“At the heart of plurality concerns is a conviction that healthy democracies depend on the circulation and intersection of diverse voices and perspectives.”

“One look at Google’s most recent patent filing for its news algorithm reveals just how much size matters in the world of digital news: the size of the audience, the size of the newsroom, and the volume of output.

Here’s the patent for google’s algorithm https://patents.google.com/patent/US9037575?oq=google+news+systems+and+Methods+for+Improving+the+Ranking+of+News+Articles

From the patent: “CNN and BBC are widely regarded as high quality sources of accuracy of reporting, professionalism in writing, etc., while local news sources, such as hometown news sources, may be of lower quality”. https://inforrm.org/2016/03/06/tightening-the-grip-why-the-web-is-no-haven-of-media-plurality-justin-schlosberg

The wording of the Google algorithm fits in with my thoughts about the statistical model I wrote about the other day. I was talking to someone about democracy last Thursday and being from academia, she mentioned a useful technique to try to sort out my data issues: maybe I could apply for a grant or funding of some type to get a survey done by Survation or one of the other survey companies such as YouGov. It’s a thought.

As I keep writing and finding more topics that extend from my original ideas, I realise they are all relevant but I’m worried I’m not circling back enough to complete an article outline.

Just in time, a blog post from a writer who focuses on academic writing, was published [link].

Some strategies for writing up a first draft

I had read about this technique when I’d first started out all this so it feels like a bit of a revelation coming back to it. It might have been in Dunleavy’s book about Authoring Your Frist PhD.

  1. Compile all your notes and random thoughts into one document. Name it.
  2. Make these random thoughts into a long list.
  3. Group the things that seem to go together into larger pieces.
  4. Write up the things into bigger chunks — use sentences.
  5. Shuffle the chunks around until they seem to have some sort of order.
  6. Note any missing chunks from the narrative. Write those in.
  7. Then keep writing up the other chunks from the list.
  8. Turn the writing into more complete thoughts, one paragraph/chunk at a time. You don’t have to do it at once.
  9. Read through and then leave it for a few days.
  10. Read through again and see if your argument feels strong enough, you may need to refocus on a type of reader or journal you have in mind. Maybe the text needs reordering.
  11. Decide what needs to be changed – “Make sure you add something like a bit of an introduction and conclusion if it isn’t there – remember that these have to ‘shake hands’ and refer to each other.”
  12. Transfer it to a new document and name it first draft. And remember it is still a first draft.

I love this and can use my writing time to do it. I have been reading through Schlosberg over the weekend, and then found Tim Markham’s work as well — a Birkbeck colleague of JS’s.

Now and then I look through PhD funding and applications. The most relevant one for me seems the government loan scheme of £26k. You pay back after you start earning £21k and more. One of the pieces of advice always given for any PhD applications I look through is to find an adviser you think would be suitable to supervise you, and Schlosberg was one of those. I also looked through other staff members and began to read through Mirkham’s work.

Finding other research links like this also convinced me to take a step back and see how to put my list of topics together into a semblance of a first draft.

I’ve used output from some similar researchers — Tom Jackson, Mills, Schlosberg, Mirkham, etc. to identify some journals I think would be relevant to my work. Journalism Studies and Journalism Practice both look relevant as a first choice. And so it was time to start putting together the ideas for my first article.

I highly recommend following Pat Thomson’s blog. She consistently has great advice for PhD/research students. Even when I’ve read the advice once from other sources, I find it useful to revisit research and learning methods. Going back to basics as a refresher rather than a distraction can be invigorating.

I have put together my daily notes from 18/11/20 to 14/12/20. Quite pleasingly, that is almost a month so it seems the right time to gather my thoughts into a list. I’ve written 16,232 words. I’ve circled back over some topics but always at the end of each piece of writing added something I hadn’t known before I began to write.

That’s the beauty of writing; you can offload your conscious thoughts and reveal what has been simmering below. Sometimes I’m surprised at what comes up next.

During a lot of this work into citizen journalism and authority, I keep coming back to the article on Mexican journalists and anonymity plus danger. When the topic you are covering is vital for your audience — it may literally save their lives — then the risk in believing that information drops. If your life is already at risk, for example, then you will have less to lose by trusting an anonymous account.

I’m not sure that’s quite the right analogy here but there’s something about how newsworthy an item is and why.

There was a collaboration between the Huffington Post and the Bureau Local a few months ago where the HP explained why it was important to pay attention to local council cuts.

The idea of this is ludicrous from those dealing with the cuts but perhaps obvious to those who never have to deal with them.

If your child has been out of school for years because council funding cuts and basic mismanagement has meant there are not enough school places, then you don’t need an explanation for why it’s important. You know.

In that same paper, on a previous day, a murder was featured in the headlines without needing to explain why this was important. We know, or have been trained to know, why some news is evidently newsworthy.

This is a question I used to ask a journalist I know quite well — one I see every day, in fact — is this news? is this headline news? Is this newsworthy? Are you writing it? Are you assigning it to someone else?

After knowing this journalist for years, I now very rarely ask. Instead, I have internalised to a small extent what is newsworthy and if I now spot something that seems newsworthy, I pass it on. This would be the same as how you would internalise it in a newsroom but when your livelihood depends on it you internalise it a lot quicker.

We can see this ‘risk’ effect in how quickly pandemic language has been picked up during the last year. Within a day or so of a new term being introduced, it circulates effortlessly in the population and the media: social distancing, bubbles, travel windows, the R rate, etc.

And this brings us to Parenti, Medialens, learned behaviour and “Nicholas Johnson who was the former commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission. He said, quoted by Parenti, that there are four stages that journalists typically go through in their career:

‘In the early stage, you’re a young crusader and you write an exposé story about the powers that be, and you bring it to your editor and the editor says: “No, kill it. We can’t touch that. Too hot.”

‘Stage two: You get an idea for the story, but you don’t write it and you check with the editor first and he says: “No, won’t fly. No, I think the old man won’t like it. Don’t do that, he has a lot of friends in there and that might get messy.”

‘Stage three: You get an idea for the story and you yourself dismiss it as silly.

‘Stage four: You no longer get the idea for that kind of an exposé story.

‘And I would add a stage five: You then appear on panels, with media critics like me, and you get very angry and indignant when we say that there are biases in the media and you’re not as free and independent as you think.’”

There’s a well-known journalistci cliche that I first learned from my dad; dog bites man is not news; man bites dog, well that’s news.

How do you make the cliche into news however? Terry Pratchett, ex-local (Bristol) journalist covers that brilliantly in Truth, the story of Ankh Morpork’s first newspaper.

He’s no longer with us however so I’ll have to use what I learned from him.

How does one reverse the cliche and become a journalist while having to navigate the spectrum of what journalists are from stenographer to power to citizen journalist? Parenti says of those who perpetuate the mainstream media’s biases, ‘you write what you like because they like what you write’. How do citizen journalists get the implicit authority from readers to write what they like because the people like it?

How does a citizen journalist become a ‘journalist’ –from both sides, their own internalisation and from readership and then extended to trust enough to affect local political participation?

human hands knitting sheeps (Rkl painting)

Published by Joanna

A collection of fleeting thoughts that tend to focus around Bristol, food, movies, music and photography.

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