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The growth of advertising investment within the press influenced the commercialization of the news. Many argue, and I agree, corporate ownership and the increase of commercialization within news reporting limits news stories to what sells.  Market-driven newspapers refine journalism practices and cover stories that increase business investment. Significant interest gaps between mainstream newspapers and readers result.  Mainstream commercial newspapers do not provide readers with immediately relevant news.  The Project for Excellence in Journalism reveal in the State of the New Media Report 2008, that people believe mainstream commercial newspapers’ fail to report the “bread and butter” issues of community.  In the book, Blog!: How the Newest Media Revolution is Changing Politics, Business, and Culture, authors argue mainstream newspapers present homogenized news stories leaving readers “thirsty for real, unfiltered information.”

People turn to independent online news sources, such as news blogs, for information they believe Big Media fails to present.  In 2006, 37 percent of all Americans went online to read and engage with user-generated content.  The Project for Excellence in Journalism indicates a significant increase in the number of people creating web pages to report on issues affecting their cities, communities, and neighborhoods.  Blog writers have the freedom to report on issues they believe the mainstream press neglects.  Online news blogs provide an alternative to mainstream newspapers and give writers the ability to remain relatively independent of commercial pressures.  

The business model of national and city newspapers are failing.  Newspapers’ three revenue sources: sales, subscriptions and advertising, are weakening.  This week’s Screencast ignited some class conversations related to the influence of the dollar on news quality.  Dan Gillmore discusses “business models for tomorrows personal journalism” (chapter 7).  Gillmore believes blogging not only provides readers with an alternative news source, but a refreshing change to the vertical, highly regulated business structure of Big Media.  Blogging presents a horizontal structure.  Blog writers are motivated by the creation of a participatory conversation with their readers, not the dollar.  Gillmore argues, freelance writing strengthens one’s credentials, and validates their authority on a niche topic.

Blogger, Scott Karp asks what will happen to the ad dollars that once flowed into city newspapers.  Karp points out that newspapers are not only competing with websites for money, but also for survival.  He asks great questions that Big Media needs to answer if they want to compete in the digital age.  TIME magazine also covered the financial crisis facing newspapers.  Although more people read newsmagazines and newspapers, fewer and fewer people are paying for news information.  Traditionally, newspapers have relied mostly on advertising for revenue, but as ad dollars leave newspapers, not only are business investors in jeopardy, but so is the news itself.  The traditional business model supporting newspapers must adapt to stay afloat. 

Despite the original intent of blog style journalism to remain non-commercial, I wonder about the sustainability of a commercially neutral blogosphere.  Will news blog content change as advertising dollars spill into the blogosphere and as marketers recognize the growing appeal of popular blog sites?  How will Big Media begin to compete for ad dollars in the digital age?  How are advertisers interpreting and reacting to alternative online news sites?

A shift towards commercial ownership may jeopardize writers’ ability to remain relatively independent of commercial pressure and may affect the news stories found on blog sites. Although, the future for print newspapers and newsmagazines seem dismal, the changing business model may offer writers (professional or freelance) liberation.  Journalists will have the opportunity to serve the public reader not the ad dollar.  If bloggers really are writing to bolster their credentials and increase reader credibility (like Gillmore says), maybe bloggers really can escape the effects of commercialism and keep a genuine conversation going.  

Also check out what Jeff Jarvis thinks about news, post-print at  http://www.buzzmachine.com/2009/02/04/newsosaurs-roar/  

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.