I spent the last two days in a room with lots of arts and humanities academics at the Creative Exchange, talking about the digital public space(DSP). There was a great talk from BBC archive boss and DSP guru @tonyageh which set up a pretty passionate (if a little utopian) position for ‘releasing’ archive and how that can build a space where everyone can benefit from access to ‘stuff’
What I found interesting and frustrating in equal measure was the way some of the debate around the idea took on a negative frame because it came from a broadcaster.
It wasn’t that there was a problem with it being the BBC. Quit the opposite. The fact that it wasn’t a commercial thing was seen as good. It seemed that, a large number in the room didn’t like broadcast as a term. It was mass media, mass consumption, untargeted and uncritical. Not what we do at all. Almost the antithesis of the creative and arts ethos in the room.
That mutually agreed dismissal of the term and the generally accepted anti-cultural interpretation seemed unnecessarily self-serving to me; relegated to the position of ‘mainstream’ simply to be something to kick against and give an idea momentum.
I think the level of frustration was not really because of the debate. Put a room full of academics in a room with the promise of funding and everyone is going to start pushing their own view. No, I think it built on a residual frustration that I have been feeling about the arbitrary way terms are taken up as shorthand for everything that is wrong or creatively moribund.
Journalism is one of those words.
Journalism is not broken and it isn’t a word that sums up everything that is wrong with the way we make stuff relevant and meaningful to people. But people are using it as if to say, “well, that didn’t work did it. Let’s find another way to do this”
So when I hear people talking about needing to find new ways to engage people (as I have over the last few days in really positive and seductive ways) particularly those who see digital not only as part of the solution but as a diagnostic device, I grit my teeth and wait to see who gets it in the chops to show how fresh and new the thinking is.
Thankfully many (in fact most)people I heard today didn’t. But it happens.
As someone who is involved in journalism I’m happy to admit that there is a lot wrong but let’s not write it off as some outmoded practice to be replaced by robots or simply a failed experiment to be cited by new thinkers.
Much as I like to be iconoclastic, it’s actually quite tiring and, in a world made more pragmatic by a broader cultural and media landscape, a bit like tipping at windmills.
Maybe we should be investing in changing peoples understanding of the phrase. Perhaps linguists will disagree but it strikes me there is more to be had from changing peoples understanding of something than there is in trying to educate them in to
new ways of thinking using new, made up terms.
So I think I’ll be hanging on to journalism. I’ll be trying to think of new ways to explain it and make it relevant and you don’t get to co-opt it or dismiss it without joining the debate.
Journalism doesn’t get off the hook that easily. I don’t think we’re quite done with it yet.