Quirks of the Newsroom- The Tantalising Tale of the Tasty Tagine

The definition of ‘news’ varies from person to person. To me, news is my breakfast companion; the Sydney Morning Herald a perfect accompaniment to a bowl of cornflakes for a media student to start the day, intent on feeling informed on life outside the microcosmic bubble of university life.

While stories relating to politics and world crises seem almost obligatory brain food for a global citizen, it is the small, quirky reports that deliver the daily dose of the weird, whacky and wonderful by which I am most often engrossed.

Nothing says thankyou like your own pet camel

Nothing says thankyou like your own pet camel

My personal favourite remains to this day a small article within the world section of the SMH titled “France’s ship of the dessert ends up a savoury treat for oblivious family”. The story goes as follows. After receiving a baby camel from grateful Malian authorities following the successful military intervention to drive rebel back forces back, French Prime Minister Francois Hollande entrusted the animal to the care of a family near Timbuktu when it was deemed the creature was not suited to the Parisian way of life. In an unfortunate incident  of cross-culture misinterpretation regarding the ‘custody arrangement’, the camel was slaughtered by the family and feasted upon after being, according to local reports, “fashioned into a tasty tagine”.

Whilst the absurdity of the story had me in stitches, the article provided an amazing insight into modern news values and features.

New journalism is often described as a genre of writing that “falls between the traditional categories of fiction and journalism”. News cannot be defined as the straight edged truth as much as a series of standardised choices made by a news organisation in order to meet certain agendas. Amongst the key features of any ‘news’ is ‘narrativisation’, the process of turning a report into a story that can captivate an audience. Not only did the ‘tale of the tasty tagine’ perfectly encapsulate this notion, but the decision to include it in the paper in the first place reveals the hidden intricacies of editing. The story was situated directly underneath a large article concerning North Korea’s potential to test another nuclear warhead. Considering the meticulous placement of every item within any publication, does this pairing represent a deliberate editorial attempt by Fairfax to relieve a grave situation by placing such a light hearted story next door?

While news publications may differ in content, they remain remarkably similar in structure. Such deliberate editorial choices are just another part of the ‘production’ of news, made in an attempt to attract the largest audience and to generate the highest revenue. Regardless of motive, a good news story is one that engages a reader….and perhaps tickles your tastebuds at the same time.

Picture sourced from http://mbourbaki.blogspot.com.au/2010/11/artwriter-new-associate-of-art-market.html

Picture sourced from http://www.itv.com/news/update/2013-04-10/mali-orders-hollande-new-camel-after-first-gift-is-eaten/

Heralding a New Dawn-Out with the Old, In with the New(s)

Are newspapers becoming extinct?

Are newspapers facing extinction?

For many years my father routinely perused a freshly printed copy of Fairfax’s Sydney Morning Herald with his breakfast. Recently the traditional broad sheet has been replaced by the Sydney Morning Herald App on a shiny new iPad. Unwittingly, my father is playing an integral part in the journalism revolution. As we immerse ourselves deeper in the ocean of digital content, legacy media such as newspapers have been forced to reconsider traditional methods of delivery to readers.

Journalism is considered a profession in crisis. The internet is contesting the status of newspapers as the major institution of journalism by offering greater efficiency in meeting demand and supply.  Rupert Murdoch clarified this fundamental shift in a tweet in August 2012. “Simple equation: free, open, uncontrollable internet versus shackled newspapers equals no newspapers.”  Advancements in technology have also led to the rise of citizen journalism. Unrestrained by authority and capturing news as it happens with an assortment of common recording devices, citizen journalists are “filling the void that mainstream media cannot fully cover”, as Nadine Jurrat explores in Mapping Digital Media. Providing ubiquitous connectivity to global reports via a constant stream of online content, the evolution of this new brand of journalists has led to the rise of collective intelligence as everyday citizens are able to create, collaborate and contribute to the ever-deepening pool of information available on the internet.

Alan Kohler summarises this shift to online content delivery in the ABC report below, explaining that readers are moving to engage more with digital information.

However, as Kohler points out, this change does not herald the extinction of journalism in the future so much as NEWSPAPERS.  Journalism is simply evolving to suit the demands of a migratory audience. This means a dramatic modification in how traditional media organisations deliver their content. By exploring the Sydney Morning Herald’s Know No Boundaries Site, this process of evolution is clear. Digital subscriptions, blogs and more effective applications for mobile and tablet devices are all on the cards for SMH in 2013, clearly displaying the attempt of a traditional journalistic medium to change with the times.  The recent change to tabloid format in late 2012 was also made in response to “the flight of paying readers and advertisers from the paper to other, so-far free, digital sources of news.”

What will be interesting to see is how these platforms fund their work in a traditionally free digital environment.  Perhaps the evolution of ‘subscription based models’, like the one proposed by SMH will lead to further loss of readership and eventually the ultimate extinction of such media. Only time will tell.

Picture sourced from: http://www.cartoonstock.com/directory/o/online_newspaper.asp