Posted by: bahughes13 | October 10, 2011

Betwixt and Between Media Worlds

This week we all had the chance to watch new media collide with old, and what do you know? It worked. There was some angst here and there, but no great “cultural jamming” sessions (as put forth by Jenkins in his discussion of Mark Dery’s work). No grand conflicts between old and new. Not even any significant arrests as a result of the Occupy Portland event.

To be sure, there was plenty of potential for conflict. Helicopters buzzing in the sky. Professional newspaper and TV reporters trying to get their photos and reports back before the “citizen journalists” could send their own versions back to the media outlets to be posted on the same websites. Tweets were flying faster than a Twitter can twat.

In the end, they all adopted tactics from each other. had multiple reporters embedded in the crowds,  blogging about the events minute-by-minute. TV crews were sending back live pictures, and, in at least once case, using a camera and uplink unit attached to a photographer via a backpack. Portland Police was using the occupyportland hashtag to make sure its message made it to a variety of target audiences:  both the marchers and the business people who were monitoring events for traffic and safety concerns.

Meantime, the Occupy Portland leaders were making use of media from the indy side… setting up a Facebook page, Twitter account, web page and even a live stream of video itself. By all appearances, it was a respectful, well-organized exercise in democracy where everyone fulfilled their mission (although they were, by definition, very different missions!)

My pleasant surprise at how all this played out here took an unpleasant turn when I read this article:  The story details how reporter Will Bunch is writing as a journalist for the Philadelphia Daily News at the Occupy Wall Street protest. At the same time, he is Tweeting for the Media Matters blog, where he says he is a Senior Fellow. Media Matters appears to be a more progressive organization (and decidedly anti-Fox News, which is probably what prompted the story). Although the Daily News doesn’t (apparently) acknowledge Bunch’s dual-role up front, it does quote a memo from the editor to his staff from earlier this year:  “We will continue to report the hell out of our city, in keeping with the highest standards of accuracy and fairness, but you should also not be afraid to have a point of view about what you report. Our pages should never be home to ‘he said/she said’ neutrality. Instead, you will be explicit adjudicators of factual disputes, and you’ll be free to draw conclusions from your reporting.”

Really? I know it has been a long time since I went to Journalism school, but to me this crosses the line. If you are a reporter, you report. If you are a columnist or editorial writer, you have more leniency provided that your role in the discourse is open and transparent.

Bottom line – media convergence is going to happen regardless of what journalists or bloggers or any of the rest of us like. How we get there – and the moral, ethical and professional hurdles we have to climb in the process – are the unknowns.

Questions for discussion:

1. I’ve watched Star Wars and read Harry Potter, and I vote. But, I am not a fan fanatic or political activist looking to be an early adopter of participatory media opportunities. What drives these people? What is missing in their lives that makes these communities so valuable to them (or, alternately, why am I so late to the game)?

2.  We’ve read about how the Internet and social media impacted the 2004 and 2008 elections. What’s ahead? And which will matter more – mainstream journalism coverage of the candidates/issues? Campaign-driven Internet and social media use? Or something else entirely?


  1. The question about whether journalists should take a point of view is one of the most urgent issues we face today. Traditionally journalists reported both sides of an issue and allowed citizens to form their own opinions. Editorial comments were confined to an editorial page in the print medium or distinct video pieces usually delivered by a general manager, NOT an anchor, at the end of newscasts.

    Now the lines are blurred. The News Corp ownership of the Wall Street Journal has clearly influenced its news coverage. I noticed the change in language and story selection within just a few weeks of the ownership change. The misjudgment that led to the Michele Bachmann photograph on the cover of Newsweek that made her look particularly crazy was an editorial statement.

    Unfortunately, I think the average person no longer knows the distinction between a journalist and simply someone with an opinion and the means to be seen or heard. Just because you have a radio show, a blog, or get on TV does not mean you are objective or even have any facts correct.

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