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Four in­dus­try ex­perts dis­cuss the chang­ing land­scape of mod­ern jour­nal­ism.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - R.AGE - By JC LAM allther­age@thes­tar.com.my

THERE was a time when jour­nal­ists were the gate­keep­ers of news. Ac­cord­ing to lec­turer/so­cial me­dia ad­vo­cate and for­mer jour­nal­ist Niki Cheong, ev­ery­one is their own gate­keeper now.

“The way we re­ceive news is based on an al­go­rithm we cre­ate for our­selves,” he said. “We cre­ate and ma­nip­u­late these al­go­rithms by choos­ing who to fol­low on so­cial me­dia, and that dic­tates the news we stum­ble upon.”

Cheong was speak­ing at the “Jour­nal­ism For Gen Y” panel dis­cus­sion last Fri­day, along­side Time Out Kuala Lumpur edi­tor Lim Chee Wah, Astro Awani mag­a­zine desk edi­tor Zan Azlee, Pop-Fo­lio Net­work man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Loo Jia-Wei and R.AGE edi­tor Ian Yee, who mod­er­ated the dis­cus­sion.

Dig­i­tal me­dia has com­pletely changed the land­scape of jour­nal­ism. With au­di­ences no longer proac­tively look­ing for news con­tent, and in­stead re­ly­ing on what their friends share on so­cial me­dia, Loo said con­tent cre­ators now have an “ob­ses­sion over vi­ral­ity”.

The prob­lem with that, ac­cord­ing to Loo, is in­de­pen­dent voices get drowned out, and most con­tent starts to lose au­then­tic­ity. You start wor­ry­ing more about go­ing vi­ral than pro­duc­ing qual­ity con­tent.

On top of that, Cheong said on­line au­di­ences now “see head­lines, not sto­ries”. They are bom­barded with in­for­ma­tion, but they rarely de­velop any depth of knowl­edge about, well, any­thing.

“I ask my stu­dents what is news to them, and the num­ber one an­swer is ‘gos­sip’. They can’t even tell who the Min­is­ter of Ed­u­ca­tion is!” said Cheong.

Keep­ing up

So how do jour­nal­ists and me­dia com­pa­nies fight for space in this sea of con­tent?

Ac­cord­ing to Loo, ex­per­i­ment­ing is cru­cial. Jour­nal­ists now have to learn to pack­age their con­tent for dif­fer­ent plat­forms.

“For ex­am­ple, 62% of Malaysians go on­line us­ing their mo­bile de­vices; so it’s im­por­tant you cre­ate con­tent that caters to that,” said Loo.

Zan is one of the best ex­am­ples of a jour­nal­ist work­ing across plat­forms, hav­ing done print, dig­i­tal and broad­cast jour­nal­ism through­out his ca­reer.

“You need to have an over­all sense of the dif­fer­ent me­dia plat­forms. That way, you can de­ter­mine whether a story would work bet­ter as a video piece, a photo es­say or an ed­i­to­rial piece,” he said.

On top of that, Zan said Gen Y au­di­ences now pre­fer sto­ries where the jour­nal­ists’ per­son­al­i­ties are ap­par­ent, as it makes it more re­lat­able. As Lim later said: “Read­ers want to read your thoughts, not your sen­tences”.

But at the end of the day, Lim be­lieves jour­nal­ists should al­ways re­mem­ber the im­por­tance of writ­ing for your au­di­ence.

“The prob­lem with young writ­ers nowa­days is they get a kick from their own writ­ing,” he said. “As a writer, you should be writ­ing for ev­ery­one ex­cept yourself.”

Jour­nal­ism sur­vival

As Loo said, there are no hard and fast rules for jour­nal­ists to suc­cess­fully adapt to mod­ern jour­nal­ism.

“The In­ter­net has been around for 20 years, and people are still try­ing to fig­ure out the In­ter­net and its full po­ten­tial (in terms of news me­dia),” said Zan. “That’s why

people are still call­ing it ‘new me­dia’.”

But with new me­dia grow­ing so quickly, are we wit­ness­ing the death of news­pa­pers? Un­sur­pris­ingly, the an­swer was a re­sound­ing “no” from the panel.

“News­pa­pers were the very first mass medium. When ra­dio and TV came along, it sur­vived. And when the In­ter­net came along, did ra­dio and TV die out? No. Their fo­cuses and roles sim­ply evolved,” said Zan.

De­spite all the changes in the me­dia in­dus­try, Cheong is still a firm be­liever in the core val­ues of jour­nal­ism. “I don’t think the fun­da­men­tals of jour­nal­ism have changed. What I tell my stu­dents is to con­verge new me­dia tech­nolo­gies and strate­gies with tra­di­tional jour­nal­is­tic val­ues.”

One per­fect ex­am­ple of that lies in how “click-bait­ing” can be used by news sources. Click-bait­ing is the prac­tice of cre­at­ing eye-catch­ing In­ter­net head­lines or thumb­nails that com­pels view­ers to click on them. We’re talk­ing about head­lines that end with some­thing along the lines of “What hap­pens next will shock you”, or “This to­tally made me cry”.

Loo said: “I un­der­stand the im­por­tance of jour­nal­is­tic in­tegrity, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do click-bait­ing – you just have to do it re­spon­si­bly. Al­ways deliver what your head­line prom­ises.”

R.aGe edi­tor Ian yee mod­er­ated the dis­cus­sion and Q&a ses­sion while adding a few points from R.aGe’s ex­pe­ri­ence with so­cial me­dia reporting.

Here’s what some of the young as­pir­ing jour­nal­ists in the au­di­ence had to say about ‘Jour­nal­ism For Gen y’.

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the Gen y on the me­dia abad Loo speak­ing

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said, as long New me­dia cham­pi­ons: The ‘Jour­nal­ism For Gen y’ panel dis­cus­sion, pre­sented by R.aGe, fea­tured (left to right) R.aGe edi­tor Ian yee (the mod­er­a­tor), PopFo­lio net­work man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Loo Jia-Wei, astro awani mag­a­zine desk edi­tor Zan azlee, TimeOutKualaLumpur edi­tor Lim Chee Wah and lec­turer/so­cial me­dia ad­vo­cate niki Cheong.

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tak­ingrisks.” fail­is­not

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Poskod Jour­nal­ism Cam­pus 2014 was or­gan­ised as part of the Cooler Lumpur Fes­ti­val. It fea­tured a va­ri­ety of other talks apart from ‘Jour­nal­ism For Gen y’. Cheong an­swer­ing queries from the par­tic­i­pants af­ter the talk. “It’s amaz­ing we have so many read­ing plat­forms to choose from. Con­sum­ing news through so­cial me­dia is dif­fer­ent in the sense that you can read com­ments and on­line fo­rums too, and so you look at an is­sue from many dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives.” — Sara Kong, 18, SPM grad­u­ate “Jour­nal­ists fight for good con­tent, and that ac­tu­ally mat­ters, and we have to get our gen­er­a­tion to recog­nise that. We have to pick what’s im­por­tant.” — Hung Wei Ann, 19, A-Lev­els stu­dent “The talk gave me a new per­spec­tive as it ad­dressed the pres­sures of jour­nal­is­tic in­tegrity with hav­ing im­me­di­ate news in this day and age.” — Olivia Lee, 20, ma­rine bi­ol­ogy stu­dent “So­cial me­dia pro­vides a plat­form for people – es­pe­cially the youth – to voice out their opin­ions, and that has made them in­de­pen­dent jour­nal­ists in their own right. I do feel that this has made jour­nal­ism more trans­par­ent, and this will def­i­nitely be re­flected in fu­ture jour­nal­is­tic work.” — Ma­had­hir Moni­huldin, 20, Mass com­muni

cations stu­dent “I feel orig­i­nal thought is be­ing cor­roded with the ad­vance­ment of so­cial me­dia, be­cause people now tend to for­mu­late opin­ions ac­cord­ing to pub­lic sen­ti­ment, some­times with­out con­tex­tual knowl­edge and aware­ness of the is­sue.” — Rachel Lee, 19, ALevels stu­dent

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