musings: the future of journalism, pt 2

Posted: 09/10/2010 in musings, the future of journalism
Tags: , ,

Here is some more of my thinking on the future of journalism:

Journalists need to take many cues from the changes that the Internet has undergone in its transition to Web 2.0, even as we head into the new era of Web 3.0. The understanding of this transition is simple: we are now entering an age of user-generated content on the Internet. The implications of this transition are slightly more complicated, however, as we must adapt to our new relationship with our former audience.

As Francis Pisani attributes to Dan Gillmor: journalism must be “less of a lecture and more a conversation.” As I touched on previously, we as journalists must be prepared for direct interaction with the people we want to consume our media. Journalists must be skilled at public relations and effective communication with the audience. Beyond this new requirement, Tim O’Reilly’s report on Web 2.0 would have us believe that user participation is also going to become a key component of the new journalistic paradigm in the digital era. Perhaps journalists need to step down from our thrones and accept the input of citizen journalists who may have unique insight on topics. Unfortunately, the effective process for receiving this input has to date only been in the comments section beneath a web package. The question we must now answer is: how are we going to make it easier for users to submit their input?

Another lesson that I believe journalists can learn from Web 2.0 is that of what O’Reilly described as the “perpetual beta.” Journalism traditionally has been a slowly changing institution, whose strong roots and deeply ingrained methods have often made it unable to adapt with the world around it. We must work in the exact opposite manner if we hope to survive in this digital age. Users look for services that are constantly updating, continually testing new trades, and consistently allowing feedback to shape the future of the business. Journalists cannot be slow in adopting this new facet because without the perpetual beta model, we will certainly be buried by competition that uses such a model.

Social networks and blogs, seen initially as enemies of the pristine institution of journalism, are actually one of the most important tools for disseminating information to the new masses. These tools can reach more people instantaneously than any other medium for journalism ever could. With a click of a button or the posting of a link, articles and other online packages can be shared with audiences worldwide. Not only will this spread of information increase readership, it will also allow journalists to reach what O’Reilly refers to as “the long tail” of the audience.

The great difficulty that we face as we enter this global digital marketplace is the question of ethics. Journalists must always keep in mind the principles that have made journalism such an important part of society. Although we must make our trade more appealing to an audience that is infatuated with the sensational, we must not go to far and make our content sensational. While we must engage our audience and open ourselves to contribution, we must not lose our objectivity and our journalistic principles. In lieu of the digital era, we must stand as beacons of truth and justice, which will give us competitive advantage in the niche of professional journalism.

  1. […] journalism are new members in the conversation that used to be limited to newsrooms. As mentioned previously, the organizational structure of journalism may be the first casualty of the transition to online […]

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