Future of News: People formerly known as the audience

Dan Gillmor is going to whip through in 15 minutes what he normally takes an hour to do he says. It’s a whirlwind tour of media changes, which is why this is quite a few bullet points and links. Again, a rush transcript.

Media shift. He clicked from slides from cave paintings to a network graph.

The media has become democratised. Not in sense of voting but participation, production and access not just distribution. It is a read-write web. It turns the consumer into creator/collaborator. Collaboration where it really gets exciting. Dan clicked through other slides such as pictures of 7 July 2005 bombings in London, video of south Asian tsunami.

He touched on RSS. Tags. Wikis. Placeblogger. Communities.

Who is a journalist? I don’t care.
What is journalism? I care.

Think tank. NGOs. They have a point of view, but may also be like journalism. Corporate blogs are blurring journalism.

Basic principles of journalism:

  • thoroughnes
  • accuracy
  • fairness
  • independence
  • Add to this, transparency.

It’s an And NOT an Or world. It’s all rooted in changing from lecture to conversation, and we must learn to listen.

New York Times has blogs. Database journalism. He showed the Faces of the Fallen project at the Washington Post.

We’re not oracles but guides.

Hyperlinks are god’s gift to getting it right.

He pointed to the Tunisian Prison Map and the Pothole Map from Bakersfield.

Or what about the Tony Blair mash-up about when he would step down as British prime minister.

What will happen when it’s not just the Zapruder film of the Kennedy assassination but a world where people have high-def cameras and high speed data networks.

Principles for news consumers:

  • scepticism
  • judgement
  • research
  • techniques

Check out NewsTrust.

The Daily Us. We must move from mere popularity to reputation.

Advertising is being systematically de-coupled from journalism and he showed Craig’s List, eBay and Google.

The career ladder that Dan Gillmor got on as a journalist is gone. But it costs very little try things with digital tools. It’s only getting simpler and cheaper all the time. Highly targeted deep niche works, and he pointed out GigaOm. Not everything needs a business model such as Global Voices.

Things he’s thinking about hard. Where 2.0 and beyond. He showed mapping projects. GPS. Mobile.

There are enormous problems but this expanding, diversifying eco-system will change things in a good way, but the interim will be messy. With people formerly known as the audience involved, things will get better.

Steve Boriss, teacher, consultant and blogger

The audience isn’t going anywhere. I think we’re entering a golden age of news. He looked back at history. Back 500 years ago, news was spread by word of mouth. He said that it was like blogging but unplugged. The printing press brought a huge advance in knowledge, but it also gave government an unprecedented ability to control the news. The American Revolution set back the government control of news. Through the 19th Century, newspapers were a marketplace of ideas. But there were four advances that set the news business back, which are documented on his blog: The steam powered printing press, broadcasting, the AP and modern ‘scientific journalism’. His arguments all hinge on increased government control and fewer voices.

The internet undermines all of these ‘advances’ and return a multitude of voices. The internet has expanded the definition of news that has been left behind by the modern, professional definition of news. He said that audiences are going to news that have a direct impact on them such as metro, national and international news.

He doesn’t believe that audiences are switching from observers to participants. He believes that social media is over-sold. He is also sceptical of citizen journalism.

Media is Latin for in the middle. News sources have not been able to reach news audiences directly, but now they can. Journalists will have to prove their value as middle men.

Reihan Salam, sees himself as an audience member who has managed to get a gig in the media, as he puts it. People want deeper engagement with their audience, and he pointed to the lucrative business magazines are doing by having cruises with their writers. At university, he loved reader Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish. He used to send him tips, and Andrew said that he should apply for an internship at the New Republic. He suggested that they start blogs, and initially there was some resistance.

Eric Alterman will be viewed as important. He took the attitude of his audience and not his professional class. He did this from a high level of sophistication. At the Atlantic where he works now, they are all wringing their hands.

He used to read the newspaper daily. He then read it online, and now he doesn’t. Now, he has a collection of RSS feeds that he scours and gets what he wants. You’ll have to offer a deeper immersive experience.

You’ll see a richer media environment but it will be through patronage, not advertising.

From the Q&A, the panel was asked about whether success was based on the number of voices. Dan made a really good point about the vast amount of information available now and that we’re still working on models to highlight the best material.

Q: Governments will want to control that. How do we guard against that?

A: Steve Boriss said that this is one of his pet concerns but he feels alone. His hits go down whenever he goes down on this. He says that he is concerned about net neutrality and government involvement. I want to keep the government out of the internet.

Q: What about aggregators (Drudge, Huffington Post, etc)? They don’t have our overhead. They won’t have anything to point at unless we get paid for it today.

A: Dan Gillmor, I have to jump on that. The problems of the business model is a decoupling of advertising from journalism, not an issue of aggregators pointing at your stuff.

Q: How do we in 10 years pay the huge costs of in-depth, investigation journalism?

A: Dan Gillmor: We might lose that for a while, and I’m not happy about that. There are options for public funding. (Pro Publica has been mentioned.) There are a number of things that are filling a part in that. We haven’t even explored the crowd-sourcing model.

Steve Boriss said that newspapers can become aggregators themselves.

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