New journalist manifesto

The changing technological landscape has opened the door for alternative media. It is no longer enough for a newspaper to rely on the tenets of journalism. The printed word must be sent out faster. It must be accompanied by audio and video. In short, it must adapt. Despite traditional media’s resistance, much can be learned from the pioneers of the Web’s new media frontier: bloggers.

Operating without major corporations backing them, bloggers are able to take advantage of the Internet and post content quicker than any newsroom. It is this speed of information that journalists should focus on most. Traditional journalism can sometimes foster an environment where a story is pushed back much too often in order to fine-tune a certain aspect. The blogger acts quickly and publishes while the traditional story languishes in purgatory.
In a rather humorous example, The Boston Globe has an article detailing how a Harvard professor wrote so much so quickly that a web page had to be started for his literary additions to his published book.

Journalists must remember that the Internet is not the same as print. Corrections can be made and mistakes can be fixed to a story after it’s been published. Unlike a print newspaper, an online newspaper can be monitored and updated minute by minute.

Another lesson journalists must learn from bloggers is the idea of participation between writer and reader. News stories are too often displayed as lectures being written for the general public. No audience wants to be talked at; they want to be talked to. This means making a news story part of a larger conversation between writers and readers. Make comments and suggestions easy for both sides to use. Publishing a story doesn’t necessarily mean the story is over. Sometimes that’s just the beginning. Journalists must foster an environment where community members are able to share their thoughts and insights regarding what is being published.

Traditional journalists must also focus on specific markets. In order for old media to survive in a new media world, an audience is necessary. In a sea of competition, journalists must make their work more valuable to that audience. One way to do this is through hyper-localization. Some sites, such as Knight Citizen News Network, devote themselves entirely to local citizen journalism. Online newspapers can offer stories and content directed at specific regional zones. This “street by street” journalism becomes invaluable to the reader. Another method is allowing readers to tailor journalistic content to fit their specific needs. A newspaper website could allow readers to program which types of stories appear at the top of the page. This fosters personal investment and participation, key elements to retaining an audience and forming a new one.

This focus on new media may lead some to question where non-computer users fit into the scheme of things. The answer is they don’t. Computers and Internet usage are already vital parts of everyday life. They will only continue to become more important as technological progress is made. Those with negative feelings toward technology, as well as those incapable of using technology, are in the process of being transformed. New programs and initiatives are working on closing the digital divide. Personalized content and mandatory usage are forcing neo-Luddites to embrace a digital life. Internet usage will become as inescapable as telephone usage. There may always be a small minority that refuses to follow along, but this group will be so inconsequential as to not even exist.

Journalists are a necessary part of a free society. They trade in information and news in the public interest. The Internet and World Wide Web are the greatest information gathering tools the world has ever seen. A balance and relationship between journalists and the Web is beneficial for both. Journalists should not shed their past in order to copy bloggers. However, they must study bloggers and learn what tools can be used to more effectively traverse the digital landscape of new media.

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Published in: on April 2, 2009 at 4:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

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