This time it’s personal. Honesty and reality in journalism.

So, I’m still plugging away at the final post in the editing apps series I started. I have fallen in to geek land and started to play with windows emulators on the Mac. It’s amazing how you can waste time on this stuff. Anyway, it’s getting there and I will post it by the end of the week

I also managed to get to see the excellent Bruce Cockburn play live this week; a great solo performer, who communicates immaculately through words and music. And in, catching up with my feed habit, it seems that I’m not the only one who has been inspired by music.

The Who’s Pete Townsend, has been putting forward his thoughts on the ‘quiet is the new loud’ approach that music is taking (the original post is no longer on his blog):

I think rock music is about to throw off some of its testosterone-driven defiance.

He continues

This is not entirely about Protest, rather about music performed gently that expresses a single idea along the single pathway of the conscience of an individual musician daring to speak up about something they might uniquely believe. Even anger is delivered gently.

That got Howard Owens reflecting on his reaction to changes in the way we communicate:

Every where I turn today, I see media that is more intimate and more immediate taking root and growing strong. It’s not just music, though I see it in Paste Magazine and hear it on XM Cafe. I read it in blogs, watch it in the best YouTube videos, vlogs and independent films. I view it in photo sharing sites. It’s what drives social networking. People are reaching out to touch other people, not be impressed by concepts or ideologies, wowed by trends or gather just one more factoid. They want the human spirit and the human soul.

And now he’s trying the taxonomy thing and putting his thoughts in to some form of order. His first definition? Personal Journalism

Personal Journalism is just as ethical as old-school public journalism. It still values facts, fairness, truth telling and good reporting. It’s just that personal journalism is written differently. It is written from one person, a person we can identify and identify with, for one person. The byline is more than a name under a headline in Personal Journalism. It is the persona and the personality. Personal journalists do more than report the story. They let us see at least a little about who they are, what they believe, what drives them and what they find important. If a personal journalist has a bias, we know it. That is part of the truth-telling tradition all journalists should endorse, but only personal journalists make it a practice. (this is just a snippet – you need to read the rest of the post as well )

Hat’s off to Howard, it’s an interesting concept.

In getting there Owens struggled, as we all do, to define the difference with tradtional journalism outside of broad concepts of ‘real’ and ‘authentic’. But I think he’s opened an interesting area for discussion (one more people need to pitch in to) here and it’s a view that I can sympathise with.

One of the phrases that we use at work is the ‘online journalism is about a conversation not a lecture’. I’m sure it was Dan Gilmour or someone like that who first came up with the concept. But its served us well and I think Howard expresses, and expands on it in a nice way.

But for every Yin there is a yang and in his latest post Howard defines the opposite of personal journalism. Definitive-voice journalism.

Definitive-voice journalism is the journalism of big media, of packaged-good media. It is the way journalism has been practiced for some time. It is the journalism that the traditionalists defend. It is the journalism that says, “The news is what I say the news is.”

Now, you may be forgiven for thinking that this is not as much a definition but a critical assessment of the main stream media. But as Howard says:

I’m not predicting the demise of definitive-voice journalism, but personal journalism will become the dominant journalism within a matter of years.

I see his point but for me I think definitive-voice is the wrong phrase when it’s associated with Owens’ definition. I don’t see the idea of a definitive-voice as necessarily a bad thing and would say that you can be a definitive, but still, personal voice. And I think ,taking Owens’ orginal inspiration, music is one of the things that proves that.

To me someone like Bruce Cockburn is a definitive voice. He saying that here is the news, the news that I think is important. The emphasis is on the I – it’s his news in his way.

It is that honest and open conversation Howard talks about. In contrast to that ‘individual musician daring to speak up about something they might uniquely believe‘, main stream media is the constructed pop-star. The reality-show winner, coached and crafted for broad appeal – a personality but not personal.

So my suggestion, rather than definitive-voice, lets focus on the honesty of the presentation. How about: Persona* Journalism.

Persona Journalism
is old-school public journalism. It is written by many people, but presented in the voice of one person. That person is ‘a mask or appearance one presents to the world’. The persona will change as the situation dictates. It will present views as values, facts, fairness, truth telling and good reporting. Persona journalism reports the story, but hides who the journalists are, what drives them and what they find important.

*Is it being too arsey to suggest the Jungian idea of persona as the overiding definition here?