Historically, news organizations have sought to protect themselves from the vagaries of economics and third-party suppliers by investing considerably in both production and distribution infrastructure, says Michael Stamm, an associate professor in history and journalism at Michigan State University. Stamm is currently writing a book about the history of the Tribune Company, which in the early 20th century even built its own paper mills to protect against price fluctuations in the paper market. “Paper prices went up really dramatically during World War I,” Stamm says. “There were companies that were basically pushed out of business because they couldn’t afford to print the paper and make money doing it.” Just because digital news operations no longer need a physical plant to get started doesn’t mean they don’t need to be concerned about their distribution infrastructure, says Stamm. “In some ways,” he says, “bandwidth is now what paper used to be.”
Much of the well-informed and articulate discussion around news, as well as criticism or praise for stories, has moved to social media and online forums. Those communities offer vibrant conversation and, importantly, are self-policed by participants to keep on the fringes those who would abuse the privilege of commenting.
There’s a sentiment I’ve encountered again lately: Don’t show photographs of dead or injured/traumatized people in the news. Why? Because “showing this doesn’t add anything to the story”, because “showing the dead takes their dignity”, because “children shouldn’t see this.”
While I respect why people would argue like this, I assume most if not all arguments actually originate from a very human desire:
Don’t make me feel uncomfortable.
The new-look FT, meanwhile, boasts a specially-designed font called Financier and introduces a regular sports column on a Monday. But this ostensibly modest “refresh” reflects a huge shift in working practices, which a memo sent out before the summer holidays described as “completing the digital newsroom”. Under the banner “one global newspaper” a single international edition will cover Asia, Europe and the US. The UK and US editions will still be updated but the aim is for the newspaper to be “a quality snapshot in time” while news is updated online. A small team of about 15 people led by FT veteran and former night editor Hugh Carnegy will produce the paper, some of which will have appeared online first. “We don’t want copy being handled by five or six people, that’s not necessary. Website copy will appear in the paper.”
We started covering the news in earnest in January of 2012. We skipped our college classes to attend trials and protests, and we shared via social media photographs, audio and video recordings, and reports of what we witnessed. We covered leftist factions supporting arrested journalists, radical Islamic groups protesting abortion, and a trial involving game-fixing by one of the nation’s favorite football clubs. We were so new to all this that when a Turkish media critic told us we were engaged in “citizen journalism,” we had to look up the term on Wikipedia. Months later, Zeynep Tufekci, a Turkish-born professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill who studies the intersection of technology and society, told me, “This is not ‘citizen journalism.’ This is ‘journalistic citizenship.’” Journalistic citizenship is an important model, not just for my country but for other countries where people aren’t getting the news they need.