In a recent blog post titled, ‘The Media Still Matter‘, Tim Dyson talks about ways in which mainstream media is yet to and can evolve, to include the changes made possible by social media. I really like the 4 points he notes on what they can do, particularly one paragraph, that had me pondering over it, for a l-o-n-g time.
The media has become fragmented but instead of fighting it it could champion it.Â Instead of subscribing Forbes we can subscribe to Quentin Hardy.Â Instead of making the magazine the icon, make the reporter the rock star.
In a typical PR agency, we refer to news pieces and features by who has written them. So, we use names of journalists to refer to individual stories. This is vastly different from how people refer to them, outside PR agencies – they are just referred to by the publication and perhaps by the section. So, it would perhaps just be, ‘Entertainment section, in Times of India, today’!
I came across the beta version of The Times of India’s real-time news update, online, called, ‘Raw News‘, while chatting with a journalist there.
Each journalist in Raw News gets to file his/her own story and it is in real-time, as far as I see it. Each journalist is identified by their name and photograph (in most cases), from the looks of it.
This kind of an evolution is interesting in many ways, particularly the fact that it uses the publication’s own media and not necessarily other modes like Twitter or Facebook…where, the concerned journalist may use their personal accounts to amplify such news. Also, it competes with other real-time sources of information like Twitter, which, more often than not, depends on other real-time sources like Television to beam and popularize news. Twitter also helps normal people on-the-ground to act like citizen journalists, no doubt.
Going beyond this evolution by The Times of India (which other publications may have tried too), two questions, from me.
1. We may be entering a space where news pieces are credited to individual journalists and not to the publication, very soon. Even in the print edition, as what people see online gets to print the next day. Or worst, as NYT recently announced, there may be no print edition in the future. So, the chances of news being linked to individual journalists is a lot more.
In such cases, the publication’s online property may be promoting the journalist more than itself – the publication itself becomes the ground in which individuals are promoted for their expertise in a field and for their narrative style. This is already happening to some extent, thanks to smart journalists and reporters who use social media effectively…many of them active on Twitter promote their stories.
But, in most cases, the combined pull and reach of the publication is obviously many times larger than individual journalists’ reach, online. Even then, does this signify a state where we’re looking at powerful individuals who report and opine on news (much like independent bloggers) and merely use publications as a platform for increasing the reach? A Conan O’Brien show is a Conan O’Brien show…not an NBC show. So, the equivalent for print (going online) may be that we are looking at star journalists who would be powerful in individual capacities and publications may be vying for them to write for their platforms online? It is almost like a publication trying to expand its reach by adding an online journalist super star’s reach and influence.
2. Lack of the editorial ‘Pearly Gates’! When individual stars dominate and control the debate/story, where does the collective voice of a publication go? There are publications that are known for an overall voice, built over a period of time, by editorial guidelines. When stars are reporting or opining online, in real-time, how does the publication retain a collective voice? Is it even needed…or feasible?
The second part of this is to ponder about validity/authenticity of news. Recently, Washington Post sports columnist Mike Wise was suspended for a month for knowingly sending a false tweet! In that case, he had done it to prove a point, but the fragile nature is there for us to see – in case of real-time news updates, journalists could be vying for ‘breaking news’ based on false leads too and that is dangerous on many levels.