American journalism’s ‘Gutenberg moment’

  Social events arouse public discussion, and the pressure of public opinion leads to case resolution and policy adjustment. The importance of the role of the news media is unquestionable. Today, journalists have to follow the rules of the algorithm to gain traffic and bear the responsibility of verifying facts, but they have to compete with any user who can release information in real time at any time. The norms of journalism that have established professional status and dignity are unsustainable today, and there are information manipulations for different purposes, conspiracy theories, and public distrust—this is the huge messy dilemma facing today’s journalists.
  For this reason, people will ask a question: the journalism industry, which is not ancient but has its own traditions, pragmatic contingency, and adherence to professional norms, should be kept upright or not when the production system, the tools of communication and the environment have all undergone great changes. Ah, do you still need to adapt to the times and change the old and make a new one? Jill Abranson, former editor-in-chief of The New York Times and senior lecturer at Harvard University, has recorded similar discussions and debates in the American press over the past decade, “The Merchant of Truth: The Business of Journalism and the Struggle to Defend the Fact.” The event tells the inside story of four news organizations—the digital transformation of established news organizations is represented by The New York Times and The Washington Post, and the emerging Internet news is presented by the stories of digital media BuzzFeed and Vice.
  People always say that the Internet is the most important invention since printing, and more and more people are talking about this “Gutenberg moment” opened by the iPhone. Whether it’s techno-optimism or pessimism, for those who still think journalism is indispensable to a modern democratic society, discussing what the future of journalism should look like over the past decade (China) or fifteen (U.S. ) is a critical period that cannot be skipped.
crisis and change

  In the tradition of journalism, journalism fulfills its mission of informing the public and sparking public dialogue in modern democratic politics. The title “The Merchant of Truth” implies that while performing the public function of defending the truth, finding new commercial support for this costly duty. Business shackles the truth, but it was also the prosperity of the mass market that freed the American newspaper industry from partisan influence, established a professional philosophy centered on “objectivity”, and formed a global expansion of American hegemony that affected the journalism around the world. “Journalism Paradigm”. Yet changing the way people receive information and connect with one another has seen journalism witness challenges for new entrants. Online media focus on opinion analysis and hardly collect facts. Traditional news organizations like The New York Times spend months collecting and screening facts, which are often washed and published by aggregation websites. Bill Keller, Abranson’s predecessor and former executive editor of The New York Times, once criticized the Huffington Post: “In Somalia, it’s piracy; in the media world, it’s a kind of piracy. A respected business model.”
  If The Huffington Post still has the same elite values ​​as the established media in terms of content composition, then “content entrepreneurs” without professional baggage have subverted the core of public dialogue. Like BuzzFeed, its founder Jonah Peretti is a graduate student at the MIT Media Lab, specializing in the quantitative analysis of communication in laboratory methods. They know how to produce viral content that doesn’t make much sense but is interesting enough when they don’t know and don’t care what news is. They started by posting pictures of cute kittens on the Internet, followed by fun quizzes and list-style articles. Whether a dress is platinum or black and blue has become a hot topic of debate on the Internet.
  Originally, search engines determined the flow of news, so that the title was determined by the hot search, which also determined the style of “content”. For example, the “Huffington Post” once listed all possible keyword combinations in a Google search in the first paragraph of a web article about the time of the “Super Bowl”, which naturally attracted heavy criticism from news organizations. Then there are tools to detect trends in content on social shares, so BuzzFeed always surfs “minutes before the big wave hits.” When Google, which started as a search engine, encountered a strong challenge from Facebook, the logic of digital news also shifted from search engine-driven to social sharing. Facebook has shaped the new news value. Time magazine even has editors track trending topics on Facebook and quickly publish articles based on those topics.
  In the past, the objective and elegant style of mainstream media was not the mainstream of the Internet age. Vice, the New York-based counterculture magazine that started in Montreal in the 1990s, is also part of the “bad boy culture” that emerged amid the backlash against feminism. After turning to the Internet, its subculture style has firmly grasped the characteristics of young Internet aborigines who seek novelty and coolness, do not welcome the serious style of mainstream media, pursue video, and the advertising market likes distinctive focus and video content.
  However, after becoming “mainstream,” BuzzFeed almost had to start setting up news sections. News is about politics, remains a media orthodoxy in the sense of cultural hegemony, and can bring authority to media organizations; and, it is another source of traffic. In 2011 Peretti hired Politico’s Ben Smith as news editor-in-chief, who described his decision to do news for BuzzFeed this way: “It’s powered by the undercurrent of the Internet, It also drives a trend, but it can’t make a ripple on the surface. To get noticed on the surface, you have to report big news.” However, their reporters lack the training, like barbarians in the political press, even in private communications. report. Foreign news reports are entertaining, and do not include important core information and background, such as a clipped telegram saying that a foreign leader “has been promoted.”
  When Vice Media started to develop a news section, it distanced itself from the detachment and authority that traditional political news emphasized, because it meant old-fashioned stereotypes for young audiences. When reporting on North Korea, they invite American stars the leader likes to accompany them, crafting a topical report. Their reports on some marginal developing countries and conflict zones are curious and often criticized by senior special correspondents; and in documentaries that are unclear whether it is a report or a travelogue, the reporters who appear on the scene casually state some wrong factual judgments .
  In Abranson’s eyes, these information simmers and alternative popular websites that suddenly broke into the press lack the institutional guarantees of journalism, such as codes of ethics, journalists’ security standards, fact-checking systems, and newcomer training. But the professional view is not “user experience”. Online media follows the “product thinking” of user experience optimization, and measures user experience all the time: click to measure, and conduct A/B tests on different versions of the title to maximize traffic. Tech startup terms like “innovation,” “content,” and “stickiness” have since become the new newsroom jargon. As Peretti said: “Create content like R&D.” Emotions and emotions are the biggest driving force for the viral spread of social platforms. As for the meaning and purpose of the content, it does not matter. The key point is that the hot search goes viral, “quickly filling the imagination of ordinary people and crowding out other more valuable conversations”. Top charts and quantitative indices of content performance replace editorial “screening and sorting” based on newsworthiness.
  The previous boundary between news and entertainment no longer exists, the information indicated by the layout and structure of the article no longer exists, and the communication between editors and readers is mainly through phishing headlines—this dispels the seriousness of news, because the headlines set Suspense and unpromising information, but nothing in the article, is almost a fraud. Not to mention the fact that news organizations emphasize that they are responsible for their own writing and sign their names truthfully. Of course, accuracy is no longer important, and new media products can continue to iterate, “always painting layer after layer on it”.

Firewall demolished

  BuzzFeed has developed a set of tools to help advertisers reach their most desired demographics, promising to create native ad content customized for advertisers. Native advertising has the same style and themes as editorially produced content, and has the same social potential. This blurs the old firewall between the newspaper industry’s management department and the editorial department, and the principle of separation of church and state, traditionally called “church and state”, is generally established to ensure the integrity of journalism. It was here, too, that Abranson became alert to the erosion of the moral foundations of journalism brought about by the Internet.
  New competitors also brought new forms of labor employment. The content farm-style operation has a very low entry threshold and does not require professional skills and ethics training. They also offer poor labor conditions, and hiring low-paid and inexperienced young people is the norm. The frequent change of jobs by employed persons also shortens the news labor. “The Huffington Post” was acquired by “AOL” at a sky-high price in 2011, but it only needs to offer a very low salary to website editors with almost no work experience, and copywriters write for free, because here they can Gain popularity. Before this, a job in a well-known newspaper was a lifelong career. The average age of the New York Times newsroom was about fifty years old. Many reporters were still working in their sixties and seventies, and the newspapers provided them with decency that bordered on luxury. working conditions.
  “I don’t think technological change should sweep moral change,” says Abranson. What troubles Abranson most is that her proud media empire has to learn from these spoilers. New media has become a hot spot for media investment, while traditional media cannot survive on the glory of the past. The New York Times’ Sulzberger and the Washington Post’s Graham family dealt with the enormous pressures of new media in different ways.
  The New York Times was heavily indebted, and Abranson became executive editor in an environment like this. There are many things to do that have not been tried before: such as making sharing stories on Facebook a priority; cutting overseas offices under financial pressure; and integrating online editorial and print news departments, for example. She has no objection to the online transformation of the newspaper industry. During her tenure as editor-in-chief, the rebooted elastic paywall was successful, the newspaper’s digital subscriptions doubled, and the New York Times’ phenomenal online news product “falling snow” ( Snow Fall) was made on her. But the financial problems were not resolved. Trade shows and large seminars are the main ways for business units to increase their revenue. New business plans must borrow the credibility of the newsroom in order to have market appeal. In short, the firewall between the business department and the editorial department needs to be removed.
  She clearly got this advice when, in 2014, AG Sulzberger Jr., then the Metropolitan editor of The New York Times (and the newspaper’s young heir), handed over a “digital innovation report” to the took her. The follow-up reforms brought about by the report, in Abranson’s view, went beyond the norm of journalism, which eventually led to her abrupt dismissal. The New York Times published two works representing transformation in 2014. The all-media coverage of “Avalanche” sparked a discussion on “Is this the future of Internet news”, while the promotional advert for the drama “Orange Is the New Black” co-produced by Netflix has become a model of Internet native advertising in the newspaper industry – this article looks like Like an issue report on female prisoners.
  The Washington Post is a different story. Initially, the Graham family chose the wrong decision-making direction or bad luck. For example, in the era of spreading globalization, they decided to focus on the local Washington newspaper; coupled with the early plan to take a stake in Facebook, they also rejected the later Internet start-ups. News agency Politico’s proposal to make the other party his opponent in political news. Finally, the Post lost faith in the first few years of the mobile network and sold its newspaper assets in 2013. The legacy was public, and they finally handed it over to the richest man in the digital age, Amazon’s Bezos, hoping he could restore the century-old newspaper to glory in the internet age. New owners bring technology focused on improving news and user experience as a “product,” resulting in a newly built digital editorial headquarters filled with tablet screens, new channels for user growth, and “the biggest problem is not evolving anymore” ‘s motto. The promotion of reading related to Kindle has also brought a large number of online readers. They also use quizzes to help choose headlines, captions, and executive summaries for social virality.
  Everything is about audience participation. Organized production has shifted more or less to the priority of personal branding in the social age. Those reporters who are already internet celebrities or opinion leaders recognized by audiences on social media can themselves bring audiences to newspapers. popular. The New York Times has also started posting videos of cute animals, talk shows and celebrity recipes on social platforms, and it will also let users join the editor’s live-streamed topic selection. Abranson complained that even The Post had too many phishing headlines for traffic. However, the two finally surpassed BuzzFeed in traffic, a meaningful victory.
A new generation of journalists

  Abranson hopes that the younger generation of practitioners on the Internet can accept and understand the norms of journalism, including the responsibility of fact-checking news, the ethics of fair reporting, and independence from external political and economic forces. But she ignores how the formation and maintenance of these norms has to do with the fact that the American newspaper industry has been financially supported by the mass advertising market for more than a century.
  The start-up stage of digital media is just a repetition of the historical experience of the market newspaper business model at the beginning of its establishment. The early paths of BuzzFeed and Vice, similar to the early American business news organizations, the cheap penny newspapers in the nineteenth century and the “yellow journalism” they produced, may be vulgar, but catered to the curiosity and moral orientation of a new group of citizens . They invent new genres, such as crime reporting, and employ visually striking graphic design changes that have won popular favor and supported the newspaper’s public service mission.
  Pulitzer, the newspaper mogul who worked to transform journalism into a respected professional service at the turn of the last century, funder of America’s most prized journalism awards, thus defends his “yellow journalism”—his solid Editorial, “To speak to a country, not a special committee”. His dramatic undercover interview with Nellie Bly, a young, beautiful and courageous female reporter, is an eye-catching commercial hype, but the effect is a win-win for business and social effects – mental hospital in New York The system is thus improved. Perhaps out of sensitivity to America’s expanding global influence and the wave of women’s movements, he then sent Bligh on a single-women globetrotting. This incidental planning case is somewhat similar to today’s overseas interviews by Vice Media – today’s news disputes may be the internal conflict of news history itself repeated in a new setting. For example, the entertainment “jazz news” and the “poop news” that promoted reform by exposing blacks were equally prosperous in the 1920s. The 1960s and 1970s, when the principle of news objectivity was increasingly enshrined in the mainstream media, was also a period of personal and literary narrative journalism, including genres such as Ganzo journalism. Vice has captured young readers with a similar experience, emulating “Ronin” journalism, subcultural reporting with the same de-professionalized imagery, journalistic personal expression, and immersive interview experience.

  In the new model, it is believed that trust and credibility come from conversations with audiences rather than sermons. In response to the lack of diversity in the fields and topics of elite media coverage, which has long been criticized by the academic community, digital media naturally has a better performance on subcultures and social issues that the new generation pays attention to. As Jo Livingstone, author of “The New Republic,” puts it, Abranson doesn’t really understand the younger generation of journalists, especially their different political philosophies from those of the previous generation—”what they do with others.” Compassion, an outspoken focus on gender equality, an awareness of personal and professional interests in representation: these are the basic tenets of the new digital journalism…” She considers her New York Times record as newsroom ( gender and racial) diversity, but indifferent to the diversity of online journalists. “The Guardian” commented that BuzzFeed’s sensitive reporting on gender issues seems to be just for traffic in Abranson, without realizing that behind the spread of ideas is the change in social structure.
  Abranson has to admit that the new generation of journalists who grew up in the digital age has their own areas of expertise, such as the manipulation of information for political purposes in the new media ecosystem, and the alt-right groups, they are more sensitive and responsive. . In 2016, BuzzFeed reporter Craig Silverman exposed social media manipulation and the existence of a multinational cyber army in election campaigns. Vice correspondent Elle Reeve did an excellent job covering a violent demonstration of the alt-right.
deep contradiction

  The old media innovates, implants technological genes, understands the online audience, adjusts to the advertising market, and obtains better financial support; while the network-native news organizations are also in line with the industry benchmarks, and strive for meaningful social monitoring and monitoring reports. The respect of society and the market. Both have gained a larger readership amid the setbacks and crises of liberals following Trump’s election. However, after 2017, emerging online media such as BuzzFeed began to experience several waves of layoffs along with established newspapers, and many departments that have won awards, are well-recognized and highly public, have been weakened, such as 202 Two-year layoffs in investigative reporting, politics, science, inequality and social justice reporting. While news organizations old and new learn from each other and work together to combat hate speech and conspiracy theories in a post-truth political and media environment, the work of fact-finding remains largely unfinanced.
  According to the Pew Center, one-third of Americans today get their news on Facebook, one-fifth on YouTube and about one-eighth on Twitter. And the media organizations that produce the content get only the scraps of the platform’s revenue. Wall Street Journal reporter David Uberti noted that if there is a discussion about who hurts the news, “perhaps more compelling for digital publishers are those including Facebook and YouTube. The platforms that propel them to the top are not designed to reward news, but to reward fake news, fake anger, and ultimately, advertisers.” “Even BuzzFeed, with its broad reach, creative entertainment and world-class journalism, can’t overcome the harsh reality controlled by Google, Facebook and, increasingly, the advertising business,”
  he said. At the end of eight years, BuzzFeed’s Peretti wrote to Facebook’s administrators, arguing that its algorithmic rankings that drive people to interact with acquaintances “do not reward content that drives meaningful social interaction,” and instead keep angering Sensation has become a driving force to enhance the forwarding of misleading information and harmful content. Abranson left one of her thirteen chapters for Facebook. The point of the situation may not be whether the dogma of “hard news” is adhered to, but the threat to public life caused by the monopolistic existence of platforms and the over-commercialization of the online communication environment is clearly visible.
  Furthermore, the experience of industry leaders is hardly representative of what is happening in the wider homeland. Abranson at the end hastened to mention the decline of the local newspaper industry in the United States. According to Pew Research, newsroom jobs have fallen by 23 percent in a decade. It is national and multinational media that can gain massive audiences on the Internet, and local news organizations cannot obtain financial support through audience growth when advertising profits are diluted. In the past, these local newspapers conducted local accountability and investigative reporting and fed elite newspapers with experienced talent. “Ten Basic Principles of News” pointed out before the rise of social media that the Internet, which breaks geographic boundaries, has just led to the disappearance of “nearby” in the newspaper industry, and this part is where local politics, public participation, and news dissemination in the United States are in three areas. A decade has continued to weaken the core of the crisis. With all kinds of new media innovations, the most difficult to solve is local supervision, which is no longer covered by city councils and state news. The crisis did not start with the Internet, but with the concentration of newspaper ownership structures after the 1990s.
  Some commentators pointed out that when Abranson discussed the transformation and future of the newspaper industry, he only discussed the “business” of elite newspapers that depended on the market, while ignoring the “businessmen of truth” in the mainstream of the United States. A phase of innovation provides a new paradigm. For example, the Marshall Plan for oversight of the criminal justice system “to make it fairer, more effective, more transparent and more humane.” And non-profit journalism projects like ProPublica, which were founded in 2007 when the press crisis began and have now established an industry status, may be more representative of the business-driven trends in the past against the backdrop of technological change. Innovations in American journalism culture. In the face of the unknown, perhaps the only certainty is Abranson’s sigh: “All the journalists of my generation are transitional figures, just touching the elephant.”