musings: the future of journalism, pt 3

Posted: 16/10/2010 in musings, the future of journalism
Tags: , ,

Here is some more of my thinking on the future of journalism, particularly citizen journalism and the abundant content available on the Internet. My thoughts are based on readings cited throughout the piece as well as writings by Dan Gillmor:

“The change we are in the middle of isn’t minor and it isn’t optional, but nor are its contours set in stone.” Perhaps the most impressive quote from the readings, journalists can learn much from this understanding of the new era into which we are entering. When considering the digital age and its implications for journalists, there are two main topics we must comprehend: how citizen journalism will form and affect modern professional journalists and how journalism can remain relevant in the abundance of content readily available for access on the Internet.

Citizen journalism is much more than a 26 second clip can reveal; however, I think that a look at the many reactions to this clip do justice to defining a new media that is growing every day. Grassroots journalism and citizen 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 media. This casualty should not be the focus of journalists though; rather, we must begin to form the new structure of our institution.

The new institution will have a number of changes, many of which will be uncomfortable for professional journalists. First, we must include the citizen journalists in our conversations, as primary sources and tertiary critics. We are no longer the middlemen between news and the audience; we are now as much a part of the pool as everyone else, contributing what we know (a purer form of journalism as learned in the trade) to what everyone else knows. Like politicians, we will include the polity in our conversations to provide news for the people and by the people. Second, we must create and maintain our niche market for good journalism. This niche will be characterized by our principles of journalism: objectivity, accuracy, and devotion to exposing the truth. Third, we must be active participants in the new media. Journalism can no longer be a reaction or a response to news, but rather it must take a proactive form in which we are in the fray (like our former audience will be) and collecting news every second. Fourth, we must help each other along the way. Journalists may no longer have fact checkers breathing down their backs in a classic sense, but we must understand that the former audience will be quick to cry foul on any inaccuracy. As journalists in the new media, it will be our job to work with each other and for each other to constantly check facts, follow up on stories, and support the works of our fellow professionals.

Beyond the reinvention of the journalistic institution, journalism must assert itself in the new era of content abundance. As Carr proposes, our readers are becoming less interested in scuba diving in the depth of articles and more interested in zipping along the wealth of headlines and news snippets on a Jet Ski. The question then emerges: how can we provide in-depth coverage to a readership that is interested in shallow information? Fortunately, there will always be a market for the in-depth, as Shirky argues, although the focus on this type of literature may be lost. As journalists, we will always have a public service to provide. Rather than be Luddites and fight the change, we must embrace it and most importantly become a functioning part of it.

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