Monthly Archives: October 2014

Journalism: It’s In The Game

Throughout this blog, I’ve explored various ways in which technology has impacted journalism, particularly looking at social media and the internet. Whilst browsing through Twitter, @MuckRack brought to my attention the game ‘1000 Days of Syria’; a gamification of the Syrian conflict. As an avid gamer myself, this not only appealed to me as a way of reading the news but immediately posed questions to me about the ethics of doing so.

Is news too ‘new’ to be made into a game? How can you cover sensitive topics like Syria as a game, when a game implies entertainment and fun?

The best way to find answers to these questions was to dive into the game itself. Before I began, an overview of the game is provided by its creator, Mitch Swenson, who details how the characters are fictional but the game plays out based on very real personalities and events. Interestingly, he even states in this foreword:

“I apologize in advance to anyone who might be offended by the following narratives. My intention is neither to entertain players with, nor benefit from, the deaths that have resulted from the instability in Syria.”

You are faced with a choice of playing as three different characters through the narrative, a mother, a rebel youth and an American journalist. Upon choosing the rebel youth, I was given an insight into his background, and then began to play through the Syrian conflict from his perspective.

I was given choices of paths to take through the narrative, whereby my own decisions to lead the rebel to different places provided information about the various aspects of the Syrian conflict and personalised my game experience.

1000syria

The game is literature based; there is a clear omission of images and colour, and this really takes away the ‘lighthearted fun’ aspect of games. The game clearly presents facts and hard news in an interactive narrative, and literally puts it in black and white that these events are occurring in real life.

It is engaging and intriguing, yet you still find yourself wondering if it can be called entertaining. After all, the news is there primarily to provide us with information, not enjoyment.

When I was much younger, my favourite games used to be Medal of Honour on the Playstation. Based on real events in World War Two, and providing context as you moved through a timeline of the war, these games not only engaged me but taught me facts and events that occurred. The highlight of this was that I forgot most of the time that I was even learning; the games could teach me and evoke emotion about events I probably wouldn’t find out about otherwise, and this I believe, is the greatest advantage of newsgaming.

Passively receiving the news can struggle to provide a similar response, but through involvement in a game people can learn and understand potentially difficult news to grasp.

Of course, there is a line between news and entertainment that ethically cannot be crossed. However, as long as the facts presented within a newsgame are accurate, informative and engaging, I see no better way in involving people in the news.

Communism and Journalism: Do They Mix?

In light of China’s recent censorship of the English BBC website, this blog post will analyse the impact of communism on journalism, and ask the question, can journalism fundamentally work in these countries?

Back in 1956, Fred S. Siebert, Theodore Peterson and Wilbur Schramm published their Four Theories of the Press, and ever since the book has been used a foundation in journalism practice. Within this book they laid out how journalism practice works under a variety of social structures, one of which being communism.

Whilst in a democracy the media has freedom to investigate and bring to light issues in the interest of the public, the media in communist countries is regulated, censored and in some cases, controlled by the government.

Whilst in a democracy criticism of those in power is an everyday occurance (thus, how the MP’s Expense Scandal in the UK was uncovered), under communist control criticism of the State is strictly forbidden.

For this reason, the media gives very little information to the public about their leaders and their activities. They are hindered in their ability to act as a watchdog for the general public, and this allows scope for communist countries to become very corrupt.

In 2010, China revealed that a new training system for journalists would teach them Marxist and communist theories of reporting, in an attempt to reduce freedoms of the Press.

Two years prior to this, Chinese journalist Li Changqing was released from prison after a three year sentence for reporting an outbreak of dengue fever in 2004 before the Chinese authorities admitted it. He was sentenced for “spreading false information”, whilst the Chinese government attempted to cover up the outbreak.

“It’s a risky job to be a journalist in China. To be a good journalist not only needs wisdom but moral courage.”

koreaInfographic created using Infogram, information sourced from CPJ.

Under communist theory, journalists in China that reinforce the State are performing exactly the job they are supposed to. However, this stops the ability of journalists to uncover stories the public need to learn about, and the media cannot act as a watchdog with the interests of the public at heart as we know it.

Being a journalist in these communist countries poses issues of morality and in many cases, fear. Whilst a story should morally be published, the consequences facing journalists are often so harsh it is not worth the risk.

Why Journalism?

Journalism can cover any topic and takes the form of many roles. The diverse range of subjects is brought together by one common factor; they are all reported on in similar ways. What we think of as traditional journalism usually takes the form of newspaper articles, television and radio broadcasts all of which are divided into subsections depending on the topic.

All journalism aims to give a fair representation of current events and the information must be new. Journalism is therefore continually changing and being updated much like the topics it is covering.

In recent years new media platforms have emerged to become a huge influence in journalism. The rise of blogging has meant journalism is now accessible to everyone and they are free to choose what they want to report on. These blogs can be written, photo blogs or even video blogs, with sites such as YouTube giving everyone access to upload their thoughts.

It’s the easiest way to gain writing experience and see your work reach a mass audience; and now all from sitting behind a desk and writing about something you enjoy.

Social media such as Twitter and Facebook have also had a huge impact on journalism. Someone tweeting about an event or posting a status about something that has taken place often do not even realise they are involved in journalism; but they are in fact contributing to the flow of news and spread of information, however little it may be.

Current events are shared and information is received through all means of communication these days, not just through the television and newspapers.

In fact, the speed at which information can be updated online compared to releasing a newspaper has led many people to believe traditional forms of media and journalism are dying out. For example, the Storify below shows the first coverage of the Osama Bin Laden raid, reported on Twitter by a next door neighbour who was confused by the commotion:

storify

Journalism is everywhere and is required on a day-to-day basis, and anyone is capable of being a journalist in modern times.

I’d just like to get paid for it one day!

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