Will journalists have a role the future? Chris Anderson speaking at the ICA last week said that he believed that his children’s generation of journalists would be community managers.
I’ve explored this model before – journalists and editors as coaches to amateurs, sharpening content and acting as a filter. I’m a contributor to one such project in the North East.
Anderson is the managing editor of Wired, a publication that like many others has extended its online presence to include contributions from enthusiastic domain experts.
Anderson said that it’s not uncommon for stories contributed by bloggers to get more traffic than those submitted by journalists.
But Wired doesn’t typically pay its non-journalist contributors. Anderson reckons that the reputation and audience is reward enough. He said that he has never had any complaints and has plenty of people keen to sign-up.
It’s freeconomics in action. Except that it isn’t. It is simply exchanging one form of reward (money) with another (profile). As Broadstuff’s Alan Patrick says the contributor still needs a day job to pay their bills.
“The Day Job! Of course! Yes, the Day Job is what earns the Real Money. You then use your Free Time to make Free Stuff to sell on the Free World. But if your Day Job is making stuff that people that people are making for free, then what?“
This model works for now but it is wholly reliant on the editorial team as custodians of the Wired brand. As soon as standards slip the audience and contributors will follow.
My personal view is that journalism is misunderstood. Robert G. Picard, an authority on the economics of media says:
“It is not a business model; it is not a job; it is not a company; it is not an industry; it is not a form of media; it is not a distribution platform. Instead journalism is an activity. It is a body of practises by which information and knowledge is gathered, processed and conveyed. […]“
A trained journalist can turn their hand to any story. A domain expert is limited to their personal area of expertise. And then there are good writers and bad.
Education is a critical. Writing style is one issue, but beyond that few bloggers have an awareness of the more sensitive areas of
reporting such as copyright, citation, court reporting, defamation, reporting death, fact checking and second sourcing.
By paying limited attention to these journalistic tenets, bloggers risk dressing opinion and speculation up as fact, or worst making a legal blunder. When errors inevitably attract comment or criticism, corrections are made on the fly.
This argument was played out in the New York Times in early June by Damon Darlin who accused bloggers of taking a publish-and-be-damned approach. He received a harsh rebuttal from the blogliterati including Michael Arlington and Jeff Jarvis.
“[…] what is going on here is not journo vs blogger per se. After all, journos have a few news-churning ploys of their own. It’s more a shift of media, from paper to broadband.“
Jeff Jarvis celebrates so-called beta journalism and calls time on journalism as we know it.
“Online, the story, the reporting, the knowledge are never done and never perfect. That doesn’t mean that we revel in imperfectation. […] It just means that we do journalism differently, because we can.”
Journalism. But not as we know it.