Journalism as we know it is in danger and if we don’t save it then we will struggle to deal with the complex problems facing the world such as climate change, economic crisis and migration.
In my book SuperMedia I explain how journalism is changing: as it says in the blurb for this panel – it is now permeable, interactive, 24/7, multi-platform, disaggregated and converged. I suggest that it must continue to change more profoundly in its editorial ethos and its social role if it is to survive and thrive in the future.
I talk about how we can use new media technologies to transform our journalism. It means building public participation into all aspects of journalism. It means encouraging user generated content, promoting interactivity and sharing the news space. It means accepting that the old business model is broken and that we have to justify the value of journalism again.
That means transforming the way we do journalism but it also means recasting our values as journalists – economic, editorial and political.
It means shifting from being a manufacturing industry to a service industry.
It means changing what we do from creating product to facilitating a process.
It is much more than simply taking the existing newsroom online.
It is what I call Networked Journalism.
The good news is that people want this. That is why they send in 60 000 images to the BBC during 48 hours of bad weather last month. This is why they write blogs, edit films for YouTube and construct social networks online. They want to take part in the conversation about how their world and the way that they live their lives that journalism can create.
People want the diversity of the blogosphere – but they also want the editing, filtering and packaging functions that journalism brings – they want the reporting, investigation, analysis and information that journalism can facilitate whether professionally or unpaid.
I can think of no other business where the consumer is prepared to create content for free and yet where the producers complain about that.
So why is our business failing?
I think it is partly because there is still too much duplication. We create too much stuff that is available more easily elsewhere. We create too much formulaic boring and irrelevant content.
There is too much journalism that does not add value and is not relevant. It is being exposed and it will disappear. That’s going to be painful.
Too many organisations have gone on line and chased the easy traffic. Some of them will succeed but not everyone can cover showbusiness, celebrity and sport.
Too little has been invested in real networked journalism. The old media owners have been too keen to protect their profit margins instead of investing in connecting with new communities and providing the citizen with a product that is of real value to them.
There has been some outstanding innovation and hard work in the face of the challenge of media change – but collectively there has been a failure of imagination and a reluctance to understand the full extent of what is happening.
Journalism has never been more needed and more in demand and yet journalists are struggling to sustain business models that will deliver this product.
What is the way forward?
We have to end Fortress Journalism. We have to break down the walls and make new partnerships with the citizen.
This is partly by engaging the citizen in every aspect of journalistic production. That way you will produce something that people can trust, use and support.
We can also do it through through partnerships with NGOs, with business, with government, with community groups or with foundations or with universities or schools or with other independent media.
Social groups, business and government are all becoming more networked – all organisations are turning into media organisations in some way – journalism can be part of that process. It means taking journalism out of the newsroom and into offices, schools, hospitals and homes.
This will challenge the traditional role of journalism as a separate Fourth Estate but I think this has always been something of a myth. We have savoured the power that separation brings, but we never really accepted the responsibilities that it entailed.
Journalism has to make a new contract with the citizen. In the past the deal was that journalism was allowed to do some good and much poor work in return for advertising or tax subsidy.
Now it has to make a make the case for journalism as an agent of public value and a part of people’s lives in an age where people have shown that they want media to act on their behalf, not that of media shareholders or professional cliques. In return they will support what we do.
Now if you think that you are up to date because you blog or you are online then think again. Being Networked will soon mean much more than just public participation in what you do as a journalist. Now the journalist will have to go to where the citizen is.
Just when you thought you had got used to Web 2.0 here comes the next leap forwards. And it is not really about technology. It is social networking. Facebook is not a website – it is a platform. Media and communications in general is moving into social networks – journalism has to go there too.
We have no choice. We either Network or die.