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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Belgian scholar argues for “noiseless journalism”

Communications scholar Francois Heinderyckx has some advice for mainstream news media: If they wish to survive the roiling media revolution, strive for ‘noiseless’ journalism.

That is, distinguish yourself in a noisy world of multiple channels by focusing on high-quality news and analysis.

photo of Francois Heinderyckx

Francois Heinderyckx

Instead of cutting newsroom staff, and spending on dissemination technology, invest in “intellectual capital” – the experience and expertise of your journalists. Journalists should consider informed news content as their “brand” – a brand that people will pay to receive.

Prof. Heinderyckx, who is director of the Dept. of Information and Communication Sciences at the Free University of Brussels, expanded on his concept of noiseless journalism during a talk at the UW School of Journalism and Mass Communication on Sept. 28.  His visit to the campus, where he also taught senior undergraduate classes, was co-sponsored by the CJE, the Center for European Studies, and the School of Journalism.

Using examples from European news media, Prof. Heinderyckx challenged common assumptions among news editors and media owners – that “more” media is better than less media, and that “being fast” (or the fastest) is crucial to the future of news media. Journalists make the mistake of thinking that just because a new type of media makes possible a new activity, such as scanning dozens of wire services, then everyone will want to do that activity.

Amid so much “raw” data, mainstream media can help citizens understand the confusing avalanche of information by providing smart summaries and analysis of the meaning of the information.

A fuller understanding of his notion of noiseless journalism can be obtained by reading his “Striving for Noiseless Journalism.”

Prof. Heinderyckx is president of the European Communication Research and Education Association and is president-elect of the International Communication Association.  He teaches media sociology and political communication. His research interests include journalism, audience research, political communication, and media literacy.

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