New media has changed the way we receive and share news and information. If it's true that people shifted from just consumers of news to news makers, it's also true that without mass media, we would have a really hard time getting most of the information that is passed on as newsworthy today.
Taking a very brief class on the characteristics that make a story newsworthy:
- Timing - this is pretty easy for us to tell, if it's something that is happening now, or just happened, it is news.
- Proximity - it is also likely that something that happened locally, or in a place we have affinity with, be considered news.
- Prominence - you know that celebrities and famous people get more coverage. It was interesting to see how even on Twitter, when people in this group signed on, they immediately accumulated thousands of followers.
- Significance - as well, the number of people affected by something determines the newsworthiness of the story.
- Human interest - the more timeless kinds of news stories are those we connect with at emotional level. You might think that these kinds of story should not be considered newsworthy, and you'd probably be correct.
Given that more of us get their news online than they ever had before, and given that online is not just a new distribution system - it's also about aggregation, interaction, contextualization and having the ability to be flexible with updates as the story develops - journalists must adapt to the medium.
Which means that they should also become fluent in some of the newer technologies and tools they can leverage to be more efficient and timely in their reporting. We all have the same or similar tools, rarely we have the same training.
I agree with Dan Gillmor, even those of us like me who are active content creators, still consume more content and news stories than we're able to produce. We want journalists, and we need them because of the characteristics that set them apart. In fact, to be a good journalist, you must (elaborated from the article):
Be skeptical of everything - a journalist I admire greatly taught me that skepticism means requiring he official reality to explain itself. This is a call to exercising critical thinking, which often gets lost in the desire to be accepted as part of a group, or tribe.
Use a scale of experience and education to decide what to trust - all things being equal is a lie, things are never equal, and it's up to you to decide how to weigh them appropriately. Granted, online someone with a well-designed site could "look" more credible. I'm thinking that social creds should weigh in here.
Step out of the "echo chamber" - if you read only what you agree with, you will have a hard time staying well informed. This requires that one constantly challenges assumptions, seeks out opposing views, and remains active in pursuing new angles.
Do your homework - do you search for more than one reference on a story? Asking more questions takes time, but it's a good way to really get a hold of a topic and help tell the story more fully. Personally, I like it when I find conflicting data points on something, it helps me dig deeper.
Understand and learn digital media tools - this is both to help with speed and adaptability, as well as see how the tools can easily be used to persuade and manipulate. Just because it's easy to publish and spread information, it doesn't always mean that it is true or accurate.
Credibility continues to matter and to me the big issue remains transparency. This is valid both for journalist and businesses. Adapting to new media still means that when you got something wrong, you admit it, and you can do so promptly today.
Transparency is also the gift of letting the reader know what you mean when you write and what you don't know. For those, I am more than happy to receive contributions from the many smart readers here. Why couldn't news organizations do the same? Here's what we know, and here's what we don't know - asking smart questions is one of the hallmarks of good journalism.
Let's face it, we do need more original thinkers. Much of the Web content today is recycled just as much of TV news programming. Do you see yourself as a news creator? How do you use digital media to stay up to speed on information for your business?
Are you adapting or merely keeping up? Think about your use of sourcing and hyperlinks? Does it resemble that of news organizations - in other words, is it non existent?