tiistai 24. toukokuuta 2011

Quality of journalism is already defined

Journalism is a peculiar industry. It is a mass industry, where - like in all mass industries - there are lots of quality talk. When you buy a car or a pair of jeans, you the customer judge the quality. In journalism the quality is judged by the producer. 
No way, you say. We can tell quality by sold copies or reader figures or amounts of tweets!
Oh, really? So, well-selling tabloids are quality because they sell well? Well, then quality means profit, and only profit.
I have been working as an editor-in-chief and I too have been very clear on (without anything more than the intuition of an editor-in-chief) what is good quality journalism and what is not. Still, I was the producer, not the consumer.
I now think that quality will matter, and matter a lot, in web journalism. But then ”quality” has to be defined and processed in the same way it is defined and processed in other industries.
Yes, a great deal of research has been done on quality of information. The quality guru Joseph Juran defines quality of information in the same way he defines “quality” in general: High- quality data is data that is fit for use in its intended, operational, decision-making, planning, and strategic roles. Fitness implies both freedom from defects and possession of desired features. 
Another guru, Philip B. Crosby, presents a rather similar view of information quality - but Crosby can be implemented directly on journalism: “Communication is getting the message to the areas that need it in a way that will be accepted and implemented. That requires both credibility of presentation and integrity of content useful”, and “When we can communicate with others in a way that helps them make the choice that is best for them, we are being useful. When we aim it at something that is best for us, and not for them, we are not being useful. The whole purpose of communication is to be useful.”
Paul Lillrank gives too something to the journalism industry. He defines “quality of information” as its ability to generate action. 
Well, there you go. The definitions and the theories have been there long enough. The whole purpose of communication is to be useful. Thus, we need to define ”useful” in terms of useful to the reader or the consumer on the web. And we need to start measuring.
On the web the critical measurement right now seems to be amounts of clicks. Ok, but does it mean that an article clicked 1000 times is more useful and has generated more action than one clicked 100 times? Of course not. Amounts of clicks measure only amounts of clicks.
Look at journalism as a method for refining information. That is all there is. After that we will be dealing with the effects of journalism. That is usefulness and action generation. I don’t have the answer, but journalism with effects tends to be more important than journalism with no effects or with only brain draining effects.
If readers are returning to, and paying for, Murdoch’s web news, it might have something to do with quality of journalism. After all, some people, who did not want to pay for web journalism, have turned to paying customers.

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