Author Topic: Universities Could Take Over Newspapers  (Read 138 times)

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Offline Ken Gigliotti

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Universities Could Take Over Newspapers
« on: May 16, 2017, 12:32 PM »
News Media Medal of Honour or Join with Higher Learning  : Opinion by Ken Gigliotti

Could the newspaper business be taken over as a revenue stream for university or colleges?  It could also be a non profit or tax free trust from ownership? 

I fear for the newspaper business in general and local newspapers in particular. Recent events have provided an opportunity for our business to survive ,but big moves are in order. The next generation (children) are entering this new alternate reality of the internet and are being swallowed whole. They have no defenses against sophisticated messaging created for them.

This approach is really about evolution. The digital age is pushing boundaries in ways journalism is not prepared for. Journalism seems static , it's feet are locked in the muck and the muck is hardening to stone. The digital world is fast evolving past culture. The focus has to be against chasing the last Baby Boom dollar and embracing the changing of the guard to those growing up inside the technological culture.

The other thing is the biggest asset of the newspaper business is its historic files. This is the thing that the newspaper industry has little interest in. The danger is it will all be  tossed out. Twice I have witnessed the blatant trashing of these historical records. The first was during the change of buildings from the letter press plant to a new offset plant. Literally tons of zinc head shot plates were sent to the scrap yard,along with glass negatives from the turn of the century. These were historic artifacts of the golden age of newspapers. The librarians were beside themselves ,trying to squirrel away important pieces. I got a few hand fulls at the time.

These newspaper files especially the clipping files and photos belong  in universities for study of the historic practices of journalism.

Could false, fake or biased news coverage fatally threaten the newspaper business? As if, it did not have enough trouble already. The issue is trust with out readers and what we will do next. Doing nothing is not an option.

These are the strangest of times for both the written and spoken word, as fools around the globe find each other. It may be that special interest and lobby groups have taken over government already. There is jail lobby in the US that benefits from illegal border crossings from Mexico. The US has the largest number of people in jail in the world.

People of principle stand firm on ground that is giving way beneath them when movement and action are required. Journalism needs to step up and outside of the newsroom bunkers into the light of this new day , smell the air we all breath , walk the streets like it is our beat. We are what our record says we are and we have to change.

Media does some fence mending after US and European national elections with affirmations and advertising. There may be some guilt/responsibility in the system for how things are turning out.

“When you’ve covered the story from every angle,
When you’ve reported the facts whatever the obstacles,
If you’ve asked the questions others won’t,
When you’ve never taken sides in any war, revolution or election,
When you’ve come under fire from people in power around the world,
And you’ve always championed the truth,
Then you can call yourself the most trusted brand in news”

BBC's bold TV ad promoting itself with Katty Kay reaffirms in the most positive terms the commitment to telling the news of the day.

Various news organizations have recommitted and restated their mission of covering the facts of news by running advertising in their own products.  Some like the CBC ran ads on competing cable channels to assure their audiences that fake news is something that does not come from traditional news providers.

The BBC has provided the most comprehensive promise to it's viewers,the CBC also made a similar ad but did not go nearly as far.

“CNN the most trusted name in news.” The voice of James Earl Jones returned to television screens with a refreshed clarity after a long absence.

“Truth,It needs your support” New York Times

“Fake  news is easy, Real journalism is hard, -Local. Trusted. True-  a full page ad in Winnipeg Free Press Saturday Edition is also a example of a local newspaper commitment to truthful reporting. It seems like these ads all ran at the same time and I am guessing they were part of a strategy across the US and Canada. Regrettably I could not find the copy for CBC ad although it ran on CNN and the CBC network.

According to BuzzFeed News, “fake news isn’t actually as prominent in the UK as it is elsewhere, because of the country’s highly partisan press. Its analysis of UK social media habits concluded that “the most popular dubious stories on British politics were almost always the work of long-established news outlets and relied at most on exaggeration rather than fakery.”

EXAGGERATION , yikes not another alternate blurring of the  issue. Stories are exaggerated  to sound more important than they actually are. With a little nip here and a tuck there, a local page 3 story goes to Page One on a slow day.

BuzzFeed seems to have caught the unspoken edge of the issue. There is “fake news” but there is also bias in reporting the vaporous world of political coverage/ conversational journalism. Conversations ,or we need to have this conversation is a phrase getting to be too common and confusing for the public. Is conversation news bias or fake news? It isn't helpful when surrogates will say anything.

Mainstream new organizations do not create false news but their current product , with sometimes reporters becoming columnists , or contributors ,or experts  and back to reporters, anonymous sources, and what they are hearing in hallways, again painting pictures of scenes they were not witness to.

Comedians  turned reporter,then back to comedians. Late night talk shows , S&L on Saturday,the public faces an over load of comment and cannot distinguish what is truth. There is just too much talk, it overloads. I have talked to people who just watch the BBC, or the nature channel, myself included.
The sad thing is that newspaper journalism has cut itself out of this most important time by limiting access.

The thinking need to move from marketing back to an essential service and release some free content on websites. The thinking is introspective and defensive at a time when offense is required. 

Monitization of newspaper websites may have had the unintended side effect of creating an opening for fake news and alternative facts. One important door to information closed and another opened. Trust is eroded in institutions and media. Fewer people read newspapers as a result and our business should offer some free content everyday at least from the editorial page.

News organizations are best at reporting breaking news events like civil unrest, crime, courts , floods, fires, natural disasters. The 9/11 attack on New York cities Twin Towers was exceptional. The coverage of Wars  tends to hedge more to having a politics lens in front of events.

The Canadian War in Afghanistan focused wholly on Canada and the total picture of the war was fractured. The Canadians in the audience are also made up of Dutch (F-16'S & 2100 troops)and Belgium ,Norwegian ( F-16's),France 4000 troops ,English 4,500,Germany 2,500,Italian 2,800, contributions from China ,New Zealand ,Australia, Iran , Russia,Ukraine  and others).It would be like reporting Old Country Soccer scores. Canadians were not given access to the whole picture of that complicated  war. Winning one province in that country was misleading coverage. The costs of narrowly focused coverage become staggering with more jobs for our military are on the horizon in Africa.

Contrarian and risk taking views need to be expressed. It should have it's own Tuesday section. Contrarianism has always been the great story of conflict and business.

Readers and viewers have become sensitive to bias, especially during elections ,and now it has become a full time occupation for the average person causing a dangerous polarization outside political structures. The English , Dutch and French national elections had sizable dissent. The English moved from the EU , in the first rounds with many parties of the Dutch and French elections the far right came in second. They righted themselves in the runoff second elections (focused on stopping the right much like Canada's Stop Harper and was not so much about ideas), but the French elected Emmanuel Macron  president with no political party behind him. He was a phenomenon like Obama (outsider) or Trudeau (running third at the election's start). Traditional parties in the England, US and France were defeated and  given a “right scare”, or rejected. The year of the outsider continues.

When working as a photographer years ago I would engage in conversations with immigrants about the politics of their home countries. Often they would react to something I would bring up, saying that was a an American news view point. I would have to say that may be true as the story origin was an AP story. It is said that journalism is local ,AP is  an American view point aimed at an American audience, CP a Canadian readership, AFP , BBC and so on. Each ethnic group established there own language newspapers and radio stations , cable community access  programming on TV for a reason . Breaking it down further states and provinces would have media that represent each as well as local  media. The slant ,angle or bias of the story moves to the readership it it is intended. The reality is that news  is very different for victors, vanquished and displaced.

In the United States television media gained prominence during the tumultuous 1960's and 1970's. The Civil Rights marches and movements fed daily newscasts. I guess one would have to say where was journalism regarding this subject matter before the 1960's  , and in Canada regarding Residential Schools before before the times these stories were headlines. American newspapers would be split ,North vs South in the aftermath of the Civil War. (Americans started Residential Schools just after the Civil War and Canada fallowed suit) Does heritage media in particular owe apologies for going along with the government policies that were wrong while they were actively perused. Does media cater to the prevailing viewpoints of their constituents even if if there is no ethical logic to support their actions? There are power points around the media business that radiate toward circulation , subscriptions or ratings and adverting that run in the backgrounds  of all businesses. Radio stations in Texas risked financial ruin by playing Dixie Chicks music after they criticized George W. Bush invasion of Iraq. The separation between business and journalism has taken down many of the barriers that once existed. Just look at the idea of advertising on the front page,ad ratios from 60-40 to 50-50 more with the advent of advertorial or having open ad free section front pages ,or any ad free pages. The Editorial Page may be the last semblance of the old order.

There are also gaps that media ignores, it was once called a generation gap now a culture gap, there are gender gaps, and technology gaps. Every generation has a name that identifies its experience , values and aspiration. The newspaper business only truly understood the white ,Anglo Saxon ,baby boom ,demographic. In Canada British journalists had too much influence over the newspaper business.

In the 1960'sand 70's a mixed marriage was between a Catholic and a Protestant. This is an example of a “gap” in culture as many generations co-exist and hold power at the same time. In the 1800's all Protestants were considered fundamentalist Christians , all were “reformers”.

Church policy was also muddled during the time of slavery and the Residential Schools and cannot be justified or explained. If government policy was botched, religion should have be a counter point. Both as it seems had commercial implications as well as power components. Strong over weak and competition between religious groups over conversions. Farley Mowat eludes to competing missions in the arctic during the 1950's and 60's.

The messy truth is that unstoppable waves ,millions of white people were coming to North America and that was not going to change. The world was going through rapid technological change and  that effected government policy. During these times Ottawa had a business relationship (trapping) with aboriginal people who did not speak English. The effects of these policies are still having repercussions from post Civil War  in the US and in Canada  the Hudson Bay Co. ,post WW2 times. Farley Mowat sadly for him  acknowledges this in his  1950's and 60's books.

Does editorial policy revolve around political and business interests? Newspapers still bring in a lot of cash.

What if the future of journalism falls to academia? What if the newspaper business in particular could re-brand it's status with it's audience  under the umbrella of the university  structure. Journalism could be part of the rich campus culture of the exploration of thought,in all of it's forms.

The obvious would be philosophical thought,ethics, art & humanities and writing in all it's forms.


The current media affirmations are in fact defensive and preach to the converted about the high ideals of journalism and yet political reporting still has a lot of wiggle room. Defensive advertising implies guilt. The readers want more that the time honored practices that do not seem to be creating a sustainable future for broadly based news gathering.

“Move fast and break things” is Facebook's inspiring and  forward looking motto. It speaks to its workers. The media business has too many beaten down and too old workers who want it to fail inside the the organization.  It might be a good idea for the business of journalism to explore aspiration change from with in.

Tech companies look forward, they make it their business to see trends and business is good. Newspapers blindly report trends but in no way benefited from this advanced information. Why is that? It is as if they do not read their won stories or see implications. In Canada, is AI and automation eliminating workers and their tax dollars to be remedied by  Guaranteed Annual Income for the displaced. 

Even though we in the newspaper business work always for tomorrow ,it is hard for our business to see next week , or even Monday after a weekend. (Monday is the start over day and thinking jumps to Saturday) The newspaper business should have read their own stories, should have been at the forefront of change. It should have happened when they were flush with cash and saw the slow declining trend starting in 1987. Thomson Newspapers saw it the earliest and sold off their entire chain at peak value only to return in a limited way with digital experience.

Newspapers still bring in a lot of revenue. Struggling Postmedia's last year revenue was $877.2 million.  Moving the commercial operation of newspapers to journalism schools might solve tax problems ,create revenue streams for the dinosaur like scale of university communities .It save journalism from it's shareholders & debt and  ownership. Newspapers already work closely with j-schools. Journalists , editors would still work with students but newspapers could benefit from the diversity of the students, the business school, technology schools, English departments , science & innovation , sales ,in short the best and brightest in areas they cannot currently reach.

What about the science of journalism? The work of applying new technologies , designing dedicated information science and being the first to use it .The evolving math science of analytics is in great need  as political parties are gaining advantage over journalism.  Newspapers could be in the game and not the last to use or just adapt new trends in technology.

Yet we wait for the New York Times to save us. Let someone else do the work. The NY Times will save itself that is for sure.

Journalism as a foundation may be an attractive alternative for ownership and for journalism in general. Re-branding the product could be the big idea that revives the reputation of journalists and provide a “new and improved” product fresh start.
 
*Smithsonian Air & Space magazine May 2017 shows and example of education and private enterprise working together. Jerry Yagen's Fighter Factory ,a private aviation school, Aviation Institute of Maintenance supports the restoration of his collection of historic WW1& WW2 fighters through tuition of students being paid by government. This is not a great example but it is intriguing. These endangered aircraft have great historic value and are very expensive and time consuming to restore and operate. It is a trade off. The aircraft could be restored to fly again or exist as historical scrap. Newspapers could take that road,opposing forces are strong and there is currently no solution in sight beyond destructive cost cutting.

 
The world is getting smaller for news organizations. It seems like the very big will survive and compete in a hunger games of attrition with tech companies. The smaller local markets will shrink and newspapers  could become a restaurant place mate or  flier like product. Advertisers or political parties could some day buy or create their own newspaper like product.

The media vacuum is causing other players jump into the political scene with innovative approaches like CNN original programming , The Messy Truth with Van Jones , and United Shades of America with W. Kamau Bell and  Anthony Bourdain's Parts Unknown ,food ,politics and travel show. Television has the ability to innovate and experiment with freelance products in a way newspapers cannot.

“They are the rock stars of the political punditry world ,a distinction that has brought them both critical kudos and sharp jabs,the the praise for  making a painful political year palatable and somewhat sane with reportage rather than hyperbole,then criticism  for being a part of a media pack that turned a crucial part of the democratic process into absurd spectacle “by LA Times  Loraine Ali 3/16/17  about Mark Halperin  and John Heilemann co-creators of the TV series  Circus:The Greatest Political Show on Earth.

Journalists with images and words should be writing ,teaching and  passing knowledge in this changing environment. Most schooling  involves teachers who are no longer in the field. Teaching would be at a deficit of -5, -10 years at least. Journalism schools are reacting late to the current demands of a business lost in technology. Working and teaching in a dynamic present could be a game changer for journalism and education. Newsrooms could be big and agile again. The newspaper business joining the university culture as a partnered heritage foundation could remove perceived bias and provide a start fresh with a cynical readership on a world wide scale.

Newspaper culture may save universities too. A generation or two of students has grown up not knowing freedom of speech. They have been dipped in the heavy oil of Political Correctness that is now leaching into all the building mortar. Students are becoming intolerant and mob like in a dangerously loud  digital self righteous mentality. Anger and suppression of freedom to think rebellious thoughts or even to dream without borders for those afflicted has many unhappy side effects. Political Correctness is the stuff of comedy clubs , where would they go for fun.”Next time the fire.”

That next angry generation is moving like a great herd , who's first of the six major decisions we all make  led to crushing education debt with no job in sight. Journalism has nothing for them but confused messaging. Everyone wants to talk about mortgage debt in Vancouver and Toronto  ,but not car debt. Eight year loans on  cars and trucks. Car companies are big advertisers in media.

Centers for journalism excellence could produce major projects in a university setting. Every J-student brings at least one good story to a newspaper,their thesis.  Daily work could be expanded toward stories and story telling through words, visual arts ,history and science from a deeper center than from the current news conference, expert for an hour treatment.

Blustering conversation, yelling and talking over need to be replaced by critical thinking , debate and depth of understanding of the important issues of the day and  of our time. Ken Gigliotti opinion

« Last Edit: May 17, 2017, 09:38 AM by Ken Gigliotti »