Fast Company

Don't Hate the Mainstream Media, Hate the Game

If media comes from everywhere, and a citizen can be a contributor, then why do the journalism organizations putting media out there in an old-fashioned way act so fearful of potential partners in news production?

How can mainstream media-based journalists pay attention to the many ways into the story and use those ways into a story without feeling like their media model is threatened? Well, in short, they cannot. As long as they maintain their vigilance in the court of mainstream public opinion, their actions will be set against the "threats" out there to their bread and butter.

It's a shame, since there is something very important to be learned in the way that mainstream media is interacting, or not interacting, with social media and bloggers.

I'm making this point after reading two influential articles this month, one of them about the Washington Post editor who allegedly sat on an important community story because he did not want the Post to link to a blog. The other is an opinion piece written by New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen, who claims that journalists get their role mixed up by confusing journalism with media.

First let me start with Jay Rosen's claim, in effect: the traditional media broadcast model worked for ABC, CNN, NBC, the New York Times in only the print form, and those kind of organizations, because the broadcasting to many model fit very well with how media was structured before the Internet connected all the disparate content hubs. Those kinds of people are the traditional mainstream media users that to this day will sometimes track the content and produce the stories in a traditional media model. I think that Rosen is saying that they assume that their lock on the broadcasting model gives them claim to how news is produced.

But we all know here in BlogLand that news can come from anywhere. And at anytime. And it can be produced through solid, ethical reporting and researching skills. Rosen's subtle but cutting edge point that journalism is not the media should make all of us sit up and think.

We must all have some stories to tell if we work "in media."

When I first moved here from Asia, the biggest challenge I faced was convincing people that my work in Asia as a blogger doing everyday news stories counted for something in the United States. I found it was very hard to convince people that my knowledge set (China, Asian politics, business, innovations in digital technology) should not be confused with my skill set (a journalist, with a degree from the best school in Asia). A cynic sometimes, I naturally wanted to confirm that being brushed off had more to do with hiring practices; the fact that we were heading towards a recession and that media practices in the United States could not handle more drags on the resources already in place. I think this is still true.

But there is that mindset that the megalithic media I wanted to work for are fine on their own.

There's also another issue: fear of change. Could a person who never worked in New York "media" be an effective producer of content?This mindset is solid in media organizations / journalism institutions.

Here's evidence that this mentality exists: Washington Post editor allegedly sits on story because the first people to take a truthful account of the story are bloggers who already had content online. That equals threat to the WaPo.

What is important is that in one item, Fisher articulated a longstanding WaPo policy: 1) Link to other organizations only when belittling them; 2) Be sure to contrast the inadequacy of the linkees to the great Washington Post; 3) Make sure the link to Washington Post content spans many more words than the links to lesser organizations. Not done yet. Fisher's item uses the term "on the blogs" in a disparaging fashion, as if this is a place where rumor and sleaze abound. You've heard this too: "Oh, he's getting crucified on the blogs." Or: "You just can't trust what you read on the blogs." Sounds antiquated, just like "posted on the Internet." But however it sounds, you can never disparage "blogs" with a broad brush if you're a staffer at the Washington Post: The paper publishes at least 80 of them.

What I love about technology is that it allows people with a certain skillset to reach deeper into their community and to help it by reporting on issues of essential community interest. It helps people who may not know they need to know something by giving them access to information they didn't know was important.

Journalism, in my mind, is the following:

1. Reporting on something that is important.

2. Explaining why it is important.

3. Digging into the community's roots and discovering what makes it tick, so that things that don't appear significant take on the weight of signifigance.

And most of all, it's

4. The act of listening. Everyone is a part of this community, and there are so many doorways into a story.

Pay attention to them all, not just in the way that you feel is vital to your own self interest.

Add New Comment

3 Comments