Archive for the ‘news media’ Category

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Guest post on NPR.org: The Future of Journalism

July 6, 2009

The following is an excerpt from a guest post I recently wrote for NPR.org’s Intern Edition blog. They are doing a series of guest posts asking young people to write about their thoughts on the future of journalism. To resad the full post, check out the link below.

In the year 2015, the New York Times as we have known it will cease to exist.

It’s now known as the newspaper of record, with a decorated, storied history spanning over a century and a half. Its Pulitzer- and Nobel- prize-winning columnists have become household names: Friedman, Dowd, Krugman, Collins, Brooks, Rich, Kristof, Douthat.

But now  the paper that has for years been the star of modern journalism is struggling just to survive under the combined pressures of a $250 million high-interest loan from a Mexican billionaire and the lack of a viable business model in an era of declining ad revenues and that thing we call…The Internet. The internet has now become the premiere way for Americans to get our news, and the old tradition of starting off mornings with the newspaper over breakfast has been traded in for hastily checking your Blackberry for news while in line at Starbucks.

But although the fate of the New York Times and other mainstream media outlets looks bleak, the future of journalism looks, from my vantage point, exactly the opposite — I think journalism has a bright, exciting future. Because now we see the rise of citizen journalism, where everyone is empowered to to contribute to and report the news. And with more people and more diverse perspectives reporting and collecting news, our collective access to the information we need can only increase.

The new journalism is about citizen journalism and community journalism. Blogging and the internet have helped connect reporters with their audiences and reduced the barriers between them, and now everyone can report. Everyone has access to publish content, to report events as they see them happening, and to have their accounts read and heard by hundreds, thousands, even millions, around the world. A YouTube user could create a video and get 10 million views. A blogger broke the story about Khalid Sheikh Mohamed being waterboarded 183 times and then it became a mainstream news story. Twitter users in Iran are sharing their accounts of election protests taking place there, while much of the mainstream media has been banned from reporting on the events.

Continue reading…

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Is America shifting on Israel, or is the media shifting on Israel?

June 16, 2009

One of the things I love almost as much as the news is the narrative being told about the events. It’s difficult for any given person to separate the facts and the actual events taking place from the media narrative being told about it. The Iran story that I’ve been watching lately is a perfect example. No one is really 100% sure what the facts are or what even constitutes fact. MSNBC will spin it one way. Fox and/or Mitt Romney will blame Obama. Bloggers will each try to put their own spin on it. And gradually, the narrative being constructed by the media may or may not reflect the actual facts.

Since Iran has been the Middle East story of the week, and America seems to be able to focus on only one Middle Eastern country at a time, the other big Middle East story of the week hasn’t been getting quite as much attention other than from foreign policy geeks. That story, of course, is the Israel-Palestine peace process.

A few weeks ago President Obama met with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu. In early June, Obama delivered a speech to the Middle East from Cairo. This past Sunday, Netanyahu addressed his people on the topic of the peace process.

After these three historic events, a new narrative has emerged: America’s relationship with Israel is changing. Over the past couple of weeks have seen a plethora of articles and blog posts from both seasoned journalists and amateur bloggers alike, all suggesting the same ideas: the power of the legendary Israel lobby is weakening. President Obama is pressuring Netanyahu. Obama is the next Jimmy Carter [because Carter was the last US president who put real pressure on Israel to make peace]. Americans are gradually shifting from unconditionally supporting Israel to supporting a two-state solution. America’s relationship with Israel is changing dramatically. It’s a new chapter in the two countries’ relationship.

The question to me is: has American public opinion on support for Israel really changed? Or is this a shift in the media narrative but not actually a shift in America’s opinions and policy? Is the course of American foreign policy really shifting, or is this talk from speculative cable news pundits?

Is it REALLY a new era in America’s approach to Israel and Palestine? Or am I hoping for too much here?

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The New, New Journalism: Andrew Sullivan on Iran

June 15, 2009

There’s a lot of noise circulating right now about how the mainstream media networks like CNN and Fox have failed in providing adequate coverage and on-the-ground reporting on the events taking place in Iran. But there hasn’t been much talk about who HAS been providing stellar coverage of the situation.

Over the last couple of days I’ve been glued to Andrew Sullivan’s blog over at The Atlantic. Andrew’s blog is already high-quality content on a daily basis, but over the weekend he began blogging up a storm in real time as the events unfolded in Iran. Unlike big mainstream media outlets, whose reporting has been hindered by elaborate quality regulations, a lack of foreign bureaus to provide them direct on-the-ground footage, and a strong dislike for all forms of new media, Andrew’s blog has been going nonstop, hindered by none of those things. He is updating multiple times a day, sometimes multiple times an hour, every time he has any new piece of information.

He is gradually weaving together a complex narrative of the events taking place half a world away by piecing together a collection of eye-witness accounts, Iranian tweets, cell-phone videos uploaded on Youtube, reader emails from the US and from far away, riveting photos, and links to a multitude of blogs both big and small.

Old media types might shudder at the idea of linking to an unknown blog, but new media journalists like Sullivan aren’t concerned about how big the readership of your blog is or whether you’re just a student writing your observations on Twitter. It’s not about your press credentials; it’s about free flow of information. In this new media landscape, if you’ve got information, it’s worth sharing — no matter who you are.

CNN and other MSM outlets are running a few articles about what’s going on, but they can’t compete with this – real-time accounts through a variety of different mediums, collected together in one place being updated by the minute.

If you haven’t checked it out yet, you need to. Sullivan’s blog is becoming the only source worth reading for accurate, detailed coverage of the events in Iran.

This is what journalism should be.

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The mainstream media ignored Delara Darabi. New media didn’t.

May 2, 2009

Early Friday morning in Tehran, 23-year-old Delara Darabi was executed in the Rasht prison in Iran for a crime that happened when she was 17. Human rights groups had been protesting and trying to save her from execution for months, since it is a violation of international law to execute anyone for a crime that occurred when they were a minor. Despite the protests, Iranian authorities executed her on Friday with no notice.

What is perhaps the saddest part of her story, however, is that the mainstream, traditional news media did not report the story at all. A Google News search on Delara Darabi revealed, as of late last night, a total of ZERO mainstream US news stories. The only stories about Delara as of last night were from Iranian and international sources, blogs, and human rights groups.

Today, the mainstream media started to pick up on it, with stories from the Los Angeles Times, BBC, United Press International, New York Times, and a few others. Still, at the time of writing this post there are only 206 news stories about Delara Darabi’s unjust execution. By comparison, there are currently 762 news stories about Matthew McConaughey, and 7,078 news stories about Arlen Specter.

So, how, you might ask, did word of the story first break? Who reported it first? The answer is: Darabi’s execution was first reported on Twitter. And then the first media outlet to pick up the story was none other than the epitome of new media, BreakingTweets.com, a news site which reports stories from around the world using Twitter for breaking news. BreakingTweets isn’t run by seasoned news pros, either — its founder and head is Craig Kanalley, a twentysomething journalism grad student trying to revolutionize the way we get our news, through the use of new media.

Breaking Tweets was paying attention to the Delara Darabi story, and they reported it more than a full 24 hours before the mainstream media.

Delara Darabi’s story should be seen as a case study of some of the challenges with our media system as it stands today:

Ethnocentrism still reigns supreme: stories with an “American” angle – like the imprisonment of American journalist Roxana Saberi in Iran – are more important than similar stories, like Delara Darabi’s, without the American angle. With Roxana Saberi, international media attention has been fierce — and because of that, so has international pressure on Iranian authorities. Had Delara Darabi had that kind of attention, she could have had a very different fate. But she didn’t get that attention – because she’s not American.

And new media won major points. Old media types who rail against new media, such as NYT’s Maureen Dowd and Matt Bai, who spent last week complaining about Twitter, should take note: the New York Times was shamefully far, far behind Twitter and new media in picking up this story.

Where are our media’s priorities? What is driving them to choose to write 7000+ of the same stories on Arlen Specter, and almost nothing about the international law-violating execution of an innocent young Iranian woman?

Perhaps it is because human rights stories just don’t sell as much as stories about high-intensity partisan clashes or Hollywood actors. Human rights stories, particuarly world news, may sell less copies or bring in few page views. But news isn’t supposed to be about the profit motive — it’s supposed to be about educating and informing the masses about the world around them. If the press is to act as an arbiter of what is news, they should be reporting on what matters, rather than more banal stories about the White House puppy or Michelle Obama’s garden.

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Journalists start to get Twitter…about time!

February 23, 2009

Last week, it seems like Twitter finally hit the Washington press on the head with an anvil and they all finally got with it. Why most journalists are so far behind the curve is kind of mystifying to me. Millions of normal people use Twitter everyday, but when you look up major journalists on Twitter the vast majority of them don’t *get* it.

Just look at Anderson Cooper or Gawker or CNN. This is not how you use Twitter. These guys follow no one, and only post a stream of posts from Twitterfeed trying to get you to their blogs or websites. That’s not the point of Twitter. If you’re going to do that, why bother?

Recently, this is a topic I’ve seen discussed in other places. Luke Russert didn’t have a Twitter account even though he is supposed to be covering youth issues. And then last week  I noticed an interesting trend…journalists started to get it. Russert started his own account. George Stephanopoulos, whose Twitter account previously until February 18th was just a stream of ads for his blog, suddenly started posting updates like a real person. David Gregory and Mike Allen both joined Twitter and started posting real updates, and both garnered a huge following within days. Gregory even went so far as to start his own TypePad blog.

There are some journalists who have been getting it for a long time: Ana Marie Cox, or John Byrne, CEO of Business Week, John Dickerson of Slate, and of course, Rick Sanchez and Don Lemon of CNN. All of these journalists use Twitter to post real updates, information, and insight, and they genuinely interact with people and gather information, rather than simply using Twitter as a self-promotion tool. They connect — which is the point.

There are some great ways Twitter can be used to improve and complement serious journalism — it’s not just a frivolous tool for posting where you’re going every second of the day or what you had for lunch (NOONECARESABOUTYOURLUNCH.Why do I get so many tweets like that?) It’s a great way to discover breaking stories or find interview sources or simply step out from behind your byline, go where the readers are, and talk to them.

Social media is useless if you just use it as a one-way megaphone; it has to be a two-way conversation. I hope more journalists follow suit, because I have to wonder how accurately they can report on issues on behalf of the public if they’re missing a crucial opportunity to see what the public is talking about.

*This post itself was inspired by a Twitter conversation started by one of my favorite bloggers, Jaclyn Schiff. If you’re not already, follow me on Twitter. And Jaclyn!

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