Journalism and the Internet

July 12, 2010

In truth, the Internet didn’t kill journalism, big business killed journalism, the Internet simply helped speed the flow of the poison.

Nieman Reports, a print and online repository for all things journalism, made the case that news conglomerates actually struck the first blow.  Mega media monsters swallowed up local newspapers and television stations then reduced local reporting to a trickle, making the news “less local and less relevant, and reporters . . . less connected to their communities.”  The further journalists got from home, the less trust the public had in their reporting.

Enter the Internet. If a reporter’s credentials aren’t up to snuff, the public can simply find their news elsewhere.  And that news doesn’t have to stop at the byline.  If a reader wants more information, she can hunt down others with similar interests to round out the story.  News consumers are not longer interested in purchasing pre-packaged sound bytes, they want to be engaged in the story and make their own connections.

Easier said than done?

As Nieman’s Michael Skoler explains, “There is no magic model…we have no business model unless people need our work to enrich their daily lives and value it highly enough to depend on it.”

Step 1: Provide Value

As much as news consumers want to be a part of the conversation and explore stories on their own terms, they still need a starting point. MediaShift, a weblog of new-media innovators, posts daily articles about the digital media revolution. A recent column rethinking the role of journalists in the participatory age encourages journalists to re-examine their traditional role. Tom Rosenstiel suggests that journalists must “shift from being the gatekeeper to the authenticator of information.” Joe six-pack can’t travel to Haiti and explore the ramifications of the devastating earthquake, but Anderson Cooper can.

Step 2: Know Your Source

Even Brian Williams can get caught up in a story.  When posted a story about Chief Justice John Roberts considering resigning from the U.S. Supreme Court, the blogosphere was set ablaze.  As the story goes, the rumor was started in a first-year law class at Georgetown University by a professor looking to impart the importance of verifying informants on his students.

The world of social media has opened doors to hundreds of potential sources – although only those sources engaged in social media. As noted in, a survey conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life Project showed that Twitter and similar services are more popular among younger users, 37% are aged 18-24 and 31% are 25-34. Knowing the source, or knowing enough to check out a source, may be one of the defining traits of the new media journalist.

Amidst all the blogs and forums and tweets there is still room for the new media journalist.  The new medium gives journalism a chance to grow and serve its consumers.  However, a new medium is no reason to throw away the old “rule book” entirely.  When Bob Woodward, Washington Post reporter of Watergate fame, was asked how the Internet changed journalism his reply was:

“The Internet is a mixed blessing. It creates pressure to do things fast, often too fast, and a news organization operates on the continuous deadline, leading to impatience. The incentives for speed are too great. The best journalism involves patience, often a lot of it. Reporters need to spend time against the problem. The Internet has leveled the playing field somewhat, but the facts and backup and documents still matter. I’m still optimistic that newspapers and the more traditional media can provide essential information to people—in context, in depth. But we have a great deal of work to do to prove that on a regular basis.”

This post was created for my e-marketingclass. If you’re interested in other discussions on how the Internet has effected industries, visit the class blog.

Step 1: Provide Value

Joe six-pack can’t travel to Haiti and explore the ramifications of the devastating earthquake, but Anderson Cooper can.

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