New Journalism and Here Comes Everybody

The new media and new digital age that we are entering will require media professionals and citizens alike to rethink the way that news gets created and disseminated. I submit that the new technologies that have been created have made individuals creating news in a closed, static format obsolete. Instead news and therefore, information will be dynamic, open, cheap and widespread.

Clay Shirky’s book touches on some of the most important aspects of the new revolution. The book focuses on the social and cultural effects of the new media. It looks at how collective groups of people can influence and change the world. From his writing and ideas on groups, we can infer some things about how news is changing.

The dynamic nature of news is already here. In the past the paper was printed once or twice a day and that was the extent of the content. The live web is here and live news and information are with it. News is updated not only continually, but from mobile locations. Any person with a smart phone can produce information from wherever they are.

The dynamic nature of information is talked about in Shirky’s chapter on Wikipedia. He said that originally Jimmy Wales considered an expert only moderated article creation system, but that took too long and was cumbersome. Then, he let in the masses and the news and information was created with speed and increased quality. The collective action of many trumps the action of the few.

This dynamic and constantly updated change is also addressed in Shirky’s chapter detailing the publish then filter phenomena. This aspect could be a double edged sword for journalism. Content will be created, but quality and accuracy could be sacrificed. The free market of information would hopefully correct errors content, but that is yet to be seen on a mass scale. In looking at Wikipedia, the majority of content is accurate, but vandalism and questionable content still are published. That kind of vandalism and questionable content would be far less likely in the professional world of journalism.

Openness and new methods of sharing were talked about in Shirky’s chapter on collective action. The sharing of massive amounts of information is as easy as clicking the forward button on your e-mail. The ramifications for news will hopefully be higher quality content and verification. Having more eyes on a story would ideally lead to more corrections of inaccuracies by those who have information.

In the past, being a journalist was like a being given a special gift. A journalist was set apart from the average citizen and supposedly endowed with a special gift to inform the masses. Now, there is no distinction between news creators and consumers. Information and news creation is universal and cheap. In the future, being open with processes and news will not simply be an option, it will be the only way for trust to exist.

The cheap methods of content creation have made journalists no longer a set apart elite. This fact has and will continue to revolutionize media.  In chapter three, Shirky talked about how everyone is a media outlet. Today, people update their twitter statuses, facebook profile, flickr accounts, youtube accounts and more daily. This creates a lot of content. Of course, the vast majority of this content is low quality and meant for a tiny audience. Still, the mass individualized media outlets will require journalists to sift through them to find meaning and quality content, relevant to the masses.

Looking to developing parts of the world, this new media revolution is all the more important. In Shirk’s chapter on Flash Mobs, he talked about how instant protests have been seen in oppressive regimes. The same technology and ideas that form these instant protests can form to disseminate information and news about regimes, where technology or journalistic infrastructure is limited.

The access to news by the masses around the world and the amount of information available is revolutionary. There are trillions of websites on the internet. Wikipedia has more than 15 times the information than the Library of Congress. Broadband penetration and online access is spreading. This hyper information age that we are in has changed things. As Clay Shirky said, there has always been an information overload, but we just need better filtering methods. News needs to be synthesized and connections made by humans. Journalists can do that.

If I was to start up a new news organization, I would look to synthesize the points I have made into a practical standard operating procedure. This organization would share some resemblances to the past newsrooms. Of course, revenue would be needed and codes of ethics would be established,

The new model would be digital and lightweight, because as Jeff Jarvis so eloquently put, “atoms are a drag.” Investing millions in printing presses and the surrounding infrastructure would be unwise since innovation is to be expected and you cannot capitalize on innovation if you are tied to atoms and office buildings.

The organization would be humble. It would look to all sources for news and not put premiums on things like degrees or titles. News could come from sources that might not be expected. Looking at the people who are affected by news leads to truer content. Respecting what the masses of people say is a necessity.

The organization would iterate and flexible. Since I would not invest millions in hard infrastructure, new methods of content creation would be possible. Like David Cohn said, being able to fail is important to truly have innovative success.

The revenue that the organization would generate would be from several sources. It is no longer logical to expect people to pay more than a nominal fee for news. The generation that came to maturity with the internet is not going to pay a premium for information, just because it says the New York Times on the front.

Revenue could be generated by targeted ad sales. Using Google’s ad sense, ads could appear that are relevant to the individual consumer. It would be important that these ads are non-obtrusive. Having users pay a small monthly or yearly access fee would eliminate the ads.

If the site reaches a level that larger companies would want to advertise, it might be possible to do advertorials if the topic is deemed interesting enough and it is clear that it is sponsored. Digg, College Humor and other websites frequently have this type of content and it generates significant amounts of revenue.

The most important facet of any new news organization would be trust. Shirky talked about how trusting that our news and links are valid will make people willing to come back and willing to take a vested interest in the site. The trust and community have been and will continue to be the base for any type of news or journalistic adventure.

If a startup news companies followed those ideas, it would be profitable and high quality. New sites are emerging every day, so I am confident that new models of news will pop up. These new models will be unexpected but quality journalism will survive. There is no doubt that they will all be dynamic, open, cheap and widespread.

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