The field of journalism is an early warning system, and the creative destruction now wracking the news and media industries is telling us how the Internet, or the connectedness of the open network, is going to fundamentally restructure power and authority in nearly every aspect of human life over the next hundred years. If you want to know what the future holds for your industry, be it marketing, publishing, art, politics—pay close attention to how journalism is changing.
The best primer I’ve seen on how the internet is changing journalism was delivered a couple weeks ago by Jay Rosen of NYU. His ideas and observations are just part of what makes the talk valuable. Note his attitudes, too. He doesn’t fear the Internet. He’s not angry or bitter about the changes underway. His perspective is not colored by the sense of loss that many journalists legitimately feel, but that is ultimately not very helpful.
Set aside a couple lunchtimes to watch. The sound is a little iffy towards the beginning, and you’ll need to crank the volume to 11, but after a couple minutes you won’t even notice. The content is that good. Below are some of the salient takeaways that intrigued me most, including his 10 maxims.
And here are my notes, quotes, and paraphrases:
Jay Rosen’s 10 Maxims (source)
- Audience atomization has been overcome. (Link)
- Open systems don’t work like closed systems. (Link)
- The sources go direct. (Dave Winer)
- When the people formerly known as the audience use the press tools they have to inform one another— that’s citizen journalism. (Link)
- “There’s no such thing as information overload, there’s only filter failure.” (Clay Shirky)
- “Do what you do best and link to the rest.” (Jeff Jarvis)
- “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; I just don’t know which half.” (John Wanamaker)
- “Here’s where we’re coming from” is more likely to be trusted than the View from Nowhere. (Link)
- The hybrid forms will be the strongest forms. (Link)
- “My readers know more than I do.” (Dan Gillmor)
- Bonus notion: You gotta grok it before you can rock it. (Link)
4 Elements of Ethics
- Know what you’re talking about
- Here’s where I’m coming from
- This is the best I could do, right now
- What do you know that I don’t?
It’s not a question of what are your organization’s ethics, it’s “How does your organization produce trust?”
Transparency and open systems
“Open systems released into societies that are not open can be a disaster. When transparency meets fixed ideas, fixed narratives, you don’t get the benefits of transparency, you just get more material for these fixed ideas to work with. In many ways, open systems are more chaotic. They can be more violent, more dangerous. We shouldn’t look at them just as benificent gifts.” See “Against Transparency” by Lawrence Lessig in the New Republic.
The future of investigative journalism
What’s the future for expensive, deeply-researched investigative journalism? I don’t recall if Rosen made this point exactly, but think about how many investigations have died prematurely in traditional media. For every one that hits the front page, 10 go nowhere. Through crowdsourcing, for example, investigations that have reached dead ends can continue, involving a wider range of knowledgeable sources than a team of journalists can reach.