A post from the personal blog ofÂ Richard Sambrook, Director of BBC Global News, looks at one pointÂ in the massive State of the News Media 2007 reportÂ — the notion that:
Â “journalism is becoming a smaller part of people’s information mixÂ . . .Â (but) Journalists have reacted relatively slowly. They are only now beginning to re-imagine their roles.”
Sambrook isÂ at the top of a newsgathering hierarchy. From my vantage in theÂ rank and fileÂ of a U.S. newspaper, IÂ see much the same. The prevailing notion of journalism is to lay out the facts and let the public decide what to do about the situations we report. Scoops areÂ how we measure success amongst ourselves.
But that’s because journalists still think in a broadcast mode. Once we’ve tossed the paper or beamed the show our job is done. It’s your turn Mr. and Ms. Public, to think and decide.
ButÂ people areÂ overloaded with information.Â Much of the time they don’t even notice where they read or heard whatever it was.Â (Check out this BBC-sponsoredÂ poll that found Google, which employs zero journalists, as the world’s thirdÂ most-trusted news source, behind the Beeb and CNN!).
The traditional view that theÂ role of media media is to simplyÂ gather and articulate events,Â ignores the problem-solving potential of web-based media. Nowadays weÂ need not merely lay out the problem.Â We can provide the forum for discussion, if not solution.
How? Well, IÂ had a brainstorm thatÂ I’ll try to work thoughÂ myÂ newspaper and website as an experiment. TheÂ idea isÂ to produce a story, place it in a web forum, andÂ inviteÂ member of theÂ audience to share their views through open blogs.
Choose topics wisely. Abortion or gay marriage are notÂ prone to solution. People’s feelingsÂ on such matters arise from the gut and public discussion would quickly devolve to name-calling. But there are many issues in which people have personal stakes — the governance of schools — whereÂ arguments turnÂ on facts,Â such asÂ how much money is or isn’t being spent or wasted, and where the stakeholders would be motivated to craft persuasive arguments.
If mass media are to survive I think they will have to become forums where professional journalists frame issues,Â stakeholders argue the nuances and policy makers surf the results and, one would hope, make better decisions.
IfÂ we can focus public attention in this way,Â newsgatherers shouldÂ find the advertising, sponsorships and other financial supports to meetÂ their payrolls and expenses, and perhaps even the profit expectations of our owners.
(Thanks to unmediated.org for highlighting Sambrook’s posting.)