Saturday, April 5, 2014

Article Analysis: "What We Need From the 'Next Journalism'"


Bill Kovach 

Photo credit: The Herald-Palladium 

Kovach’s professional career has included roles as reporter, editor, and author. He worked for The New York Times for eighteen years as a reporter and editor, and he supervised projects at the Times and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that have won Pulitzers. He was at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University from 1987-2000, and was its curator from 1989-2000.  He is the founding chairman of the Committee of Concerned Journalists. Kovach has co-authored three books with Tom Rosenstiel. 

Tom Rosenstiel 

Rosenstiel is an author, journalist, researcher, and media critic. He is currently employed by the American Press Institute as its Executive Director, where he has been since January 2013. The American Press Institute, according to its Web site, “is an educational non-advocacy 501(c)3 nonprofit organization affiliated with the Newspaper Association of America.” He was one of the founders of the Project for Excellence in Journalism at the Pew Research Center, and was its executive director for 16 years. He has written seven books, with three of them co-authored by Bill Kovach.


Kovach and Rosenstiel posit that society has entered an age where journalists are no longer functioning as pure "gatekeepers" to news, and believe that journalists must embrace new modes of technology that allow users to contribute to the production of information (171-2). They write, "Today, consumers have a greater role in the decision, and the next incarnation of journalism must embrace and serve that more active citizen. In that regard, journalism is no longer a lecture. It is more
of a dialogue-and potentially richer than ever before" (172).


Kovach and Rosenstiel position the people of yesteryear, before the nifty inventions of blogs, the Internet, and instantaneous communication, as inarticulate consumers of information, people who relied on newspapers and the nightly newscasts to be their sole providers of information. While this notion may not pass the thought test of a reasonable person (people continue to communicate information, orally and in terms of the written word, analyzing the source and the specific news item, and have done so before the times of the printing press or television), it is used to frame the remainder of the article. For Kovach and Rosenstiel, when people begin to think for themselves, it indicates that the traditional role of journalist is no longer needed: "This shift away from relying on one news organization to be our primary news provider is the real meaning of the breakdown of the gatekeeper role" (174).

 However, while this "traditional" role of the journalist has been eliminated, the authors believe that the old news systems can change to stay relevant. They insist that, "newspeople must replace the singular idea of the press as a gatekeeper with a more refined and nuanced idea based on what consumers require from the news-particularly reportorial news, rather than commentary and discussion" (175). To illustrate this concept, Kovach and Rosenstiel list ways that journalism needs to change to keep up with the new age of information-seeking behavior, including, "the burden of proof must be higher" (184) and "journalism must be more transparent" (185).  At the root of their argument is the concept of a news organization: "A news gathering organization is a place that accumulates and synthesizes knowledge about a community, either a geopolitical community or a community of subjects and interests, and then makes that knowledge available and interactive in a variety of ways" (190). For Kovach and Rosenstiel, when the community's needs change, so must their professional practices. Despite the change, Kovach and Rosenstiel it is imperative that the ethics of journalism retain intact, and they hope that these ethics are carried over into new forms of journalism.They write, "If a new journalism is to be created, we think civic life has an interest in these values transferring to the new media and the new newsrooms" (194).

Publication Year

 The article, "What We Need From the 'Next Journalism,'" is actually a chapter of Kovach and Rosenstein's third book, Blur: How to Know What's True in the Age of Information Overload. As this was published in 2010, Google and the Internet were in full force.


Blur: How to Know What's True in the Age of Information Overload was published by Bloomsbury USA, the U.S. division of the same United Kingdom-based company that was the original publisher of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. As it was published by such a general interest company, the book is intended to reach a very wide audience, from people who are laypersons to journalists, from those who know little about the "information overload" theory to those who are widely educated on the "information overload" concept.


Web of Science, a citation database, has four records for the citation of the larger novel, Blur: How to Know What's True in the Age of Information Overload. For the respective chapter, "What We Need From the 'Next Journalism,'" no records on this citation database were recorded as of 6 April 2014. 

As of 6 April 2014, Google Scholar had no records of citations for the individual chapter, but it did have 55 citations for the larger novel. 

While there are definitely plenty of reviews online about the book, the majority tend to be lukewarm-to-negative. Below are two examples.

Carolyn Kellogg, a contributor for the Columbia Journal of Reviews, wrote in her 1 December 2010 review of the book:
"Blur: How to Know What’s True In the Age of Information Overload is a book of mixed messages and unfulfilled potential. The authors, Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel, have more than eighty years in journalism between them. Yet their book is as muddled as it is promising—which shows just how difficult it is to get a good handle on our present moment."

Cachocurt wrote in a 19 August 2011 review in The Sonoran Chronicle:
"For all the valuable tips provided in the book, there is one that the authors should add to their list: copy editing. The book contains numerous typographical errors that distract the reader from the message. Most journalism professors would applaud the effort, but give the authors an automatic F. Still, this book will be extraordinarily useful both for the average news consumer and for reporters trying to make their way in the changing journalism landscape."


About Us.” American Press Institute, 2014. Web. 5 April 2014. 

Bill Kovach.” International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, n.d. Web. 5 April 2014

Cachocurt. “Book Review: Blur: How to Know What’s True in theAge of Information Overload.” The Sonoran Chronicle, 19 August 2011. Web. 6 April 2014.

Kovach, Bill and Tom Rosenstiel. "What We Need From the 'Next Journalism.'" Blur: How to Know What's True in the Age of Information Overload. New York: Bloomsbury USA, 2010. 170-197. Print. 

Kellogg, Carolyn. “A Matter of Trust.” Columbia Journal of Reviews, 1 December 2010. Web. 6 April 2014. 

Tom Rosenstiel.” American Press Institute, n.d. Web. 5 April 2014.

William Kovach.” Nieman Foundation for Journalism, n.d. Web. 5 April 2014.

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