Archive for July, 2016


Why we must support women in journalism

At a meeting at the United Nations in New York earlier this year on gender equality, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declared to the world that he was a proud feminist, and would keep repeating it “until it was met with a shrug.”

Trudeau, who had only been in office for a few months, had already received global attention for his appointment of a gender-neutral cabinet – 50 percent women, 50 percent men. His declaration went viral, circulating through global Facebook and Twitter feeds, and made headlines in publications internationally.

I, like many, saw the clip through YouTube. I then opened up the Word Processor on my computer and began typing. The final article for Kettle Magazine in the UK had this declaration.

“My name is Alex Veeneman. I’m a journalist, and I’m a feminist.”

I had not said publicly that I was a feminist – a few of my close friends and family members knew of my thoughts, but it was not public knowledge until I had submitted that article for publication.

Indeed, there was another reason why that article was written – to show support for women in journalism, whether they were working in the industry, or studying it at university.

A study from the University of Oxford showed more women studying journalism than men. Above: University College, Oxford. (Image: Ozeye/Wikimedia Commons)

A study from the University of Oxford showed more women studying journalism than men. Above: University College, Oxford. (Image: Ozeye/Wikimedia Commons)

Recent studies, most notably from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford, have shown that there are more women studying journalism at university.

Yet, this was not just the case in the US and Britain. Indeed, the trend was prevalent in other countries, including Australia and Germany. However, despite this, there is still difficulty for women to advance in the industry, as it continues to be heavily male-dominated.

As journalism continues to evolve in the digital age, thanks to the rise of social media platforms and consumption on mobiles, it is trying to reinvent itself to ensure it remains viable. At the core of this is women, for their ideas are detrimental to the future of this industry.

Many of my colleagues at Kettle are women. The majority of our section editors are women, and the number of women who have recently written for the site outnumber men.

Indeed, of the four managing editors currently working at Kettle, I am the only male managing editor, something that I welcome and champion. They got to where they were today because of the work they put in, the time they invested, and the shared goal of quality work.

At SPJ, where in addition to writing these blogs I work on their network of communities, all but one of the five active communities have women as a chair or co-chair. In its 9 active committees, 6 of them have women as a chair or co-chair.

In addition, more women than men hold positions on the Board of Directors. Of the 23 positions on the Board, 14 of them are held by women.

I want to support my friends and colleagues and see them advance in the industry, and have them not be deterred by the systematic treatment and oppression based on their gender.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who says we should embrace equality. (Image: Alex Guibord/Flickr)

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who says we should embrace equality. (Image: Alex Guibord/Flickr)

We collectively must champion women in journalism, encourage them to raise their voices and share their ideas, and support their efforts by mentoring them and helping them excel towards their career goals. We must support the women who are leading the evolution in digital media, and whose ideas will help shape journalism’s future.

We must also especially champion the women who want to have careers in this industry by supporting them in their work, encouraging them in their studies at universities, mentor them, and to instill confidence in them amid current industry trends.

As Trudeau himself put it in an article for Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper, feminism is a word we should not be afraid of, but embrace.

“Feminism is about equal rights and opportunities for men and women, about everyone having the same choices without facing discrimination based on gender,” Trudeau wrote. “Equality is not a threat, it is an opportunity.”

Women must be equal in journalism, and though the equality issues currently at hand will not be solved overnight, we must champion their role in this industry.

After all, especially as journalism continues to evolve, what remains key are the ideas that come to help make it stronger, no matter who they are or what their background is.

It is something we all must embrace, today and every day, now and in the years ahead.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Education: A global value

WGBH's studios in Boston, whose mission was summarized as helping people cope with the world and their own lives. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

WGBH’s studios in Boston, whose mission was summarized as helping people cope with the world and their own lives. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

In the 1970s and 1980s, the public broadcasting station WGBH in Boston began and ended its day with the airing of a small montage, telling viewers in New England about its role.

In that montage was a simple summary of its mission: “Our purpose is to help you cope better with the world and your own life.”

For WGBH, it applied not just to their viewers in Boston and throughout New England, but through the programs it produced nationally, either through PBS or its partnership with public radio distributor PRI.

Embodying that summary was the value of education, and the notion that education can come from mediums like television, and make a difference in the lives of all people. Education can be for everyone, no matter who they are or their background, for at heart, we are all lifelong learners. We can be taught and we can be inspired through thought-provoking, stimulating, engaging, and some entertaining content.

Education is at the heart of journalism, and as the United States celebrates the 4th of July, it is something that remains integral to its foundation, and we as journalists celebrate the ability to be able to produce content that can inform, engage, but most importantly, educate.

Education however is not solely an American value. It is a global value, a value that is practiced by journalists here and around the world. Indeed, education is a global value in a journalistic sense, for in the digital age, content that is made in newspapers, radio, television or online can be construed as education, and ideas for stories can be taken from anywhere.

We enter this profession not to seek fame or fortune. Instead, we enter this profession because of our ability to be able to educate. We enter because our focus is not on financial gain, but on the people to whom we serve in our work. We enter because we know the work we do together can do the most good.

Yet, the culture of journalism that has come as the industry evolves has raised questions on how that education can be conducted, and if it can be conducted at all. As the line between news and comment becomes blurred, and more platforms, especially through social media, become available for this content, can education remain a quintessential focus of journalism, or has it become a lost art?

Raney Aronson-Rath, the executive producer of Frontline, a program that embodies the educational spirit of journalism. (Photo: Knight Foundation/Flickr)

Raney Aronson-Rath, the executive producer of Frontline, a program that embodies the educational spirit of journalism. (Photo: Knight Foundation/Flickr)

As this industry continues through its state of flux, arguments can be made on both sides. On one hand the sole focus is now going viral, and that attention comes solely through the click of a mouse. On the other hand, there is potential, and even though there are questions, it can continue.

Education is at the heart of what I do, and the heart of what we all do. We are in uncertain waters, asking ourselves many questions. Will the young graduate, journalism degree in hand, be able to have a successful, viable career? Will those in the industry be able to adapt to this new age? Most importantly, can the industry we all love, irrespective of medium, survive, and can we accomplish the ultimate goal we have in journalism — the ability to educate?

I believe that we can, though it may appear difficult right now. Education is a value that remains at the crux of journalism, and it is something that we should never take for granted. The platforms are going to change, and how we disseminate and curate news will too, but one thing is for sure — the ability to educate the public, and to help them cope better with the world and their own lives, will remain a constant.

Yet, we must not let it get lost in the shuffle. We must now take the time to support, advocate for and champion this value, whether it is supporting the public broadcasters, the media organizations and the individuals and storytellers that emphasize it, advocating for our ability to disseminate and educate, or championing the ideas that strengthen journalism’s role in education, irrespective of race, gender, or sexual orientation.

Education is at is at the heart of what we can do in journalism, now and in the future. It is a global value, not just through geography, but through the mediums of journalism, and on this day of all days, it is something we must not disregard. Instead, we should do what is best and embrace it, not just for those to whom we serve, but for ourselves.

After all, the world is better when it is informed, and we must never take that for granted.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Facebook, an updated algorithm and journalism

Facebook's algorithm changes have caused a debate for news organizations. (Photo: Pixabay)

Facebook’s algorithm changes have caused a debate for news organizations. (Photo: Pixabay)

Facebook this week announced plans to implement another change within its algorithm. Yet, these changes would have further implications on the social network’s relationship with journalism.

Facebook said it would be changing the algorithm to place more of a focus on content from a user’s friends and family, which as a result would see content from publishers and news organizations appear prominently less in other news feeds.

However, according to a report from The New York Times, concerns of traffic decline may be subsided if the traffic in question comes from individual users sharing and commenting on videos.

Adam Mosseri, the vice president of product management for Facebook’s News Feed, quoted in the Times, said connecting to friends and family was a top priority for the social network, a message that was also emphasized in a blog post written by Mosseri, and published by Facebook last Wednesday.

“The growth and competition in the publisher ecosystem is really, really strong,” Mosseri said. “We’re worried that a lot of people using Facebook are not able to connect to friends and family as well because of that.”

In a separate post, Lars Backstrom, the Engineering Director, said the social network did anticipate a decline in traffic from pages, though it was dependent on audience composition.

The news feed is seen by 1.65 billion users a month, according to the Times.

In the business of social media, journalism has been seen as two things — a commodity in the context of the ability for platforms to engage users, as well as the ability for news organizations to not just retain but also engage new audiences through these platforms. It has evolved as a win-win relationship despite the controversy that is approached when it comes to the algorithm.

Facebook still has value for news organizations despite these changes considering its vast audience. However, it is a time for news organizations to take caution as to how Facebook is used and what further implications such an update may have.

Facebook’s goal may be its ability to connect friends and family together, but alongside that connection comes the conversation about current affairs and other subjects that is curated through the platform. At the core of that conversation is the content from news organizations that has become a central feature of a user’s News Feed.

Indeed, for news organizations, Facebook is more than just an ability to curate a conversation and enhance the civil discourse. It is an ability to inform audiences and tailor content to their needs and wants, to create insightful and meaningful journalism around the world in new ways.

Though it is not wise for a news organization to write Facebook off the social strategy at this stage, it is a time to monitor its next steps, for the next move by the social network will have an affect far beyond its ability to increase its reach. It will affect a crucial, quintessential relationship it has with journalism, either for better or for worse.

But in the end, what matters the most are the people directly accessing content. Facebook needs to consider that in its next steps as this update is rolled out, and we ultimately have to consider how to respond to it, not just for ourselves and our own engagement strategies, but for the people that matter the most — our audience.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

The social audience

Social media has the potential to help news organizations engage with younger audiences. (Photo: Pixabay)

Social media has the potential to help news organizations engage with younger audiences. (Photo: Pixabay)

Recently, Dr. Talia Stroud, the director of the Engaging News Project based at the University of Texas at Austin, wrote about a study looking at the role of gender and age in consuming news in the social media and mobile age.

In that post, examining the Mobile-First News report from the Miami based Knight Foundation and the ratings agency Nielsen, Stroud wrote about how women and younger audiences are more likely to engage with news on social media and mobile devices. Stroud added that she hoped this study would start a conversation within news organizations on how these audiences can be catered to, especially through social media.

Indeed, in this evolving age for journalism, there are opportunities for news organizations to make a difference, to enhance their journalism, to help audiences understand the world around them in new ways, especially when it comes to younger audiences.

Some organizations are already at the helm. In the UK, the BBC has a service called Newsbeat, telling the news from a younger audience standpoint, by offering explanation pieces on key events, especially during the UK’s most recent vote on its membership in the European Union.

It also provided unique analysis of the political fallout that followed, from the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron and the Conservative Party to the concerns surrounding Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the opposition Labour Party.

Newsbeat airs two 15 minute editions, Monday to Friday, on the broadcaster’s pop music service Radio 1, and has presences on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat (search for bbc_newsbeat), as well as an app, accessible through its web site. Stories are also sometimes available as links from the main BBC News web site.

In the US, BuzzFeed has utilized video to encourage younger audiences to vote, recently uploading this video to its Facebook page featuring President Obama. BuzzFeed also produces news content on its web site as well as a News app.

Even though younger audiences are being exposed to media through multiple platforms and screens, there is potential for news organizations to make a difference, to help audiences understand issues in new ways. While the BBC and BuzzFeed are two notable examples of what is out there, there is much more that can be done to help younger audiences be informed news consumers.

Social media platforms and news organizations can work together to make that happen. Young people want to be informed, and in order for that to happen, more news organizations must look outside the box for that to happen, in spite of challenges that come.

For them, the ball is firmly in the news organizations’ court.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

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