Yesterday night, at turn:styles, a titanic battle between bloggers and journalists, billed as ‘Journalism’s from Mars, Social Media’s from Venus‘, was staged by the wonderful people from Ogilvy.
Before beginning to discuss any questions concerning bloggers and journalists, it is necessary to state my intuitive understanding of certain terms, which will shed some light on the terms’, albeit not definitive, meanings.
Bloggers are writers who produce content that exist primarily online in the form of published blog posts. As writers, they are not defined by their methodology and ethics in crafting their post. However there is a perception that a blogger’s ethics and skills as a craftsman of words is lacking the professionalism that is attributed to journalists.
Journalists are writers who currently produce content that exist primarily offline which is available on print, radio and tv. As writers, they are held to a higher standard of ethics by the public (a standard which they supposedly uphold) and there is an assumption they have a professional skillset that distinguishes their writing from bloggers.
Social media is content that is produced by individuals who engage in conversation and exchange content online. Social media is a subset of digital media.
Traditional media is whatever we grew up with before the advent of the internet.
Someone ( I apologise that I have forgotten his name ) said that bloggers and journalists are of the same breed. He is insulting someone there but I’m not really sure who. In any case, his point was valid. The time really has come to start distinguishing between the medium and craftsman. Journalists have been taking their craft online and unfortunately some bloggers have been taking their inanity off.
Traditional media, digital media and social media aren’t monolithic systems that play a singular role.
Traditional media, and more specifically, newspapers have played a myriad of roles:
1. A platform for brand marketing.
2. A platform for classified ads.
3. A source of breaking news.
4. A source of entertainment.
5. A source of investigative journalism.
6. A source of analysis.
7. A source of good and great writing.
When we say traditional media is dying, what we are in fact are saying is that traditional media have lost their monopoly on some roles and have been supplanted by other systems like Craigslist, Twitter and Facebook for others.
The roles that can be played, and the effectiveness of the players are, sadly or maybe realistically, tied to how the players can monetize what they do and as long as the general consumers of online content refuse to pay for content, the ‘Sword of Damocles’ hangs over anyone who tries to fulfill the roles 5, 6 and 7 above.
A big portion of money spent by brands is not online. This is the pot of gold that Facebook have been pursuing as Facebook tries to get brands to spend more money online. The onus at this point, at least in respect to the role traditional media plays as a platform for branding marketing, is on social media to justify themselves for the proclamations that the new way is the best way. Saying this is the new tidal way of change and everyone should just go with the flow is selling snake oil.
And while it might be true that the measurements used in traditional media is also another pile of horse-shit, the ‘you-do-it-too-why-i-cant-do-it-too’ is hardly an intelligent argument to make against the people who are used to an entrenched system. You don’t win a girl over by being the same as the current boyfriend. You win the girl over by being better and proving you are better than the current boyfriend.
Or you could just keep telling the girl the boyfriend has cheated or might have died. Oh wait….
UniqueFrequency kept hammering the point that he got information from his friends (or rather members of his network) though online channels. The truth of the matter is that the last leg of the chain in which information travels to reach UniqueFrequency doesn’t matter shit if traditional media exists as a link somewhere along that chain.
We who like to blow the trumpet of the new crown prince of media need to ask what happens when the old king is finally dethroned? What happens when we realized then that the old and seemingly debilitated king was really the glue holding the realm together.
What happens when traditional media indeed dies as we have so gleefully prophesied?
UniqueFrequency takes offense at the representation of his points. Screenshot of his tweets below.
I apologize for failing to mention, and I concede I missed the part where UniqueFrequency acknowledged traditional media as the source. However, as clarified by the tweets, his example was given to downplay the importance of traditional media at least as perceived by other members of Gen Y, a perspective he states that he obviously does not share.
It is that perception and its pitfalls that I’m addressing above. It is still my opinion that most advocates of Social Media themselves have that perception and while it was not apparent to me last night that UniqueFrequency was above all that, it is obviously clear to all of us now that he is. My sincere apologies in representing otherwise.
In the ideal case, there is an inverse relationship between speed and the reliability of news. Gosh, even GOD had to take 6 days to create the universe. I think it would be safe to cut traditional news outlets some slack in reporting news that has just happened, news that we might have already heard over Twitter.
The question is what other details are appended to the ‘breaking’ news coverage. Is there analysis. Are things aggregated better in a way that provides more informative context?
More data isn’t more information. The Twitter apps being created to help filter the noise out from the signals is a reflection and recognition of the problem. Journalists and traditional media play the role of filters and curators, a role which admittedly they should try to do better online.
Is there a place for citizen journalism to kick in and break news while the meatier stuff is prepared the old school way? While I despise how STOMP has devolved, it began with a rather noble premise and was a good start by traditional media to lead in the experimentation of new ways to deal with the evolving behavior of consumers and producers of news.
There were some comments made last night about the wisdom of the crowd. People who brandish that term around without at least acknowledging that there are certain preconditions that need to exist in a system before the said wisdom can be realized deserves to be shot.
I might even have the temerity to add that a lot of the systems we claim that enable wisdom to be extracted from the crowd to not have all the 4 basic elements required.
The 4 elements are:
Diversity of opinion
Each person should have private information even if it’s just an eccentric interpretation of the known facts.
People’s opinions aren’t determined by the opinions of those around them.
People are able to specialize and draw on local knowledge.
Some mechanism exists for turning private judgments into a collective decision.
I can’t remember who said it, or where I read it from, but this quote got stuck in my head when DK and UniqueFrequency were arguing for the self-correcting mechanism of information propagated online.
A careless whisper can lead to death.
Just something to think about when we tuck ourselves safely into bed at night, assured that all is right in a world where increasingly disinformation is so easily spread. And while, disinformation can also be easily debunked, sometimes it may be too late, seeds of doubt may have already been sowed or the new information does not reach those who were exposed to disinformation..
If there was ever an alien invasion, I would propose that DK and Euniqueflair be our ambassadors for peace. The tone they struck last night from the blogging camp was sugarine concilliatory and stark contrast to the belligerent stance of UniqueFrequency. euniqueflair would bequile our alien overlords with her charm and dk would seal the deal with an impassioned impression of Jack Nicholson’s Mars Attack ‘Little people, why can’t we all just get along? ‘ speech.
The question is not whether digital media and traditional media ( by extension, whether unpaid bloggers, citizen journalists and journalists ) will coexist. The question isn’t even whether coexistence will be adversarial or symbiotic.
The real question is how we will coexists? Which of the different roles will either Social Media or Traditional Media take up. Which new systems will be in place to allow, if not, improve the way existing roles are played out.
Will roles be lost or mutated to a point that society as a whole suffer?
Who will mourn the loss of the 4th Estate?
For example, will we lose the kind of intrepid journalism that brings CNN reporters to war fronts?
Will citizen journalism by participants on the ground of war fronts bring us the same, if not better, coverage and analysis that mitigates such a potential loss?
What systems are we will building in place to deal with such a potential loss?
How can we continue to fund investigative and intrepid journalism?
Such questions are of the kind we need to ask going forward with further open room sessions. If not, all we will be doing is enjoying the company of great friends, good bear and navel gazing. Which we will of course share will the rest of the word on Twitter.
Rereading some of the tweets from last night between DK and me. I have a feeling he interpreted the question in this tweet ‘@dk the question is not whether we will coexist.. The question is how.’ as me questioning the possibility/probability of such a coexistence.
In fact, the ‘how’ was more of a reference to the mundane details of such a relationship. Who takes out the trash? Who brings home the bacon? Who will cook the food?
“Can a relationship exist?” and “How a relationship exists?” are two different questions.