Tag Archives: media

News’ Reliance on PR and Wire Services

News organisations and journalists are becoming less “active gatherers of news” and more “processors of […] second-hand materials”, suggests a surprising study conducted by researchers at Cardiff University.

Nick Davies, author of Flat Earth News, commissioned the research and provides a brief overview of this study on the state of current media reporting:

Specialists at Cardiff University […] surveyed more than 2,000 UK news stories from the four quality dailies (Times, Telegraph, Guardian, Independent) and the Daily Mail. They found two striking things. First, when they tried to trace the origins of their “facts”, they discovered that only 12% of the stories were wholly composed of material researched by reporters. With 8% of the stories, they just couldn’t be sure. The remaining 80%, they found, were wholly, mainly or partially constructed from second-hand material, provided by news agencies and by the public relations industry. Second, when they looked for evidence that these “facts” had been thoroughly checked, they found this was happening in only 12% of the stories. […]

And the Cardiff researchers found one other key statistic that helps to explain why this has happened. For each of the 20 years from 1985, they dug out figures for the editorial staffing levels of all the Fleet Street publications and compared them with the amount of space they were filling. They discovered that the average Fleet Street journalist now is filling three times as much space as he or she was in 1985. In other words, as a crude average, they have only one-third of the time that they used to have to do their jobs. Generally, they don’t find their own stories, or check their content, because they simply don’t have the time.

The study (subscription required) didn’t just look at the reporting of newspapers, however: radio and television news (BBC Radio 4, BBC News, ITV News and SkyNews) provided similar results, with the researchers concluding that this reliance “seems set to continue, if not increase, in the near future”.

The Quality and Independence of British Journalism (pdf)–another of the output reports from the study–is freely available and offers more detail if you need it (and will most likely answer any questions).

A similar study was conducted in Australia with similar findings.

Learning to Concentrate and Media Dieting

Stating that “one of the more embarrassing and self-indulgent challenges of our time is the task of relearning how to concentrate”, Alain de Botton‘s short essay for City Journal looks at our “obsession” with current events and how this distracts us from… everything.

The obsession with current events is relentless. We are made to feel that at any point, somewhere on the globe, something may occur to sweep away old certainties—something that, if we failed to learn about it instantaneously, could leave us wholly unable to comprehend ourselves or our fellows. We are continuously challenged to discover new works of culture—and, in the process, we don’t allow any one of them to assume a weight in our minds. We leave a movie theater vowing to reconsider our lives in the light of a film’s values. Yet by the following evening, our experience is well on the way to dissolution. […]

The need to diet, which we know so well in relation to food, and which runs so contrary to our natural impulses, should be brought to bear on what we now have to relearn in relation to knowledge, people, and ideas. Our minds, no less than our bodies, require periods of fasting.

via Intelligent Life

Media Consumption and Current Events

As part of their series on ‘media diets’, The Atlantic Wire is asking a number of media luminaries how they manage the deluge of information we all encounter online.

Some names you’ll recognise include David Brooks, Ezra Klein, Tyler Cowen and the following from Clay Shirky discussing his distaste for ‘breaking news’:

In general, there’s no real breaking news that matters to me. I don’t have any alerts or notifications on any piece of software I use. My phone is on silent ring, nothing alerts me when I get a Tweet and my e-mail doesn’t tell me when messages arrive.

I also don’t read any of the big tech aggregators. Knowing that, for instance, Google just bought Blogger, isn’t that useful for me to hear today rather than tomorrow. Some of Michael Arrington’s stuff I think is an example of the worst kind of breaking news. The kind of Apple Insider stuff where they publish something every day to satisfy the news cycle. It’s gossip coverage like following movie stars and it distracts me from thinking longer form thoughts. […]

What are my guilty pleasures? Given the fact that media’s my job—I don’t feel much guilt. There’s no equivalent of eating Häagen-Dazs out of the box. […] That’s the thing about this job. If you think about it, I suppose the guilty pleasure is gardening or cooking. It’s about getting away from media consumption and making linguine instead.

Of all of the articles in the series, Shirky’s is the ‘diet’ my own is closest to.

via @cojadate

How an Entertainment Medium Succeeds

While looking at how piracy and online content has changed ‘traditional media’ (and is continuing to do so), Barrett Garese succinctly points out his vision for the direction online content needs to go to really differentiate itself and, thus, succeed (or any entertainment medium, in fact).

Each medium has unique advantages and disadvantages, and the creator must craft an experience that accentuates the advantages and mitigates the disadvantages of the medium in which it lives.

The most important question for the future of all online content is this: “What are those unique elements which allow content created primarily for online consumption to stand apart from its more ‘traditional’ or ‘mainstream’ rivals?” Film can tell an epic story over a period of 1.5-3 hours on a scale that’s unmatched in other media. Television can tell a story over a period of dozens or hundreds of hours with an intricacy and character development that’s as of yet untouched in other media. What is the “online experience” that makes telling a story in this medium so different the experience in any other?

For online content to further expand, we must experiment to find and exploit those unique elements that enable the experience itself to stand as the draw. So long as we’re content to mimic other media, it will never grow into a viable “mainstream” entertainment medium. If all you’re doing is creating “TV-lite” or “Film-lite” in an attempt to mimic the experience, then there are already better competitors out there – they’re called “Film” and “TV,” and most people are already familiar.

Reporting and the Internet

It seems you can’t spend five minutes on the Internet without coming across an opinion piece on the end of traditional media or an article riffing on the age of the blog. I’ve so far refrained from noting (m)any of these articles, mainly because the argument is becoming stale and the articles are so widespread.

Michael Massing‘s latest for The New York Review of Books is one worth your time, however: it’s a balanced, detailed view on the new landscape of reporting—that of a symbiosis between blogs, online media outlets, and traditional national and international newspapers. (It also serves as a good resource to some of the best blogs around.)

This, in response to David Simon (he of Baltimore Sun and The Wire fame) likening the Internet to a parasite “slowly killing the host”:

This image of the Internet as parasite has some foundation. Without the vital news-gathering performed by established institutions, many Web sites would sputter and die. In their sweep and scorn, however, such statements seem as outdated as they are defensive. Over the past few months alone, a remarkable amount of original, exciting, and creative (if also chaotic and maddening) material has appeared on the Internet. The practice of journalism, far from being leeched by the Web, is being reinvented there, with a variety of fascinating experiments in the gathering, presentation, and delivery of news.