Friday, April 29, 2005

International Journalism - A Book Review

Information Age JournalismInternational journalism involves many facets of news reporting and includes areas like press freedom, news sources, objectivity, culture, and audience trends. Vincent Campbell (2004) in his book, Information Age Journalism, wrote on this subject. This blog entry provides an overview and critical review of the book.

The first chapter introduces the historical background of how journalism began and how it became what it is today. Current crises involved in international journalism mentioned by Campbell (2004) include technological development, emergence of commercial newspaper and broadcast industry, digital convergence, declining audience and diversity, tablodisation, and threats faced by journalists in non-democratic and developing nations (pp.3-27).

The second chapter looks into four theories of the press and explains why the belief of press freedom without state intervention is a myth, as there will always be some form of control, regardless of political or economic reasons.

The third chapter illustrates this point by showing how free market journalism and the role of journalists as watchdog in maintaining democracy in the Fourth Estate also face problems, such as audience preference for entertainment to serious news, reliance of news organisations on advertising revenue, influences of owner on editorial, and professional competition (pp.54-78).

The fourth chapter discusses the reliance of reporters on their sources for news (pp.80-83), and explains the importance of relationship between journalists and their sources. This relationship, however, can result in journalists' sympathetic tendencies to the cause and endanger the balance of neutral viewpoint in news (p.86).

News selection and gatekeeping are discussed in the fifth chapter to explain why audience's interest precedes the importance of news (pp.117-123).

The sixth chapter discusses the ethical issues of gathering and producing news, and the limitations of professional codes (pp.127-152). Issues discussed include human rights and privacy, taste and decency, confidentiality of information, bribery to write preferentially, news fabrication, unqualified account of events, erroneous foreign feed, adding of unknown facts, distorted presentation of information, and defamatory libel.

Threats to objectivity of journalism are covered in the seventh chapter (pp.153-154). These threats include the emergence of free market and commercialisation (p.156), exclusion and inclusion of ideologies (pp.166-167), reliance on official sources for news, and the dangers surrounding journalists' opinions and actual 'facts' (pp.173-175).

The eighth and ninth chapter looks into alternative news sources such as participatory and literary journalism, conglomerate influences, entertainment, sport, and lifestyle news.

The tenth and final chapter concludes the book by looking into the globalisation of journalism in the information age, wherein, Campbell says, "newspapers never really developed into international titles" because of the difficulty in producing and distributing news in synchronised content across countries, language barrier, and literary rates in certain countries (p.230). The rise and fall of foreign correspondents (pp.230-231) and new technology used in news gathering are briefly mentioned before the book concludes with considerations of the extent gatekeeping can be exercised in the new information age (pp.254-255).

As can be seen from the overview above, Campbell covered a large part of his book on topics pertaining to issues encountered by journalists in general news reporting situations, rather than in international context. The first two chapters provided a relative good start into the understanding journalism in a global scale, of the present day crises in journalism and the foremost important four theories of the press, with provides essential reading introducing international journalism. The topic on globalisation provides a good focus on journalism in international context, but it is only covered in the last chapter of the book, which leaves the rest of the chapters focused on general journalism topics. A first read of the entire book gives the reader the impression that the author may have realised nearer the end of the book that he has not met his intented goal and attempts to cramp everything on journalism in international context within a single chapter at the end.

Campbell, V. (2004) Information Age Journalism. London: Arnold.

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