George Brock writes about the business of news.
“The internet is not simply a new publishing system, allowing faster, wider distribution of material assembled and edited it has always been. The changes wrought by digital technology are transformational and not adaptive; they require journalism to be rethought.”
His book, ‘Out of Print: Newspapers, Journalism and the Business of News in the Digital Age,’ offers a sweeping history of what has happened to the news industry and why. He is a journalism professor at City University London. We traded emails last week.
HB_CJ: For people new to the digital media industry who may not be familiar with it, can you talk about your work — your books and your teaching career?
Brock: My teaching of journalism is "practice-based” - that is to say I have only been teaching for the last five or six years and that teaching is based on my experience as a full-time print and online journalist for more than 25 before taking over the j-school at City University London in 2009. I worked for a local city paper in the north of England, a Sunday national paper (The Observer) and for many years for The Times, mostly in London and for five years as its correspondent in Brussels in the early 1990s. I was op-ed page editor, Foreign Editor and Managing Editor among other jobs. I’m now a part-time professor at the City j-school where I teach on the Masters courses in newspaper and interactive journalism. In my book Out of Print (http://www.koganpageusa.com/product/Out-of-Print,2286.aspx) I say that if I appear critical of anything newspaper editors or publishers did as they faced digital disruption, I speak from the position of someone who almost certainly committed those mistakes myself.
HB_CJ: Do you see any patterns in the development of citizen journalism/grassroots reporting over the past decade?
Brock: One trend I see, which I think was inevitable, was enthusiasm for citizen journalism reducing and becoming more realistic. People used to talk about professional journalists being “disintermediated” or no longer needed. But you hear that less now. Because although people value and enjoy getting news from a wider range of sources than they ever did before, they have also begun to realise that not all grassroots reporting is equally good.
HB_CJ: Are there any geographical or issues-areas you think are particularly critical right now where more independent journalists are needed, in the United States and abroad?
Brock: At every stage in the history of journalism, people with a cause to push have complained that their issue is being neglected – and that if only journalists would cover it more, their ideas would climb up the public agenda. That will continue to be the case. What I think is critical is the development of local and hyperlocal news, by whatever best means any given community can come up with. Different communities will find value in different sorts of information and the best people to work out what is important for people to know and to frame it in a way which makes people want to read/view/listen…are people inside the community itself. Business models are not easy to find for this kind of thing so determination and ingenuity count for a lot.
HB_CJ: For people without journalism training who are moved to create independent news or culture platforms, what resources or sources of information would you recommend to become more educated in media analysis in general?
Brock: I shouldn’t worry overmuch either about training and still less about media analysis. Training people in establishing what is the truth of something and structuring the information (for whatever platform) so that it is useful and valuable is worth doing but it is probably not the very first priority. If a small, community new organisation can’t afford to send someone for training or to hire someone trained, beg, steal or borrow the expertise. Are there any retired journalists nearby who can advise? Can anybody lead you the AP Manual? Please see the early development of The Gothamist as told by Jake Dobkin on pp 217-9 of 'Out of Print.'
HB_CJ: If you could give a message to a new generation of journalists of all kinds -- even kids - who are bringing their voices to blogs, vlogs, podcasts etc. etc, what is the most important thing they should know about sharing their thoughts in the electronic world?
Brock: There’s plenty of information in the world now. Think hard about how you can add value. Then go for it!Read more about Brock here on his website.