Monday, April 18, 2016

Michael Massing's Articles on Digital Journalism

Questions for class...


Outline the various types of digital media discussed by Massing and summarize his evaluation and critique point by point. 

He talks about how digital technology is disrupting journalism and that “little attempt has been made to evaluate the quality of web-based journalism.” He looks at various websites that post journalistic content.

Starting at the Huffington Post he critiques how it takes itself as a journalistic website, and has posted in depth journalism content in the past but those stories get washed away among the gossip and other posts that the website does. He said that even well known print reporters who were hired for Huffington Post eventually left and said that they didn’t seem to have a system that was driven by original reporting, and that it was fueled by quick and click hungry posts.

He then talks about Andrew Sullivan and The Dish, and how Sullivan decided to not use ads because they incentivized clicks as opposed to quality content, and instead he charged a subscription fee. However, it became too much and he ended up quitting. Massing cites that many once bloggers now tweet their thoughts instead.

The Drudge Report was one of the highly influential examples of digital writing, but still looks and acts just about the same as it did when first put up, Massing states. He goes on to talk about Politico, which has become more like the Washington Post and has a large staff of investigative writers.


What shortcomings of the next generation of digital journalism does Massing discuss? What specific concerns does he raise about the state of journalism today?

Some of the biggest shortcomings that Massing covers is the incentive of clicks, being that the more ads on a page that are shown to more people, the more money a website will make. Therefore, it becomes less about the quality of the content and more about the quantity. The more that is there for people to possibly click on, the more money to be made.

As well, he talks about impact and that traditional news has the edge. It’s difficult to find web produced stories that have a big impact like written reports or other news stories. Print just holds a lot more power in regards to widespread impact. And that could be the dilution of so many digital journalism websites that produce so much of the same, it becomes less appealing over time.

Massing also talks about the issue of citizen journalism and how vital it has been for places in war and overseas, to be able to report on and share issues about what events are happening, where is dangerous or safe. However, it also can lead to promoting incorrect facts or languishing stories, such as the Kony 2012 story, Massing states. As well, the misinformation that permeated from citizen journalists during the Boston marathon bombing also shows the risks of citizen journalism.


Select two or three quotes that offer a perspective on digital journalism, which are especially compelling to you. Explain why you find each of those quotes important and what they tell us about digital journalism.

“Reporting, it turns out, is expensive and time-consuming and not something readily performed between shopping and the laundry.”

This quote reminds us that reporting isn’t something that can just casually happen. Investigative reporting takes time, commitment, and investment in a story – to follow it through from the initial lead into or as close to a resolution as possible. Prior to digital journalism, this was much easier to be the main focus: following the story. However, with the Internet and the high speed desire for information and demand of it, journalism has become much more consumerism in nature. Stories are written for brevity, skim-ability, and click-ability – that is to say, get more views in order to actually earn money. Whereas traditional news outlets paid the reports, when working with online websites, stories become a dime-a-dozen and it appears as if reporting, true investigative reporting, is something that’s as simple as creating a “listicle” about the top 10 ways to get more views on your website.

“What does seem undeniable is the effect that audience fragmentation has had on the ability of journalists to have an impact. With so many sites and outlets competing for attention, it becomes harder for stories to find a foothold.”

Relating to the quote above, as well, this quote shows how digital journalism has fragmented the audience of these news stories. Now it isn’t about having a big revealing investigative piece because as soon as a story breaks, every other site possible will be putting up whatever information (fact checked or not in some cases) they have available to try and be the first ones to report it. This competition is driven not for the quality and investigative nature of the story, but instead on the pure attention of the website and, in turn, the revenue generated from all those clicks. Now, the Internet is awash with so many stories and pieces on the same subject that you can find the same news piece on multiple different websites. This dilution of news then causes it to have less of an impact and makes it harder for truly investigative journalism to take root somewhere and deliver the story in the way it needs to be.


Do you agree/disagree with Massing about the state of digital journalism? Give your own examples and explain your reasoning.

I agree with what Massing states about digital journalism. It has definitely diluted the pool of journalism and at the same time created its own circle of page view hungry articles, rife with click bait titles. Is there still true investigative reporting happening out there? Yes, I am sure of it, as well, however, amidst everything else that is going on and all the other gossip, lists, and pop culture pieces, it’s hard to tell anymore what is or what isn’t reporting. A lot of it is a rumor-filled as it can, because when things are a rumor, that’s the perfect time to get more clicks to your article. It seems a shame that journalism is becoming washed out by so much other content. And it’s not to say that other content shouldn’t exist, but because of the competitive nature of the internet and the vying for attention and revenue that takes place, it seems to be causing even reputable news sites to stoop to the level of click bait and rumor-mongering.

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