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Can we determine the future of journalism?

Online media is at an interesting crossroads of availability and saturation of information. While this allows for the journalist and their stories to have an immediate and intimate connection with a reader, it also overwhelms the audience to know what to read, when and where to find the information, and who to trust. A news organization can be an advocate implementing the change they wish to see in the world with more influence than ever before. And yet anyone can be a ‘journalist’ with no training, reputation or credibility. This makes for a challenging time for reputable news agencies to share their message and find advocates and ambassadors for their content. Two trends that I find particularly interesting that seem to further develop this idea are the collaboration of content and the opportunity to listen to the audience. 

We are in a shift from the model of an institutional message to collaborative content,[1] and this has a profound impact on the journalism world. In an institutional model, when one agency was the gatekeeper to determine what the audience needed to hear and from whom, they were viewed as the trusted source and the go-to location to find information. The audience depended on this news organization and were loyal supporters (readers, viewers, subscribers). However, now we are moving into a collaborative framework, where anyone is an expert, everyone has a contribution, and all of us determine the news. The newly minted blogger, voracious commenter, and experienced journalist are all held to the same regard and quoted equally as sources of information. Journalists must learn to embrace and utilize the collaboration model to expand their audience, develop loyalty, contrive buy-in with financial support, and work with (instead of against) the possibilities of cooperatively developed ideas and content.

In addition to developing a collaborative mindset, another interesting trend is the depth of opportunity to listen to the audience. With the rise of social media sites, constantly available internet access, and an isolation from physical social networks, the public eagerly welcomed the chance to openly express their thoughts and selves to anyone who would listen online.[2] This excessive online engagement allows the news world the possibility to learn more about their audience than was ever available to them when print was king and readers were only know by address. And not only can we learn about their interests, education, network, and influence, we have access to their insights, perspectives, and experiences which lead to further story development and tailored content. Furthermore, when the audience feels heard and known, they become more loyal and convert from readers to advocates, ambassadors and donors. This is a thrilling time for news agencies where much potential for deeper relationships with readers exist if they can connect through the vast noise that exists online.

[1] Clay Shirky: https://www.ted.com/talks/clay_shirky_on_institutions_versus_collaboration?language=en

[2] Clive Thompson: http://www.collisiondetection.net/mt/archives/2008/09/the_age_of_awar.php

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