Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Why we became journalists

Just the other day I suggested that the Web browser was growing obsolete, and would likely be replaced by something akin to a Wall Street trader's workstation -- but with the addition of content-creating capabilities. In other words, something like a Bloomberg terminal.
Now my fellow B2B blogger David Shaw suggests that the way we consume content in the future may be closer to the way we -- and by "we," I actually mean people both younger and hipper than I -- create content. In other words, by using something like Microsoft's new Xbox.

And that, in a nutshell, is what I love about media today. Our industry is shifting. Everything is subject to change. And the only thing I know for sure is that the future won't look like the present.

Consider, for example, these two stories from today:
1) Craig Newmark, the founder of Craigslist, says he'll launch a new venture within three months to alter the world of journalism by tapping into the "power of the masses."
2) Bram Cohen, inventor of BitTorrent, has signed a peace treaty with Hollywood. That opens the way for media companies to use Cohen's peer-to-peer software, which already moves roughly one-third of the traffic on the Internet, to provide video-rich files to consumers.

Imagine the potential in just those two pieces of news -- journalism produced by both users and professionals, morphed and added to as it moves across the Internet, filled with memory-intensive multimedia and distributed at unimagined speeds via P2P software.
Everything is exciting and new and unpredictable. And only an absolute imbecile isn't absolutely thrilled.
Because isn't that why we became journalists in the first place -- so that we could have lives of excitement, lives that were less routine and predictable than those of people in other professions?

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  1. Although I agree with your blog 99% of the time, I wonder, though, whether journalism, produced by anyone with an Internet connection, will suffer from the loss of or dilution of the work of its trained professionals. We journalists are trained (or should be trained) to weigh information from a variety of sources to approach or approximate the truth. Those not trained in this form of triangulation may mislead. That's my only concern.

  2. Hi Anonymous,
    I understand your concerns. Lots of people share them.
    But I'm not one of them.
    First, I've been around long enough to have lost all my illusions about the training, standards or skills of my fellow journalists. For every person I respect in this game, there is one that embarrasses me.
    More importantly, I'm not worried at all that untrained people will mislead the audience. Certainly some of the will. And just as certainly, some of them will not. One of our roles as professionals is to help the audience find trustworthy sources. That will still be one of our roles. By speaking with, linking to and otherwise participating with the more skilled members of the citizen-journalism movement, we will help determine which of these people grow popular and influential. At the same time, these new citizen journalists and other members of the audience can now help determine which professionals are trustworthy, skilled and worth speaking to.
    In a sense, this comes down to how comfortable you are with the very premise of democracy. We've created a system of government in which every adult citizen can vote. Now sure, sometimes they will vote in a way that I disagree with. Sometimes, in fact, their decisions may be dangerous. But that is the risk of democracy.