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The medium is the mess

This is one of the best pieces I've seen on the chatoic state of journalism -- appropriately titled "Not an upgrade -- an upheval." No one can predict what's going to happen -- as this piece notes -- but the writer does a good job of describing the forces that are in play and so lets us imagine some of the possible contours of change. "The news," he observes, has always been subsidized. Of late it's been by advertising, sports fans and coupon clippers. Some changes will come as the nature of our subsidy changes. And then there is the audience:

As Paul Starr, the great sociologist of media, has often noted, journalism isn't just about uncovering facts and framing stories; it's also about assembling a public to read and react to those stories. A public is not merely an audience. For a TV show with an audience of a million, no one cares whether it's the same million every week — head count rules. A public, by contrast, is a group of people who not only know things, but know other members of the public know those things as well. Both persistence and synchrony matter, because journalism is about more than dissemination of news; it's about the creation of shared awareness.

People are going to be more involved in reporting and disseminating their own news. But as that information gets aggregated for a wider distribution, there will be a need for some gatekeeping to weed out the fluff and the crazies. No one knows how this will all shake out, but it won't be boring:

. . .it will be decades before anyone can really sort out the value of what's been lost versus what's been gained. In the meantime, the changes in self-assembling publics and new models of subsidy will drive journalistic experimentation in ways that surprise us all.

Comments

Susie Q.
Thu, 02/11/2010 - 5:58am

NO WONDER I FEEL A KINSHIP WITH YOU. WE ARE BOTH GRADUATES OF LETTERMAN UNIVERSITY. YOUR MISSION STATEMENT IS...FAIR AND BEYOND BALANCED. VERY SOON NOW, I SHALL FIGURE OUT HOW TO COMMENT RE: WHAT MESSAGE PRECEDES THESE LITTLE "LEAVE A REPLY" RECTANGLES. I PROMISE YOU THAT! JOURNALISM IS THE "CREATION OF SHARED AWARENESS"...i did read this above entry...sorry i missed it in july.

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