No news is bad news

Mainstream media’s relevance in today’s world has been dealt another blow by a new report on digital media.

The Digital News Report 2023 by the Reuters Institute at Oxford University covers 46 countries that account for more than half the world’s population. Sadly, New Zealand is not among them, but its findings are as applicable here as anywhere.

The bottom line: Many publishers are struggling to convince people that their news is worth paying attention to, let alone paying for.

The Reuters Institute has been tracking digital news audience behaviour in annual reports since 2012. Its first report (which surveyed five nations) noted mainstream media were investing heavily in ‘digital first’ strategies and the use of social media to access news content was on the rise.

The ensuing 11 years have seen that change accelerate but not in ways that news publishers and broadcasters would either anticipate or desire. The latest report provides few, in any, bright spots for them. Continue reading “No news is bad news”

News values from an audience perspective: A review

A review I wrote of News Values from an Audience Perspective, edited by Martina Temmerman and Belle Mast has been published in the Australian Journalism Review. The book is a very useful analysis of the values applied to news stories and the increasing role that audiences play in that process. Unfortunately you will need access the review through, for example, a university library account or by payment. Such are the stricture of copyright.



Proof our newsrooms need a ‘second pair of eyes’

Own goals by two of our top news organisations last week raised a fundamental question: What has happened to their checking processes?

Both Radio New Zealand and NZME acknowledged serious failures in their internal processes that resulted in embarrassing apologies, corrections, and take-downs.

The episodes in both newsrooms suggest the “second pair of eyes” that traditionally acted as a final check before publication no longer exists or is so over-worked in a resource-starved environment that they are looking elsewhere.

The RNZ situation is the more serious of the two episodes. It relates to the insertion of pro-Russian content into news agency stories about the invasion of Ukraine that were carried on the RNZ website. The original stories were sourced from Reuters and, in at least one case, from the BBC. By last night 16 altered stories had been found, but the audit had only scratched the surface. The apparent perpetrator has disclosed they had been carrying out such edits for the past five years.

Continue reading “Proof our newsrooms need a ‘second pair of eyes’”

We definitely need to talk about harmful speech proposals

Efforts to make the online environment safer are laudable but thank God the latest New Zealand proposal is still only a discussion document. As the proposal stands, it could add a new volume to the already burgeoning body of work on the law of unintended consequences.

The work that has been undertaken on harmful online content has been valuable and, no doubt, there will be improvements to an environment that has been wilder than the Wild West. However, the regulation that is now in the pipeline has the potential to cause as much harm as good because its approach has been limited by a particular digital mindset.

In short, the desire to prevent the harm that is all too evident in largely unregulated social media has blinded its authors to the impact of its countermeasures in other environments. Continue reading “We definitely need to talk about harmful speech proposals”