Julian Gallo, a very talented journalism Professor from Argentina, has recently written an interesting article about how the trade should take full advantage of the direct publishing features of blogs as well as of the multimedia opportunities provided by the increased ease with which anyone can post audio and video clips to the web.
Photo credit: Thomas Bush
Julian Gallo, who also regularly writes on one of Argentina's most popular newspapers, LANACION, exhorts today online news writers to become effective new media reporters, capable of hooking up their digital cameras, audio and video recorders and to integrate, embed and mix-in their multimedia content next to text stories.
Text-only times are gone, he suggests, and there is no reason why, good online journalism should not include more multimedia elements when it can.
Here, reprinted with his permission, is Julian Gallo's original "Journalism is obsolete" article, republished in full and with all of his original multimedia components.
"You are what you know"
Photo credit: Bartlomiej Stroinski
The End of Childhood
Ten years after the first newspaper made its appearance online, Internet journalism faces extraordinary challenges and opportunities throughout the world.
The columns that LANACION.com has allowed me to publish in the last few months have permitted me to explore some aspects that may have been unnoticeable to the reader, but which can be essential for the future of news:
Is text enough?
Should journalists make and include photos, audio and videos?
Do readers want to see, listen and participate?
A Textual Culture
In the last ten years, most of Internet news outlets have consolidated a way of telling their stories that can be represented as in the graphic below:
Main story, Text, Photos, Videos, Audios, Links
The text is the spinal column, the body as well as the substance of the story, and around it evolves a series of appendixes of other content – considered of relative or very low importance - made up of photos, audio, videos and links. Except for the links, the author has little or no influence on the multimedia content that accompany his text.
Basically, the story that is published on the Internet today is still being produced as it has historically been produced in printed media.
The author deals with the important stuff (he writes) and other people enlarge or enrich his text by adding design and content. This working process conceives of the author as a one-talent person: he can only write.
In this scenario, somebody is specifically in charge of the layout, another person takes the pictures, a third one chooses the photos, somebody else handles the videos and audio that will be eventually edited by another person and, finally, a "technician" posts everything online.
In such a structure, a journalist is believed to have less ability than a 16-year-old boy who makes his own weblog.
Detail from Washingtonpost.com: The text on one side; subordinated audios and photos on the other
This mechanism strangles the size and richness of the story.
If the author has no control on what, where and how the multimedia content will appear, this content will inevitably be excluded from his story.
To believe, as is usually the case, that the reader's ability to check content separately, in itself, constitutes a multimedia edition (click to watch the video) is nearly equivalent to suppose that eating some lettuce and then drinking two spoons of oil will give us a salad. Some things must be mixed up in order to work.
This series of pictures telling what my youngest son’s haircut was like were taken with a Nokia 7610 cell phone and published in Flickr in real time. With these pictures embedded in the column, no words are needed to tell what the experience was like.
Nevertheless, ten years have passed and most Internet media remain exclusive expressions of textual culture.
Behind this overestimation of the word, we could also discover production structures that are exclusively textual.
In order to do things differently (better), what we need are authors with new abilities and an editorial freedom nonexistent so far.
To renew the journalistic production, we need authors that can decide where to place a photograph, and maybe even have the ability to produce the photographs themselves.
Aren’t we all photographers by now?
We need journalists to include audio and video in their stories. Aren’t we all experts when filming a video? We also need journalists who are able to tell a story on an interactive map, as can be seen in the amazing documentary on Ernest Shackleton displayed in Google Earth.
Note: Google Earth must be installed in order to see the documentary - via Google Earth
There are thousands of obstacles for all this to happen in mainstream media.
But this experience in LANACION.com has shown that it is absolutely possible.
A particular working methodology, developed together with the paper, has made it possible to erase very important technical difficulties.
Using the Blogger platform to create enriched texts did not require any development investment from LANACION.com. It was easy and free.
The picture shows the code generated by Blogger that will later be sent to LANACION.com
The use of Blogger as a writing platform means that we can have access to a multimedia newsroom no matter where we are - in a cybercafe in Buenos Aires or a remote airport with a Wi-Fi connection.
We must definitely understand that reading is not the same as watching or listening. The word is a key element, but it is often ineffective. An example:
Juan Domingo Perón said the following in a speech delivered in 1955 (excerpt):
"Answer violence with violence... And from now on, a permanent behavior for our movement is that whoever tries to break the order against the established authorities or against the law or the Constitution can be killed by any Argentine... If one of us falls today, five of them must fall tomorrow."
I published the original audio of the speech delivered by Perón in order to compare it in this column through the free service Castpost.
Listen to it:
It is perfectly clear. There is some extraordinary information in the sound that does not admit any transposition. We could say that, from an informative viewpoint, both the textual and the audio versions are alike. But when we listen, we realize they are not. I would say they complement each other. I can better analyze the written word, but I can better perceive the menacing tone in his voice.
The oral version of Perón scares me.
The point is that pictures, audio or video material should be included whenever appropriate.
As readers, we should learn to demand not to be deprived of multimedia information.
Printed newspapers are mute; Internet media are not.
Now it is Possible
Not so long ago, it was very difficult or nearly impossible for an author to upload those multimedia contents he considered irreplaceable.
However, hand in hand with the blog expansion, there emerged a whole class of free services that allow us to store and distribute contents, and that give us the chance of reproducing those contents in other media.
Words such as "Blogit!" or "Embeddable Player" have become increasingly popular and desirable.
In order to understand what things were like before and what they are like now, let’s take a look at this.
Every piece of content in this newspaper (except some included in this column) is stored in its servers.
It is a classical "broadcasting" model where the broadcaster distributes its contents – whose copyright and management he possesses - from its own equipment (even if they are rented) and its connectivity to the reader.
I have drawn up a sketch to outline the idea.
From the newspaper’s server to the reader’s monitor there is just an imaginary "tube": The Internet.
Surprisingly, though, this column has other content that is not in any computer belonging to LANACION.com, (who does not own its rights either), but in several computers willing to redistribute its contents in this column.
This mechanism is called "Re-broadcasting". The following graphic shows how it works.
Broadcasting’s rural road thus becomes a highway of multiple sources oriented towards the same place which, thanks to their technology, feed contents from an infinite number of users and their own connectivity to other media; in this case, to this column in LANACION.com.
It is something so radical in the history of means of communication that it is easy to explain and difficult to understand.
For example, this remarkable video mosaic which consists of four movies appears on this page, but, at the same time, it is not in LANACION.com.
"If it works, it’s obsolete." A warfare industry motto.
Ten years after a newspaper in Argentina made its first appearance in Internet, and in the face of the fabulous changes that have taken place throughout the decade, it is legitimate to wonder:
What will journalism be like in ten years time?
What type of journalist will Internet need?
What will we understand by "piece of news"?
While we think of possible answers, the audio, photos, videos and maps already embedded in Internet pages, and generating new ways of telling a story, show that there is an obsolete element in today’s journalism. And that there is a new language ahead that we will have to learn how to write and read.
Written by Prof. Julian Gallo
Professor of New Media at the Master of Journalism (Maestría en Periodismo) program offered by the University of San Andrés, Grupo Clarín and the Columbia University School of Journalism.
Published with permission.Julian Gallo -