April 19, 2012 in debates
Thomas (TL) – The short answer is because they are no longer the gatekeepers to the news. The 20th century model of the mass media speaking to a mass audience has fragmented and broken down. Accelerated by the Internet, there are now opportunities for everyone to become part of the news. The Internet has changed the model from one-way communication into a two-way discussion. That has massive implications for journalism as it means members of the public can become agenda-setters and producers of news; they can perform acts of journalism. When Sohaid Athar tweeted about the raid on the Bin Laden compound in Abbotabad was it an act of journalism? Of course. Does that make him a journalist? I would argue, in this moment, of bearing witnessing he is. Of course, it also took mainstream media to draw attention to him and his tweet. As the media terrain is changing, I think this empowerment of citizens to have independent, public involvement in the journalistic process will be at the core of the networked journalism of the future.
Valérie (VGB) – Le rôle du journalisme dans la démocratie et la participation citoyenne dans le processus journalistique sont effectivement des enjeux importants. Cependant, bien que cette dernière ait été plus importante dans les dernières années, on constate un retour du balancier. Récemment, en Angleterre, Sky News a interdit ses journalistes de re-poster des tweets ne provenant pas des membres de son organisation. Par ailleurs, Sky a demandé à ses journalistes de confirmer avec leur chef de pupitre s’il était approprié de tweeter les dernières nouvelles. La BBC en a fait de même – sa politique en est de prioriser déposer une copie avant de la tweeter. Assiste-t-on à la réaffirmation du rôle du journaliste comme ‘gatekeeper’?
TL – Given the torrents of information available, I think finding ways to verify the accuracy of Tweets or video posts or comments is of the utmost importance. Indeed, as communication becomes a two-way street accuracy and authenticity are more important now than ever. I still fall short of qualifying this form of fact-checking and analysis as ‘gatekeeping’ in the traditional sense of the term. I think it’s part of a more dynamic process that includes members of the public and the mainstream media. Yes, a lot of the chatter constitutes speculation, rumours, and even lies, but others have used the one-percent rule to suggest that even if only a tiny fraction of that chatter turns up a story or a journalistic lead, that is still an enormous amount of collaboration. Even if the mainstream media doesn’t follow those leads, those discussions will continue online. There is journalistic merit in those discussions.
I think blogs are one area that really blurs the line. For example, if we look at the importance of Arabic bloggers in the Egyptian Revolution, the boundary between what is and is not real journalism is more and more fuzzy. The Huffington Post is still considered a blog, but at the same time is considered part of the mainstream media. The recent Pulitzer Prize awarded to one of its journalists validates that point. It’s still hard to say how influential a blog has to become to be considered such validation, but it is most often those blogs – big and small – that focus on accuracy and getting it right that win attention.
VBG - Je suis d’accord. La participation citoyenne est importante en tant que telle et ajoute également de la valeur au journalisme. Il n’en demeure pas moins que maintes études récentes ont prouvé que les organisations alternatives comme Indymedia et Global Voice reproduisent un modèle journaliste traditionel, jusqu’à un certain niveau. Bien que l’équipe éditoriale de Indymedia se retrouve face à des enjeux et processus similaires aux organisations médiatiques traditionnelles, peut-être que la gestion de problèmes diffère en raison d’une interprétation idéologique du journalisme différent. Est-ce que le danger de devenir un géant médiatique est associé à la possibilité de reproduire un média plus traditionnel?
TL – I agree there is always that danger of recreating models and concentration of various media are happening at many levels, journalism included. There are many who fear this will be a plus ça change plus c’est la même chose. I remain optimistic the Internet will allow for the creation of new forums that will be doing things differently or taking different approaches. We can point to OpenFile and its “community-powered news” model as one such example. Yes, it does have many things in common with larger, traditional media companies, but the focus is different and it embraces collective journalism. The size of a media company isn’t necessarily the most important factor here, but the company’s mindset and its willingness to embrace and work within this new environment.
VBG – Quel rôle, et à quel niveau, les citoyens devraient créer et informer le journalisme? Kai Nagata propose à la CBC/Radio-Canada de commencer par ceux que les médias servent, soit les citoyens. Poussé à l’extrême, cet argument pourrait éroder le concept même du journalisme, mais répondrait au besoin d’agir en tant que service publique, un média à l’image de sa démocratie. Dans quelle mesure est-ce possible?
TL – That is still the burning question – What role and to what level of importance should citizens be able to create and inform journalism? That is ongoing discussion Journalism Strategies will contribute to. Kai’s video postcard to CBC/Radio-Canada is one example of the kind of discussion we should be having. It doesn’t matter if everyone agrees. In fact, disagreement is better as it forces people to come up with a clearer vision. The beauty of the Internet is that it will continue to provide a forum for different views and different models in any case. I would venture we will see more and more creative and innovative forums for collective journalism – the meshing of professionals and amateurs – in the years ahead. In spite of the sometimes-difficult transition, I’m quite optimistic that will lead to better journalism.