Tue - 21.11.2017

SFN report: Communication and gatekeeper research

SFN report: Communication and gatekeeper research

Once upon a time, news flows were relatively simple. Information would travel from a source to a news organisation, to the general public. Although that chain might not have been quite as simple as it seemed (a journalist might influence his or her sources, or public reactions might influence a news organisation) for the most part, information flowed one way, and one way only.

Now a new regional SFN report from WAN-IFRA, authored by Professor Christof Seeger and Leander Blumenthal describes the way that social media and digital publishing has turned this news flow upside-down. The report, titled "Communication and gatekeeper research" points out that media organisations are no longer the primary "gatekeepers" of information; an engaged public also plays an important role in curating news by deciding what content to republish, recommend or pass on.

What's more, as every internet user becomes a potential publisher, the old formula in which news professionals would look through sources and select the most relevant for publication has also been turned on its head: sources are now published first on social networks and edited after the fact.

The result is that traditional media no longer has a monopoly over publishing: news consumers have become producers. But the report argues this doesn't mean that the job of professional journalists has become redundant; on the contrary, it suggests that journalists have a role as expert-curators, to filter through the noise of social media. "Expert opinions are becoming increasingly important and they're also becoming more necessary because the mass of information is always increasing," states the report.

But although there is still a role for journalists, that role is shifting. The report quotes Christoph Grothe, former editor in chief of Stuttgarter Nachrichten, who says that the challenge that faces the news industry is now "not to see news publication from the perspective of the editor - which was the case for the long time - but from the point of view of the customer, or rather the user".

The report offers some advice on exactly how news publishers should think about adapting their working methods:

1) Strengthen your own brand and build a clear position in the market.

A media brand's existence depends on how trustworthy its audience perceives it to be. As the quantity of available information increases, it will become more and more important for brands to build a fixed profile so that their readers can rely on them for orientation in a sea of content.

2) Focus on the enduring principles of quality journalism.

Journalism has to be able to penetrate past the headlines to give readers context and show them connections between different stories. Producing quality journalism is a key part of building a strong media brand online.

3) Find journalists who have strong professional training, but not stuck in their ways.

Media is changing rapidly, and only journalists who are willing to adapt to a new environment will be able to keep up. "Journalism will develop futher, and might reinvent itself altogether. The qualifications and the professionalism of journalists will be the deciding factors in showing whether integrated journalism is possible or not," states the report.

You can download the full report here (German language)


Hannah Vinter


2012-02-20 19:03

Shaping the Future of the News Publishing

© 2015 WAN-IFRA - World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers

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