J-School: Educating Independent Journalists

“If tools could make anyone who picked them up an expert, they’d be valuable indeed.” Plato, The Republic

Archive for April, 2006

Thinking Ahead: Turning All this Work into A Dissertation Proposal

Posted by chanders on April 20, 2006

Thinking ahead to this summer, how should I start turning all this semster’s work– my massive paper on journalistic expertise; my comprehensive exam readings– into a dissertation proposal?

The lit review, drawing on both comps. and my expertise work, could possibly be strucutred something like the following:

  • Early empirical work on the Internet. (Lih 2004; Jones 2004; Shirkey 2003;
    Herring 2005; Lowrey 2004;, Kumar 2005)
  • Early claims and empirical work about the impact of the Internet on journalism.
    • The "this changes everything" hypothesis. (Bowman and Willis 2003; Jones 2004; Gilmor 2003; Rhiengold 2002; Blood 2002; Neiman Reports 2003, 2005)
    • The normalization hypothesis. (Barnhurst and Nerone 2001; Boczkowski 2004; Singer 2005; Van der Wurff’s collaborators 2005)
    • Fischer and "social construction of technology" thesis. (Fischer 1992)
      • Technologies impact on the field of journalism. (Benson 200x; Klinenberg 2005; Singer 2005; Matheson 2004).
      • Technologies impact on notions of journbalists professional identity. (Lowrey and Anderson 200x; Deuze 2005; Singer 2003; Roth 2004; Deuze and Dimoudi 2002; Rosen 2005)
  • Historical studies of journalism and professional identity. 
    • The sociologies of the professions, knowledg and expertise. (Durkheim 1957; Parsons 1954; Hughes 1963; Friedson 1970; Larson 1977; MacDonald 1995; Abbott 1988; Fournier 2000; Eyal 2005)
    • 1970’s "critical organizational analysis." (Epstein 1973; Tuchman 1978; Gans 1979; Gitlin 1980)
    • Historical overviews of "objectivity." (Carey 1974; Schudson 1978; Whalgren-Summers 1994; Dicken-Garcia 1994; Minditch 2000; Kaplan 2002; Ward 2006
    • Zelizer, narrative, and rhetorical construction (Zelizer 1992; 2000)
    • Field analysis of journalism. (Bourdieu 1999; Benson 1999; Champagne 2005; Klinenberg 2005; Benson 2005)

—> Then would then lead into the methods section.

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Journalism and the ‘Impact’ of Technology

Posted by chanders on April 20, 2006

Quick but important thought: journalism is not changing because new online technologies are impacting it; rather journalism is changing because it is under pressure from other occupational and social groups who are using new technology in certain ways to advance their interests.

Your tiny bit of insight for the day. We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

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When Blogging Becomes an (Unpaid) Job

Posted by chanders on April 15, 2006

Dan Rubin, blogger with the Philly Inquirer, interviews Billmon, the popular author the lefty blog The Whisky Bar. In the interview, Billmon talks about blogger burnout– its a good window into the blogging mindset as the formerly new and exciting becomes the somewhat exciting but routine:

By last fall, he felt he had "lost my mojo," as he put it. "I haven’t really gotten it back. I’ve been posting half-heartedly over the winter. I find it very difficult to really get back into the swing of it. I have a full-time job, kids, a mortgage, a backyard. All those things have to be taken care of. The first couple of years, I was stealing time. I was consciously avoiding responsibility. My kids let me know it."

At first, he says, it’s exhilarating – "not having to kow tow to anybody. Not having to worry about am I going to piss off the advertisers. After a couple years, you start to realize how much work it is."

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Some Possible Comps. Questions, Pt. 2: The Social Construction of the Reporter

Posted by chanders on April 15, 2006

Here are some thoughts on my second set of comprehensive exam readings:

My primary concern with these readings on the “cultural construction of the reporter” is to examine the role played by the “professional ideal” in the creation of the reporter as a “separate occupational class” worthy of both social deference and legal protection. Schudson points to the Jacksonian democratic revolution as the moment at which reporters began to see their role as that of providing the “news of the day” rather than gathering partisan intelligence. However, according to Schudson, it took the ferment of the Progressive era of the 1910’s and 20’s to institutionalize journalism as a profession– part of the a more general progressive belief in the advisability of “rule of experts.” Carey agrees that the progressive era marked a decisive shift, though he laments this severing of the journalist from “the public.”

Two major historical moments in the construction of the journalist, then, were the 1920’s and the 1830’s. However, as Whalgren-Summers makes clear, the professional reporter did not emerge in any sort of clear or evolutionary fashion. While there were large-scale social and cultural forces at work that were changing journalism, this transition was confused, halting, and difficult. Summers thus makes clear that studies of professionalization should not neglect the middle of the 19th century. In her work on the Bohemian Brigade, Tucher draws out the class implications of post-Civil War moves toward professionalization. Garcia also looks to the 19th century, arguing that the increasingly complexity of the journalistic enterprise reinforced a tendency towards journalists conception of themselves as a “special class.” As a special class intimately familiar with the processes and complexities of their work, journalists began to feel that only they could judge the appropriateness of their behavior. “In daily contact with the press and all it did from the “inside,”” Garcia argues “journalists worked within a social institution grown so complex by 1890 that even they had difficulty understanding it … Journalists were thus becoming something of a separate class, a separateness indicated by increasing numbers of articles and lectures by journalists intended to explain how the press worked.”

Other interesting questions– less easily integrated into the previous paragraphs– concern challenges to this social construction. For example, compare the work of Glessing on the underground press of the 1960’s with the New Journalism of Tom Wolfe et. al. Why was new journalism so much more successful in challenging the self-conception of the press than the underground media of the 1960’s? Politics? Internal vs. external critique? And how (a la Rosen) does this relate to the new online challenges to journalism?

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Some Possible Comps. Questions, Pt. 1: The Rise and Fall of Objectivity

Posted by chanders on April 12, 2006

In preparation for comprehensive exams, I’m brainstorming some possible questions that one could conceivably ask about the three sets of readings I did (see earlier posts on comps. here and here.), as well as some links between the readings. Today, I’m tackling the "rise and fall of objectivity" section.

1) How does the "deflationary theory of truth" implicitly advocated by Blackburn and other scholars impact our understanding of journalistic objectivity? Would we be better able to salvage the notion of journalistic objectivity if we were to embrace a minimalist or deflationary theory? Does Ward advocate a deflationary theory either explicitly or implicitly?

2) Is there a relationship between Rorty’s argument that knowledge exists, not as the mirror of reality but conversationally, the "dialogical" nature of much current journalism’s claim to truth (ie, good journalism emerges out of reader-journalist
feedback), and Daston’s insight into the "naive empirical" nature of the Atlas? Having lost faith in their own ability to create the representationally true image, the Daston claims, makers of scientific atlases placed the responsibility with the viewer  of the image, who must now create  this image in her own mind out of the variety of individualized specimens she saw in the atlas. “While in the early 19th century, the burden of representation was supposed to lie in the picture itself, now it fell to the audience. The psychology of pattern recognition in the audience had replaced  the metaphysical claims of the author. Mistrusting themselves, they assuaged their fear of subjectivity by transferring necessary judgment to the audience.” (107)

3) What is the relationship between what goes on in philosophy and what is happening within the profession of journalism? Is Ward’s historical overview helpful in this regard? How does Kaplan’s insight into the changing nature of the public sphere, and journalism’s dependence on its "authority" from that sphere, combine these insights?

4) Does Searle’s argument about the irrelevance of the "social construction of social reality" end the journalistic objectivity controversy? What about Hacking? Is his position identical? Hacking makes an additional distinction: a distinction between constructed objects that are interactive, and those that are not; here, Hacking refers to the “looping effects of human kinds.”  In other words, “refugees” can alter their constructed status as a result of self-knowledge and discussion about them; “quarks” can not. The distinction between interactive and non-interactive objects of construction is key for Hacking’s larger distinction between objects of the natural and social sciences.

5) How can we analyze Lichtenberg’s defense of objectivity in light of the philosophical arguments I’ve been studying?

6) Both Kaplan and Minditch criticize various aspects of Schudson’s landmark study.  How are their critiques similar? How are they different? Which is more convincing?

7) Does Novick’s dissection of the relationship between post-60’s political culture and the history profession parallel similar changes in journalism? Do history studies, contained as they are within the academic domain, more closely paralell general academic developments?

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Lexis Nexis to Add Blogs

Posted by chanders on April 9, 2006

From CyberJournalist.net:

"LexisNexis is starting to integrate blog content into its databases.
Blogs will be selected for inclusion based on editorial quality, the
company says."

Fascinating. Implications include:

a) Content analysis of blogs just got a whole lot easier
b) there will be a whole new process of "structuring" and "ranking" of "important" blogs based on whether or not they make the list. New "boundary work" will be done … will academic analysis of blogs start missing a whole lot of the blogosophere?? Wither technorati and truth laid bare? etc etc.

Update: Looks like cj.net got its story from the Lexis-Nexis website. Wish they’d linked to it. But that aside, there’s some additional information there. Apparently, the service is in partnership with something called newstex:

"Unlike existing Web-based blog aggregation services, Newstex actually licenses influential blog content directly from independent bloggers and then takes in each carefully selected blog feed in text format and uses its proprietary NewsRouter technology to scan it in real-time."

Also, it seems that at least a few blogs are showing up as having been contacted by newstex, and that the aggregation includes "possible monetary pay out." Looks like they also were working with Pajamas Media back when it was called  Finally, John Quiggin raises a question as to what this means in terms of "creative commons licensing."

What technorati is saying.

Read it all: the plot thickens.

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At the BOJ Conference

Posted by chanders on April 7, 2006

Last night, as our full van rumbled down the highway on the (2 hour!!) drive from the Columbus Airport to Athens, OH, I had a grandiose vision of the car going off the road, all 12 passengers perishing, and the field of research into online journalism being set back by a decade. A joke, for sure … that that said, its nice to be at a conference where a) everyone is deeply engaged in a topic that still has trouble getting much respect from the academy and b) averages an age of younger than 35.

The conference in question is "BLOGGING AND ONLINE JOURNALISM: NEW MEDIA, NEW CHALLENGES, NEW ETHICS," and its sponsored by the Ohio University Institute For Applied Ethics. Its a student conference, so in addition toe Dan Gilmors and Mark Deuzes and Clifford Christians, there are other folks like Fernanda Viegas, Bryan Murley, Colin Lingle, Damien Pfister, Serena Carpenter, Kim Smith, Ali Mohamed, Susanne Goericke, and others who I don’t have time to name or find urls fo– people who aren’t big conference names yet, but maybe will be someday.

Anyway, it looks like Atrios finally gets his blogging ethics panel. The schedule is here. I’ll do what I can to add more over the next couple days.

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Response to Freedman’s: “On The Difference Between The Amateur And The Pro.”

Posted by chanders on April 3, 2006

Samuel Freedman, author of Letters to a Young Journalist and respected Prof. at my current school, tackles the perennial question: what is it that pro journalists do that amateurs don’t? That is, are "citizen journalists" "real journalists"? (see: "are bloggers journalists," 2002-2005). There’s something about the way he frames the debate that makes it difficult to not respond, despite the fact that this is an argument which has been raging for years. I’m particularly interested because Freedman  tackles the notion of "journalistic expertise" (a current concern of mine) though he never uses those exact words.

In the next few paragraphs, I’d like to address what I see as the three main prongs of Freedman’s argument: his idea of what citizen’s journalism is, his description of what ails the traditional media, and his solution to the problem.

First: What is citizen’s journalism? Freedman specifically mentions YouTube, the new video uploading site.

"True to its motto, “Broadcast Yourself,” the site allows people to upload their own videos on a nearly infinite array of subjects. I happened to be looking for clips about American soldiers in Iraq, and a quick search summoned up more than a thousand hits. "

This is interesting for at least two reasons: first, I honestly haven’t seen anyone claiming the YouTube is Citizen’s Journalism– either the people at YouTube itself, or anyone of the dozen’s CJ related blogs that I read regularly. A technorati search for "you tube" and "citizen’s journalism" returns 1 hits. YouTube doesn’t say anything about Citizen’s Journalism on its website, as far as I can tell. Maybe YouTube’s debut was a big deal in the CJ community, but if it is, I hadn’t heard about it.  Secondly, its interesting to watch the rephrasing of the Citizen’s Journalism / blog critique from one of "you don’t report anything new, you just analyze and leech off of the mainstream media!" to "you don’t do any commentary, you just post a bunch of clips and don’t bother to ‘weigh, analyze, describe, and explain.’" Which is it? Does it automatically have to be both? … More on this recasting of the journalist as an "analysis provider" in a minute.

Second: Freedman’s diagnosis of the problem. In admitting that its become difficult to defend the mainstream media, Freeman writes:

I am thinking less of the whole-cloth fabrications of fabulists like Jayson Blair, Jack Kelley or Stephen Glass than of the devastating near-misses, the almost-correct articles or broadcasts undermined by a fatal error – “Sixty Minutes’” discredited report on President Bush’s National Guard service, Newsweek’s retraced account of American interrogators at Guanatanmo Bay flushing a Koran down the toilet, The New York Times’ misidentification of a man who indeed has been imprisoned and tortured at Abu Ghraib as the man in the notorious picture of a hooded inmate connected to electrical wires. When we fall short of our own professional standards, we lend support to the cynical or naïve presumption that journalism is something anybody can do.

Maybe that’s part of the problem with traditional journalism today. But I don’t think so, at least, I don’t think its what CJ advocates are really concerned about. Freedman is right: by and large, you’re never going to beat the Times, WaPo, the BBC, NPR, when it comes to the amount and quality of news. But is Jayson Blair or even Judy Miller really the problem? I’d submit that the big problem is more akin to the situation in Philadelphia, insightfully documented by Freedman’s Columbia colleague Michael Shapiro. Despite their widely publicized gaffes, the elite media– the Times et. al.– are doing pretty well. It’s cities like Philadelphia– cities that don’t have the projected population growth numbers allowing them to be considered a worthy investment by McClatchy, cities whose papers have been decimated, for the last two decades, by a bankrupt chain-corporate ownership model, cities that are scaling back on their universal WiFi access plans because of opposition from the telecom industry, cities which don’t even have public access TV– that are the real problem for serious journalism today. Not Stephen Glass, who defrauded an elite beltway journal that no one outside of a few thousand media and political movers and shakers actually read. Its this sort of problem which led to the norgs conference.

Third and finally, I’m especially interested by Freedman’s argument that a "trained, skilled journalist" should:

"should know how to weigh, analyze, describe, and explain.

This takes me back to my earlier discussion of journalism and expertise. I’m intrigued by, and respectful of, the attempt to raise the standards of journalism with regard to journalism’s "scientific," "analytical" capacities. Its a worthy response to the potential "deprofessionalization" of the journalist– an attempt to professionalize further. I discussed this briefly a few months back with McChris, when I agreed with his comment that:

I could certainly see how the rise of blogs, wikis, etc. actually catalyze a renewed professionalization of institutional journalism. Now that people read blogs highly critical of the media and controversies around figures like Dan Rather and Judy Miller raise questions about newsgathering, the profession could react by cranking up the discipline, raising the barriers to participate in news organizations. The institutional players will want to distinguish themselves from folks who don’t write the news for fun.

There’s a lot to say about this, and indeed, this is one of the key questions in my own research. For now, let me simply point to an argument of Michael Schudson, who, in another context, had this to say about Walter Lippman’s understanding of expertise and journalism:

There is a tendency […] to misunderstand Lippmann and Dewey […] Advocates of ‘public journalism’ have suggested that Lippmann urged that "well trained experts" would manage the country’s journalism as well as its public affairs. In fact, Lippmann held out no such hope for journalism; he believed that journalists could never reform themselves. They could only improve if other institutions of intelligence arose outside of journalism to feed better data to the press.

In other words: it is not in professional journalism that we shall find the experts we seek. Maybe. Or maybe not. The new Columbia MA program is betting the house that Lippmann is wrong.

Dan Gilmor has also blogged about this: see his post here.

UPDATE: So has Andrew Cline.

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