Journalism 3.0 Thesis Parts 2&3

You can find my introducation to this article here

New Media & Journalism 3.0.5

I’m going to take it as read that we all understand that the environment Journalist currently exist in has changed a lot in the last 20 years. It's the reason everyone is constantly bearish about journalism. It's also Newspaper's favorite excuse for lessening readership and the death/consolidation of "print journalism". I wonder if town cryer or bards where as "woe is me" when the first movable type printing presses became main stream.

Paul Bradshaw, founder of, came up with this design to help describe the environment Journalism exist in at the moment (Original Article here); I think we can extend it to Non-Fiction storytellers generally. Paul expresses the Y axis as Speed/User Control, so the way I read the diagram the tip top of the diamond is the moment of an event occurs.

Take a look at that diamond. Figure out where there isn't someone doing that work for free.

Jon Gosier, director for SwftRiver (a crisis information software org.) once said to me that the idea of “First Responders” in Aid and Journalism is an oxymoron: there is always someone responding to what is happening in a crisis and reporting it to someone, somewhere.

We used to call them eyewitnesses, but now they aren’t “passive consumers” as Clay Shirky would say. Now they are able to broadcast what is happening to millions of people within seconds of an event. Now, they own part of the narrative in an unprecedented way. They aren't witnesses, let’s be honest, they're amateur reporters. They are faster than us, they are cheaper than us, they know where things will happen with greater accuracy because it’s their home court.

We knew what was happening during the Iranian election because of video capable cellphones. SMS messages to the Ushahidi's Haiti website via a shortcode was what allowed first responders to best organize relief efforts after the earthquake, not CNN’s Sanjay Gupta running around with a 8 man crew trying to patch up kids.

I mean that with no disrespect to Dr Gupta or his producers. CNN has 24 hours of programing to fill in a day and if a neurosurgeon/reporter performing emergency surgery on earthquake victims makes it more real to viewer, then it certainly has it's place; but it's not actually news, it's an illustration. They chose to fill those hours with illustration because they couldn't find a news story that was more compelling, and that's the irony. Even with the army of reporters, crew, and producers that CNN put on the ground, they couldn't pull together enough stories to fill all 24 hours because it takes too long for outsiders to get their bearings, find a story, an angle, find subjects, shoot, drive, shoot some more, edit and file.

As Journalists, we are learning how absurd it is to think that we can walk into an environment twenty four hours after an event and believe that we as reporters can do anything better in the first day on the ground than organize information that may already have been broadcast by someone else from their phone or in an internet cafe. At best, we make it more concise, easily, digestible, and hopefully, more accurate and penetrating. Which brings me back to the diamond.

I would like to submit that given the change of environment, and the introduction of a new species into Journalism’s traditional turf, that we do what we are best at and let “amateurs” do what they are best at. Let the crowd have the middle of the diamond. Just let it go, our time there is ending. There’s too many of them, they are too fast, they will out man and out maneuver you every time that it matters to them–and if it doesn’t matter to them, I bet there’s not much of a market for it. Just walk away... and watch. [/column]

[column]As the crowd starts to figure out this space, it will evolve, social rules will start to take shape, formats will evolve and, while it will not be the same animal, it will start to look more and more like the type of animals that used to sit in that part of the societal food chain.

Those of us who decid not to make a career change will find that more in-depth reporting is going to be of higher value in the coming decades for two reasons

1) An amateur will have a harder time engaging in a story that requires more time and resources without the funding of an organization (though here again, things like Kickstart mean that "nobodies" can still show up and do amazing work.) Its going to be more about longer projects, better in-depth reporting, more customized reporting. If it’s not really intentional work, it can probably be done by the crowd for less money and-in some cases–better.

2) Because the crowd will be pushing out a lot of content, there will become a growing savvy about what people are willing to spend their time and money on.

We are already seeing this. Consumers trying to figure out how to sift through the mountains of information in the internet are gravitating to a small handful of sources for information on a given subject and then venturing out only when those favored sources don't have exactly what they where looking for. Notice that NYT and the WSJ are not loosing readership, just physical circulation. People know that it takes a lot of time to wade through a news aggregator site, so they stick with who they trust to help them understand the world around them.

That trust is valuable and it's time to start behaving like it's valuable.

The Underpants Gnomes can no longer run Professional Reportage.

Phase One, put stories on the web. Phase Two.... Phase Three, profit.

This is going to makes some people upset, specifically consumers. The era of professional online reporting wholly subsidized by internet ads is at an end. There’s no real money in it. “I post an article in deep space among thousands of other articles, millions of people will read it, and then I’ll make enough money to justify the cost of having a guy living in a foreign country to write the articles, or produce the videos, or shoot the photo essays.” It doesn't compute in an ecosystem where people are putting together a lot of the same information for free.

National Geographic does not show up at my door every month for free. The Economist can not produce their content on add reveniew alone (AND ALL THEY DO IS WRITE!!!!)

If people want to be well informed and intake compelling reportage, they will pay 5 bucks a month, or 20 bucks a year for it. The problem is that most models price their product either too high (the Kindle version of the Economist is almost the same as the subscription price) or too low, or even worse only charge for yesterdays news. As if I couldn't go to my library.

The future of Journalism is not to become public service with the hopes of gratuity, but a professional service with professional expectations and results. If people are going to blogs and the crowd instead of your publications, it's because your publication is not meeting the expectations of your audience. As a publication you have the choice to evolve to meet those expectations, find a new audience, or leave.

This is real life, it's rough out there.