During the weekend I spent some time writing yet another criticism of old media protectionism. I called it, “Because You Wouldn’t Go to a ‘Citizen Prostitute’ for Sex, Would You?”… this is the tame version.
What so many protectionists miss is that telling stories and getting to the bottom of things are basic human motives that transcend any industry or profession. They’re on the same level as sex — literally. We owe our civilization as much to the reproduction and natural selection of knowledge as much as anything biological.
And just where did journalism itself come from? It’s simply one narrow manifestation of our underlying will to know and communicate — and surely not the last. To me, old media protectionism looks like an attempt to deny us our natural right to relate with one another via narratives and information.
How could we let anyone insist they deserve to own and control that? It’s one thing to run a business that naturally engages users and consumers who are willing to pay, but merely asserting that your organization is entitled to build its damns [*chuckle*] upstream and hold our information in reserve is absolutely wrong.
That whole argument is deeply contradictory.
If journalism is supposed to foster “a healthy skepticism of the workings of power,” and if the crisis can be traced back to “corporate mandates to increase profits,” and if the conglomerates’ interests (so entagled in gov’t concerns) “can often run contrary to the interests of the citizens,” then why do so many journalists keep promoting top-down solutions that reinforce the primacy of corporate interests and faith in institutionalized authority?
If journalism is supposed to be about educating citizens, and digital media is naturally empowering people to take on more of that responsibility ourselves, why aren’t more journalists working with us to help us improve instead of simply saying we’ll never be good enough?
I respect your professionalism, I respect your contribution, and I appreciate your need to earn a living, but you can’t play the “democracy” card while discouraging democratic values like openness and freedom that digital media naturally promotes.
The best way to save journalism is to stop trying to save the old models and start doing more to discover and create new opportunities.
But I never posted the longer, more caustic rant. The more I went on, the more I realized they’ll just never get it. They’ll just keep saying “but journalism is important, democracy is at risk” — as if we hadn’t considered that or don’t even care — and there’s not a damn thing I or anyone could say to make them see otherwise.
These are, after all, very important people (don’t you know?) whose notion of news is affected by connotations of authority: images of families sitting around a single TV set watching a resonant-voiced man tell everyone the way it is, uniform bundles of paper sitting on every doorstep in the city waiting for receptive citizens to pick up their daily dose of truth.
Sorry. It isn’t about authority anymore, it’s about relationships and relevance — or “community” if you like, but that just comes back to being about relationships again:
… the most inspiring idea I have heard came from Google’s Marissa Mayer, who went past the old web to imagine what’s next: not hyperlocal news sites but hyperpersonal news streams. Of course, we see the start of that in Facebook and Twitter. Mayer emphasized to the media folks at Aspen that they must go to where the people are and not expect the people to come to them (“if the news is that important, it will find me”). How does news become part of my stream?
Mayer – like me – has also been talking about what comes after the article: the topic page that covers a story as an ongoing process rather than as a finished product. Add this to our hyperpersonal news streams – and to the news potential of Google Wave – and the biorhythm and source of news changes fundamentally.
That’s the latest from Jeff Jarvis — once again setting me off — coming straight from the Aspen Institute’s Forum on Communication and Society.
In the comments, Steve Outing left a link to something he wrote last September proposing a move forward to “micro-personal news,” much like Mayer’s notion of “hyperpersonal” news streams. He admitted that he probably wasn’t the first to think of it either.
Neither was I, but I did beat him by just over a month:
Among the present findings [of an AP report on news consumption by young-adults] is that “news is connected to e-mail.” This could simply be a technical matter: news and email happen to “come in small snippets of information” [quoting the report] and share the same medium of delivery. Many of the subjects in the ethnographic research found themselves looking at headlines that happened to be handy when checking Yahoo Mail or their PDA.
But what the report fails to address is that email is essentially a kind of news; it’s tricky to draw a clear distinction between them…
It could be argued that the degree to which news differs from email is proportionate with the degree to which news fails to capture people’s attention and interest. If you want to know why people don’t care about “The News,” write down your definition of what makes it different from personal messages and conversations: the same statement can be modified to answer either question.
The notion that News exists on a plane apart from people’s actual lives is the core assumption of the old media that needs to be discarded. Here we find the “spectacles of the preceding age” worn by folks reared in old media organizations.
The second-last paragraph is the key. It’s a little hard on the teeth so I’ll try putting it another way:
Answer the following question:
“How is mass-produced news different from personal communication?”
Got it? Ok, now copy that answer and paste it immediately after the following question:
“Why are people turning away from mass-produced news and spending more time on Facebook, Twitter, et al?”
Tell your friends.