There is a new book out by Tom Rosenstiel and Bill Kovach, Blur: How to Know What’s True in the Age of Information Overload. One of the authors, Rosenstiel, had an interview with Neal Conan of NPR Books, and I gleaned so much insight from the piece.
One of the media issues tackled in the interview, was how to distinguish between the different kinds of journalism that obtains today. If you have been following media discussions, you would be familiar with talks on how journalism is no longer what it used to be, and how it’s face and phase is changing. Rosenstiel’s response goes thus,
“The first question you have to ask is, ‘Where am I? Am I listening to a propagandist? Is this a news show? Is it an opinion show? What land am I in?’ … Because journalism itself is no longer this homogeneous product…“
Today’s audience has gone beyond being mere consumers of media products, they’ve become producers as well – hence the coined term, PROSUMERS.Therefore, since there are more journalism actors than what obtained traditionally (thanks to the internet and other alternative media), there is a need to acquire the skill that helps one sieve through the numerous content one has access to.
Where am I? Propagandist, news show or opinion show
You should ask the above questions not only during television broadcasts, but when reading newspapers, or reading blogs online (even on traditional news websites) as well. Be alert to instances where opinion articles could easily pass off as news stories. The danger in not guardedly consuming media content is that it would lead to misinformation – which in turns informs poor decisions.
From ages past we’ve consumed news and information to take decisions that affect our economic and socio-political life. It was a lot easier to consume them all in one straight gulp when the audience were couch potatoes and were spoon fed news exclusively via mainstream media channels. Now that everyone is more or else equipped with an information production tool, the risk bar has been raised higher.
..Because journalism itself is no longer this homogeneous product
Nothing can be truer than this statement. It just goes on to buttress my discussion above. Journalism was an homogenous product when your interactions with the field were primarily through specific media- radio, TV, newspaper. None hampered the other, and there was really no need for a convergence to make the marriage work. You read the newspapers during breakfast, listened to the radio on your way to work, and watched the late night news with your family on the television at 9pm.
Now the routine has changed. You comb the internet for news, flip through apps on your phone for news updates on channels you have subscribed to (note that you now choose what news you want to listen to). To crown it all, you return home in the evening to blog and dump your content into the cybersphere to an audience fraction that is interested in what you have to say.
The multi-media channels available to spread journalism content, as well as multiplicity of producers has denied it the exclusive status of being an homogenous product. This is why an average member of the audience needs to top-up his\her skill in information consumption. There are truths, hoaxes, propagandas and more all tangled up in a web of information out there.
For me, it has never been a better time to be a media scholar – observing and being a part of the changing structure is amazing.