9 ideas for taking journalism to a new place
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 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.