Digital Journalism has posted my new article, “The Robotic Reporter: Automated Journalism and the Redefinition of Labor, Compositional Forms, and Journalistic Authority” (behind a paywall). It’s part of a special issue edited by Seth Lewis on big data and journalism. In my contribution, I examine how algorithms tasked with crunching big data can now be used to write stories. This is a nascent practice, but one that we can easily imagine will become more prominent as the technology develops. What’s important now is to understand both the processes around the institutionalization of automated journalism and how these process are being thought about. That is, computer-authored stories raise all kinds of questions about journalism as an informational practice and a creative practice, or news as a commodity and news as culture.
I had a paper accepted to a poster session at the AEJMC conference in Montreal. While posters offer a great opportunity for scholars to mingle and talk, I always have trouble converting my research into a poster. This year I took a different tack and translated my research into a cultural form perfect for displaying information in a visually interesting manner: the comic strip. It may seem a bit unusual, but it does communicate the basic ideas of the paper. For the more in-depth treatment, a revised version of this paper will be appearing soon in Journalism. It is available now through OnlineFirst (behind the paywall). But for a comic synopsis, enjoy:
I’ve had two new articles and a book chapter published in 2014. The first, “Gone, But Not Forgotten: Memories of Journalistic Deviance as Metajournalistic Discourse” appeared in Journalism Studies at the start of the year (note: it is behind a paywall). The article argues that while the journalistic community tends to make a big show of excommunicating individuals deemed to be deviant–e.g. Jayson Blair, Stephen Glass, etc.–in fact they remain within the vocabulary of journalists, able to deployed when new allegations of journalistic deviance arise. They continue to provide ways of thinking through and making sense of new violations, even when little correspondence between a new incident and a past one exists.
The other article also tackles the topic of deviance, this time through a Transatlantic approach to the News of the World scandal in the UK. Along with Dan Berkowitz, the article is titled “The Emperor Lost His Clothes’: Rupert Murdoch, News of the World and Journalistic Boundary Work in the UK and the USA” and appeared in Journalism (also paywalled). We play with the twin ideas of cultural boundaries as professional and national to look at different reactions to the scandal.
Finally, Dan and I also have a chapter in the new volume Journalism and Memory edited by Barbie Zelizer and Keren Tenenboim-Wienblatt for Palgrave. Beyond the great cover, it is an excellent collection of chapters from scholars inside and outside of journalism studies who have been writing about memory. Our contribution, “The Late News: Memory Work as Boundary Work in Commemoration of Television Journalists,” looks across the memorialization of well-respected American television journalists David Brinkley, Peter Jennings, Walter Cronkite, and Mike Wallace, as well as the continued legacy of Edward R. Murrow.
Paul Farhi of the Washington Post has a nice piece on the ridiculousness of anonymous source identifiers in the news–with a little input from me. The origins of such “explanations” of why anonymity was granted began appearing really after the wake of the bad information in the lead up to the 2003 Iraq War. The idea was to let readers in a bit more as to why such decisions were made. However well-intentioned, the limits are obvious; you can’t grant anonymity and provide enough clues to place a name with a quote. Still, there could be some usefulness on shedding a little light. However, as Farhi humorously illustrates with true examples, the explanations end up sounding, well, dumb. And that is at best. At worst, these identifiers are misleading. I’ve discussed this in my book, but it is always tricky. Journalists need, in some instances, to be able to use anonymous sources, leaving us readers out in the dark. But they are also overused or used in ways far from the normative base of providing the public with information it needs to know. I am glad to see Farhi take up the issue, and I hope others follow as well.
I had the pleasure of being on the local NPR program St. Louis on the Air to discuss the new Jayson Blair documentary A Fragile Trust. The show is archived here. The documentary is a look back at what happened with Blair and the New York Times told through interviews with the chief figures at the paper. We hear a lot from Blair himself explaining, as best he could, what happened. Looking back at Blair from the perspective of a decade on, it is notable just how idiosyncratic Blair’s hijinks were, but yet, as I argue in a new Journalism Studies article, he continues to be invoked as a symbol of bad journalism in situations that have nothing to do with what he did.
Thank you to JOMEC for publishing my article “Journalistic Change in an Online Age: Disaggregating Visibility, Legitimacy, and Revenue.” This was a piece that grew out of a question I posed to a wonderful AEJMC panel in 2011 with C.W. Anderson, Seth Lewis, and Wilson Lowrey on the changing face of journalism. Listening to them talk, I was struck by this thought about how, roughly speaking, the connections between audience numbers, advertising revenues, and credibility seemed increasingly loose compared to the past. This is a broad idea, I know, but the thought stayed with me and blossomed into this article in JOMEC, which is open access and free to the world. What I argue is that to consider journalism as a public activity, we must attend to three things (characteristics): visibility (can it be seen?/is it seen?), legitimacy (is it understood to be correct? or socially valuable?); and revenue (can it generate funds, either from direct or indirect sources?). Yes, these are connected, but in complex ways that should be carefully explored and not merely assumed. This is the framework, and I invite others to think with it, make corrections, etc. I hope it provokes some new thoughts about journalism. JOMEC, by the way, is a wonder new open access journal put out by Paul Bowman and the fine people at Cardiff School of Journalism, Media, and Cultural Studies.
I am happy to announce that I have been promoted to Associate Professor with tenure by SLU. I even have the business cards to prove it. This comes at a time when tenure remains under attacks as antiquated and irresponsible. But I view it as an opportunity — or even a responsibility — to further my research by taking chances that would have seemed too risky as an untenured professor. With that cryptic comment, I am looking forward a year-long sabbatical to dedicate myself to a couple of new writing projects. I am sure updates will follow in this space as the work progresses.