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Zaky’s concerns July 22, 2008

Posted by luzrimban in ACFJ, journalism.
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Zaky Yamani has some questions for Leo, which he sent in as a comment to the post “A piece of Leo’s mind.” But it’s a long piece, so we’re posting it here as a separate entry to this blog.

Zaky raises several points that I’m sure are uppermost in the minds of many of us who are used to single-media, rather than multi-media reporting. Do we give up the depth of single-media reporting, and shift to the (sometimes) shallow but speedy multi-media reporting?

Here’s Zaky’s reply to Leo;

I tried to understand what Leo said about journalism today. I believe almost all of us have no doubt that journalists required to be multi-skilled and multi-tasked, and of course have to be familiar with multimedia culture. But I have some questions for Leo, and maybe for others.

Here are the questions (Well I try my best to articulate my questions):

1. With all these fast-changing technologies, the changing of social and cultural values (and also behavior), the changing situation of global economy, the changing of media culture (and also behavior of media owners, journalists, etc), will media company and journalism as a profession survive?

2. With the emerging force of citizen journalism and citizen journalists (the notion that have been caught by media owners –at least here in Indonesia– to get and to deliver news stories without paying the journalists who wrote or reported it), will we, journalists who chose this profession to make a living, survive?

3. As one of multimedia culture products, that news stories have to be delivered in fast, ultratight writing and editing or in other words produced instantly, will in-depth reports or investigative reports still in journalists or media owners’ minds

Maybe I sound skeptical about media and journalism situation today. This is because I’m concerned about the future of this profession. I read some articles in Washington Post, International Herald Tribune, or The New York Times, that described how journalism affected by globalization, and of course by global economy.

As I read in those articles, how media companies have been trying to cut their production costs as much as they can, through outsourcing (or off-shoring journalism jobs), cut the budget for ivestigative/in-depth reports, and even layoffs by firing many journalists and other media employees.

This situation scares me. Let us see what happened to Washington Post in this past years. As written by Richard Perez-Pena in New York Times (July 8, 2008), the Post weekday circulation has declined from 800,000 to 673,000. It also lost operating profit from 14.9 million in previous year to only 1.2 million in 2007. Then it reduced its news staffs from 900 to 700 people. And like all newspapers, The Post have been unable to convert its web traffic into dollars.

That situation not only happened to The Post, but almost to all newspapers in this planet. For layoffs, New York Times already cut 500 employees in 2005-2006 (Jon Friedman/Marketwatch). And then KRI, the Knight-Ridder holding, fired 15 percent of its newsroom staffs.

And in other parts of the world, here in Indonesia, many media companies already fired their employees, including in the company I work for, that already fired almost 300 people since two years ago. Sadly, multimedia business does not help these companies to earn profits to outwieight the loss in print business.

Jon Friedman articulates better about what print journalists fears today. He says,

“This is a scary time to be a newspaper journalist.

Stung by a gloomy advertising climate, publishers are taking out their machetes. The New York Times, for example, said on Sept. 20 that it will pare its newsroom by 45 employees.

The industry’s grim financial realities make me wonder about the politics of its layoff announcements. If the publishers use their financial woes as an excuse to cut back on the coverage of disenfranchised people in America, it’s going to be a very bad time to be poor.

This is going to be a severe test for newspapers’ commitment to serving the nation’s underclass at a time when the executives would no doubt prefer to bask in the glow of the stellar reporting on Hurricane Katrina.”

And out of this situation, citizen journalism and citizen journalist who are willing to write stories without fee, are there to switch professionals. I have an example for this. In Indonesia, we have an online newspaper that claims to have 4,000 citizen journalists to provide news stories from all places in Indonesia.

Of course we can’t fight the idea of citizen journalism because it will be against the notion of freedom of speech and freedom of expression. But what we have to do now is think, how if our profession becomes a mere hobby?

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Comments»

1. Erwin Oliva - July 23, 2008

why can’t all these skills things co-exist in one person. in short, it is inevitable that people will be doing more work, and yet are expected to do in-depth work. as we charge into the future, we will need to keep embracing new means and tools of reaching out to our readers. Get them from all possible angles, so to speak. Online, paper, broadcast, mobile phone, billboards, social networks, or whatnot. When we talk about journalism in the future, we’re likely looking at rich media culture where news, information, and opinion from both sides –journalists and citizens– converge into a great discussion in different forms.

2. Future of journalism discussed at Cyberbaguioboy - July 23, 2008

[…] the discussions here. Here’s one topic generating interesting discussions among the alumni. Here’s one […]

3. leo magno - July 23, 2008

Hi Zaky!

I’m sure we all have different answers to your questions. here are my own personal views on them, quick answers:

1) with the changes before us, will media companies and journalism as a profession survive?

my personal take on it — yes, otherwise i would have grabbed the parachute already and jumped off the plane, but i’m still here doing what i love doing, and even teaching it in an attempt to alert aspiring journalists about these very same changes we are now discussing.

I believe there will always be a need for news and information. some platforms or media organizations may flourish more than others, and some may consolidate and realign themselves toward specific markets, but the BUSINESS of information delivery will still be there, in several forms we may not even have imagined yet. It is incumbent upon us now as journalists employed by these businesses to ensure that the information delivered has journalistic value. That’s what we’re there for. That’s why we were hired and why we’re in the profession, if we are self-respecting journalists at all.

2) with citizen journalism, will journalists survive?

This is related to number 1. I strongly believe that the training and the wealth of experience of professional journalists are no match to the skills of some teenager who goes by the name “Batman_1234” in his or her “news blog.” While it is good that citizens are given a voice on the Internet, not everyone who speaks makes sense or can be trusted as a news source. In some cases, we as journalists have to filter that noise and make sense of what is being said online

The same way I believe there will always be a need for news, I also believe there will also be a need for professional journalists, and not everyone who places information online can be called a journalist.

Problem is, who will be the judge of who or what is a journalist by definition, if we are to look at the training angle? We don’t have a licensure or board exam that would, upon passing, grant us the title of, say, “CJ” (Zaky Yamani, CJ). CJ being short for “Certified Journalist.”

Thus arises the never-ending debate on whether or not bloggers who deliver news and information but have no journalistic background be considered as journalists at all.

3) fast news versus in-depth

In-depth stories are still around, I do not see them disappearing because of “fast news.”

We have to remember that fast news cater to a different type of reader and are assigned to a different type of reporter, yet this is not to say that the reporter cannot do both. In our case, our “fast news” team is in the process of developing in-depth reports on video, not text, yet these are the same people who write breaking news stories and regular stories using keyboards.

Another thing to remember and we should take a close look at is the process by which news and information DEVELOP. Something happens, we write a short item on it. Then as more info is gathered, write a longer breaking news item about it. Then you get more sources, write again and you have a full-blown story. Then you deploy more people to get more sides and investigate further to get an in-depth story.

So the question of fast versus in-depth news is one of temporal priorities and limitations. What happens first becomes fast news, then as time goes by (“you must remember this…”), you develop it into something meatier. It may not necessarily appear in the same medium (for example, most of our in-depth news are in the print counterpart) but we have to see it as an ongoing process from start to finish, the starting point being the so-called fast news pointed out earlier.

My two cents’ worthless =)

cheers

4. The survival of the specie: Dana’s take « ATENEO-ACFJ Alumni Online - July 23, 2008

[…] The survival of the specie: Dana’s take July 23, 2008 Posted by acfj in Uncategorized. trackback I’m posting on our front page, so to speak, another take on the whole issue of the future of journalism. This is from Dana Batnag, originally in reaction to Zaky Yamani’s concerns. […]

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[…] is also from the inquirer.net and has in fact joined the discussion on the future of journalism in the multimedia […]

6. danabatnag - August 11, 2008

Zak asked about citizen bloggers. It would be good to see what role they played — if any — in the recent ARMM elections. Did they participate, how, and why?
Carol — and the other Mindanao-based reporters — what did you see? What has been the role of citizen journalists in the Philippines in covering national issues such as the elections?


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