The quality debate: Journalism Vs Journalists

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Mark Hamilton has been pondering the video quality debate.

Commenting on Howard Owens’ ‘1 hour video’ view he saw the value of a competitive approach but:

I’m still tryng to reconcile his argument about better journalism with his earlier insistence that there’s no ROI on video that takes longer than an hour to shoot and edit. In his argument for quality storytelling, something doesn’t connect.

A comment from Howard produced a longer response, quoting Howard, to clarify his point and question whether that approach would “leave us with video not as connective, attractive, entertaining storytelling, but as commodity.” And in turn that would impact on the quality of journalism.

**Illustrating a solution **

Earlier in the week Mark had commented on my post about illustrative video, wondering about the application.  And as an aside I’ve been reflecting on the idea that, perhaps, seeing video in that way, as part of a broader reporting process (and maybe by necessity following ,at least in the early implementation, the 1 hour rule) is the way to reconcile the story Vs. commodity idea.

If that ‘1 hour’ video is running along with a well researched ‘print’ story then the storytelling is not compromised. You get a better ROI on that because it isn’t your only investment in time and you still get usable text content (the core of journalism business)

But that’s an aside. (And a bit of Mea Culpa follows).

Don’t forget the journalist

I strayed perilously close to being a bit of a troll this week as I got in to a comment discussion with Zac Echola over a post he made defending/expanding Howard’s view. I though Zach was missing a point with his take on lazy journalists not getting it.

His view:

While intangibles like “reputation” and “preferred source” and “best” are nice for marketing yourself to clients or possible new readers, they’re not as valuable in the long tail market.

Now he may be right, but things like * “reputation” and “preferred source” and “best”* are concepts that journalists have been defining themselves with for a long time. And the point I made was that unless that kind of thinking was factored in to change and development the you would lose/devalue/demotivate the most valuable commodity of all in that thinking – the journalist.

With that in mind I find myself sharing some of Mark’s concern. Not because I think Howard’s (or Zach) view is anti-journalism. Far from it. It’s more because both sides of the debate touch heavily on the core defining elements of journalism but neither have satisfactory answers for those who question what will result.

Does someone still have to be a journalist

In the abstract the *disruptive approach *may seem to devalue the process of journalism – squash it, commodify it and reduce it the pounds and pence. On the other side the quality approach could be accused of hiding a way of doing journalism that, for all but the biggest, is not economically sustainable. Journalism for the sake of journalism in the face of an obvious commercial reality.

So let’s be blunt. The way this debate keeps raising a question for me. Can we really keep framing this debate in terms of journalism vs business. Or do we accept that the debate isn’t really about journalism It’s about journalists and what it will mean to be a journalist. What the job and meaning of that role will be and how that will set them apart from what they do.

If we substitute journalist for journalism, then are asking; Can there be two kinds of journalist out there? Can there be, as the debate would have, it ‘quality’ journalists and ‘disruptive’ journalists?

That would be stupid, wouldn’t it?

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