As much as I consider myself a journalist, I also consider myself a part of a greater social media sphere. I suppose if you want to get into it, I’d group myself in several spheres: Journalism. Tech. Seattle. Community News. Blogging. (etc.) Take away the journalism aspect and I’m still very much involved in media and information sharing—which, I’d argue, is basically journalism anyway.
The news industry at large, it often seems, doesn’t exactly operate the same way and it’s a little disheartening. Not because it doesn’t operate the same way I do, but because it almost seems to want to remove itself from whatever community tries to embrace it. Comment boards? Those are for the riff-raff. Citizen journalism? Put it in quotes.
Mind you, I know not all news organizations operate this way and in fact a great deal of news organizations are at the cutting edge of technology and media, but there still seems to be a general perception that the news industry is old, rickety and bereft of new ideas. Let’s consider some of the more frequent journalism industry-meets-tech stories:
- Old Media baron looks for a way to bring back the good ol’ days
- Journalist tries out social media; awkwardness ensues
- Old journalism columnist: “Social media/Twitter/blogging isn’t journalism!”
I understand we’re in a business model crisis, but hell, who isn’t these days? Ours is the only industry that’s legitimately trying to take itself back in time. And while that doesn’t encompass all of us, the perception it creates hurt all of us. Like it or not, people lump things together and just as voters lumped Republicans under the George W. Bush umbrella in 2008, news consumers are lumping news orgs under the Rupert Murdoch/no new ideas umbrella.
The solution, however, is pretty easy: Disassociate oneself by not being a news org (or at least not looking like one). There are a couple ways of doing this. The first is to dispense with the Old Print pleaseantries—ditch the “newspaper layout” look on your home page, stop writing in third person/inverted pyramid style, throw out deadlines and adopt a Web-first mentality and generally just behave like people on the Internet. The other is to find something popular and profitable—journalism or otherwise—and use that to prop up whatever it is you want to call your news operation.
The point is, sitting around whining about how a neighborhood blog isn’t journalism isn’t going to get everyone in the neighborhood to abandon that blog and visit your site instead. So maybe what you need are a few new ideas—and maybe an identity makeover. Who cares what you’re called—a blog, a Web site, a public forum—so long as people are getting their news from you? Who cares what that news looks like, so long as it’s informative and truthful? We’ll be much more able to create and embrace new ideas if we stop boxing ourselves into these archaic sets of rules left over from an almost-dead form of media.