Media mutualism

If traditional journalists could be found on-line, then perhaps the world would know whether or not they refute the bloggers’ claims that the professional media are worried about news migrating to the Internet.

For example, Alfred Hermida‘s blogs from the Knight Science Journalism Symposium painted pictures of new-media champions lecturing to old-world reporters squirming in their seats and asking ridiculous questions.

The fact that there is almost no blogger voice giving a traditional media perspective makes the old-school reporters and editors look guilty as charged. It’s no wonder, then, that the new generation of media who are trying to carry journalism into the future see them as an impediment to advancement and a force to be reckoned with.

That is, unless there are traditional journalists who might agree with the way new-media advocates envision this future… We’ll never know until they blog about it either way, or leave a comment on this post.

As Hermida outlined in his blog on Tom Rosenstiel’s presentation at the symposium, journalists will soon learn to operate as part of a network rather than a final destination by assuming the roles of authenticator, sense-maker, navigator (yes, friends in the traditional media, it is OK for your readers to follow links away from your site…they will be back) and forum leader. These sound like better options than unemployment, so why wouldn’t a journalist support a way to preserve her livelihood?

Such potential responsibilities are also summed up in Daniel Conover’s foundations of 21st century journalism,

“Mainstream media” today are in decline, with “the people formerly known as the audience” fragmented. Future media will separate into market-driven grades of information. The “mainstream” will become a smaller subset of the total media flow, generally associated with less-sophisticated technology and users who: 1. Produce little content; 2. Profit only marginally from higher grades of information; and 3. Choose a passive lifestyle. Mainstream media will not dominate, but will represent the most significant media plurality.

Bloggers don’t seem to deny that professional journalists have a place within their shared information sphere. They actually thrive on taking news that’s run in the mainstream media and then “opensourcing” the information on their blogs. In fact, the investigative reporting job by political blogger Joshua Micah Marshall, of Talking Points Memo, just won him the George Polk Award for legal reporting. Part of his Web site’s process of covering the firing/resignation scandal of eight United States attorneys was to follow the news in the traditional media. But if the TPM staff and its readers hadn’t been paying attention and noticing patterns, their scrutiny of the scandal may never have been picked up by the mainstream media.

To recognize this media mutualism, both the traditional news companies and their employees will have to swallow their pride as well as the reality of smaller profit margins. Unfortunately there are signs that, well, this recognition may be further away than we’d like. In the New York Times story about Marshall’s award, a fellow blogger is quoted suggesting Marshall will win a Pulitzer someday. However, writer Noam Cohen writes,

“It won’t be this year. Sig Gissler, the administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes, said in an e-mail message that online articles are eligible for the awards, but they must have been published on a weekly or daily newspaper’s Web site.

‘A freestanding Web site does not qualify,’ he said.”


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