Media140 Sydney: Social Media Twitter & Journalism

I spoke at Media140  Sydney – I want to highlight some of the “arguments” used against social media by the panels, also focus on Everybody co-creating The Human Narrative and the diminishing role of journalists who take news from one part  of the community and deliver it to another part:  It’s not YOUR content. It’s…

I spoke at Media140  Sydney – I want to highlight some of the “arguments” used against social media by the panels, also focus on Everybody co-creating The Human Narrative and the diminishing role of journalists who take news from one part  of the community and deliver it to another part:  It’s not YOUR content. It’s our content. Our stories. We didn’t give you the Human Story, we loaned it to you, and now we’re taking it back.

Such an odd day – I couldn’t seem to get my feet under me at Media140 Sydney. Journalists kept coming up with the same old chestnuts and really no idea how to listen. It was weird. Note: my view was as a blogger first and only. I’m not a journalist who blogs, nor a blogger who has ever been paid for writing by a media organisation, nor  journalist who is also an academic. So it’s a bit of a surprise that few people addressed the popular questions of “how will Freelancers survive”, “how will social media make money”? I have a clear understanding of those things, perhaps because I’m NOT in the media echo chamber but in online communities where everyday ProAms are figuring out how to monetize their user generated content. In fact I podcast about social media revenue every week…

Anyway, here is my 5 minute presentation also available as an episode on my Social Media Business podcast on iTunes or video or audio.

Now we’re taking it back – Laurel Papworth Media140 from Laurel Papworth on Vimeo.

Do Journos do it better?
I only have five minutes so I’m using this as a timer. Top left hand corner – yell out when it gets to 300 seconds, my time will be up. Just ignore all the people joining Facebook, uploading YouTube videos and writing blog posts while we chatter here about whether journalists do it  better.

Gary Hayes Social Media Count (you can download it  or embed it on his site) @garyphayes

Do what better than whom?

Is it more interesting to read an article of a journalist interviewing a survivor of the Mumbai bombings – or to watch that survivor’s photos on Flickr? Do you feel you are better informed when a journalist reports the date of the State Election in South Australia or when Premier Mike Wran tweets it? In fact as more world leaders move onto Twitter, the horses mouth has never been so evident.

Which brings us to the second part of the question: journalists blog better than ….? Better The President of Iran who blogs in both  Arabic and English? The Nobel prize winner in Economics who blogs? or the President of the European Union?  Mayhill Fowler has not once but twice scooped the press – on stories about both Bill Clinton and Barak Obama. She calls herself a citizen journalist and contributes unpaid articles to the Huffington Post.

Is it only journalists that can provide an independent viewpoint? Now this is where arguments fall down. Either the blogosphere is one big echo chamber, repeating each others articles – or worse, pinching them from the Press  – with bloggers agreeing with each other and readers can never get a different viewpoint OR no one agrees with anyone online and it’s just a big chatfest of negativity, anonymous comments and flame wars. Media has yet to make up their mind.

My view?  journalists are cossetted, under the tender loving hand of their editor should probably try to understand that bloggers who get a story wrong are greeted with a howling barrage of criticism, with repeat offenders receiving the worst punishment of all, a deafening silence? No blogger that I know of has a horoscope, crossword and sports section to make up for lack of attention on the part of the reader. Journalists can’t possible survive in the attention economy unless they know the impact of their articles.

So Do Journos Do It Better? …but it’s a bit of a silly question. No blogger would craft a blog title like that – it smacks of linkbaiting and typical of traditional media. To paraphrase Lord David Putnam, journalists craft an article like a grenade, lob it over the wall into the school yard and walk away without staying to see the consequences.

And anyway, what is a blogger? Or a Facebooker? Or a Twitterer? Perhaps we’d be better naming them Readers, or Viewers or Listeners? Or simply the Public. Because social media doesn’t belong to a new regime coming up to displace the old media regime. It’s Everyone. It’s everyone creating content. Good content, bad content and everything in between. It’s Everyone distributing content, linking out, retweeting. It’s Everyone discussing, dissecting, critiquing and correcting.

Which brings us to the Human Narrative. Stop for a moment and think about your great great great great grandmother. Who was she? Do you have videos or even photos of her? Do you know what she did when she was 17 and half? Where she went on holiday at 33 years of age? What she wrote about at 64?

Now move forward in time and consider what the next generation and the next generation and the one after will know about their great great great grandparents. For the first time in human evolution we are co-creating the Human Narrative, never again will our histories be held hostage to the victors, our stories forgotten, unwritten, unscribed.

It’s not YOUR content. It’s our content. Our stories. We didn’t give you the Human Story we loaned it to you, and now we’re taking it back. Feel free to retire your press card and pick up a keyboard – the sooner you become part of the Community and not outside of it, the more likely you will be to survive. Indeed, thrive.

I might grab the video from ABC soon – after all it’s my content, my story. heh.

Media140: generalizations abound, or else very personal stories on “How I got started on Twitter”. The Ethics panel didn’t go to any actual examples or get down and dirty: I suspect even the academics are not used to releasing “work in progress” to an audience. Incidentally, we got the usual bashing Bloggers/Facebookers/Twitterers are guilty of all the below:

Echo Chamber:

An echo chamber is a social network – if we share a Purpose  (gardening, law, crochet) then we discuss the same or similar topics ad nauseum. That’s why we come to gether. If we share a value system, then we tend not to argue too much. It’s a no brainer. The reality is, we read other blogs and look for opposing viewpoints to argue our case – anyone who had done essays at school knows that trick  yet journalists see themselves as truly independent and therefore above a social network. Which doesn’t really explain the same News on all the stations on TV in the evening.

Negative Anonymous comments:

Social networks are full of negative comments. This of course contravenes the point above -that the Echo Chamber doesn’t allow for diversity of discussion. but anyway, it hasn’t it been my experience. I think Newspapers run negative communities, because they get SO much wrong on Purpose, Values, Identities, Trust, Reputation, Leaders, Roles, Etiquette, Events, Rituals but the communities I am involved in rarely have more than a few snippy exchanges. BazaarVoice found overwhelmingly that reviews online are positive. Journalists however often look through the lense of their own experience and claim it impartial. Clean up your own newspapers articles, adjust the tone and stop linkbaiting and you’ll start to have a more respectful community.

Only Journalists can do real News.

Caroline Overington was adamant – well actually she was channelling James Murdoch’s rant over the BBC. Without fully understanding it I think. Her take? Pretty well that when Fairfax defaults on it’s loans and folds, the only media organisation doing News will be the ABC and what a sad day that is. Somehow she never got around to addressing what the event was actually about SOCIAL MEDIA and traditional journalism.  That we can do News ourselves very well thank you very much.

The Whole Thing Is a Bit of a Joke

Chris Uhlman had the least considered, least informed rant of the day. Let me give you some insight. He took the quote ““News is what somebody somewhere wants to suppress; all the rest is advertising” and noted that it had been attributed to a number of well known journalists and media barons, that nobody can tell now who actually made the quote… and get this: the fact that we don’t know who is plagiarising whom is the internet’s fault. Riiiiight. Untrustworthy hacks all claiming a quote for themselves and somehow its social media’s fault. By the way when I checked, it’s Lord Northcliffe – media baron. And if that’s wrong it’s because a journalist somehow somewhere decided to attribute it to his boss. Not a blogger.  See? Sleight of Hand. MisDirect.

Social Media is all very well and good but it can’t change the world.

His so called insightful studies into “only 8 people are behind the Citizen News in hot spots like Tehran situation” were ill informed and – again- misdirects. Yes people in Iran may be poor and not have computers but they DO have mobile phones and use them. And while “satire didn’t stop Hitler” (why did the audience laugh?) nor did newspapers. No mention of the President of the Philippines tweeting during floods or of the Mumbai bombings wiki to help find missing people. But at the end of the day, this wasn’t about people reporting their own stories better than journalists reporting stories, it was about people around the world feeling connected, involved. That was flatly looked down upon as trivial and not Pure News.

Trust and Reputation of the writer

I learnt that the next time a journalists says “i’ve done some research and this is what I found” to do the same thing I do with bloggers: question. Can I trust them? have they shown an ability to present a subject passionately but with some sense of honesty and transparency and real grasp for the situation? What is their backstory, who are they connected to… you know the drill. Nothing exists in isolation.

Of course what we heard was that you can only trust people face to face and never online. Well guess what? I trust people more online, than I do face to face. Online is a record. Face to face might never have happened if they deny it. I don’t have to ask to see someones driver’s licence online, I can see their profile and verify with their connected network.  It’s really hard to fake being ME online – I only have to deny it on one of my channels and story over. Easier to fake being me in real life 🙂

Bloggers don’t have editors.

No, we have an army of them… nitpicking, pedantic readers who won’t just read but insist on correcting. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. FFS the long tail of content means that over time we gain respect. Social media is not a democracry but a meritocracy.  Screw up too often and the readers stop correcting – they go elsewhere to a more switched on, valued source.

I really see the “studio system” of newspapers folding. I see a sponsored model of news arising – similar to independent film makers. And I see a lot more journalists turning to blogging as a revenue stream. The sooner the better because for me these “journalists vs social media” fests, give diminishing returns. Cos at the end of the day even if I agreed that all blogs are rubbish and only Traditional News works, it doesn’t matter. The Viewers and Readers are too busy creating content to notice the demise, and it’s already Game Over. Change, adapt, move on.

There’s work to be done.

N.B. Margaret Simons has published her views on our presentations on The Content Makers at Crikey. As Fran Molloy tweeted to me: Journos all differ! (As do bloggers, Fran, as do bloggers…)

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  1. Laurel,

    have been listening in from Hobart – it strikes me that a lot of journos are faced with moving from the known to the unknown.
    There was a nature doco from about a dozen years ago that showed how these exquisitely beautiful young birds on long legs had to leave a particular area before the mud solidified and trapped them. It was really sad as you saw the ones that left it too long and were trapped watching their more adventurous siblings flying off into the blue…

  2. Interesting talk. Unfortunately I was too busy working in the news factory upstairs to be able to attend the conference but I’ve been following it online.

    It seems you’re worried about the way (some) journos pigeonhole bloggers. I’m worried you’re guilty of the reverse crime. It’s tiring to tune in to a discussion between the social media and traditional media tribes, only to see it beset by namecalling and misunderstandings about each other’s roles.

    I suspect the adversarial format of these conferences has something to do with it, but I appeal to you to take the higher ground. Please don’t make assumptions about what we do (your comment about benevolent editors being more forgiving of errors than fellow bloggers made me choke on my biscuit). Lets have a discussion.

  3. Interesting thread developing on my facebook account re: this. Heres the start of that..

    Helen Ramoutsaki
    Really like idea of contributing to the Human Narrative, but social media contributions are ephemeral unless archived … (interestingly the modern Greek word for newspaper ‘εφιμεριδα’ comes from the same root as ’emphemeral’: lasting only one day). Libraries, and I assume, publishers archive newspaper content. I know some websites are archived by … Read More
    Yesterday at 1:52pm · Delete

    Gary Hayes
    Great comment Helen – you should drop this onto Laurel’s original post too 🙂 Absolutely agree that capturing this increasing mass of content for posterity will be a key issue moving forward and I suspect libraries will become more and more like traditional editors, deciding on what will be kept on large arrays of optical storage in open viewing … Read More
    Yesterday at 2:11pm · Delete

    Helen Ramoutsaki
    Ahhh … If only (s)he’d had the chance to sit on a veranda rocking his/her micro-chip-off-the-old-block on his/her lap and telling these tales, mingling them with the backups of the ancestors. But that has always been the issue with the inheritance of knowledge/information, from the oral to the digital … do you have a succession plan in place?

    Your vision for libraries is already happening (even to some extent in the remote far north) but a big issue is the time taken for archival material to be transferred/converted to the latest media because obviously you need the appropriate hardware to access the data. I’ve got a couple of 5 1/4 inch floppies but no chance at all of finding out what gems are hidden in the dark caverns of their caches.

    B.t.w: the Celts and the Saxons had a damn fine idea for “embedded battle reporting”. The poet/bard would fight along with everyone else, so they knew what happened in the battle. But no-one was allowed to kill them because they had to go home and compose the epic to commemorate it all. So I’m having a bullet-proof vest printed with “POET” on it …

    H :^)
    p.s: I tried to get a log in to Crickey to pass on comments to Laurel but they haven’t confirmed my membership yet … maybe I haven’t clicked the right spot … sometimes it shows that I’m a digital immigrant!

  4. Laurel, I’m a traditional media content maker (!) and I loved what you said at Media140. What’s to fear? It made me wonder at my own hesitation to tweet and blog – it feels a lot more exposed than broadcasting with the imprimatur of a big media organisation. So bring on the everchanging human narrative and let’s all stop being scared. I for one got into this game because I wanted to hear people’s stories, not because I wanted to control them, even though that’s what inevitably happens when you’re in charge of the process.

  5. It’s ridiculous how evangelical you are in your hatred of traditional media.

    This quote just says it all:

    “It’s not YOUR content. It’s our content. Our stories. We didn’t give you the Human Story, we loaned it to you, and now we’re taking it back.”

    Isn’t the main role of journalists to tell other people’s stories and to bring various views together in a digestible way?

    Social media is an awesome, complementary tool and great for first-hand accounts. We all know that. But we also know that without the mainstream media pulling all those disparate stories, photos, etc together, their audience would be inconsequential.

    1. Asher, unexpected points from a traditional journo but ones that are fundamentally flawed. This is expected from those inside traditional ‘story factories’ and who are indoctrinated by inherited media practise (I know I have been inside and out at regular intervals – often for my own sanity).

      Firstly traditional (closed, mass produced, one way) commercial media requires one thing to happen – a stable or growing readership to maintain larger numbers of eyeballs to deliver to advertisers, who pay the ‘editorial’ teams and keep ‘real’ journalists in a job. Simple and we all know this.

      What does a ‘real’ journalist need to do therefore to bring in those eyeballs? Tell a broad and balanced filtered cross section of ‘the human story’? Or- try to draw readers in with sensationalised, politically motivated (aka dysfunctional), negative bias, out there on-the-edge weirdness or just plain sad (family murders, mass death, corruption). We just need to look at the evening TV news or tabloids and see 9 of the 10 stories about murder, rape, political back stabbing and so on. Is THAT the human story? Is that all humanity has come to represent. That was Laurel’s point re: traditional media are now no longer faithfully recording and distributing our lives in a meaningful and relevant way (and have they ever?) Most editorial we see today is frankly no different from the endless cop shows or death/corruption/intrigue paraded across commercial FTA TV in Australia. Of course we need to know that a father killed his wife and kid and dumped their bodies in graphic detail or a corrupt banker ripped off a pension fund and ran away with a model BUT what about the million acts of kindness or positive messages? I know feelgood is for the outré, they don’t peak our fascination with what is wrong with the world. But part of humanity evolving is to reduce our reliance on ‘fear’ based editorial – there are more ‘positive’ messages seeping across social media now, OK there is still the crap & negativity, but shining out finally is meaningful humanity which in democratised and disintermediated distribution CAN now be represented.

      To finish perhaps you should look at your own ‘representation’ of what the human ‘tech’ story is? A small selection from the past weeks below – is that a balanced reflection of what is happening or should I seek out for me relevance across a hundred RSS feeds I am subscribed to from those actually ‘doing it? Big changes happening Asher, an upheaval of the way ‘news / human story’ is propagated and the ones most resistant and unlikely to ‘recognise’ or talk about those changes? Traditional journalists, with mortgages, kids to feed, salaries to keep.

      Ashers representation of the human ‘tech’ story:
      1 Outrage, Leaked footage of Call of Duty game
      2 Hacking hotmail really easy
      3 Telstra damaged by Conroy blunder
      4 Don’t Twitter, studio tells stars
      5 MySpace tanks
      6 Spiritual retreat accident, deleting incriminating tweets
      7 Hacker cracks iTunes DRM
      8 ABC Gender bias Good Game presenter
      9 Mummy bloggers scorn Nestle
      10 Aussie inventor losses his patent
      11 Geeks make $4k a day selling penis pills
      12 Google maps plastered with ads
      and so on – of course ‘death of second life’ and so on a regular…

      and how did I find these Asher stories in 2 minutes? Blanket coverage on your twitter feed, nearly every tweet links back to SMH article (nice to see comments, but couldn’t find any from you responding ?) I need to look harder. You obviously have a deep understanding of what social media is all about.

      1. Gary, that’s precisely the kind of overly-defensive and overly-emotional personal attack that makes this whole discussion so confrontational and, quite frankly, tedious. All heat and no light.

        Asher’s made a fair point and asked a fair question about the role of journalism. How is that changing?

        After all, Laurel’s mainfesto is fightin’ words. It says, in essence, bugger off we don’t need you journalists any more. It’s a shame her speech was scheduled at the end of the day when there was no time for the discussion it was obviously intended to trigger.

        Sure, some journalists have a sense of entitlement that needs to be challenged. But some folks in the social media field also, sometimes, say things that reek of assumed superiority, “We know better than you” — guaranteed to get people offside! — and that somehow all our informational needs will now be solved by a sprinkling of magick social media fairy dust. Bollocks.

        There’s no doubt that the world is changing and that the nature of journalism, of journalists’ jobs and the media factories will change forever. Dramatically. Perhaps in uncomfortable and chaotic ways. It’s likely that many existing jobs will go, to be replaced by new and perhaps very different jobs. Perhaps those jobs won’t be caled “journalist” — though I suspect they will.

        I reckon it’d be great if the people with media skills and insight — no matter where gained — worked towards an understanding of this future and built new stuff. Just slagging each other off, especially with sarcastic rants starting “Perhaps you should…”, is ugly and unhelpful.

        I don’t know that you have to blip up and post a response every time someone challenges what Laurel says. Her arguments will live (or die) on their merits, and Laurel’s more than capable of debating them herself. You may not realise, but some folks are starting to chuckle at how predictable these blip-ups have become. I’m all for people supporting their partner, but… professional distance n’all.

        And, Gary, you’re criticising Asher because he used Twitter to make it easy to find his news stories? Huh? Or is this just another “I know better than you how Twitter should be used?”

        1. Thanks Stil for the comment. Mis-quoting and mis-interpretation aside. Last thing first. My point about Asher using Twitter was that 99% of his tweets are him linking to his ‘own’ stories – broadcast mode, vs conversation. You misunderstood.

          “Asher’s made a fair point and asked a fair question about the role of journalism.” really, fair, unemotional? – he started his comment with “It’s ridiculous how evangelical you are in your hatred of traditional media.” – umm, fair and balanced journalism at work?

          Its a shame you saw my response as a rant and missed the key point – namely commercially driven news is distorted news – often with a sensationalist negative bias to attract viewership. My own background working inside the BBC leading major projects many with News and World Service for 8 years and later with commercial radio & TV news in the states have given me a certain perspective – and I have a right to comment not only in Laurel’s defence but as qualified as any one else in the debate – but, I think a discussion that is more about my delivery than the content is the wrong place to take the ‘actual’ debate further.

          But just to qualify further one of the project teams I was on with BBC News was the editorial workflow and smart production – integrating digital text, online, print and TV news into one cohesive story machine. I was hoping for discussions around that at media140, the future of journalism, but it turned into a ‘the first time I tried Twitter’ chat? And Stil don’t tell me you found the conference forward looking? Sure it brought people together, but there needs to be a much less polarised atmosphere if the industry is going to be prepared.

          Glad I can bring a chuckle to some people in the various Sydney echo chambers who find my contributions predictable. I often chuckle at much of the ‘small pond’, ‘small fish’ behaviour that exists in certain factions of Sydney media (social & traditional) too, but mostly it’s a sadness at how great it could be vs how insular, protective and inward looking it is. [Qualify: generally, yes there are great people and not so great people – obviously, der – lets hedge our bets heh? ]

          Finally, yes we all know big changes are happening I have been presenting, writing and lecturing about them for 20 years. Using a simple analogy. The media of any region has a personality, like any individual, driven by its ‘neural’ networks. For an individual to truly change and rewire their brain they have to go into a kind of nervous breakdown, permanently rewiring those connections – I don’t see that greater change happening here, or even a desire for it to, as I see it in the US and parts of Europe. Australian media could lead the way, it is fleet of foot with very small numbers in the industry who could positively get together to create globally respected initiatives, truly integrating traditional high quality production values with the passion and connectedness of social media. Those who perpetuate the divide are delaying the beauty in this breakdown which precedes any positive change.

        2. Actually, Gary, “discussion that is more about [your] delivery than the content” is precisely why I posted my comment to begin with. Maybe I need to get straight to the point. The aggression is off-putting. It distracts me from your “content”. It makes the conversation unpleasant. It detracts from my opinion of you.

          Your most recent comment baffles me — not because I don’t understand the words or the concepts, but because I’m having trouble finding the focus. We seem to have gone way beyond Laurel’s presentation or Asher’s points about evangelism and the role of journalists — even beyond slagging him off for how he chooses to use Twitter.

          For what it’s worth, I reckon Asher can use Twitter any way he likes. It’s not up to you or me to tell him how it “should” be used, and especially not in such a sarcastically patronising way.

          Now we’re into a spray about “factions” and how behind and insular Australia is and some generalised point about Media140 not being “forward looking” and only the gods know what else.

          It certainly doesn’t encourage me to take part in the dialog. Or is that the aim? To make it so unpleasant for anyone who’s critical that they just don’t bother any more?

          Personally, I think that jumping to Laurel’s defence every time someone says something critical — especially with such a disjointed scatter of ideas — actually detracts from her credibility. And yours.

          1. Sorry Stil – end of discussion. You are now being very insulting and attention is needed on something much more constructive. Good luck and Good Bye.

  6. Maybe bloggers need sub editors. Premier Rann of HicksAdelaidia South Australia, not Wran.

    Other than that, very interesting discussion. My thoughts are that it is all the different voices complement each other. We can chose to tune in to whoever we like. There is way too much stuff for us to digest it all.

  7. Premier Rann

    Interesting discussion. I think we all have our role to play. People have so many choices and can effectively filter out what they want to read, listen to from different “trusted” sources.

  8. Fantastic news for Australia – No current Labor Party ETS, and Tony Abbott leading the opposition. Great that Tony Abbott is new Liberal Leader – he will certainly take it up to Mr Dudd.

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