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FRIDAY the 13th Tribute: Scary Shifts in Journalism

Cue horror movie theme music. In honor of Friday the 13th, I’m highlighting a few of the scary (or could they be genius?) shifts the journalism industry is undergoing as a result of the focus on new media.

1. The Headless Newscast

 Well, not exactly headless, but anchorless… KIAH, The Tribune Company’s TV station in Houston,  is preparing to redesign its nightly newscast in this unfamiliar format. Reports indicate the goal is to create a similar experience to surfing the Internet for news.

A few days ago Shoptalk by TV Spy (which I recommend subscribing to if you’re interested in keeping up with industry changes) featured this article by Poynter about the venture.

2. Reporters “Shape-Shifting” into Commentators and YouTube Parodists

The rise and allure of the Internet has begun to blur the lines more and more between journalism and entertainment.  And the “infotainment”  trend gets even uglier when journalists start blurring their own lines.

Recently, a group of reporters and photographers for a local TV station in Arkansas created two parody videos of the TV newsroom working experience. In addition to being profanity-laced and vulgar, the videos were made using station equipment and even used the station newsroom as a set. I hesitate to post the videos here (yes, they’re THAT graphic), but if you’re curious, here’s a link to the Arkansas Business article about them.

And if you’re wondering about the fate of these journalists-turned-comedians, they were promptly fired. Yikes!

3. The Attack of the Unvetted Information Monster ( or The Axing of Shirley Sherrod and the Ghost of Steve Jobs)

With a new focus on citizen journalism, blogging and social media, people are now getting their information from all kinds of untraditional sources. The danger emerges when news organizations also look to these sources for information, without properly vetting what they learn.

A prime example is the case of Shirely Sherrod. An official with the U.S. Agriculture Department, Sherrod was fired from her position after it was reported that she made racist comments during a speech to a chapter of the NAACP. The problem was her quotes were presented only in part and without the context of her full speech. A conservative blogger had posted a heavily-edited video of the address on the Web, and media outlets and the Obama administration had acted initially based on that, without exploring the comments in their entirety. (President Obama has since apologized to Sherrod and expressed regret over the administration’s handling of the situation. Sherrod says she will sue the blogger responsible. For more on this story, see here.)

Also, anybody remember the time Apple CEO Steve Jobs died, and then miraculously came back to life? In October 2008, someone on CNN’s iReport citizen journalism website published a false story claiming Jobs had died of a heart attack. Apple stock fell more than 5% following the post.

In CNN’s defense, the site did note the material was unedited and unfiltered, but obviously, that didn’t stop some people from taking what they saw as fact.

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  1. The business is morphing so fast it’s hard to keep up! It will be interesting to see what emerges from all this as the “new” journalism.

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