What’s Quality Work Now?
Mark Briggs, who wrote the excellent Journalism 2.0 primer that I’ve used in several classes, posed the question at the National College Media Conference to three folks – how do you define what is good in digital journalism? The answers move from vague to comical (“Journalists need to discover their sense of mission. Otherwise it’s just going to be a bunch of cats flushing toilets,” he quotes Gary Chapman as saying).
While I love the question, I want the answers – so, what is good digital journalism? Is it fast? Is it flashy? Is it accurate-right-now or just plain accurate? (For the students in my spring class, be prepared with an answer on day one in January.)
I think many, and rightfully so, are saying we need to redefine what “news” is in the digital age. I think THAT’S a good question.
But I don’t understand why some feel we need to re-define what good journalism is. Good journalism is good journalism, no matter what medium delivers it to us.
Each different medium has strengths and weaknesses in its ability to communicate. That’s a different conversation, however.
Timely. Presented in a compelling way. Accurate. Fair. Relevant. Substantive.
Are these not benchmarks we should all strive for, regardless of the medium?
The “what news is” question is a slippery slope. On one side, it’s about what’s happening in our communities, what affects us, what we need to know to participate in our democracy.
On the other, it’s about who’s wearing what to the awards show.
Mark, I find it interesting that you characterize your examples as “sides.” And maybe that’s at the heart of the issue. Journalists often get caught up thinking about what information consumers NEED, whereas publishers are often more concerned with what people WANT. Perhaps the answer is to give them EVERYTHING. Conventional thinking says that’s impossible. You can’t be everything to everybody, and publications that try to do that are bound to fail. Perhaps not.
Here’s one mini-vision of a possible future for newspapers, put forward by Steve Outing in a column from Editor & Publisher:
To sort of sum it up, Outing potentially sees newspapers becoming one stop news shops for local customers, offering live feeds from wire services and major outside news sources, unaffiliated news and blogs, staff generated content and blogs, community generated content, even micro-personal news generated from a user’s social networks. And all of this configurable by each individual user of a newspaper’s web site. So, instead of using RSS readers and a multitude of social networks, people can log in to their community newspaper’s site and get everything.
Of course, as journalists, there is some uncertainty because this seems primarily an issue of web development. Where does that leave us?
So maybe we need to really listen to readers and viewers and consider their ideas about what news is, or becoming. I can imagine (not necessarily relate to, however) some people actually caring about BOTH the awards show and last night’s city council meeting. Ultimately, journalists are going to cover what they think is really important to their community. But, like you have said, part of a journalist’s job is going to be selling the public on WHY it’s important. I think that’s our primary challenge these days.