Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Major journalism "brands" not being displaced

The Project for Excellence in Journalism released its State of the News Media 2008 report this week, and some interesting findings indicate that citizen journalism (something I have suggested to disability groups) may not be catching on as quickly as expected.

Here's part of the intro to the report: "Critics have tended to see technology democratizing the media and traditional journalism in decline. Audiences, they say, are fragmenting across new information sources, breaking the grip of media elites. . . .The reality, increasingly, appears more complex. Looking closely, a clear case for democratization is harder to make. Even with so many new sources, more people now consume what old media newsrooms produce, particularly from print, than before. Online, for instance, the top 10 news Web sites, drawing mostly from old brands, are more of an oligarchy, commanding a larger share of audience, than in the legacy media. The verdict on citizen media for now suggests limitations. And research shows blogs and public affairs Web sites attract a smaller audience than expected and are produced by people with even more elite backgrounds than journalists."

Here's a list of major trends the report found:
  • News is shifting from being a product — today’s newspaper, Web site or newscast — to becoming a service — how can you help me, even empower me?
  • A news organization and a news Web site are no longer final destinations.
  • The prospects for user-created content, once thought possibly central to the next era of journalism, for now appear more limited, even among “citizen” sites and blogs.
  • Increasingly, the newsroom is perceived as the more innovative and experimental part of the news industry.
  • The agenda of the American news media continues to narrow, not broaden.
  • Madison Avenue, rather than pushing change, appears to be having trouble keeping up with it.

These findings have real implications for how disability groups get their message out via the news media. It seems groups will still have to work with major mainstream news media to get covered. On the one hand, this can be a good thing because this is where all the trained journalists, who know how to investigate a story, are. On the other hand, these journalists, like others in society, bring their biases about disability into their work. However, over the years, I've found that many journalists are usually pretty open to understanding the nuances of the disability story. It's their editors and news directors who usually don't "get it."