3 reasons why we need journalists more than ever

It’s apparent to me that the very fact that some people wondering if journalism is “dead” in light of the decline of newspapers that there’s a whole lot here that’s getting overblown.

3 reasons why journalists still deserve a seat at the table in the era of new media:

1. All of us can’t repost stuff we find on the web at once and call it “news.”
We need people who take that aggregated flow of endless info – some of it useful and some of it not – and give it greater context. They help us decipher how that information fits together in a world where we’re getting a whole lot more information, not less. Some innovators feel that the world is a better place when info is compiled on top of itself in one infinite stream for us to figure out what we want to do with it. I disagree. Info is good, but we could use better ways to organize, compartmentalize and understand that info. Are we really there yet?

2. If you hear a thousand voices on one topic, it can sound a hell of a lot like noise. You need some trusted authorities on that topic to help provide you with opinions that make sense. It’s not like we’re all experts in every subject. We need reliable sources to help us understand the issues among the flow of information that is often entirely too biased or just plain wrong. Oh, I know some will bring their own bias – but there have to be thought leaders/influencers on all sides that rise to the top of the conversation. It may be a free country where anyone can speak their mind, but it’s good to have these people to help us frame the issues at hand and the corresponding sides to those issues. That way, we aren’t all just talking or – please no – shouting at once.

3. Compiling content is not inherently wrong. But there’s still much more of a need for original content.
To me, it’s not he who has the most content who wins. It’s he who has the most relevant content. So of course we’re going to re-post, retweet, share, etc. But people who merely do this and only this at high velocity each day aren’t content sharing. They’re content shoveling. It’s like my dog who digs a hole at the beach – when she kicks her back legs in the air, a lot of sand goes flying in all directions aimlessly. Well, when someone just repeatedly shares without creating or commenting, there’s just a lot of content flying around without direction. Some will argue that some people are just more natural-born “sharers” and it’s not in their nature to comment or create. I get that to a certain degree. But the balance of those who create and comment is woefully unbalanced on some channels compared to those who share, particularly on Twitter. Sharing is great, but it’s the conversation and dialogue that helps define our stances online. Better to share than not share, but I wonder if some of us can’t come out of our writing/commenting shell to help balance out the audience just a bit better.

For example, when news such as the recent uprisings in Egypt surfaced and we heard voices from inside the revolution via Twitter, I was fascinated. But I couldn’t have understood it all from a steady diet of Tweets either. I needed to hear from an inside voice like Wael Ghonim’s and an outside voice like Anderson Cooper’s. One brought authenticity, the other brought context. Just because we had a new and exciting stream of information to witness, it’s ludicrous to suggest we didn’t need CNN there and that they were “beat” to the story. Their role changed. The need for them to be there didn’t.

Final thought: It’s OK to share, retweet and comment. More than OK. It’s what helps the engine of social media go, after all. But we need more influential creators of content to rise up too. As well as people who provide valuable commentary on existing content. Both of which, by the way, are probably opportunities your brand isn’t seizing enough, but that’s a post for another day.



4 thoughts on “3 reasons why we need journalists more than ever

  1. Great post, Dan. I encourage you to carefully consider your second point. Be thoughtful about journalists reporting the news as opposed to using the news to promote their agendas. It’s one thing to sort and serve the opinions on a subject. It’s quite another to be a journalist and take one side or the other.

    • Thanks, Jenn. Here’s my point on the objectivity/bias thing. I’m actually with you on news that is reported from an objective angle (“we report, you decide.”). However, there has to be a funnel of sources that rise to the top above all the noise. I’m not necessarily a fan of news with an agenda, but I’ll take that over news contributed by community that is an unsorted mess. When it’s TV/Radio/Print, it’s organized and the choices are fairly clear. When it’s online, it’s a bit more of a wilderness. Some sites handle this better than others, but overall there’s a lot more room for improvement for organized news.

      And here’s the real danger – I recently watched a documentary where the head of an aggregator start-up basically said that with the community providing the news via his website that he didn’t care what happened to journalism as we’ve known it. Not so fast. I don’t read newspapers anymore either, but I still turn to columnists I trust for their take. If we’re all in a news wilderness together, we need some sherpas. Some will go with the objective sherpas we’ve always known. Some will go with sherpas with an agenda – which, like it or not, are branded as news.

      Yes, I have a problem when people think an outlet like Fox is “fair and balanced” when it clearly isn’t and they consequently lump in “news with agenda” with “objective news.” But both are preferable to me over rapid-fire news posting of anyone and everyone in an online community with no context to help us understand the issues. That makes my head spin.

  2. this is an outstanding post Dan, im happy i came across your blog page. i am currently studying to be a journalist and completing an assignment on the topic of with al the social media aspects, do we still journalists, this is most definitely great source to follow

    • Thank you, Lauren. I’m glad you liked it. There’s plenty of room in this world for journalists and bloggers who are good. Both can get along just fine and looking forward to you joining the professional ranks soon. Best of luck.

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