Bright Shiny Things

Bright Shiny Things

Journalism has a focus problem. That’s according to newly released research from the Journalism Innovation Project at the University of Oxford, and the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.

The reports title says much: “Time to step away from the ‘bright, shiny things’? Towards a sustainable model of journalism innovation in an era of perpetual change”

Journalism suffers from Shiny Things Syndrome: ” an obsessive pursuit of technology in the absence of clear and research-informed strategies – is the diagnosis offered by participants in this research,” according to the report. “The cure suggested involves a conscious shift by news publishers from being technology-led, to audience-focused and technology-empowered.”

Research has found that in this era of perpetual change, journalism’s high-speed pursuit of technology-driven innovation “could be almost as dangerous as stagnation.” U.S. digital-born journalism veteran Kim Bui, who coined the phrase Shiny Things Syndrome, said it “takes away from storytelling, and we risk forgetting who we are. That’s the biggest challenge.”

Solutions call for a re-start with the end user, and with developing that user-led approach to researching journalism innovation and devoloping frameworks to support it.

Is it time to slow down, reflect and return to the fundamentals? It’s an interesting report for those of us who work in the field. A few of the report’s key findings, according to this summary at Nieman Lab:

  • “There is an identified need to develop research-informed, longer-term strategies designed to foster sustainable innovation.” Often journalism gets caught in the never-ending news cycle. Yet, it may be time to slow down and analyze what really needs to be done.
  • “There is concern that efforts in the field of digital journalism innovation have been too focused on distribution challenges at the expense of content and business development.”
  • “There is evidence of significant change fatigue and burnout that risks impacting on journalism innovation efforts, in part caused by relentless pursuit of “bright, shiny things.”
  • “There is an evolving new set of innovation markers: The need to consider unintended consequences of technological innovation (such as gendered online harassment and viral disinformation); the role of diversity in audience development and divergent global contexts; growing media freedom threats and limitations.”

Photo: Man reading a newspaper in Fountain Square, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1938; Library of Congress