‘Unreached, unheard, unreported’: Civic Journalism

UK Newspapers Image: Wikimedia Commons

BBC Newcastle held the second Civic Journalism Lab in their series on Wednesday, titled “Unreached, Unheard, Unreported”. The one-hour talk included a panellist of experts representing Huck Magazine, BBC North, video contributions from The Tab and Vice UK, as well as time for the audience to ask questions on issues raised.

“Many readers are beginning to mistrust the press, which is seen clearly by the scrutiny of site traffic, clickbait, advertising and audience inclusion.”

Gone are the days where one would rely solely on newspapers, radio and television broadcasts to tell us the news. The Internet has taken over and our newsfeeds are blasted with images, videos and news of all shapes and sizes. How does this affect young writers wanting to kick-start their careers in the field of journalism?

There is an increase in the consumption of media on platforms like Snapchat, Facebook and YouTube, especially by young audiences. Writers must adapt and often shorten their stories for each medium rather than rely on one form.

Michael Segalov, news editor for Huck Magazine, mentioned how traditional hard news may not engage the audiences it used to in this digital age. Informative headlines spread news quickly across Internet platforms, and social media allows constant update. However, there must be a transition from conventional reports to new and engaging ways to attract younger readers.  Segalov continued by noting how the internet gives news a personality, sharing experiences, opinions and analyses rather than purely announcing information.

So, what are the dilemmas that media outlets are facing? Many readers are beginning to mistrust the press, which is seen clearly by the scrutiny of site traffic, clickbait, advertising and audience inclusion. Concerns are that media coverage focusses on using clickbait to generate site traffic, rather than producing meaningful content. But sadly, funds do not stretch as far as they used to. News platforms often have smaller teams and lack the resources for investigative journalism.

This means that writers pick sides, whether it’s interaction or corporate interest, with the driving content in the roots of organisation. Free media is also an issue, due to it being unsustainable to run in the long-term.

The BBC however, with its reputation of being an informative business representing in the public’s best interest, has a lot to catch up on according to BBC North’s representative Helen Amess. Due to the security blanket of the TV license fee, the BBC has a laid-back attitude on producing shortened online content and in her opinion, needs to care more about engaging younger audiences. She also commented on how the BBC regards ‘young readers’ as anyone under the age of 50.

How can we solve these issues? Suggestions involved journalists building long-term relationships with their audience rather than relying on short-term gains from viral coverage. The production of powerful stories may pay off in the long run without the need for clickbait, rather than the one-day popularity viral pieces receive. Another option is a balance of sponsored and influential media, gathering large funds by advertising products to a wide audience, whilst using the revenue to fund investigative journalism.

Despite this being a good solution one major factor, which affects many new writers has been excluded. Journalists are being trained to some of the highest standards than ever before, especially on different forms of media content. Although the production of news coverage is high, the ability to engage audiences still needs to be cultivated. This means that well-written journalistic pieces often go unnoticed or cannot reach the desired demographics.

“Although  the production of news coverage is high, the ability to engage audiences still needs to be cultivated.”

With all this, various questions arise as to how the future will look for young writers and content coverage. There is an obvious need for a solution to the problem of funding investigative journalism and creating sustainable jobs for future journalists. Young people need to be trained to identify the current media platforms and their changes, as well as be able to engage audiences to interact with their pieces.

Lastly, there is an essential need for the BBC to encourage young writers and offer support, as well as change their strategies when it comes to new media content.

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