Saturday, August 17, 2013


Last week's lecture got off to a bit of a rocky start when the guest lecturer didn't turn up, but luckily Susan was able to jump in and save the day. We had a bit of a lesson in crowd sourcing and using Twitter, the right way, for finding and breaking news. Talking about the role of 'ordinary citizens' in the industry got me thinking about the changing journalist/audience relationship and the 'rediscovery of the audience', as I've heard it referred to - and how myself and other young journalists will need to prepare ourselves for this.

As a news consumer, the beauty of online journalism is the incredible ease with which information can be accessed. It's also incredibly easy to offer your opinion on the news of the day. Be it a Tweet to the journalist or news organisation, a quip in the comment section of a news website, or a lengthy blog post circulated around social media, there are plenty of ways for an audience to discuss and comment on the news with the authoring journalist.

Traditional letters to the editor demonstrate the fact that readers have always wanted to share their opinions, but the internet has made it so easy that it has almost become an expectation that a story is just starting its life when it it is published - particularly if the issue at hand is especially timely and relevant to the audience, or controversial.

At the same time, news websites are scrambling to attract audiences and find ways of making online journalism profitable and the most effective way of doing this is making the news experience as interesting as possible for the reader in the hope of attracting them to your website. I'm not going to go into search engine optimisation or anything too technical, but even simple things like providing information in a multifaceted way using videos, audio and images demonstrate how journalists have tweaked their craft to better appeal to their audiences.

The downside of relying too heavily on audience demands is the desire for 'light' or 'fluffy' journalism. Of course, there will always be an audience for 'hard news' but particularly with the influx of celebrity culture, there is a huge demand for 'lifestyle' stories, 'reality' stories, celebrity news and other topics that 'real journalists' may turn their noses up at. Technically, I suppose, there is nothing wrong with this lighter journalism, and it certainly has its place, but the way I see it, journalism provides a public service of sorts and I firmly believe that hard news is the most important news and must remain at the forefront of the industry.

I am inclined to believe that a good journalist can use these audience demands and expectations to better understand, interact with, and, ultimately, educate their audience. Being across social media has become a necessary part of the industry, not just for sharing news but also for interacting with audiences, and understanding how to make stories - even the difficult, confusing, dare-I-say boring ones - straight-forward and reader-friendly are important skills that I'm learning at the moment. The industry is only going to get more competitive, and having a thorough understanding of the importance of audience can only be a positive thing.


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