Digital Convergence, Innovation and Ethics.
The journalism, media and communications industry (JMC industry) is experiencing change on an unprecedented level. Information that was normally the domain of one industry sector now appears in another due to advancement in digital technology and the creation of digital content. The term for this type of change within the JMC industry is convergence and is evident when content is created for example by a TV station and then appears as a post on someone’s Facebook feed. Consequently, media consumers are now receiving more of their news from social media sites like Facebook and relying on what is being shared by trusted Facebook friends, real life friends and also family. Facebook is now a media organization and is an example of how innovation is having a monumental impact on the JMC industry with most media organizations wanting a share for the Facebook like-and-share action. Lastly, as media consumers enjoy greater levels of participation within the JMC industry, who is to be trusted as a source for reliable and credible news? This sort question is within the realm of ethics and is the last topic to be covered within this blog. Media organizations along with media and communications professionals all need to respond to the associated challenges and changes that convergence and innovation have created. Consequently, the importance of maintaining ethical standards within the JMC industry, has never been greater for the media and communications professional.
I recently posted a story from the ABC website on my Facebook page regarding the cancellation of Rosanne Barr’s show: Rosanne. Posting interesting news stories to Facebook is commonplace now for millions of people worldwide however, it’s a clear example of media convergence and the “proliferation of media platforms [that] has affected all communication, not just mass communication” (Turow, 2016. p6). Turow identifies three major components of media convergence and lists them as the three ‘C’s: content, corporations and computers (Turow, 2016. P12). Roseanne Barr’s racist Twitter rant is a form of digital communication that enabled her to communicate albeit communicate racist ideology, with the same effectiveness that was only possible through analogue based mass communication technologies such as, newspapers, TV and radio.
Convergence allows members of the audience to manipulate the products of mass communication due to the nature of digital technology. Media content produced by one medium can be shared on another. Consequently, Media consumers now have greater levels of participation within the media and this leads to new developments in the relationship between the audience and media organisations (Turow, 2016. p13). Jenkins notes that convergence is renegotiating relations between producers and consumers and that industries such as the games industry have been very successful in incorporating feedback from media consumers into the product development process (Jenkins, H. 2004, p41). What this means for communications industries is possibly a greater level of participation within the production of content and broadcast news and a possible redefining of intellectual property rights. Jenkins cites the example of Warner Brothers not being able to shut down fan sites of the Harry Potter movies due to public demand despite the corporations unwillingness to allow public discussion and content surrounding the movies to circulate freely. The right to participate in the production of content was asserted by the fans of the franchise and media consumers were dictating how they wanted their news to be produced and delivered in a way that was meaningful for them (Jenkins, 2004. p41)
Convergence within the JMC industry is important for those wishing to become professionals within that industry because media content is now delivered across multiple platforms. This has ramifications for the how media content is presented which may depend on the medium on which it is being delivered. Media professional Vanessa Wiltshire, producer for the ABC program Australian Story, confirms that today’s media professionals, particularly those working within the interactive media desk, need to be very flexible and always keep in mind the type of demographic and audience that is being targeted. This is largely due to the rising importance of the 3rd party platform (Spurgeon, 2018. Lecture 11). Media professionals are now required to change the way that media content is presented when being delivered on various platforms and being targeted to various audiences for each platform. Wiltshire describes how media content destined to be used on a social media site such as Facebook, needs the content to be image driven and to have an engaging, snappy headline. If a media professional is then working on the news desk then media content will be written and presented in a more traditional news format. If radio or TV news were to be considered then a whole new presentation method would be required (Spurgeon, 2018. Lecture 11).
Innovation is now an embedded part of the JMC industry and is worth considering as a topic to explain the big changes within the industry. Media commentator Lucy Kung has identified 4 types of innovation that have major implications for the JMC industry which are: Incremental innovation, architectural innovation, Discontinuous innovation and disruptive innovation (Kung, 2013. p11-12). Incremental innovation requires existing processes, systems and capabilities to be expanded or adapted. Architectural innovation refer to technological advances that cause a fundamental shift in the way things are done within JMC organizations. Discontinuous innovation occurs where existing skills, systems, processes and products are superseded and strategic assets can become liabilities. Lastly, disruptive innovation refers to market structures rather than technologies. Kung states that:
“Innovation is closely linked to change which leads to organizational change when the need to innovate is pressing, due to the high level of discontinuous and disruptive innovation that the media industry has had to contend with (Kung, 2013. p11).”
Technological advancements within the JMC industry have meant that this industry has had to meet rapid pace and scope of innovation by becoming innovative in the way that media content is both delivered and sourced. Technology has now become intertwined with content and media organizations which have, in some way, become technology firms. Technological and innovate skills have become almost as important as the ability to create content. (Kung, 2013. p11)
It’s worth considering what innovation means within the context of the JMC industry as it doesn’t always refer to technological inventions but more so, the implementation of an invention into a market or social setting (Storsul and Drumsvik, 2013. p14). So where does YouTube sit as a new innovation within the JMC industry as It basically allows anyone to broadcast facts or opinion? This type of democratization of cultural production is a combination of raw talent with digital distribution that gives the type of access to mass communication that previously only available to legacy media organizations that had access to vast reserves of capital (Burgess, J and Green, J. 2009 p20). Burgess refers to the ‘civic opportunity’ that YouTube allows those with a channel to engage in. Other forms of engagement with narrowcasting are blogs and social media sites that give rise to other questions for ethics which will be tackled in the ethics section of this essay. What is happening with more frequency is that mainstream media organizations are now sourcing increasing amounts of news from social media sites without thought or consideration for what is newsworthy but because of the highly competitive nature of the JMC industry to produce news that is current and is currently trending. The following example Front Page Vegemite Madness, serves as a great example of how innovation is changing the way news is both sourced and being selected for broadcast.
Innovation within the JMC industry is important for those wishing to become professionals within that industry because the skills that are necessary to deliver media content are now far more than being able to interview, investigate and write. JMC professional Kristian Devitt, principal of public relations firm KDPR suggests that PR and Journalism are converging creating a new form of incremental innovation where existing processes, systems and capabilities are expanded or adapted (Kung, 2013.p 10). She promoted the importance of JMC professionals obtaining digital media literacies and that huge opportunities exist for those who have a broad range of skills and are able to: take a good photo, tell a good story, design a website and have good human interaction skills (Spurgeon, C. 2018. Lecture 3).
Rosanne Barr is one of the most recognizable faces and names on the planet due to her hit TV sitcom Rosanne during the 1990s and the triumphant return of the show for the 2016 – 2017 season, revived by the USAs ABC network and drew great ratings ABC news, 2018). This dream run has come crashing down very recently for Rosanne Barr because of her racist ranting via her Twitter account. The new media allows everyone to be mass communicators with enough followers on social media. In the case of Rosanne Barr, her Twitter tweetings proved to be far too effective in broadcasting her racist remarks to an audience of over 820, 000 Twitter followers . Social media allows everyone to become a journalist however, “it just depends on whether they are a professional journalist or not which is the differentiation (Fagan in Spurgeon 2018. Lecture 11).”
The importance of broadcasting via social media and the implications of ethical broadcasting and reporting standards could not be any clearer when contemplating the responsibility that now accompanies social media broadcasting or citizen journalism (Harrington, 2013. p6) . ABC producer Vanessa Wiltshire suggests that good journalism concerns itself with looking at the message being delivered via any medium or source and asking questions such as: What is being said, why are they saying it, and where does this information come from? (Spurgeon, 2018. Lecture 11). Wiltshire continues by stating that the credibility of JMC professionals is of primary importance, a fact backed by David Fagan, former editor in chief at Brisbane’s Courier Mail and QLD editorial director for News Corp. Fagan states that while everyone has the capacity to run their own TV station via a YouTube channel, will anyone wants to watch it or pay for it? Audiences are usually aware that an opinion is being presented as fact without proper independent investigation and balanced, fair reporting? (Spurgeon, 2018. Lecture 11). This may be true, but when the reporting is coming from a trusted source, the ability to discriminate what is an isn’t the truth becomes that little bit harder for media consumers. The report below by Media Watch illustrates how far media organizations will go to run the story that everyone else has got, regardless of the whether the facts stack up or not.
The importance of truth in reporting is a very serious concern when one looks at current developments in the USA and Donald Trumps use of the term ‘fake news’ for anything that is not complimentary to either himself or his administration (Threadgould, 2018). Threadgould’s article below offers insight into the new standards regarding journalism and the search for truth in reporting.
Ethical considerations within the JMC industry is important for those wishing to become professionals within that industry because more people are receiving their news from social media sources than every before. The concept of communication theory that states that news is most meaningful when it comes from a trusted source has changed from conversations we used to have with trusted friends and family, it’s now about what to consider as the truth when Facebook friends and family are sharing news via social media accounts. Media organizations are now trying to the be that trusted friend and find ways to share their messages via social media also which raises concerns regarding ethical JMC practice (Fagan in Spurgeon, 2018. Lecture 11). Online sources of news and information such as discussion groups, chat rooms and even blogs often conduct discussions with those who already agree with the facts or opinions being expressed. Indeed “discussion groups high degree of insulation from opposing view – pockets of interest – deliberative enclaves. Differences are exacerbated and extremism developed (Leaning, 2009. p78). The necessity for JMC media professionals is to continue to find the balance between commercial concerns and ethical standards could not be anymore important for the JMC professional.
The demonstration of how convergence and innovation have intersected to raise new concerns for ethical practice for the JMC professional could not be any more important. While convergence is important for being able to access media content across many new mediums, and broadcast to hundreds of thousands of people such as Rosanne Barr, what is the sort of message that is being broadcast? Is it factual, ethical and well researched? These questions are increasingly not asked as innovation pushes media organizations to new limits in order to be the first to report something that may appear on social media, regardless of whether it’s newsworthy or not. The new media environment of citizen journalism, online discussion groups, social media tweets and paradigmatic shifts in what constitutes truth requires an ongoing examination of journalism standards and news that is actually newsworthy.
ABC News (2018). Rosanne Cancelled. Network 10 and ABC condemn racist tweet. Retrieved from http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-05-30/american-network-abc-cancels-roseanne-after-racist-tweet/9814474
Burgess, J and Green, J (2009) YouTube: On-line video and participatory culture. Cambridge: Polity.
Jenkins, H. (2004) The Cultural Logic Of Media Convergence. The International Journal Of Cultural Studies, 7 (1). 33–43. Retrieved from http://journals.sagepub.com.ezp01.library.qut.edu.au/doi/10.1177/1367877904040603
Kung, L. (2013) Innovation, Technology and Organisational Change: Legacy Media’s Big Challenges. In T. Storsul and A.H. Krumsvik (Eds.) Media Innovations A Multidisciplinary Study Of Change (pp. 9-12) Gothenburg: Nordicom
Harrington, S. (2013). Australian TV news; new forms, functions and futures. Briston: Itellect.
Leaning, M (2009) The Internet, Power and Society: Rethinking The Power Of The Internet To Change Lives.
Media Watch (2018, February 12).Would You Like Facts With That [Video File]. Retrieved from http://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/transcripts/s4802471.htm
Media Watch (2018, April 23). Front Page Vegemite Madness [Video File]. Retrieved from http://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/transcripts/s4834085.htm
Spurgeon, C. (2018). KJB102 Introduction to Journalism, Media and Communications: Lecture 3 Live Guest Panel: What Do Employers Want? [lecture recording] Retrieved from https://lecturecapture.qut.edu.au/ess/echo/presentation/2115a640-0746-4106-bc04-080e21b9573c?ec=true
Spurgeon, C. (2018). KJB102 Introduction to Journalism, Media and Communications: Lecture 11 Live Guest Panel: Facebook And Fake News [lecture recording] Retrieved from https://lecturecapture.qut.edu.au/ess/echo/presentation/7addc165-5612-4b28-897d-d1baad1f1788?ec=true
Threadgould, M. (2018, May 25) Elon Musk and His Precarious Relationship with the truth and Journalism [Web log post]. Retreived from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/elon-musk-his-precarious-relationship-truth-michelle-threadgould/?trk=eml-email_feed_ecosystem_digest_01-recommended_articles-6-Unknown&midToken=AQGn_msLlQ3jEg&fromEmail=fromEmail&ut=3-0onqcJSzx8g1
Turow, J. (2016) Mass Media Today: Mass Communication In A Converging World. (6th ed.). Retrieved from https://qut.rl.talis.com/items/DF96E671-64AA-7FF2-F9C5-9A174ABDE6A1.html?referrer=%2Flists%2FD8CB1526-89CD-45C9-31B0-AEE3A96567AB.html%23item-DF96E671-64AA-7FF2-F9C5-9A174ABDE6A1