Yes, we are in an ‘Age of Transformation,’ as Mark Briggs suggests in his introduction to Journalism Next. With innovators continually propelling us into new worlds of communication, we are connected in ways which, just 5 years ago, wouldn’t seem possible. But the divide is not about whether or not we are experiencing a revolution, it’s about the indication, the effects, the “what this means for our world as we know it.”
I am intrigued by the idea that there are no longer “gatekeepers” dictating our news. Whether it be via credible journalists, your neighbor with a possibly-too-strong opinion or a bystander unknowingly describing one of the bigger events of the decade, the news is out there ready to be selected, altered, shared however we see fit. As The Economist reports, instead of managing conversations, journalism is now open to the flow of conversation that was already happening. I stand firm in the argument that this is a positive revolution that involves more people in the stride towards a more culturally-aware world.
However, while we are quick to praise the idea of a continual conversation between a hybrid of journalists, bloggers and “average people,” I think that skeptics like Seth Ashley and Nicholas Kristof offer fair warnings about the negative effects this revolution also presents. With news no longer dictated by “gatekeepers,” we’re free to choose the news we want to hear, see, read about from a collective broadcast of sources. This, as Kristof points out, allows us to choose news that we agree with – the news that enforces our previously conceived prejudices resulting in polarization and intolerance. Don’t agree with the “spin” on a story? A quick Google search will certainly land you on a page offering a version that you agree with. A double-edged sword – the very reason this revolution is so, well, revolutionary, also sets us back a few steps in the journey towards unbiased, free, truthful news.
There is an opportunity here for companies and news organizations to step up and take advantage of this open newsroom. As David Scott urges in his book The New Rules of Marketing & PR, companies need to ditch the one-way communication and instead take advantage of the conversation that is now happening between organizations and their publics. Producing quality content that educates, informs and entertains will help balance out the mess of contradicting information which is now available. Likewise, journalists need to continue to adapt and share their voice on platforms where the public now resides.
While this revolution in news has eliminated ‘editing gatekeepers,’ it has also shown the importance of editors ensuring unbiased reports. But the skeptics are giving the public a little less credit than is deserved – for every polarized account of news, there are educated, culturally savvy people doing their own research, formulating opinions, and contributing to the conversation. This is the Age of Transformation, and I have faith in humanity that we will make the best of it.