THE GLOBAL journalism debate, regarding the issue of crisis in the industry, took place yesterday at the Humber Lecture Theatre. Speakers gathered in person and via video-chat to express their views and challenge the opinions of others. Writes Teo Beleaga
Overwhelmingly, as two journalists never cover the same angle of a story, ‘Is world journalism in crisis?’ speakers offered a multitude of answers from the most daunting and off-putting to the most optimistic. Some argued in favour of the crisis, some argued against it, and some had the courage to state the irrelevance of the matter in terms of the industry’s evolution.
Many conclusions were drawn. The craft of journalism was explored almost microscopically. What all speakers did though, was to point at one or several areas of journalism that are indeed in crisis, at least from their point of view. What differentiated them was whether they attributed the crisis to the entire industry (locally or globally) or not.
The conference began on time and lasted exactly three and a half hours. It was opened and chaired by Kevin Marsh, who briefly expressed his opinion on the subject and then boldly challenged all speakers with some key questions. “It’s very easy to use the word crisis” he said “and it’s very easy to think that if one part of the world is in crisis than it all must be.” Still, he argued that “journalism is probably facing more challenges in quickest submersion than it’s ever faced. But” he asked “does this amount to a crisis?” and “is it a global crisis?”.
For Jeff Jarvis there’s no such thing as a crisis. He believes that by using this word, we are looking at some rather drastical and desperate solutions. Jarvis is no supporter of the Government funding journalism and envisions an opportunity for journalists to rise as business men and women. “I think the future of journalism is entrepreneurial not institutional.” One well known phrase was cited in reply to Jeff Jarvis’s views: “If you have lemons you, you go and make lemonade.”
Professor Richard Keeble described journalists as inventors “obsessed with crisis” and courageously stated that the industry was, is and always will be in crisis, because journalists simply can’t escape the vicious circle of “crisis for crisis”. He said: “If there isn’t a crisis, they [journalists] will damn certainly invent one”.
Jeremy Paxman believes one contributing cause to a potential crisis is the rather low position of journalists in the public eye. “In popular regard journalists are somewhere between estate agents and second-hand car salesmen.” Moreover, this idea is perpetuated within commercial media organisations, leaving journalists exploited by the commercially entertaining packaging.
The influencing issues that were raised include: political interference, news corporation’s financial and job crisis, the ever growing PR “monster”, ownership and citizenship journalism (which was compared by Suzanne Franks with citizenship dentistry), content manipulation and the digital revolution that leads at the same time towards both media convergence and media fragmentation while it also challenges the way news are produced.
One daunting, rather unanswered question that was raised was: ‘Is the audience willing to pay for news?’ While some do see a future where online ‘news’ will be paid for, the question still remains if those ‘news’ will be professional and provide facts and expertise or will they be opinionated journalism.
If you missed the conference check the university’s YouTube channel to see it, and journalism.co.uk for more in depth comments.
By Teo Beleaga