Caffeine Spins from the Hamster wheel

My last (she’s, shoes, shag-flags) post was more frequented with questions than new ideas.

And, today I believe I struck a chord with some possible answers- on the question of superficiality and ‘journalism’, on quality and quantity and on the daily grind.

More than anything, the article that spoke to me was this one on the Hamster Wheel- an idea I had heard of (but not yet thought about) thanks to the Chaser’s new show on the ABC. Derek Starkman coined the term, writing for the Columbia Journalism Review;

“The Hamster Wheel isn’t speed; it’s motion for motion’s sake. The Hamster Wheel is volume without thought. It is news panic, a lack of discipline, an inability to say no”

The Chasers goal for the new show, as said on abc TV online, is to

Step inside the new media paradigm where Edward R. Murrow has been replaced by Karl Stefanovic; where press releases are the new Deep Throat; and where the most popular online news story every day usually involves Kyle Sandilands or a penis… assuming there’s a difference. The Hamster Wheel – where breaking news reaches breaking point.

Our daily grind of news has reached boiling point- and we require more hits than ever. The transformation of the internet, has meant that the temptation to log on and satiate ourselves in information- and worse, satiate our friends in our information- leaving us running around and around on a hamster wheel. So we have news sites, bloggers, opinion columns, social media updates, and if we subscribe, tumblr, diggit, stumble upon and maybe even uni readings. And then, some of us also mirror the updates with ‘equally important’ opinions and ‘what I am doing’ updates. (I am self-aware)

Clem Bastow was one such writer that felt the need to publish her most every thought online. Until, she gave it all up. Another writer, Julia Allison, published like crazy- for the attention, and for the possibility to get published. She spoke to Rachel Hills, saying

“the true goal [of her self-promotion] was never ‘fame’ at all. I wanted two things: 1) editors to publish my work, 2) people to read [it].

Now this is the case for some bloggers and opinion columnists, but according to Michael Scholar for Journalism at Harvard, the need to mediate social networking is important for journalists. He says;

Journalists are truth-tellers. But I think most of us have been lying to ourselves. Our profession is crumbling and we blame the Web for killing our business model. Yet it’s not the business model that changed on us. It’s the culture…
People trusted journalists and, on our side, we delivered news that was relevant—it helped people connect with neighbors, be active citizens, and lead richer lives.

And now, he believes, journalists must follow popular culture to connect with people. Perhaps it is true that opinions and media personalities can impact mainstream media through trust and relationship, as Rachel Hills writes that Julia Allison (and the likes) appeal is the backed by

a growing subset of people who want to feel as if they “know” the people they’re sourcing their information from, beyond seeing their face on the television every night or even having the option to call them at the radio station…”

Yet all the while, it is important to maintain a level of understanding. No one can keep up with hourly updates. We hide those people from our Facebook feeds, complaining that they have too much time on their hands.

These days, I believe there is too much pressure for the journalist to ‘connect’ with his audience. (which is why I slightly disagree with our Harvard lecturer Michael Scholar). (In my (humble) opinion), Journalists are leaders, not connectors. The connector is the online site, the medium, or the editorial.

The journalist provides a good shot of caffeine- a trusted daily dose. The coffee house is one of grinders, commentators, baristas, cooks and consumers- perhaps a healthy online forum or cafe debate. I’ve talked about this before. There is no need for one person to provide all the entertainment- no one was made to work like a $2 vending machine. (How annoying are consumers these days?! Perhaps my thoughts are caffeinated)

Nor should be forced to provide (and drink) International Roast. And for what I’ll translate speed as espresso shot, Starkman

I am not anti-speed. Speed is good. It’s why there’s a news business in the first place. It’s why the man ran the twenty-six miles from the battle of Marathon. It’s why journalism starts with jour, although now it should probably be called heure-nalism. So rest assured, your writer is pro-scoop, pro-working hard, pro-update, pro-competing-for-scraps-of-news-like-a-pack-of-wild-animals, pro-video, etc., type, type, pant, pant—phew.

And after too much coffee, and we shall all become head-spinning, shaky, nervous and sick hamsters running amok in a cycle of more words, more content, more print that no one can keep up with.


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