News as conversation

My book, Engaged Journalism: Connecting With Digitally Empowered News Audiences (Columbia University Press, February 2015) examines the changing relationship between journalists and the audiences they serve. I’m eager to hear your reactions. For Tuesday’s class, please read Chapter 2: News As Conversation (the PDF is on Blackboard under “assignments”). By noon on Monday, Feb. 8, post a reaction of 100 to 200 words as a comment on this post addressing the following question: How (if at all) did the chapter change the way you think about the role the audience plays in the journalistic process? In your response, cite specific examples from your own reading of the chapter, as well as your own observations and experience. It’s not acceptable to piggy-back on your classmates’ answers without reading the chapter yourself. This assignment is worth 10 class participation points.

14 thoughts on “News as conversation

  1. “News as a Conversation” changed the way I saw audience involvement from the start, when it said that interaction with the audience can enrich the dialogue about an issue. I always think of journalists as the one who enrich the discussion while the general audience takes away from what’s important. That is not the case. Also, my perspective changed from how Danny O’Neil uses audience engagement to shape is post-game coverage and interviews with the coaches. He is able to see what his reader’s want to know more about and fill that need directly, rather than guessing and asking only what interests him. His content is therefore more valuable for his audience. I also think it’s important to remember that journalists are still needed in the digital age for “facilitating communities around that news and information,” as was said on page 49. It is still essential for journalists to provide context and verification of information. Feedback from readers can help journalists hone their skills and see what is most effective and valuable to readers.

  2. I was very interested in this statement: “Perhaps we can even use social media to do the exact opposite of its reputation—to slow down the news cycle, help us catch our collective breaths and scrutinize what’s happening with greater mindfulness” (46).
    We usually think of social media as noisy and fast paced. Users rarely finish reading a post let alone reflect on it. But journalists can gage readers’ interest and engagement to determine the news cycle. For example, CNN could have covered the Aurora shooting story and moved on. They could have even interviewed experts and written a story from a religious perspective and moved. They would have no idea that the audience wanted more. But by asking, “Where was God in Aurora?” the discussion ended when the people wanted it to end. And that enabled the journalist to stay on one story for a longer period of time. The audience itself squeezed every bit of meaning and reflection out of the story.
    I also liked the discuss about choosing what not to do. It was genius for the Guardian to enable readers to hide royal baby coverage. Often we think of digital news as adding more content, but this is providing more of what they actually want and less of what they don’t. More news sites should use this tactic.

  3. This definitely changed the way I think about the role of the audience in the journalistic process. I guess I had never really thought about the extent to which an audience could create create an ongoing dialogue. I thought it was super interesting that Eric Ulken said his definition of an engaged user is somebody who frequently comments and shares links on social media. Even further, Emily Ramshaw’s definition of an engaged user is one that shows up and interacts with journalists over social media. I’m completely certain that as a reader I have never commented on a post, shared a link to any social media platform, or shown up to an event, so it was interesting to read all of the different definitions. I think there are probably a lot more people in the audience like me who just consistently visit one site, read the articles, and then leave. I think it’s becoming very evident that if journalists aren’t engaging their audiences, they aren’t doing what they should be. Social media allows journalists to be active and to create a place for people to engage with one another, which I think is pretty remarkable.

  4. “In the long term, its better to have a window than a brick wall.” This quote stuck out to me because I know I need to open up to social media and sources when I am writing. I loved that this chapter focused on the audience and how they can impact a story and how journalists can get them involved. I really appreciated the discussion about how through interacting on the Internet with social media, getting and sharing news is second nature, and does not require a full newspaper article. It gives the audience so much control. Readers have a leg up on journalists with social media. They can report the news in real time as they experience it and publish it to all their followers. This chapter helped reinforce how crucial it is as a journalist to have a relationship with your social media and followers because that is how you get the best, timeliest reporting. I love that social media has changed the crowd sourcing game and by including your audience in your story writing process, it makes it easier and easier to develop strong writing. As I try to get more used to twitter and using it effectively, I am working to not sound like a twitter robot or just someone who tweets my articles. I’m working on making my twitter presence strong so that I can take advantage of all the twitter community has to offer.

  5. Before reading this chapter, I thought of journalism as a one-way street. I believed the news source was feeding the information to the audience and letting them make their own interpretations. But now I see that the process does not end there. This is only the beginning of the conversation, and that’s thanks to spreading digital environment. Audiences can now provide their feedback through given outlets, which in turn prompts a deeper conversation amongst the online community. I found it quite profound when Andy Carvin commented, “why don’t we use these incredibly powerful tools to talk with them, listen to them, and help us all understand the world a little better?” Journalists can actually learn from their audience and see different perspectives on the issue. It becomes a dialogue rather than a monologue.
    After this reading, I see how this new opportunity to communicate opinions and thoughts online helps journalists stay relevant. When Batsell discuses how “today’s journalists can’t just gather facts and quotes and dispense them to the public; they must actively seek out their audience and create opportunities for interaction,” I realized that journalists must hone in on what the people want to know about. With access to endless amounts of information on the Internet, it is crucial to tell the news people want to hear. “What the Internet allows you to do is see that people are still talking about it.” The conversation doesn’t just stop anymore—people can discuss the news on a deeper level for an extended period of time, rather than keeping their opinions to themselves and moving on. Saying this, it’s important for a journalist to care about what they are communicating to their audience. This makes the work more passionate and appealing to the reader. From personal experience, reading a post online that prompts a conversation about a controversial issue intrigues me more than simply reading fact. Looking at different perspectives makes me value the content in the original piece of news because it has opened the gates to a multitude of viewpoints. Like Dan Gigloff summed up the lesson when he said, “our whole mission is meeting the audience. For the moment they are caring about that, we want to meet them. We can shed light on what everybody’s thinking about today. I think that’s the primary goal of journalism.”

  6. The “Where was God in Aurora?” headline kind of shocked me when I first read it. It sounds like the sort of inflammatory comment that could incur the wrath of an entire group of people (religious people) while opening up a meaningless debate because people were too involved in their own ideas to hear anything else. I think reading through that story brought the biggest “a-ha” moment for me in this chapter. Many times, especially since I’ll read through comment sections sometimes, I feel as though people who comment on things are those who feel too strongly about a subject and can’t argue rationally, so they just lash out. The way that CNN was able to turn this one question into many blog posts is incredible.

    After working at NBC5 here, I am aware of how much social interaction plays into certain aspects of news and how much it doesn’t. When I did a web shift at the station, I saw how people were engaged with tweets from the reporters and how they liked to comment on Facebook stories (although, sometimes those people fell into the “not making rational arguments” category). It’s always nice to see people being engaged in something you wrote or produced, but I think it’s definitely a numbers game. The statement from Dan Gilgoff at the end of the chapter talks about how people’s voice is more important than ever. However, I think he needs to add another word: collective. One person saying they don’t believe in God because of Aurora, or something of that sort, is not going to garner another dozen blog posts on the subject. The creation of a conversation, though, will generate more content because that’s what news really is. It’s getting people in on the conversation and, through social media, they are able to contribute their voices more loudly and accurately than ever before. But the one woman who calls NBC5 at 3:37 a.m. on Saturdays is not going to change the face of the station – you need a symphony of voices to change things.

  7. I find it so interesting how journalism has evolved into a very interactive field. A journalist’s role has become essential in starting conversations and evoking opinions from readers who create their own ongoing conservation. Gilgoff talks about his career before Internet journalism and says, “before, you would think a story has come and gone… what the Internet allows you to do is see that people are still talking about it. We didn’t know that a few years ago.” A blog post can stimulate debate that can be re-opened years later and constantly discussed among the audience. Journalists no longer feel the sense of closure that they used to when their article was printed. Now, they can return to view comments and gain insight as people build to the conversation. “Our whole mission is meeting the audience,” this resinated with me because as an engaged user myself, I have strong opinions on issues and news. A community of journalists who strive to meet the audience paired with an informed audience of engaged users creates a much more rich news environment.

  8. I really love the quote “So we need to join the conversation where it is” made by Steve Buttry but my question is, how can journalists engage the conversation while also making a living. Journalists have to join and create the conversation on their social media accounts, allowing readers including myself to absorb the story and the conversation without paying for it. I love how the social media audience engages so emotionally and it can be very stimulating and educational however, how can we make this new model of media become profitable for the media outlets and independent journalists. I also really enjoyed reading about how the audience’s power has shifted with social media. News people and companies alike are hungry for the conversation and for the interaction of their audience. It shows a new power from the audience that wasn’t there before. Before, the audience picked up a newspaper and their engagement was one-way. From newspaper to reader, the reader didn’t have any power besides sending in a letter or making a comment to a friend. There is a real power in the audience now that could lead somewhere interesting down the road. The reader/mass audience has more control and power then ever before.

  9. I will never forget when I was in 7th grade and there was an active shooter on the Virginia Tech campus. My dad went to Virginia Tech and we were big Hokies. As we were watching the news on the night of April 16th we were in shock to hear that many students and faculty had been killed by another student. It was the first time I had ever seen my dad cry and I just remember we both had so many questions and wanted to know more than the news channels were giving us. As technology has progressed it amazes me how journalism has progressed along with it. This chapter in the book is really eye opening about how journalism has truly progressed. “This is what media is now, a constantly evolving interaction between reporters working for mainstream companies; journal- ists and writers compiling and interpreting news for online out- lets; and thousands of individuals participating on their own in the gathering and assembling and disseminating of information. (Batsell 58)” Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the ability to comment on articles has given journalists and those who care to participate in the open conversation the easiest way to do so. Looking back on the shooting 9 years ago at Virginia Tech I think if social media had been a bigger part of the conversation I would not have had so many questions and I would be able to participate. It is inspiring that people want to participate and want to be involved.

  10. “It was not only a conversation, it was a unique conversation that CNN provoked and was starting to own.” To me, this is a very strong statement that grasps the way journalists view their works. Gilgoff said that CNN felt they ‘owned’ the conversation built up between the users in the comment section. To own somebody else’s words is a concept that sounds violating and invasive for the participants; however, from the journalist’s perspective, it is your goal to spark conversation and leave your readers with comments and concerns from your own words. The fuel in their response is your payment. It is the way you feel accomplished about all the hard work you do. So yes, the journalists take responsibility of the comments the readers post. The comment section of online articles allow for the readers to deliberate, and for the journalist to feed off the reaction. This can be helpful for follow up stories. I relate this to the mood of my generation: we need immediate response. Amazon prime, uber, all these apps allow instant gratification for our generation. When we want it, we can find it. The problem with a newspaper is you can not hear people’s reactions, with an online comment section you can respond immediately and share with the journalist how you felt about the article. The only way I can relate this directly to myself is when I was in high school I was in charge of the yearbook. Once we distributed them, I wanted to hear how much everyone loved them. However, because it wasn’t digital I didn’t have that luxury. I had to wait. As a millennial that was torture.

  11. This chapter really made me think about how audience in journalism is conversation based. I mostly would focus on whether my story would be interesting to read but not if it would lead people to talk about an issue as well as get their take on it. I always thought of journalism as learning the most you can about what you’re covering to develop a story and then giving it to the audience but it seems like it’s more of a partnership. I never thought of it as facilitating the community but it seems like it makes the journalists part of the community as well. For instance in the chapter it mentioned how Danny O’Neil uses comments and questions on Twitter to help formulate the questions he had for coaches. Prior to I thought outsourcing some questions to Twitter was a little lazy and just allowed those who weren’t completely knowledgeable on an issue to lead the conversation. In reality it let the audience tell you what they want to know.

  12. I’ve always found it interesting that major journalistic publications were so reluctant to accept social media into their lives and workplaces. Until recently, journalistic outlets chose to treat social media as a second-class new platform and as a result, information about the preferences and thoughts of they’re audience were passed up. David Bread, director of digital content for the Washington Post said it best when he said, “without engagement, we’re not relevant.” In an era where real-time updates are the only thing that’s keeping people present in their lives, it’s only necessary for journalist embrace and adapt the shifting news cycle. Social media doesn’t “cheapen” journalism, it enhances it. It creates more content competition between stations and it most importantly allows the reader to find and read stories from different news sources, allowing the reader to become better informed, and thus creating a more engaged audience.

  13. This chapter didn’t necessarily change the way I think about what role the audience plays in modern journalism. Rather, it verified and somewhat enhanced it. Of course journalists need to be communicating with their readers. Undoubtedly, some of that communication might come in the form of criticism, but I think it is important to allow the readers to voice their opinions if they feel something is worth discussing. Like Monica Drake said toward the beginning of the chapter, it all “boils down to caring about our audience.” The audience isn’t going away, and journalists know that, so they have to recognize and engage with the audience in the best way they can: at the source with comment sections and through readers’ favorite social media sites. For example, Jimmy Fallon wouldn’t be as successful if he didn’t acknowledge his audience every week night. He dances out in the crowd, invites people to answer questions and participate in the show, and that is why people keep filing in every week to be an interactive part of the audience. Same goes with Oprah. The news organizations need to embrace their audience like the Fallons and the Oprahs of the world do, and do so well.

    I think the best quote from this chapter was, “Oftentimes, getting something wrong is not the worst thing in the world—it can spur a dialogue.” This point came from John Cook, one of the cofounders of GeekWire. Not all journalists are perfect, even though it is a journalists job to be as precise and factual as possible. The inclusion of comments supports journalists and this notion that people know reporters are not perfect. Journalists must maintain their precision and keep work up to standard, but instead of reading stories like they are research studies up for review, people can actually feel comfortable talking to the source. Reporters are now approachable. But of course, they can choose what way to be approached, and I feel that what GuideLive does seems like the best way to handle comments.

  14. When reading the second chapter of your book, News as Conversation, I learned a lot about how we, as an audience, play a role in the journalistic process… and how this was recognized through the use of engaged journalism, like online publications, social media sites, and the extremely interactive and engaging photo stories like “Snow Fall.” In the chapter, Dan Gilgoff, who formerly worked for U.S. News and World Report, was quoted saying, “before, you would think a story has come and gone… what the Internet allows you to do is see that people are still talking about it.” The Internet has allowed for more of a “conversation” per say, when it comes to the news… whereas before the audience didn’t really have the opportunity to engage in the stories, like we do now. I also really enjoyed when Andy Carvin proposes using social media to actually “slow down” the process of the media, and instead of trying to get everything out there and beat everyone to the story, rather focus on what is actually being said and engage in a more collective “greater mindfulness.”

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