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Friday, October 07, 2005

'The media' vs. 'We media'

"There's a huge fissure within Big Media. Some get, some don't - and some never will." Mainstream media executives should be doing more than heeding these words from journalist and citizen media proponent Rory O'Connor; they should be rushing to act on them to make sure that their organization 'gets it.' At least that was the general consensus of participants at The Media Center's We Media Conference at the Associated Press headquarters in New York City on October 5.

The 'We Media' conference kicked off on an ironic note by lining up four well-known members of 'The Media' for the first session which immediately made apparent the 'fissure.' CBS and the Associated Press, represented by Larry Kramer and Tom Curley respectively don't get it, National Public Radio (US), whose delegate was Farai Chideya, is beginning to get it and the BBC represented by Richard Sambrook get it.

Both CBS and AP have launched initiatives attempting to involve the reader in the news process but most agree that they are weak attempts. CBS' Public Eye is designed to "bring transparency to the editorial operations of CBS News" by allowing viewers and readers to comment on and criticize their coverage. A team of journalists is dedicated to respond to the outside input. But it admittedly falls far short of the idea behind citizen journalism, and to an extent the idea of transparency in that the input continues to be filtered which Kramer believes necessary due to the size of the organization. The AP has tried to involve readers through their youth publication asap by providing them with blogs where they can react and will try to make their news consumption easier by providing personalization options. But neither of these features come close to embracing the full potential of online interactivity.

The problem these two news giants, more so CBS, is their continued 'top down' mentality, their reluctance to give up the power of content and distribution control to which they are so accustomed. They are not listening to their readers. They don't appear to deem the public capable enough of having its own intelligent opinions and insight into a situation. They do not want to accept that in a world where anyone can publish, the voice of one organization can not speak as loud as the collective voice of society.

National Public Radio is beginning to adapt, adding podcasts and staff such as a 'music media editor' and could soon expand their citizen media involvement through an idea that Chideya had for her own blog, Pop and Politics; passing around tape recorders to citizens during Hurricane Katrina whose content was regathered, edited and posted on her site.

Sambrooke and the BBC, however, understand the changing dynamic between the media and the public, that their relationship is undergoing a 'fundamental realignment.' The BBC is transforming itself from "a one-way broadcaster to a moderator to a facilitator" and "reprioritizing for a fully-digital, on demand environment." The Beeb sees three main reasons for converting itself;

1. Connecting audiences
2. Verification of news
3. Analysis, explanation and context addition

These points provide BBC viewers with a platform where they can come together and discuss topics and where the BBC can listen to them discovering what they want instead of what the BBC wants them to hear. They facilitate fact checking, as more people will be able to respond immediately to and correct any mistakes in reporting they may come across. And it will allow the Beeb to figure out where they need to dig deeper, on what stories their audience wants more investigation, enabling them to pinpoint their journalistic resources on the issues they know actually matter to the public, not just those that the BBC thinks are important.

This is surely the future of media. News organizations would be wise to 'get it' soon before they fade into irrelevancy, which is not such an unlikely possibility considering that it is increasingly obvious that their audience is 'getting it' more and more.

Sources: Media is Plural, Morph

Technorati tag: " target="_blank">We Media

Posted by john burke on October 7, 2005 at 06:37 PM | Permalink


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