Wednesday, February 25, 2009

“Saving newspapers” is not “saving journalism”

I am a product of New Media. I am an unqualified photojournalist who has managed to educate himself, arm himself and publish extensively using the power, scale and scope of technology and the internet, been able to compete with trained journalists. I don't think every Tom, Dick and Harry with a camera and a keyboard can produce content of sufficient quality or quality. But there are hordes of people who are passionately creative in some way but are caught up in other pursuits. The internet provides them with an opportunity to be published, to shine.

The solution to monetising this cacophony of content is by structuring it. By having a gatekeeper to keep the truants and chancers out, by setting a few standards, and by commissiong content and choosing the best of it. Editors also no longer need to be (nor should be) traditional media people, but come from the same stock as New Media. Over time, the mass media will be New Media, and the number of 'expert' commentators will come from the mob, not from the newsroom. It will take time for this to happen, but the point is, it IS happening.

One of the reasons it will take time is because current journalists and editors are so resentful of the 'untrained' (code for uneducated in their particular field, as though one needs to do a writing or photography course to write or take photographs - as they did).

This network produces a more diverse, chaotic and ultimately satisfying mix that enhances public knowledge and journalistic accountability. It values professional journalists who gather and present information and help make sense of the cacophony of voices that now form the news and information stream.

The future, I think, is a yet uninvented network of news sources that includes diminished newspaper companies that produce good journalism online but is not consistently dominated by them. Nonprofits play a role as do small, for-profit community start-ups and perhaps even micro-funding models.

So “saving newspapers” is not “saving journalism.” But if journalism is saved, you can bet many newsrooms will be along for the ride.

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