Journalism Interviews Vs. Social Media

‘His success was faintly disgusting, as if the great mystery and wonder of TV had turned out to be a sham’ was what Jonathon Ross hinted to British Press Award winner, Lynn Barber, back in 1997 – or at least that’s what she interpreted.  The unique interviewer knew how to have conversations with the stars and it’s what makes the book ‘Demon Barber’ such a great read. In my eyes, Lynn Barbers interviewing technique, although obscure, can’t all be faulted and has set the standards, pushing aspiring journalists to have the confidence to dig deeper.

Demon Barber, 1998,  is one of those reads that allows you to get inside the heads of certain celebrities; from Jonathon Ross to Eddie Izzard and Calvin Klein to Stephen Fry; all people of high status & interest to us as consumers of the media.  Although the book of interviews, and the celebrities themselves are very dated now, the depth of insight you get into the real lives of the celebrities offers a real sense of satisfaction as a lot of the responses are not what you’d expect.

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Lynn Barber is an individual who worked in the world of Journalism suffering reputed quails from press agents because of her odd style of interviewing. She managed to force things out of celebrities that no one deemed possible, such as the failures in their lives that many of us are oblivious to. Although this might sound like she is tries to expose them out of spite or provoke a scandalous headline, deep down she likes people she interviews and it’s for this reason that she wants to know what makes them tick – it was purely through a passionate interest in other people that she wanted to analyse their characters. 

I chose to read the book based on the fact I have a real interest in Celebrity Journalism and thought getting to know more about some of the legends would spur me on to put myself in a future position to grill celebs of interest to me.

It’s sad to think now that majority of our interests go as far as following someone one Facebook or Twitter, this unfortunately does not mean you get to know what you’re hoping to find out, it’s rather just reiterating what the person you follow wants you to know about them.

OR, if you are brave enough to enter some sort of conversation with a source via social media, you just don’t receive the same sort of in-depth answer as you would when probing them in person.  It were these exact thoughts that I had whilst reading ‘Demon Barber’ and so I decided to try to challenge them – I’d set myself up to attempt an interview via social media to see if I could prove my ideas wrong.

So off I went in search of 1,2,3,4 journalists to grill and then all that was left was to ask:

It was one of those moments I thought to myself, ‘as if these well-known journalists are going to have the time to talk to little old me’ and with that I gained 4 replies in a matter of minutes.

They all agreed face-to-face interviews were the best & I soon realised why after waiting patiently for the next reply.

As much as we believe social media has offered us the power to interact with anyone and seek out news, it really doesn’t offer a journalist much help when trying to interview. I’d set myself up with false hope – being able to reach out to these individuals but not hearing what I wanted back was a frustrating situation to be in.

Instead of allowing me to find out in-depth information, it left me behind a barrier with no alternative way to get hold of the interviewees.

The limited 140 characters & a lack of being able to read someones non verbal communication, meant I couldn’t work out how to ask the right questions or gauge an in-depth answer.

It just goes to show, that in a developing world that focuses so much on social media, it’s not always the best platform to carry out journalistic duties.

Unless of course, as Jane Singer and others in their 2011 ‘Participatory Journalism’, you’re a journalist trying to reach out to bloggers, serving as an expert responding to the questions of motivated users who connect to chat at a scheduled time like , you’re not going to get the conversation you want and can’t encourage it like an face-to-face interview would.

Tony Harcup in his 2009 ‘Journalism:Principles and Practices’ believes that conversation is key in an interview, this is something that is not easily encouraged via the social media platform Twitter, therefore it is hard to understand if your questions are going to be answered properly.

Maybe one day Journalists will see the need to use social media for interviews – when we’re all incapable of meeting face-to-face due to the unstoppable power the internet has over us, or when we understand how to read personalities online in the same way we do in person. But for now, interviews are a key part of journalism that haven’t and shouldn’t be adapted by the online world like the format of stories themselves have.

Human interaction is important in writing a brilliant journalistic piece and it would be a shame to ever tamper with that.

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1. Goodbye features, Hello Listicles

I dare you to look down your Facebook feed and not come across a Listicle (if you don’t know what I mean by that, it’s an article that takes form of a list named something like ‘31 Things That Will Make You Laugh if You’re British‘ or ‘20 Time Celebrities wanted to remind you how rich they are‘) …hard right?

They’re all over the internet and we’re constantly bombarded with them, featuring on sites that consist of choice after choice of new Listicles’ available at just a click of a button.

So, it’s quite clear Listicles are sweeping the nation, but how are they changing Journalism?

1. They are quick to read 

Listicles are bonus for us one-the-go folk who have nothing but 30 seconds to spare on each bit of information we receive. According to a 2013 Survey produced by News Republic people are ‘News Snacking’ – checking news more frequently and for shorter amounts of time with portable devices such a mobile phones and tablets. This really does help us an awful lot seeing as, according to a recent US study the average human attention span decreased from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds in 2013, not only that but most people only make it through 28% words on a webpage.

(However, do bear in mind that News Republic is an app company specializing in large amounts of news, so the 8000 people who were surveyed will be fans of news aggregation – needless to say, I’m one that didn’t partake in the survey and can still admit I look for quick news updates)

2. They suite the needs of digital natives 

Online users are stereotypically that of a younger audience who are comfortable with bullet pointed information and short bursts of news thanks to the likes of Twitter. Ross Hawkes, a Lecturer at Birmingham University knows that digital natives mature along with media format preferences, so knowing that the younger generation have grown up reading small bursts of news, more outlets will accommodate to their tastes.

Cosmopolitan Magazine and The Guardian are amongst a few outlets that now use Listicles to tell stories.

3. They are quick to produce

Information needs to be capable of keeping up to date, at the same speed as everyone else, so the Listicle is a great way to collate information and reduce it down to a small burst for immediate release, rather than having to source out in-depth info and tackling how to structure it.

4.They create a sense of ‘I can do it too’

Readers don’t look at them & fear that they can’t generate something similar – unlike that of a feature, with enough elements to provoke a mental breakdown.  Listicles allow creators to get clever with short sentences and images, something that is important in the world of online Journalism today.

In short, We want our news to be completely accurate but without actually having to read it!

However, the quick list style of writing isn’t a completely new idea. Before exploring the world of the Listicle I decided it was a whole new phenomenon that was changing to adapt to a fast pace news environment – oh how wrong I was!

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postaletrice via Compfightcc

The New York Times printed a column in the 19th Century dedicated to lists of all sorts. Namely, ‘Some Facts about…’ everything and anything was published in order to give people a variety of story styles, rather than just large solid chunks of writing. It wasn’t until the ‘facts’ started to become obviously trivial that it lost its stance as a news article, hence why Listicles are now considered to be softer news, allowing us to relate and read in light of heavy news that is published elsewhere. The list was used as a form of communication before mass communication was really thought about.

Academic Donald Matheson writes in his essay ‘The Birth of News Discourse: Changes in News Language in British Newspapers, 1880-1930’ how newspapers took on the role of the gatekeeper interpreting what was the most important information via changes in its language. Modern Journalism advocated a uniform prose style and prioritized efficient communication.

So, because lists were popular back in the day and only went out of fashion because of the demand for lots of text rich articles, it is safe to say that text rich articles are now going out of fashion because of the demand for lots of bitesize features – funny I know! Matheson adds, “History doesn’t move a straight line. And there are these echoes occasionally.” The internet has provoked some changes, but it is does not necessarily mean it is the birth of them. It will be a matter of time before an under the radar style of writing hits the big time, and an audience will assume it’s a new, hip and cool form of consumption forcing every outlet to adopt it.

For now, Brand Point know that “People love a list, and want to see it through to the end; a Listicle leverages that very human tendency!” so I wonder how long it will be until Listicles are seen as over rated and out dated.

‘All the women, independent!’

Having thrown myself into the weird and wonderful world of Journalism,  I have undoubtably been inspired to explore and blog about certain issues in more depth than I ever thought I would . One being the widely discussed subject of women & Journalism. It’s no secret that the subject has been on the agenda for years now, but I find it really interesting to see that even today, we are faced with gender stereotypes within media outlets and unless you’re one to sit down with cuppa on a Sunday afternoon and analyse every inch of every story, you’re more than likely going to be completely oblivious to it.

Whilst analysing The Daily Mail newspaper in an earlier post highlighting the popularity of Celebs in Journalism, I came to a conclusion that the female audience are being categorised into reading celeb gossip & lifestyle news. This is purely because of the mention of either/or on the front pages and a large chunk of the website being dedicated to it on the homepage.

The Daily Mail is a popular Newspaper in the UK with a fairly equal amount of female and male readers as established at Media.info , so I can only assume that both The Daily Mail and The Mail Online play on the stereotypes of the male and female readers to ensure that both genders continue to read the outlet; but in the 21st century, are these stereotypes to provoke an audience still necessary? Surely we’re all living in a society that allows us to openly read any sort of news without being judged or having a stereotype attached to us? It’s interesting to me to not only explore women & journalism from a readers point of view but looking into the journalism industry itself and seeing just how different genders are in news production and presentation.

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Although there may be more women in the Journalism industry than there were years ago, Anne Perkins in Harcups 2009 ‘Journalism: Principles and Practices’ states that “the higher up a newspaper hierarchy you travel, the fewer women there are to be seen”. Another female national newspaper editor states in the book that “much of journalism is still a boys’ club, with women struggling for professional acceptance”. The industry is still dominated by males and these statements insinuate that women do not have enough authority to deal with the serious headlines cast in media today.

The idea that there is a celebration of objectivity as a standard for news writing forces journalists to erase  themselves from their stories. According to a myth as discussed in Stuart Allans 2005 ‘Journalism: Critical Issues’, women are simply unable to transcend their bodies or their personal involvement with others so cannot ‘write’ themselves out of their bodies like men can do. Therefore, womens stories are still seen as those that focus on personal, domestic, and the home.

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Suzanne Franks also highlights in her 2013 publication ‘Women & Journalism’, that women in news organisations are encouraged to do the softer feature lifestyle news and discouraged from the harder end of news. Women who made the choice to go into feature writing are more often encouraged to because of the palatable and predictable working culture, or they’re being forced into that area of work as a result of external factors ie. the news agenda targeting women and what they should like, when they would rather be in a more serious news role. Almost all women that have been employed in the journalism field were initially employed with the intention to create sunday confession columns, which became a huge part of the evolving web; a platform that suites the intimacy of soft news so well.

Barbara Walters is a famous journalist who became the 1st Woman anchor on the US show news night and hasn’t looked back since, by writing her own material on serious stories as an overseas correspondent. She can be described as the women who revolutionised how women came to work in Journalism and it wasn’t because she was trying to prove a point (although it did end up spurring her on), but because she was genuinely interested in what serious stuff was going on around the world – surprising at it may seem, she enjoyed visiting the President and attending conventions just as much as she enjoyed attending red carpet events and talking to celebs…

I suppose in a way we should celebrate the ways in which women are portrayed in journalism because to have an emotional attachment to a story means that readers can attach themselves too, creating a loyal relationship with an outlet. Women have a stereotypical skill in writing lifestyle features and getting gossip from all sorts of people because they are prepared to listen. Although women in ‘serious’ journalism is argued to have problems attached to it, rather than trying to prove a point that women can have the same serious interests as men, women should focus on sharing that important information through enjoyment and passion as this way the news can be taken seriously.

Women in Journalism should also flourish at the thought of having a talent to write in a specific feature style. ‘Her Campus‘ is an example of a brilliant outlet produced by women only all over the world, reporting stories of interest to other women within the same area and across each of their campuses. Paige Carlotti believes Her Campus have “shattered the glass ceiling by creating a world of new media opportunities for young women, and other companies are beginning to emulate their model.” Feature stories are more likely to go viral on social media, as they are touching peoples emotions and with the popular demand of the ‘Listicle‘ as a feature, women have the potential to get creative with their writing styles.

Celeb here, Celeb there, Celeb everywhere!

There’s no denying it, celebrities are plastered all over the news agenda, populating the information throughout the news. From scandal to a bit of gossip, promotion and a new release, the media hosts billions of stories celebrating specific individuals that we perceive to be important in the public eye. David Marshall in Stuart Allans 2005, ‘Journalism: Critical Issues’ highlights that Celebrity Journalism is now so routinised in papers that its origins are no longer easily identifiable This unidentifiable origin is evident in one particular outlet and it is made blindingly obvious on their online platform. Daily Mail Online The Mail Online (Or The Daily Mail if you’re old school) is a British Middle-Market tabloid newspaper with a combined print and web readership total of 11, 970, 000, – a very large audience ranking 2nd in the most read UK national newspapers. This means it can arguably get away with covering almost anything, giving the audience the choice to either accept or decline a story without loosing too much interest in the overall outlet itself – there is bound to always be something to someones taste.

The concerning story of the ‘Paedophile dance coach’ is placed next to an update about Nicole Scherzingers love life with Lewis Hamilton, which conveniently sits next to the ‘Don’t Miss’ column including everything your celebrity heart desires. There’s no running away from it, celebrities are here, there and everywhere.

The Mail Online claims to be the tabloid with “all the latest US news, showbiz, science, sport and health stories from The Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday Newspapers.”

You’d initially think it was a clever way with words, convincing the youth (who stereotypically surf the net day in, day out) that the online platform caters to them by bringing them the hottest topics that they want to be discussing rather than the hard-hitting stuff that they probably should be discussing. However, it is also highlighted in the print copies just how much the outlet relies on its celebrated individuals to sell the paper. I took it upon myself to monitor the front pages of the Daily Mail for a whole month tallying each time a celebrity appeared, here’s what I found…

What’s surprising is, that although I knew and could see that the Mail Online and the Daily Mail include a lot of celebrity news, I did not expect as many as 21/28 front pages to be decorated with the fancy individuals. Not only do you notice that the front pages populate themselves with celebrities, the mere 3/7 that don’t feature them reference their ‘Femail & Lifestyle’ pages…is this insinuating that the female audience need addressing with either a celebrity fuelling cultural forms or a female stereotype to catch the ladies attention? Something I will look closer at in an upcoming post.

So why exactly are we so obsessed with these celebrities? 

Harcup & O’Neil in ‘the rise of celebrity news values in the British quality press’ say that editors and journalists involved in the celebrity game frequently claim to be giving the public what they want. Marshall in Allan also highlights that “celebrity guarantees a certain high level of interest”  and their level of fame establishes newsworthiness.

One front page from the Daily Mail features current film star Rosamund Pike conveniently 5 days after the UK release of ‘Gone Girl’ verifying her newsworthiness. However, the news story is not based on the role she plays or the film itself – ‘Gone Girl Star: We expect too much of marriage’ – it rather explores something different so that the audience can get to know her on a more personal level.

Only this morning did a reminder of how much we value digging deeper into a celebrities life highlight itself during a BBC Radio 1 breakfast show with DJ Nick Grimshaw…

Finding out what the famous person is ‘really like’ or what is going on in their lives constitutes as an important factor in the world of celebrity news and provides the audience with what Marshall coins a ‘affective investment’. It just goes to show that it’s not just journalism in the legacy outlets that feature celebrities high on the news agenda, but radio journalists are even extending the listeners experience, revealing more about a celebrities life by inviting them onto the outlets website to dig for dirt – a key way to promote the brand and drive traffic to the site.

On a final note, I must say that, although there is much negativity around celebrity journalism and an acceptance that, as Monck in Harcup & O’Neil states, ‘tabloids are full of shit’, it’s an area of discussion that will almost certainly never disappear. Celebrities appear in all sorts of industries and so to each individual a definition of ‘celebrity’ will differ, forever making it hard to establish the difference between celeb news and other news.

So, now it’s a staple of social and cultural normality and quite frankly, without knowing what Simon Cowell gets up to in his dressing room or what Rosamund Pike thinks of marriage, we’d all fail to connect with our cultural icons, something which could make society a very boring place to live. Marshall believes that “Celeb profiles provide a constellation of recognizable and familiar people who fill the gap and provide points of commonality for people to reconnect both with celebs and with each other”, supporting O’Neils point that it is transcending class, race and gender; it serves to help people reconnect where the bonds of previous and familiar communities were severed.

Storify has got it all going on – literally!

The content curation tool that allows you to access all areas of the web whilst sat staring the same screen, is not only a great platform to find quirky (& sometimes a bit too far-fetched) angles on certain subjects, but an equally fantastic place to get your daily news fix all in one go! What’s not to love?

Well, Before we start, I hear you ask – whats Curation? …

In a nut shell Content Creation sites, like Storify, basically recycle existing bits and bobs floating around the internet, yet I personally think it’s one of the most original outlets available to not only journalists, but normal folk like Norman down the road.

Journalists are turning to it more and more these days with the likes of the BBCPBS News Hour and CBC News all regularly updating their channels. The possibilities are endless – so endless in fact that little old me has had a play around. First, it was a Storify to do with Renée’s new face, the next was then all about the Oscar Pistorius case and after that I even dabbled in the world of Pinterest – another curation tool that acts as a mood board, allowing users to explore lots of wonderful ideas through the use of images. With Storify only being released to the public in April 2011, it still has time to grow and become increasingly popular but even now, it has sparked discussion from the outset.

Lewis DVorkin is one of many that have had a thing or two to say about it and he really wants to know one thing – who’s doing it right? He see’s the curation tool as a platform allowing “content creators to arrange all these social bits of information as they see fit on a page, then connect it all with their own reporting, context and perspective.”… Whilst playing around with the site myself I reached many a difficulty – How was I supposed to understand my own perspective on a story if the whole point of curating the information was to whittle down all aspects of a certain subject and deliver it to the people who would then get a general gist of what happened.

“It’s about moving information from the people who have it to the people who need it.”

I also found myself  “talking about the events” rather than being a “professional journalist” who creates a whole new spin on the issue, something that D’Vorkin explains Xavier Damman, founder of Storify, highlights on the site.

Storify is definitely much more than a platform to combine all sorts information on a certain subject – it is a platform designed to clearly organise this information, in order to come to a clear understanding of what’s displayed on the screen in front of you.

Next time I use the site I will channel my inner journalist and think to myself – what is your take? what will be refreshing for people to read? and this way I can hope that the stories I create flourish and I will be able to say – I’m doing it right!

“#CitizenJournalism doesn’t exist”

Wednesday November 5th saw the return of ‘Web Summit’, giving a platform to a vast range of industry professionals talking about all things techy! Amongst all the discussion was of course the subject of social media and it’s importance in a Journalists life. It just so happened that Spencer Reiss got the opportunity to talk to three important people in the world of Journalism – Kevin Sutcliffe from Vice, Matt McAllester from Time and Mark Little from Storyful.

Stuart Dredge for the The Guardian reported the whole thing in what looks like the form of a live blog. So it was good to see that the most important and interesting points from the video were quoted. The use of Journalism on the social media platform ‘Twitter’ was at the forefront of the conversation and it was highlighted from the very beginning that even with information all around it’s not a scarce thing that journalists still ‘dig for dirt’.

The task of Journalism hasn’t changed much as it’s imperative that reporters look to verify accurate information. Matt McAllester continues to say that there is still a role for original reporting and Twitter is a fundamental tool to communicate with correspondence rather than a replacement for it.  One of the main points that is made incredibly clear, something that they all agree on, is that

“Citizen Journalism doesn’t exist”

“There is no motivated core of people who are amateur doing really good journalism”

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The means of Journalism used to be limited but now there is Twitter for all sorts of news to be shared – a good reason as to why the term ‘Citizen Journalism’ came about – it’s used an awful lot nowadays! Oh Yeon Ho  first encouraged the term ‘Citizen Journalism’ and came to a conclusion of a clear understanding about how to define it; it was his idea to produce the citizen reporting site ‘OhMyNews’, something that transformed South Korea’s political environment – it gave citizens the power regardless of whether the content be of quality or not.

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Oh Yeon Ho – Uni News Room 2010

The reporters job on Twitter is to find the original source and verify it meaning they shouldn’t just accept what others report as it might not be 100% authentic.

Mark Little encourages that it’s good to ask – ‘How do  you know what is real from propaganda? – Can I find it out? – Is it true? – Where are my sources?’.

Whilst Twitter is a good place to stable facts it is also a great platform to spread hoax – something the description of a citizen journalist is more than capable of because they don’t depend upon ensuring ethical reporting – another reason to believe citizen Journalism could be non-existent!? Although the concept behind it is based on legit ideas, Mark Little makes a good point that there is no such thing as Citizen Journalism because the idea of being a Journalist is overshadowed by the fact that people assume what they are reading is correct… anyone can post something and claim it to be real or relevant but there is no way to justify it.

this is where the power of the professional journalist comes in…

They know how to search for a claim that something is true. People tend to ‘choose authority over authenticity’ and although this can be argued as a bad thing, it is these Journalistic authorities that allow us publics to put the idea of trust into what we read. Citizen ‘Journalism’ would assume that the news is quality trust worthy by using the word Journalist within its term, but this is not always the case.

Kraft in Yusufs 2013, ‘Citizen Journalism on the Twittersphere‘, recently found that: “news media that is run by professionals such as newspaper and online newspaper perceived as more trustworthy than other news media such as Twitter, blog, social network platforms.”  The lines between Citizen Journalism and Professional Journalism are blurred, so the term UGC should rather be adopted for this sort of coverage as it can be understood and valued as a less powerfully authentic tool, so not to be confused with the professionals and their ability to get hold of information that is trusted to be delivered back to the audience in confidence.