It’s kind of ironic that my 100th post yesterday pointed to a survey which told us trust in the media is declining.
Ironic because I started this blog to practise writing more tightly, more clearly, better, at the advice of Dave Lee. Because I am studying journalism.
Having just finished my internship, and having heard the stories of other student journos, I’m struck again by some real contradictions in mainstream media.
Make no mistake, journalists do a difficult job. I was shocked at the Dominion Post at just how much hard work it is to produce a paper every day. Simply the logistics, I’m not even thinking now about the accuracy or balance issues.
Newsrooms are busy places with people working in parallel universes. There is little time for reflection or discussion or ambiguity even – there is time only to write “tight” copy in a format called “news” and get it out to go through the process of subbing – maybe through several sets of hands.
One of the things which has struck me when I’ve talked to working journalists is the assumption, and acceptance, of competition and an unfriendly work environment. The endless pursuit of the “scoop” meaning journalists seem to struggle to support each other – but from our internship experiences, it seems some environments do this much better than others.
While several students found their newsrooms difficult to learn in – other journalists too busy to talk, no feedback, no one showing them how to do even basic things like use search engines – other students had very different experiences.
Not just smaller papers either – the student who went to the Otago Daily Times loved it, partly because the other journalists had good relationships with each other, they held a news conference every morning to talk through the day’s stories, she got to work on stories every day.
Connected to the fact it remains independently owned perhaps?
So newsrooms can be friendly places where the cheap labour of students on internships desperate to make an impression and nail a job can not only be taken advantage of, but usefully employed.
The other thing which really struck me, and almost every other student I’ve talked to, was the huge disconnect between online and print media in Aotearoa. Still. In 2009.
We know the rest of the western world’s newspapers are in complete disarray as advertising leaves and I would argue, trust disintegrates. But we’re still not taking advantage of this happening a little more slowly here to build up creditable online options with news-telling integrity. Which allow more feedback, more discussion, which link to social networking options, which take advantage of all the flexibility the web provides in how we might tell stories. Which might allow some real connection with communities who feel disconnected from how mainstream media operates now.
A missed opportunity, methinks.
Finally, I can’t honestly write about the internship experience without acknowledging how painful I find the lack of reflection about what makes something “news”.
Tutor Jim Tucker consistently tells us “news is what the chief reporter says it is”.
I get that – but when New Zealand society is changing – demographically, socially, economically; when the world itself is unrecognisable from just ten years ago in terms of technology and communications; well, guess what, maybe we need to rethink what news is too.
One practical example. I wrote a story while at the Dominion Post which quoted (with Idiot/Savant’s consent) from No Right Turn. I/S wanted anonymity, to be quoted under the blog monniker.
This was unacceptable for the Dominion Post, which insists on names. Flesh names.
Seems too rigid to me. And a shame, because in my opinion anyway, there are bloggers writing more “quotable” informed analysis than we find in most newspapers, most days.