The Culture of Newswork

As I've touched upon in my 2004 book Wat is Journalistiek? (the red one in the Flickr column to the right), one cannot explain what journalism is or how journalists give meaning to what they do without understanding the culture of newswork.

On Pressthink yesterday a good piece (by Tim Porter (of First Draft) and Michele McLellan (ex-Oregonian) about the fundamental changes underway in American newsrooms, based on an appreciation of the cultural conventions of zombie journalism...

The authors show how in zombie journalism, talented, innovative and critical-reflexive journalists are treated with skepticism and cynicism every step of the way... in newspaper journalism, that is.

Teamwork, innovation and change is much more the norm in TV and especially in online or multimedia newsrooms. It's about time we start thinking outside the print-box, beyond genre conventions, and across media channels.

PS: beyond culture, there is and all-pervasive sense of complete chaos, turmoil and turbulence, and perpetual whitewater throughout the (mass) media industry - as documented once again quite nicely by Bob Garfield over at AdAge. A quote:

"Mass media, of course, do not exist in a vacuum. They have a perfect symbiotic relationship with mass marketing. Advertising underwrites the content. The content delivers audience. Audiences receive the marketing messages and patronize the advertisers, and so on in what for centuries was an efficient cycle of economic life. The first element of Chaos presumes the fragmentation of mass media creates a different sort of cycle: an inexorable death spiral, in which audience fragmentation and ad-avoidance hardware lead to an exodus of advertisers, leading in turn to an exodus of capital, leading to a decline in the quality of content, leading to further audience defection, leading to further advertiser defection and so on to oblivion."

Chaos is (the new) order. Constant change - whether real or perceived (!) - is the guiding light. The skills set of the windsurfer - always catch the next breeze or else you'll drown - dominates the marketplace of ideas. Not sure whether this is a good thing, but let's be optimistic: it opens up creative white spaces left and right.

It has to.