Critiquing the media when you’re the media

By Dennis Clemente

NEW YORK– How do you critique or even police the media when you’re part of it? For its fifth meetup, The Tech Press Meetup invited Jason Abbruzzese of Mashable, Shannon Bond of the Financial Times and Tom Kludt of CNN to tackled this this topic at the Arthur L. Carter School of Journalism at 20 Cooper Square.

Technology has been reshaping the media business in many ways. From the personalities to the type of coverage and the social tools at our disposal, there’s no mistaking how news has changed and is delivered to us faster now — and online.

How much has changed? Kludt recalled when journalists scratched their heads when Ben Smith bolted from Politico to Buzzfeed. That no longer surprises journalists today, as Buzzfeed has grown immensely and gained tremendous clout.

When you’re the media though, how do  you cover the Charlie Hebdo attack?

Bond knows how awkward it is to both safeguard and critique the media, because you never know when editors will become your “future bosses.”

Abbruzzese sees how it can be an advantage to cover the media. “They know the ethics and etiquette (of the job),” he said.

Kludt sees lots of money being pumped into the industry, which some see could result in a tech bubble. It’s possible, if VCs don’t see return on their investment. But they’re certainly looking to make money out of it.

With social networks getting more attention nowadays, it also provokes the question, “Who (among the media) is controlling the audience?”

Kludt thinks it’s just a classic case of going where the fishes are. You see their (social networks’) leverage over news organizations. The concerns are totally with merit. “We’ll see more news organizations coming to Facebook.”

In light of this, Abbruzzese thinks it’s going to be hard to be just a digital media company. It’s not seen as a viable long-term (business) unless media outlets also get into TV or video news programming.

Bond thinks a paywall system may be worth exploring, if applied correctly, perhaps on mobile (phones) if a special coverage merits it.

Is the news homepage going to be where people still find out about the news? Kludt said people are landing on stories through Twitter. “Let’s see if there’s an immediate consequence.”

What will move media forward?

Abbruzzese likes the overall transparency in the dissemination of the news. “I’m a huge fan of explainers (like the NYTimes’ The Explainer). I like that reporters also explain things than just reporting them.”

Kludt sees the improved accountability for those in public life, as breaking stories do not always come from the media. “The industry is more accessible than it ever was.”

The panel also tackled link-bait headlines and their use.

Abbruzzese said you don’t want to go too far; at the same time you want them to click your story. A/B testing headlines has become common.

Kludt said there is no question it influences headline construction, taking him time to stress his dislike for the constant use of “this” and “just” in headlines.

The panel also discussed about pay in journalism these days. They pointed out how young journalists are willing to work as journalists for 25,000 to 28,000 a year. It’s definitely not an easy job, but it’s good to point out how Salon, one of the early online news sites, got unionized.

Otherwise, there’s little protection in the industry. “The people generating content are not the ones getting rich,” Kludt said.

JJ Colao hosted the meetup.

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