What comes next in redeeming journalism? Understanding the Human mind

Hello! We’ve not met. I hope we can after this. Because what I have to say works better in person. I’ve met a fair few people on my journey in the media, including some tech giants like Apple who wrote this flattering article about my work a decade ago when we were trying to figure out multimedia.

Then I spent six intense years completing a doctorate (PhD) — a global

analysis that took me around the world, examining story form, people and identifying an emergent group of award-winning newsmakers. What I found out was both exciting and alarming. Their schema revolves around iconology a strong identity articulated through modern philosophy.

from my travels in China, Cairo, the Turkey-Syrian border, Lebanon, India, Chicago, South Africa etc. And before then working with Danny Glover in South Africa, filming Moby in France, and diving to examine WWI ships in Gallipoli for the BBC World Service.

Scene 1
If I can share this first. Take this structure below. You’ve seen this before many times. You’re so familiar with it that you pay it no critical attention. It is the universal model for news story form. The problem is millennials are non-plussed by it. Actually, so was Generation X, from 1994 onwards in UK studies.

This is how it manifests itself on screen from one of my reports for ITV News.

Broadcast journalism outfits around the world use this formula, but why? To understand this, we need to go back to the time when the ‘news package’ as it’s called was conceived.


The Breakthrough

When ITV, NBC and CBS developed the news package in the 1950s, it was a brilliant piece of story form engineering. But it came with conditions. It had to be short around 2 mins. News execs were terrified people would switch off. It had to revolve around a reporter. And, it would be framed by execs’ fab four framework: objectivity, impartial, balance and fairness.

In the 60s new ideas arrived and pioneers such as Robert Drew, whose film Primary (1960) was picked by the Library of Congress for preservation at the United States National Film Registry because of its cultural, historical and aesthetic significance.

Drew argued for different ways of news making, but the networks took little notice he told me.

Long story short. Execs loved the news package, and so did the public for a while but as generations became more tele-literate, they sought something else. Problem is, TV didn’t and hasn’t been able to find an alternative. Before NBC broke the glass ceiling appointing its first President of News Deborah Turness, I spoke to Turness about the news package. Her answer — she’s trying to find the holy grail — the next story form.

Note if you can find the next story form, you stand to make a lot of money

Around the world, the original fab four framework and the lattice of the package has become so porous from sustained assaults by public relation firms, businesses and politicians that you could drive a Boeing 747 through its idea of integrity. In fact if I were devising a new journalism course for the 21st century, I’d focus on psychoanalysis and cultural anthropology.

News makers haven’t helped themselves either. Take false equivalence as an example. Television news will interview 99 people who will tell you climate change is real, but if one person says it isn’t, exec feels compelled to give equal weighting to both views on air — shooting to bits the idea of fairness and impartiality.

Where are we now?

David flying his drone thinking of 4d spaces

Unlike the sciences where new findings are eliminative, journalism is palimpsestic — it’s a strength and a weakness. Largely, given the costs and resources that goes into traditional journalism, rather than radically changing, it retains behaviours and workflows — some of which turn viewers off. And as a legacy this may well continue. We also have a problem explaining journalism as if it’s a unitary form, which I address here. [ And #Epicfail in Journalism and ways to fix it].

And what of all the new areas of journalism, such as Data, Drone, Mobile, Social? There are an amazing array of articles and authors that cover these a in illuminating ways. Paul Bradshaw @paulbradshaw on data, Glen Mulcahy @GlenBMulcahy for Mobile, and Sue Llewellyn @suellewellyn on Social.

However, my focus while respectful of sci-tech (I’m a maths/chem grad) mines areas we tend to ignore, cognitivism and meaning making.

Hence, whilst video below is made on a mobile phone, for a £500K project, it’s not the mobile that excites me, but our ingrained, as well as changing perception to aesthetics to stories, news, docs and otherwise.

I’ve posted the ff that continue my journey:
And #Epicfail in Journalism and ways to fix it and Journalism’s #Epic Failure and more whys — Redux. and How 12 Years a Slave is an exemplar for journalism

Not the end…
I’ll repost some more from my findings soon.

Dr David Dunkley Gyimah has been a journalist for more than 25 years working for some of the biggest brands in journalism e.g. Newsnight, Channel 4 News. He is the recipient of a number of international awards and currently leads the Digital Interactive Story LAB at the University of Westminster. You can contact David ( ff @viewmagazine)at David@viewmagazine.tv or through his site www.viewmagazine.tv

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