The advent of new media has had a direct and irreversible impact on the foundations of journalism practice. They have brought about changes which caused reporters to renew their skills and change their long established working habits. With the constant evolution of new technological tools, along with web-based platforms and technologies, the various working definitions of what journalism was about in the past seem to have lost their coherence.
Furthermore, the presence of new media and the importance of ICT in newsrooms remain undeniable. Leaving aside the definitions issue, it appears that new technologies have redefined the whole concept of what a modern reporter should be like, as well as the knowledge and characteristics he is expected to possess. Due to time and technologies, the skills today’s journalists should hold have evolved, whilst those grasped by old school reporters aspire to be renewed.
Despite the willingness of business organisations to turn to ICT, it appears that the labour force encounters difficulties to make the most out of it. Logically, the first plausible reason we are tempted to put forth is the lack of training or poor knowledge in ICT. However, there seem to be other unknown factors which hinder the optimum use of new media in newsrooms.
To be able to identify the causal factors to the issues mentioned, a case study of a Mauritian media house will be carried out through a questionnaire survey and interviews. The latter will be done among press, radio and web reporters of Le Défi Media Group to better understand how, why and to which extent new media is utilized in newsrooms.
This organisation has been chosen due the strategic position it occupies on the local market. In addition, the firm manages radio, press and web reporters, all under the same roof; which is not the case in other local media houses. The group also offers a variety of publications targeting several types of publicsHence, Le Défi Media Group’s context . particular context diversity for disseminating news
Due to the strategic position it occupies in the local media market, Le Défi Media Group has been chosen as the host firm for this study. Since its creation in 1996, the news group has been able to forge its own identity, and is highly regarded by Mauritian media consumers. This has been proved in a survey performed by Synthèses Mauritius. The report ranks the media house as the second most powerful news group following La Sentinelle Ltd. (Anon., 2013) As such, Le Défi Media Group has two newspapers ranked among the top five preferred weeklies, and its Le Défi Quotidien is the second most read daily in the country.
Nervertheless, Synthèses Mauritius claims that Le Défi Media Group’s website
In bold, this research shall attempt to determine whether new media is used intelligently by reporters, to identify the causes behind which new media is not fully exploited during journalism practice, shall assess as to how reporters make use of the facilities provided by new media and whether they are making the most out of the technological infrastructures offered by the organisation itself.
The Literature Review
For years now, dictionaries and encyclopaedias have been providing us with definitions, in relevance with the periods during which they were published. Though the older ones are believed to be outdated, the descriptive meanings printed at different periods in time might as well enable us to retrace the etymological meanings of words.
As such, The Concise Oxford Dictionary (1963) qualifies the journalist as being “one whose business is to edit or write for a public journal”. A more recent definition from the dictionary’s website states that he is the one “who writes for newspapers or magazines or prepares news to be broadcast on radio or television”. This definition does provide supplementary dimensions, yet excluding vital notions relating journalism to new media. (Oxford Dictionaries: The world’s most trusted dictionaries, 2013)
According to Jo Bardoel and Mark Deuze (2001), such definitions are outdated. The authors highlight the need for broader ones, calling for more actualised and modern explanations. Furthermore, Picard (2000) tries to provide an up to date definition of journalism. More than just a product or service, he describes it as being a mental activity that provides added value to news, be it in terms of features, commentaries, photographs or entertainment. Although the author’s definition evokes the presence of new media, his study lays emphasis more on quality in journalistic activity, without clearly defining the intrinsic link existing between the two.
Linking Journalism to New Media
With new media came a bunch of additional journalistic roles. Long ago reporters were only expected to attend events and press conferences to collect the information necessary for building up their articles. Pieces were handwritten first, and then handed over to typists who would put them in a proper format. Similarly, photographers, cameramen, and sound technicians were hired to assume their respective and assigned responsibilities.
Journalism in the 21st century turned out to be quite the opposite. Mark Briggs (2007) claims that the characteristics of the modern reporter have evolved due to the advent of new technological tools. According to him, today’s journalists should be polyvalent, and be able to manipulate any type of given media. They should be trained to click their own photographs, be ready to video and audio record, or have editing knowledge for instance. Hence, only those having multi-tasking capabilities will be coveted and rewarded.
Due to the pace at which new media mutate, the reporter should have the ability to renew himself as frequently as required. Quick adaption and versatility come as vital traits which shall be decisive while differentiating between a competent reporter and a less efficient one. According to Briggs (2007), the old adages claiming that a reporter should be good anywhere does not have its rationale. Today, he is expected to be able to cope with the constant technological and situational changes.
The author further argues that the advent of new media has led to a new form of journalistic model. As such, the contemporary reporter shall be “a jack of all trades and master of none, a person who can write, shoot, edit, talk, and look good on camera with a competence that might not be great but good enough.” (Briggs, 2007)
Moreover, Bardoel and Deuze consider online journalism as being a fourth type of journalism, next to radio, television and printed reporting. They argue that the role of an online journalist is not limited to copying text onto websites, but that they also generate their own content, in the same way as would a mainstream reporter. For this reason, the researchers believe that journalism is believed to be very similar to any other kind of journalism. (Bardoel & Deuze, 2001)
In addition, they sustain that online reporting comprises of characteristics which are usually inexistent in mainstream media. Interactivity, customisation of content, hypertextuality and multimediality are said to be the characteristics which contribute to the singularity of this type of journalism. Hence, the fundamental processes namely production, content and distribution, which were carried out using several medium, can now be done through only one platform. (Bardoel & Deuze, 2001)
Interactivity is described by Brent Muirhead (2005) as being related to communication, participation and feedback. This feature is one of the major forces of online journalism. It allows room for audiences to react to items published on the web. Be it in the form of comments, ratings, votes, pools, ‘likes’ or shares for instance, readers have become reactive. Supporting this view, Briggs indicates that readers are no more passive. Instead, they wish to create, share and comment, and expect to be able to do this on news websites as well.
It might be advantageous for the reporter to promote interactivity. Firstly, enabling the comments options on new websites shall leave the door open for readers criticisms, which the journalist might take into account while writing his next piece. Moreover, readers often wish to contact reporters to share their appreciation, or to provide news as sources. In this case, placing email links next to news stories might be helpful.
On the other hand, Briggs encourages journalists to be proactive. He states that it is necessary to seek feedback on stories, before being published. This can be done by posting a “call to readers” by sending emails to a list of potential respondents. In case general comments are required for a story, the author advices to send block emails to as many readers as possible to obtain exploitable responses.
In his study, Briggs further highlights the use of new media as contemporary tools. He states the case of John Cook, a well-known business reporter for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. The latter claimed being an intensive user of RSS feeds, and used them to “track and obtain information in a more timely manner”. (Briggs, 2007) This in turn, allowed him to publish information online very quickly.
Journalism quality and productivity
New media has brought various professional fields, including journalism, to a brand new level. In the Mauritian context, through a survey, the National Computer Board (NCB) was able to generate a list of business sectors which recorded highest internet usage in the country. The latter demonstrates that the storage and communication sector features alongside those sectors which use the internet extensively, hence implying the direct involvement of the journalism sector. (ICT Usage Survey 2001: A survey on the ICT adoption of businesses in Mauritius, 2002)
Depending on a media house’s editorial policy, it might be willing to either lay emphasis on quality or quantity. By this statement, I do not mean to suggest that both of them cannot go about simultaneously, but that it is instead one of the most difficult and most challenging goal of an editor.
Due to time constraints, short notice assignments and deadlines, reporters are often brought to choose between the two. For instance, in view of the approaching submission deadline, a journalist might build a news item which is less qualitative, be it in the way it is organised, or in the chosen wording. The urge to submit news, added to the pressurising attempts of the editor in chief to make things go quicker undeniably have their role to play.
Nowadays, the challenges involved in journalism practice are greater. In the past, competition did not affect the whole processes implicated in newsmaking. In comparison, the journalism models adopted in newsrooms by the end of the twentieth century demonstrate quite the opposite. The major focus has experienced a shift from quality to productivity.
This phenomenon can be explained as being the result of rising material and labour costs, and the inability of firms to recover those costs. In addition, the advent of new technologies has also contributed to balancing the costs. By using less reporters along with new technological tools, media houses’ managements were able to reduce man power, and make more efficient use of fewer journalists. (Picard, 1998)
Social Networks as Journalistic Tools
The use of social networking sites as research tools has its importance in journalism, be it for the professional or the citizen writer. I have personally come across professionals who share their articles from their online news site onto their Facebook pages, or others who try to get in touch with contact persons through social networks. In addition, blogging among professionals of high calibre has also become a trend: Rabin Bhujun, Gilbert Ahnee, or Raj Meetarban, own and regularly update theirs. Blogging journalism is free from editorial constraints, and professionals make use of it due to its flexibility.
Nowadays, journalists report news in real-time through Twitter. The Guardian claims that as of December 2011, and following the guidance of the lord of chief justice, reporters could tweet the court proceedings without constraint. Tweeting is allowed to the public as well, but on the contrary, they will need to seek permission first. (DAVIES, C., 2011)
Multimedia Journalism and Convergence
According to authors, there are some terms which occupy a vital part in contemporary journalism. Convergence and multimedia newsrooms are some of them. It has been argued that those two terms are closely linked, and that they very often seem to work in together. (Deuze, 2004)
As far as multimedia journalism is concerned, it is said to have two definitions. Author Mark Deuze (2004) provides two situational descriptions in his study. Firstly, it is defined as the layout of a news story on a website, which uses at least two types of media formats, like graphics, images, and music for instance. In the second place, the same definition applies but this time with different media such as website, email, radio, television, just to name a few.
On the other hand, convergence poses itself as a collaborative participation between previously distinct newsrooms, or other parts of the contemporary media firm. It might be sharing news from other newsrooms, or collaborating on similar projects. (Deuze, 2004)
Company Profile of Le Défi Media Group
Having launched itself in the media industry through the weekly Le Défi Plus, the formerly small company turned into Le Défi Media Group. As of date, the group is one of the most powerful media houses in Mauritius.
Through the years the group has tried to diversify its operations by creating more newspapers, and launching its radio station in 2002. More recently, acute interest has been paid to the various functions provided by the web. Following the opening of its interactive news website, the group aims at developing its own web television. This initiative is a truly innovative one in Mauritius, as it is the first formerly printed news media organisation to extend its field of activities till audiovisual webcasting.
Furthermore, it appears that the model proposed by Deuze (2004) perfectly fits the actual status of the firm. As per the author’s description, the media house fits the portrayal of a fully integrated media newsroom. The specificities of this type of newsroom is that news reporters from print, broadcast and online media work in hand to produce content, and prepare story packages which are to be disseminated across all media. (Deuze, 2004)
Similarly, journalists from the group are sometimes asked to produce media content which is not in their area of predilection. Press reporters are frequently called to make on the spot radio interventions, or journalists doing a specific news beat might be asked to collaborate in producing content for other beats as well. Hence journalism itself is perceived as a product, not the printed or broadcast news (Picard, 1998). As such, it appears that this dose of flexibility, mixed with cross media ownership and convergence form part of the corporate culture of the media house.
The group’s news website is another interesting asset. Despite being one of the last local media companies to launch one, its popularity remains undeniable. Each day, a considerable amount of responses is recorded, be it in terms of ratings, comments, shares or views. In contradiction to other firms, ledefimedia.info is the only news website to accommodate all its media content on the same platform. The website not only regroups texts from written newspapers, but also proposes videos and transcriptions of audio reports broadcast on the radio.
The Research Process
The Research Methodology is a critical phase in a research. It provides an overview of the approach to be used, starting from theoretical groundwork to collection, analysis and data interpretation (Collins & Hussey, 2003). No two research processes are exactly the same. Yet, they all follow a similar flow through the elementary procedures involved in academic investigations. As such a problem is to be defined, research objectives are to be set, research procedures designed, and data is to be assembled and analysed. (Burns & Bush, 1998)
The primary aim of this study is to analyse whether or not the use of new media is extensive in newsrooms. Despite the availability of necessary office tools and equipments, the basis of this research shall be to obtain answers as to why new media are not fully exploited by reporters working individually on news items.
Moreover, the importance of social platforms as working tools shall be assessed. In addition, the research will stress on the media house’s news website, by determining whether the news authors make optimum use of the interactive functions available online.
Initial Research Objectives
This list of objectives has been set prior to the documentation process and before writing the literature review. These preset objectives are employed as starting points for the research, leaving room for a more in depth study later on. The list is as follows:
To assess how reporters use new media in their daily routine
To determine the types of new media preferred by journalists
To define the changes which new media have brought about
To determine the implications of using new media
To determine whether age is a deterrent for using new media
To determine whether different types of reporters use new media differently
To determine whether the use of different types of new media varies depending on news beat
Refined Research Objectives
Following the previous one, a new set of objectives has been built based on the findings of the exploratory research made throughout the literature review. The new objectives are as follows:
To assess the extent to which new media is used by reporters
To identify the different types of new media used, and identify the preferred ones
To uncover the reasons pushing reporters to make use of new media
To determine whether the organisational new media platforms at their avail are used fully
To establish whether social platforms are helpful during the process of acquiring news
To assess whether age influences the overall utilisation of new media
To determine whether educational background impacts on the general use of new media
A research design can be explanatory, exploratory or descriptive (Yin, 1994). In view of the aims and objectives set, and provided that this study aims at obtaining answers which might be applicable to other situations than the ones already dealt with in this study, it can be assumed that the explanatory case study shall be the most appropriate research design.
Following the findings generated by the literature review, it can be deduced that (1) reporters seem to be unaware of the multiplicities of new media (2) the term new media is often confused with ICT or the internet (3) new media allow additional possibilities and functions which were not possible in the old school journalism days.
H0: New media are used extensively by reporters
H1: New media are not used extensively by reporters
H0: Different types of new media are used by journalists
H1: Different types of media are not used by journalists
H0: Reporters have a preference for a certain type of new media
H1: Reporters do not have any preference for any type of media
H0: The organisational new media platforms are used fully
H1: The organisational new media platforms are not used fully
H0: Social platforms are helpful during the process of acquiring news
H1: Social platforms are not helpful in the process of acquiring news
H0: Age does influence the overall utilisation of new media
H1: Age does not influence the overall utilisation of new media
H0: Educational background does impact on the general use of new media
H1: Educational background does not impact on the general use of new media
Data Collection Design
Right from the beginning of the research, it has been decided that the method of data collection would be questionnaire dissemination. As such, they would prove to be helpful as they shall be less time consuming than classic face to face interviews. Moreover, the questionnaire dissemination shall be done by email, and as printed fill out forms. The use of both methods will allow more flexibility, for as reporters are constantly on the move, they might find it easier to fill in the forms online.