Society & economy, Technology

Where journalists and bloggers fear to roam

The lead off panel this morning at FING is about the media. Pretty broad, yes, but it’s interesting to see a representative of CNET paired with someone who seems to represent the avant-blog… i.e. that “citizen journalism” (which is not really journalism in my view, but local reportage) will eventually shrink the 250 or so Le Monde journalists currently on the roles (apologies if my comprehension is lacking as the French still foils me).

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the role of journalism in society lately, owing to a book called Backstory that I found on the sidewalk on my way to catch the N line. It’s helped me to reconsider and analyze my thinking and the timely discussion about “citizen media”, “citizen journalism” and the Wall Streetifcation of newspapers such as the Chicago Tribune.

Invariably there is a need for journalists, just as there is a need for chefs. Though the raw ingredients of any story are plentiful, it’s how they are assembled and the experience and presentation (as in, context) that makes something not merely palatable but actually satisfying. In that respect, the role of a journalist in society is to inform, to question, to foment debate by adding new ingredients to a story to spice things up. Additionally, they are able to expand and recontextual the main course in the context of a meal, something that “citizen reporters” rarely do — or need to, for that matter, owing to the shared local knowledge of their audience.

The guy from CNET argues that neither blogging and citizen media or journalism will necessarily continue as they are today — that instead, the media companies of the future will exploit many sources of information (including company databases that are currently private as well as authentic media), cultivate “information professionals”, and create context for stories that citizen reporters can not or do not have the time to create.

But the journalist is not going away — not as a discipline. To think so is foolish, just as suggesting that scientists are going away because Makezine is becoming popular. The rise of the amateur does not imply the demise of the professional, rather it signifies the continuation of the great sorting out that is going on, as suggested by Friedman. And in this case, it seems to me that if we are to make the best of it, we will rediscover and help redirect professionals back into the roles that they first trained for and originally desired to fulfil. Rather than writing to “please an audience” or “sell more papers”, the journalists of the future (in the original sense of the word, not the Wall Street version) will act on our behalf, helping us to understand and mediate the vast quantities of information that will surely be upon us all in short order.

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