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media140 Sydney « Previous | |Next »
September 24, 2009

There is a Future of Journalism in the Social Media Age. It is being driven by Julie Posetti, who is part of Media140, an independent global movement creating unique multimedia conferences and events to explore the future of the real-time web. The aim is to foster discourse, collaboration and innovation within journalism, media, advertising, entertainment, marketing, PR, gaming and technology industries.

This is the world of user experience and digital optimism. Media140Sydney, as a community gathering place, is concerned with the user experience of journalists, and fostering debate and exploring ideas within the media industry about Twitter and the other social media platforms and practices.

The media industry is defined as the mainstream media (print journalism, radio, television + New Matilda) and it is designed to explore the disruptive nature of ‘real-time’ social media, looking at tools such as Twitter, live-blogging, Facebook and other social networking tools as they rapidly transform the media in real-time.

Oddly, the use of blogging platform Twitter by independent political bloggers does not appear to be explored. Nor is the democratizing potential of the political blogosphere. But then blogs are so 2004, aren't they? They are full of bile, and just shout at each other, don't they? Unlike professional journalists, of course. Blogs are the dirty laundy, whilst journalism is the cleaned-up iron laundry.

What this indicates is that news and journalism are closely aligned with the existing media players, and so their combined futures are mutually dependent in the context of the woes of newspapers (profitability layoffs, consolidations, and outright closings), which are more extensive than in any period in memory.

The background to the relationship between journalism and Twitter is explored by Julie Posetti in her j-scribe as a working tool in their work. She argues that the micro-blogging platform Twitter has become the breakthrough social media tool for journalists, as they use it to cross-promote their own stories, comment on others, connect with contacts outside their usual silos and accumulate followers.

Posetti points out that Twitter has become as a way for journalists to publish news briefs from events they are observing or participating in--eg, the recent the dust storm or --- to share links to stories that are deemed significant etc. Twitter has become embedded as a component of the media's breaking news coverage and its increasing use of user-generated content. This means that newspapers are back in the breaking news business except now their delivery method is electronic and not paper.

Media140Sydney does not appear to venture outside the boundaries of mainstream journalism or what journalists working in the industry make of Twitter. The journalists are debating the ways in which technology is changing the social, political and economic fabric of their working lives. More broadly, it is a debate about digital optimism, that is premised on the threat the internet poses to the authority and relevance of the industrial media.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 9:31 AM | | Comments (13)


I suspect Twitter is going to be a central theme of the day. The conference does get its name FROM Twitter after all. As to how many Australian journalists are aware of the impact of Twitter is another matter, but there will be a few of us happy to point that out during the day.

The concerns expressed about Twitter effecting their identity also applies to political bloggers. They too have an online identity--a public persona-- that is different from the private person. Their public persona is not constructed around the journalist as celebrity with a large fan club of followers.

well the Twitter platform appears to have more acceptance amongst Oz journalists than the blogging platform. What disappointed me from looking at the program is that there is no connection of journalism to democracy. I find this surprising, given the tendency of journalists to ignore policy and to recycle media releases; a tendency that undermines the journalist profession's often stated commitment to the process of enlightenment and knowledge in contrast to that of mass deception and mythmaking.

Has the media's traditional watchdog relationship vis-vis the power of the government been sundered? Or is it just taken for granted in that the good story or interview is the placeholder for the watchdog job?

there is Google Group called Australian Journalism Forum in which journalists are beginning to discuss their profession and identity in the context of the big changes happening to the mainstream media. It is more sophisticated than the dirty/clean laundry metaphor I used about It is acknowledged there --without controversy--- that the blog paradigm is one that requires a more conversational, and personal, style of writing than the style of traditional news stories, and that this difference is impacting on the way that journalists write.

Thanks for your interest in Media140 Sydney, Gary. But I think you're short-changing the event and its line-up if you assume democracy & e-democracy will not be on the agenda.

Two of our featured speakers are e-democracy practioners & researchers (Barry Saunders & Dr Jason Wilson - on Twitter as @barrysaunders & jason_a_w). And Citizen Media/Journalism + democracy will be key underlying themes. Perhaps when the speaker bios are filled out you'll see my point more clearly? For example, Jude Mathurine (@newmediajude) is speaking about a Citizen Journalism project his university is running in South Africa which bridges the gap between a rich city and poor townships on its fringe - at its very core is the role of youth-oriented Cit-J & mobile media in democratisation.

Of course, you also need to remember that journalists/journalism have/has a significant democratic role which is reflective of their status as journalist-citizens, not just their 'old media' rank as members of the 4th Estate. I fully expect this theme will be explored @ media140.

Further, many of the journalists featured are bloggers and while blogging isn't specifically mentioned it's an implicit aspect of the event - which will also be a platform for a live-blogging experiment involving recruited Cit-Js and bloggers with a range of perspectives and experience.

Further, the Political Reporting panel is clearly designed to generate debate and I expect a diverse audience to bring alternative perspectives - including those you allude to.

Yes, Twitter will be a central theme of the conference. In fact the journalism google group you mention in the comments here was started by @bronwen as a follow-up to a Twitter debate on newspaper paywalls in which I participated.

In an ideal world (of digi-optimists? :) we would have been able to expand the content to showcase more non-mainstream journalism practitioners but we needed a unifying theme for the event and, based on issues of currency and available expertise, we decided to focus this event specifically on the question of social media and professional journalism...But this is just one Media 140 event in a sea of others under development and you shouldn't view it in isolation.

I hope you will join us in Sydney - your input and expertise would be welcome.

I was wearing my mask as a blogger and being provocative. I really don't have any serious objections to the way the event has been structured since anything to do with the media and the internet has to be centred on the mainstream to get off the ground.

It would seem that I have been guilty of reading the form of the conference, rather than the the underlying currents that will flow through it. So I acknowledge the charge of shortchanging.

Re the journalism/ democracy--as you acknowledge it is core area of concern given the history and tradition of journalism. I was working from ' How Social Media is Changing Political Reporting' session and the people involved, who I assumed would be more concerned with the effects of Twitter on their current practice rather than what journalism can do to counter the hollowing out of democracy.

Hopefully the audience and some of the other speakers will push the boundaries beyond the horizons within which the Canberra Press Gallery feels most comfortable. It is within that comfort zone that a lot of the contradictions about journalism's professional ethos are most keen.

Clearly the citizen/civic journalism carries a lot of hopes for those desiring a change from the current newsroom practices.

I do hope that you are able to set up a live feed of that event--or put the material online afterwards so that we can mull over the issues and what people have said.

re 'How Social Media is Changing Political Reporting' and a democracy dominated by the executive.

Caroline Overington sure wont address how the Canberra Press gallery is part of the power structure --she sees herself as a celebrity ad a player. Witness her role in the last federal election.

It is too much to expect the other members of the Canberra Press Gallery to say what is going on--they have too much to lose. Twitter doesn't change much in that knowledge/power. Most of the journos use it as a form of broadcast.

the media are political players--eg Murdoch. They are part of the deformation of policy making by private power, above all by organised business interests. In my more pessimistic moments I suspect we are heading towards an epoch of ‘post-democracy.

We just vote and the government acts like a company and the journos hang with the pollies and write superficial op eds. Liberal democracy is supposedly self-government of citizens through our elected representatives –but it is more government to protect the interests of private power.

How does Twitter address that?

I don't see the political journos talking much about deliberative democracy or the media's complicity in the hollowing out of representative democracy. As outlined by John Keane this hollowing out is caused by:

lobbying, campaign fund raising, new governmental forms of media manipulation, government by moonlight in policy areas such as defence spending, the weakening of legislatures, and the growth of unaccountable statutory bodies, pressures that have the combined effect of hollowing out or restricting representative mechanisms within such institutions as political parties, electoral and judicial arrangements and governmental executive and administrative systems

We are living with the emergence in some countries of post-democratic polities held together by strong-armed, heavily media-led government, the decline of active citizenship and its replacement by a culture of consumption, scripted telepopulist appeals to ‘the people’ and the selective application of force to marginal and dissenting minorities.

A lot of the participating, online public's experience of old/new media and journalism has been shaped by experiences with the press gallery and opinion columnists. We've become accustomed to the boundaries and there's still a lot of suspicion, even when journos do use the technologies.

"But then blogs are so 2004, aren't they?"

That raises an interesting bunch of questions. Every five minutes someone is claiming the death of something or other. Facebook has killed Myspace. Facebook has killed blogs. Twitter has killed blogs and Facebook.
Google has killed newspapers. People tend to assume that everyone else is doing what they and their personal group of friends are doing.

In fact, they're all surviving side by side. People use different combinations. Anyone who tries to keep up with what's going on across all of them would know it doesn't leave much time for anything else. That's as much of a challenge for journalists as trying to keep a paid job.

Presumably, as Alan Kohler points out the main game for the print media is to find a way to move from a high-cost, cartel pre-internet business environment to a low-cost, highly competitive digital environment.

The Ten Network auction attracted no buyers is a watershed moment in Australian media. Every owner of every major newspaper, TV, radio or magazine network in Australia must now confront the reality that the marketplace -has decreed that the era of old media being a licence to generate exceptional profits, or wield exceptional power, is over.

It will be very difficult for them to make the shift and journalism as we know it will suffer. Business Spectator points the way to this future, yet Alan Kohler + Co are not speaking at Future of Journalism in the Social Media Age conference.

We're about to find out which journalists are driven by love of their craft and which are driven by corporate shelter.

Over at The Debate--the Media Alliance's blog--it is observed that:

the overwhelming impression one is getting is that the orthodoxy for mainstream news organisations is to keep on doing what they have been doing for all this time and hope, Micawber-wise, that something will turn up. Charging for content is one of these strategies.

It is added that everyone who cares about the news business – and in particular the livelihoods of journalists – agrees that the more experimentation, research, discussion and debate that we can have as an industry, the better.
And this has to involve everyone, from news executives, to bloggers, to techies, to academics, to the Alliance.We’re not seeing it yet – we have yet to see the kind of paradigm shift needed in this country, where there is a real discussion, involving all the big players, about the future of the news industry.

In the US or the UK, in contrast, there is a lively debate. So the Future of Journalism in the Social Media Age conference can be seen as trying to get a debate off the ground by talking about the usefulness of Twitter for journos.