Is media change creating a more democratic journalism and politics? LSE public lecture

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Published on February 18, 2014

Author: charliebeckett



In the first lecture I explained that journalism has traditionally had a role as the Fourth Estate in relation to mainstream politics. I showed that journalism has a particular set of functions in that democratic context of informing, deliberating and accountability. Journalism has many flaws, like politics, but the same things that people criticise in journalism can actually be its strengths.

I ended up by suggesting that the real problem for journalism - and politics in western democracies - is not the inherent failings of these trades but their increasing irrelevance to citizens. In other words, they are losing not authority but attention.

I showed that journalism and its relation to politics has changed over the centuries and more recently for technological, social and economic reasons. But it is arguable at least that journalism has never changed more than in the last couple of decades. What I want to set out today is some thoughts about how these changes might create a different kind of political journalism and ask what impact that might have for democracy itself.

I should say right at the beginning that I don’t know the answer because we are in the middle of this process. The pace of change is rapid. Facebook, which allegedly helped spark revolutions in the Arab world, is only just ten years old. By its very nature, media change self-represents itself in ways that are often unrepresentative of real changes. Much of the evaluation of media change is actually conditioned by people’s social, economic or political perspectives. It is relative, subjective and dynamic. A bit like politics.

British politics: the changing role of the media Gv 311: British Politics course, Lecture 16 Lent Term 2014 Prof Charlie Beckett Dept Media &Comms, LSE @CharlieBeckett

Today’s lecture 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 How political journalism is becoming networked Redefining political journalism & news The filter bubble problem The distraction problem Making mediation more democratic? Making politics more democratic? Challenges to journalism & politics Regaining engagement in networks

• “…the joining of these two forces - the information revolution and the human urge to cooperate for justice - makes possible for the first time in history something we have only dreamt about: the creation of a truly global society. A global society where people anywhere and everywhere can discover their shared values, communicate with each other and do not need to meet or live next door to each other to join together with people in other countries in a single moral universe to bring about change….”

Remaking the world with the Web?

Remaking the world with the Web?

• “It used to be thought – and I include myself in this – that help was on the horizon. New forms of communication would provide new outlets to by-pass the increasingly shrill tenor of traditional media. In fact, the new forms can be even more pernicious, less balanced, more intent on the latest conspiracy theory multiplied by five” • Tony Blair Reuters ‘feral beasts’ speech 2007

non-political political fora

Networked Journalism

Structural change: Mixed media – but all networked • Traditional ‘legacy’media • Social news media • Social networks

Politicians News Media Public

Political reporting is now networked Citizens Politicians Media

Redefine ‘Journalist’ • Curator • Partner • Social networker • Specialist

Redefine ‘News’ • (Open) Data • Transient ‘liquid’ reality • Relationship not authority • Contested not objective

What difference does it make? • • • • • • • Influence – who has it? Proportionality – a fair voice? Verification – what’s true? Acceleration – faster, instant, all the time Destabilisation – surprise, ambush, reveal Superficiality – attention & distraction Fragmentation or diversity?

Filter bubbles?

Filter bubbles?


Distraction? • 1968 average TV soundbite 43” • 1988 average TV soundbite 9” • 1892 average newspaper quote 1.7 column inches • 1916 average newspaper quote 1.0 column inch



The song


Meet the new political journalists

A challenge to politicians

A challenge to journalism? • “It….forces journalists and news organisations to demonstrate to what extent they are now part of an establishment it is their duty to report.” • Emily Bell

The real crisis is not authority but attention • • • • Trust – transparency - accountability Value – verification – utility Relevance – proximity – diversity Empowerment – investigative, disruptive, critical, reflexive, ope n

How to get people’s attention

British politics: the changing role of the media Gv 311: British Politics course, Lecture 16 Lent Term 2014 Prof Charlie Beckett Dept Media &Comms, LSE @CharlieBeckett

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