A Whole New Kind of Journalism? A Dissenting View
By Thomas Kent
Some think so. But the evidence is not convincing.
In journalism conferences and blogs, the last-leg school has been gaining currency in the past few months. Its proponents argue that the basic transmission of information has become a cheap commodity — “anyone with a cell phone and a Twitter account can do it.” This information, they say, is seen by everyone — long before journalistic gatekeepers can try to control it. The bottom line: If there’s anything left for journalists to do, it’s to attempt to add value by analyzing and retelling what everyone has seen already.
These are quite dramatic claims, and highly questionable. Trends so far offer little basis to expect a change in the fundamentals of the journalistic profession.
One assertion underlying much of the last-legs thinking is that today’s journalists, multiskilled as they may be, risk becoming obsolete. In their portrayal of the “networked journalism” of the future in the International Journal of Communication, Bregtje van der Haak, Michael Parks and Manuel Castells say that unless journalists take on much more specialized new roles, they face losing ground “to the robots capable of performing routine data gathering, and to the citizen journalists who constantly retrieve information in real-life situations around them.”
Yet robots and citizen journalists have been with us for some time. News companies routinely use automation to handle data and sometimes even to write basic stories. No one underestimates the ubiquity of citizen journalists; as the size of newsrooms declines, journalists are benefiting increasingly from citizen contributions.
But nothing here has changed the journalist’s fundamental job of reporting facts from the ground up — conducting original reporting, day after day, in a disciplined and consistent way. The result is a methodically built credibility that cannot be created by other means. That is why so many citizen reporters bring their work to professional journalists: They know a journalist’s credibility will amplify their message. Read the rest at the Huffington Post.