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In a recent lecture for part of our online studies, Joanna Geary, Web Development Editor at The Times, came in to chat to us about the use of social media.

Miss Geary has had a remarkable career so far – and she is still only in her twenties. She started at the Bimingham Post, as a business reporter. The paper was undergoing a period of cuts and redundancies afforded by the changing shape of the industry we all know so well and love, so she set up a blog looking at the media landscape – or more importantly, why it was failing. She was not afraid of the threat of technology to journalism many of the more traditional journalists feel.

Her blog caught the attention of The Times – where she now works, planning multimedia around key articles in the paper and exploring new digital products. She has also recently set up Brand New, for building online brands, and the Birmingham Social Media Cafe where people interested in the use and future of social media can meet up and network.

As we are frequently faced with so many gloomy and downright depressing predictions about the morphing industry it was reassuring to hear her opitimism, and of how her blog helped her move forward in her career.

As Gary Andrews, ITV Online Engagement, said: “If journalism is going to be saved, she’s one of the people who’ll be saving it.”

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One hundred and fifty years ago today, Darwin’s On the Origin of Species was published. Recently, an article in the New Scientist mentioned copies of The Origin are distributed in some US college campuses – complete with a Creationist introduction. How can science and religion mingle and sit side by side together in explaining arguably the biggest question of all time; how and why it is we are here today?

Charles Darwin

On one hand, cynicism aside, perhaps the introduction is a good thing, as it may cause new questions to be looked at instead of relentlessly spinning the tired wheel spun by many in scientific and religious communities.

An interesting slant on the debate can be found on The Darwin Report.

This debate applies to all of us

As long as people look to The Origin for reasons why we are here, and to the Bible for an explanation of how we are here, there will continue to be misunderstanding and contempt. The Origin doesn’t claim to explain why we are here. The Bible should not be interpreted so literally as to explain how we got here. As long as Darwin’s work is viewed as a separate entity it will be forced to compete with the Bible, and this will continue to stop the debate moving forward.

It may be that science can explain the how, and religion, the why, and that the introduction will encourage this. If each does not attempt to branch into the other, can the two sit side by side? Will the people fighting the corner in each ever get on?

Creationists take the Old Testament literally

Perhaps the creationist introduction will make the debate move forward. This can only be a good thing, as the popular perception that science and religion can only sit at loggerheads may hinder our understanding. Buddhism, for example, can sit comfortably alongside evolutionary theory, which is more than theory now. This morning on Radio Four’s Today Programme, member of the Western Buddhist Order Vishvapani discussed the role of evolution in Buddhism. He said: “I value Darwin’s work as an account of how the world came to be as it is; but describing how our situation arose is one thing, and making sense of it is another.”

Buddhism may sit nicely alongside Darwinism

That said, clearly the idea that creationism should be so indelibly part of The Origin, will upset many in the science community. Richard Dawkins constantly fights to seperate evolutionary theory from intelligent design:

Even the act of considering these questions comes under the evolutionary spotlight. How does perception evolve – why would a greater understanding of why we are here be a preferable evolutionary trait? Does it lead to increased chances of survival?  In a world which has evolved to the incredibly complex state it is at now, to consider these seemingly simple questions is no small feat.

I wonder if Darwin thought we would evolve to this extent

But evolution lies at the very heart of our existence, of every single feature we have – including the mere act of thinking and reading these words. Or, as David Attenborough told The Guardian earlier this year, following an barrage of hate mail for not mentioning God in his documentaries: “It’s like saying that two and two equals four, but if you wish to believe it, it could also be five … Evolution is not a theory; it is a fact, every bit as much as the historical fact that William the Conqueror landed in 1066.”

David Attenborough

A Beginning

Why does science matter? Do you think it does? Do you think about it much, at all?

What happened in one innocent man’s brain to make him drive 23 kilometers in his sleep and murder his parents in law?

Do we have to grow old and die?

If we could grow our own limbs, would you want to?

If you had to go out into the rainforest and find a molecule to cure breast cancer, how would you make a start?

Do you know how remarkable it is you were even born?

In a world where the diversification of humanity has lead to a myriad of cultures, religions and corresponding beliefs, the one common pulse for us all, the universal currency we can all relate to and prove, the only thing truly known, is science.

What is the future of science? This is a question that cannot, and should not, be answered by scientists alone. The ethical and moral dimensions of new biological advances must be considered by us all, as they will undoubtedly effect us all.

The Internet Manifesto discusses the present role of the internet in journalism in 17 points, and essentially how it strengthens the journalist’s plight:

http://www.internet-manifesto.org/

It states a media that ignores the strengths of the internet does so at its own peril in terms of the opportunity the internet allows to develop the ‘best possible form of journalism based on the available technology’. This is true, especially when considering the way many new technological tools may supplement the communication of a story, bringing it to life and thus relaying its message more clearly.

The internet may well be a ‘pocket-sized media empire’, but that does not necessarily make it a valid, trustworthy one. While being cured of its ‘gate-keeping function’, the internet also cures so-called journalists of the need to be affiliated to a trustworthy source; it is easier to publish and access so-called journalism, which surely makes the quality of the information from these sources questionable.

Of course the freedom of information afforded by going online slips hand in hand with a true democracy. However, it can lead to a surplus of unrelated information which more traditional forms of media, i.e. journals, can filter out, making them a more efficient choice for methods of research.

The most alarming part of the manifesto came when blurring the lines between journalists and non-journalists to good versus bad journalism. In a sense therefore, everyone is a journalist. It is difficult to escape the nagging sense that journalism is being devalued. Unless the distinction between journalist and non journalist is kept black and white, as a profession it will begin to mean nothing.

Alison Gow reacts:

http://headlinesanddedlines.blogspot.com/2009/09/five-phrases-to-outlaw-in-newsrooms.html

She includes five issues that news editors must consider in order to keep afloat in these times of convergence. Essentially, she highlights the fact the Manifesto was available on the internet in itself made it inaccessible to those it sought to address. Apparently the problem is much worse than the authors dare anticipate, and news editors are still to be informed of the basic merits of multimedia journalism.

Equally alarming and surprising, it is difficult to believe this discussion still rages on. Are the benefits of the convergence of platforms not crystal clear? Improbable some are still in need of convincing, a thought I cannot help but be convinced by.