Journalism must regain its role in bringing power to account

The Future of Journalism series: part 4 The worldwide move to paywalls is seen as a temporary solution to journalism’s problems. Quality, not quantity, of information will be key

“In embracing media entrepreneurship, young journalists have to both look at audience (how they engage with that audience), and examine who or what is not being served by traditional media.” Photograph Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

“In embracing media entrepreneurship, young journalists have to both look at audience (how they engage with that audience), and examine who or what is not being served by traditional media.” Photograph Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Mon, Jun 30, 2014, 06:13

Like their counterparts in the industry itself, journalism schools have been coping with the massive changes in media in a variety of different ways. Some have tagged on courses in online journalism, others are experimenting with converged newsrooms, while “outliers” are calling for a complete rethink on who or what we define as journalism or journalism education.

The teaching hospital model, whereby journalism courses are more closely linked to industry, concentrating upon both innovation and research, has gained huge traction in the United States, where bursaries and endowments have seen industry invest millions of dollars in research centres for journalism and media within universities and colleges. The underlying hope is that innovation at university level will put old media at the forefront of change, as opposed to being dragged kicking and screaming behind it. Its critics, however, argue that journalists are not professionals in the same sense that lawyers or doctors are, and that media is undergoing the kind of massive systemic change that makes it totally unlike medicine. They also posit that its older practitioners are so entrenched that they have little to offer young journalists, who must be the ones to carve out the next era in journalism.

In the School of Media at Dublin Institute of Technology we subscribe to both parts of the teaching hospital model – forming links with industry around research and innovation; and the “outliers” model, which argues that digital media entrepreneurship is at the core of journalism’s future. Neither option is without pain. Both have proved challenging and rewarding in different ways.

In embracing media entrepreneurship, young journalists have to both look at audience (how they engage with that audience), and examine who or what is not being served by traditional media. But most of all it allows them to take risks. So a website and app for the deaf community, a sports news website aimed at women, or an online agency selling content could all be researched and costed as part of their final-year course work.

Slow journalism

As journalism contracts, so does its ability to take those kinds of risks. And the time needed for both innovation and what has become known as “slow journalism” becomes a luxury. But it has proven returns. As Slate editor David Plotz explained to Megan Garber of Nieman Lab: “In order to really thrive, in order to have the kind of committed, excellent, well-educated, media-engaged audience that we’ve always had – and to build that audience – we had to do something more than just 1,500-word pieces and more than just explainers.”

In allowing months to be spent on research, Slate stories garnered millions of readers and its journalists were re- energised. But like other news and magazine websites it is still working out its core revenue model.

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