Posted by: slee3324 | October 24, 2011

Engagement trumps quality

McChesney (2008) argues that as new technologies enable the rise of commercial news media, there is an increased need for catchy stories opposed to quality news (p. 39). From the Pew Center’s State of the News Media 2008 report, “majorities think such things as journalists writing blogs, the ranking of stories on their Web sites, citizens posting comments or ranking stories, even citizens news sites, are making journalism better, a perspective hard to imagine even a few years ago. News people are less anxious about credibility, the focus of concern a few years ago” (p. 3).

Similar to the current online media landscape, as stated by McChesney (2008), “in the nineteenth century, if someone was dissatisfied with the existing [political] choices, it was not impossible to launch a new newspaper” (p. 27). The Internet enables the average person to establish their own media outlet in order to advance their own perspective. These personal biases are consumed immediately and resemble the “new dailies” of the past that break apart concentration of news, usually owned by the large media conglomerates.

Facebook recently updated its News Feed, selecting with its algorithm those posts it deems to be most engaging and running those at the top of a user’s feed. This forces communicators to think of clever ideas of engaging opposed to what they’re sharing, who they mention, the quality of their content, and the depth of their engagement strategy. They are simply looking at how to get people to come to their wall to say something. The quality of that discussion or the information they receive is not the primary objective.

Questions:

In a social media world where individuals are empowered to take journalism into their own hands, how do the media owners negate the freedom of press for the content owners that utilize these channels?

As we put value on increased participation and engagement with our audiences, what are the implications on the importance of quality of content? Will participation be more important than quality?

What changes in media policies and structures need to happen to maintain and reinforce the values and approaches to professional journalism?

While McChesney (2008) states there has been a relaxation or professional news standards due in part by the effects of budget cutting mania in journalism, how much of this relaxation is the result of the increased ability for non-professional journalists to participate in the media?

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