Academics and Research / News

Media professor offers new look at new journalism

Adrienne Russell has been exploring how the rise of the internet has been remaking journalism since the mid-1990s, a time when the news business was booming and a “website” was a corner of the pressroom no one visited.

Russell, associate professor of digital media studies and co-director of DU’s Institute for Digital Humanities, says she saw the news-media revolution coming as a graduate student in the listserv activity that surrounded the Zapatista uprising in Mexico.

“I knew things were changing in 1995. I saw the strength of the information network built by the Zapatista rebels and their supporters,” she says. “Today, activists and everyday people shape the news and historic events through media use to an extent unimaginable before the web. Look at the events we call the ‘Arab Spring.’ The people were protesters and reporters. Journalists can no longer do their job without tapping into user-populated web networks.”

The contemporary plugged-in era is the topic of Russell’s new book, Networked: A Contemporary History of News in Transition (Polity 2011). The work analyzes the conditions contributing to the change in journalism and suggests potential future developments.

Unlike recent media scholarship that laments journalism’s demise, Networked challenges the idea that emergent news practices and products are bad for the public or for journalism.Networked is drawing the attention of scholars and working journalists. Writing forThe Guardian, Steven Poole described the book as a “useful corrective … to homogeneous rants or raves about such phenomena as ‘user-generated content.’” Tim Luckhursts’s review in the Times Higher Education called the book “a great piece of truly modern scholarship [that] reveals much about new types of news and new pathways to democratic engagement.”

Rodney Benson, an associate professor in the Department of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University, said that other books discuss how journalism is changing but that Networked is more comprehensive and theoretically sophisticated.

“Adrienne’s contribution is to bring together and organize a range of new-media best practices and then explain how and why they emerged,” he says. “As a result, her book is a valuable resource to help journalists, activists, intellectuals, and all citizens claim the full democratic potential of networked media.”

Nabil Echchaibi is an assistant professor of journalism and mass communication at the University of Colorado-Boulder. He calls the book timely and groundbreaking.

“Over the years, we’ve heard mostly somber accounts of how new media technologies will affect journalism,” he says. “This is an extremely welcome reflection on how networked journalism may arguably benefit the very essence of the civic culture good journalism ought to produce. Journalists will find this book refreshing, particularly if they’re willing to look at the emerging networked news landscape with less antagonism.”

To learn more about Russell or her book, visit her blog. DU’s Department of Media, Film and Journalism Studies is hosting Journalism in the Public Interest day Oct. 11 at the Cable Center. An author’s reception featuring Russell’s book will be held from 4–5 p.m. For more information, visit the event site.



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