Traditional Media vs. Citizen Journalism

Newspaper roll

In the era of Web 2.0 it is hard to stay traditional journalist, who digs for facts, check their authenticity, presents two or more opinions, and keeps neutrality hoping for high ratings and a lot of subscribers. Traditional media are not interactive, except of limited sections for readers’ letters, selected audience participation in talk shows, and censored phone calls to the broadcasting studios.

Now audience is changing the way of using news outlets – newspapers, magazines, television and radio. More and more people prefer not to wait for paper versions or scheduled broadcast, but use the internet as an immediate and great source of news. Moreover, news customers love to express their opinions on events, discuss them online, as well as share news to each other. That is why every given year we hear that another magazine or paper stopped quite expensive printing and completely focused on much more cheaper websites, offering hybrid of traditional journalism and new media tools like forums, message boards, blogs, video, podcasts, polls and variety of interactive applications.

Traditional newsrooms will likely to stay as the news research laboratories and production facilities.

Printing and broadcasting, as I think, will not die due to overwhelming web penetration – as theater did not die after inventing cinema and cinema did not disappear after inventing television. Traditional newsrooms will likely stay as the news research laboratories and production plants. Let us use here marketing terminology – unique sustainable competitive advantages (SCAs) of traditional media are to stay news research and production companies. Only the form, style and way of delivering the final products will change due to further integration with online tools, their development and transformation.

As it is known, journalism profession is suffering last decades due to economical troubles, its internal ethical and competency problems, and public pressure. Such suffering leads to overall shrinking of responsible journalism and transforming the industry into an entertainment tool to win viewers, listeners and readers.

From the other side, citizen journalism or “grassroots journalism” where anybody can have an access to the social Web and can become a reporter is occupying abandoned journalistic genres and even sometimes replacing professionals. But again, traditional journalism will not completely die because anybody now is able to takes pictures, record video, and publish them on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr. Let us use marketing terminology once more – traditional journalism still has the strong set of SCAs in comparison to the citizen journalism.

Anyone now can be a witness of events, share the raw records and pictures online with his comments and thus get his minute of fame.

Sure, anyone can occasionally become a witness of events and accidents, share the his raw records and pictures online with his comments and thus get his minute of fame, which is an actual dream of every journalist. But only media profs has skills to differentiate important news from not so important, check the facts to their authenticity, and present the news in context and dynamics. So, I see the major weakness of citizen / grassroots journalism in the social Web. It is in a potential inability to properly answer the most required question from the news formula like “What does this mean to us and our community?”

Having many years of journalism experience, I sometimes act as a media expert about new media. Below is a video of the Ukrainian section of Voice of America with my June 2012 statements about social media trends. Studio host is Myroslava Gongadze, VOA Ukrainian producer.

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