WAJIC 2023: Journalism should be more constructive to retain media relevance – Google News VP

VICE President of News at Google, Richard Gingras, has urged journalists to be more constructive in reporting to sustain the relevance of the media.

He said this on Tuesday, July 25, at the ongoing West Africa Journalism Innovation Conference (WAJIC) in Abuja, stating that the sector is facing a crisis of relevance caused by factors including declining trust of the audience and an overload of bad news.

“The Reuters Institute tells us that less than 10 per cent of our society regularly consume what we call serious news. Google tells us that less than 2 per cent of search curves are about matters of serious news,” he said.

He stated that the media had to work towards building the trust of the audience by changing the narrative structures of news to convey constructive values.

He also recommended that linguistics be considered in reporting to avoid amplifying societal divisions rather than bridging them.

“When you are covering a story, if you take the philosophy of journalism, if there is, for instance, a bus crash in a certain intersection in the city, and you are reporting on that and twelve people died, that’s not exactly a happy story, but you’ve got to report it.

“But can you report it with an air of constructiveness saying, yes, this happened, here are the reasons why we think it happened, hear what some of the potential solutions might be. Can we go beyond the old phrase about news if it bleeds it leads?” the Google News VP asked.

Gingras also stated that financial sustainability in the media could be achieved if the journalism community becomes the go-to source of information for communities, in the era of other social platforms.

“There is great opportunity and business value in enriching the fabric of a community by addressing the overall needs of that community. I fear we don’t use such approaches. If we don’t use such approaches the bridge, the divides in our societies, the important accountability journalism we do produce will not be heard beyond the depth of our own silos,” Gingras noted.

Explore business models, micro journalism for sustenance

Meanwhile, professionals present at the event have recommended that micro journalism and other business models be explored for sustainability of the sector.

Speaking during a panel session at the event, founder of media organisation Dataphyte, Joshua Olufemi, noted that journalism was leaving many segments of the population underserved due to the focus on political issues, and as a result, several needs remain unmet in other sectors, which, if satisfied could serve as a means of sustainability for the media.

“I think the challenge with our media is they think if it is not big, it is not rich of value. Why are we in journalism? So that people can have access. If it is 10 people that get the value and can pay for it, you had better stay with that.

“The small business owner who goes to Google is not going to Google so that someone in America buys that product. It is so that when you are in that area and you are searching for where to buy ABC, you know where to go to. So it is still local. I think we just need to think micro and think of diversification as a way to aggregate multiple,” he said.

Olufemi also noted that innovations to sustain media organisations do not need to be strictly digital, as there were other needs that could be addressed.

“Needs will always be the way to think about it. What do people need? Indigenous language. There are hundreds of languages in Nigeria that nobody has explored for journalism,” he said.

Africa Editor, Rest of World David Adeleke also said that subscriptions and advertising are not enough to keep media organisations afloat and urged stakeholders in the sector to be more open to other innovations.






     

     

    “Outside of technology, the fundamental problem that journalism faces on the continent is financing. But it is easy to say, very difficult to solve. Media companies should be more willing to experiment with business models. Just be willing to innovate. People think because it has always been like this, it will always be like this, and that is another problem journalism faces all over the world,” he said.

    Funding in journalism has been a topic of discourse over the years, and in 2022 The ICIR held a conference on media sustainability in commemoration of its 10th Year anniversary.

    Panellists at the event, including Nigerian Professor of Mass Communication and former Federal University, Kashere, Gombe State Umar Pate, urged media houses to adopt innovative business models for sustainability.

    Professor of Mass Communication at the University of Lagos Abigail Ogwezzy-Ndisika also stressed the need for media organisations to constantly review and audit what constitutes readers’ interest to improve business within the sector, a point which was also made by Gingras at the WAJIC 2023.

    Ijeoma Opara is a journalist with The ICIR. Reach her via [email protected] or @ije_le on Twitter.

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