OTNB IDEA: The Difference between Journalism and Media

Thinking Ahead: The Difference between Journalism and Media
By G. Stuart Adam – as published on poynter.org

Last month, Kimn Swenson Gollnick, a graduate student at the University of Iowa, posed some questions about the future of journalism to G. Stuart Adam, a journalism professor at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. Adam, a Poynter affiliate, wrote Journalism: the Democratic Craft with Roy Peter Clark. This is an edited version of their exchange.

Kimn Swenson Gollnick: How can newspapers survive? What is the future for students studying journalism?

G. Stuart Adam: I suggest that in order to reflect on the future — and to encourage a more sanguine view of the situation — you distinguish between journalism as a cultural practice, on the one hand, and media, on the other. The term “media” blends (and blurs) concepts of culture and technology. When used as a synonym for journalism, the term “media” pushes technology into the foreground and conceals the fact that “journalism” is one thing and “media” is another. The latter refers mainly to technologies of various effects and uses.

With this distinction in mind I encourage you to think of journalism as a form of expression or brain work that includes making news judgments, gathering evidence, constructing narratives and making sense of things. It is a method of capturing and representing the world of events and ideas as they occur. While there is no doubt that the journalistic method developed in newspapers, that it established itself later in the broadcast media and that it is media-dependent, it is nevertheless a distinctive form of expression on which modern democratic societies depend. Now it is surfacing in the Internet. So the future of journalism, while dependent on media, is not wholly dependent on newspapers.

The impulse to engage in journalism is as much political as it is economic. I believe what the late James Carey said — namely, that journalism is one of the ways in which a democratic nation engages in a conversation with itself. I believe that Americans will continue to respond to their past and the democratic culture it inspires. I think Americans will figure out a way to continue a democratic conversation and that journalism will figure prominently in it.

What do you think of the recent announcements of publications moving from print to online editions only? Do you foresee more of this trend happening to mainstream media?

Adam: I can’t say much about the economics or marketing of new media. I am a student of the craft of journalism, not strictly speaking of media, of economics or of complex organizations. In the meantime, I believe that the newspaper industry will shrink but that it will survive. I think online publishing will expand and then consolidate.

What would you tell young journalists today, given the future as you see it for journalism?

Adam: I say to student journalists that if you want to write for a living, and if public life excites you, then stick to it. In the meantime, there will always be a demand, although possibly not as much, for people who can report, think and write quickly and coherently.

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One thought on “OTNB IDEA: The Difference between Journalism and Media

  1. 1. Although I would tend to agree that the advent of non-news news is what the average person, when asked to really think–really think for just a moment – about the content they’d see on a regular TV day IS— This person might have a hard time telling you if in fact Michelles dress is news or not —

    We are all wrapped up in this new age -wrapped up in the now, this is 2009 -seasons & social trends change. Maybe in the furure the population of North America will swing towards real news & News Broadcasters will deliver it. BUTTT in a world ( our world here in Canada & the USA where we will make no apologies for our lifestyle BTW……) where the million dollar salaries paid to the Katie Kurics of the world are dependant apon the success of the consumer public tuning in to your station to view your ultra hip Doritos or GAP T-shirt commercial or better – another 52″ flat screen LCD TV commercial on wich to watch Miley Cyrus sing about her angst of another broken heart –

    The TV & Entertainment industry is SUCH a powerfull machine to behold & in combination with big name retail brands pumping out the very best efforts of what creative media is capable of to get your disposable ( & they also get your non disposable ) dollars – thats what people are conditioned to want – that’s what the TV world will give –

    If you show a wonderfull expose’ on the $60,000.00 outfit that your new first lady wore followed by a high end fashion commercial you’ll get tons more punch for that retailer as opposed to preceeding it with the latest on the 4 week old garbage strike – yikes!

    PS – All of Canada was watching as I did & many, many of us were moved to tears as your new President was sworn in -God Bless America! -Obama is comming to Canada in Feb & it’ll be the biggest thing since the Pope set foot here, plus – i’m here in Ottawa & will be there to see it – – –

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