Online journalism is constantly changing and evolving, particularly in terms of media formats. In Susan Jacobson’s ‘Transcoding the news: An investigation into multimedia journalism published on nytimes.com 2000-2008’ (2012) discusses the process of how established commodities (i.e. news) is being translated into online content. She terms this process ‘transcoding’ and to back her findings she uses The New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/ as a case study. Jacobson highlights that between 2000-2008, The New York Times has incrementally weaved forms of multimedia into their site such as videos, slide shows and interactive features (Jacobson, 2012, p. 4) as illustrated by the diagram below.
Figure 1. Total number of multimedia packages published on nytimes.com 2000–2008, based on results from the multimedia search option on nytimes.com. (Jacobson, 2012, p. 6)
According to Jacobson, online journalism is not motivated by multimedia but she argues that games have influenced the format of digital news. She introduces the idea of ‘gamification’. This term is used by Jacobson to describe how ‘Games may enable ‘process-oriented journalism’, a storytelling technique that lets the audience explore the dimensions of a news story without a pre-defined narrative by a journalist’ (Jacobson, 2012, p. 3). So in a sense, online content is giving the readers control on what news they want to consume and how they chose to consume it.
This ‘gamification’ of news content and concept of ‘transcoding’ can also be applied to the realm of cooking in terms of how it has evolved from merely being about cookbooks to being popular TV shows. Much like journalism, cooking also has its roots in print for instance secret family recipes would be written down and passed through the generations. But over the years, the art of cooking has been translated into a multitude of TV programs which have also spurred websites, perhaps not quite in that order.
MasterChef is a successful example of how cooking has been transcoded into a television program and its website http://www.masterchef.com.au/home.htm utilises multiple forms of multimedia that contribute to a narrative that guides users through the site. The Masterchef website even has polls, videos and articles where users can share content or leave comments.
Blogging is a wonderful medium that allows bloggers to express their thoughts and opinions. It also gives bloggers the power to connect and interact with their readers. A blog can delight, entertain, enthral and captivate readers when written masterfully. I believe that a good blog is simply one that keeps you reading and coming back for more. In my opinion the crème de la crème of blogs, are those that cover food. Food is an art form as is blogging. With blogging, the internet is your canvas and words are your paint. Forget about money, it is food that makes the world go round.
“What are the most popular discussion topics on social media? 1. Film/music, 2. Technology, 3. Travel, 4. Food/restaurants, 5. Sports” was tweeted by Azran Osman-Rani @azranosmanrani at 10:45 PM, 15 October 2012.
In the culinary world or at least in my circle of friends, food blogs are influencing where we decide to dine. Studies such as the one done by Johnson and Kaye (2004) show that blog readers trust the content of blogs more than any other forms of traditional media. It never occurred to me until now but they’re right. You’d be surprised how many times my friends have suggested eating at a particular restaurant because “it’s gotten some really good reviews”.
No longer do we need to go to the trouble of shopping around for a decent restaurant to dine at, when food bloggers have done all the hard work for us. Thanks to rave reviews from food blogs such as www.eatability.com.au and www.urbanspoon.com, my friends and I are slowly but surely making the rounds to all the good restaurants in Sydney. Our plethora of food photos is proof of this and without food bloggers, I’m afraid we’d still be dining at McDonalds every Friday as a result of our indecision.
Thus, blogs have definitely changed the way we perceive the world but they have taught me that, when in doubt on where to eat, consult a blog or two and you’ll see that the world is filled with many tantalising possibilities.
So what do food, social media & citizen journalism have in common? This sounds like the start of a very lame joke but rest assured I do have a point in asking this question. First off, with food you have your gourmet cuisine at one end of the spectrum and fast-food on the other. The mere mention of the word gourmet sends your mouth watering, as you conjure up images in your mind of a sumptuous feast that leaves your tastebuds wanting more. Fast-food in contrast, tastes just as good and satisfying without the expensive price tag to match.
In the media world, traditional journalism is the gourmet cuisine while citizen journalism is the fast-food. Much like McDonald’s citizen journalism is everywhere and I mean everywhere. It’s cheap, convenient and easy to consume; forgive the pun. Gourmet cuisine and traditional journalism on the other hand have assumed an elitist standing in their fields; holding themselves in high esteem.
Ideally, they both represent quality but they do not necessarily live up to this reputation all the time, for example a meal may appear aesthetically appealing to the eyes but it may very well be one of those unfortunate cases where it looks better than it tastes. The same can apply to a news story, it may appear interesting at first but upon closer inspection it might lack substance. This is where citizen journalism comes to the rescue, presenting the audience with something else to munch on. In my opinion there cannot be citizen journalism without traditional journalism, in the same way that gourmet food is not gourmet if there is nothing to compare it to.
Lastly, social media has been to citizen journalism, what Masterchef has been to the culinary world. Social media has helped to popularise participatory journalism in a similar way to how Masterchef has inspired foodies everywhere to try to create a culinary masterpiece of their own. So, if you’re ever asked what food, social media and citizen journalism have in common, here’s your answer.