Archive for the ‘the future of journalism’ Category

Here are some more of my musings on the future of journalism:

Online journalists face a difficult decision when it comes to the comment function on their news articles or their blogs. The people formerly known as our audience are begging for more interaction: they want and need to be involved in the journalistic process. Unfortunately, there are some among that group that do not promote discussion or further the intellectual debate, but rather choose to fight flame wars and maliciously attack persons. These people are only aided by the ability to hide their identities, through anonymity or pseudonymity.

No journalist will argue that comments are a facet that we are willing to part with. In fact, it has always been quite the contrary: we love intelligent feedback. It is one of the perks of this job to hear feedback from our audience and realize that in some way we are influencing the growth of knowledge and by doing so promoting the democracy we serve. Comments on the Internet are certainly different from the letters to the editor of yesterday; however, we cannot say that immediate feedback harms us in any way. Rather, immediate feedback makes us more responsive to our audience, which is exactly what journalists need to be in this digital era.

The question for journalists becomes this: how do we foster the type of community discussion that Tim McGuire hopes for without opening ourselves up to all types of vile comments or skanky spew that Internet trolls are ready and willing to dish out beyond the veil of Internet secrecy? One possible solution is in the very former audience that we hope to emcee the discussions for. We have all heard of the invisible hand of the market (a key tenet in Adam Smithian logic). This self-regulation could be a key component of maintaining a troll-free environment on journalistic websites. We need a function in the comments in which the people can vote to eliminate inappropriate posts. The system could be as simple as this: a button on each comment that other members of our former audience can click to vote a comment as inappropriate (in the support of free speech, the first click by a user could simply send the comment to the end of the list of comments where it will essentially no longer exists; a second or third click could erase the comment entirely). If in a marketplace of ideas the truth will survive, the same should be true for the comments on journalistic websites. We must trust the people to regulate themselves to help foster our intelligent discussions. Another possible solution comes in the further development of profanity detection and restriction. Blocking obscenities is not necessary for all journalists, but for the more professional it seems to be a good idea. The final possible solution comes with the development of our plugged-in society. Anonymity and pseudonymity will continue no matter what we do, as Gillmor states, but the furthering of social media will help to create a more transparent society online. If journalists take advantage of social media to propagate their works, the natural transparency of social networks will likely eliminate a majority of anonymous or pseudonymous comments and help to weed out the trolls who create them.

The answer to our problem will probably not come from one of these proposed solutions, but rather it will be a combination of all of them.


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.

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.

Here is a bit of thinking I did after reading parts of the Cluetrain Manifesto and comments from Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr., publisher of the New York Times:

The industry is changing. This fact cannot and will not be ignored by those in all fields; however, it is particularly important when discussed in relationship with journalism, which must adapt to a society as described by The Cluetrain Manifesto. People are becoming increasingly plugged into the internetworked market—where journalism must make its presence known—and are becoming increasingly tired of the drab and superfluous—two titles that journalism must space itself from.

As Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr. confidently states, we as journalists will continue to deliver exactly what the people want: content. Clear and concise content is a must for the future of journalism. However, clear and concise content might not be enough as the method of getting this content to the people changes. Although Sulzberger exaggerates with his idea of beaming information right into the consumer’s cortex, the truth of the matter is simple: journalism must find a means to reach its consumers in a world that is becoming more absorbed with the sensational.

How can journalism reach such an audience when it strives to be objective? The key manifests itself in the delivery. Who said that a news story could not be delivered with the same wow effect of a 3D motion picture? Who said that journalism could not step into the digital age and embrace the techniques that win some people Academy Awards? Certainly we cannot step too far into the realm of entertainment, which would take away any journalism organization’s credibility. However, my question is why do we set limits? Why do we hold ourselves back? Why are we stuck in the golden age of print when the platinum age of digital media lies right before us, within our grasp?

Digital journalism might not be as profitable. That fact is understandable. If I had wanted money, I would have become an actuary. Journalists do not take up the mantel looking to load their wallets; we do it as a service to the people who need news (or beyond that, high-quality news).

Digital journalism might not be as easy. Our newsrooms of the future may not house thousands of editors. In fact, our newsrooms of the future may be near nonexistent, as digital journalists work on the go, from Internet cafés and local Wi-Fi spots. This type of journalism will make up the new age, where journalists not longer congregate within large buildings and determine the rank and merit of the day’s news. Instead, the people will decide for themselves what is the top story. Along with the added competition journalists will face in appealing to the people, a new job will be placed upon their shoulders: the job of public relations. As The Cluetrain Manifesto stressed, people do not want an Ivory Tower organization; they want to talk to every person in that organization, and the power structure of said organization will come crumbling down. Every journalist will be a hyperlink away from their consumers, and every journalist must be open to questions, comments, and concerns of their readers. The future of journalism may not be in money or easy living, but I warn all journalists to never think that the future of journalism is dark. It is brighter than we could ever know.