Who was Ray Martin?

Ray Martin, delivered the 13th 2008 Andrew Olle media lecture, which is available on iView. Mr Martin is a journalist of Australian legend, old school and part of the mass media establishment, presenting on the Australian 60 Minutes – a show which personally I find a little hard to digest, but then I don’t watch much TV.

Lots of very rich people from the 20th Century mass media culture, all listening to the current issues – as he sees them.

Well, I’m no one, let alone a journalist, but I did take notice when he commented –  ‘content is king, and always has been … and always will be’ – in reference to the quality of Australian journalism.

He went on to talk about the lack of investment in journalism generally, the cutting of staff, and lacking media networked TV shows on topics such as finance.

What I found really interesting was the off the cuff swipes at ‘internet content’. I am sure he is an amazing journalist and has changed the landscape blah blah … of old school ideas of media and content creation, but omitted to identify the power of the read/write web.

There was no mention of the way in which the internet is changing content itself, and that must hurt the ‘moguls’ as he called them – given that every media outlet now has a ‘blog’ feature or a ‘comment’ feature in it’s attempt to get some form of fractured conversation.

I think its still significant that shows like 60 minutes offer some ‘after show’ chat room – which is heavily moderated. Again, in todays ‘conversation’ – the mass media is still anything but democratic when it comes to voices. The chat room, was just a reaction to the internet several years ago, and hasn’t really moved on from that as it has never really understood it.

In the book – Now is gone: A Primer on new media for executives and entrepreneurs (Bartleby Press, 2007), Geoff Livingston says that

There is no more ‘audience.’ There are, instead, communities. By participating in online communities communicators can learn what the community wants and likes, and can create content that’s most valuable to it. The take away from this book: build value for your community, and work for them.

I think that the audience at the lecture is not understanding that, or perhaps is hoping that it’s not true. In another book, Groundswell: Winning in a world transformed by social technologies Charlene Li and John Bernoff (2008), they say “People are getting more things they need from each other, and less from traditional institutions and corporations.” and more significantly they talk about define six kinds of online consumer behaviors.

Learning which types best define your audience (or clients, or communities, or target groups) is the first step in any strategy you take to reach them. The Creators are those who publish a blog or article online, maintain a web page, or upload videos at least monthly. Critics post comments on blogs or forums, post ratings or reviews, or edit wikis. Collectors save URLs and tags on a social-bookmarking service, vote for sites on a service like Digg, or use RSS feed aggregators. Joiners maintain profiles on a social networking site like MySpace. Spectators consume what the rest produce. Inactives—nonparticipants—still remain.

Unfortunately for the ‘moguls’ – there is now significant market research – being pushed to commercial organisations to suggest that technology has in fact re-classified the notion of ‘consumers’. Both in terms of product and information, we can’t classify them as we have for the decades in which Ray Martin has been pushing information into lounge rooms all over Australia.

We used to need to get our ‘niche’ culture fix from magazines and information was limited, that is no longer true. As a kid, I read Shoot – I used to race to the shops to get it – and find out about the soccer stars of the day – hoping it ‘might’ contain something about my local club’s hero’s. How different is that to today.

This article from 1993 in the New York Times is a good contrast between how the media used to classify us, and now how we classify us. But there internet has packed with ‘advertising demographic profile data’ in the last decade, so a Google Search is testiment to how much effort went into predicting what ‘we would want’ in the 1990s.

But now we decide what we want and when we want it. We also want to create it. Its not that the ‘moguls’ are right or wrong, just that we don’t need them as aggregators of ‘quality information and reporting’. We self regulate, self edit and sell organise in places such as Wikipedia. Wikipedia is the place I go to read the news because its created, edited and maintained by all of us, not some of them.

Why worry about what Ray thinks? – Well  people listen to Ray and know of Ray – if they are over 40.

He’s the spokesman for the Baby Boomers. This is why students don’t listen to Ray. He is irrelevant as an aggregator of information for the teen generation. He is talking to the ‘spectators and inactives’.

Changing media delivery reaction

We see TV being ‘fast tracked’ from the USA – simply because the tech savvy can get it anyway. So it’s not just teens – its 20-30 somethings too – the peak TV ratings crowd that they are ‘worried about’. Let’s not forget that the media-rich are interested in commercial gain, not public service.

Content is king – user generated content! – if you are in elementary, high school – and university.

We are simply not listening to Ray. We are listening to each other – and that is what we need to do in the classroom. We have to recognise that kids are not reading magazines as the once did, they can get their ‘pop culture’ fix from any number of sources – digital sources.

They would rather spend their money on mobile phone credit than paper.

I can’t remember the last time I saw a group of kids in the playground, discussing an article in a magazine. I am sure some do, but the first thing they do after school, is turn their phone back on, and plug back into the ‘live’ world.

Repacked Heroes

Soccer has become a product, not ‘just’ a sport. Magazines are ‘lifestyle’ driven and media-moguls have resorted to ‘glamor’ images to sell their advertising space, appealing not to ‘soccer fans’ but to the spectators and the brands that want to sell to them.

As most of the ‘heroes’ are themselves a product, the image of the player is a brand to sell product – not soccer, the magazines are often aimed at ‘aspirational male targets’ than soccer fans. In many cases, the media is out of ideas, and the content of some magazines is little more than recounts of more timely amateur content.

I see these ‘inputs’ into the popular culture of students as a significant challenge to teacher’s attempting to provide students with ‘engaging’ content.

In effect, the massive amounts of images, video and text offered, is pushing the ‘mass media’ into diluting it’s 20t century quality journalism mantra into titillation, shock and expose tat. As Mr Martin retires from the field, he is perhaps symbolic of the end of mass media, as it has been since the the invention of the ‘web press’ (ironic name).

They can’t deliver ‘direct news’ in as fast as ‘us’ so then the focus has on more social attractors – body image, status and popular culture semantics are needed to survive. This creates a whole new discourse about social change in the media, and the expansion of what we allow as ‘acceptable images’.

If we are to understand how to deliver ‘content’ to students, then we need to understand how they collect it.They are motivated by peer recommendation, peer pressure and peer generated content. If we harness that, and allow them to use that approach in classrooms, then they will be more likely to ‘listen’ to teachers. Teachers need to re-pack it. This is not optional, this is critical.

We cannot continue to present ‘content’ in the way the Ray Martin was suggesting – as expert, experienced and singularly authoritarian.

If we see ourselves as the ‘elite’ content providers, as the media-rich do, then we can’t be too surprised if students see it as ‘old’. The ‘yeah but’ here is … but it’s on the test, so they have to. They don’t. The test is not longer the ‘end game’ or the measure of a student’s worth. It’s what Dan Pink calls ‘Right Brain Rising’ in his book ‘whole new mind’ where creativity and more artisan skills are now highly valued by major companies. We have to accept that students can get ‘facts’ through technology at virtually no cost.

We need to be more able to design ways in which they can collect, criticize, create and join together to demonstrate their comprehension of ‘facts’ in a context that is relevant to them in spaces that are relevant – such as Skype, Second Life, Adobe Connect and Forums.

Ray Martin’s lecture was probably challenging and relevant to the media-rich he was speaking too, but given number of teachers who are ‘baby boomers’ and that there are significant issues in their retirement and the general exit from schools, then Ray is not talking to ‘us’ – as Stephen Heppell says.

Unfortunately, new teachers are appraised by ‘time served’ as it has always been. So under the ‘baby boomer’ watch, I don’t find it at all surprising that younger teachers (and some older ones) feel frustrated and powerless to get past the wall of ‘yeah buts’ that are in the generations above them in management structures that are there to create tiers of authority and lines of management.

Even Gen X or Gen Y teachers, are using the Baby Boomer (and their 20th Century Learning Models) as their point of reference.

I think that it’s very important that all teachers listen to Stephen Heppell’s k12 Online Keynote – when perhaps they are only listening to media-rich spokesmen.

But how many staff would get time off in lieu to attend this online? – recognized by the ‘administration’ as professional development. Very few.

We need to get rid of the myth that it’s Gen Y mavericks wanting to get WoW into the classroom as some sort of fad, but that all sectors and generations are recognising that we are past the ‘information age’ and being good at maths, science and english is not enough. Students need to be creators, editors, remixers, critics, collectors and sharer’s of knowledge too – by understanding where students prefer to go for information.

The problem is, there are more Spectators and Inactives in education … but just like any new ‘technology’ – the connected ‘usness’ as Stephen calls is, is growing at exponential rates, and as teachers retire, Ray Martin retires – there is a gap that we must fill – as students can’t wait for the last baby boomer to get on the bus

I’m sure Ray would have made a better job of this post.

One thought on “Who was Ray Martin?

  1. A great post Dean.
    I had just finished browsing “Why I blog” -Andrew Sullivan http://tinyurl.com/6nnp62
    An interesting read!

    Your statement “We need to be more able to design ways in which they can collect, criticize, create and join together to demonstrate their comprehension of ‘facts’ in a context that is relevant to them in spaces that are relevant” should be made a mantra for educators!

    I could quite easliy read & reread this post & get more and more from it. Thanks for sharing some great insights!

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