By Suka Junin, UTS Journalism student; and Nicole Cottam, UTS MA Journalism student.
Despite discussing some seriously controversial issues, the recent Jeff Jarvis Journalism Jam, held by the UTS IECI Unit in partnership with the UTS Centre for Media Transition, combined the efforts of industry experts, students and media consumers to bring out creative and innovative ideas on how to solve the challenges facing journalism today.
Monique Potts, IECIU Acting Director, opened the event with a discussion about the importance of innovation, especially in our public institutions.
“We need to push really hard for change in our public institutions to take up new technology and to really understand the potential of that technology for changing the way we deliver public services and public value,” she said.
Technology and its impact on the public, alongside trust, credibility, relevance, engagement and accountability, were just a few out of many concerns raised that we all have as stakeholders of journalism.
Shifting from problems to solutions
“We just know how to complain a lot about problems,” stated Jarvis, a celebrated City University New York professor and media commentator. Luckily, the point of the Jam was to find solutions to the problems we so often complain about. The themes explored at the workshop focused on improving audience behaviours and what journalists can do to regain the public’s trust.
Jarvis was quick to put things into perspective. “Journalism — at the end of the day — is a service. We serve in informing the public,” he noted. He added that he frames his thinking about innovation in journalism around new relationships, new forms, and new business models.
“New relationships is the key part of this. We’ve got to change the mass-media relationship we have with the public and we’ve got to serve people with greater relevance of value. That means we have to know them as individuals and members of communities,” he said.
Jarvis also commented that Google and Facebook excel at these new relationships, yet it is an area that journalism fails at because they consider people as a mass and as reach, rather than individuals. This new relationship can provide further opportunities: “If we are good at building relationships and knowing people as individuals, we can target through commerce, we can target the advertising, and we can target value advertising.”
Jarvis also suggested that the industry could benefit from changing to an entrepreneurial outlook: “When journalists confront a problem, they crow about having found it, they write about it, and then they go to the bar. We just complain about our problems. When engineers and scientists find a problem, they look for a solution. When entrepreneurs find a problem, they look for the opportunity. I think this is what today is about too: to find the opportunities and to find the solutions to problems.”
In separating audience members into groups to then come up with those solutions, UTS IECIU project coordinator Claire Marshall encouraged participants to be “revolutionary and difficult”. Groups set about unpicking themes such as exposing the dark web, popping the filter bubble, gamifying for truth/trust, trust: regulations and relationships, new ways of funding journalism and puberty news: media literacy.
Taking the best ideas into Creative Clusters
Those in the filter bubble group concluded that empathy is key to remove flame wars and debates from the social media landscape. Meanwhile, ideas for innovative products like building a trust chain and a fact chain were put forward by groups focusing on trust and new ways of funding journalism.
These grand ideas won’t end there, as they will be developed further at the Creative Clusters program. Over the course of six weeks, participants of the clusters will experiment, test and ultimately aim to find solutions for the problems facing journalism that were uncovered at the workshop.
With less people paying for news and the ongoing mistrust between audience and media brands, the future may look bleak for aspiring journalists who hope to make a living from this career. However, Jarvis is optimistic in passing on the baton to the next generation of journalists as long as they “learn the business of journalism and be the stewards of it”.
In the end, Jeff Jarvis’ Journalism Jam was more than a well-thought out alliteration. It was the same way jazz musicians contribute in a jam session by having each instrument soloing eight-bar riffs. Only this time, it was a handful of keen media-orientated people bouncing ideas off each other to salvage the industry that we’re so passionate about.
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