August 25, 2011

Reimagining journalism in the age of social media


9 ideas for taking journalism to a new place

JD LasicaSocial media is far more than social marketing, which is why returns regularly to the subject of how social is reshaping the worlds of media and journalism.

I arrived in Santiago, Chile, on Tuesday to take part in a three-day event: first, a gathering of 150 journalism students from major universities in Chile on Tuesday. And today I’m giving the closing talk at a gathering of news executives, editors, reporters and academics from major publications and universities in Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Peru, Costa Rica, Uruguay, Venezuela, the United States and elsewhere, organized by Grupo de Diarios América — the world’s biggest online Spanish network with some 50 publications and sites with a reach over 50 million users per month — and held at the headquarters of El Mercurio, Chile’s best newspaper.

My colleague Chris Abraham asked me a few months ago to offer my thoughts on where journalism is heading — or ought to be heading — for the benefit of both those entering the profession and those trying to figure out how to navigate these choppy waters. So this seemed like a good way to do that.

Plus, I finally made it down to South America!

The presentation, embedded above and available for download or embedding on SlideShare, offers some ideas about how journalism might be reimagined in an age when more people are embracing the precepts of social media.

Questioning nine fundamental assumptions

I found that the two-day symposium had far too few opportunities for interaction (thankfully, the organizers thoughtfully provided translations for talks in Spanish that were broadcast into a Listen Display Receiver, a nifty mobile device and earpiece), and so I framed the presentation more as a series of questions rather than answers.

Many of the suggestions below — and for the now widely accepted idea that journalism should be thought of as a process, not a finished product — have been discussed by thought leaders in the space for years. It’s time to distill some of these ideas and reexamine them through the lens of journalism in South America. Here, then, are nine assumptions by journalists and media organizations, and suggestions on how those assumptions might be reconsidered or reimagined.

1Objectivity is our sacred goal. Yet, users are increasingly turning to transparency as the new yardstick of a news organization’s credibility. Is transparency the new objectivity?

2Content is all that matters. While people come for the content, they stay for the conversation. Shouldn’t journalists spend more time engaging with users and participating in conversations?

3Mobile has limited appeal. Well, that’s an overstatement, but journalists haven’t been doing as much with using mobile for SMS alerts, breaking news and particularly geolocation as they could. My thought: Start geotagging almost every article in sight!

4Journalism must never allow citizens to take action on social or political issues. But why not point users to events and resources, such as community and advocacy groups, relevant to an issue? Why not offer an outlet for community or civic engagement?

5Journalists never promote. But promotion is part of the social Web’s essence. Why not create “shareable objects” — online posts, photos, ideas and more — using genuine conversation?

6Journalists should pay no attention to numbers. But data is better than gut. Perhaps by gathering and analyzing data around how users are reacting to and engaging with your content, journalists can serve the public more effectively.

7Citizen journalists are seen as competitors. But the crowd can be collaborators as well, as seen when Talking Points Memo won a George Polk Award using a distributed network of volunteer reporters to ply through thousands of documents released by the Justice Department, ultimately leading to the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

8Media organizations must find new audiences. But perhaps more emphasis should be placed on building communities through sustained and deliberate efforts rather than targeting and segmenting audience demographics.

9Media organizations must create and distribute content all by themselves. But by using the community to contribute content and by using external champions to spread news and content on social networks, news organizations can have greater reach and impact.

Prefer a version en español?

If you prefer a Spanish language version of the presentation, here is Reimaginarse el periodismo en la era de los medios de comunicación sociales:

Reimaginarse el periodismo en la era de los medios de comunicaci�n sociales
JD Lasica, founder of, 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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One thought on “Reimagining journalism in the age of social media

  1. Hello JD,

    I hope the 'real' journalists won't mind me popping in to share my thoughts. For those who don't know me, while I studied journalism throughout high school I took a detour into computers in the middle of college and landed in blogging which had brought me at least partially back to journalism.

    I have a unique perspective on where journalists and print publications could choose to go. First I'd like to point out that while individual journalists were trained and did their best to be objective observers and report impartially, major media – especially today – is NOT impartial (and never really was completely) because even back when reporters were allowed to report objectively, those who could afford advertising DID impact what got published and how it was presented.

    Independent newspapers today can still be viable IF they recognize that there is one revenue stream that still really needs them: local small business. If they choose to combine social media and online marketing with collaborating with local bloggers (and I am doing my best to get bloggers to ALL add a local component) they can then reach their local audience.

    When that happens they will create a viable monetization method through advertising. Big brands and national and multi-national corporations do not need you and they control the major media. Small companies DO need you.

    Start featuring them in articles and they will buy extra copies and distribute them and show them off to their customers. Then offer a way for them to buy display advertising that links to the article where you featured them. Encourage them to offer coupons online and off and provide the means for them to easily manage them (the way Merchant Circle, Google Maps, Yelp, etc. do today).

    Instead of seeing online as competition for offline realize the best offer is to combine them both. Bloggers are NOT your competition. You can become leaders among bloggers and guide them into better practices and supporting your reporting and online presences. (Or send them to me for free mentoring – that is what I do every day.)

    Create collaborations of local bloggers like the one that Rohan Gilkes is building at – there is another business model journalists can embrace. Bring together local bloggers and social media influencers and connect them with your advertisers.

    Teach your local bloggers How Bloggers And Small Businesses Can Conquer Cyberspace With Collaboration. That post has detailed information on how to make local coverage more compelling.

    I encourage everyone – journalists, bloggers and businesses – to work together to create strong local economies and a better standard of living through raising awareness of how shopping locally keeps tax revenue local to support a healthier community. We can all share why every person deserves a living wage and support the best in Fair Trade practices.

    Journalists once exposed corruption and created a better world. You CAN do that now. I am happy to discuss this with anyone who is interested and there are tons of resources about geographic niches and business blogging on my blog.