April 27, 2010

Paths to the new journalism

The future of journalism will be more social & entrepreneurial

JD LasicaWith the business models of traditional news media in free fall, it’s a precarious time for journalism. Earlier this month I did an hourlong video chat with a class of journalism students at the USC Annenberg School and told them how much I admired their willingness to tackle journalism as a career even as everything we know about journalism and news is changing.

On Friday I gave a talk at NewComm Forum (NewComm as in New Communications), the annual gathering of communications, marketing, PR and new media thinkers in San Mateo, Calif. You’ll find it on Slideshare.net (embedded above) under the title, “Social and Entrepreneurial: The paths to the new journalism.”

Everything about news and journalism is changing: the way it’s produced, the way it’s distributed, the way we consume it, the idea of who’s a trusted news provider, the conventions of journalism and what “news” itself means.

Jour­nal­ism is being rein­vig­o­rated by a new gen­er­a­tion of jour­nal­ists and pub­li­ca­tions, many of them small but deeply pas­sion­ate about the top­ics they cover.

As someone who still practices journalism (see: this blog) but left newspaper journalism in the late ’90s, my work as a social media strategist and years in Silicon Valley startups leave me saddened about the fate of newspapers — I estimate that 500 daily newspapers, most of them mid-size metros, will go out of business in the next five years. At the same time, journalism is being reinvigorated by a new generation of journalists and publications, many of them small but deeply passionate about the topics they cover.

They’ll be the ones who give shape to the new new news.

You’ll notice that the title of this post refers to “paths,” because the future will involve thousands of experiments and brave new ways of doing journalism, far from the one-size-fits-all era that is now ending (go to J-school, start out at a local daily, join a bigger metro newspaper, etc.).

While no one can predict what the new landscape will look like, I’ll wager that tomorrow’s journalism is markedly more social and more entrepreneurial than we see today. Even as a new study by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism finds that “getting news is often an important social act,” it’s becoming clear that tomorrow’s journalists will need a greatly expanded skill beyond the role of news gatherers. Tomorrow’s journalist will also need to be a:

• Conversation facilitator & stimulator
• Multimedia guru
• Evangelist
• Curator
• Data gatherer
• Geek! (who can communicate with programmers)
• Metrics nerd
• Entrepreneur/strategist

Check out the presentation above for some more detailed thoughts about the Web as a database that needs curating; the power of open APIs; the opportunities of start-up culture; the plummeting cost of innovation (though the costs of not innovating are growing steeper by the day); the differing cultural values between old media and new media; the opportunities for local news publications in a geo-aware world and more.

If you have a few extra minutes, you’ll find some striking parallels between this presentation and one by Sree Sreenivasan and Vadim Lavrusik on “The Future Journalist” — around the themes of multimedia storytelling, community building, curation, collaboration, Web programming, social media and, yes, entrepreneurship and business savvy — though I didn’t spot this until after my talk.

I included a few examples of the new breed of online visualization tools — alas, Slideshare doesn’t support video. But YouTube does! Here’s a riveting video by labor writer LaToya Egwuekwe called “The Decline: The Geography of a Recession”:


The New Journalist in the Age of Social Media (Socialmedia.biz)
Time for innovative news models (Socialmedia.biz)
How to use social media in the newsroom (Socialmedia.biz)
Takeaways from Future of Media Summit (Socialmedia.biz)
The future journalist (Google docs)

JD Lasica, founder of Socialmedia.biz, is now co-founder of the cruise discovery engine Cruiseable. See his About page, contact JD or follow him on Twitter or Google Plus.

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