and to operate. The high costs of producing printed newspapers and magazines and programs for radio and TV meant that access to the means of production and of transmission was extremely limited. Digital technologies have broadened this access to a large percentage of the general population. Digital technologies include not only the Internet but also small cameras and mobile phones, as well as the software that makes it easy to edit and transmit photos, video, audio and graphics. Digital technologies allow fast and easy access to large datasets, as well as the ability to compare data. These capabilities have opened the door to a two-way flow of information and sources. This paper presents some examples of how journalists have found ways to share news by collaborating with their audiences and putting a focus on serving the people.

Literature Review
Mitchelstein and Boczkowski (2010) assessed the research to date on online news consumption and noted the assumption of a division between print, broadcast, and online media as limiting that research (p. 1086). Regarding the research about news production as a collective effort between journalists and consumers, Mitchelstein and Boczkowski concluded that news authored by users has limitations as well (p. 1092). They made four recommendations for an alternative, integrative research agenda (p. 1094), of which the fourth has special significance for the current study. Because people consume news and information across multiple media, and because the media they use is connected to their social practices, and because they do use media under different conditions in different situations, there are various opportunities that people may or may not pursue. To study 3

McAdams / New Forms of Journalism these opportunities, and the causes and effects of such pursuits, Mitchelstein and Boczkowski suggest that researchers must neither lean too heavily upon existing theories nor rush to create a brand-new conceptual framework. Instead, it is necessary to observe how new concepts emerge from existent ones (p. 1095). Deuze (2004) offered two definitions of multimedia in journalism: one is the presentation of a news story package on a website using two or more media formats, and the other is an integrated presentation of a story package through different media such as the Web, a printed newspaper, TV, e-mail, etc. (p. 140). This double definition illustrates Mitchelstein and Boczkowskis point about assumptions based on media forms. When Deuze talks about cooperation and collaboration in this study, he mostly limits his observations to the newsrooms and the news workers. The audience is not a participant in the process, although he does acknowledge the need for journalists to rethink and reconfigure the news producerconsumer relationship (p. 146). Chung and Yoo (2008) tackled the motivations of ordinary people for using interactive features on news websites. They identified three different types of interactive features: those centered on the medium itself (e.g., search); those between the medium and the human (e.g., customization and submitting content to the site); and those between two or more humans (e.g., discussion forums). Not surprisingly, they found people who came to an online news site had three primary motivations: socialization, entertainment, and information seeking/surveillance; however, the motivation for socialization was significantly less than the other two. By focusing on peoples motivations, the study was not concerned with content or the specific topics that people pursued.

McAdams / New Forms of Journalism In a study of German websites, Neuberger and Nuernbergk (2010) found that, in general, participatory media complement rather than compete with the products of professional journalism. They analyzed 1,242 websites, and the unit of analysis was the website. They did not analyze the collaboration of professional journalists and nonprofessionals. Based on a survey of journalists conducted in 2007, however, they concluded that the integration of user contributions within professional websites still lacks innovative and comprehensive approaches (p. 331). Domingo et al. (2008) set out to analyze the opportunities for audience participation in journalism, and to develop a theoretical and methodological model for that purpose. They looked at the participatory options in 16 online newspapers from eight European countries and the United States. They did not analyze the content and they did not interview journalists. Instead, the researchers conducted a structural analysis of each site and identified the participatory features. They found very little development of such features, which included the ability to publish stories and reports, various social networking tools, and comments on blogs and stories. The analysis took place in 2007, and the authors noted the need for ongoing research in this area. In the only scholarly article so far to look at the phenomenon of crowdsourcing in the journalism context, Muthukumaraswamy (2010) discusses five cases from different sources: WNYC Radio; the independent news blog Talking Points Memo; The News-Press (a daily newspaper in the United States); the open-source reporting site NewAssignment.net; and The Guardian, a well-known British newspaper. Muthukumaraswamy notes: Crowds are willing to offer their services so long as news organizations can come up with workable methods to ask them. People can provide good eyes and ears, but the job of putting 5

McAdams / New Forms of Journalism together a story is that of the journalist (p. 58). She observes that some crowdsourced journalism efforts have failed to provide a convenient and workable method for audience contributions, and in some cases the contributions lacked value or substance (p. 59). Rather than focus on interactivity, participation, citizen journalism, or multimedia, the current study suggests the consideration of three important aspects of journalism today: digital, mobile, and visual. Digital means that all kinds of information formats (video, maps, charts and graphs, audio, text) can be transmitted to the news organizations as well as from them. Digital opens the world to immediate transmission and to collaboration across vast distances because it is cheap and widespread. Mobile means that the transmission of news and events can come from anywhere and from anyone who has a small camera or a mobile phone. Visual means that the audiences of today are more in tune with images than text. They appreciate a visual approach to information, whether it is video from a live event, a chart that explains economic data, or a map that explains environmental impacts. Digital, mobile, and visual give rise to new forms of journalism, some of which include the participation of the audience.

Bringing the Public In

Journalists are finding new ways to share news by collaborating with their audiences and the everyday participants in events. These collaborations are made possible by the widespread access to simple digital technologies, which allow members of the public to transmit information and images instantly to journalists, and software which enables the journalists to sort, evaluate, and organization the materials they receive.

McAdams / New Forms of Journalism

Mapping the response to a snow storm

A blizzard on Dec. 26, 2010, paralyzed the New York metropolitan area. The three major airports shut down, along with trains and even some of the subway lines. The cleanup was much slower than expected: Streets across vast stretches of the city remained untouched, leaving tens of thousands of residents unable to get to jobs and many facing long waits for ambulances and other emergency services (New York Times, 2010). Local radio station WNYC invited listeners to report where streets had been left uncleared of snow, trapping cars and preventing buses and emergency vehicles from reaching residents. To submit a report, a person simply sent a text message from any mobile phone. Each report was added to a Google Map, which was published on the website of the radio station (WNYC Radio, 2010a). The radio station also published photos sent by citizens, showing the deep snow that still covered their streets even three days after the storm (WNYC Radio, 2010b). The mayor of New York City had announced that all streets had been plowed, but the map from the radio station showed that streets were still buried in snow (Mobile Commons, 2011). The radio station also contacted everyone who sent a text and asked if they would also like to leave a voice message that could be played on the air. At least 50 people did so, according to former WNYC news producer Jim Colgan (Mobile Commons, 2011). Because of the published map and the audio reports from the listeners, WNYC Radio was able to show that the local authorities had not done what they promised, and the voices of the people were heard. Plows were sent out, and the streets were cleared of snow.

McAdams / New Forms of Journalism

Acquiring data that the government would not make public

ProPublica is a nonprofit news organization based in the United States that produces investigative journalism. Some of its reports are published in newspapers and magazines, and all are published on the ProPublica website (http://www.propublica.org/). The reports are long and in-depth. They can take months or years to complete. As commercial news organizations have cut back on staff and resources to cope with shrinking revenues, they have also cut back on this kind of reporting. ProPublica focuses exclusively on truly important stories, stories with moral force (ProPublica, n.d.). One approach to stories that rely on a large quantity of government data is to summarize, provide charts and graphs, and try to consolidate the meaning into a compact package. Another approach is to dump all the data online in raw form and allow anyone to download it. In a third approach, which requires a lot more work and expertise, the news organization builds an interface that makes it easy for average people to search and use the data. That third approach was employed by ProPublica on a project about kidney dialysis in the United States (http://projects.propublica.org/dialysis/). During the reporting work, the journalists discovered that a government center had detailed information about the places where dialysis care is administered. The data were available to the medical providersbut those data were not available to the patients or the public. ProPublica sought to have the data released so that patients could make comparisons and learn about the differences in dialysis care in different locations. It took more than three years, but in the end, the government released the data (Steiger & Engelberg, 2010). 8

McAdams / New Forms of Journalism ProPublica then created a visually simple, easy-to-use interface to the database that allows U.S. dialysis patients to compare treatment centers in any location. They can look up one center by typing the name of a town or a postal code. They can then compare the four nearest centers by clicking one button. A grid shows comparisons for mortality rate, infection, and so on. In this case, the news organization did not use the publics help to collect information. Instead, it made a vast amount of information available to the public on a free website, in a format that is easy for anyone to use.

Empowering communities to tell their stories

The Tiziano Project trains people in places characterized as conflict, post-conflict, and underreported regions to use video and photography to tell the stories of their own communities. The project was named after an Italian journalist, Tiziano Terzani, who stayed and continued reporting in Saigon in 1975 after the Americans pulled out. The idea is to use YouTube and the Web as platforms for sharing stories that fall under the radar of the traditional news mediastories that are not world-shaking, but which matter to the people in that community. The most recent site for The Tiziano Project was Kurdistan, the region of northern Iraq where Kurdish people live (http://360.tizianoproject.org/kurdistan/). Four trainers (mentors) from the project worked with 12 students (reporters) in the region; the result is 56 stories in video, photo slideshow, or text format. Those that are video appear on YouTube.

McAdams / New Forms of Journalism In these short stories, we see through a window into the lives of everyday people in Kurdistan in their shops and homes, on the streets and in the remote countryside. They tell us in their own words what life is like for them. By training young people to use the technologies of sound and image, the project enables them to participate more fully in digital culture. Instead of being only consumers, they can also be producers. Some of the students are studying media at university, and some of them already work for a magazine or another media concern. The Tiziano Project is not a complete course in journalism, but it focuses on skills that enable people to become participants in journalism. In addition to self-publishing their reports and stories, students are encouraged to produce work for traditional media outlets both locally and globally. After completing the training, a Congolese student reported on unrest in her country in 2008 for both CNN and Reuters (Tiziano Project, 2009).

These three cases concern journalism that is focused on serving the public and even encouraging their participation. In each case, digital technologies are essential to the production and distribution of the journalism product. Journalists are excited by these projects, as indicated by the fact that each of these three won a top award at the 2011 Online News Association conference (http://ona11.journalists.org/2011/09/24/12th-annual-online-journalism-awards/). It remains unclear how much interest outside the journalism community is generated by projects such as these. More research is needed to determine whether projects such as the 10

McAdams / New Forms of Journalism WNYC snow map, ProPublicas dialysis database, and the Tiziano Projects 360 Kurdistan engage enough people to justify the time and effort that went into producing them. What is clear is that each of these projects has a form that is very different from the journalism of print or broadcast media. Even though a snow map could be printed in a newspaper, the added audio reports from the residents of New York neighborhoods could not be heard in print (and a radio program could not show a map). All of the residents who participated used their mobile phones to send their location and reports. The interactive database about dialysis treatment centers could not function anywhere but on a digital platform that allows people to choose and explore. The interconnection of all the Tiziano Projects Kurdistan videos is made possible by links and a digital organization system, and the reporters access to audiences around the world depends on the global Internet. Finally, we should consider that all three examples rely primarily on delivering information in a non-textual format.

Boczkowski, P. J. (2004). The processes of adopting multimedia and interactivity in three online newsrooms. Journal of Communication, 54(2), 197213. Chung, D. S., & Yoo, C. Y. (2008). Audience motivations for using interactive features: Distinguishing use of different types of interactivity on an online newspaper. Mass Communication and Society, 11(4), 375397. Deuze, M. (2003). The Web and its journalisms: Considering the consequences of different types of news media online. New Media & Society, 5(2), 203230. Deuze, M. (2004). What is multimedia journalism? Journalism Studies, 5(2), 139152. Domingo, D.; Quandt, T.; Heinonen, A.; Paulussen, S.; Singer, J. B.; Vujnovic, M. (2008). Participatory journalism practices in the media and beyond: An international comparative study of initiatives in online newspapers. Journalism Practice, 2(3), 326342. 11

McAdams / New Forms of Journalism

Fields, R., Shaw, A., & LaFleur, J. (2010). Dialysis Facility Tracker. Retrieved from ProPublica: http://projects.propublica.org/dialysis/ Mitchelstein, E., & Boczkowski, P. J. (2010). Online news consumption research: An assessment of past work and an agenda for the future. New Media & Society, 12 (7), 10851102. Mobile Commons (2011). How WNYC used mobile mapping to fact check Mayor Bloomberg. Retrieved from http://www.mobilecommons.com/blog/2011/01/how-wnyc-used-mobilemapping-to-fact-check-mayor-bloomberg/ Muhemmed Nawzad (2010). The Pigeon Keepers [video]. Retrieved from The Tiziano Project: http://360.tizianoproject.org/kurdistan/#/208 Muthukumaraswamy, K. (2010). When the media meet crowds of wisdom: How journalists are tapping into audience expertise and manpower for the processes of newsgathering. Journalism Practice, 4(1), 4865. Neuberger, C., & Nuernbergk, C. (2010). Competition, complementarity or integration? The relationship between professional and participatory media. Journalism Practice, 4(3), 319332. New York Times (2010, December 30). Snow and Snowstorms. Retrieved from http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/science/topics/snow_and_snowstorms/index .html Picard, R. (2008). Shifts in newspaper advertising expenditures and their implications for the future of newspapers. Journalism Studies, 9(5), 704716. ProPublica (n.d.) About us. Retrieved from http://www.propublica.org/about/ Scott, B. (2005). A contemporary history of digital journalism. Television & New Media, 6(1), 89126. Singer, J. B. (1997). Changes and consistencies: Newspaper journalists contemplate an online future. Newspaper Research Journal, 18(12), 218. Steiger, P., & Engelberg, S. (2010). Editors note: How we got the governments secret dialysis data. Retrieved from ProPublica: http://www.propublica.org/article/editors-note-how-we-got-the-governmentssecret-dialysis-data Tiziano Project (2009). Tiziano Project Press Kit. Retrieved from http://issuu.com/tizianoproject/docs/presskit 12

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WNYC Radio (2010a). Mapping the Storm Clean-up. Retrieved from http://www.wnyc.org/articles/wnyc-news-2/2010/dec/30/mapping-storm-clean/ WNYC Radio (2010b). Winter Storm Photos. Retrieved from http://www.wnyc.org/crowdsourcing/winter-storm-photos/report/


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