From our audience, with our audience, to our audience
I love my job. The media and the profession of journalism is changing in enormous and fundamental ways right under our noses and I feel like I have a front row seat.
The nature of what we do is changing rapidly, and our future of journalists as those who deliver news will soon be hand-in-hand with the very people who want it – our audience.
The events of Iran and the death of Michael Jackson have both been a perfect case-in-point. Events – that while starkly different in nature – have been driven by the very news-hungry audiences that we’re meant to be feeding.
In Iran – protesters turned to Twitter to get information out to the world as news outlets were effectively barred from from covering massive anti-government protests. In those first few days after the election result a search of #iranelection uncovered a huge amount of information, photos, YouTube videos and other information on events in Iran (I even saw a scan of the resignation letter of the dean of a major university who quit in disgust after Iranian militia rampaged through his campus).
Some nights SBS relied almost entirely on these grainy video-clips to tell the story of what was reportedly happening on the streets of Tehran -but there’s little doubt it told a compelling and sometimes horrifying tale of a brutal government crackdown on its own citizens.
“But what of the craft of journalism?!” I hear you old-timers cry. How do we as journalists verify these reports – how do we know what is truth and what is spin?
Relax – your profession is safe – in fact more needed than ever. During the uprising in Iran I closely followed events in Iran via the live rolling blog by The Huffington Post – which provided possibly the best coverage of Iran I saw anywhere.
“Journalists end up playing new roles in the news ecosystem … they performed new functions: curating, vetting, adding context, adding comment, seeking information, filling out the story, correcting misinformation. They worked with social media, quoting and distributing and reporting using it.
“The journalists added considerable value. But this wasn’t product journalism: polishing a story once a day from inside the black box. This was process journalism and that ensured it was also collaborative journalism – social journalism, if you like.”
What we do as a profession is changing – and faster than most people in this industry care to admit or even acknowledge. But it’s a change of a million opportunities, not of an attack on what we hold on the highest pedestal – truth and integrity.
Look at Michael Jackson’s death – news that was spread by audiences via Twitter, Facebook and other social media networks faster than any newsroom.
But to be honest it actually frees us up as journalists to tell the story of his stunning career, bizarre life and shock death in far more entertaining and unique ways.
Sure Twitter sounds like a fad and Facebook seems like a good platform for changing photos – but these are just tools for a much deeper, long-standing behaviour of audiences – our audiences – and we all need to acknowledge that this is the way people want to get their news, or we will lose them to someone who does.