Not a New Media but
What are we to make of the collapsing media structures and models?
I am arguing for some new systems and maybe it’s time to set out how this might work a little more clearly.
I am looking for expecting and sometimes seeing new forms of publishing that are Not a New Media but Better Forms of Community and Sharing Through Text, Image and Film.
This Not a New Media has several defining features which it should cling on to for dear life. It is and should be collagic, amateur, vernacular and occasional.
Before I go into all that it’s worth hopping briefly across to Stephen Sedley, who, writing in LRB on After Leveson writes:
The first thing that should be said about the current controversy is that nothing resembling press licensing – the prior authorisation of publications – is being proposed by anyone. Even in its strong form, regulation is concerned with redressing and in extreme cases penalising journalistic misconduct. Prior restraint is a matter for the courts, as the press accepted when it got constraints on the granting of injunctions written into the 1998 Human Rights Act.
The case for strong-form regulation – universal statutory oversight of all news media, which is what Lord McCluskey’s committee has just proposed for Scotland – is that it separates compensation and redress for victims of press misconduct from penalties for outrageous conduct. There is no good reason why such penalties, in the form of exemplary damages, should go into the pocket of a victim who has already been awarded proper compensatory damages, but every reason why a media outlet which casually violates people’s privacy or reputation in pursuit of circulation should find that such conduct does not pay. Yet compensatory damages for being libelled, if calibrated, as they arguably should be, to the fixed damages of just under £12,000 which are awarded by statute for the no less devastating experience of bereavement caused by someone’s negligence, could be paid out of a large media organisation’s petty cash. An independent regulator with penal powers is a perfectly reasonable solution.
Regulation is one answer but it’s a bit like a freegan solution to food waste, it assumes (and feeds off) the ongoing dysfunctionality of the system, rather than creating a different one.
Equally, Peter Geoghegan’s ideas for following a Scandic model of subsidising the media seem compelling. But with – for example Johnston Press’s £319m debt pile, apparently reduced by £32.3m last year – what are we to do? Peter’s proposals might seem more viable for new start-up media projects but it would seem perverse to prop-up old debt-ridden failed media concerns.
Currently the media landscape is dominated by huge corporate giants, it’s a land of monolithic structures. This is the land of proprietorial media where people like Rupert Murdoch, Richard Desmond (porn baron and owner of Daily Star and Daily Express and Channel 5 who boasts a personal fortune of some £950 million), Robert Maxwell and convicted felon Conrad Black (who for a time headed the third-largest newspaper group in the world) – control and shape information in our society.
One of the problems with the current media model: huge institutions requiring vast infrastructure to pump out a pretty much constant stream of news, is that the world doesn’t quite work like that.The 24 news cycle creates deathly-dull television.
That brings us to the idea of a collage-media whereby lots of different people create and present views and news. This is is pretty much what the new-form blogs are doing. They don’t have the resources to create a stream of content so it’s sporadic but honest. This lack of big capital is a good thing. You search about and find new sources, trust, and content creation is shared, spread, diverse and mutual. Sharing-social-media technologies make this simple.
As this evolves we will see medium sized new media outlets that have resource sustainability but aren’t beholden to or captured by specific interests grow.
One of the immediate attacks on ‘citizen journalism’ from ‘real journalists’ is that it’s amateur, full of typos, lacking in rigor, without training, without sources and resources.Yet for all the ‘professionalism’ of the corporate media how much actual investigative journalism do you actually see?
When was the last piece of really great investigative journalism you saw? It’s very rare. What we see is the tropes of endless lifestyle drivel, celebrity focus or obsession with (and captivation by) parliamentary politics.
There’s a real need for a return (and defence) of amateurism in all spheres of life. The ‘expertise’ of professional journalism has long ago given way to churnalists, ‘the lobby’, and hack culture. Amateurism exemplified by the jury system, the zebra crossing, the rural firemen and Gaelic Football offers some clear models as crumbling media empires falter and fail.
The death of the expertocracy is to be celebrated.
One of the great things about online media is the explosion of diversity in language, voices and platforms for expression. This new vernacular media is a voice that has vitality and authenticity, it speaks in many languages and from multiple perspectives it refuses to impose orthodoxy, casual misogyny or repeat endless memes of cultural self-hatred or unconscious ideological memes.
It is the antidote and the opposite to the blandified freesheet-style Metro news (basically re-printed press releases). This is not the same as half-hearted and over-mediated ‘local news’ or ‘micro-local’ provided by media giants.
Sometimes nothing much happens, sometimes it all happens at once and everybody goers mental. Under the Occasional model there’d be news days when papers just published a blank front page with a note at the bottom ‘nothing much happened today’ rather than say, a picture of Bill Roache and Jeanette Thomas making tomato quiche.
This Not a New Media but … has some fantastic challenges that confront it but it also has enormous energy, technology and soul. It’s likely to evolve into more collaborative than singular forms and will have to navigate the shark-infested waters of sustaining quality content. But there are countless examples of new publishing forms that are thriving and will help shape the future so that big corporations and very rich men don’t dominate the news agenda in the coming years.
A longer piece exploring these media model will appear in Bella Caledonia’s summer newspaper, August 2013.