In the last decade, journalism saw itself morphing into so many different things that is difficult to define what is and what is not. For example, entertainment gained so much traction that answers for a significant cut of the revenues of news companies, but the consistency of its content is hardly a reason to pride. In the other hand, newsmaking has delivered itself in so many forms, platforms, flows and authors that it makes hard to state either what is journalism and what is purely conversation. Other than that, there is also the event of the big data, which has always been around, but never could be trapped and domesticated as it is today, allowing us to see in the world map which are the trends that people currently are keeping on top of the rest.
Since I started to look into crowdsourcing, a few things were already set and clear, while others were not. The current 24-hours news cycle is very dead (one of the philosophical reasons for the convulsions that afflict newspapers this days). The traditional newsmaking flow is set to die either – journalists relying only to their work, skills and knowledge are bound to fail, outnumbered and outgunned by a legion of other sources that are faster, richer, more authentic, closer, and bigger than theirs. And in the column of ‘checks’, technology has sat down in the cockpit, now ruling the show with better or worse content. Finally, the news market is not disappearing, as people are more hunger than ever to be aware of what happens down the street or in the other side of the planet.
But there are several doubts as well. There are news sources as never in history for both audience and journalist, but how much can we trust each one? If companies are not behind the curtains, who will fund expensive, demanding, challenging investigations to confront the establishment? As the usual players fade away from the scenario, how will we be able to find out where to find the most reliable information providers? And independently of who or how the newsmaking will rebuild itself, which business model will fit to make this new environment run? Will ever be a market solid enough to sustain that? Or we will depend on wealthy patrons to bankroll the news industry? Will they ever let their interests aside to fund the spread of the truth, even if they are harm by it?
The great difficulties faced by society and journalism together are linked by the lack of capacity to realize which things have changed, how they did change and which features the new environment offers to create the new scenario – a scenario where the root of the needs are basically the same, but its execution is almost completely different. The interconnection people have been dragged to affects all the ingredients of the communication process – information source, message, medium, receiver and decoding of the message. The process will never be the same again. However, this does not to be bad, but won’t be easy as well.
The first task industry and professionals need to approach is to define things. Which are the assets? And which are the challenges? Which are the liabilities we are carrying on due to our own blindness? What works? What is no longer working – and why? Which is the role of this “new” journalist and what we should expect to be the “former audience” behaviour? What does society demands and how it can monitor the development of the new environment?
The problem is not that we don’t know the answers, but that we don’t know to ask the right questions. This leaves a widespread sensation of doom, a complete and utter feeling of unavoidability of a future we are not ready for. But history is rich in examples that show us that we are never ready for the future, but we also manage to find solutions to apparently solutionless enigmas. Once we stop whining and look towards the challenge with determination, things will look far better – at least if we don’t waste much more time.