Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Why News Matters update

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Journalism Program is continuing to review Letters of Inquiry and soon will begin asking finalists for full proposals.  On May 17, we gave our board of directors a preview of Why News Matters.  They embraced the initiative and look forward to considering our recommended package of grants at the Sept. 12 board meeting.

In the meantime, we would like to share a few tidbits of knowledge that came our way:

Five Web Literacies Named Essential Survival Skills

Attention, participation, collaboration, “crap detection” and network smartsHoward Rheingold calls these the essentials of news literacy in the digital age. According to a recent article from Nieman Journalism Lab, Rheingold’s new book “Net Smart: How to Thrive Online,” examines how people can use the internet to better themselves and the society as a whole.  

According to Rheingold, criticisms on the detrimental effects of the sites like Google and Facebook don’t take into account the humans’ ability to change their behavior. “If, like many others, you are concerned social media is making people and cultures shallow, I propose we teach more people how to swim and together explore the deeper end of the pool,” says Rheingold. 

Newspaper Boom in Asia

The newspaper industry’s nosedive in recent years is more local than global. According to IBT Times, India, China and Japan are become the world’s largest newspaper markets with paid circulations of 110 million, 109 million and 50 million, respectively. The U.S. has experienced a loss a circulation loss of 17 percent since 2006 (Europe’s loss is nearly double at 33.8 percent). To put those numbers in perspective, over the same period of time, Asia’s circulation increased at a rate of 16 percent.

While there’s much to be said about the treatment of journalists, the roadblocks to investigative work and the limitations of internet use in these countries, the boom in Asian newspaper circulation offers some insight into the broader, more global, relevancy of print journalism.

Unpublishing Requests on the Rise

Unpublishing requests are becoming more frequent and are not expected to slow down any time soon according to a poll of more than 100 North American newsrooms. Moreover, the report “The Longtail of News: To Unpublish or Not to Unpublish” finds that around half of those newsrooms lack an unpublishing policy. The shift to a digital medium has altered the shelf life of stories that would have been trashed or stored on microfilm 10 years ago. These days quotes live, seemingly, forever online, but, as the Columbia Journalism Review asks, is that fair to sources?

A well-structured editorial policy is crucial to dealing with what can, at times, be a sensitive issue.

Fall in Confidence

A recent Gallup poll shows that trust in the mass media has been on a steady decline since 1973. The question, of course, is why. According to Jay Rosen at PressThink.org, the question becomes even more complicated considering the advances journalism has made in the intervening time: journalists were becoming better educated, newsrooms were getting bigger and, generally, professional standards seemed to be on the rise.

Meanwhile, according to Rosen’s article, institutions across the board are less trusted, including churches, banks, public schools and government (all of which showed similar, and, in some cases, worse declines.) Rosen also notes other factors to consider, including what he calls “bad actors,” misinformation about “liberal bias,” and, similarly, a notion of “working the refs” that perpetuates the liberal bias motif.

—Clark Bell, Director

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