Media & Journalism

(Via Politico)

A-list blogger and digital thought leader Chris Brogan took the long President’s Day weekend to pen a post titled “The Future of Media.”

Being one of his nearly 175K followers on Twitter, I was drawn to the post based on a single tweet of his. (Don’t believe the notion that Twitter is killing the blogosphere. Twitter fuels blogs! IMHO)

Anyway, I expected to hear Chris talk about two of the more common themes covered by today’s myriad media pundits: the fragmentation of media and the demise of the mainstream media’s stalwart flagbearers — newspapers, broadcast TV news and news magazines.

Chris Brogan (photo: Rick Turoczy via Wylio)

Instead, Chris chose to look at how media will look, feel and behave for the increasingly broadband-wired and wireless consumer of news and information.

He cleverly boils down the future of media to seven ideas captured by phrases like “multi-touch,” “mobile,” “serial,” “two-way,” “rich data minded,” “subscription-based” and “longer burn.” (He knows that the better blogs keep it simple and a little video helps too.)

I too have given some thought on the future of media, but less from the perspective of what media will taste and look like in the future and more about its role in a democratic society. Hence, I was surprised (though hardly disappointed) by Chris’s approach to forecasting the future of a medium. Maybe it’s not “media” on which I’ve been dwelling, but the future of journalism that has given me pause.

I recently penned a post on Huffington Post’s new m̶e̶d̶i̶a̶ ̶ journalism model in which original reporting is combined with linked content from other sources, original content from (unpaid) third-party experts, and paid (sponsored) content from credible enterprises like IBM and GE. (Forbes also has supplemented its original content with “sponsored” content.) And, as Chris noted, let’s not overlook consumer-generated content in the form of comments.

Peter Himler w/ Emily Bell

It is through this lens, versus one that focuses on context, that merits considerable more scrutiny. Sitting beside me on a recent panel on the future of science news reporting was the very smart and articulate Emily Bell who heads Columbia J School’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism.

When I expressed concern over the loss of the powerful check&balance the mass media once had over unscrupulous politicians, multi-national corporations, and advocacy groups, she was less fazed by it. She seemed to say that new and growing voices in an increasingly pluralistic (i.e., splintered) media world will gain in influence to serve this function. (She described it as a meritocracy.”)

Why then am I still so concerned? Why can’t HuffPost grow faster in reach and influence to effectively end these misdeads? I watch how politicians like the new Governor of Wisconsin impose his radical (special interest-fueled) agenda on the people of his state with impunity — something a once-powerful Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (now JS Online) had the muscle to sway large, influential swaths of public opinion only five years ago.

It’s not just that the number and demographics of the Journal-Sentinel’s readers have changed, but the ephemeral nature of news — today delivered via Twitter bursts. Misdeeds simply don’t trend for very long. Or do they? Here’s a clip with NPR’s Andy Carvin who almost singlehandedly is curating the revolutions in the Middle East (for which this blogger nominated him for a Shorty Award).

So, yes, Chris, I’m totally psyched by the prospect of how broadband will more readily fill my “media” appetite with more engaging, enlightening and interactive content. But I’m also concerned about how a once-powerful “fourth estate” has been sidelined when it comes to righting societal wrongs – even as Politico, HuffPost and…Twitter slowly gain in influence and effect.

2 Comments

  1. flatironnyc
    February 24, 2011

    These are trying times for high quality journalistm. There’s no doubt that we’ve seen vast improvements in the way in which technoilogy has let journalists better engage their audiences. But we should never lose sight of the fourth estate’s vital role in ferreting out misdeeds.  Thanks for the comment, Chris. 

  2. Chris Brogan
    February 23, 2011

    I think you’re right that you’re thinking about what goes into the pipes. That’s every bit as important to think about. I think that it’s a great thing what you’ve written here, and that someone (some many someones) has to really keep their eye on the new huffpo/demand/grindermill version of journalism that’s out there. 

    Not that all huffpo is bad, but carpetbombing the web to get better ratings to get better ad cpm might not be the same as worrying about the fourth estate. 

    You got me thinking, for sure.