In the past, Big Media controlled the creation and dissemination of news information without any opportunity for public input. Thanks to Internet technology, Big Media’s lecture-styled news presentation has changed. Now, everyone has the ability to become self-published journalists and join a global conversation about what “we” think is important. In the book, We the Media, author Dan Gillmore, discusses the power given to the once reader-only group to create and participate in newsmaking. Gillmore very candidly explains how the walls guarding Big Media are crumbling. He reflects on how technology is changing everyone’s consumption, creation, and interaction with the news.
The centralized, highly controlled, top-down philosophy of news creation no longer exists. The opportunity for virtually anyone to create news has changed and rewritten the rules for journalists and other professional news commentators. One “new rule of public life” is everyone has the ability to investigate more deeply into corporations’, newsmakers’, and individuals’ business, so watch what you say and do because nothing is “off the record.” Information about everything and everyone is a click away and shared with millions of people in an instant. A recent blog shows how something as simple as a Tweet update can cause conflict with future clients. Writer, Jeremiah Owyang warns fellow Twitters, “don’t say anything you wouldn’t say to someone’s face, and assume that your current and future boss, wife and mother are reading it.”
The new principle of transparency occurs on various levels. I am constantly amazed at individuals’ willingness to become (at times unnecessarily) open, transparent, and honest when updating their personal blogs, their Facebook status, or their Tweets. People expect to know each other’s mood, relationship status, activities, political opinions…etc. The demand for transparency goes beyond issues of personal updates. Citizens exploit the new rule of openness and demand more information, more clarity, and more transparency from Big Media. Blogger, Jeff Jarvis, believes transparency is missing in professional journalism. He urges journalists to quickly adopt the law of openness, become transparent in their reporting, and build participatory connections to their constituents. The new rule of openness and transparency gives the public an opportunity to keep professional journalists accountable.
The hierarchical boundaries once clearly defining the role of creator and recipient of news information no longer exist. The Internet gives the public the power to self-grant themselves the role of investigator, newsmaker, and journalist. Together we are rewriting rules and creating a new vision of community, democracy, and journalism. Although freedom and creativity feels refreshing and inspiring, this does not warrant anarchy of news information. I welcome open conversation and participation, but not without balance. There is immense value of citizen journalism because it offers new contexts, new interpretations of events, and demands more from Big Media. However, professional journalists still need to exist. Furthermore, nothing can replace a good editor who asks hard questions, makes suggestions, and brings the story together. Together, we must find the balance between traditional journalism while encouraging transparency and accountability on all levels. The more exposed citizens and the media become to each other, the more we will learn.
Check out the role transparency plays on social news sites at the blog Herald.