The online world – for all its vastness, connectivity and influence – is insulated. That’s not a problem for most people, considering that the online world often makes more sense. But unlike your typical EverQuest player, I have to live in the real world, too.
I was in the real world over the weekend – specifically at Target and Wal-Mart. These are the places where real world people gather, where they buy goods without paying for Super Saver shipping; where people talk to each other rather than communicate in symbols that look like a computer got stuck on the shift key and threw up.
I didn’t do a survey, but if I did, I expect most people would have felt left out of the online world, not “Linked In.” Tagging would have been something you do to a freeway overpass, and blogs would have sounded like some new snack cracker (“Try new Nabisco Blogs, now with 50 percent less spam!”)
So I wondered, as I rushed past the guy signing up volunteers to patrol the California-Mexico border: how will these people, this “general public,” get the news?
The Rights of the Majority
OhMyNews says “every citizen is a reporter,” but that’s not possible. Yes, every citizen can be a reporter, but not every citizen should or will. Every person will get news, but not in the same way, not at the same time, and not with the same perspective.
The future of journalism will be far more distributed than centralized – far more participatory than solitary. Journalism has already changed, but to say any one form is dying or giving way to others is to deny the value each brings to the equation and, in a real sense, excludes the multitude who do not have or cannot afford computers, don’t have access to technology or are too busy feeding their families to set up an RSS feed.
News must include everyone, especially those who either don’t want to or cannot participate in creating news, or who do not have the technical or financial means to be “modern” news consumers – in other words, the majority of people on the planet. So how do we serve and protect their right to be informed, regardless of race, class or social standing?
As anyone who has been following this topic can tell you, the questions come easy – it’s the answers that are hard. I don’t know what will happen either, though I go to bed each night praying that Geraldo Rivera gets amnesia and starts a new life as anything but a reporter. It’s not much in the grand scheme, but at least it’s progress.
Branches of the New News Media
Nevertheless, regardless of my poor prescience, I see the “new” news media functioning as three branches of involvement, each as vital as the other and with appropriate checks and balances:
• Mainstream Media – Yes, there will still be a mainstream media, though its purpose will be more focused and its purveyors more humble. Mainstream media will create journalism in a public service role, making the most of its experience, depth and access.
• Citizen Media – Citizen media will create public journalism in a mostly “hyper-local” role, focusing on issues close to home. And it will hold the mainstream media accountable to both the public and the truth.
• Consumers – otherwise known as Just Plain People. They will participate by reading, watching and listening – and when they choose (whenever they choose), they will comment and interact. They are just as much a part of the “media” as anyone else, because media is no longer a passive exercise. Media are now accountable to each other, from the Wal-Mart shopper to the head of CNN.
There is a “fourth branch” as well – the former “mainstream” journalist who works exclusively online, or the journalism school trained reporter who has only worked in new media and not for a “traditional” media outlet. This journalism version of a mash-up may prove to be the most popular of all, as today’s reporters become more disillusioned and tomorrow’s reporters become more comfortable with all new forms of media.
The online world is insulated; the real world often is left behind. Journalism transcends both worlds – and it can be the force that brings the two together.