Audience or journalist: is there really a difference anymore?

Picture shows a bundle of newspapers

A bundle of newspapers

The times they are a-changin’…

I wonder if Bob Dylan actually had any idea of how radically different things would be now, in modern day.

Back in his day, or even 10 years ago, if you heard about Dylan, it was from a newspaper or on TV– staples of what the Tow Report calls the old “downstream” media current.

Journalists would craft the story to their editor’s liking, then put it out for the public to see in it’s final, packaged form. You (the audience) would consume it and chat about it with your family, maybe some friends. There was none of this modern tweeting or sharing or liking or emailing. No social media.

Dylan sang:

Come writers and critics 
Who prophesize with your pen 
And keep your eyes wide 
The chance won’t come again

He’s mistaken though. The chance will come again. And again. And again. Ah, the joys of the blogosphere.

For better or for worse, the audience is no longer passive. Post industrial journalism is the way of the future. Understandably, the change in behavior raises many questions.

  1. How did this happen? The easy answer is the Internet. The millennium brought with it new technology that closed the gap between writer and reader. You do not need anyone’s permission to post your thoughts online. There’s no need for a “Letter to the Editor” or some air time on a call-in show. You have your own soapbox in your pocket.
  2. What about the pros?  Journalists are still a valuable part of the news ecosystem, but the audience brings a fresh and unfiltered perspective to the news. The former audience is now intertwined with all aspects of production. Think of the relationship as more of a partnership.
  3. What does the audience do?  For starters, they can venture out on their own and do whatever they want.  They can tell their own stories or even expand upon a journalist’s idea, often by creating and sifting through data.  The Internet is a mine of information, particularly of data, waiting to be curated and deciphered. More often than not, regular folks rise to the challenge. For example, former D.C. journalists Chris and Laura Amico created a database of all murders that occur in the nation’s capital. Homicide Watch‘s mission is to “Mark every death. Remember every victim. Follow every case.” They essentially created a new system rooted in data analysis.
  4. What is the extent of audience influence? For now, that can’t be quantified. However, the possibilities are limitless. The Internet has allowed media to become focused on the niche. For example,  NY Velocity, which was created by cycling enthusiasts,  is credited with breaking the Lance Armstrong doping scandal much earlier than the mainstream media.
  5. Is there a market for audience driven journalismOf course! User-generated content is not only valued by other news consumers, but also by the media entrepreneurs who are forging the new landscape of journalism. The industry is integrating social media into it’s journalism. Like the Tow Report predicts, the free time and talents of the public will be not ignored!
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