I got a call today from a journalist whoâ€™s doing a story on the future of newspapers (does this mean the Death Watch has finally made the big time?) and he shared an interesting t dbit. He said he had contacted a prominent thought leader in the journalism field, whom I wonâ€™t name. This thought leader had said that the impending collapse of the newspaper industry was â€œa threat to democracy.â€
Excuse me, but what? A threat to democracy? Newspapers are dying, in large part, because of democracy. The rise of citizen publishing has made it possible, for the first time, for large numbers of ordinary citizens to publish to a global audience without the intercession of media institutions. What could be more democratic than that? If Thomas Jefferson was alive today, heâ€™d be an active blogger. Social media is the most democratic process to hit the publishing industry in 500 years.
Iâ€™m going to give the thought leader the benefit of the doubt and assume that he was referring to the decline of investigative journalism as practiced by newspapers. On that point, Iâ€™ll defer to journalism professor Steve Boriss, who argues that a lot of what passes for investigative journalism today is simply reporters acting as conduits for whistle-blowers. Those malcontents will find other outlets for their gripes, whether it be Consumerist.com or something else. Iâ€™m quite confident that the market will take care of filling the need for advocacy reporting.
I think the threat-to-democracy statement is more a function of the arrogance of traditional news journalists, who believe that a system in which a few thousand editors decide what people should know is superior to one in which many millions of citizens make those same judgments. If citizen media is a threat to democracy, I shudder to think of the alternative.
This entry was posted on Thursday, February 14th, 2008 at 8:23 pm and is filed under BusinessModel, Journalism, NewMedia, Newspapers. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.