Category Archives: Trivia and impressionism

First month flew by…

It’s been a great first month in my new job as Director of Research at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.

Working with the rest of the team here in Oxford, I’ve—

  • Submitted two major grant applications for really interesting research projects.
  • Developed a tailored executive education program designed especially for a group of high level news executives coming here in February.
  • Formally started my tenure as Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Press/Politics, amongst other things announcing our new annual conference (deadline for submission of abstracts March 27) and our new annual best book award (deadline for nominations February 15).
  • Seen the 2015 Reuters Institute Digital News Report survey go into the field in a record number of countries with a revised an expanded set of questions, promising a really interesting cross-national and comparative dataset.

Beyond my own work in research and development, it is just a great privilege to welcome our fantastic group of journalist fellows and visiting fellows to Oxford and to connect and reconnected with friends old and new in Oxford and London.

I’m particularly looking forward to supervising Sumit Pande (Political Editor at CNN-IBN) and his research on the role of digital media in the New Delhi assembly elections, where the Aam Aadmi Party is really shaking things up and were all parties are developing new digital strategies as part of their overall campaign in a context very different from the high income democracies I know best.

Interesting times, all in all.

Goodbye to 2014, good-day to 2015

2014 has been a terrific year for me professionally.

Tomorrow, January 1, I formally take up my new position as Director of Research at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford. I’m really looking forward to this exciting opportunity to work at the interface between academic research, professional journalism, and media management and policy-making.

I also assume my new role as editor in chief of the International Journal of Press/Politics (published by Sage), where I’ll work with the editorial board, Cristian Vaccari (who will serve as book review editor) and the wider scholarly community to develop the journal as the main platform for high-quality international and cross-nationally comparative research focused on the intersection between news media and politics.

Beyond my new job and my new role as editor, I’m also honored have received two major awards in the past year First, the Doris Graber Award given by the American Political Science Association for the best book on political communication published in the last ten years for my book Ground Wars: Personalized Communication in Political Campaigns. Second, the Tietgen Prize given by the Danish Society for Business Education (DSEB) for research in the social sciences and humanities that is practically relevant for the industry it concerns for my research on changes in the news media. I’m humbled and honored to have received this kind of recognition from both academic colleagues and from the professional world I study.

Other highlights have been some terrific conferences and events, including our Editors and CEO workshop in Oxford, a really interesting seminar in Barcelona bringing different perspectives to bear on the challenges facing journalism and perhaps especially the preconference on qualitative political communication research I organized with my wonderful and inspiring colleagues Daniel Kreiss, Dave Karpf, and Matt Powers at ICA in Seattle.

So, good-bye to a terrific year for me professionally—and good day to new exciting challenges in 2015.

Thanks to all my good colleagues and students at Roskilde University

Today, I’m emptying my office at Roskilde University as I prepare to move to Oxford for my new position as Director of Research at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.

I’m really looking forward to new challenges and opportunities but it is also a strange feeling to leave a place I’ve worked (part-time, full-time, variations thereoff) for four years.

I’d like to thank all my good colleagues and students at Roskilde, I’ve learned a ton from you.

335 books from Jørgen Goul Andersen to Slavoj Žižek ready to go.

335 books from Jørgen Goul Andersen to Slavoj Žižek ready to go.

Who should we invite to the Oxford Editor and CEO Forum next year?

Good company...

Good company…

Re-reading summary notes from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism’s Oxford Editor and CEO Forum last week. Chatham House Rules etc, so I will just quote the official RISJ post about the event—

Editors in Chief and CEOs from 10 countries for 24 hours of in-depth and off the record discussions on some of the key opportunities and challenges involved in running a news organisation in the 21st century.

The forum included participants from India (the Hindu), Japan (the Asahi Shimbun) and Latin America (La Nacion from Argentina) but with the majority from Europe (the Irish Times, Le Monde, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Berlingske, the Huffington Post Italy, the Guardian and the Financial Times.)

Issues covered included the implications for journalism of the Edward Snowden affair, different approaches to paying for news online, the challenges of innovation in legacy news organisations, to the debate around sponsored content and the rules that should surround that.

I thought it was a very good discussion, but we are always looking for ways of improving.

We plan to arrange another Forum next year, so the question really is, who should we invite?

The focus will remain on private sector news organizations and retain at least a partial emphasis on the business of journalism, but as long as it doesn’t bring together people so far apart it reduce the conversation to conflict, it would be good with more disruptors to add to what legacy media bring to the table.

I’m thinking maybe someone from the advertising world, certainly someone from tech, and more pure players.

Email, DM, etc me with ideas—all welcome.

Albion W. Small of the (early) Chicago School on problems facing social science and society

Re-reading secondary literature on the Chicago School of Sociology (not really a school, and not confined to Chicago, but there we are). Stumbled upon a great quote in Ken Plummer’s very good introduction to his four-volume The Chicago School: Critical Assessments.

It is from Albion W. Small, who founded the first department of sociology at Chicago in 1892 and chaired it for more than thirty years. He wrote, in his General Sociology (1905), that the “great problem” facing both social science and the public is:

The production of wealth in prodigious quantities, the machine like integration of the industries, the syndicated control of capital and the syndicated organization of labor, the conjunction of interests in production and the collision of interests in distribution, the widening chasms between luxury and poverty, the security of the economically strong and the insecurity of the economically weak, the domination of politics by pecuniary interests, the growth of capitalistic world politics, the absence of commanding moral authority, the well nigh universal instinct that there is something wrong in our social machinery and that society is gravitating toward a crisis, the thousand and one demands for reform,the futility and fractionality of most ameliorative programs – all these are making men wonder how long we can go in a fashion that no one quite understands and that everyone feels at liberty to condemn (Small, 1905: 119-120).

Ignore “the syndicated organization of labor” (which in the US at least increasingly seems a thing of the past), and add in (a) the move towards a post-traditional society which without having done away with past prejudices seems to have greater emphasis on fluid processes of identity formation and re-negotiation and (b) the proliferation of media and communication infrastructures, as well as the battle to control the right to profit from them and control them, and his manifesto seems to me to captures the analytical and substantial problems of our time as well as any.

Best paper award for “Mundane internet tools”

My article “Mundane internet tools, mobilizing practices, and the coproduction of citizenship in political campaigns”, published last year in New Media & Society, has been awarded the best paper award from the Oxford Internet Institute’s 2010 “Internet, Politics, Policy” conference. (The award has just been announced at the 2012 version of the IPP conference.)

At its heart, it is a very simple argument–based on ethnographic field research in two US congressional campaigns during the 2008 election, I show that relatively “mundane” internet tools like email and search are far more integral to how political campaigns try to mobilize and organize volunteers than more “specialized” tools (or “emerging” tools used only by some, like, at the time, social networking sites) and unfold some of the implications for how we understand the role of digital technologies in political participation and political organizing.

I’m happy to announce that the same article was also amongst the six finalists for the International Communication Association’s Political Communication Division’s Kaid-Sanders Best Article Award. (The award as given to Lauren Feldman for her excellent article “The Opinion Factor: The Effects of Opinionated News on Information Processing and Attitude Change”.)

I find this praise very encouraging, especially since the article is based on qualitative methods rarely used in political communication research, and hence unfamiliar to many in our academic community, and I’m eagerly awaiting further results from the many other young scholars I know are pursuing similar lines of work as we try to understand how political organizations operate today, how political institutions interact in a changing media environment, and how ordinary citizens actually use the digital technologies that are increasingly integral to our everyday lives–political and otherwise.

The Guardian–millions of users, millions in losses

Tim de Lisle has written an excellent piece for Intelligent Life asking “Can the Guardian Survive?”–a question that, given the “soft power” this newspaper, with its millions and millions of online readers, seems to exercise across parts of the industry, has ramifications well beyond the British broadsheet market. (Alan Rusbridger, the editor, and Emily Bell, the former director of online content, are both frequent speakers at “future of journalism”-type conferences.)

de Lisle doesn’t answer the question–only time will tell–but there are plenty of warning signs in his article. Leave aside some occasionally excellent journalism, and look at the numbers.

In the financial year 2009-10, the national newspapers division of Guardian Media Group—which also includes the Observer, Britain’s oldest Sunday paper—lost £37m. The following year, it managed to cut costs by £26m, and still ended up losing £38m. In May, Rusbridger told me he was expecting a similar loss for 2011-12. So, for three years running, the Guardian has been losing £100,000 a day.

In fairness, of the three other broadsheets competing in the same national market, the Times and the Independent are also losing millions and reliant on their owners propping up the business. Only the market-leader, the Daily Telegraph, is actually producing a profit (£55 million last year).

In the article, de Lisle mentions some of the new sources of revenues being explored at the Guardian to push beyond sales and advertising–of course iPhone and iPad apps, also Master Classes, and the Guardian Open Weekend. There are also various forms of networks, that de Lisle doesn’t touch on, including Guardian Soulmates, professional networks etc, plus of course various forms of e-commerce, selling books, shoes, wines, etc. Fancy an air cooler? (See screenshot below.) The Guardian can help you, and as you enjoy the pleasant temperature, you are helping pay for Nick Davies’ next expose.

The Guardian is thus, like everyone else, trying to diversify their business. But de Lisle has talked to those who doubt the current strategy, with its emphasis on growing the freely available website, is going to work. Juan Señor, a media consultant I know from my work at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, says to de Lisle

“We are very concerned … that everybody looks at the Guardian’s success in terms of volume of traffic. That is not a measure of success, because you might as well get into pornography. … While I love the Guardian’s journalism at times, I just don’t think it’s sustainable. They’re announcing even more lay-offs, it’s a tragedy.”

And that is worth keeping in mind for those working to change news organizations elsewhere, who don’t have the kind of money in the bank that the Guardian can rely on (about £200 million at the last count–enough for five more years with losses like this).

For all its journalistic successes and its millions of users, the Guardian continues to double down on a all-or-nothing strategy that so far has resulted in millions and millions in loses. Wish them well. They need it. Think twice before imitating them. They are heading down a dangerous path.