Journalism: You won’t believe what happens next!

The greatest challenge facing contemporary journalism isn’t a ‘what’ but a ‘how’.  How to deliver news that will satisfy a modern audience’s hunger for informative news and entertainment. My personal introduction to the world of infotainment was in the form of list articles.

I used to hate ‘listicles.’ And not just because of the word’s resemblance to a certain male organ. The hatred was directed towards the editors and authors who had the balls to publish useless trivial list articles among real articles of significance.

While I’m trying to stay informed on the news surrounding the Brussels’ terrorist attacks I’m similarly being bombarded with “15 ways to lose weight fast” from the sidebar. Now I have both articles open and am reading each of them interchangeably for as long as my Gen-Y attention span can handle.  By the time I’ve finished skimming over each one it is as if I haven’t read either. I couldn’t confirm any facts from either article. All I have floating around in my scattered brain is the phrase “loss of limbs” and I’m not even sure which article that’s from.

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This story is nothing new to people use the web as a news source.  It’s time we had a second look at this phenomenon analysed and what it means to journalism because it’s clear this isn’t a passing fad.

List articles are primarily known to become especially popular on the Buzzfeed website, self-described as “a cross-platform, global network for news and entertainment” [1]. However the New York Times has coloured them in a negative light as a network composed of “algorithms sift[ing] the Web in search of viral articles elsewhere” [2]. The Times has opposed many radical changes to journalism which it has seen as threatening. Even crosswords weren’t spared when first introduced in the 1920’s with the Times publishing their thoughts on the popular word game as a passing fad which they saw as “sinful waste in the utterly futile finding of words.”[3]. Although it would be easy to say The Times needs to get with the times Buzzfeed isn’t entirely brilliant either, the number of things that annoy me about the site probably couldn’t even be contained in one of their lists.

Entertainment does have an established place in journalism. The news/entertainment segment The Project (Formerly The 7pm Project) rose the average audiences “in the 7pm to 7.30pm slot… 23 per cent of almost 700,000 metro viewers after averaging 567,000” [4]. A similar style has developed with political shows heralded by Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert which are complimented on their biting satirical analysis. There is also a demographic in Australian audiences which aren’t satisfied with receiving their news in a bland fashion and would prefer Hughesy to make a gag comparing the desecration of ancient Syrian town Palmyra by ISIS to Collingwood’s devastation on the weekend. Regardless the 6 o’clock slot and 7pm Project don’t have a combined audience bigger than the digitally connected audience. When Australian’s were asked how they receive their news, digitally lead by a massive margin of 44 per cent while TV, radio and print lagged behind. [5]

A further underlining reason why there has been ill reasoned hostility towards this Gen-Y fuelled trend is a type of anti-nostalgia. I suspect a lot of more seasoned consumers of the news may wish for a modern equivalent to Brian Naylor or Eric Pierce, in other words a trustworthy anchor who gives you the news straight. If only Eric Pierce had lived to see the internet with all its flaws and wonders, he predicted the huge impact television would have as ” the most potent force for good or evil that’s ever been discovered in the communications field of entertainment”[6] Luckily death throes of print media have forcefully flung the rose tinted glasses off those longing for the good ol’ days, now is the time for the old guard to bring to an old twist to a new flavour of journalism… We are at a journalistic crossroads where both sides of the argument are dissatisfied with the current state of news. On one side we those dissatisfied with the purely entertainment type articles and other with the bland nature of nightly report. Sensationalism isn’t the answer as it leaves both sides wanting more like a cheap high. The solution is to compromise the two, and it is something Australia has had tangles with before. Satire: coming from the word Satyr, “a Greek mythological creatures with the upper half of a man and the bottom half of a goat or horse” usually involved in comedic events. [7] Contemporary journalism precisely needs a mixed creature in terms of delivery, a chimera that can meet multiple needs at once. This may seem like demanding a lot but that is what modern audiences crave. The closest thing we had to the Daily Show or Colbert Report was the infamous Chaser’s War on Everything a show so relentless that it was taken off the air for two weeks for airing the controversial Make-a-Wish sketch. [8]  It seems almost insane that we don’t have a major political satire show considering our parliament’s reputation for prolific betrayal and backstabbing could only be surpassed by a Shakespearean tragedy.

We are at a journalistic crossroads where both sides of the argument are dissatisfied with the current state of news. On one side we those dissatisfied with the purely entertainment type articles and other with the bland nature of nightly report. Sensationalism isn’t the answer as it leaves both sides wanting more like a cheap high. The solution is to compromise the two, and it is something Australia has had tangles with before. Satire: coming from the word Satyr, “a Greek mythological creatures with the upper half of a man and the bottom half of a goat or horse” usually involved in comedic events. [7] Contemporary journalism precisely needs a mixed creature in terms of delivery, a chimera that can meet multiple needs at once. This may seem like demanding a lot but that is what modern audiences crave. The closest thing we had to the Daily Show or Colbert Report was the infamous Chaser’s War on Everything a show so relentless that it was taken off the air for two weeks for airing the controversial Make-a-Wish sketch. [8].  It seems almost insane that we don’t have a major political satire show considering our parliament’s reputation for prolific betrayal and backstabbing could only be surpassed by a Shakespearean tragedy.

Posing Julie Bishop as Lady Macbeth works on a personal level because it brings events down from emotionless and endless policy/party changes into a story with tangible characters. This also brings a level of entertainment, which is still remaining objectively true to the story that Bishop betrayed Abbott during our most recent political spill. [9] Human’s naturally make sense of events with narratives.

Contemporary journalism is changing as fast as our developments in technology. Simultaneously our expectations as audiences are also increasing with this new change, which is also bringing a new risk of alienating audiences. At the same time, there’s the prospect of a new paradigm glimmering on the horizon, infotainment which has the power to inform hold attention and retain integrity, and to get a glimpse that’s a risk we’re going to have to take.

 

References:

[1] About BuzzFeed. 2016. About BuzzFeed. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.buzzfeed.com/about. [Accessed 24 March 2016].

[2] MEDIA DECODER – BuzzFeed Adds Politico Writer – NYTimes.com. 2016. MEDIA DECODER – BuzzFeed Adds Politico Writer – NYTimes.com. [ONLINE] Available at:http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9A05EFD9163BF931A25751C1A9679D8B63. [Accessed 25 March 2016].

[3]  “Topics of the Times.” The New York Times, November 17, 1924, p. 18 [Accessed 25 March 2016]

[4] The Project Delivers on the Ratings Front for Ten| The Australian. 2016. Nocookies | The Australian. [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/media/the-project-delivers-on-the-ratings-front-for-ten/story-fna045gd-1226699486979. [Accessed  25 March 2016]

[5] Australians don’t trust the news – except when it comes from their favourite sources – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). 2016. Australians don’t trust the news – except when it comes from their favourite sources – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-06-16/australians-digital-news-trust/6548232. [Accessed 25 March 2016]

[6] 21 Aug 1954 – Mr ADELAIDE’S Diary – Trove. 2016. 21 Aug 1954 – Mr ADELAIDE’S Diary – Trove. [ONLINE] Available at: http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/58103769 [Accessed 01 April 2016].

[7] history of satire, greek, roman satire, satire history and use of humor historically. 2016. history of satire, greek, roman satire, satire history and use of humor historically. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.nottheonion.com/history.cfm [Accessed 01 April 2016].

[8] War is over. Chaser calls it quits. – TV Tonight. 2016. War is over. Chaser calls it quits. – TV Tonight. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.tvtonight.com.au/2009/07/war-is-over-chaser-calls-it-quits.html [Accessed 28 March 2016].

[9] No Cookies | Daily Telegraph. 2016. No Cookies | Daily Telegraph. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/liberal-leadership-is-julie-bishop-the-lady-macbeth-of-parliament/news-story/139297f9dedbfe4cfa80f20e651cf74d [Accessed march 28 2016].

 

 

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