chapter  5
Trust, truth and objectivity: sustaining quality journalism in the era of the content-generating user
ByBrian McNair
Pages 14

This chapter explores what news organisations and those who work in them can do to secure their futures in a digitised media environment where their cultural authority and professional status are challenged as never before in the history of journalism. It argues for a response, from both institutions and individuals, on three levels. First, there needs to be an enhancement of the traditional sense-making, sorting-and-sifting, gatekeeping functions of journalism (Bardoel, 1996). Second, the performance of the information-gathering and date-management practices understood by the term objectivity (which I will define below as the range of ‘strategic rituals’ (Tuchman, 1972) underpinning the perception of truth and trust in journalism amongst audiences, readers and users) must be given greater visibility. And third, media organisations must maximise their enabling of user participation in professional production environments. This includes not just the facilitation of interactivity and the innovative management of user-generated content (UGC), but the incentivisation of user access to paid-for content through secure, convenient micro-payment and subscription tools which can recruit users and maximise their retention. In suggesting these constituents for a renewed and sustainable profession of

journalism (and the institutions which support journalism) in the era of the contentgenerating user I argue that new communication technologies do not reduce the need for organisational and professional structures in news-making, but enhance them. While established organisational structures may break down and transform under the influence of new communication technologies, the need for organisation as such does not diminish.1 The digitisation of journalism and the emergence of the internet, Web 2.0 and all that goes with this technology in terms of expanded information flow and user participation strengthen rather than undermine the role of and need for organisations dedicated to the sourcing, processing, dissemination and public discussion of journalism. To renew and sustain journalistic organisations

capable of servicing a globalised public sphere requires in turn the reassertion and restrengthening of what have traditionally been regarded as defining journalistic practices in the spheres of information management, sense-making and interpretation – practices which, when recognised by readers and users, generate the key perception of trust.